Tuesday, January 18, 2011

And from farther afield...

Last year, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a speech on Internet freedom at the Newseum in Washington, DC. Here's a portion of that speech:

"During his visit to China in November, President Obama held a town hall meeting with an online component to highlight the importance of the internet. In response to a question that was sent in over the Internet, he defended the right of people to freely access information, and said that the more freely information flows, the stronger societies become. He spoke about how access to information helps citizens to hold their governments accountable, generates new ideas, and encourages creativity."

I quote this because it ties in with why I featured Ward 9 Councillor Brad Clark's new community blog, but more importantly, with one of my main thrusts these days, here and elsewhere: civic engagement.

"Increasing the relationship of engagement between residents and their Councillors in local governance."

This increased engagement would, in an evolved form, see more participation by citizens. Being far more involved with how the quality of their lives is constructed. Being active partners with their elected officials. (Which only makes sense if the voter is the 'employer' and the Councillor is the 'employee'.)

I've never seen the Internet as an 'answer'. Just as I don't see 'social media' as one, either. They're tools. Mechanisms for change. But in order to see change, there has to be a desire to want to effect that change. Initiative. Motivation. Because as the man said, 'Wisdom's not in the knowing, it's in the doing.' You can provide all the fitness apparatus and arenas and experts you can imagine, but if the person's not inclined to get to a different place, little will result.

Access to the information that residents need to construct informed, qualified opinions is getting better and better all the time as so much more of it is available online. But if it just sits there, if it's not utilized, then it's all for nought.

Getting to a place where people feel part of their local governance, where they don't innately feel suspicion towards their Councillors, where cynicism and negativity aren't the default when asked about how things are going will be a long, slow journey. And maybe its most daunting aspect isn't the technical or even the structural, enforcing rules and regulations on the City Council side to ensure proper conduct and performance.

It's the fact that it's all going to come down to whether people see the value in a shift in value systems, a redefining of their roles in their own lives.

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I'm always interested in feedback, differing opinions, even contrarian blasts...as long as they're delivered with decorum...with panache and flair always helping.