Monday, 15 April 2019

Policies for Renewing State-Citizen Cooperation

Government institutions and citizens can only cooperate in an informed manner if policies in support of effective democratic engagement are taken on board. Set out below are five key policies to be considered:

[1] Focusing on making engagement a genuine lever for change
Engagement must be connected to options that would make a real difference to people’s lives. It should be backed by organisational arrangements so that at the outset there is a transparent and shared understanding of what changes can be secured. To involve people in detailed discussions only to reveal some way into the process that various doors are actually closed will only aggravate disillusionment. Those with the formal decision-making power must be willing to act on the outcomes of informed deliberations. In practice, such a commitment would require a feasibility analysis and a corresponding implementation plan before one launches into an engagement initiative.

[2] Identifying and publicising the value of democratic cooperation
More should be done to make the case for cooperative engagement. Local government accounting, for example, should not only list ‘the cost of democracy’ relating to any expenditure associated with elections and subsequent activities of councillors, but cover the gains to accountability and effectiveness generated by informed participation. Techniques for quantifying such gains should be widely adopted. Assessments from around the world have shown that where people are given genuine opportunities to reflect and contribute their views on the development of public actions, it tends to lead to more satisfactory and cost-efficient outcomes.

[3] Selecting appropriate and feasible involvement approaches under different circumstances
A wide range of approaches have been developed and refined for different circumstances, and they only work effectively if they are chosen sensibly and applied with the necessary know-how. Issues such as representativeness, locations, duration, and expenses need to be addressed accordingly. The approach to be adopted should comply with ground rules on, for example, mutual respect, civil discourse, and the adjudication and exclusion of lies and misinformation; handling emotional tensions and resolving them with due empathy; fair facilitating of discussions in reviewing pros and cons, questioning experts, formulating suggestions, and weighing options; and overseeing the resolution process.

[4] Cultivating inclusive community relations as a long-term strategy
Between specific engagement exercises there should be communications to cover not just how the outcomes of those exercises are being followed up on, but also what other policy explorations or everyday issues people may want to discuss. In addition to government bodies having regular and constructive communications with the public, the communities being engaged must themselves be not so divided that it would render shared deliberations impossible. This requires the appropriate use of community development to ensure people from all socio-economic and diverse cultural backgrounds are kept in touch and given realistic opportunities to share their views.

[5] Investing in the development of civic leadership at all levels of society
People aspiring to take on civic leadership positions in society should be assessed on their aptitudes for deliberative engagement with their fellow citizens, and there should be high quality training to enable them to develop the necessary skills and dispositions. Such training should raise understanding of the value and techniques of citizen engagement. Apart from investing in improving formal training provisions and selection arrangements, community-based learning networks should be supported to improve awareness of the opportunities and implications of becoming civic leaders, so that people irrespective of their age, gender, race and class, can be encouraged to participate in informed deliberations and decision-making in relation to public issues.

For more on the renewal of state-citizen cooperation, take a look at Whose Government is it? Available from Bristol University Press:

Monday, 1 April 2019

Fool’s Paradise: the ultimate political resort

Since 2016, the numbers flocking to ‘Fool’s Paradise’ resorts on both sides of the Atlantic have dramatically increased. Even now, many are still attracted to the promises of taking back control and being made great again. In case anyone is wondering what is so tempting with these political resorts, take a look at what are on offer:

[1] Wake up to the daily mantra: “what is said here is always true; what is said elsewhere is fake news”. Never worry about facts or evidence. To check out what you should believe, simply follow the tweets from our Con-Troll Centre.

[2] Fuel your anger and direct your complaints at one or more of the culprits on the official scapegoat list. Anything you’re unhappy about, blame immigrants, trade unions, benefit claimants, minorities, feminists, the European Union, the United Nations, or anyone deemed unacceptably ‘different’ [note: the list is expanding, check at reception].

[3] Remember everything is guaranteed for life (and hence non-refundable). Once you’ve chosen ‘Fool’s Paradise’, that’s it. It’ll be assumed you’ll never change your mind. If you tell us you’ve changed your mind, you’ll be ignored just the same.

[4] Become independent in every way. No help of any kind will be given to you. Whenever you’re cold and tired, you are welcome to sleep anywhere with nothing but the flag wrapped gloriously around you [note: flags, caps, and other souvenir items will incur extra charges].

[5] Enjoy extra servings of hypocrisy which are free and available at all times, as you sing the praise of those in charge of ‘Fool’s Paradise’ even though they behave in atrocious ways that you would condemn in connection with anyone else.

[6] Use your unlimited freedom to mock, intimidate, and cheat anyone you like. And feel outraged when others use their freedom to do the same to you. Basically, anything goes in paradise – so long as you can afford the service of the most expensive lawyers.

[7] Attend costly classes on how the masters of ‘Fool’s Paradise’ manage to make a lot of money for themselves by having no reservation over how they violate probity, hurt the poor, pollute the environment, and increase economic insecurity for everyone else.

[8] Take your mind off things by signing up to one of the popular diversion activities [current favourites include: hate speech on campus, climate change denial, anti-vaccination]; ever reliable to help you forget what a mess you’ve made for yourself and others.

[9] Organise violent field trips to bring fear and harm to the many designated enemies [note: an updated list is tweeted daily]. If you are caught injuring or killing people, however, you will be classified as a ‘deranged individual’ who has acted on your own.

Fool’s Paradise – the ultimate political resort for people who’d believe anything, want everything, and understand nothing.