For a while now, and before politicians started to mention the Big Society, the Dragon has been teaching and practising philanthropy as a Little Society. Children give and empathise naturally, they are curious about the world around them. This natural generosity of spirit and a philanthropic way of thinking - which encompasses both fundraising and fundmaking - are at the heart of the Dragon's Little Society. The intelligent giving of time, skills, resources, assets and financial assistance for the benefit of others is how we wish our pupils to understand philanthropy.
The seeds of our Little Society are sown in our pre–prep, Lynams: last year, for instance, Dragons wrote and recorded a song for Haiti which raised over £5,000. A generous habit of mind and practice is encouraged as Dragons progress through the school, year on year, with a range of initiatives such as The Governors' Challenge and The Dragon Sale which link entrepreneurial skills with philanthropy.
These initiatives teach more than just philanthropy. For instance, our pilot project with the Big Give charities website not only taught Dragons how to give intelligently: the children developed IT, research and analytical skills, and learned how to present a proposal. They were, and felt, responsible and empowered. This project is now replicated in several other schools.
At the Dragon, the Little Society involves families, not just children. Dragon families have visited Calcutta, Soweto and the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to participate in projects. Some still retain charitable links ten years on.
Everyone has the potential to give generously tomorrow, if their life chances permit. The Little Society prepares them for that and encourages a 'give while you live' philosophy. We aim to educate Dragons in thinking about how to give, once the impulse has been fired.
There are plenty of challenges ahead for all young people. They need to be equipped to give intelligently, to collaborate and share resources and enjoy being part of the solution to a challenge that animates them. Those who have the opportunity to enjoy a Dragon education also have responsibility, particularly as their life chances grow.
As the Little Society, we want our school to be active in bringing on new generations of social entrepreneurs for the common good.
We ask Dragons: "What would you change in the world?" In itself, that's a pretty good way of getting to know yourself. If you then ask "OK, now how would you make that change?", that's an excellent way of introducing the principles and practice of philanthropy.
The Dragon believes that nurturing the will to do good in children will pay social and personal dividends far into the future. The Little Society is learning to respond constructively to the social challenges facing the next generation and could become the people who will lead profound changes in the way we all live. Our Little Society may yet become the Big Society.