The ‘Big Society’ is a slogan used by the Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, to capture the idea that achieving positive outcomes in welfare policy is a task shared between government, citizens and communities. Recognising there is also an ideological dimension to this, the central idea of a Big Society emphasises the importance of one form of co-production: direct citizen involvement in the production of public services, whether in design, delivery or both.
Policymakers cannot command people to be more neighbourly, volunteer to help out in their community or make a contribution to tackling global warming by recycling more of what they use. They can provide financial incentives to support all of these activities, but fully substituting for civil society’s efforts would require unsustainable levels of public spending. The idea of the Big Society implies a different, and more mutually inter-dependent, relationship between citizens and government.
The Big Society will require a major change in how we understand the micro-foundations of human behaviour, compared to command and control ideas about the state/citizen relationship. This Occasional Paper looks first at the change in thinking that is required, then moves on to identify new tools of intervention.
These Occasional Papers are jointly published by ANZSOG and the (former) Victorian State Services Authority.
Stoker, G. (2011). Nudging Citizens Towards the ‘Big Society’? SSA/ANZSOG Occasional Paper, 12. Melbourne: ANZSOG.