On our communities, members set the agenda as much as we do. This month one of our members quite bravely asked the other community members ‘What is the Big Society? (I have no idea what it means!)’
The question and responses raise a vital point that determines in our business whether communities succeed or fail. It also reveals some important lessons for anyone in Westminster tasked with orchestrating the Big Society.
To explain what I mean, let’s start with the world of research.
The aim of old school research was and in some cases still is, transactional. Wave a crisp £50 in front of the nose of Mr Consumer, assuming that this is what motivates him in return for insights. In this world Mr Consumer has no incentive to go the extra mile or really connect with the bigger task at hand, quite simply because he hasn’t been told what it is. As a result he goes about answering questions in a one dimensional way, understandably a little confused as to why you’re asking him about his hopes and dreams, his needs or whether he would buy product x at £5.99 or £6.99. In the back room behind the glass mirror sits Mr Client, crossing his fingers and hoping for the best that Mr Consumer will hit the nail on the head. OK, a bit crude I admit, but that’s the general sentiment.
In our work at Promise Communities, we are not asking participants to join us for an evening behind a two-way mirror but to be part of a living, breathing community where they are empowered to be the experts. (Sound familiar?)
Cultivating this kind of engagement is not easy and each community has its own challenges but one of the most important foundations of any community is revealing The Big Idea.
We tell our members why we are asking them the questions we do. We give them insider knowledge on the issues we are trying to solve, the bigger idea behind the community.
It stems from the Co-Creation logic that you can’t expect people to truly engage with the problem you’re trying to solve without handing over insider information. As a result, in Co-Creation members are not motivated purely by cash, but become insiders in our clients’ businesses, plugging the voice of the consumer back into their decision-making. (I’m sure by now you can see the parallels).
This involves some heavy engagement work from us from the very start of every community. We share insider info, project plans, forthcoming topics and make sure that our clients are responding personally to member comments. If you don’t do this early on you lose your audience and don’t have much of a community at all, you have a forum or a panel.
Big Society, regardless of whether you agree with its politics, sounds pretty revolutionary on paper. Scaling back the state by developing local communities where voters are experts. (I think).
The results of our community member’s question this month demonstrate that most people don’t really understand what the Big Society is. Quite a few are ironically denouncing it as a smoke and mirrors exercise.
If you get these responses in our work it becomes pretty obvious that you haven’t done your job in laying the foundations for your community, in fact they’re pretty wobbly.
Similarly it seems that the Big Society has a lot of work to do in communicating its own Big Idea.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, 10 Aug 2010 at 6:00 pm and is filed under Co-creation, Community, Qualitative research.
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