What might government look like in 2030? Hilary Cottam, social change expert and author, hoped it would be centred on “the regeneration of people and planet”. However, it will require a considerable transformation to get there. As she has written, “Everywhere the social systems, tools and frameworks we inherited in the last century are proving unfit for purpose”.
Cottam believes governments fail to see and react to entrenched poverty and look at problems as occasional and fixable with short-tem solutions. Government 2030 will connect with the energy of collective groups, such as Extinction Rebellion, that are bubbling up and would include a Future Generations Commissioner, as established in Wales with the Welsh Government’s Well-being of Future Generations Act.
That pioneering legislation requires public bodies in Wales to think about the long-term impact of their decisions across resilience, equality, prosperity, health, cohesive communities, a vibrant culture and Welsh language, and global responsibility.
At the centre of her book, Radical Help – http://www.hilarycottam.com/radical-help/ – Cottam lays down her belief that human connection is essential to new ways of working. “When people feel supported by strong human relationships, change happens. And when we design new systems that make this sort of collaboration feel simple and easy, people want to join in.” Solutions will need to be on a human scale and “deeply participatory”.
A key question for residents will be: “What’s happening in your life?”, with solutions framed around the answer (so along the lines of the Reconnections scheme) and there will be a need to identify and use those resources that are abundant in a community, such as volunteer time. There is also an urgent need to “design for the people not in the room”, so giving full consideration to the most vulnerable and least able to speak up.
Mulgan emphasised the desperate need to rebuild trust in government, which is only feasible by “demonstrating you are trustworthy”. Attributes for doing this will include re-establishing a moral purpose and being good at saying “sorry” when things go wrong.
Nesta’s fingerprints are all over many of the most innovative schemes that are under way and this is no doubt one reason why it is able to build such interesting agendas for its events. There were ideas and inspiration aplenty for the 250+ attendees to take back to their organisations, if only they can find the breathing space to put them into practice amidst the day-to-day need to try to hold together statutory services after ten years of austerity.