The week in citizen engagement #3: Loving libraries and human design

Tips, tricks, thoughts and ideas made for sharing

Hello and welcome back to Apolitical’s weeknote on citizen engagement.

In this note we ask the citizen engagement community to share their knowledge, thoughts and ideas to give you the best start for the week ahead.

This week we’re bringing you an eloquent love letter to libraries, an offer to go back to school  and a promise that economics can be for everyone. Let’s get to it.

What you’re reading: Government is people, too

Immersing yourself in a good book is an important part of any well-balanced information diet. However, finding a moment to read can be difficult even at the best of times. This week we bring you recommendations to fit every schedule — from the long reads to the quick medium posts.

Shorter Reads:

“How do tools and methods of human-centred design impact civic engagement? Might we be thinking more critically about the values embedded in these tools? This excellent piece on Equity x Design sparks challenging thoughts. As those of us in government rapidly adopt private sector tools like design and nudges, are we adapting those tools to public sector values?” — Michael Baskin, Foundation For Civic Leadership, USA.

“Centre For Public Impact’s report on making a more human government  helped me think about the different ways in which we can hear each other authentically” — Michael Baskin

Longer reads:

“I am reading The Third Pillar by Raghuram Rajan and The Entrepreneurial State by Marianna Mazzucato. Both of these books look to append the prevalent thinking in government and in the Western economies in general that market forces act in isolation from communities. I find them extremely exciting as it seems that finally, we are starting to move in a more realistic approach to the economy and economic wellbeing – one that will hopefully speak much more to people’s lived experiences”. — Cristina Inceu, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, UK

I am currently reading ‘Catch-22’ by Joseph Heller. It’s a 20th Century classic that has been on my list for a long time. Inspired by his own combat experience during WWII, Heller’s prose elevates the satire and highlights the madness of war and of those who experience it. I would highly recommend as such classics will be needed to inform future generations of events that we never thought would happen again. — Cormac Smith, South African Liaison Office

“I am re-reading Fred LaLoux’s ‘Reinventing Organizations’ to contemplate the future of local government in the context of democracy. Government is people, too. How might we better listen to each other as humans? Do our structures free us or limit us?” — Michael Baskin

What you’re watching: Animating economics

Can economics be fun? Yes, says one of our readers — just add an animating narrative.

“In my role I am constantly horizon scanning for the important issues that government will have to resolve – and I think in some form, for a long time, the way government and politicians have spoken about the economy did not make it accessible to citizens, and as such they were unable to engage properly. I think this video, Economics is for everyone from the RSA, dispels the myth that there is one right answer to economic growth/ or to a successful economy. It opens the door to the complexity of economics and I am personally inspired by that. Furthermore, there is one final line in the video that is pure gold for anyone passionate about public service – it says that we have to really believe in changing the status quo – while acknowledging how hard a task that is!” — Cristina Inceu, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, UK

What you’ve learned: How policy-making is made

This week we bring you one concise learning from South Africa.

“We must not always assume that the members of the public understand the policy-making process”. — Gillion Bosman, Member of Parliament, Western Cape Provincial Legislature, South Africa

It’s often said that laws are like sausages — it is best not to see them being made. But is it time to invite citizens behind the scenes? As always, we would love to hear what you think. 

Your favourite quotes: A library for the soul

Some quotes have the power to go down in history, and others help us better make sense of the times we live in. Here’s a few of the quotes that have stuck with you lately. 

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” — Steve Jobs

“I think this is such an important quote, especially with the changing nature of the traditional job.” — Gillion Bosman, Member of Parliament, Western Cape Provincial Legislature, South Africa

“A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life-raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination. On a cold rainy island, they are the only sheltered public spaces where you are not a consumer, but a citizen instead.” —Caitlin Moran

“I like this quote because I believe it and because I see our local library adapting to the changing times and continuing to be all these things to the local community.” — James Sainsbury, Matamata-Piako District Council

Trends or people to follow: Cultivating technology

They say you reap what you sow, but in the case of cultivating an understanding in government of the ins and outs of digital infrastructure, the gains can sometimes seem slow to materialise. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t bright spots out there. Like this example, brought to us by one of our readers. 

“Recently I have been following Cultivate IT, both their newsletters and video clips. Cultivate IT is a sector organisation developing a digital ecosystem in Waikato, New Zealand. I think it is important because it makes one realise that a provincial region of a small island nation at the bottom of the world is able to advance the Waikato as a technology powerhouse through innovation and collaboration”. — James Sainsbury, Matamata-Piako District Council, New Zealand

The events you’re excited about: Great nerdy times

Last but not least we are bringing you back to school, but in the best way possible. Here’s two tips for a civil servant summer school. 

“The Canada School of Public Service and Privy Council Office collaborative learning experience: Learning Together for Better Public Engagement!(Starting June 10 for 5 weeks). The Canada School of Public Service and the Privy Council Office have created a collaborative online program on public engagement and consultations. Join the conversation on tools and tips on everything from planning a consultation to running and facilitating a session to analyzing your data.” — Laura Wesley, Privy Council Office, Government of Canada.

“Frontiers of Democracy and the accompanying Institute for Civic Studies should be a really nerdy great time for practitioners and academics to come together and jam out about the future of democracy. — Michael Baskin, Foundation For Civic Leadership, USA.

With these words we leave you once again with the hope that you will have a great week. But before you go, we have a favour to ask: making government better starts with sharing, and so we ask you to share what you know with us.

We hope you won’t be shy, and that you’ll share your thoughts, ideas and recommendations with us, so we can include it in next weeks’ note. And if you have enjoyed this weeknote, please share it with your friends and colleagues.

Hungry for more? You can still catch last week’s note right here.

See you next week for another note from the citizen engagement community.

(Photo credit: Unsplash)

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