One of the key themes explored at the recent Future Gov Work Better Together event was the promise that ‘social participation gives people the power to self-actualise’.
I am sure it does.
However social participation has also been the technology of choice for us human beings to make progress at all stages of Maslow’s Hierarchy – not just at the ‘self-actualising’ peak. Competence in social participation (or what de Tocqueville called ‘association’) and the ability to negotiate self interest through effective collaboration is one of the critical enablers in community and personal development.
Whether it is learning to share a cave (or a housing estate) to meet needs for shelter and warmth, putting together a team to start a new business venture, or pursuing self actualisation, effective ‘social participation’ is the key.
The challenge facing us here is promoting social participation, collaboration, association. Not technology. In very few of the communities where I work is the REAL barrier to progress access to a networking site or high speed internet access (although these are cited usually after lack of money and skills).
It is often a lack of understanding about how collective self interests can best be met through negotiation and association. About the need to see what can be contributed rather than taken. About the need to build real trust rather than uncomfortable bureaucratic ‘compacts’.
The other barrier to social participation in the real world is an almost complete loss of belief that progress IS possible – manifesting itself in apathy and resignation. A belief that perhaps this is as good as it gets – and, if it is going to get any better then those bloody politicians had better get their fingers out, because I AM POWERLESS.