“All professions are conspiracies against the laity.”–George Bernard Shaw.
Here’s two quotes from slightly different places, that are worth thinking about in connection with each other and the broader goal of helping our institutions respond with the necessary speed and agility to the unfolding catastrophe of human-induced climate change…
“Increasingly, government agencies and other organizations are seeking to apply more participatory approaches to environmental decision-making as part of a wider institutional change towards more inclusive decision-making. For example, in the UK, policy consultations now often involve stakeholder workshops, and these increasingly take place in the regions rather than just in the capital city. However, there is a danger of growing disillusionment among policy-makers and practitioners who have been involved in such processes that participatory processes are used to reinforce decisions already made, and so fail to realize many of the benefits that have been claimed for participation. Our study illustrates that there are benefits to genuine participatory processes, and informs the development of best practices for engaging stakeholders in effectively designed participatory processes. In this light, institutionalizing participatory governance takes some power away from central decision-makers and gives it back to stakeholders. Though this may be perceived as risky, it has the potential to give rise to more effective as well as more inclusive decision-making.” (1)
[Translation: “at the moment ‘consultation’ is a rubber-stamp exercise, where you can tick a box that says “I agree” or “I agree even more”, but it doesn’t have to be like that.”]
And the other quote:
“In the deskilling logic, equipment design is left to the technical experts. There is little to be gained by involving technically untrained users in the design process, and such involvement risks politicizing the process. This is the more traditional approach. Salzman (1992) reviewed over 100 U.S. books on equipment design and 100 textbooks used in U.S. engineering design courses and found not one discussion of the possible advantages of user involvement in designing systems. If, however, the rationale underlying design is usability, the design process will be managed very differently.”[emphasis added] (2)
[translation: just like above; “we’re the experts and you’ll take what you’re given.”]
This is the dilemma for those who would rage intelligently and effectively against the machine: just how DO you get past the defensiveness of bureaucrats, and teach the elephant to tap-dance?
The Mind of War: John Boyd and American Security by Grant T. Hammond
(1) Foxon, Reed and Singer “Governing Long-Term Social-Ecological Change: What Can the Adaptive Management and Transition Management Approaches Learn from Each Other?”
Environmental Policy and Governance 19 3-20
(2)Adler, Paul “Two types of bureaucracy: enabling and coercive”Administrative Science Quarterly March 1996