Being participative

Matthew Hodgson asks at The AppGap what participation and engagement really mean and he refers to the IAP2  core values of public participation. These values, based on “the belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process” are important for a participative democracy but I think that something is still missing. The values seem to imply that people are involved during the decision-making process only, as in let’s get some public input and set up some round tables, forums and discussion areas; much as the government is doing on copyright in Canada.

Like voting every four years, even the most participatory models offered by our institutions fail to grasp the nature of our networked world. Today, much of the public is always-on and you can find someone talking about the issues. Participation doesn’t stop any more. One shot deals, even those that are open and inclusive, do not recognize this sea change in communications.

Euan Semple discusses how different life and work in a global network are going to be:

I am currently reading Manuel Castells’ fantastic book The Power of Communication. In it he talks of the global network society’s tendency to truncate time and how the industrial society, with its ideas of progress, deferred gratification, Protestant work ethic etc. made becoming more important than being. In his view in the networked society “being cancels becoming”.

As a fellow freelancer, Euan is being rather than becoming. There is no corporate ladder to climb or professional designation to achieve. If everyone felt this way, many of our institutions (schools, universities, certification bodies) would collapse. Perhaps that is why many will in the near future.

The challenge for organizations and institutions in a global networked society will be to incorporate “being” into their management models. Participation becomes a constant and dynamic flow through the organization and outside it. How can you be participative in everything, not just to make the initial decision? How does that change the role of management? What is management in a network? There are probably some answers from those who are already being, accepting life in Beta, as well as those who never embraced the industrial model of becoming. We have to look to the edges of modern society to see the possibilities.

Living on the EdgePhoto: Living on the Edge by Giant Ginkgo

7 Responses to “Being participative”

  1. Jon Husband

    Like voting every four years, even the most participatory models offered by our institutions fail to grasp the nature of our networked world. Today, much of the public is always-on and you can find someone talking about the issues. Participation doesn’t stop any more. One shot deals, even those that are open and inclusive, do not recognize this sea change in communications.

    This is important, as is Euan’s reflection.

    Getting something organized and creating results, that ‘becomes’, out of all the constant networked ‘participation’, will IMO require that people acknowledge ‘being’ whilst ‘doing’ and increasingly accept or embrace (depends upon how enthusiastic or not one is about living in ongoing ambiguity) that the process is the outcome.

    This in turn requires that there are real democratic principles put to work with respect to iterating through participation the objectives and values that networked groups of people can actually believe in and want to accomplish. Networks are increasingly the public places and spaces where attitudes, opinions and culture are / will be shaped, and they carry important information about attitudes and information that the still-rigid institutional stewards of our societies should not, or cannot, ignore.

    It will remain a challenge as to how to reach consensus, but it seems clear that more and more our (negotiated) agreements will be our structures … agreements about what to do, how to do it, who will do it, by when and with what kind(s) of accountability.

    Welcome, once again, to the early stages of a very real paradignm shift 😉

    Reply
  2. Ron Lubensky

    Hi Harold,

    I subscribe to your normative expectation that we should “be” participative. But many libertarians will resist being told to engage with others with civility and tolerance, and that’s a democratic challenge.

    Also, most people persist with a reified rather than dynamic view of institutions, and don’t accept that discourse shapes our world. Presented with the opportunity to join a discussion about improving a system, the response is “well, it is as it is.”

    IAP2 addresses a particular context: the relationship between an electorate and its government.

    I agree that IAP2 is process-focussed. It also respects the institutions of representative democracy. But it does not suggest that participation stops when policy is set. Every IAP2 practitioner agrees that the participatory approach should be ongoing.

    Reply
  3. Harold Jarche

    Thanks for the clarification, Ron. As I said, “the values seem to imply…” and my intention was not to disparage the IAP2 process. It was the AppGap post combined with Euan’s that sparked my thoughts about the need to create structures that embed “being” into how we work.

    Reply
  4. Virginia Yonkers

    Your post puts into perspective something I have been following the past couple of days. I have been very impressed at the changes in democratic engagement through the white house website (www.whitehouse.gov). It is my new favorite site just because I love seeing the level of participation from so many voices that seem to have been silenced by the main stream media. In particular was a link to a blog written by a housewife in Utah who has been debating the role of the government in the healthcare system with her conservative husband. There are two posts, one from the Husband and one from the wife.

    I think this demonstrates more than being or becoming. Another dimension that the new technology creates is legitimizing. What I mean by this is a person feels as if they have a voice that is allowed to be expressed and SOMEONE will hear. I’m not sure legitimizing is the right word, but there is something going on that gives a person a place in this world in relationship to others. This goes beyond being and becoming, and places someone within a system or network.

    Reply
    • Harold Jarche

      Yes, Virginia, it will probably be something that all of us have to do as systems and institutions change (or at least we hope they’ll change). I would also call this finding one’s place.

      Reply
  5. Spanish courses in Spain

    Ya i too agree participation should not only be in making initial decision, Participation should be in each and every phase. The impact of participation will be felt only when the organization standards improve.

    Reply
  6. V yonkers

    LOL, Harold. I almost wrote in my previous post a code I developed for my dissertation looking at group work in an organization…locating one’s place within the power structure of the organization.

    Reply

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