Yesterday we had a meeting for the political party I am active in (the PVDA in Arnhem). The subject was participation of citizens in the decisions the local government is taking. Often decisions effect the direct environment of the citizen itself.
It is amazing how little trust people can have in the capabilities of groups of people. Many feel that giving much responsibility to the people in an area to determine the way a reconstruction budget is spent is foolish since they can not agree or some people will only go for their own interest.
I think web 2.0 will be an interesting concept also in this environment. Giving enough participants in the discussion to create diversity this will give amazing results. Precondition is of course that the civil servants start with the idea that contributions from citizens can be valuable. At his moment they normally start to develop their plans and when they are ready they ask the citizens: ?do you like this?”. A better way would be to start the participation before the plan and collect all the good ideas in order to incorporate this into the plan. Social software gives us so much more possibilities to be open to ideas from many sides.
Social software can be a very powerful way to get people to participate in the discussion. Maybe we will start a trial to see the results in Arnhem?