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Posts Tagged ‘Involve’

At a time when many of us are grappling with our Place Survey data, I was interested in the distinction between simply trying to understand public opinion and working directly with the public drawn by Richard Wilson, Director of Involve, in last week’s Guardian.  He suggests that councils still prioritise research-based techniques like polls, focus groups and social research and that one of the effects of this approach is that we feel swamped by data while having few relationships with our communities and other stakeholders.

Any discussion about the merits of engagement is welcome because in recent years such a strong orthodoxy has developed around its being a good thing that to argue otherwise would place you firmly in the policy wonks equivalent of the flat earth society.  But one of the drawbacks of an uncritical approach to engagement is that, if and when the backlash comes, the whole agenda may be discredited.

I think we need a debate which allows a more proportionate view of how and when different forms of participation really do make a difference, based on real-life examples.  We need to be sure that new opportunities to get involved are meaningful and address unmet needs.  And as Richard Wilson suggests, it should be a way of strengthening relationships with our communities.

Why is it so many of us would struggle to name our local councillors?  Why in many parts of the country is it becoming increasingly difficult to find people who want to stand to be councillors?  These are important issues and the trick is going to be meaningful engagement that enhances local democracy.

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