Thursday, July 18, 2013

If what most people need is a good listening to, how well do your local politicians listen?

2013 local elections
At the local body elections in October we will choose our elected representatives for the next three years to help shape the communities we live in.  There is still time to consider standing for  council, to encourage others to do so and  to support them.  

Community led approach
The challenge for councils and councillors is to engage meaningfully with their diverse  communities and to value their  contribution.  The city of Seattle does so in practical terms through their successful matching funds programme.  Importantly,  the city requires an inclusive approach in neighbourhood projects and fosters local leadership.  This partnership approach,  giving the community a real voice at the  table,  involves a change of mindset from traditional service delivery.

Assessing candidates
It can be challenging to vote wisely when  faced with a long list of candidates many of whom we may not know .  

Serious candidates welcome invitations to meetings.  If successful they will then  already have an understanding of the contribution a group is making.  This is also an opportunity to assess their experience, skills and commitment.  What would they bring to council?  How well connected are they to their local community ?  Who is supporting or endorsing them?  Would they contribute to a more representative council? 

Social media
Although there is no substitute for face to face conversations , increasingly candidates are using social media to connect with voters.  In Hamilton,  one candidate gives a weekly campaign update on her website, posts regularly  to her Facebook page and links to her blog posts.  Whereas  candidates are restricted to 150 words in the official candidates’ booklet,  her blogs,  written over a period of time on a variety of topics,  give an in-depth insight into her thinking and values.   (