State empowerment - RSA

State empowerment


  • Curriculum
  • Social brain

Thanks to those who responded positively to last week's post. With yet another crazy RSA week behind me I can only add a few lines.

Among lectures chaired, speeches made and interviews given, this week I hosted a supper for a range of people involved in the idea of empowerment and participation.

Charlie Leadbeater started us off with aspects of the thesis in his new book - 'We-think: The Power of Mass Creativity'. You can view it as a wiki and add comments or edit it online.

The discussion was wide ranging but recurrent themes included the scope for empowerment as a public sector strategy, the implication of this for equity and accountability and whether empowerment is fundamentally an individualistic or collectivist solution (of course, it can be both).

There were good examples such as individual budgets for social care clients and carers, or provision for disaffected school pupils. But underlying the discussion was the question: is the idea of the empowering state the next big thing or just the spirit behind isolated bits of good practice? Is it the future or is it a fad?

The idea that public services should seek to give people a stronger sense of self confidence, autonomy and responsibility to others lies behind RSA initiatives as diverse as Opening Minds and our approach to long term drug users.

For me it is a key plank in pro-social strategy. Maybe it's because politicians of all parties like the word, but 'empowerment' can too easily mean everything and nothing.

Through more of these suppers and the in-depth work of our programme I hope the RSA can add some rigour to the optimism and idealism of those who think a reformed public sector can help more people take greater control of their lives as individuals and community members.

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