Search This Blog

Sunday, 22 August 2010

A tale of two cities

The new Government of an ancient nation decided to trust its citizens and let them decide how they wanted things organised. The bureaucrats were put out to grass and each Provincial administration encouraged to stop wasting money, to stop creating pointless structures and systems and instead to put control of public services and resources with the people who matter; the citizens themselves.

In the far east of that nation sits two halves of a once even older kingdom. Today it comprises two provinces, one the North Folk and the other the South Folk. The local politicians and officers in both administrations listened intently to what the new Government was suggesting. Both decided they knew the answer and both hurried to their capital cities to plan their exciting new future.

The North Folk had already created a wholly owned trading company. Someone suggested that if public services were transferred to this convenient organisation costs could be saved, public needs met and the whole thing done without the need for too much consultation or debate. The officers were after all the professionals here and providing the elected members saw change and cost saving, all would be well.

The South Folk had a very different idea. They decided to take the Government at its word and pass ownership of all public services back to local community groups. They reckoned this would save money and enable communities to mix and match services to get the best possible use out of every resource. So the library in a small town could become the hub for training courses, community group meetings and even host service providers looking for a base in that town. Flexibility, local accountability and innovation, supported by a core team of professionals was the answer they thought.

And so it came to pass that the North Folk saw little real change, although to be fair their administration did make the money go further and that everyone agreed was good.

The South Folk saw tremendous change. A host of exciting new partnerships and initiatives emerged as each community blended services and resources to meet their own local needs. The elected members and officers of the provincial authority ensured fair play, kept things compliant with the remaining sensible national legislation and everyone become very, very happy. Here, people felt they belonged, had a say and were part of something good. When they visited the North Folk they saw how little had really changed and marvelled at the progress they had made. Big Society had arrived in both provinces, but only in the South had it become real.

No comments:

Post a Comment