Hunting Elephants


Most people, I imagine will have read the piece called “Hunting elephants”. If not, do, you can find many versions by doing a web search on “Desktop Elephants”. I don’t even know who wrote the original so I can’t credit them properly; suffice it to say, despite its age it has real meaning today. 

If there’s an elephant in the room, we need to find it. The good news is there are signs that people are looking. The murals from the recent Congress Camp were a real treat to read because they chose not to ignore the elephant. They asked a series of very pertinent questions:

How do we:  engage citizens in participatory politics and make it habitual (single issue politics)Connect the connectors, create champions, and engage the disengaged.cultivate civic mindedness – make people feel important, crowd sourcing agency

Leverage existing, trusted sources?

Identify real constituents?

What does: accountability really mean, what do citizens really want?
How do: officials move forwards and differentiate spam from real? Elected representatives are reluctant to share, collaborate and add to their burden
  Making meaning and motivation Noise versus social – who gets heard, participatory technology
What makes: impact, if people know that they are making a difference?
  people input and not just vent?

The bad news is that many of the people in the room aren’t looking for the elephants:

  • CONSULTANTS don’t hunt elephants, and many have never hunted anything at all, but they can be hired by the hour to advise those people who do.
  • POLITICIANS don’t hunt elephants, but they will share the elephants you catch with the people who voted for them.

Rule number one: Make sure that you’re talking about the same thing as the other person. What do we mean by Gov 2.0? Is it really Gov 3.0, enabled by Web 2.0? I came across this first when reading the Silicon Flatiron post  that prompted an earlier post: “Is There An Elephant In The Room?”. The Silicon Flatiron Roundtable was a good thing because they were talking about the different elements of the Gov 2.0 debate whereas other places appear to focus only on the area in which they have an interest and as a result the different lines of enquiry start to diverge. Is this important? Well I think so. Web 3.0 is just starting to make itself known. The Internet of Things is what sits behind the new Augmented Reality Apps that are getting people excited. There is a good report from Vox Internet on the challenges for Europe though a deep breath before you start. Web 3.0 will have huge implications for Government and a lot will depend on what we do now. I’m not going to get bogged down in semantics so I’m going to use Gov 2.0 with Web 2.0 and hopefully we will all know where we are.

Marketing has seized on Web 2.0 with enthusiasm. People like Oliver Blanchard @thebrandbuilder are interesting to follow. Oliver describes himself as “Brand strategist, passionate Marketing & Social Media honcho, and harbinger of growth for smart companies”, and he’s not alone. Even the largest media companies are following the Web 2.0 hype: I highly recommend “The Book of Revelations” from Saatchi and Saatchi as a peephole insight into the kinds of things that interest mainstream media companies at the moment. Take time out to look at the S & S home page as well, great images from their campaigns. There is marketing in politics, of course there is, but are we in danger of confusing the channels of marketing with the channels of communication? Are we right to treat citizens also consumers? Don’t consumers have a choice? Once a government is in power we have made our choice so what are the lessons from marketing?

Conversation, Conversation, Conversation.

The empowerment of citizens is an important political manifesto issue. People taking responsibility for their lives and their services locally now has an economic imperative. Where does this leave politicians? Empowerment is all about what? What about mandate? Politicians will argue with some justification that when they were elected they were given a mandate, are we questioning the mandate, what has happened to the power of the ballot box? What is the future of Government? What does the manifesto of Power Politics look like? What is the role of consensus?

The route to the solutions is in front of us, we talk about it every day what we don’t seem to do is to pull it all together.


 Pulling It All Together


Pulling It All Together
There are some real barriers: Power politics, hierarchies, the googlarchy, the law of the power curve. We know what these are, so why aren’t we hunting the elephant? Because it’s a protected species? Maybe the ecology of people politics is due for a review, so let’s recognise the elephant in the room, look it in the eye and let’s get together.

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