Customer or Citizen

Street cafeMy friend did not care for the streetscaping decision made by our local council and was angrily denouncing it to
us all at coffee, concluding “This is a useless council, they simply do not care for the individual”.

Which raises the question – should they? Council decisions may be made well or poorly, but they need to be judged by their effect on the community as a whole not on any one individual.  In fact, when decisions are made in favour of an individual, we call that corruption!

So why do we get so aggrieved when councils make decisions not to our liking?  For there is no doubt that we do.  I suspect we fail to make the switch from being a customer to being a citizen.  We carry on thinking ‘me’ when we should be thinking ‘we’.

My question for you today is a personal one:

Not how we can get others to make the switch, but rather how can we, ourselves, do it?   What experiences have you had when you just naturally switched to ‘we’ thinking?  What was it about those situations that caused the switch?

3 Thoughts on “Customer or Citizen

  1. Patrick Whelan on August 5, 2016 at 7:00 pm said:

    Having worked in local government, I can honestly say that decisions such as streetscaping are made by the professional officers. The idea of streetscaping and its funding are made by Council, but the detail is all at officer level. When I was working, I was the architect for buildings, there was a landscape architect for parks and street treatments, and there were engineers for road design. These professionals made the decisions. How much would be made to satisfy the decision maker or the decision maker’s idea of what would be good for the public was remarkably good in most cases.

    The switch from “me” to “we” is something the creative officers of councils do on a regular basis. Certainly, personal preferences make a play, but they do in all creative/design disciplines. Professional designers are trained for making that switch. How the everyday person can make the switch will depend on a lot of variables.

  2. David Hope on August 6, 2016 at 6:59 pm said:

    We need to involve the community more by helping them to be part of the decision, but reminding them that the decision is about community needs, not the individual. People will always whinge, but elected members and professional staff, if they feel they have used a good decision-making process, should not feel slighted.

    • Yes, engagement is the key. Appropriate use of technology by Local Government increases community participation in infrastructure decision making, increasing acceptance of outcomes, but not necessarily changing them.

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