‘Citizen empowerment agenda’: how potentially cool is this?

… if there is enough enthusiasm, of course. And that will only come if this is looked at as something that can be developed collaboratively and we can help shape how it might best work, well, actually, I mean: create some way of doing this that will be used.

It is here: http://tiny.cc/sIE7I (ooh Ed aside (O/T), tiny got clever, they have an upgraded version)

Hazel Blears gives an impassioned introduction which is vehement in its acknowledgement of how important it is to harness the willingness of people to ‘get involved’ in government (true democracy) – something I am sure she sees much of, the people who go to meet her are obviously there for a purpose. (This does not reflect the general apathy in society, but it is enough for now).

I am pretty sure that the children pictured in the document would not be so keen on voluntarily spending time giving their much sought after opinion on government policy, no matter how easy we make it. Nor should they really. In my opinion, children should be allowed to be children, and teenagers teenagers &c &c. Of course we can ask, and enable those who do want to get involved to do so, and I am more than sure that what they have to say will be brilliant. (Am I a bit wrong if I envisage the scenes from the Sound of Music when the odd-looking Nazi kids (totally the fault of the film not me!) get all caught up in politics and try to affect their non-engaging co-patriots who are busy snogging and singing? Hmm thought so!)

HOWEVER, I love this policy. (By the way it is all part of the Governance of Britain (GOB) thing, which sounds mind-numbingly boring, but actually it is pretty interesting (when you get past the name). Jeremy Gould was involved in its development.)

I love it because it sits so perfectly with all of the social media people I have met recently at the UKGovBarCamp who really do care about this stuff. I cannot believe how many people there are, groups (not necessarily lobby groups) just impassioned people who believe in getting involved, helping and actually getting excited about the opportunities offered to us in this digital age.

So, to save you scrolling through 49 pages of explanation, here is basically what the citizen empowerment agenda is:

  • I can’t precis Ms Blears’ intro, you need to read it then come back for the rest if you need 🙂
  • Bearing in mind that it is based on the GOB Green Paper, you need to know this bit of it: It aims to give citizens the means of participating in decision-making at every level; to clarify the role of Government, both at central and local level; to rebalance power between Parliament and government and give British people a stronger sense of what it means to be British (FWIW: I do not agree with the importance of the second point but hey ho)
  • This paper is an action plan covering three areas:
  1. Widening and deepening empowerment opportunities locally
  2. Supporting and enabling people to take up empowerment opportunities
  3. Strengthening local representative democracy
  • In Summer 2008 there will be a review of this action plan, with a further plan set out thereafter (I know, I KNOW… these things take time)

Hope you don’t mind but I am just going to pick out the actions from point two, as that is the most relevant to making this a success IMHO. (The action plan is a little bit of a muddle, in that actually by doing points four and ten, copied below, you should be able to achieve the rest… is this helping? Sorry)

4. Give citizens a greater role in planning
• Build an e-consultation hub: 2007 link every local authority and 2008 open the hub to the general public.

10. Continue to develop online tools to support empowerment and democracy
• We will continue to develop www.peopleandparticipation.net with Ministry of Justice and the Sustainable Development Commission.
• We will work across Government to encourage use of new forms of information and communication.

The paper goes into detail, but basically, this agenda enables you and I to get involved in policy-making that affects you and I – and Communities and Local Government (CLG) will be working to ensure that this happens.

I happen to know that the people involved in taking this forward in CLG rock. Amongst them sits one Sheenagh Reynolds who has been consistent in her professionalism and work ethic throughout the five years I have known her – what more could you want from a civil servant? (I emailed her at 7.30pm tonight and she replied – ’nuff said.) Please don’t go hounding her, she is a busy lady 🙂

To wrap, as I feel as if I am beginning to lecture: this policy is important, it is active and it is something that you should all be taking note of and discussing. Is there a formal way of engaging? Not yet, but why not have a look for yourselves and discuss it on your own blogs, at your dinner parties, in the playground, crack houses… whatever 😉 see what energy there is – if it is there, then when they take this to the next stage, you can play!

I am not sure that this post makes sense – apologies if I ramble, but the point is, know about it, understand it and when you can – get involved.

5 responses

  1. Em, you ramble, but god bless you we love it 😉

    No, seriously I AM interested in this and particularly the way I can see this dovetailing in with the Digital Inclusion agenda (another CLG lead thingumy) that I am involved with. Wouldn’t it be splendid if all those empowered citizens understood technology and there was no digital divide, everyone who wanted to participated using whatever technology they had access to and (full circle) felt much more empowered citizens as a result.

    Off I go on one of my rambles now!

    Tis all good stuff, Em – all good stuff – pleasedo keep me in the loop, I am also excited by all this. Yes really!

  2. Paul, we/they do not need to understand technology, the tools are easy, and cheap 🙂 hurrah

    But yes, if there is other stuff out there, let’s ponder that too!

  3. Agree the technology is cheap… probably too cheap, but that will only start me on my environmental / throwaway culture rant … technology should be expensive … no I mean technology should be valued.

    The tools can be hard, even the operation of the most basic mobile is a challenge for some elderly people … who also don’t understand why it has to be charged up all the time! Well Nokia … why can’t mobiles take two Duracell AA batteries ? Canon, why are basic digital camera controls so fiddly etc etc.

    Anyway. To reach the excluded and empower them the tools will change, faster than you or I can cope with and therefore faster than the digitally excluded – what matters are the methods used to increase inclusion… but without simple tools some people will just never want to be part of the game.

    Ponder, ponder …

  4. “Give citizens a greater role in planning
    • Build an e-consultation hub: 2007 link every local authority and 2008 open the hub to the general public.”

    I assume by this they mean ‘The Planning Portal’ – and if not, why not, is ‘website rationalisation’ completely empty and meaningless – but this lumbering dinosaur is pretty universally hated in planning depts. TMK and I have never had a good experience dealing with the arrogant sods.

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