Poring over reports and attending hospital meetings doesn't sound like fun? You'd be surprised. . . Those are the words of trust nonexecutive Pauline Mistry. She goes on to explain how her role at Oxford's Radcliffe Hospitals trust involves 'sorting out the cock-ups' and 'disagreeing with some of the things that are going on' at the hospital.

Hers is one of a number of 'inside stories' about how public life works featured at Citizens Connection. 'Things can change. And you can change them, 'is its motto. And the site is full of ideas and suggestions for getting involved - from starting a 'campaign that succeeds' to changing your neighbourhood.

Less than three hours a week to spare? Then why not join the parent-teacher association or become a community health council member (while you still can), urges Citizens Connection. Half a day free? Then become a hospital visitor or Scout leader. More than that? You could be a special constable.

The site - which also offers copious and immensely readable information about how the health service, education system, voluntary sector and so on work - is funded by our old lottery friends Camelot Group plc as part of the 'millennium experience national programme' and developed by Common Purpose.

There may be something terribly 1940s and war-time England about the name Common Purpose - and in a way, perhaps that's the all-in-it-together, sprit of the blitz it wants to summon up - but in fact it is a relatively new organisation, emerging out of pilot projects in Coventry and Newcastle at the end of the 1980s.

And though its aims sound distinctly bolshie - with its rhetoric about the levers of power - it actually espouses a rather gentle revolution and is never happier than when bringing together 'emerging leaders' from different bits of the community. More a case of 'all power to the people - if that's all right with everyone'.