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  And please add your thoughts in a comment.


  1. I regard myself as being well connected online but I heard nothing either online or via post about the upcoming elections. Not a dickie bird. I saw other people mention it online but assumed it was a bit like the Bristol Mayor election - something that was happening elsewhere.

    I read a comment on Twitter this evening that said more people vote for X Factor than voted in these elections. My response was (no matter how much one likes or dislikes X Factor personally) that is the difference between an engaged audience and one that isn't engaged. Or in my case, is completely oblivious! The whole thing raises interesting questions that seem to be a long way from being answered by the government.

    1. Thanks Kate; I agree, I think the whole thing caught a lot of people out, simply by not having been communicated with and engaged. Lesson there for us all.

    2. I think I first became aware from a piece in the newspaper illustrated by a photo of John Prescott posing on a Police Motorbike. Fairly weird but memorable. After that, it went very quiet for a long time. I wonder if we would have heard more about these elections in the media if it had been London too.

  2. Like you, I was dismayed to learn that so few people voted. I was even more perturbed to hear so many people say (on Facebook and Twitter) that they didn't vote because they didn't know about the candidates and this was because they were not sent candidate leaflets. Hang on ... if we are on Facebook or Twitter, we're connected. But not, it seems, to the right places.

    Is part of the problem that PCC "connections" had to be invented from scratch so those connections were never made? For example the main candidates built their Twitter following up to a few hundred each over the course of the election. The Sussex Police account has about 21,000 followers. However they couldn't use that existing audience to circulate useful links or even let people know that there was a vote. In contrast, an organisation would be able to use all channels to publicise and encourage take up of a new L&D initiative.

    1. You raise some interesting points Wendy. It seems to be down to the 'interest' factor, doesn't it? And from interest comes the desire to know more and to use one's usual channels to satisfy that need. And ALL those channels need to be 'fed' from source - just like we try to do in L&D - and what was clearly not done in this case.

    2. The curious thing is that, one thing that people seem to be interested in at local level is the police. My own take is:
      1. I wasn't clear what was being replaced or why and I'm guessing that most of the population is the same. I think that one of the options should have been "Continue with Police Authority". That way, people may have felt there was a genuine choice and someone would have had to argue the case for the new system.
      2. There was very little media coverage. This limited coverage was drowned out by the American presidentials.
      3. I think the big problem with feeding things to people's usual channels is that whoever is responsible for supplying info does not know what they are. Maybe when the forms go out, there needs to be an opportunity to supply info about how we want communications to come to us. Right now it's postal mail or nothing.
      4. We can vote for all sorts of things by mobile phone. But not elections - for those most people were expected to make an expedition ti an unfamiliar place on a dark November night and fiddle with bits of paper.

    3. Can't argue with any of that Wendy. Wil try to join the 'Guardian' debate on Friday, noting your tweeted comments about conflicting start time info!