Financial Times

New Power by Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans

Financial Times, Miranda Green

During the UK general election in 2010, an otherwise anxious electorate, rendered untrusting by a recent financial crisis, was offered a rare laugh. A Labour party election broadcast poked fun at Conservative leader David Cameron’s central social policy idea of “the Big Society” . His vision of a citizenry empowered to take control of their public services was lampooned with the image of a harassed working mother answering various hotlines between shifts manning local services in the absence of government employees.

Years later, it is easy to scoff at the latest evangelists for a participatory revolution. They tend towards grandiose ideas to “restore vitality to our essential social functions” or even “reinvent democracy”, as Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms put it in their handbook on how organisations can cope in a digital age. The calls are becoming deafening for an overhaul of how elites meet the public’s demands and harness ideas from new sources.

Now that political and social movements such as #MeToo have demonstrated there is a different way to exert influence via social media, the authors are likely to find an eager readership for their book — including both those at the top of the tree, anxious to keep their perch, and the activists and upstarts at the bottom trying to shake them out of it.

The “new power” in question is characterised as surging like a human current through peer networks and grassroots initiatives — in contrast to traditional old power, jealously guarded by leaders and hierarchies, that is handed down from on high.

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