After watching this youtube video from the Green Party, I’ve spent sometime this afternoon Googling ‘what does a councillor do?’ It returns some quite interesting results – from drab, vague descriptions “Councillors, or members, are elected by local people to plan, run, monitor and develop council business”, to this quirkly little game.
All however are really quite impersonal and not particularly enlightening.
If communities are to take more active roles in the running of local services, surely a well defined understanding of what their elected representatives do is required?
I therefore wonder if it would be a good idea for councillors to publicly set out what they’re there for (i.e. the mandate they were elected on) and how they are hoping to achieve this. This public goal setting exercise can be done both online via a blog, facebook page or a profile on a hyperlocal website and / or offline through leaflets, surgeries or canvassing.
“By sharing your goals, with others not only do you have the motivation of public accountability, but you also get the benefit of their ideas, input, encouragement and, most inspiring, you get their partnership,” says Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ and massive user of social media.
We know that people do not like to have things done to them. By sharing goals with others then means it is both easier for communities to understand why councillors are doing the things they’re doing and makes it more possible for those communities to get involved in those actions being carried out. As Booker says, it’s easier to get ‘partnership’.
LGiU director Jonathan Carr-West suggests in the pre-Big Society report on Local Government 3.0, this public goal setting allows “councillors to start developing the sorts of public relationships that allow communities to pool their creativity and intelligence and generate collective action”.
What this means then is that by setting out their goals, councillors may begin seeing their electorate to be a resource to work with, rather than an audience to perform for.