Risk and the big society
Risk management is about finding a liveable balance between security, and regulation. We live in a society consumed both by the fear of the unknown, but also by the frustration of dealing with red tape. Juggling these contradictory positions is a dilemma governments perpetually struggle with. The ‘Big Society’, is the latest in a series of initiatives espoused by all political parties that attempt to fill security gaps left by the state by harnessing the untapped power of the public. Devolving more responsibility for risk management to the public not only presents new challenges; but may also indicate new ways for us to manage risk.
Ben Rogers makes the distinction between traditional ‘top-down’ methods of risk management employed by the state through laws and regulations and the ‘bottom-up’ approach that seeks to manage risk by engaging ordinary people and communities in managing the risk themselves. He argues that bottom-up approaches are both under-theorised and under-utilised and are worthy of greater inspection to find out what practical ways we can manage risk. Such an approach could not only roll back bureaucracy but indeed provide more intuitive ways to ensure we have the tools at our disposal to self-regulate our approach to risk.
The recession and deficit are driving efficiency savings in government and amplifying the need of the state to find less bureaucratic ways of doing things. Part of the employed efficiency savings must include the devolving of some responsibilities for risk management from the state, to citizens. This timely and approachable work seeks not to offer a single solution, or to campaign for an erosion of the state’s responsibility to its citizens, but to inspire debate on the subject, and offers practical and tangible examples of where citizen empowerment can successfully replace and improve upon direct state involvement.