Is Voting really a measure of success

I watched the People’s Politician over the weekend via the BBC iPlayer and started to think about whether “Voting” was a real measure of success of whether people feel engaged or not?

In the episode we saw Ann Widdecombe Conservative MP for Maidstone get given a camera to do her first podcast and the question she asked was “Do you vote, if not why not?”. I think this is actually the wrong question to ask. I’ll come onto what question i think we should be asking and answering a little late in the post

In a later part of the episode you saw Richard Caborn Labour MP for Sheffield Central talking to a group of young lads about why they didn’t vote and Mr Caborn talks about the fact that we only get to vote once every 4-5 years. In between these times we might not understand or know what actually happens and what decisions are actually benefiting you or me or the wider community we belong to.

It was referred to at the start of the more and more people are engaging online and participating in online voting so why are we not engaged in politics. I for one believe that the BIG difference between the two is that if i were to participate or vote in a TV show (e.g. Big Brother, X-Factor, Strictly Come Dancing etc) i get to see the outcome of that vote within days. However it also requires me to continue my involvement over a longer period of time and also requires me to vote more than once if i want to influence the end result. Plus and this is a major difference here i can vote as many times as i want to try and influence the outcome in my favour provided i am prepared to accept the conditions (additional cost, time to vote etc). In an Election or on a policy decision we only get One Vote.

So i guess only getting to vote once for one person every 4-5 years and for someone who i may not actually have met, or know very little about, or even only agree with a small percentage of what they say and someone who doesn’t actually know what my local issues are or my communities, does seem a BIG if not MASSIVE ask and if i dare say unrealistic. It is any wonder anyone votes at all given the above?

A major difference in this process to the TV shows is that they have excellent coverage of the contestants, websites with huge amounts of information about how they are and what they do, newspaper coverage of the TV show in general and a constant reminders to vote and stay engaged. if i want to find out information about who is on the show and what they are doing i can without any trouble. If i want to find out about my local candidates then that is a little bit more difficult.

I am not aware of this level of awareness or promotion around our future candidates for elections, i started to ask myself if this is SO important, why don’t we actually give it the time it deserves. Why is this the case? i think i know really one is about entertainment and generates cash and perhaps affects a large group of people who listen to music or who watch TV and the other is about social good and effects every single citizen.

Something also occurred to me – Why is the BBC Questiontime programme (which i happen to enjoy watching when i can) on so late in the evening and not on at prime time, when all the other TV shows that require participation and involvement are on when most people will watch and engage on. X-factor – Prime time, Big Brother – Prime time, Strictly – Prime time.  I think some people would say that Questiontime it is just boring, but you get someone down the pub to talk about local issues that affect them – it won’t seem boring then, in fact you are likely to see passion and conviction. We somehow need to connect that with the real process of democracy!

I think we need to really ask ourselves do we really want to open up democracy and give people a say in how services are run and how services are developed, if so this requires a much larger commitment from the public, the media and from Government then a single vote once every 4-5 years.

So a question i think we should try and answer this:  What do people want to have their say on?  and How do people want to say it? – A voting mechanism might be one option but other options might be more appropriate depending on the topic.

These questions should be considered in such a way so that we explore the gaming opportunity raised in my previous post about World of GovCraft.

If people have “Urgent Optimism” then what are we doing to tap into that to help solve and tackle obstacles?

If people have a “Social Fabric” what we are we doing to build trust with them and do we play by the same rules and share the same goals?

If people have “Blissful Productivity” then what are we doing to mobilise and optimise the people around us in our communities to work hard at solving real world problems?

If people can be inspired around “Epic Meaning” what meaning are we providing in our engagement  and participation offering?

We may have to completely rethink what we actually want to do and whether our current processes are actually delivering what we want to see.

The World of GovCraft

Inspired by the excellent Joanne Jacobs at the recent Likeminds event in Exeter to think more about the role of games and game play in solving problems and creating solutions.

I started to think about how Government in general could be seen as a game so that we could not only engage people in the problems and challenges we all face but actually inspire them to be part of the solution and help make changes happen.  In the lunchtime session that Joanne facilitated she spoke very passionately about the role of games and how we all play games all the time but just don’t realise it.

I kind of hit a blank wall as the big picture of Government is pretty boring, but the individual components that make it are actually interesting. So how do you start to get to a level of engagement and participation that inspires the average person on the street to want to get involved.

I then came across this excellent TED video of Game designer Jane McGonigal who spoke about harnessing the power of game mechanics to make a better world. Surely this is the stuff that Government innovators should be thinking about.

In the video she talks about “gamers” and the super powers they have developed and how these super powers can help us solve the worlds problems.

The 4 super powers that gamers have are:

Urgent Optimism – extreme self motivation – a desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success.
Social Fabric – We like people better when we play games with people – it requires trust that people will play by the same rules, value the same goal – this enables us to create stronger social relationships as a result
Blissful productivity – an average World of Warcraft gamer plays 22 hours a week: We are optimised as humans to work hard and if we could channel that productivity into solving real world problems what could we achieve?
Epic meaning – attached to an awe inspiring mission.

All this creates Super Empowered Hopeful Individuals – People who are individually capable of changing the world – but currently only online /virtual worlds

So what is the chance of Government creating a meaningful game that inspires people to get involved, help change the world around them and contribute positively to the social fabric around them – Hold on a minute, haven’t we got something that is supposed to do this = Democracy? The challenge we have to make engagement and participation more engaging not just to young people but to people in general is to start inviting people into the game and make the game more interesting to start with.

So some observations:

If people have “Urgent Optimism” then what are we doing to tap into that to help solve and tackle obstacles?

if people have a “Social Fabric” what we are we doing to build trust with them and do we play by the same rules and share the same goals?

If people have “Blissful Productivity” then what are we doing to mobilise and optimise the people around us in our communities to work hard at solving real world problems

If people can be inspired around “Epic Meaning” what meaning are we providing in our engagement  and participation offering?

We should recognise that games are powerful in more ways than we can imagine, we need to think hard and fast about how we can develop the right kinds of games to engage people and to involve people in shaping their future and solving common problems

The video is 20 minutes but is well worth watching.