This post was published before I became a civil servant. I am unable say whether I still agree with it.
Last week, I gave ~100 of my colleagues a 7-minute tour of the past year’s news in the local borough. It was quite rewarding, and I believe a good means of spurring interest in local politics. In this post, I’ll talk about how this came to pass, and why you should think of doing likewise.
My employer - Metaswitch - is a company of about 700 people, with ~400 based in our head office in Enfield. At least 100 employees (of whom I am one) live in Enfield. Despite this, I’ve come to observe that some of my colleagues (including some who lived in the borough) knew nothing of local affairs.
Every year, at the end of January, Metaswitch holds an ‘Engineering Conference’. This is two days worth of talks given (with some exceptions) by members of the engineering organisation for other members of the engineering organisation.
This year, we experimented with PechaKutcha style talks - 20 slides, with 20 seconds for each. Thus, I proposed a talk entitled ‘What is going on outside our front door?’
The proposal got enough votes that I gave the presentation on Thursday (see here for the slides). It seemed to be well-received. I judged it to be a success - one of my colleagues came up to me later to express their surprise at the depth of the cuts the local schools were being subjected to.
So why am I suggesting that you should also consider giving this sort of talk at your place of work? At the most basic, I would suggest that a company’s employees should be aware of local issues so as to avoid accidental damage to its reputation.1
However, I would suggest that local civic engagement is a good in itself. My experience has been that many people are not interested in local politics - it’s seen as irrelevant. However, Enfield Council manages a budget of ~£1 billion on behalf of ~100 000 people. So the council’s policies can make a significant difference to the lives of a large number of people.
The first step in getting people engaged in local politics is to help them find out what is going on in the area. So my challenge to you, whatever your political persuasion, is go and do thou likewise!