BBC4 ran a series called ‘The year the Town Hall shrank’; a moving documentary about how Stoke on Trent Council made the first year of required cuts to services. Nobody wants to make cuts to services. Nobody wants to be on the end of cuts, service users, services or employees. Whilst it was fascinating viewing, there are and will be further similar events happening across the country.
It seems to me that people are generally less engaged with authority. Take the Police Commissioner elections as an example; highest turnout anywhere was just 20%, with one ballot box, in Wales I think, not having any votes cast. Many reasons for the apathy will continue to be debated, wrong time of year, lack of information about what people were being asked to vote about, lack of information about the people who were standing or their reasons or plans, confusion as to why it was political, perhaps even down to “why are you even asking me this? just do it”. Perhaps when times are hard people tend to stick with what they know and are less prepared to be engaged in change.
Examples like the above seem to reduce trust so people are even less prepared to engage. We can’t solve society’s problems on our own, that’s for sure, but we can individually make little contributions.
As I work for one of the councils who contributed to the the commission on the future of local government, (you can find a summary and report here) maybe I can help explain what it means and start a conversation about how we can make a difference. I would really like your thoughts on this.
In a nutshell the commission is about how organisations look to serve society in a better way. The bit that really interests me in my role in communications and engagement around social care is covered in the proposition about devising a new social contract. Again in plain speak, how do WE (Leeds people and organisations) make the most difference with the collective resources we have available and best include, involve and support people in jointly making decisions and creating support and care packages that fit their needs and are provided by the people and organisations best placed to provide them.
And all that is going to need creative communications to constructively reengage, build trust and most importantly provide or use discussion forums and physical spaces that people will use to discuss what might be done, how, and by who.
I’m thinking this is not just about social media, nor is it solely about digital engagement. They are parts of something much bigger. It has to be about getting more SOCIABLE, initially making our organisations ‘social organisations’, understanding what that means and how it will help. Perhaps also joining social spaces in our cities to work together and share ideas in.
So I’d be interested to hear people’s views on how they think organisations or cities can be more ‘sociable’ and in how various spaces might be used to debate or even negotiate what might be.
If anyone would rather email me than leave a comment then please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org