These were a couple of local newspaper headlines after the GRASSROOTS: Growing Local Democracy forum in Nowra on the evening of 28 September.
With little support from elected Councillors, and public discouragement from some of them, 110 people participated in this event which aimed to start a community wide conversation about democracy, citizen participation and local possibilities. A range of speakers provided background information on community engagement, participation and planning at the local level before participants deliberated in a world café process. Encouragingly, in the spirit of GRASSROOTS democracy, people were able to intelligently question concepts that they were unfamiliar with, or sceptical about, such as random selection.
A 17 minute DVD has been produced as a record of the forum and to stimulate on-going discussion about the issues and ideas raised that night. This is available at: http://youtu.be/XR2HzYwh_Ps
The desire for greater and more meaningful participation – for community governance – was evident in expressed comments and feedback in the forum. But change won’t just happen, a concerted and educated effort will be needed. I am particularly interested in the notion of individual citizens and community organisations taking the initiative and initiating change and will be aiming to explore this in the coming months. I’d be very pleased to hear from anyone with any thoughts about this – or any other aspect of local democracy.