In the late 80’s and early 90’s
I was proud to be part of a bold experiment.
The Level Best campaign invited disabled people, carers, professionals to get involved. To explain what they wanted to see from council services in Kirklees in West Yorkshire, taking in the conurbations of Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Batley and the surrounding rural areas.
It was small scale, focused on a specific community of interest and primarily about local welfare services.
It involved a reference group, not unlike an assembly, public meetings, focus groups, research questionnaires a range of techniques drawn from different professional and community approaches.
It resulted in significant local changes and showed how engaging people effectively brings real and lasting results.
There are many examples of how measures to promote people’s active participation can make a real difference in governance and the quality of our lives. We need to take these lessons to change the way our societies and their institutions work.
One such idea is presented here.
The constructive pressure from Extinction Rebellion (XR) and the opportunities afforded by adopting ideas such as citizens’ assembly and localised practical responses to our challenges will help us develop a more sustainable approach to life that can arise from the people themselves and provide opportunities that are different from traditional work models.
We need to think and act differently.
A recent conversation with two young things who have become our adopted ‘children’ reminded me of a situation in the 80s
I worked for local government in the UK in social services. I was in my late 20’s with responsibility for managing the grants given to voluntary organisations (aka charities) who provided services that complemented ours so they were given financial assistance and developmental support. I also began developing programs to consult local people to engage them in reviewing services.
It was one of my favourite jobs and I was fortunate to get such a senior job at a relatively young age.
I was in many respects a ‘young Turk.’ Full of new ideas, wanting to challenge and innovate, create revolution. We did some really cool things.
There was an assistant director who we nick-named Huge Burden (it was almost an alliteration (?) of his name). We’d often cross Swords (blunt ones, it was govt!) and there have been times we’d have stand up rows. Well actually, it would be me, berating Hugh. Sometimes I may have been unfairly over-the-top at other times my concerns would have been quite legitimate but I now recognise, I could always have improved my approach.
So how does this relate to the recent conversation?
My lovely friends and I were discussing media relations. They were not particularly challenging me nor was there approach inappropriate, that’s not my point. They were, of course, dealing with a knowall Yorkshireman of a certain age. I felt I knew much of what they referred to, and maybe showed it too much being a bit harsh, reflecting insecurity? I’d designed and delivered with the wonderful Carol Barbone, a national roadshow for the U.K. government twenty years ago on media relations (clearly times have moved on but I’d say principles are much the same but they are the bright young things and so maybe it’s a young/old Turk situation regardless of the what’s and wherefors) so the real point is ….. I don’t want to be a Huge Burden but maybe I am.
That’s the fear, I’ve become the miserable grumpy old git! The old Turk!
I know it’s not fashionable but loved working for local government in the UK from 1986 for twelve years. It was a real challenge, government always is, but felt we made some radical changes and I made a significant contribution whether it was funding innovative not-for profits, getting to grasp with environmental impact through agenda 21, consulting local people and dramatically changing services for minority communities and especially disabled people. That was then, now it’s in a dismal state.
It’s often useful to see how others see us. Check this article.
“The disaster in Northamptonshire did not arise from nowhere. Since 2010, when David Cameron became Prime Minister, Britain’s Conservative-led governments have responded to the impacts of the global financial crisis with a program of austerity. In line with other European countries (but unlike the U.S. and China, which passed stimulus packages), the U.K has sought to manage its debts and repair its economy with a relentless trimming of public spending. For the past eight years, these cuts have presented a complicated picture. In some areas, like education and health, budgets haven’t actually gone down; they have just failed to keep up with the needs of a diverse, growing population. But central funding for the nation’s four hundred and eighteen local authorities—Britain’s busy quilt of local government—has fallen by fifty per cent.”
YES, we struggled to meet the changing and growing needs over twenty years ago and now there is far less money available. It’s a scandal.
here is the full article