In the public sector in Scotland we are currently being encouraged/ exhorted/ cajoled to improve our efforts at community engagement and co-production. And while I dislike the jargon that goes with it, the idea of involving communities in identifying, developing and providing solutions to their social (and other) problems seems like a fine principle.
So, why are we – the public agencies (aka bureaucrats) – not pushing ahead with this approach?
I can offer a few suggestions:
Firstly, nobody likes being told what to do, so there’s an element of resentment.
Secondly, We’ve had more than a decade of expanding public services in this country,and we’ve become used to being the providers. It could also be argued that people in our communities have come to expect that they will be provided for – I’m not sure there’s much evidence to confirm this though.
Thirdly, and the key link to the TED talk – we’re the professionals with the certificates and it threatens our sense of purpose, worth and value to imagine that someone who is un-qualified might be better placed and more effective than we are at providing solutions.
Of course, the shrinking resources available and the government pressure to conform will compel us to try different approaches. I hope we do so with an open spirit and a commitment to learning and changing our practices.
Now that would be an idea worth spreading.