Interesting from Jeffrey Donaldson in which he cuts to the real existential problem for all politicians in Northern Ireland:
Despite the cuts handed down by the Tory government, we prioritised action that will deliver real change on the ground. We have just launched a £27m package of special initiatives to tackle the deep-seated problems in working class areas such as literacy and numeracy.
We created £80m Social Investment Fund which prioritised action on the ground for working class communities. We created the Social Protection Fund to provide help and assistance to the most vulnerable in our society.
Finally, we must make politics stronger. The public and political will is too often frustrated or killed by process or procedure. This is not unique to Northern Ireland but commonplace across Western democracies.
When an elected official is less able to act on the public will the motivation for the public to vote declines. Northern Ireland should be in the vanguard of pushing back against this. We must reduce the bureaucracy and rebuild the power of democratic politics.”[emphasis added]
That goes to the heart of the problem for most professional politicians. What is the public interest in any one set of circumstances? And how do even the more powerful of our local politicians act on them.
Julian Dobson was in Belfast last week and he had some suggestions for action (not all of which would find a happy home with the DUP):
First, reviving civic life, creating more people-friendly ways for people to be involved in decision-making where they live and work. These could range from formal arrangements like urban parish coincils and participatory budgeting to informal, easy-access initiatives like Chicago’s Give a Minute campaign. A city where people feel involved is one that can draw on citizens’ energy to meet future challenges.
Second, localise investment. I heard the other day about a recent trip by movers and shakers in Northern Ireland to persuade the New York State pension fund of the investment opportunities Belfast has to offer. Well, they were asked, where does your pension fund invest? It’s a good question, and not just for Northern Ireland’s pension funds.
Third, inspire innovation. Create spaces where people can generate ideas and connect with others to make them. The acknowledged leaders don’t have to hog the leading. They need to enable others to play their part and welcome those who have new ideas to offer.
Fourth, prioritise production. If we want people to spend in our cities they need to earn. And if they aren’t productive themselves – if they can’t find outlets for their creativity and inventiveness that provide them with decent livelihoods – then our economy is built on sand.
Finally, we need a much greener economy. One that prioritises local food production, encourages good quality public transport, builds to sustainable standards, invests in renewable energy and technologies that reduce and eliminate waste.
We need this not only because it is better and cleaner and good for the planet, but also because these are the jobs of the future. If we don’t create them, we’ll be left scraping around for opportunities to service the people who do. And we already have a lot of catching up to do.
Much of this is talked about in our politics, but only in the most generalised of ways. That’s one reason why our series on Social Innovation ought to be of some interest to politicians who are looking for new ways of delivering social value to their own communities…
Not least tomorrow’s session on the barriers to social innovation…
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