Sunday, February 12, 2012

Communication, collaboration, commitment.

A great deal of discussion in the community is centred around what is important to each individual in order for them to be happy with their representatives. This includes, Councillors, State MP's, Federal MP's and even our community organisations such as schools and welfare groups.

I would be really interested to know what skills and attributes are important to you but even more importantly, HOW you would like your representatives to behave.

Personally, I want three things.....communication, collaboration and commitment.

Take the Council as an example. It gets somewhat irritating when a person who stands before you claiming to represent your future options is not asking first what it is that is most important to you. Even having the opportunity to be part of a consultation process is unsatisfactory as quite often we are presented with a limited range of options to choose from. This does the opposite of making the process inclusive as it turns the whole thing into a myopic issue by dictating which way to go and not allowing dissent from the narrow path we are all urged to follow.

Part of the problem is the initial communication. There is nothing wrong with utilising those who are trained and have studied the issue in consultation with the Councillors who are representing their community. Council Officers have a very important role in this and in order for them to be effective they must educate all Councillors in the same way. At the moment they are seen as the 'faceless men' of Council (although quite a few are women) because they are dictating to the Councillors rather than advising them. Part of the reason for that is possibly the opinion that they know the particular issue better so it's easier to go with the flow.

Some Councillors get the next part right but many are not even trying.

Once the advice has been given, the Councillor then has a responsibility to go into the community of their own Division and collaborate. Hold a few different meetings with interested citizens at differing times so that more people have the opportunity to be involved. Let them know the advice given and then ask them all their opinions. Ensure you invite parties that have a vested interest in the outcome. Basically, workshop the idea and create a final plan. This process is the most important as it requires direct input and discussion which is the most ideal way to get a result that the bulk of the community will be happy with.

Finally, commit to it. Take that final option to Council office and complete the collaboration process with the other Councillors....all of them. Stay true to the primary goal but remind yourself what your community wants and commit to getting as much of that as possible from the outcome.

If the final result errs from the community goal, get your butt back out there and explain why. Sometimes it's a simple explanation that will be understood by the majority but keeping them in the dark will create conjecture and a ballooning sense of failure which is what currently exists in the community.

Following the above methods, there would be little need for ongoing community consultation in Council chambers, online and via The Cairns Post, all of which have been proven a failure. The money saved would go directly to the community in basic services provided by Council as these things are what we all want improved.

Is this even possible? Yes. The community is not impressed with the current situation where plans and designs seem to suddenly appear, without local input and collaboration. That's actually a fallacy in part, as the consultation process is always there. It's just not effective. It doesn't reach the majority.

An even better question would be....Do locals even WANT the opportunity to take part in decision making? The answer is both...yes, and no. Plenty of residents are happy with the situation where input is not required of them and decisions are made on their behalf. Those residents deserve a representative who reflects most closely what their ideas might entail. Alternatively, there are certainly lots of residents who do want more of a say. Who desire information and deserve the opportunity to have their say.

I attend many community events on a regular basis, particularly those which occur in my own backyard (obviously not literally). At these events there is a strong community based organisation presence. Mission Australia, ARC Disabilities, Lifeline, Autism Qld, Community Health organisations, Parenting magazines....just to name a few. Isn't it time that Council considered itself as more of a community organisation? Yes, it's a business. Yes, it is one of our tiers of Government. But surely it's primary job is to work in the best interests of the people in our region. In the same way the other organisations mentioned do.

Isn't it time that the community were approached, listened to, and informed?

1 comment:

  1. Integrity is a prime requirement of any representative, whatever the tier of government. Unfortunately, it is a quality that seems to be in alarmingly short supply these days. Judging from your blog Leigh, you have plenty of integrity and old fashioned community values. I certainly look forward to your contributions in the next Cairns Regional Council. Were I in your division, you'd have my vote in the upcoming election. Good luck!