End 2016. Time to assess where we’ve been, and how it’s gone. How did our approach to key areas of work go?
Deliberative democracy enthusiasts in my world are in an exciting collaborative space this month. Open State. The 2016 Adelaide Festival of Ideas giving energy and focus to a future democracy and society. ‘Exploring citizen voice and the notion that government cannot have all the answers is, in essence, what the Adelaide Festival of Ideas celebrates’, states the blog.
There’s Exploring Citizen Juries (17 Oct) and a showcase of South Australian democratic reform and innovation (25 Oct) and Beyond the vote, a showcase of democratic innovation in Australia (25 Oct). And the IAP2 conference.
Premier Jay Weatherill’s vision for South Australia is future oriented, values rich, and aspires to step around ‘rust belt’ towards a different economy and society. Cool! Especially when today many Australians are anxious that there is way too little exploration of new possibilities by those who occupy our democratic institutions.
Here is Jay Weatherill’s welcome to Open State, to provide an alternative vision.
Welcome to Open State.
We’re hosting this program because there’s never been a more important time than now to be open and outward-looking in our orientation to the world. South Australia is today facing challenges that are unprecedented in their scale and complexity. We’re transforming ourselves from an old to a new economy, while at the same time seeking to protect the way of life we value.
And we’re doing this in an environment in which entire industries are withering and blossoming right before our eyes. The imminent end of our car industry and the remarkable growth in the renewable-energy sector are just the most obvious examples of this trend. Saving our planet, educating our children for an unpredictable future, being able to fund the services we need and expect – these are some of the other issues demanding attention.
With so many of the old certainties of economic life gone or going, we in South Australia must be bolder – we must be more innovative – if we are to create the jobs of the future.
Attract and openly share intellectual property
My determination to follow this path was only reinforced during my trip the United States a few weeks ago. While I was there, I visited places that have risen from the ashes of redundancy and transformed themselves from “rust belt” to “brain belt” economies.
Pittsburgh, for example, had an unemployment rate in excess of 20 per cent following the collapse of its steel industry. Today that figure is just 4.6 per cent and the city is renowned for its high-quality, knowledge-intensive jobs.
The single most important thing I learned in the US is that the places most successful at transforming themselves are the ones that attract and openly share intellectual property.
There’s a lot we can learn from places like Pittsburgh.
A collective mentality with open decision-making
And we don’t have a moment to lose when it comes to developing an ethos – a collective mentality – attuned to open innovation, open engagement and open decision-making.
The good news is that we are by no means starting from scratch. Let’s not forget that South Australia’s very founding rested on principles of freedom and governance that, at the time, were radical.
And let’s not forget, too, that over the past 180 years we’ve been national and international leaders in democratic reform and progressive social policy.
We South Australians have a tendency to run ourselves down and be a bit gloomy about the future.
But we do need to remind ourselves that we are leaders.
Our achievements in renewable energy and climate change, our expertise in defence industries, our early involvement in driverless cars – these are all examples of our being good innovators and collaborators. The more important impact of Open State – the creation of new jobs and industries through collaboration – will not be immediately tangible, but it will be extremely valuable in the long term.
We need to explore and share ideas
I know that Open State will have its detractors and that some people will ask whether we can afford to spend time talking.
My response to that is this: In light of our rapidly changing industrial base and deep involvement in the global economy, I believe we can’t afford not to be exploring and sharing ideas.
I hope to see you at Open State in October.
But if you can’t get there, check out Pia Mancini, democracy activist who is a drawcard at the Festival on this TED talk.
Participation is a term that means a lot to me as a community engagement professional. Here’s a fresh way of looking at it.
New ways, new people
Today many water companies and local governments are grappling with sharing their business planning:
• in new ways
• with new people
as Victoria’s Independent Economic Regulator, the Essential Services Commission increasingly directs them towards understanding the community’s views.
A conference presentation posted online by Justine Hyde of the Victorian State Library has got me thinking. She describes participation as shaping, creating and learning to share spaces and resources in new ways, with new people.
Ideas about participation in my field are often shaped by terms like Inform, Consult, Collaborate (IAP2 spectrum).
What does it feel like?
Thinking in categories can lead to blind spots. This is a real issue if it’s something important to participants. “What does participation feel like?” Hyde asks.
Here’s her great list:
• participation feels involving and engaging
• it is the act of sharing, taking part, and it implies being an equal, and being respected
• participation feels like being invited to be part of something bigger than yourself
• it feels like a supportive and nurturing environment
• it feels active, which by deduction means it can’t be passive
• it feels positive, which means there is a benefit or value to it and it is enjoyable
• to participate in something you have to be present – in body and mind!
Hyde asks: if it feels like that, then what does it look like in the organisation in question.
Social, cultural, staff & personal participation
I’ve seen many great organisational approaches to participation in recent work, and I’ve put them into Hyde’s frame.
• Social participation: the water companies with which I’ve recently worked through Insync, Gippsland and East Gippsland Water, have given customers an opportunity to have a voice in the economics of water supply. The discussions focus on value. What do customers value about their water supply? How much do they value do they put on service? It was clear, say at a pop up outside the Coles in Morwell, that people felt included in something bigger than themselves. We certainly hope that this contributed in a small way to building a more civil society.
• Cultural participation: having seen the thorough work East Gippsland Water has done engaging with place and people, I would think that there will be East Gippsland Water people at NAIDOC week celebrations in Gippsland. City of Darebin’s 2016 flag-raising event for NAIDOC really highlighted partnerships across the municipality, with National Disability Insurance, Police, Fire Brigade, local employment providers, and a major hotel group all involved.
• Staff participation: hearing the voice of staff makes all the difference to quality services and engagement. Like the State Library where Hyde works, Sydney Water has used design thinking to ensure that staff insights to the customer journey are well understood.
• Personal participation: Hyde highlights what you as an individual bring to your organisation, your team, your profession and yourself. Being present, attentive, positive, active, supportive, generous and respectful. I see this professionalism and personal interest in my clients all the time. As Hyde suggests, it builds a valuable collective confidence for organisations setting out to create participation experiences that feel good.
Christmas 2015. Presents piling up under people’s desks at work after lunch-time shopping. No doubt some won’t quite hit the mark. But it’s the thought that counts.
When government spending doesn’t hit the mark it’s different. If I said to a bunch of neighbours over Christmas beers in my park, ‘Government wastes money’, most of them would agree. There’s a few things to talk about locally. In 2015 our municipal rates subsidised the mayor’s university degree to the tune of $16K. He should have stepped down in my neighbour’s view. And then not everyone thought it was a great idea to put in pop-up trees on High Street to test out a new urban landscape. ‘Waste of money! And someone’s going to have an accident. Probably cost a fortune!’
Then there’s the quirkier example from the railway station. When MetroTrains or Public Transport Victoria installed a large monitor in the entrance way, anyone could have told them it’d be graffited in five minutes.
Problems, solutions & waste
People perceive waste when they can’t see the relationship between the problem and the solution. In fact we see MetroTrains creating a new problem.