ChangeCamp is a free participatory web-enabled face-to-face event that brings together citizens, technologists, designers, academics, policy wonks, political players, change-makers and government employees to answer one question: How do we re-imagine government and governance in the age of participation?
It is a long held and false assumption that ordinary citizens don’t care about public policy. The statement isn’t, in of itself, false. Many, many, many people truly don’t care that much. They want to live their lives focusing on other things – pursuing other hobbies or interests – but there are many of us who do care. Public policy geeks, fans, followers, advocates, etc… we are everywhere, we’ve just been hidden in a long tail that saw the market place and capacity for developing and delivering public policy restricted to a few large institutions. The single most important lesson I learnt from my time with Canada25 is that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Did Canada25 get a new generation of Canadians, aged 20-35 engaged in public policy? I don’t know.
What I do know is, that at the very minimum, we harnessed and enormous, dispersed desire of many Canadians to participate in, and help shape, the public policy debates affecting the country. Most importantly, we did this by doing three things:
- we aggregated together the people who cared about public policy, we gave them peers, friends and a sense of community.
- we provided a vehicle through which to channel their energy
- by combining 1 and 2, and by using simple technology and a low cost approach – we dramatically lowered the barriers (and csots) to entry for credible participating in these national debates
Today, the technology to enable and aggregate people their ideas, to connect them with peers and to create community, is still more powerful. Our capacity to challenge, push, help, cooperate, leverage and compete with the large institutional public policy actors has never been greater. This, for me, is the goal of ChangeCamp. What concrete tools can we build, what information can we demand be opened up, what new relationships can we build to re-imagine how we – the citizens who care – participate in the creation of public policy and the effective delivery of public services. Not to compete or replace the traditional institutional actors, but to ensure more and better ideas are heard and increasingly effective and efficient services are created.
Individually, none of us may have the collective power of a government ministry or even the resources of most think tanks. But collectively, linked together by technology and powered by our energy and spare capital, the long tail of policy geeks and ordinary citizens is bigger, nimbler, more creative and faster than anything else. Do I know that the long tail of policy can be set free? No. But ChangeCamp seems like a fun place to start experimenting, brainstorming and sharing ways we can make this country better.