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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Together We Can: resources for cooperative problem-solving

Introduction
Together We Can is a set of practical resources drawn together from the national ‘Together We Can’ programme (carried out by the UK Government 2003-2010 as an action-learning exercise to empower citizens to cooperate with each other and with public bodies to solve problems); the international Cooperative Problem-Solving research (at the Forum for Youth Participation & Democracy, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge); and the ‘Working with Communities’ initiative (implemented for a local authority over a 4 year period to strengthen democratic participation, and subsequently recognised with a Best Practice Award from the Prime Minister in 1999). These resources have also informed the development of the Synetopia Protocol.

What are the key issues to reflect on
• How can we show that people are ready to engage in public decisions provided they are actually given a meaningful say?
• What are the key ingredients for effective cooperative problem-solving?
• What are the main lessons to learn from civic disengagement?
• How to build sustainable democratic action when those hostile to such action are in power?
• Why greater focus should be given to tried and tested techniques than reinventing short-term ‘innovative’ projects?

How to get hold of the resources
The following cover a range of ideas and findings on the value of adopting cooperative problem-solving, and they are all accessible for free online:
‘Cooperative Problem-Solving & Education': on the evidence for suggesting why cooperative problem-solving should be taught more widely (published by the Forum Journal, 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).
‘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 Case for Cooperative Problem-Solving’: on why cooperative problem-solving is needed in tackling social, economic and environmental problems (Question the Powerful, May, 2012).
'The Cooperative Gestalt': on the role of lifelong learning in developing a cooperative mindset (Question the Powerful, November 2013).

For case study materials based on the ‘Together We Can’ programme, you can download the following from the national archives at no charge:
• ‘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.

Options for further engagement
• Contact Henry Tam with any question about his experience in devising and delivering these local and national programmes.
• Share the Together We Can resources with others to promote effective cooperative problem-solving between citizens, and between state and citizens.
• Set up a meeting to discuss evolving strategies for community empowerment citizen action.
• Draw on the resources to develop democratic campaign groups and cooperative alliances to strengthen community solidarity and challenge the irresponsible acts of the powerful.

Supplementary Materials
The following works provide more information on how the Together We Can approach has evolved to become key to the cultivation of the cooperative gestalt in citizen-state cooperation:
• 'The Importance of Being a Citizen’: in Active Learning for Active Citizenship, ed. by John Annette & Marjorie Mayo, (NIACE, 2010)
• ‘Civil Renewal: the agenda for empowering citizens’, in Re-energizing Citizenship: Strategies for Civil Renewal, ed. by Gerry Stoker, Tessa Brannan, and Peter John, (Macmillan Palgrave, 2007).
Serving the Public: customer management in local government (Longman: 1993)

The following links will take you to range of resources on how citizens can play a more influential part in shaping their communities and their state:
• ‘Take Part’: resources for ‘Active Learning for Active Citizenship’.
• ‘Guide Neighbourhoods’: how communities can learn cooperative problem-solving and civic activism from each other.
• ‘Civic Pioneers’ first report and second report: collaborative working between local authorities and citizens to improve local quality of life.
• ‘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.
• ‘Councillors Commission’: report with recommendations on how to improve the democratic role of elected local councillors and facilitate citizen participation.