How should we in Wales produce a successful society?

Will David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ mend ‘Broken Britain? Indeed will it have a better track record than any of the other community building programmes of the last half century? How should we in Wales produce a successful society?

One person who has a view on these questions, is modern and contemporary British historian Dr Peter Shapley of Bangor University’s School of History, Welsh History and Archaeology. Having studied community development projects in Britain during 1968-78, Peter Shapely has a historical perspective on current government initiatives.

As Peter Shapely explains:

“Community development has been a concern of the state, local government and voluntary agencies since the 1960s from when successive governments initiated a number of action-research pilot projects, such as the Education Priority Areas, Community Development Projects, Neighbourhood Schemes, Six Town Studies and Comprehensive Communities Programme. The focus was on creating self-help and mutual aid groups to address what was perceived as a problem from within certain largely urban areas. However, these projects were fraught with problems, not least of which was the profound structural economic problems facing old industrial areas, rural and urban. Their impact was, at best, limited. Policies aimed at developing a sense of community, of creating self-help and mutual aid groups and in providing social facilities and a platform for community participation in local decision-making,  in areas of the country categorised as ‘deprived’ generally floundered amidst the background of economic decline.”

He continues: “Nevertheless, social organisations, voluntary charities and mutual aid groups, continued to play an important role in community life across Britain. Indeed, they have been seen as pivotal to the organisation of civil society since the end of the eighteenth century. Moreover, governments have continued to debate the issue of community development into the new millennium. Maintaining stable and vibrant communities remains an important social objective for all political parties. However, the issue remains as to how governments and voluntary groups can achieve social cohesion.”

Bangor University is inviting discussion on the subject of community development in two public events in May.  “We want to invite people to a discussion around some of the key aspects in community building, what undermines social cohesion and which policies and institutions have created stable communities,” explains Dr Shapely. 

The first event on Friday 10 May 2013 will focus on the different levels of government, public institutions and policies and the second on Friday 17 May 2013 will look at civil society, on charities and mutual aid groups.

These events are part funded by the UK’s Arts & Humanities Research Council.

Publication date: 30 April 2013