Carnegie UK and The Wheel explore enabling Participating People
Carnegie UK and The Wheel have published Participating People, the final report of their series The People’s Conversation, which ‘presents a blueprint of actions to support a more inclusive Ireland with a vision to create a more Enabling State’.
People were given the opportunity to discuss their shared future, focusing on issues such as the climate crisis, growing inequality and the refugee crisis. Participants acknowledged the positive aspects of ‘the social and economic transformation that has taken place in Ireland over the last fifty years’, such as ‘nearing full employment … high educational attainment and long life-expectancy’. But it was also noted ‘that many people are excluded from these positive developments, without the means to participate in day-to-day life’. People felt ‘increasingly distanced from the power that determines the scope of their choices – and the future of humanity and our planet’. The report seeks to address this distance and look at how people can be enabled to ‘take a more active role in shaping our shared future, together’.
It identifies numerous ways of engaging citizens in democratic decision-making. Governments can empower citizens locally by investing in Public Participation Networks, which ‘provide a structure where local community and voluntary organisations can engage with their local authorities in shaping policy’. Similarly, the report advocates investment in Local Community Development Committees, where ‘representatives of county councils sit with representatives of central government agencies and community representatives to develop integrated Local Economic and Community Plans’. It also recommends piloting citizens’ juries and involving young people in the governance of their educational institutions. On a national level, the report calls for government to develop a ‘comprehensive framework for participation in governance’, to ‘support civil servants to engage with citizens as part of the policymaking process’ and to ‘encourage people to engage in political life’. The report also calls for wellbeing, not GDP, to be put at the heart of national accounts, something which resonated with participants who felt that ‘when it comes to social and economic life, we are measuring … the wrong things’. Likewise, it advocates engaging people better ‘in the Sustainable Development Goals and the work of the United Nations’.
The report then goes on to recommend ways to ‘ensure everyone has the means to participate fully in society’. Participants were clear this entailed ‘possessing the means, and the access to services and supports, required to live life with dignity’. The report first calls for ‘a minimum essential standard of living for all’, to be supported by a living wage. It also advocates protecting the universality of certain benefits, exploring a universal basic income, investing in public spaces and in the infrastructure of rural Ireland. Regarding participatory work and economic life, the report recommended ensuring everyone who wants to can access a paid job, supporting higher quality employment and the living wage, and promoting alternative business models. Looking at people’s ability to participate in community life, the report notes that ‘people in lreland have a healthy involvement in local community’. However, participants felt ‘there are changes taking place in Irish society which may undermine these positive realities if left unchecked’, and the report recommends ways to counter this.
The report concludes:
‘The participants in the People’s Conversation were clear that if people are engaged more in deliberative approaches to policymaking, and enabled to live to a basic standard acceptable to us all, then we stand a much better chance of responding positively to the [great challenges of our times].’
Read the full report here.