The Joseph Rowntree Trust’s Power Inquiry 2005, which was Power: make it the issue has now become Power2010. They’re asking for big ideas, out of which a short list will be chosen, then voted on publicly, to form the Power Pledge. Political parties will then be lobbied with this, and invited to make this pledge part of their manifesto at the 2010 general election.
Anyhoo, here’s my big idea as I wrote it on to their site:
Ongoing continual engagement, from all levels of government (parish through to EU), through one body (so citizens know there’s one place & person to speak to about any issue), using multiple methods of communication (“Planning for Real”, citizens juries, focus groups, forums, surgeries, door-to-door, electronic, discussion over bingo, etc.), relevant to all sorts of people (age, background, ability, inclination, hard-to-reach, people who prefer writing or speaking or discussing or ticking surveys or meeting one-to-one, and more etc.), with direct links shown so we can see how what we say and what was said to us impacts on changes in policy and implementation.
This is all in contrast to the very poor quality of “consultations” that government currently undertakes. And this comes out of the theory and practice of Community Development.
And here’s what I wrote in the “why is this important to you” box:
I believe that Community Development offers an ethos and method for connecting policy makers and implementers with the people who are affected; and through this engagement, all of society benefits.
I see the various “consultations” that government undertakes with the people as very poor in quality and very limited in reach and impact. They generally only use one method of communication (which is therefore only relevant to one sort of person e.g. someone capable of and inclined to respond to a written survey), they only do it once at one time (so the fuller longer-term picture is missed), they don’t work to include all possible groups of people (so the hardest to reach are included least often, and the disadvantaged are ignored), and the people who are involved don’t get to see how much of an impact what they have said has (if it has any impact at all).
Long-term continual engagement, in the Community Development way, leads to relationships being built; through ideas and opinions being exchanged and changes (formed by the people and by the organisations with the power) being seen to emerge from this, communities develop. This brings benefits to individuals and to society far beyond the simple tick-box “accountability” that so-called consultations are supposed to bring.