Jonnathan Carr-West - Democracy And Participation


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Jonathan Carr-West, head of the Centre for Local Democracy at the Local Government Information Unit spoke on the 26th Feb 2009 to members of an Action Learning Set exploring youth participation and social networking sites.

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Jonnathan Carr-West - Democracy And Participation

  1. 1. Democracy and participation Jonathan Carr-West Head of Centre for Local Democracy
  2. 2. What do these words mean? <ul><li>Democracy </li></ul><ul><li>/di mok rsi/ </li></ul><ul><li>  • noun (pl. democracies ) 1 a form of government in which the people have a voice in the exercise of power, typically through elected representatives. 2 a state governed in such a way. 3 control of a group by the majority of its members. </li></ul><ul><li>  — ORIGIN Greek demokratia , from demos ‘the people’ + -kratia ‘power, rule’. </li></ul><ul><li>Participate </li></ul><ul><li>  • verb take part. </li></ul><ul><li>  — DERIVATIVES participant noun participation noun participative adjective participator noun participatory adjective. </li></ul><ul><li>  — ORIGIN Latin participare ‘share in’. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Representative v. direct democracy Your Representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion. […] Government and Legislation are matters of reason and judgement, and not of inclination; and what sort of reason is that, in which the determination precedes the discussion; in which one set of men deliberate, and another decide; and where those who form the conclusion are perhaps three hundred miles distant from those who hear the arguments? Edmund Burke
  4. 4. Democracy = participation <ul><li>It’s not just about representation and electoral mechanisms - important as these are </li></ul><ul><li>It’s rooted in a simple value </li></ul><ul><li>The equal right of every citizen to participate in and shape civic life </li></ul><ul><ul><li>So setting up a youth group or a mothers network in the community is just as much a promotion of local democracy as standing for elected office </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Why does democracy matter? <ul><li>Equality is an irreducible moral good - but reducing democratic deficit is also a practical public good </li></ul><ul><li>Communities in which everyone can participate and fulfil their potential - will maximize available talent and will thus be more resilient, more effective and better able to meet the challenges of contemporary life </li></ul>
  6. 6. Global Drivers <ul><li>Environmental change </li></ul><ul><li>Demographic change </li></ul><ul><li>Interdependence (cultural, economic, environmental) </li></ul><ul><li>Information overload </li></ul><ul><li>Diversity and solidarity </li></ul><ul><li>Economic instability </li></ul><ul><li>Resource pressures </li></ul>
  7. 7. Local Govt Drivers <ul><li>New (ish) local government structures </li></ul><ul><li>Duty to involve </li></ul><ul><li>Forthcoming legislation implementing Real People, Real Power white paper </li></ul><ul><li>Changing political landscape </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>All these drivers mean that participation will become a more integral to how we think about democracy </li></ul>
  9. 9. Why? <ul><li>Because global issues play out at local level </li></ul><ul><li>Because these challenges cannot be met by the State or by citizens acting alone </li></ul><ul><li>They require collaborative, collective responses </li></ul><ul><li>Local government uniquely placed to mediate these </li></ul>
  10. 10. Participatory democracy might… <ul><li>Re-think community </li></ul><ul><li>Build social and economic capital </li></ul><ul><li>Shape participatory services </li></ul><ul><li>Share power and responsibility </li></ul><ul><li>Develop leaders </li></ul>
  11. 11. Some tools for participation
  12. 12. and of course… <ul><li>Social Networking </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Facebook </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Myspace </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Blogs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Twitter </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Etc, etc, (but don’t wait for the next big thing) </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. “ To man with a hammer everything looks like a nail” Mark Twain “ If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my axe.” Abraham Lincoln
  14. 14. Some ‘rules’ for participation <ul><li>Be clear about the invitation </li></ul><ul><li>Understand patterns of participation </li></ul><ul><li>People need to be seen and heard </li></ul><ul><li>Respond! </li></ul><ul><li>Follow exciting leads </li></ul><ul><li>Let networks disrupt hierarchies </li></ul><ul><li>Not all ideas are good idea </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t lose the human touch </li></ul>
  15. 15. The opportunity <ul><li>Is to build vibrant local democracies in which every citizen is able to participate in and shape civic life </li></ul><ul><li>Communities in which everyone can participate and fulfil their potential </li></ul><ul><li>A society which makes the most of its talents and which is more resilient, more effective and better able to meet the challenges of contemporary life </li></ul>
  16. 16. The challenge <ul><li>Is to move from theory to application </li></ul><ul><li>To marry aspiration to practicality </li></ul><ul><li>To choose the right tools for the right job </li></ul><ul><li>To find ways concrete ways for council officers, citizens and elected members to work together to deliver on these ambitions </li></ul><ul><li>To do so in ways that realistic, effective, financially viable and sustainable </li></ul>