Engaging Citizens: Communities for the 21st Century

Future Forum Logo Today Matthew Taylor, former chief adviser on political strategy to the Prime Minister and current head of the RSA, gave a lecture to Scotland’s Future Forum on:

how best to encourage communities and citizens to become fully engaged in progressing matters that are important to them and society at large.

    I was particularly interested to hear his views on how this might relate to our attempts to increase engagement in education by parents, carers and others in the school communities.

    His main argument:

    • It’s not about getting policy right – there is no right answer to many modern problems
    • It’s not about “Who do we choose to run things?” – the question now is “How can we become the people we need to be to create the future we want?”
    • The role of politicians is to support this citizen-centric process – there’s broad agreement on the kind of future we now want: free, fair, decent and environmentally sustainable.

    It was interesting that he took the time to explain to the group the huge difference between “Web 1.0” technologies, which he described as just speeding up existing relationships, and “Web 2.0“, which he described as having “immense scope”.

    He raised a number of points in relation to education, in particular what he saw as a “vital need for change in the nature of schooling“. His litmus test of the education system is whether or not it leaves people wanting to carry on learning after they leave school.

    The RSA have been developing their own new curriculum under a project called Opening Minds. Some of the resources there may be of value in connection with ACfE or Extreme Learning. Good results are claimed, and its in use in 135 schools.

    Opening Minds sprang from a conviction that the way young people are being educated was becoming increasingly distanced from their real needs.

    The National Curriculum is information-driven and struggles to cope with the competing demands of subjects and the rapidly increasing volume of information. Meanwhile, it is neglecting the broad range of skills for life including skills for learning, the ability to manage people and situations well, and good citizenship.

    Opening Minds argues that these life-skills need to be taught directly and specifically. It starts from a competence framework that aims to meet the individual’s needs in the personal, social and employment worlds.

    I’ve made some notes from the talk and plan to post more on it over the next few days.

    One thought on “Engaging Citizens: Communities for the 21st Century”

    1. Matthew is really hot on these topics and has taken a huge interest in how technology can make the politicians closer to the public. When I spoke earlier this year at the RSA on education and technology it ruffled a few feathers, but not Matthews, I think. Well, I’ll be working with the RSA later this year on just this theme so something must have chimed 😉

      It would be interesting to see if perhaps East Lothian might want to create a link with the RSA, and try out some of the ideas being proposed by its Fellows. There are already largely similar lines of thought. If you think it would be worthwhile, let me know.

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