Big Society / Good Society Round Table

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Under the current Coalition Government and in the contemporary, post-financial crisis era, the ‘Big Society’ has become an organising concept that signals a different way of thinking about and organising public, financial and social services. At the same time, no other recent policy idea has been the source of as much passionate advocacy, derision, confusion and critically righteous anger. There remains much uncertainty and debate about what the Big Society means and what its impacts through implementation might look like and what their social and economic consequences might be.

What is the Big Society and what does it mean for ordinary people as well as public, voluntary and private organisations? Just how much of a culture change and/or institutional transformation does the Big Society herald? Does the Big Society represent a genuine shift of power to determine priorities and spending to local people? Does the Big Society signal a new philanthropy or the birth/death of the voluntary sector? To what extent does the Big Society presage a vision of the ‘good society’?

These are just some of the questions that will be addressed and discussed at this timely roundtable event which brings together high profile speakers and an invited audience from the worlds or politics, research, professional practice, business and charitable organisations. This is a cross-university initiative bringing together and co-hosted by the Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law, the Leeds Social Science Institute and the Bauman Institute.


2:30pm Registration with light refreshments

3:00pm Contributions from the panel:

  • Zoe Williams, The Guardian (Chair)
  • Dr Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham & Rainham
  • Bruce Davis, Visiting Research Fellow, Bauman Institute, University of Leeds
  • Neal Lawson, Chair of Compass
  • Professor Rebecca Tunstall,University of York

4:00pm Discussion and Q&A

5:00pm Drinks reception

6:00pm Close

Venue:     The Great Hall (location 57 on the campus map via the following link

[register close=”21/06/2012 09:00″ title=”Big Society / Good Society Round Table Event Registration”]

Keynote speaker biographies

Dr Jon Cruddas

Jon Cruddas was elected MP for Dagenham and Rainham in May 2010 with a majority 2,630 votes.

Since 1989, Jon has worked for the Labour Party. Until 1997 he worked in the policy department, then in the General Secretary’s office under Larry Whitty, and later Tom Sawyer. Between 1997 and 2001, Jon worked in Downing Street as a link between the trade unions and the Prime Minister.

Elected in 2001, Jon has successfully represented Dagenham in Parliament and has used his role as a representative of the local community on a wide range of issues. Jon has played a leading role in the fight against the BNP in east London. He has been prominent in campaigns for free and fair education.

Before working for the Labour Party, Jon studied at the University of Warwick where he gained a PhD in Philosophy. He has a strong trade union background: he was an activist in the Australian Builders’ Labourers’ Federation and has been a TGWU branch secretary

Mr Bruce Davis

Bruce Davis studied Classics at Cambridge University. Whilst there, his tutors were always encouraging him to look at secondary sources to understand the sociological point of view when reading ancient scripts. After leaving university, he went into marketing as it offered an arena in which he could play with language. Brand strategy became his metier, learning how to use images and concepts to drive innovative products and services. During the 1990s, he worked for a couple of brand strategy consultants. In 2000, he took the decision to become a freelance researcher.

Over the next few years, Davis worked on a wide variety of marketing projects, developing new tools and techniques, especially using sociological/ethnographic approaches for commercial companies. It was while working as a freelancer for Egg that he met Richard Duvall and James Alexander, having conversations to develop what Duvall called ‘a new point of view’ on money. Up until that point, Duvall had believed in the benefits of the ‘consumerisation’ (sic) of money which egg had embodied. Bruce’s research, however, had raised questions about the relevance and validity of this approach by introducing (via Bauman’s work on ‘Liquid Modernity’ that informed Bruce’s own ethnographic work on money in everyday life) the perspective of thinking in terms of individuals, culture and the creation of meaning.

Having been part of Duvall’s early thinking that summer at New Barn Studios, Bruce stayed on and became a co-founder of the ‘social lending’ company A ‘pragmatic theorist’ he firmly believes that sociological theory has much to offer the commercial and business worlds. He has conducted research into consumer behaviour for e:on, intel, and others.

Mr Neal Lawson

Neal Lawson writes regularly for the Guardian and the New Statesman about equality, democracy and the future of the left. He sometimes appears on TV and radio as a political commentator. He is chair of the fast-growing pressure group Compass, whose goal is a more equal and democratic world. He is author of the pamphlet Dare More Democracy, which was based on interviews with swing voters in London and Birmingham. He is also the managing editor of the quarterly progressive policy journal Renewal. He was formerly an adviser to Gordon Brown and before that a trade union researcher. He co-edited The Progress Century (Palgrave, 2001). He is currently writing a book called All Consuming ( for publication by Penguin in January 2008.

Professor Rebecca Tunstall

Rebecca has wide-ranging research interests and expertise across housing studies, social policy, and applied social research. Her principal areas of work have been social housing, neighbourhoods, and inequality, which since 2001 she has pursued as a member of LSE’s ESRC Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) and from 2003 as a fellow of the Brookings Institution in Washington DC.

Her expertise has been recognised in numerous invitations to speak and to perform academic and policy advisory roles, for example for Communities and Local Government (CLG) and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). Rebecca has shared a platform with the Prime Minister and various other ministers, presented work to senior central government figures, given numerous media interviews, and spoken to a wide range of audiences including practioners, tenants’ groups and school children.

For the past 15 years she has worked as team leader, team member and sole researcher on projects for clients including: CLG, JRF, the Nuffield Foundation, the Housing Corporation, the Homes and Communities Agency, the Tenant Services Authority, the National Housing Federation, the Scottish Government, individual social landlords and others.

Ms Zoe Williams

Zoe Williams writes for The Guardian and the New Statesman. She writes political commentary, interviews and reviews. Her work has also appeared in other publications, including The Spectator, NOW Magazine, the London Cycling Campaign’s magazine London Cyclist and the London Evening Standard where she contributed columns on a variety of subjects, and a diary about being a single woman in London.  Williams describes her political views as left-wing and feminist.   She sometimes covers feminist issues in her columns, and is a supporter of the British Humanist Association.