GovMaker and the Greater Us
We are living in a time of broken trust. It almost doesn’t matter whether the break in trust resulted from actions real (corruption, complacency, the refusal to hear those in distress) or perceived (history/society/technology moved on inexorably and those left behind cast around nostalgically for someone to blame, and landed on government, immigrants, or elites who were still doing well while they themselves suffered). Whatever has brought people to the loss of faith in government that leads to the 2016 US Election and Brexit and Wallonia, the system is broken. It is neither partisan nor ideological to note that America is divided and that their voters are angry, disaffected and not turning out to vote. That disaffection is not what we want for Canada.
The open government movement, which has been trying to make government better, now faces an altogether greater challenge. If it wasn’t clear before, then since Nov 8, 2016 it has become clear that the task is to find a way to include those who have rejected the status quo. There is no win that depends on a stronger Us and a weaker Them, and leaders will take that approach at their peril. All people need to envision a place for themselves in the greater Us.
To mend broken trust, participation will be critical, collaboration will be vital – and transparency will be paramount. This year’s GovMaker addresses all three themes. At GovMaker you will hear how Dieppe executed a public and participatory budget process; how the Texas Senate Committee on Business and Commerce used Twitter and mobile apps and achieved transparency in hearings; how Nova Scotia civil servants crossed silo boundaries in a “policy hack,” which allowed federal and provincial employees to collaborate in a creative, safe space in order to build skills and generate ideas to drive real change in government. You will also see how those outside government have used government-held data to formulate policy options and new solutions.
Often we don’t collaborate because it’s hard. It’s hard because it requires reconciling conflicting perspectives, opinions, interests, and mythologies. It’s easier to move through the world in a bubble with people who agree with you – and we see where that is leading the world. It’s easier to make decisions and act than it is to slow down and listen to all viewpoints. But it is not a recipe for a healthy democracy, nor is it a recipe for the Canada we want. It is not how we lift our standard of living and quality of life. It is not how we cultivate innovation and inclusive economic growth. Diversity (experiences, ideas, histories) and collaboration (social capital, trust, relationships) are the drivers of innovation. GovMaker presents opportunities, approaches, and tools for governing through problem-solving and policy-making which foster these qualities.
The best way to restore faith in the political system is to collaboratively re-design a system that all people can have faith in. This won’t be easy. Anyone who tells you it will be is trying to sell you something. But in these turbulent and uncertain times in which we find ourselves, inclusive and open government is the surest way forward to a just and cohesive society.
Nick Scott, Chair, GovMaker III Organizing Committee
Lorna Brown, Communications Chair, GovMaker III Organizing Committee