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The coalition government's localism agenda aims to encourage local autonomy and participation in the provision of public services that meet local needs. The RSA's case study in Peterborough illustrates some of the challenges in ‘Big Society’ approaches to local activities, and tensions that may arise.

If the Big Society agenda genuinely aims to enable communities to have more voice in shaping the world around them, then we need better frameworks within which to deal with conflict.

The RSA Education intervention in Peterborough illustrates some of these challenges. These include the key dilemmas that:

  • Some groups are more able and/or willing to participate than are others

  • Who mediates competing groups’ conflicting preferences and values is unclear

These (connected) issues raise questions concerning representation, autonomy, accountability and democracy.


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