Feeling a part of the political process

For me one of the biggest problems with government is the feeling of suspicion and distrust. Often, policies and political approaches seem so far away from what anyone could really want, and many times it’s appearances that count when you’re talking about involvement, feeling a part of something, participation and inclusion. Isn’t it possible though that there are so many conflicts of interest, different perspectives and angles on a matter that the resulting policy put into practice may be one of the best? If we can understand and see the reasoning and influences behind decisions we can find better ways to communicate and engage politically.

I’ve started off in a very abstract way, so let’s take a specific example: the closure of a local swimming pool. It’s a good example because the replacement swimming baths I have in mind are already very popular and the upset caused by closing the original pool is already forgotten. At the time though, despite probably completely valid and well-balanced arguments for the closure, the closed-doors decision seemed dubious and dishonest simply because we were not in a position to understand it.

I don’t think it’s enough to address the lack of influence or power of certain stakeholders or end-users (people who’d like access to a service etc.) There should be a means to express an individual’s thoughts on factors with weighting on decisions which a simple transparency through open government fails to resolve. Can that be incorporated into the principle of open government?



d’après la traduction en français, j’ai compris que vous parlez du sentiment de la susppicion et de la méfiance entre le peuple et l’état, mais est-ce que vous pouvez m’expliquer l’exemple de la fermeture des pacines parce qu’il me parait un peu flou !!!

Merci pour le repport

Swimming Pool


Hi Jamel,

Yes sure! The link simply announces the closure of the swimming pool in 2010. I’m not trying to recount the whole process or even complain about the particular decision-making. I think the interesting aspect of the whole story is how I feel about government/council decisions rather than my actual involvement in consultations, decisions etc. That is, I don’t feel able to contribute meaningfully in the consultation. There doesn’t seem to be any impact from what I say, and simply being completely informed about each stage of the process isn’t enough for me.

Hey, was reading your report and just wanted to be sure: the swimming pool was a public one right? if so, you as citizen and tax payer are right in contesting its sudden closing down.

I perfectly see your point and frustration,… perhaps you;d like to check out what Alberto strongly advocates for: availability of public data that would make it easier to contest decisions and open  the debate :


What do you think, is this a chance for us?

public swimming pools

hi and thank you very much for your comment. yes, it is a public swimming pool in west yorkshire, uk. it has been replaced by a newer, cleaner and bigger pool about 200 metres from the old one, hence i think the general satisfaction with the closure and the new pool being built. it is one of the fortunate cases though. another pool about 5 or so miles (8km) has been permanently closed with no replacement.

in relation to alberto’s mission report, i am 100% in support of open data, but i think he recognises that it is also a question of how it is used and an open dialogue around that data. perhaps the finer points of conversation and political weighing up of conflicting interests cannot be captured in data terms which is why i think the open government concept needs to also strive for these qualitative aspects too.

What open government does best

In my experience institutions can get away with an unpopular move if they go out and frankly address the problem. Something like: look, we know you love your swimmingpool. However, we have decided to close it down, and replace it with a better facility. The rationale for this move is [some reason]: more information can be found at [some link]. Give us a chance before you rise in anger, we actually know what we are doing. By the way, here is [a Facebook page] where you can ask any question that might bother you, we’ll be reading and replying in all honesty. Thanks, your Mayor.

In Milano the new administration has extended the previous one’s congestion charge experiment. Given that the issue is controversial, they opened a Facebook group in which the municipality engages with citizens. The result was surprising: while still heated, the debate has shifted. Now cyclists and pedestrians are vouching for themselves, and are at least as loud as the pro-car shopkeepers that traditionally monopolize this debate. The experience has led the city to organize TrafficCamp, a Barcamp dedicated to urban mobility and a meeting place between the City and bloggers and social media activists, perceived as key opinion leaders that could influence the debate on traffic management.

So, MarukumuC, I guess I disagree: bridging this trust gap with information and open conversation is exactly what open government does best. :slight_smile:

open dialogue

thank you for the really interesting link to the milan facebook page - i’m going to ask my council if they can consider something similar! they’ve just sent me a consultation communiqué about a new regeneration strategy - http://www.leeds.gov.uk/Environment_and_planning/Planning/Local_development_framework.aspx.

i’m not so sure we disagree: i think you’ve filled in the gap i am anxious about by saying “information and open conversation” - the open conversation is the bit i find really important - provided in the milan case you mention.

Constructive collaboration

Oh, absolutely. Data is only one part of it. I wrote an entire book on collaborative governance. Unfortunately it is in Italian, but an article in English on one of my experiences with opengov is here.