September 2010 ‘Big Society’ needs to think sustainably

There is no point building a ‘Big Society’ unless it is viable in the long term and Sustainability East are tackling this issue head on.

The sold-out Sustainability East event ‘How can we deliver the Big Society Sustainably?’ was held on the 22 September at The Pitt Building in Cambridge. Speakers included Tony Juniper, campaigner, writer and once chief executive of Friends of the Earth, Anna Coote of the New Economics Foundation and Katharine Knox from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Richard Powell, chair of Sustainability East said, ‘There are real issues that need to be addressed in plans for the ‘Big Society’. It must be sustainable in environmental, social and economic terms. Indeed there are many opportunities for sustainable development which could be taken up by the ‘Big Society’ idea.’

Richard continued, ‘this event, the first of its kind, provided an opportunity to discuss and debate how we can identify and pursue the ‘Big Society’ in a way that contributes to sustainable development and delivers maximum economic, environmental and social outcomes cost effectively.’

 A number of key issues emerged from the discussions including:

Governance: namely effective involvement and effective responsibility as well as serious sharing of power and resources

Equity: we need to make sure everyone can participate

Sustainability: use the ‘Big Society’ to bring about a culture change that sees low carbon, sustainable lifestyles as desirable

Resourcing: we need proper resources

Sustainability East will develop further our ideas on how the Big Society can deliver sustainable development. We will be analysing the content of discussions to develop key messages to take to government, businesses and other key stakeholders.

Audio recordings of the presentations are available here.