Patrick Wintour reported in The Guardian (2 August 2010) on the “Coalition’s first crowdsourcing attempt fails to alter Whitehall line” and Chris Williams in The Register (3 August 2010) noted that “UK.gov smiles and nods at commentards”. Both these pieces pick up on the fact that nothing is apparently changing at Whitehall despite the coalitions stated aims to crowdsource ideas for savings.
The Guardian writer claims the receipt of 9,500 suggestions online and quotes the director of Involve as saying that “badly designed consultations like this are worse than no consultations at all”. Something I’ve long suggested along with the practice that if one consults, one must then make some changes in deference to the feedback, and do it pretty quickly and in direct response to the concerns. If one is unable to alter matters, it’s then necessary to say why.
In my experience there are various types of “consultation”. There are ones like this where it just asks for ideas and then apparently the questioning body picks the ones that most align with existing policy and praises them and the proposers. There are the other type where the questions are so tightly directed that the respondent can only directly support the policy being proposed to a greater or lesser extent. These are crowdsourcing in a representative democracy.
To ask open questions, gain open answers and change society one needs a truly deliberative democracy but will turkeys vote for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I don’t think so…