Increased citizen participation in government: Fad or new reality? Part Three
Increased citizen participation in both nonprofits and government seems to parallel the rise of the new economy. Can we harness the interest to both improve governance and satisfy citizens?
Voters often complain there is little difference between candidates. Sometimes that is less a complaint about the lack of real philosophical differences, and more about the challenges of choosing candidates when none appear open to really listening to citizens and considering their input. Efforts to improve participation will also help to resolve these issues.
Writing about nonprofits, Saxton says there “..is a dearth of practical organizational models that are both compatible with existing organizational forms and fully conform to the requirements of a participatory age.” The same can be said of governmental boards. The problem is even more difficult for governments in that most have little to say about the structure they must operate within. Constitutions, as well as state laws governing local government structures are purposely made to be difficult to change, requiring careful deliberation about the possible effects of changing structures. Healthy economies require a degree of stability and predictability. So, for government boards that cannot change their basic structure, how can they become more participatory?