ADVOCATE COLUMN 2nd WEEK JUNE 2014
Every action and decision we make in life is dictated by our politics, personal sets of economic values and our world view –or lack of it. This how we as a community decide how we believe scarce resources are best allocated. At a civic level within our communities we often defer to political representatives to make decisions on our behalf. After all we have elected them based our decision that their worldview, values set or aspirations best match our own. However the nature of politics means their decision making will often be influenced by political expediency. The easy option is often that which causes the least offence to the most people. In many cases this is to do nothing or to do what we have always done.
Whether the decisions are made directly by our political representatives or by us, decision making requires a degree of meaningful engagement and ideally those making the decisions need to be well-informed. Living in an age of high connectivity and massive data growth means that we live in a world of unprecedented access to data. It is arguable whether this is the same as being engaged and well-informed.
I think we think we are better informed, after all social media and online media means that we receive, share and “like” more information than ever before. However liking something is not the same as actively engaging or making an informed decision, in fact it is often little more than an uninformed impulse and an acceptance of unscrutinised information. Within the civic realm an area of more concern is that despite the onslaught of information many in our community still fail to access it, particularly in regard to existing and future local government activity.
If we expect local government to consult and if we accept that their actions will be the result of what they believe will offend the least number of people then we should really question if how information is currently disseminated actually leads to informed decision making and real engagement by the entire community. Observations around recent public discussions on council activities would suggest that the traditional methods of engaging with the public and providing sufficient information for the community to make an informed opinion may be inadequate. This may be because there is simply insufficient information in the first instance which in itself is a shortcoming or that the channels being used no longer meet the needs of today’s audiences.