Sunday 18 November 2012
Not So Well-Connected
Did you vote for your new local Police and Crime Commissioner in the UK elections on Thursday evening last week? Did you know anything about the change in policing accountability or who the candidates standing in your area actually were? Did you know anything about them, their background, political allegiances, knowledge and skills to take on this responsible role?
Do you care a) that you do or don't know, b) that only a few people actually seemed to be aware, and c) that those new PCCs who were elected into post only had the mandate of about 7% (average) of the entire population of your area because of the low numbers who turned out to vote?
I ask these questions because I was dismayed by the whole thing! I had a vague memory of the Government announcing that this change was coming (but can't remember when that announcement was made). The first I became aware that the election was forthcoming was the arrival of our Polling Cards in the post several weeks ago. We received no election leafleting at home, apart from one candidate two days before the election.
So I chose to find out for myself - I 'googled' 'Police and Crime Commissioner', found the local authority and government websites, followed the links to the 'Choose My PCC' website, where I was able to find out who the candidates were, their political (or not) affiliations and their election manifestos. As a result, I had already selected my first - and second - choices before I voted.
However, it appears that I was one of the few who had enough interest and/or capability to do this! Regular readers will know that I worked for Sussex Police for 8.5 years, so also know that I have an interest in the subject, but the point of this blog is that the whole event has called into question my - and I suspect a lot of other people's - view that we live in an all-connected, online world, wherein everyone knows everything or can find out the information that they need/want at the drop of mouse-click.
Just because I chose to search out the information and used my online skills and connections to find out the information, it never actually occurred to me that others might not want - nor have the interest and/or skills - to do the same.
In the world of learning and development, much of the current thrust of the discussion is about how we underestimate our learners' capacity and capability to seek out new information and learning, and how we must create more opportunities for them to assume the ownership of and responsibility for that learning. It appears that the government and the organisers of the PCC elections made the same assumption and took the same approach with the British public. However, whilst in L&D, there is a good likelihood that our learners have an interest in either the subject at hand or in their own career/educational development, the Government's miscalculation appears to be in the fact that the public wasn't that interested in the first place, didn't want to invest any time or energy in finding out about the subject and were waiting to be spoon-fed the information in more traditional ways.
So what was needed here, folks, was a blended approach to the PCC elections - no presumptions of interest or engagement in the topic; no reliance on one source of the information, nor assumptions that one size fitted everyone! There should have been a push and pull, multi-media approach to the change communication, with relevant, contextual detail available and refreshed regularly. Kinda like what we're trying to do in L&D nowadays. They should have come and spoken to us first.
See my latest #storify on how the #pcc elections played out in my #twitter and #facebook communities, at http://storify.com/niallgavinuk/not-so-well-connected. And please add your thoughts in a comment.