While we can be grateful that we live in a country where the state can mostly respond effectively to environmental disasters, and local communities are remarkably resourceful and resilient, I can't help wondering whether some real needs are being missed... are we are missing a trick as a country if we can't find a way to capitalise on the huge appetite for voluntary action?
We are suffering from a lack of leadership, something the Victorians had in spades. By failing to give significantly, the new rich are failing to set an example and inspire those who will follow them. Government makes noises about encouraging more philanthropy but most politicians follow focus groups rather offer leadership...
So let's stop living in a theoretical world where Big Society is what happens when a subsection of those with surplus try to help those in need but don't have enough to meet all the need, and let's start living in the real world where the body best placed to be Big Society and to make Big Society work is you.
David Cameron is missing a trick. While The Greenest Government Ever and The Big Society have been consigned to the dustbin of history, a quiet revolution has been occurring in the West of England to create the greenest city in the country. This has culminated in Bristol being named European Green Capital for 2015 .
Here are some stats from a survey we recently conducted amongst around 1,000 respondents, in conjunction with ResearchBods. Less than one in 10 British people consider the contribution of businesses to their communities as being 'very good' or 'excellent' - 37% feel it is poor, while 54% judge it to be average.
So George Osborne has lost his treasured AAA rating. We are now heading for record consecutive quarters of stop-start growth. Youth unemployment is at an all-time high. Neither the deficit nor the debt is coming down and there's no money to do anything about it. If we want to spend more we have to borrow more, and even Ed Balls can't be sure we'll end up better off if we do.
As the demand for volunteers grows, we must look at what can be realistically expected of our volunteers. People volunteer for a wide range of reasons; they might care passionately about a cause, it might be the sense of affirmation that they get, others might volunteer in order to gain new experiences or to meet new people.
For many families in that 15%, Child Benefit represents the last visible, tangible thing they receive from the state. If they do not send their children to state school, if they use private healthcare, if they pay for their lawyers, drive a car, own their property, and have never claimed welfare, then this may be the only state benefit they have ever received. And put in these terms, they may well feel entitled to it. Of course, it can be argued that they are privileged not to have to rely on state infrastructure not to have to sit on NHS waiting lists or suffer a post-code lottery education.
If this Coalition government really is trying to instil more civic pride and individual responsibility in the public, then there are few more compelling icons of altruistic endeavour than a woman who traipsed half-way around the world to support those fighting in her name. Was she a saint? Not at all, and she herself struggled at times to deflect racial taunts by trying to distance herself from those with darker skin, so she might better fit in.
As we look back on an event-packed 2012, and realise that the full effect of the Government cuts has yet to be felt, there is a greater need than ever to strengthen and empower local communities across the country. We need to join together to create warmth and humanity in what could be a bleak 2013.