Thursday, 19 March 2009

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DIY and the future of care This morning the BBC offered us the future of car care - a garage in Norfolk where space can be hired out so that car owners can modify or service their own vehicles. "They will save money, but they can also come and learn. The more you get into it, the more adventurous you'll become," said entrepreneur Nathan Devlin. "If you need me to help out, I charge £20 per hour." (I'm old enough to remember, if my dad pulled into a garage to fill up with petrol, a bloke in overalls came out and served him. The man would unscrew the chrome cap from the tank using a clean cloth, then reach across purposefully for the pump nozzle. 'Service stations' they were called. It even happened to me in my early motorcycling days). This afternoon I heard about a system in Kuwait where patients in long-term care are encouraged to become ‘expert’ in their own conditions and to support other sufferers with the same condition. Certain sources of established expertise, whch may or may not include the internet, are presumably there if needed. Nothing surprising here really - it's the natural trajectory for the outsourcing, co-production and responsibilisation of us citizens, for too long deskilled in servicing our own bodies and societies. And no more than we deserve, I'm sure. I'd just like to note that servicing your car in Nathan's garage, or working with other sufferers to understand the details of your illness, is likely to provide rich opportunities for social interaction - further eroding the social separateness of expert and consumer, reasserting a connection between the practice of everyday life and its direction. Which reminds me: when Monty Don remarked that "All politicians should have an allotment, and if they don't keep it up properly they should lose their jobs" it's the same necessary nagging at the habits of the old order. What bothers me is that although I'm starting to come across more examples of care initiatives that revive informal social relations as a natural spin-off, few make reference to this in their descriptions or write-ups. Because we've been conditioned to not even recognise it, far less value it. That's what the quiet revolution is about, that's beginning to stir.
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Coming round This blog was in a coma for five days - medical report from Typepad still awaited - so for once I will succumb to the temptation just to offer quick links to some good stuff going on. What works in enabling cross-community interactions? Perspectives on good policy and practice. This is a paper by Andrew Orton for CLG as part of their work on meaningful interaction. It matters because it's about small-scale community activity and informal connections gradually getting some of the policy attention that is needed. Dancing with Down syndrome - Hildy Gottlieb links to a striking video to remind us to keep pushing back at the Culture of Can’t. The Eden Project has launched (more quietly than expected; one suspects there is some tense politics in the background) The Big Lunch - street parties everywhere on 19 July. 'The day after the Big Lunch, people will walk down their street and know someone in most windows.' Paul Evans shows there's even benefit in a human being of the right calibre travelling to Miami, by coming back with knowledge about Mixed ink, which looks like a sweet way of stimulating civic involvement. Helen Milner and colleagues have set up a blog on digital engagement (which I applaud) with an invitation to write yet another manifesto (which I don't). Manifestos (manifesti?) have a role, but it's usually to do with the process of structuring action around pricniples and surely we've come further than that. Maybe we should (a) dig out the three or four previous manifesto attempts in this country and be familiar with them, together with the recommendations of the shelf-and-a-half or reports that got generated (unh, mea culpa); and (b) assess what impact they had. Julian Dobson quite rightly calls for more thought about the over-excited bashing of public sector language ('jargon'). The Local Government Association have got all lathered on this; or rather, I suspect, in New Labour style they are following some assumptions of popular media fancy. Reminded me of my wee challenge to the Plain English Mafia.

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