social value – social capital

Last night I went to a talk hosted by the New Economy Organiser’s Network (NEON) which is a project by NEF . The talk was about how we can use the media to put across progressive or radical messages and compete with the right wing agenda of much of the mainstream media and their friends in government, and Zoe Williams from the Guardian kicked it off.

It was a pretty interesting and useful talk especially the contributions from the creator of ‘Parasite Street’ a spoof of Benefits Street which turns the concept on it’s head and throws a light on the real blaggers.

However the most interesting bit of the evening was when one of the audience responded to a point by Zoe to point out that the community sector in particular may well be suffering in cash terms at the moment; but there is a need to not boil everything down to money and instead look at what she described as “alternative currencies” (a phrase that when used in the blogosphere generally indicates the presence of a conspiraloon or a hippy). However this was a reference to people doing things, to good will, to people making gifts because they want to.

For me this is a key point. The right  also love to talk about stories and personal experiences when it comes to most ideological arguments, where as many on the left think rational argument and facts and figures are needed to put a point across. Except when it comes to money, especially with things like public spending, foreign aid, the cost of facility time for union reps or the cost of migrants on the NHS etc. Then the right love stark figures, especially decontextualised and rounded up.

Not only do we have to think about how we create a coherent narrative based on personal experiences and compelling stories that can get across a progressive message – we also need to start arguing for a social economy – one in which people’s time and thoughts, and donations, play just as important a role as cold hard cash.

I think the two approaches complement each other quite nicely and maybe combining the two would be a bit more consistant than the current pair used by the right at least.

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