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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Henry Tam & Question the Powerful

Dr. Henry Benedict Tam has written about politics and society in a wide range of publications ('HT: Bibliography'), and presented his ideas at events hosted by state and non-governmental institutions across Europe and the US.

‘Question the Powerful’ builds on the work he has carried out in a variety of educational and policy roles: Director, Forum for Youth Participation & Democracy (University of Cambridge); Head of Civil Renewal (Home Office, UK Government); Visiting Professor, Lifelong Learning (Birkbeck, University of London); Director, Community Safety & Regeneration (Government Office, East of England); Chair, Communitarian Forum (St Edmunds College, University of Cambridge).

You can catch up with his social and political reflections on the Question the Powerful blog; follow his tweets via @HenryBTam; and find out more about his main publications as set out below:

KEY PUBLICATIONS

[1] Lessons from Research
Studies on some of the key lessons to be drawn from cooperative and communitarian ideas (see ’Communitarianism & Synetopia’ for an overview):

Communitarianism: a new agenda for politics & citizenship
This standard text on progressive communitarian ideas has been praised on both sides of the Atlantic, and nominated by New York University Press for the 2000 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.
(For more information on Communitarianism and its companion volume, Progressive Politics in the Global Age, go to Info on Communitarianism)

Against Power Inequalities
A short global history on the progressive struggle against exploitation and oppression. “An intellectual tour de force” (Professor Charles Derber, US); “history retold as a panorama of struggle, hope and co-operation [by] a master storyteller” (Ed Mayo, Secretary General, Co-operatives UK).
(For more information, go to Against Power Inequalities)

Responsibility & Personal Interactions
An in-depth study on when people should be held responsible for their behaviour, with the proposed criteria tested against legal judgment in seminal cases. It provides a basis for exposing flawed attempts to deny responsibility.
(For more information on this book and its companion volume, Punishment, Excuses & Moral Development, go to Info on Responsibility)

[2] Depictions of Dystopia
The ‘Synetopia Quest’ series of dystopian novels provide thought-provoking tales about disturbing social and political trends (see Synetopia Quest for an overview):

Kuan’s Wonderland
An allegorical novel about the mysterious realm of Shiyan, where a young boy must uncover the truth if the world is not to succumb to irrevocable oppression. “Original and very engaging” (Fantasy Book Review); “an unmissable page-turner” (President, the Independent Publishers Guild). Recommended by the Equality Trust.
(For more information, go to Kuan’s Wonderland: a quick guide)

Whitehall through the Looking Glass
A satirical tale about how a group of powerful corporations known as the Consortium came to take over the government of Britain and America. “[A] timely reminder of the dangers of the rapidly-accelerating corporatisation of our political and economic life.” (F. O'Grady, General Secretary, TUC); “We need Tam's absurdist vision of Whitehall to help wake us all up” (S. Duffy, Director, Centre for Welfare Reform).
(For more information, go to Whitehall through the Looking Glass: a quick guide)

The Hunting of the Gods
A saga set on a much transformed Earth where immortal rulers dictate terms to subjects who are brought up to fight against their foreign enemies until a resurrected stranger reveals to them the origins of the self-proclaimed gods, and revolutions erupt against the reigning regimes. Questions are raised about the advancement of microbotic technology, self-identity in a rapidly changing world, and the distribution of resources that continuously widen the gulf between those who have a rich and prolonged life and those have nothing but insecurity.

[3] Guidance for Practice
The materials below are based on practices that have led to more effective cooperation and better community relations (see Together We Can: resources for cooperative problem-solving for an overview):

Together We Can: the practice of community empowerment
‘Together We Can’ was a national cross-government programme for civil renewal and community empowerment (2003-2010) – it was showcased as an exemplar at the 2008 international meeting of the Global Network of Government Innovators (USA). It supported government departments, local councils, and community organisations in developing participatory skills citizens, adopting new empowerment techniques, and ensuring more opportunities were provided for communities to understand and shape public policies. Practical ideas and policy recommendations can be found amongst the resources listed here.

Cooperative Gestalt: the practice of cooperative problem-solving
The discussions with academics and practitioners via the Forum for Youth Participation & Democracy (University of Cambridge) facilitated the codification of what works in cultivating the cooperative gestalt and promoting cooperative problem-solving, not just amongst young people, but in group contexts. The application of these findings can help any organisation interested in securing more effective collaborative working to achieve their goals. A range of articles and other materials can be found here.

Serving the Public: the practice of democratic engagement
In depth development of citizen engagement policies with local authorities at a senior level has informed the production of a series of case studies and good practice guides. The impact of these ideas has been reflected in one local authority recognised as the best in England (Braintree, 1993), another one winning the award for youth participation from the Prime Minister (St Edmundsbury, 1999), and the establishment of a network of Civic Pioneer authorities across the country. Details of the resources can be found here.

QUESTION THE POWERFUL PUBLIC TALKS

Henry Tam has been invited to share his ideas on politics and society at events convened by many diverse organisations such as WEA (Workers’ Educational Association); Church Action on Poverty; South Place Ethical Society; the BBC; National School of Government; Metropolitan Police Authority; Urban Forum; Civil Service College, and Community Service Volunteers.

He has also been a guest speaker at the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation (Harvard, USA); the World Forum for Democracy (the Council of Europe); the Institute of Sociology (Warsaw, Poland); the Society for Applied Philosophy; the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics; the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies (Washington, USA); the Glencree Centre for Reconciliation (Ireland); the London Business School; the Oxford Centre for Advanced Study of the Social Sciences; and other research institutions.
(For a list of the talks given, go to ‘The QTP Talks Series’)

ACADEMIC & PROFESSIONAL RECOGNITION

• Affiliated Lecturer, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge (2011-2015).
• Visiting Professor, School of Lifelong Learning, Birkbeck, University of London (2008-2011).
• Fellow, Globus Institute for Globalization and Sustainable Development, University of Tilburg, the Netherlands (2000-2008).
• Fellow, Chartered Institute of Marketing (1993-2011)
• Research Fellow, Centre for Citizenship Development, Anglia Polytechnic University (1992-1995).
• Diploma in Public Relations & Marketing, CAM (Communication, Advertising & Marketing) Foundation (1988).
• Ph.D in Philosophy, (Swire Scholar) the University of Hong Kong (1981-1984).
• BA/MA in Philosophy, Politics & Economics, (Neale Scholar) the Queen’s College, University of Oxford (1978-1981).

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Politics & Lifelong Learning

Politics is often reduced by the media to the quarrels between and within political parties. But that is but a tiny part of the much wider struggle to resolve the many differences over how to solve the problems faced by society.

We need politics to bring about agreement on how we are to deal with those challenges that none of us alone could hope to overcome. Otherwise, the problem will simply persist; or someone powerful enough will impose a solution that may or may not work; or worse still, the problem becomes compounded by bitter conflicts over what should be done.

I have worked with WEA and other educational institutions over the years to help broaden understanding of politics, democracy, and government. In addition to the programmes that are already in place, I am now extending my support to anyone who would like to make use of one or more of the learning materials below:

• Public Issues: With a regular prompt to consider the issues raised in the latest ‘Question the Powerful’ essay (a new one is posted twice a month), you can share your ideas/queries in the comments section. Notifications of new essays will be sent to you once you have written your email address in the box on the top left of the ‘Question the Powerful’ homepage.

• Dystopian Fiction: If you prefer to explore political themes through novels that present alternative futures, then you are welcome to pick one from the ‘Synetopia Quest’ series and use it to engage others in a reading circle (any interpretative query can be emailed to the author directly). More details can be found here: http://kuanswonderland.blogspot.co.uk/

• Political Theory: For anyone interested in political ideas and how they relate to each other, there is the ‘Guide to Synetopia’, which lists a number of resources that can help to inform discussions about governance, cooperation, and democratic communities: http://hbtam.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/guide-to-synetopia.html

• Historical Review: You can also go on a journey through history with ‘Against Power Inequalities’ as your guide, so you can explore how power inequalities damaged society in the past and how they were countered. You can get the e-book or paperback here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Against-Power-Inequalities-progressive-struggle-ebook/dp/B00RQQYA5M/

Whichever option(s) you choose, read the materials that interest you most, invite a number of other people (from similar or diverse backgrounds/age groups etc) to join you in an informal discussion group, or register your interest in taking part in a WEA-wide learning circle.

You can contact me by email (htam.global [followed by] @talk21.com), and do share the link for this page with others who may be interested.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Question the Powerful: Essays

Full Listing (with theme category)
Set out below is a complete list of the essays posted on the Question the Powerful blog with the main theme of the piece in brackets. For a list of Henry Tam’s key writings (books and articles) published elsewhere, see ‘Henry Tam: Bibliography'.

No.199: The Politics of Deranged Generalisation (Con politics)
No.198: Keeping the Con in ‘e-CON-omics’ (Economics)
No.197: Dis-United Kingdom: 10 issues to watch (Democracy)
No.196: The Lawbreaker’s Mask (Con politics)
No.195: Education, Society & the Cooperative Gestalt (Education)
No.194: The Thoughtful Guide to Political Types (Electoral politics)
No.193: Terminate the Machines? (Economics)
No.192: 10 Ways to Subvert Legality (Power inequality)
No.191: Only Fools & Porsches (Con politics)
No.190: Moral Relativism & the Empathy Scale (Ethics)
No.189: A Strategy for Cooperators (Cooperative development)
No.188: There’s Something About Capitalism (Economics)
No.187: The Politics of Anti-Rationality (Con politics)
No.186: Flag, Freedom, & Family ... (Electoral politics)
No.185: Goodbye Utopia, Hello Synetopia (Progressive ethos)
No.184: Political Education with a Twist (Education)
No.183: Snide & Prejudiced: a tale of constitutional shenanigans (Con politics)
No.182: The ‘All-or-Nothing Fallacy’ of Polarised Politics (Democracy)
No.181: Synetopia: progress through cooperation (Progressive ethos)
No.180: Let’s Come Clean about Nuclear Waste (Environment & Energy)
No.179: Nietzsche, all too Nietzsche (Ethics)
No.178: Journey to the Real Centre of Politics (Progressive ethos)
No.177: Convert or Con Victim? (Con politics)
No.176: Plutocracy: a lesson for citizen education (Power inequality)
No.175: O Humanities, Where Art Thou? (Education)
No.174: The Public-Private Divide (Con politics)
No.173: Lifelong Learning & Everyday Governance (Education)
No.172: Left at the Identity Checkpoint (Progressive ethos)
No.171: Democracy at the Workplace (Cooperative development)
No.170: The Meaning of ‘Pro-Business’ (Con politics)
No.169: Money Can Buy You Votes (Electoral politics)
No.168: Remember: Together We Can (Solidarity & Diversity)
No.167: What’s in a Vote (Electoral Politics)
No.166: Thatcher, Europe & Referendum (Democracy)
No.165: Invasion of the Power Snatchers (Power Inequality)
No.164: Cooperation Unbound: a new model for democratic education (Education)
No.163: Politics & the Cooperative Gestalt (Cooperative development)
No.162: We are Spartacus – We are Syriza (Economics)
No.161: Davos’ Inferno (Power inequality [Satire])
No.160: Debunking Culture War (Progressive ethos)
No.159: Politics: what is it good for? (Education)
No.158: The Voter Vanishes (Democracy)
No.157: Between the Buddha & Camus (Progressive ethos)
No.156: The Con Identity (Con politics)
No.155: The Meekest Link (Cooperative development)
No.154: Revolution for Beginners (Democracy)
No.153: Six Degrees of Cooperation (Cooperative development)
No.152 The National Safety Fund explained (Welfare & Healthcare)
No.151: Experimentally Seeking Progress (Progressive ethos)
No.150: Keeping Democracy on its Toes
[interview with Jessica Crowe, Executive Director of the Centre for Public Scrutiny] (Democracy)
No.149: Question the Powerful: the political education project (Education)
No.148: QTP Resources for Political Education (Education)
No.147: We Are What We Eat [book review of Incredible! Plant Veg, Grow a Revolution: the story of Incredible Edible Todmorden, by Pam Warhurst and Joanna Dobson] (Community empowerment)
No.146: Politically ‘Incorrect’ or Morally Repugnant (Progressive ethos)
No.145: Cooperation Denial (Cooperative development)
No.144: Scapegoats United (Welfare & Healthcare)
No.143: In Solidarity or In Solitary (Global politics)
No.142: The Crook, the Bees, their Hive & its Haters [a fable] (Power inequality [Satire])
No.141: All Quiet on the Voting Front? (Electoral politics)
No.140: Rethinking Education [interview with Diane Reay, Professor of Education, University of Cambridge] (Education)
No.139: A History of the World in 500 words (Power inequality)
No.138: The Art of Exposing Emperors (Education)
No.137: Time for a Cooperative Government (Cooperative development)
No.136: Anarchy: Daydreams & Nightmares (Democracy)
No.135: Politics for Outsiders: an educational mission (Education)
No.134: Chinese Pride or Western Prejudice [book review of Chinese Whispers: why everything you heard about China is wrong by Ben Chu] (Global politics)
No.133: ‘Question the Powerful’: quincentenary of the 1514 watershed (Progressive ethos)
No.132: The Author Formerly Hated for ‘The Prince’ (Progressive ethos)
No.131: The Art of Nurturing Communities [book review of Community Research for Community Development, ed. by M. Mayo, Z. Mediwelso-Bendek, & C. Packham] (Community empowerment)
No.130: Who Needs Capability Assessment? (Welfare & Healthcare)
No.129: The Cooperative Gestalt (Cooperative development)
No.128: The Economics of Disability (Economics)
No.127: Who’s Afraid of Political Education? (Education)
No.126: How Do You Solve A Problem Like Syria? (Global politics)
No.125: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Teacher (Education)
No.124: The Reciprocity Test: Pros & Cons (Progressive ethos)
No.123: Bouncers for Cyber Clubs? (Freedom of speech and belief)
No.122: Downturn Abbey (Power inequality [Satire])
No.121: Anti-Social Enterprise (Con politics)
No.120: Oppose the War on Welfare (Welfare & Healthcare)
No.119: Chartist No. 6: the call for annual elections (Democracy)
No.118: Whose Money Is It Anyway? (Economics)
No.117: The Greed Tyranny (Con politics)
No.116: The ATOS Inquisition (Welfare & Healthcare)
No.115: Don’t Know Much About Politics? (Democracy)
No.114: Community Development at the Crossroads (Community empowerment)
No.113: The Power Hypothesis (Power inequality)
No.112: Communitarianism Revisited [co-written with Jonathan Boswell] (Progressive ethos)
No.111: No, Minister (Democracy)
No.110: Leave No One Behind (Progressive ethos)
No.109: Like to Teach the World to Vote? (Education)
No.108: Who’s Afraid of Father Christmas (Power inequality [Satire])
No.107: Tune into UN 194: the Sound of a Beautiful Resistance (Global politics)
No.106: Dreaming of a Dark Christmas (Education)
No.105: The Biggest Co-op of All (Cooperative development)
No.104: A Bomb for an Eye (Global politics)
No.103: The Crude, the Mad & the Ugly (Con politics)
No.102: A Message to America [from FDR] (Electoral politics)
No.101: The Powerful Can’t Hide [guest post by Ann Walker] (Power inequality)
No.100: Cooperative Problem-Solving: the key to a reciprocal society (Cooperative development)
No. 99: Who are the Wealth Creators? (Economics)
No. 98: Help Us Question the Powerful (Democracy)
No. 97: Unsure about the Start Our Children Get? (Family policy)
No. 96: Political OCD: is there a cure? (Con politics)
No. 95: The Targeting of ‘Troubled Families’ (Family policy)
No. 94: Your Power, Your Government (Democracy)
No. 93: Can the NHS Stay in the Race? (Welfare & Healthcare)
No. 92: Pyramid Hockey (Power inequality)
No. 91: Democracy’s Debt to Young People (Democracy)
No. 90: What kind of people are we? (Progressive ethos)
No. 89: Kuan’s Wonderland: a political fable (Education)
No. 88: Friends, Romans, Lend Me Your Euros (Economics)
No. 87: The Case for Cooperative Problem-Solving (Cooperative development)
No. 86: Where Next for Criminal Justice? [book review of Where Next for Criminal Justice, by David Faulkner and Ros Burnett] (Criminal justice)
No. 85: The Free Speech Conundrum (Freedom of speech and belief)
No. 84: I’m Super-Rich, Get Me into the White House (Electoral politics [Satire])
No. 83: Much Ado About Cooperating (Cooperative development)
No. 82: The Department for Wealth (Con politics [Satire])
No. 81: Welcome to the Premier League of Education (Education)
No. 80: Re-enter the Dragon (Global politics)
No. 79: Educating Fodder (Education)
No. 78: Santa & the City (Xmas Special) (Power inequality [Satire])
No. 77: Can Democracy Be Saved? (Democracy)
No. 76: What Next for the WEA? (Education)
No. 75: Corporate Flu (Con politics [Satire])
No. 74: Debt or No Debt (Economics)
No. 73: The Politics of Cultural Inclinations (Progressive ethos)
No. 72: Poor Circulation and Economic Disorder (Economics)
No. 71: The Lopsided Playing Field Power inequality)
No. 70: The Eton Redemption (Con politics [Satire])
No. 69: The Know-Nothing Executives (Democracy)
No. 68: The Nasty Media (Media)
No. 67: The Big Con (Con politics)
No. 66: A Tale of Two Strategies (Electoral politics)
No. 65: Left Disorientated? (Progressive ethos)
No. 64: The Joker to the Right (Con politics)
No. 63: Royal Family Values: a historical fact sheet (Power inequality)
No. 62: Memento Tory (Con politics)
No. 61: 68 places to change the Government’s mind (Electoral politics)
No. 60: From Wisconsin, With Love (Con politics [Satire])
No. 59: The Murdoch Empire Strikes Back (Media)
No. 58: SOS: Save Our NHS (Welfare & Healthcare)
No. 57: Beyond the Matrix (Con politics)
No. 56: Our Bacon Needs Saving (Progressive ethos)
No. 55: Deep Freeze Alert (Solidarity & Diversity)
No. 54: An Interview with ‘Father Christmas’ (Power inequality [Satire])
No. 53: On Strikers & Own Goals (Unions)
No. 52: Paint it Red (Con politics [Satire])
No. 51: Anger Mismanagement (Con politics)
No. 50: Another Coup on Animal Farm (Con politics [Satire])
No. 49: Against Power Inequalities (Power inequality)
No. 48: A Mad Tea Party’s Brewing (Con politics)
No. 47: The Ultimate Horror Show (Con politics)
No. 46: In Praise of Mo Tze (墨子) (Progressive ethos)
No. 45: Ever Tried Homeopathic Democracy? (Democracy)
No. 44: Begging the Charity Question (Solidarity & Diversity)
No. 43: The Denial Industry (Con politics)
No. 42: Mill, Dewey & Me (Progressive ethos)
No. 41: A Simple Equation (Power inequality)
No. 40: Interdependence Day (Global politics)
No. 39: The Fox & the BBC (Media)
No. 38: An Alliance to Promote Democracy (Democracy)
No. 37: Some Like it Thick (Solidarity & Diversity)
No. 36: Pride & Tiananmen (Global politics)
No. 35: Know Thy Goal (Progressive ethos)
No. 34: King John’s Lesson for the G20 (Global politics)
No. 33: Powerlessness can damage your health (Power inequality)
No. 32: Year of the Invisible Ox (Solidarity & Diversity)
No. 31: Unite or Perish (Global politics)
No. 30: The Pension Pirates (Con politics)
No. 29: The Anatomy of Change (Con politics)
No. 28: Axis of Stupidity (Con politics)
No. 27: The Freedom to Crash (Economics)
No. 26: Talk about Slavery (Power inequality)
No. 25: Thou Shall Make Money (Con politics)
No. 24: The Gene Code Lottery (Power inequality)
No. 23: The S Word (Democracy)
No. 22: The Good, the Bad and the Foreign (Progressive ethos)
No. 21: Between Nader and the Plastic Sea (Electoral politics)
No. 20: The Minorities Myth (Solidarity & Diversity)
No. 19: Wheat from the Chav (Con politics)
No. 18: Where’s our American vote? (Global politics)
No. 17: Let them eat bullets (Welfare & Healthcare)
No. 16: The Alpha Male Syndrome (Power inequality)
No. 15: Variations on a theme of ransom (Unions)
No. 14: The Crisis of Civic Disengagement (Democracy)
No. 13: What’s wrong with being all-powerful? (Power inequality)
No. 12: Together We Can (Community empowerment)
No. 11: Long live the Con (Con politics)
No. 10: Give restorative justice a chance (Criminal justice)
No. 9: Weapons of mass confusion (Global politics)
No. 8: Of frogs and men (Environment & Energy)
No. 7: What exactly is pro-family? (Family policy)
No. 6: Why single out the freedom of discussion (Freedom of speech and belief)
No. 5: Belief is not enough (Freedom of speech and belief)
No. 4: Who’s against the Enlightenment? (Progressive Ethos)
No. 3: Aren’t they all Human Values? (Solidarity & Diversity)
No. 2: Why tolerate the Power Gap? (Power inequality)
No. 1: Is Redemption Possible? (Ethics)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Together We Can: the practice of community empowerment

As the UK Government’s Head of Civil Renewal, I devised the national ‘Together We Can’ programme (2003-2010) as an action-learning exercise to empower citizens to cooperate with each other and with public bodies to solve shared problems, and improve their quality of life. Listed below are resources that will inform you of what the programme covered and the practices it promoted on the basis of their effectiveness in advancing community empowerment.

A selection of resources
These are all available to download for free from the given links:
• ‘Together We Can’ action plan: the cross-government plan with commitments in the key public policy areas.
Annex to ‘Together We Can’ action plan: with details of the proposed initiatives.
‘Together We Can’ 2005/2006 review: reports from the Secretaries of State and Ministers on progress in 12 Government Departments.
• ‘Guide Neighbourhoods’: how communities can learn cooperative problem-solving and civic activism from each other.
• ‘Take Part’: resources for ‘Active Learning for Active Citizenship’.
• ‘Quirk Review’: report on community management and ownership of public assets.
• ‘Asset Transfer Unit’: resources to support the transfer of assets to community-based organisations.
• ‘Participatory Budgeting’: resources to expand the use of participatory budgeting in deciding how to allocate public resources.

Supplementary Materials
Articles:
‘Rejuvenating Democracy: lessons from a communitarian experiment’: on the lessons from the ‘Together We Can’ programme and ‘Working with Communities’ initiative (first published in Forum Journal, Vol 53, Number 3, 2011).
• 'The Importance of Being a Citizen’ (Henry Tam): in Active Learning for Active Citizenship, ed. by John Annette & Marjorie Mayo, (NIACE, 2010)
• ‘Civil Renewal: the agenda for empowering citizens’ (Henry Tam), in Re-energizing Citizenship: Strategies for Civil Renewal, ed. by Gerry Stoker, Tessa Brannan, and Peter John, (Macmillan Palgrave, 2007).
Presentation:
• ‘Together We Can - tackle the power gap’, The Frontiers of Innovation Conference: 20 Years of Innovation in Government, the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation, University of Harvard, USA: 1/4/08: 'Innovations in Participation: Citizen Engagement in Deliberative Democracy’ (Henry Tam’s presentation begins at 33.40 minutes into the video)

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For a full listing of related resources, go to: Together We Can: resources for cooperative problem-solving

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cooperative Gestalt: the practice of cooperative problem-solving

The cooperative gestalt is the mindset required to promote shared understanding and mutually supportive behaviour. During my time as Director of the Forum for Youth Participation & Democracy (Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, 2011-2015), I met with leading practitioners to establish the key ingredients that would enable the cooperative gestalt to flourish and cooperative problem-solving to spread. These include personal dispositions that need to be cultivated and organisational arrangements that should be put in place.

A selection of resources
'The Cooperative Gestalt': on the role of lifelong learning in developing a cooperative mindset (Question the Powerful, November 2013).
• ‘Cooperative Problem-Solving: the key to a reciprocal society’: on the key elements of successful cooperative problem-solving, as jointly agreed with a group of academics and practitioners (Question the Powerful, October 2012).
• ‘The Case for Cooperative Problem-Solving’: how cooperative problem-solving can help to tackle social, economic and environmental problems (Question the Powerful, May, 2012).
‘Cooperative Problem-Solving & Education': on the evidence for suggesting why cooperative problem-solving should be taught more widely (published by the Forum Journal, 2013).
Synetopia Protocol: a protocol for assessing how well any group or organisation is run to enhance the common wellbeing of its members through cooperation (2015).
’Guide to Synetopia’: a listing of short essays relating to the concept of synetopia and its applications to reforming society and institutions (2016).
'The Cooperative Gestalt Approach to CSR': practical implications for corporate social responsibility (2015).

Supplementary Materials
’Learning more about Cooperative Gestalt’: Notes from keynote speech, ‘Power of Adult Learning’ conference (University of Edinburgh, 23 October 2013).
'Niccolo Machiavelli’: an interview with Henry Tam on Machiavelli’s advice on civic republican leadership (2014).

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For a full listing of related resources, go to: Together We Can: resources for cooperative problem-solving

Monday, May 23, 2016

Serving the Public: the practice of democratic engagement

Except in cases where the capacity for decision-making and effective action can only be taken on a broader scale – national or even transnational, political issues should be addressed as close as possible to people at the local level. Based on my experience in charge of citizen engagement in local authorities (one, Braintree, selected as the best local authority in England in 1993; and the other, St Edmundsbury, where the ‘Working with Communities’ strategy I developed won a Best Practice Award from the Prime Minister in 1999) and, later as Deputy Director in the national Department for Communities & Local Government, I have written/commissioned a range of materials that may assist others in strengthening democratic engagement.

A selection of resources
These are freely available on the internet:
’Civic Pioneers Case Study Review’: case studies of collaborative working between local authorities and citizens to improve local quality of life. (2008)
'The S Word’: on what subsidiarity should mean in practice (2008).
• ‘Councillors Commission’: report with recommendations on how to improve the democratic role of elected local councillors and facilitate citizen participation (2007)
Civic Pioneers (report for the Civil Renewal Unit): an introduction to how a group of local authorities set about enhancing their democratic engagement with local people (2005).

Supplementary Materials
Putting Citizens First, with John Stewart (Municipal Journal/SOLACE – Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, 1997)
Marketing, Competition & the Public Sector (Longman 1994)
Citizenship Development: Towards an Organisational Model (LGMB – Local Government Management Board, 1994)
Serving the Public: customer management in local government (Longman: 1993)

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For a full listing of related resources, go to: Together We Can: resources for cooperative problem-solving

Monday, May 2, 2016

Guide to Synetopia

Instead of relying on a blueprint for a utopia wherein unjust behaviour and prejudiced dispositions can be designed out, progressive thinkers have put forward suggestions for the practical development of inclusive communities, participatory democracy, deliberative cooperation, and other related arrangements that enable people to attain on-going improvement to their governance. There is no final, perfect form that can guarantee pervasive fairness and prosperity; but there are mutually reinforcing elements that can together raise the likelihood that better outcomes will prevail for all. When these elements are actively cultivated in any form of human association – a school, a community group, a business, a state – they constitute what is called ‘synetopia’.

For an overview of the concept, see ‘Synetopia: progress through cooperation’.
For an outline of communitarian and cooperative ideas, and further resources that provide more detailed exposition, see 'Communitarianism and Synetopia'.
For an illustration of how synetopia can be applied as a checklist for organisational reviews, see Synetopia Protocol.

The 9 Key Elements of Synetopia

Each of the essays below covers the corresponding element in the synetopia model. To find out more, click on the selected title:
1: Shared Mission
2: You-and-I Mutuality
3: Nimble Membership
4: Educative Collaboration
5: Testing of Claims & Assumptions
6: Open Access to Information
7: Participatory Decision-Making
8: Impartial Distribution of Power
9: Accountability for Actions

Other related essays that may be of interest to you:

Six Degrees of Cooperation
Together We Can: resources for cooperative problem-solving
'Democracy at the Workplace'
A Place called Synetopia
'‘Synetopia Quest’'
Synetopia: why, what & how
Goodbye Utopia, Hello Synetopia