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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Rolling Along to Common Ground

Via Warren Kinsella - I may not always agree with his positions or intent, but I can always rely on him to bring good information to the table.
I just left a meeting with some social entrepreneurs working in the civic engagement space - there's a growing number of them.  These folk don't involve themselves much in the political process and don't work to get "ins" as an older generation of government relations folk have done. 
Instead, they have great relationships with civil servants. 
Some of these civil servants are rapidly becoming public superstars - through smarts, savvy social media use and all the sorts of presentation pieces one associates with politicians, the likes of Jen Keesmaat (@jen_keesmaat if you're on Twitter) are gaining followings and inspiring a new generation of movers and shakers.
I've got my own favourites, including a good many of the people involved in the Open Government/Open Data initiatives at all three levels of government.  Lots of social entrepreneurs, civic engagement groups and interested individuals do.  This is a new phenomenon and a growing trend.
Where does this leave politicians, the people who win votes and build their brand on being the superstars on our horizon?  Well, there's not a lot of love for politics these days, making it harder for brand success in the traditional way - the strongest leader with the best plan, the only one that knows what to do next.  Even political staff are increasingly in the headlines in ways that don't present a pretty picture of internal political culture.
Which is why the smart politicians are rebranding themselves more as stones in the soup then pinnacles of the command pyramid.  Instead of inflating themselves and creating false expectations of the people, these sorts of leaders are instead revisiting the process and putting power back in the hands of individuals and smaller business interests. 
Bureaucrats are part of the problem solution process and the writers/implementers of policy.  Civic engagement groups, unions, business associations and grassroots organizations are both problem owners and solution builders.
Politicians (and their staff) are conduits, making sure the right connections happen and the right ideas reinforced.  Yes to less government, but yes also to properly funded, efficient public services.  No to big Ministerial staffs, but yes to stakeholder engagement and even outreach to Opposition Parties.
It's the opposite direction of where too many political bosses are headed these days, doubling down on their almost demi-god status and upping their attacks on everyone who disagrees with them.  But it's the right one.
And, as Kinsella nicely reminds us, there's not even anything new about this trend.  History moves in cycles, with the occasional bad idea gaining traction for a bit before the wheel rolls back onto its progressive track.
Which brings me back to the chats I'm having with bureaucrats, politicians, political staff, community activists and those left completely outside the system.  Strong individuals for a strong society is everyone's ambition - and the only way we can reach this common destination is together.

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