Picamp exceeded all my own personal expectations. Though when asked what they were by BBC Breakfast yesterday morning, I have to say I was clear that I had few. Except that I was determined to get a bunch of conversations started about the need to innovate in our political sphere. But not necessarily in the kind of Top Down order many of us have become accustomed to in Northern Ireland. Conall Devitt, the blogger at O’Conall Street who also heads up the local team of the event’s generous main sponsors Weber Shandwick, absolutely cut to the nub of the problem when he related a mind mapping exercise he conducted recently, when the group he was working with were asked to identify the most powerful people in Northern Ireland. Everyone at that virtual top table was either in government, or senior members of the civil service. No one, be they civic leaders of wealth creating business men and women count. If events in Britain and the Republic are anything to go by, that strange passivity in the face of government has to change. I mentioned in a short slot on Citybeat radio last night that in fact the evidence is that expecting politicians to take account of passive supplication of this desirable public good or that desirable public good does not work. Politician’s are most likely to change when they experience a degree of pain. Even then, there is no guarantee the change will be good for them or for us.
Slightly reverbative of that, I thought that in some of the sessions it took us a while to get past Slugger (though our new designer Andy found it incredibly useful for focussing on his tasks). But the days of a passive hand me down from up above style of government are over, now that the capacity of citizens to bring legitmate pressure to bare by organising and finding their own voice without have to garner directly the attention of the mass media or vested interest to effect change.
Good to see the Assembly commission there too. It seems to me that this cannot be one way. Politicians for their part must seek to take more (albeit intelligent) risks in coming the other way, no matter how comfortable and safe the current settlement appears to make them. That’s exactly what those bods in the House of Commons thought when they instructed the hapless Speaker Martin to resist those FOI requests for the details of their expenses.
Thanks go to Will Chambre who’s shedload of Pizza Pies kept us all going right to the bitter end.The dynamic Sally Wheeler, director of the Institute of Governance who so generously let us have the use of their beautiful building. And to Quintin and the guys at Stratagem for their consistent support.
Thanks too to Joanne, Lucy and Steve at Amplify who took care of much of the background organisation. And particularly Steve who worked like a Trojan from start to finish… you can find his live blog here with lots of interviews and a taster of the tweets of the day…
Concluding thought: we need to do this again. And we need more techies who can help the politicos and those to want to make positive change get that change… We’re already planning the next one…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty