Yesterday in Bath, David Wilcox and I ran a workshop game on neighbourhood governance at a Quest networking event. David will surely post something about the technique and process in due course on his blog. Meantime here are some issues that emerged in the conversations that we stimulated.
The whole neighbourhood governance agenda makes an assumption that people will connect to their locality. We know that people will come together in the face of adversity, but why do we suppose that they will come together just because government wants them to? This assumption was immediately challenged by one of our groups.
People have lots of different interests, and their allegiance and commitment may be stronger to interest groups than to their locality. This implies that you might not get enough strength of commitment if you assume that we’re solely or mainly bound together by locality. People will cluster around their interests if they find them in their neighbourhood, but is that enough to sustain democratic forums at the most local level? One of our workshop groups, playing the storyline of a fictitious neighbourhood forum, felt the solution was to establish sub-groups around interests; but then they ran up against the challenge of representation because insufficient numbers were turning up to meetings. Well they tried to solve that by saying 'we don't have meetings, we have events'... Which is fine, but we're talking about a decision-making forum of some kind here...
And then there's the question of community 'leaders' or dominant activists. My hunch is that this will feature less in the neighbourhood governance agenda than is anticipated, but here's how one participant expressed it:
“However democratic you try and make it, you’ll get the big mouths, and others won’t put themselves forward.”
We're looking to develop the game as a way of surfacing issues in this agenda, so if you're interested please get in touch.