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Andy Gibson
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Hi again Tessy. I've been thinking a little more about the emerging "conflict vs. collaboration" theme in this debate. Often when people talk about creating things, or being open and collaborative, there is a tendancy in some quarters to perceive this as a sign of naivety or weakness. Nice little project, go away and play with your dolls while we fight for our rights. The implication is usually that collaboration and creativity can only stand up to external forces of competition and conflict if people are willing to fight for it. After all, we can't create anything if someone has just stolen our means of doing so. This is true to an extent, but I wouldn't want people to think it was a choice between conflict or creation. For me, creativity is not soft work. Building something new in the world requires more strength, more will, more fight, more courage, than simply taking potshots at the leaders and feeling smug about winning the odd argument. As the leader of an organisation that seeks to create value in society, my job is to secure resources and defend our interests, in order to create the space for collaboration and creativity. I am fighting for the space and the tools to do my work, not to stop anyone else from doing theirs. But that doesn't mean there is no conflict involved in creativity. I believe the best way to replace a system is to build something more compelling in its place. Ebay has never launched a hate campaign against people who buy new products. Amazon has never used Alinsky-style tactics to bring bookshops to their knees. New systems are created, the old systems are bypassed and society changes without so much as a cross word. If we spent more time fighting to create the things we wish existed in the world, and less time trying to "take the power back", we might get more done. And we may also notice that almost every significant change that has affected UK society for the past 25 years - perhaps the last 250 - has had very little to do with local politics.
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This is the most important post I've read about the Big Society. It says a lot about the emerging climate that I am already starting to fear the hostile reactions of all the self-appointed people's champions out there. Battle lines are being drawn and those of us who have been trying to make worthwhile things in the world are finding ourselves targets for criticism and anger from people who make nothing. We have to put ourselves in the firing line. If we aren't willing to stand up for what we believe in, and hold the space for the gentle and the vulnerable, then the aggressive minority wins. Such is life I suppose. But it would be nice if the Government would support us to defuse things and that our democratic institutions were being supported to play a full and active role in keeping communities fair and accountable. At the moment it just feels like a bunfight for local power, in which the best resourced and most confident will win. But all it takes is a few months of watching our communities being taken over by unelected individuals who don't represent our interests, before the buns are replaced with petrol bombs and the disenfranchised move the fight to where they are stronger. We are already seeing this happen against the supermarkets, the large corporations and the financial sector. Creating yet more unelected vested interests is hardly likely to increase the peace. Perhaps community organisers are the new bankers?
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Dec 16, 2010