Open State. Democracy & all of us. 2016 Adelaide Ideas Fest

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.

Check out Open State! Future democracy.
Check out Open State & future democracy.

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.