How about some principles…

I’ve been wondering for a while now what actually needs to start happening or what would need to happen in order for communities and local government to start addressing the predicted financial meltdown.

I guess I’ve been looking for a checklist or some kind of “how to guide” that I could look at to help me and others I speak to outside of work better understand how we can start to move forward.  As a parent governor at my local school I’ve been intrigued by the early years foundation stage principles (PDF warning) and how the approach taken there is a lesson which can and should be reused and adapted to help guide us moving forward – perhaps this is too simplistic, but for me it has helped.

So I’ve decided to do just that and create a set of principles which could be applied to organisations or even communities themselves – I’d very much welcome comments as I’m sure I’ve missed things.

People and communities are unique

  • Design “with” not “for” people and communities
  • Design for Inclusion and accessibility
  • Enable independence
  • Foster health and wellbeing

Positive relationships and networks

  • Respect diversity of opinions
  • Connect people and connect networks
  • Co-operate and collaborate
  • Open by default

Enabling communities and environments

  • Evidence based research and decision-making
  • Support everyone to achieve
  • Think Local and Global
  • Digital infrastructure for smart communities/cities

Learning and development

  • Learn, discover and explore though experience
  • Create space for reflective practice
  • Foster creative and divergent thinking
  • Enable sustained learning

15 thoughts on “How about some principles…

  1. I think you’re on to something here with the simplicity! We’ve been doing some work looking at the I Matter, We Matter campaign (, and the simplicity of the questions actually make it incredibly challenging!

    The simplicity also means that people and communities can get to grips with the guiding principles, which is vital if we’re looking to involve people. So much of the information that gets passed on to citizens at the moment is so inaccessible they’ve done well if they get to the point of engaging!

  2. Simple and so probably very useful and widely applicable. Perhaps, indeed probably, as a starting point for groups to come up with ‘their own’ ways of working. To my mind, very much in tune with how we need to think these days.

  3. I think this is pretty much there Carl. Everyone will have slightly different views over word and nuance but this is on the money.
    For me there is a contextual question about “Why?” “To achieve what?” – which is more than just about financial meltdown…….That feels a bit negative to me I would prefer to see a more positive statement of belief/principle than that.
    I think you have got the hooks around being driven locally, by communities, co-design, focus on building independence and resiliance, a focus on people’s assets, transparency/openness…….and a few others I probably havent thought of!! So yes – I think this is good stuff and pretty accessible language as well.

    1. Thanks John,

      I agree there are some nuances and semantic issues for some, but in the absence of none, this is a good starting point…I’ll post a link into the yammer group to spark some discussion around them.

  4. Very simple and easy to understand – this is a great starting point.
    The things that I see are key are 1. design “with” not “for” people and communities’ and 2. evidence based research and decision-making, to ensure that decisions are not made on hearsay and false assumptions, but have a strong basis behind them and can be justified.

  5. Liking the push for clarity and statement of shared values a lot Carl. Three thoughts:
    – the role of the (political) democratic system must be recognised by any principles. It’s too influential to be considered implicit – e.g. in “communities”.
    – In that vein, is there an additional or substitute category “Transparent decisions” that would pull in evidence-based research/Identify and respect diversity of opinion/reach shared and mutual understanding.
    – How to address Leadership? Can this be negotiated or shared?

    1. Interesting Comments Simon,

      I think you have identified a really interesting area there…I like the category transparent decisions as that could bring in the democratic system as you suggest…I think i need to get Catherine Howe to comment on this one…will give her a nudge 🙂

  6. Am nudged! I agree completely that we need to hone things back to first principles like these to equip us to move forward quickly and I agree with most of what you have said here. However I actually think there is a stage before this which is a discussion of values. I know that you have touched on these in your post but I think there is an important distinction between values which explain what kind of community we want to be part of and principles which describe the way in which this will manifest. This is important with respect to governance and decision making as we make so many of our decisions based on our values and if these are not transparent and discussed its difficult to get consensus. In the past political parties were a short hand for a discussion of values but I don’t think that is true any more and so we need to create decision making processes which bring people together in this kind of really human and transparent way.

    So I say that we bring these points together by creating a shared and transparent evidence to support decision making and that we hold our representatives to account using this evidence and also by asking them to be clear about their values AND their principles.

    This all seems very onerous for a community leader who is perhaps only motivated by a particular issue but if we can agree that we have a shared value that decisions need to be representative and if we can manifest this as part of the transparent evidence base then we actually start behaving in a democratic way almost by default.

    I take a network analysis view of the world and the big difference for me between democratic and networked decision making really is this point of representativeness and if we can agree this as a shared value we can I think embed a lot of democratic behaviour into our communities.

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