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Promisingly for the Government this week the World Economic Forum ranked Britain 8th in the world in its Global Competitiveness Report. This is up two places from last year and ahead of all but two G8 countries. Economic recovery is certainly good news for everyone, but as we build a stronger economy, we need to ensure that we build a stronger society too, so that opportunity and prosperity touch even the hardest-to-reach communities in Britain. Bringing the Big Society to life is key to achieving that goal. The Big Society’s vision of giving individuals and communities more control over their lives is admirable – and progressive. But to succeed, a worthy vision must be translated into tangible, practical, visible solutions to local problems that voters can relate. This is true whether tackling welfare dependency, anti-social behaviour or child hunger and poverty.

Around 700,000 of the UK’s poorest primary school children start the school day without any breakfast. This affects their school attendance, concentration in class, exam results and ultimately adult lifestyles. Magic Breakfast works with parents, teachers, local communities and local businesses to operate breakfast clubs in 210 schools in Britain’s most deprived inner cities. Every day we feed 6,000 hungry children with bagels, cereal, juice and porridge oats. For example, at Wellington Primary School in Tower Hamlets, one of London’s poorest boroughs, 20 hungry children receive a free breakfast whilst local volunteers read and play with the children. In Birmingham, at Leigh Primary School in the deprived Alum Rock area, Andrew Feldman helped Magic Breakfast launch the Magic Breakfast club during the 2010 Party Conference. It now provides 50 children with a nutritious breakfast every day. Local business Bagel Nash donates high-energy bagels for children at Ingram Road Primary School in Leeds. For this work we proudly collected the Prime Minister’s Big Society Award last year.

It’s charities like Magic Breakfast working in and with the toughest communities that can bring the Big Society to life. Organizations that can contribute practical, immediate, and tangible solutions to pressing social problems. The Big Society is ultimately about asking empowered citizens to take responsibility for their own lives – and their local communities – to build a sustainable economy, provide fair chances for all, and inject optimism and energy into civic society. Magic Breakfast and Bright Blue share these values – and put them into action. It’s about doing, not just talking. Stepping up, not sitting back.

Progressives have history on their side. Burke’s 18th century “little platoons” of engaged citizens doing their civic duty was a pre-cursor to Cameron’s Big Society vision. Through the centuries this sense of duty has led public-spirited individuals to serve their communities as school governors, councillors, magistrates, special constables and Olympic Games volunteers to cite just a few examples. In the 21st century the need for individuals to become engaged in their local communities, especially our toughest neighbourhoods and inner cities, is more pressing than ever. Time and time again local communities, individuals, and charities who have answered the call to action have shown they can respond more quickly, effectively and compassionately than the state to address social problems. David Cameron recognised this and ended his 2010 Conference speech, which focused almost exclusively on the Big Society, by defining it as “….the spirit of activism, dynamism, people taking the initiative, working together to get things done…” but recognised that “…the Big Society needs you to give it life.” Charities like Magic Breakfast are already working with local communities to get things done. It is only by showcasing and supporting tangible, impactful projects such as breakfast clubs that the Big Society will continue to flourish.

Alan Mak is President of Magic Breakfast and Chairman of Conservative Fastrack. He was a London2012 Olympic Torchbearer. He writes in a personal capacity. 

Follow Alan on Twitter: @AlanMakUK 


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