The Grit Society?

The heavy snowfall does tend to bring out the best in people as they work together to overcome challenges. Whether one calls this the Big Society or more generally Civil Society, it should be welcomed by all. Perhaps as the current climate implies, we should this week call it “The Grit Society”

Since snow is pretty rare in the UK and it would be a prohibitive cost to have a whole set of public services in reserve for something that may only happen a few days or weeks a year, the snowfall does provide a clearly defined opportunity for co-production between the public sector and the public in general to ensure everyone is not inconvenienced too much.

Clearing the roads and areas outside major public buildings and registered old people’s homes seems a clear responsibility of the average Council, in many cases on good safety grounds. At the same time the sheer size of the operation of clearing the snow from pavements, does require volunteers from the public in the roads they live in.

In the London Borough of Sutton, where I live, I am pleased to see that the Council has encouraged this with free grit schemes for the public and the provision of open data information on the location of grit bins, so the public can can create information mash-ups and perhaps comment in more detail on how this service is delivered in future. I was a local Councillor in Sutton for many years and I do think the provision of gritting services and information is an improvement on the past.

However we also need to be honest in the recognition that some people will be more motivated to volunteer to help clear pavements more than others. Those people may see volunteering as a good thing in its own right. Some people might get round to volunteering because they at some stage see a lot of friend’s, relatives and neighbours taking part. And others might see this as still an issue they pay their Council Taxes for and expect greater reciprocation back from the Council. The key thing to be mindful of is that people will think about this issue in different ways depending on their values.

The issue, then, for Council’s during the cold months is to communicate a range of messages that motivates those who want to help, encourages more people to take part, but reassures those who do not see volunteering as fair compared to what they already feel they contribute. That opportunity for mindful values based communication is the way to turn the current co-operation of this week’s “Grit Society” perhaps into a wider civic participation.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer at The Campaign Company.


One Response to “The Grit Society?”

  1. Time limited activity in the ‘Grit Society’ « The Campaign Company’s Blog Says:

    […] weather made me look back at a blog posting I wrote just over two years ago about the community and institutional response to a heavy snowfall. That work seems to have developed further with Twitter Grit feeds and Snow Wardens being the […]

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