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Who Needs Community Listening?
Who Is Being Asked?
Two Ways to Improve
Misconceptions to Improving
New Measures of Civic Engagement
In your lifetime, have any of your candidates or elected officials asked you what your concerns are? Click here to discover that we're not alone.
What are your concerns? Click here to see if you share the concerns of 100 of my neighbors.
Why I Believe Our Democracy Needs to Grow an Issue-Based Community Listening Infrastructure
Imagine an electoral system in which each of your elected officials asks what your concerns are and then constructively addresses them for the good of you and your neighbors.
Shouldn't they do that before they make the laws that affect each of us?
If they don't ask us our concerns, how can they truly represent us? Isn't that the ultimate in taxation without representation – not being asked?
We elect officials based on what we think they stand for. We have so far not found a way to determine what we need them to stand for. No wonder we feel they neither care about us nor act in concert with our interests.
I'm tired of being ignored by those elected to represent us. I am just an ordinary 50-something person, not beholden to any organization, nor political party. I am on a mission to ensure our elected officials hear our voices and do something constructive about it.
The current representative democratic process in which politicians wait for us to come to them is ineffective. Democracy would be more effective if every voice were heard and every concern addressed. It's our tax dollars that pay for elections to be held and that get spent for elected officials' salaries. And It's our tax dollars that get spent whether or not our concerns are addressed.
I see a simple way to improve our democracy: build an Issue-Based Community Listening Infrastructure. This system will bring together ordinary residents to discuss their concerns, collaboratively identify root causes and potential solutions attached to those concerns, and instill the confidence needed to take their concerns and suggestions to our elected officials. It might possibly also produce great candidates who already know us and have been working on our concerns.
We need a Community Listening Infrastructure to rectify four things that are NOT working and we can no longer hope are working somewhere in the background:
1) Elected officials and political parties are not expected to ask us our concerns,
2) Most electeds truly don't have enough time to speak to each of us,
3) We don't have time to contact all our electeds, and
4) The election process skips whole segments of the population.
I totally believe in government OF, BY, and not just allegedly, FOR, “we the people."
After my survey of 309 people, I now believe we're all underrepresented. It’s just that some are more underrepresented than others. I know what it's like not to feel heard despite being actively engaged. I am sad when I hear people tell me they have given up. No wonder people appear apathetic – our system does not foster engagement between us and our electeds.
We’re disconnected – from each other and especially from politicians. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
We can capture our hopes, dreams and worries at a local level and build a “Concerns Bank” that politicians and civic leaders tap to create policies that truly support and reflect the needs of their constituents. (Click here to see if you share the concerns of 100 of my neighbors.)
A Community Listening Infrastructure would connect us to each other and our electeds, drive grassroots initiatives to get our concerns heard, and encourage more people to participate in civic engagement (discourse and advocacy). It would also give people the space and opportunity to build leadership and networking skills that prepare them to run for public office.
We have more power than pessimists think we have.
The Community Listening Infrastructure and this website are the culmination of my journey to answer questions I didn't realize I had – how does our government work, how does it work for me, and is it effective in addressing my concerns?
I do not believe that our democracy is failing because of voter apathy, progressively lower voter turnout, or even lower voter information. Nor do I believe any democracy would be improved by increasing voting, having instant runoff voting, initiating public financing of campaigns, eliminating gerrymandering, or creating a strong third political party.
I do believe voter frustration exists because both voters and non-voters feel elected officials don't care enough to ask us our concerns and then address them.
We can drive true grassroots initiatives by discovering themes and helping neighbors identify and flag common areas of concern.
My state's constitution (Washington State) says, “All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.”
How can we consent when no one asks? Who was the last elected official who asked you your concerns, then addressed them? Your governor? Your city council members, your school board directors, your sewer commissioners, your fire commissioners, or your parks commissioners? No one?
Will you join me to create a better democracy that works for all of us?
To learn more about how I envision Community Listening, visit How Things Will Work.
Copyright 2016 Deb Blakeslee