From consumer-citizen to participant

Just as the global economy is making its recovery from the global financial crisis, we have the Euro-crisis on our hands. And adding to the excitement, the volcanic ash continues making business difficult for many industries on the continent. One can argue that the volcanic activity is unpredictable — not so the financial crises. They are symptoms of society going into group-think and freely swallowing what is dished out by politicians and spin doctors. The Euro-crisis – PIIGS crisis is probably more appropriate — was caused by the nations disregarding established guidelines set by the EU for managing debt and public spending.

If the US-led financial meltdown was attributed to “capitalism gone crazy”, then the PIIGS crisis must be “socialism gone crazy”. On the face of it, the answer in both cases seems to be stricter enforcement of the law for all including politicians! It is only reasonable to expect that players who have agreed on the ground rules stick to them. Or risk being expelled from the game. Yeah? by who? Maybe we should learn to govern overselves better – by participating. See my previous posts (here and here) where I commented the excellent film “Us Now”.

I am not an economics expert, but these events are a cue for citizens to get more involved in how their lives are affected. Is there another option? Admittedly, getting involved is easier said than done – the time crunch, information-overload and complexity is challenging (my reflections here). We must ask for more participation and we need to start participating whereever possible.

The PIIGS crisis is driving austerity measures that threaten the stability of the welfare state. A welfare state reaching newer heights with expenses needed to serve a demanding population that is also living longer. Raising taxes is not going to help! We as citizens need to take more responsibility; we need to participate …. we need learn how to co-produce services. Government agencies regarding citizens as “customers” is misleading and hollow and sets false expectations – there is no 1:1 equivalence between the tax one pays and services received. We are better off if we get rid of the notion of “customer” in public services and focus on including the citizen in the design and delivery of services. Savvy commercial businesses are already advocating customer participation – and are going beyond self-service. Hopefully, the public sector agencies will create their own brand of participation.

But first, politicians and bureaucrats need to truly understand this fundamental shift of citizen participation. They must provide for the trust-infrastructure that encourages participation and drives transparency. Yep, more participatory democracy and less representative democracy.

About francisds

I guide clients in choosing technology solutions to bring about change in how they engage with their constituents. I work by generating ideas and shaping opportunities that lead to implemented solutions. My specialization is in the design of solutions comprising business and community technologies. I thrive with simplifying complex tasks. I am passionate about societal engagement and business to community collaboration.
This entry was posted in co-production, crowdsourcing, societal digital infrastructure, transparency. Bookmark the permalink.

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