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Academic’s study shows need for a Ministry of Public Input

Academic’s study shows need for a Ministry of Public Input

A book by Associate Professor Jennifer Lees-Marshment recommends the creation of a Ministry of Public Input to collect, process and communicate the publics’ ideas to government.

The University of Auckland’s political marketing expert says the new department would ensure that people’s ideas on government policy reach decision makers such as Ministers and MPs, thereby greatly improving democracy.

Currently governments spend a vast amount of money and resources seeking views from outside government. But it often goes unseen, is uncoordinated, dispersed and unchecked.

“We need to find a way to ensure this money is spent much more effectively within the realities of government and leadership.

“Much of the official public input currently collected is organised without decision makers and results in suggestions that are unusable by our leaders because they fail to take into account the realities and constraints that government presents.”

Associate Professor Lees-Marshment, of the University’s Department of Political Studies and International Relations, has interviewed 51 ministers in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States. Local ministers include Finance Minister Bill English, Justice Minister Judith Collins and Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce.

Her interviews found that political leaders acknowledge the limits of their power and knowledge and seek a diverse range of constructive and conversational input from inside and outside government which they integrate into their decision-making.

“By improving public input systems; acknowledging the limits of their own power and knowledge; and devolving solution-finding to others, politicians achieve change that lasts beyond their time in power. Public input is not irreconcilable with political leadership; it is essential to it.”

“The expansion and diversification of public input has the potential to inform and influence our leaders’ decisions, strengthening citizen voices within the political system and thus improving policy outcomes and enhancing democracy.”

Associate Professor Lees-Marshment released a report summarising her findings at the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) held at the University’s Business School on 15th August.

Tomorrow she will present the report at the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies at Victoria University,12.30-1.30pm, and at the IAP2 Wellington branch at the Community Room, Mezzanine Floor, Central Library, 65 Victoria Street, Wellington from 5.30-7.30pm.

The report is published on http://leesmarshment.wordpress.com/books/the-ministry-of-public-input/

The book, The Ministry of Public Input, will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in early 2015.


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