Facilitator: Graham Veysey
Three Major Takeaways
1) Education is key. In order to restore trust in government, people need to understand what government does and lose the cynicism that is currently exhibited towards government. Too often, education is thought of as just a classroom K-12 environment. It needs to be thought of as both a system that addresses youth but also adults. A curriculum needs to be developed that instills in youth the basics of how government works but also what it does.
Classroom activities are not enough. Shadow and service learning are key educational tools. Vista workers should be placed at the County level and the County Fellowship program should be expanded.
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor frequently sites a fact that only 1/3 of people can name the three branches of government but nearly 75% of the population can name one of the American Idol judges. It is not just the knowledge that we need to instill in our youth and in our overall society, but also the values that help explain why it is important to have a well functioning government in that we can trust.
2) Civic engagement is a responsibility of both the elected officials and the citizenry. If government is better personified then the public will have a better trust in the government. Instead of referring to “the government” we need to refer to it as “our government” because that is more accurate. Creating solid strategic partnerships with organizations like the Civic Commons — where the County pledges to respond to the conversations that happen on theciviccommons.com — we’ll move closer to a one-stop-shop of having citizens feel as if they are being heard. That will help eradicate the “sham engagement” that sometimes exists.
3) There is a need for simplification of the issues and a better dissemination of the facts. The government and the public need to have easier terms to communicate. A comprehensive marketing plan would help to do all of the above. It is not simply letting constituents know of the services government provides but also give them a better understanding of what government has done and what government can do.
- “Trust in Government: Whose Problem is It?” http://tapsummit.org/?p=1
- Demos, “Expanding Civic Engagement Page”: http://www.demos.org/issue.cfm?e=Expanding_Civic_Engagement
- Demos, “The Role of Government and the Public Sector” http://www.demos.org/issue.cfm?e=Role_Government_Public_Sector