I’m thrashing around with a post about consultation, engagement and crowdsourcing and why efforts in this direction haven’t been massively successful for governments – whether in the UK or elsewhere. I’ll get it into a fit state to publish one day, maybe.
Catherine Howe (CEO of Public-I) is carrying out some research into how all this might work at a local level as part of her Phd, and is blogging her learning as she goes along. Her posts are long and meaty – and not nearly as disgusting as that description makes them sound.
Her latest post covers some of this territory very nicely, and links in the role of elected politicians into this. In the rush to get The People involved, our elected representatives are sometimes overlooked.
We can use and will use technology to improve the consultation process and to build in more transparency and openness but unless we also find ways to let the public set the agenda and the context, and unless we embrace the fact that decision making in a democratic process is political then we are really talking about sticking plasters and triage rather than the more radical surgery that will be needed in order to really change the relationship between the citizen and state and to create new ways of making decisions.
New governance models do not have to mean a plebiscite democracy – there is no evidence that the public want to be involved in every decision and no process that could make this an informed process. But if we are going to reinvent our representative process to take into account social change, characterised by the network society, then we need find a way to be more honest about the role of representatives and let politicians be politicians.