I’ve had a busy few days on the Democracy Front recently – mainly pointing out that pretending we live in a democracy helps no one. Indeed, my ‘provocation’ to the Open Government Network’s summit in Edinburgh aimed to take that slightly further, suggesting that the collaboration between central government and organisations which work to promote democratic engagement may have the opposite effect: I wanted to challenge the Network along with organisations like Locality, Involve and the Democratic Society to check whether their work leads to real change, or gives a false sense of progress which lets everyone off the hook.
These thoughts continued into Breaking the Mould – Frome Town Council’s unique conference for and with other local councils, which nearly 100 councillors and clerks attended. Where was interest or support from the organisations funded to enable local level democracy to function? The Local Government Association or National Association of Local Councils – which apparently ‘represents my interests’ as a councillor? The conference was hugely appreciated by nearly all those who came – all provided at a cost of time, money and stress to Frome. Were I into conspiracy theories, I’d start to wonder if here, too, there is a sense in which pottering on the edges suits those who wish to retain the status quo. (Key elements of the day are recorded here.)
And finally, I shared a webspace with Patrick Chalmers on GlobalNet21. I’ve enjoyed regular conversations with Patrick over the last year, as he gathers momentum for his ‘All Hands On’ documentary series on real examples of democracy working. But here, once again, it’s an individual struggling to put together funding to share the great ideas which are out there…… Thank goodness for The Alternative UK, tirelessly sharing initiatives and helping the pixels to add up to a picture. But wait a moment…. they are another couple of unpaid dedicated activists struggling into the night!
I guess it was ever thus, but I’m feeling especially frustrated at the moment that so many great ideas are out there and so many individuals, projects and organisations with the answers are ignored by the backslapping dinosaurs orchestrating extinction.