There is much to be said for the idea of encouraging volunteers and enthusiasts. By bringing people together and by helping to build communities and sub-communities – regardless of the basis of these groups – volunteers benefit not only themselves and the people with which they are directly involved, but also – by demonstrating both a commitment to, and the benefits of, social cohesion – they help to strengthen society as a whole.
I’m not entirely convinced about the suggestion of subsidising volunteers (or Pro-Ams, as Demos have decided to call them) as this raises the spectre of some committee deciding which activities are “worthwhile” and which are not – and from the point of view of social cohesion and building safer and more secure communities, any social activity is worthwhile.
However, it is worth trying to find ways of helping social groups in ways that can be applied universally – or to all groups of a minimum size, at least. As such, practical and organizational help would probably be more useful than trying to encourage small groups of enthusiasts to go through labyrinthine bureaucracies to claim tiny grants.
There is much talk, these days, about social cohesion and the benefits – stronger, safer and more stable communities – that it brings. Helping enthusiasts find other enthusiasts with which to share their obsessions (sorry, hobbies) is a practical and cheap way of leveraging these benefits quickly.