Localism has been a buzzword for me and for my colleagues for quite a while now. It’s supposed to solve all the problems, for all the people, by putting decision making and planning back at a level where people actually know what they need.
This article goes into why localism isn’t necessarily the answer.
It depends on the people being given the power – local authorities and community leaders – being equipped to handle it. So I guess a lot has already been said about the qualities needed to manage a community for the benefit of its members – governance standards, ethics codes, infinite numbers of frameworks and competences.
But if we apply a jargonaut to the issue, what do we get? Do I have anything new to say that hasn’t been covered a million times before by people far more nuanced and subtle than me? Maybe not. But we all know how I feel about ‘subtle’. It’s fine if it’s your thing, but very much not fine if it enables us to pretend that nothing can be done because of the delicate balance of the situation.
Pah for your delicate balance. Here’s what I think
Rule 1: There’s always something that can be done.
It may not be the right thing, it may only be a right thing out of a number of equally right things. At some point somebody has to make a decision. If you’re trying to fade into the shadows to avoid being the one who makes a bad choice and gets yelled at, you probably shouldn’t be in leadership.
Rule 2: if you’re scared of getting things wrong, that doesn’t mean you’re not a leader.
It probably just means you have at least some sense of the scale of your task. If you do nothing meaningful because all you can think about is how much trouble you might get into, you’re not a leader.
Rule 3: If you want to manage a community, you need to know it.
And I don’t mean the bit of it that you live in, or the bit that you talk to at the pub, or the bit you went to school with. I mean all of it, but especially the bits that you wouldn’t walk through after dark, and the bits that play music that sets your teeth on edge, and the bits that mock your posh accent.
Rule 4: You can’t have every skill, experience and viewpoint.
Your head would explode. What you need is enough people around you who can fill gaps in those 3 things, and enough humility to accept their recommendations when you don’t have the answers yourself.
So … that adds up to:
– willingness to act
– willingness to fail
– willingness to explore
– willingness to listen
The interesting thing about the example in the article, Detroit, is this; the community is still there. The people are still there, the shops are still there, the buildings are still there, the schools, the roads, the green spaces. The place is still standing. Some things are bad but all the elements that existed when the place was successful still do exist and function. Bankruptcy is what happens when we can no longer pretend that imaginary money is actually a physical thing. Whatever the financial implications, there is still a community there that needs to function.