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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.

Tuesday 4 March 2014

The Responsible Society

I read this fascinating article on the parallel journeys of journalistic rights and responsibilities via the social catalyst that is Rob Ford.

The terms referenced in here - responsible journalism and responsible government really stood out, for obvious reasons.

As I find myself increasingly speaking on behalf of the Open Government movement and exploring how it is we've come to this particular crossroads of political/democratic accountability, I've peeled back the layers of history to really understand the foundations of our present.

Two plot points in particular seem to hold our particular narrative together - Magna Carta, which led to the first iteration of Parliament, and the introduction of the responsible government.

As part of a presentation I do on the Open Government/Open Data movement I reference The Peaceable Revolution - the movement that started in Nova Scotia and served to bring responsible government to Canadian shores for the firs time.

This, I say with all the gravity I can muster, is our Magna Carta moment - our Peaceable Revolution starts now.

It's a good, dramatic line, but it's also one I believe.  Not as a punch line, but as a concise way of capturing our current reality - in Canadian politics, convention has trumped law and neither government nor Parliament are, in practice, responsible to Canadians.  

At the same time, I've been trying to put the emerging Canadian narrative (or more accurately next chapter in our tale) into a framework that makes sense.  This frame I've called the Conscious Society - I've also called it the Just Society Redux, because I see what's happening now as the socio-cultural child of Pierre Trudeau's Just Society.

Essentially, it's about agency, ownership and a shift in focus from the competition-oriented, isolationist and obstructionist model represented by Stephen Harper towards one that is solution-oriented, collaborative and progressive.  Put more simply, moving forward together leaving no one behind.

And yeah, not gonna lie - I smiled when I heard Justin Trudeau seemed to be picking up that torch, all on his own.

I've also called it the Healthy Society, because society is like an organism - a networked intelligence, if you will, that needs proper circulation to survive.  Economics, mental health crisis, democratic deficit - and all the solutions to these things - fit together into a neat narrative.  

Personally, I don't care what the branding is, but I understand communications enough to know why one is important; people need symbols, emotionally-connective tissue to turn abstract policy frameworks and social zeitgeists into, well movements - things they can be part of instead of told about.

As the picture comes into greater clarity, though, it's that word responsible and it's orbiting terms accountability and values that keeps popping up.

Responsible government - one that's accountable to Parliament for its choices, implying the need to make responsible ones.

Responsible journalism - less fettered rules, more personal responsibility for right intent and action.

Responsible communication - which, in fact, is just communication, instead of what we tend to do now (message and sell)

Consciousness is key (you can't be responsible if you don't know how your choices are being made) but there's a step that comes before that - ownership, which also implies a certain amount of trust.

Both are about being responsible.

Call it the Conscious Society, the Just Society Redux, the Responsible Society or any other variation you choose, the two emerging truths are this - the pendulum is swinging back to "we" and sustainability is about empowerment.

It begins now.

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