SilenceBreaker Media shows the need for a left progressive counter narrative to the ‘Big Society’…

I was approached a few months ago by Jay Baker to become involved with his progressive brain child, SilenceBreaker Media. The company is an example of what David Cameron ignores when he is championing his ‘Big Society’. In conjuncture with two other social entrepreneurial companies, Silent Cities and Neighbours Can Help, SilenceBreaker Media will meet the triple bottom approach of social sustainability, economic sustainability and environmental sustainability through recycling technological equipment and providing disadvantaged communities the chance to utilise them whilst teaching them valuable social media skills so they can gain a much needed voice. This is so important, especially considering the current onslaught by the current ConDem government on the lives of so many, through long-term cuts.

The left have often shied away from the Big Society debate, but there is terrain to be won here. Instead of casting it off as a right-wing policy, localism can occur through progressive measures. SilenceBreaker Media is a testament to that. The third sector, can operate through sustainable measures and provide a lived example of how the commercial sector can operate in the interests of fairness and equality (some new words for many commercial sectors, I know!). A way to make sure that sustainability is being achieved through local measures and projects that engage with communicates so often ignored, is through social accounting.

Through social accounting, the social, environmental and economic effects are measured and thus the companies practices are aligned to progressive goals. It is an advancement from the current focus upon solely economic targets of companies. This way of accounting, and this way of providing services is one way of many that the left can use to steal back the initiative of the desirability of localism. Other movements, such as cooperatives and mutuals, should also be goals for progressives.

More needs to be said about social accounting. It is a breakthrough in terms of impeaching the current neo liberal driven economic ethos, and replacing it with a more progressive lefty way of doing business. You firstly need to clearly establish the aims and principles of the company in order to assess them as the company progresses. These aims and principles need to be undermined by the triple bottom approach of social, economic and environmental sustainability. As you assess how well your company meets these values, you can modify your practices, and revitalise your aims and principles to make sure that your company is as progressive as possible. Competent social science techniques are required to audit, and these must encompass all stakeholders.

There is a lot more to say about social accounting and the progressive advances it provides new organisations, both voluntary and commercial. It cannot be anymore important than it is now for more sustainable approaches to providing vital services for the public. With the Clegg and Cameron crew attacking many important services, with a disregard for environmental aims, alternative economic policies and the social disintegration effect their policies will have on so many people’s lives, there needs to be a counter narrative, a counter approach to providing hope and aspiration for those who are the most neglected but most affected by the current ideological surge of economic illogicality.

I intend to say a lot more about this new progressive way of accounting for business and service provision practices in the future and the company, SilenceBreaker Media. This was just meant as an introduction and as a way to consider the possible implications for progressive politics. It is just another clear indication of the need for the progressive left to regain the localist agenda and promote a counter narrative to the Big Society, which instead of masking needless cuts, provides real opportunities for people.

SilenceBreaker Media website coming soon (

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23 thoughts on “SilenceBreaker Media shows the need for a left progressive counter narrative to the ‘Big Society’…

  1. Jane, let me surprise you by telling you that mucht of what’s being offered as Big Society derives from the left, which begins with a critique of laissez-faire capitalism pitched in 1996 with the theoretical construct for a people-centered paradigm.

    Established here and shunned by New Lab in 2004, one of the many things we do is deliver education on 3BL economics.

  2. Yes, the idea of the big society in its abstract sense, that of localism -is definitely something the left should try to obtain. Hence why I said that the left should construct a left counter narrative to the big society. At the moment, the big society is nothing other than a handy way to conceal cuts. I mean lefty big society wouldn’t be making councils cut grants to charity and third sector companies, its just counter productive.

    Also, what you have shown me is an example of a way to enable localism, but it isn’t a unified voice from the left. SilenceBreaker Media is a useful left progressive project to help inspire localism, but no single company is strong enough to do it alone. I was just arguing it shows how the left needs to construct a comprehensive counter narrative to the big society – as it simply isn’t delivering what it should.

  3. Understood Jane, but that unified voice has to start with something. What happened in 2004 was that govt had introduced social enterprise as policy but had a very limited perception of what was being done. It delivered proof of concept in sourcing a microfinance initiative in Russia and most of the work since has been in Ukraine.

    The only alternative to taking it on board is to replicate and re-brand as the Tories have done

  4. Yes, but we have to remember that New Labour weren’t really that lefty and so its not really a true example of what can be done with this new way of doing things. I mean, I seriously don’t see how you can see a cover up for cuts as a good way to do this.

  5. No I don’t see the cuts as part of it. We’re advocating just the opposite in fact. Take a look art part 2 of the paper for Ukraine for example and a proposal for a $1.5 billion injection into social enterprise funding weighed against a week in Iraq . Obama tuned into the idea 2 years later and he was placed in the Senate Foreign Relations committee when the plan would have been circulating in diplomatic channels. Big Soci Bank now aims in the same direction. .

    When Obama as a candidate announced his plans for a social innovation fund, the same justification was used.

  6. I really don’t get this. I am on about the Conservatives in the UK and their cutting and how the big society is just a way to cover this up. I am not on about any specific company or whatever, I am on about the idea in totality.

  7. Ahhhhhhhhhh, just seen you are an American based company. No wonder this didn’t make sense. I am on about UK Conservative Big Society policy.

  8. And so am I Jane, a new economic paradigm which was designed to create wealth in disadvantaged communities and as with you example a company putting it into practice

  9. Well we will have to respectfully agree to disagree. I think the current economic logic of cut cut cut completely cancels out any chance of installing really progressive opportunities into disadvantaged communities. I don’t deny there are companies out there doing this, but the actual narrative from the government is skewed. You can’t cancel valuable grants and funds for third sector projects and youth projects etc etc and actually hope that it would’nt actually undermine any help for disadvantaged communities.

  10. If we’re talking about another model for the left, there’s no point in ascribing Tory cuts to the Third Sector to that model. I’ve offered an example of one business doing it successfully. Proof of concept was leveraging £6 million for economic development in one Russian city and it being replicated in several others. That money was returned in full with a quantifiable social outcome.

    What Tories offer is the rhetoric of doing these things without the funding, something I took as given in responding. .

  11. I am not denying that projects like the one you are citing are working well – but the thing is, the Big Society will actually undermine it. You can’t cut at the level they are and expect things not to be effected by it. Especially when important grants and funding for the third sector are being effected.

    Also, I was making a point that the left (in terms of political parties) haven’t engaged in the localism debate that well. There needs to be a counter narrative to it, which focuses on the importance of things like this, but also like cooperatives and mutuals.

    So, I credit what you are doing, and I haven’t said it isn’t a good example – but that isn’t really down to the Big Society. Big Society is clearly a way to increase cuts through the back door.

  12. Them let’s talk about the coops and mutuals and a way of empowering them and put the Big Society brand and its flaws aside.

    Before we’d been effectively shut out of the UK we produced a strategy paper aimed at investing surplus revenue into CDFis, microfinance lenders and credit unions, which might well be mutuals or coops. We could also talk about collbarative asset based funding.

  13. Ah I really think you’re missing my point. I am not saying there weren’t people advocating for this and there aren’t now, but there is no coherent narrative amongst the left. They just focus too much on big society problems, without actually constructing a counter narrative to it. That’s all I was saying, I am not trying to pose my argument as some novel response – the left just needs to reinvigorate its message.

  14. Brilliant piece, if I say so myself.

    I think there is a difficulty – a struggle – in the way the cuts are being administered, beyond any understandable cynicism from the people of the “Big Society” being an excuse for DIY volunteerism verging on exploitation.

    Public sector cuts not only have a knock-on effect on the private sector, but in addition, the third sector finds it hard to pick up the slack of service delivery left behind if it isn’t supported. Currently, this concept seems to be lost on more than a few politicians, it must be said, but we can keep raising the issue and stating our case, and this blog makes a very good one.

    3BL accounting is the way of the future, for all sectors, and many companies are moving towards that. However, on this – through history and necessity – the third sector is leading the way, I’m proud to say. SilenceBreakers is one of those (no small thanks to you, Ms Watkinson)

  15. Hey, thanks for that Jay:)

    I totally agree with you.

    The ‘Big Society’ is a big cover up for an ideological crusade and does little to provide initiative for local action. However, it does provide conversely, people the chance to do something about it and construct alternative ways to give people a real voice.

    And hear hear to the future of 3BL accounting:D

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