Strengthening voices - innovating informal inputs

News articles.

Newspaper editorials.

Talkback commentary.

Social media posts.

Opinion pieces.


All* informally, indirectly influence policy.

For example via opinion polls.

Vast swathes of opinion that come and go on an hourly basis, as revealed in monitoring services like Google Trends.

Yet none of these informal inputs are routinely assessed against more formal inputs - reviews such as this one, or the 200 that submitted towards the National Action Plan. *Or, another formal example, direct petitions to parliament.

Nearly all that informal public discourse disappears when it comes to formal policy-making. People complain publicly, but rarely formally. When asked why, a common response often is, 'Why bother? Nothing ever changes.'

Showing the public that informal public comments are formally counted would show that 'the system' is aware of their views. And is taking action on them. Rather than only consulting once a month, once a year or less, permanent people's 'polls' would live update, as could an outcomes update that shows how government is responding to various public inputs.

This could give rise to concerns about lending greater profile to the overwhelming rise of current failures around populism derailing democratic process. Ignoring a problem and hoping it will go away, however, does not carry much historical weight as a successful response strategy, to excess populism or other threats.

Why the contribution is important

Faith in liberal democracy as a force for good is faltering.

Distrust of institutions - public and private - is digging democracy into a dangerously deep hole.

Recognising, reporting and data-basing 'informal' public discourse as an official informational input would provide solid evidence that a wide range of voices are being listened to, noted, and acted upon.

Innovative sentiment analysis could compare informal opinion, for example, with more formal inputs, such as commercial opinion polls, and online petitions - especially those to parliament.

Where there are widely and consistently variations between formal and informal opinion, governments might further study whether these variations are a) significant, b) accurate, and c) actionable. By actions, I mean whether a variation could be addressed by increased media literacy as a part of adult education, for example, or whether said variation reveals actual issues.


by jasonbrown1965 on March 04, 2021 at 11:34AM

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