Mutualizing Social Services
In the late nineteenth century the mutual societies, co-operators and trades unionists could have gone on to invent a welfare society in which more and more people governed themselves, employed their own doctors, ran their own schools and created a commonwealth of a country.
But they didn’t. They decided to go down the road which led to the welfare state. During the twentieth century this state came to do these things ‘for’ and ‘to’ people, just like an empire.....
That money is the people’s. Let them spend it on building social capital in their own neighbourhoods. This will create a new locally managed workforce of local social entrepreneurs who identify and meet local needs, who work on prevention not cure.
That leaves many services still to be delivered. They can now be more carefully tailored, targeted at specific neighbourhoods and managed either by integrated neighbourhood teams of statutory providers or by residents themselves, in the same way that schools are locally managed.
Indeed, in place of the 15 councillors on an LEA committee who once managed all schools, we now have 15 ordinary people managing each school with its own budget....
So why not also have neighbourhood budgets, neighbourhood management committees or associations of ordinary folk managing neighbourhood teams? But, at peril of failure, keep these pioneers of civil renewal and participating democracy well removed from the politicians and habits of representative democracy. Let them pioneer new forms of neighbourhood governance and participation. Do not impose standard models from above. Let them grow from below.