Tuesday, June 08, 2010

An Open letter to David Cameron (with the emphasis on Open)

Hello David.

Long time no see. I want to catch up on one or two things and suspect it may be a while before I
bump into you in Starbucks again.

You see, I love the idea of the Big Society. But in order for it to save us from a generation of savage cuts and all that goes with them, we must move it from the village hall to the heart of Government.

David, your speech in Milton Keynes yesterday paved the way for a dark future. It sounded much less 'Yes We Can' and much more 'You Just Can't'.

Where has the Big Society gone, David? Cuts imposed from the centre? Under whose guidance? Whitehall's 'experts'? When do we actually get to be in this together, rather than have this done to us?

There are more experts outside Government on any given subject than inside (witness, the digital economy act). That was the Big Society trying to act - and revealing the reality of the potential power of us being 'all in this together'.

So David, I urge you, for the sake of that deficit - and its impact on future generations - start walking the walk of The Big Society.

Make it a priority to use social tools to discover those who can make a difference to any given subject. And use your resources to bring them together.

Collaborative co-creation works. It creates best-fit policies and less waste, more efficient services. It creates engaged citizens: Ones who aren't just told we're all in this together, but actually are in the process of it rather than at the receiving end.

Using social technologies all this can be achieved so much more cheaply than through the focus groups and traditional stakeholder engagement methods of the old approach to policy making.

Government is not something you do to people, it is something you do with them. Social technologies lower the transaction costs of making that more than just a slogan.

Through social tools we can make best use of those things we DO have in abundance: our desire to do things together (as the highly social ape we are) our willingness and desire to connect one to another and to talk about what bothers us, our creativity - our desire to make a difference.

Make use of all that we have in abundance to make the best possible use of our more scarce resources.

Use real-time auditing of digitally expressed intent, and need, to target resources (there are millions of us publishing what matters to us to our peers on social networks and through social tools right now).

Use the army of experts outside Government to make policy that fits the real needs of more people - decide how to cut and where to spend.

Use the solutions of the networked world to provide a long tail fit with real need. Move away from the ill-fitting, waste-ridden application of lowest-common denominator policies (pleasing few), to niche-focused service provision to truly serve the diverse needs of all (sounds like a vote winner to me...).

Recruit a whole army of service providers, as those who contribute to the co-creation of policy find they care enough to want to make things better on the ground. This is how you will engage that army of volunteers. And how they will recruit another. If they have a hand in making policiy it becomes their policy - one they want to make work and will help to make work.

In short, David, the world has changed from mass to niche, from broadcast to network. The way it must be governed must change too.

The future is about self organisation. Government must become about enabling that self-organisation: Platform Government.

It means less power at the centre. And that's tough for those with power to accept. So it needs a new breed of politician. One which truly puts the people before their own power.

Are you one of the new breed David?

That self-organising future gets to happen with or without you.

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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?