No light, no tunnel

The British public are pessimistic about the direction the country is going in and feel powerless to change things. The situation is salvageable but the barriers are significant. Overcoming them will require a clear well resourced strategy. This blog is an attempt to outline what that strategy might look like.

The Challenge

The British public are among the most pessimistic in the world. A staggering number think the country is on the wrong track and things are only getting worse.

People haven’t believed that they are able to change the direction the country is heading in for quite some time. However, these profound feelings of powerlessness are intensifying

profound feelings of powerlessness are intensifying

The vision

We should aspire to not only be a country where people are positive about the future and our collective prospects, but also one in which people feel able to influence this future.

The barriers

Many aspects of our life leave us feeling isolated and dis-empowered. Our experiences of work and leisure do little to build optimism or our ability to influence our collective future.

People spend an average of 15 hours a week watching tv

Strategy

A strategy for overcoming these barriers and realising this vision of an optimistic country with an empowered citizenry should be based on using every available opportunity to build people’s collective efficacy.

This should be the principle objective for economic policy, and there is already a lot of good work being done in this area.

In addition, public services such as schools, GPs and Local Authorities should be re-designed so that they are focused on building people’s purpose and confidence, drawing on Cottam, Lent and Wilson‘s work.

This work should be organised around a government wide shared vision (similar to previous Public Service Agreements) with responsibility ultimately sitting with a cabinet committee with a structure similar to that being pursued in New Zealand with their Executive Boards

Our leisure time is individualised and commercialised. This should be consistently challenged and institutions which show potential to engage large numbers of people in collective endeavours should be supported.

Tactics

A variety of approaches would be required to make this strategy sucessful, including:

  • Introducing radical new forms of citizen involvement, such as citizen juries, to the heart of public services.
  • Community anchors in each neighbourhood and networks based around identity should be supported to develop community platforms, as David Wilcox has suggested

The scale of the challenge is awesome. The forces acting against collective efficacy and optimism are huge. At present those who are trying to remedy this situation are hopelessly over matched. Only a strategy with ambition and resources will have a chance of success.

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