On Wednesday, the RSA published this article online, touching upon the subject of Lord Wei (the UNPAID government advisor on Big Society, founder of Shaftesbury Partnership, etc. etc.). Perhaps it was in response to the scathing Guardian article from Tuesday.
It turns out, of the 1st of February (so, Tuesday), that Nat Wei has chosen to step down from some of the voluntary work with Big Society, due to paid work commitments and a desire to spend more time with his family.
So what? I’ll tell you what – some people have criticised Wei’s move, saying that it’s worth a good gloat to see someone like Wei, who is trying to encourage more voluntary work within the general public, has chosen to do less voluntary work.
Bullshit. I don’t see how anyone has the right to criticise Wei at this point – he is still volunteering two days a week, which is pretty damned amazing, considering he has no private income to fall back on, and has two kids to entertain. He has helped to found Future Leaders, the Shaftesbury Partnership, and The Challenge Network. He’s all about supporting those in unemployment, maintaining good healthcare and reasonable housing. And all at the age of 34. Did I mention he’s the youngest person ever to be made a life peer (beating Baroness Warsi, who was the ripe old age of 36)? Pretty stunning. Leaves the rest of us a LOT to aspire to.
Besides, in the Guardian’s own words:
“Whitehall sources said that when he was invited to take the role he had expected it to be remunerated but was told only the night before that it was a voluntary post and there would be no salary. Other unpaid coalition advisers include Lord Heseltine and the “digital champion” Martha Lane Fox – both millionaires.”
So why don’t we all cut him some slack? I mean, I only do 4 hours a week of voluntary work, and I don’t even have a family to support. I think he is setting a fantastic standard – in his own reply to his critics: the Big Society “is about much more than volunteering – it’s about helping people to take control over their lives, however much time they have”.