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BVA Congress
Engaging in the Big Society

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Following the opening address given by Jim Paice, minister of state at Defra, at the BVA Congress last month (see VR, October 1, 2011, vol 169, p 350), three speakers discussed the role of vets in the ‘Big Society’. Kathryn Clark reports

THE key characteristics of the ‘Big Society’ espoused by the Government are the empowerment of local people and communities and the transfer of power and decision making from a central base to a local one, thus giving communities more influence and control over their environment and future. According to Richard Dixon, founder of Vets Now, these characteristics already exist in the online community, and social media in particular, and vets need to engage with this ‘big society’ in order to use it to their advantage.

Speaking during a contentious issues debate at the BVA Congress on September 23, Dr Dixon described how social media worked through ‘massive, real-time communication’, providing information that empowered individuals and communities. It allowed people to share their experiences and their opinions, and gave them more influence and control over their environment – and it was also becoming more and more popular. For example, Twitter, founded only five years ago, had 50 million active users every day, with one billion ‘tweets’ being posted every five days. In June 2011, over 50 per cent of all internet visits in the UK went to one website – Facebook. ‘This is a massive society,’ Dr Dixon said; ‘What are we doing about it as a profession?’

‘Sometimes I think we have a tendency to think of Facebook or Twitter or blogging as something that is out there in the big world. But, it’s not. It's about local people talking about local …

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