Why now?

New governments rarely arrive with as many fully-formed ideas as they like to have us believe. Often the early years of a government involves the challenging and testing of theories and the outcomes can be radically different from the early sketches.

Technology is changing what they can do, and how they do it. The UK is a good example of this.If the last Labour government began business with Word 97, the coalition will be the first UK government for which their use of the Internet will be a critical factor in their success or failure.

This provides political scientists and thinkers with an opportunity to pitch new ideas. At a moment when democratic politics is undergoing a minor crisis of legitimacy, the need for this innovation is intensified further. As John Perry Barlow put it at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York recently…

“The political system is broken partly because of the Internet. It’s made it impossible to govern anything the size of the nation-state. We’re going back to the city-state. The nation-state is ungovernably information-rich…

It’s not the second coming, everything won’t get better overnight, but that made it possible to see a future where it wasn’t simply a matter of money to define who won these things. The government could finally start belonging to people eventually…

There is a circle of fat around the Beltway that is incredibly thick. We can no longer try to run this country from the center. We’ve got to run it, just like the Internet, from the edges.”

The emergence of the read-write web has created new possibilities to improve the quality of thinking, discourse and policy-making. We’re picking up lots of good ideas that are being developed by people who aren’t always very well politically connected and we’d like to bring them to the fore.

With political bloggers, we’re all sharply aware of the issues that divide the left, right and centre. But interactive people of all partisan complexions have some shared understandings of the possibilities, and these are often positions that meet some resistance within each of their political parties.

We are planning to run a series of regional events during September in Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff in which the opportunities for political innovation can be discussed. We are working with a number of the UK’s leading serious political blogs including Left Foot Forward and Lib-Dem Voice among others.

We are looking to identify between six and ten essayists who can provide short focused postings outlining an opportunity for political innovation. We are asking these essayists to write them for a bi-partisan audience. The ideas must have a cross-cutting appeal and be sufficiently persuasive to readers of every blog that they run on.

We will follow these essays up with regional events – free to attend – at which these ideas can be developed in the round and taken on to the next stage.

We’re seeking sponsorship only to cover our costs, and this is an attempt at bipartisan open-source policymaking.

About Paul Evans

Living in London but working all over Britain and Ireland, Paul is the curator of the Political Innovation project. On twitter as @paul0evans1, blogging mainly at the Local Democracy blog and working mostly for Memeserver Ltd.
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