Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life

Thoughts on a mass conversation

October 31st, 2010 · 8 Comments · Irish Politics, Personal, Recession, Social Policy

Some thoughts on Claiming Our Future.

What happened yesterday in the RDS was something new for Ireland, 1000 people around 100 tables talking about Ireland and what the priorities for the future should be. Each table was mixed with representatives from various sectors and facilitators were trained to lead discussions and come to consensus on priorities.

The foundations of this movement are diverse and not always in agreement with each other. In fact there has been so much ‘mé feinism’ not only in the consumerist tiger economy but in progressive political and social movements that many doubt why we should place any trust in anything coming from NGO’s, Community Sector, Union and Environmental campaigns.

The groupings themselves have not been best friends either.

The Trade Unions were maybe challenged by the Community Sector for complicitness in leading us into the state we are in, the Environmental sector challenge the Community sector for not thinking about the long term.  Some of those who are not part of any movement feel they are ‘allowed in’ to take their place finally after years of feeling ignored.

Politicians of all hues are challenged by the fact that people come together to talk – from non aligned public meetings to events like Claiming Our Future where they are not in charge.  Community Development has been destroyed by the threat it posed in participative democracy, the question on value for money and for many a failure in explaining itself and telling others what it is that community development programmes actually do.

Members of political parties are also cynical about events like COF because they have to listen to opinions which they may not agree with and criticisms of the systems they are trying to get people elected to. The political elitism of the party movement frequently pays lip service to inclusion. (The elite of the community and NGO sector also pay similar lip service and will probably continue to do so.)

The agenda of yesterday’s event was more than social, economic or envrionmental – the way our country was and should be run was discussed. There were also many people there who felt that until now they were not heard. And that may just be that no political party is really listening to anyone. They are too busy talking to and at themselves.

COF is not a political party but a process of getting people all over the country to talk to each other, to set agendas and to see change. Well that’s my view/hope of it anyway. It’s new for Ireland, it has many voices and many strands within and will need firm management to make sure everyone is included. I was thrilled to see so many people with disabiltiies attending the event yesterday and would love to see sessions with people with intellectual disabilities and from the mental health sector where they could feel comfortable and included to contribute. Also more intergenerational exchange and inclusion will be vital to continue the learning and dialogue.

The other challenge for Claiming Our Future is for this idea/format/movement not to go the way of the Ideas Campaign, the yoke up in Farmleigh with the diaspora and various other ‘consultations’ and pow wows on fixing Ireland.

The use of electronic voting (with a paper trail!) to collate the thoughts in the room is something that others should also be watching. Congratulations to Charles Stanley-Smith for the development and it will be interesting to watch what happens next in the input of technology to collate opinions. Why do we need to have workshops with terribly boring feedbacks and key note speakers at events? What’s the danger in allowing people to talk to each other? Claiming Our Future may have changed a few things in the way consultations happen and people engage with each other.


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