I really believe in the power of ordinary people to shape the life of our community in Guernsey – or any community around the world.
We see a lot of that already here: from the hundreds of charities that Guernsey residents set up, run and volunteer with; to community initiatives like the Dandelion project which aim to change society through other means; to the thousands of people employed in public service; to the vibrancy of our culture and the artists and enthusiasts who bring it to life.
Where we’re missing this awesome constructive engagement is – politics.
You might not have noticed it, because people are talking about local politics all the time. Every decision made by the States is pulled to pieces and kicked about, on Facebook forums and in the pub. (I’m as guilty of that as anyone, despite being part of it.) Politics is as routine a source of conversation and dissatisfaction as the weather. But one vital thing is lacking: most people are just not getting involved.
And it’s about more than just the States – what about parish politics? Do you know who sits on your Douzaine? Did you vote for them? Come to that, do you know how to?
Or the other branches of government – did you know that you could become a Jurat? Yes, you. You could be part of Guernsey’s ‘permanent jury’, helping to make sure that justice is done when people come before the courts. It doesn’t take special qualifications, although it does take a certain strength of character and depth of integrity – but I suspect you have that, and you’re just too modest to imagine yourself in that role. Go ahead: it needs you.
This project is a personal project. I made a promise this year to put as much effort as I can into raising awareness and sharing information about how Guernsey’s democracy works, ahead of the 2020 Election. I want to do it in a fair and non-partisan way: the information here is available to anyone who wants to use it, share it or remix it – that is, work it into your own projects in any way you like, just so long as you’re not doing so for commercial gain – regardless of your politics and values.
What I have tried to do is come up with 100 Ways of Making a Difference in Guernsey. I’ve mixed in opportunities for you to contribute to, and get the best out of, Guernsey’s political life alongside things like helping with charity and community work, and making more environmentally-friendly choices. I want people to see politics as one more way – and an important one – of contributing positively to the life of our community, and I want to try and encourage more people to make that choice. My hope is that putting it in this kind of context will help.
Most of this project will take place on Facebook, at least to begin with. You can follow the 100 Ways Facebook page – I’m aiming to post a new suggestion on there around 3 times a week. Underneath each suggestion, there’ll be a few links and opportunities for putting them into practice: please feel free to add your own in the comments. Sometimes, especially on the political things (of course) there’ll be a link back to my site, where I’ll go into more depth if it’s needed. I would also, always, welcome suggestions to add to the list – if we get to more than 100 Ways of making a difference, so much the better!
I should add: I will moderate Facebook comments as I see fit to maintain an atmosphere that is positive and constructive and where people are comfortable talking with each other. If I have to block posters in order to keep things civil, I will. That’s my prerogative, and it doesn’t hurt anyone’s freedom of speech: there are plenty of other spaces to share unkind and destructive views, for those who want to do so. I hope it won’t happen, but social media has a tendency to bring out the worst in people, and I want to be honest about how I’ll respond to that from the start.
Making a good future for our island – and our world – is a responsibility we all share. It’s a responsibility which a lot of people are willing to give up time, and energy, and personal comfort, for – we see this all the time in volunteering, and CSR, and community activities. My hope is simply to start a conversation about how politics fits into this world of civic responsibility, and to give more people the courage & encouragement to try it for themselves.