The Big Society Concept in a Natural Environment Setting


This rapid research and evidence review has been undertaken as part of the project, Defra Social Research Evidence Review to inform Natural Environment Policy (NE0109). There is increasing recognition within both policy and academic communities that many natural environment‐related policy issues cannot be framed, explored and addressed through evidence from any single perspective, but require more interdisciplinary research that embraces both social and natural science (amongst other disciplines). As highlighted by the reviews undertaken for this project, social science has a key role to play, not only in finding appropriate solutions to existing policy challenges (to which it is already contributing), but also in helping to frame policy challenges in alternative ways that may enable the implementation of different and potentially more effective policy responses to these challenges.

Unlike the other two reviews carried out within this project, this does not seek to provide an in‐depth review of a focused body of literature but rather is a rapid review intended to contribute to the Big Society‐related evidence needs set out in Defra’s discussion document ‘An invitation to shape the Nature of England’.

Through a rapid review of both academic and grey literature, this review seeks to explore how the Big Society concept could be implemented in the context of the natural environment. In particular, it draws on a range of case studies to examine the potential for collective community action for the protection, restoration and management of local natural environments, and considers how such action may be facilitated by a range of actors, including businesses, existing civil society organisations, and local and central government.

Bell, S. and Vanner, R. (2011) The Big Society Concept in a Natural Environment Setting. A report to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Policy Studies Institute. Defra, London.