When I spent time studying change management, two aspects of the process intrigued me.
One, there was a lot of talk about “sustaining” the change of the S-curve, making sure that it didn’t decay back into the original position over time. And consultants earned a lot of money advising people how to make the change sustainable.
Two, there was growing evidence that there was a need for people who dealt with the “toxins” that emerged when “systems” (of people, processes, technology and culture) were put under the severe stress of radical change. And, as with most things consultant, a vogue phrase was created for the person who did this: the toxic handler.
Now that dates me, I’m probably using jargon that is at least 20 years old, but then that was the time I learnt about change management. But anyway.
I’m fascinated by the possibility that the internet will really start impacting people’s lives from a governmental perspective, that democracy will finally become participative. Tools alone can’t make this happen, neither can sympathetic regulation. As we found out in the world of finance, wanting individual share ownership to increase may be a laudable aim; yet, if you look at the UK, it would appear that private individual shareholdings actually declined over the last 40 years despite regulation and technology.
Why am I so fascinated by this possibility of internet-enabled democracy? I think part of the answer is because it would sound the death-knell of party politics, and I am not a big fan of party politics. I detest false polarisations, yet I am surrounded by them. And party politics tends to drive people towards these polarisations.
That’s why I was so interested in what Ivo Gormley was doing, why I was keen on supporting Us Now. It is important to discuss the art of the possible in the context of democracy and the internet, and to know what won’t work and why.
Anyway, with all this as background, I was on the lookout for detailed analysis of the Obama campaign from a post-event perspective. Was the campaign the beginning of something, or the end? Were we going to see a less apathetic, more engaged, voter population as Obama enters his presidency? Would the voters expect more from Obama as a result of the engagement they’d already had, and if so what? Would the internet continue to be centre stage amongst Obama volunteers? What would all this mean?
So I was delighted to see this piece of research from Pew Internet: Post-Election Voter Engagement. Here’s the summary:
Voters expect that the level of public engagement they experienced with Barack Obama during the campaign, much of it occurring online, will continue into the early period of his new administration. A majority of Obama voters expect to carry on efforts to support his policies and try to persuade others to back his initiatives in the coming year; a substantial number expect to hear directly from Obama and his team; and a notable cohort say they have followed the transition online.
I think all three of the findings above bode well for the future. One, that the level of engagement, particularly online engagement, will continue into the presidency itself. This is a good thing, a simple leading indicator of the sustainability of the change taking place. Two, that the voters expect to continue to engage directly with Obama. Again a good thing, shows that the democratisation taking place is not transient, has a chance of becoming permanent. And three, that the transition itself is being followed online; the internet will continue to be centre stage.
The signs of sustainability of change are good. Which only leaves me wondering about the toxins that will emerge (there is no doubt about their existence, just about their timing) and where the toxic handlers are going to be found.
In the meantime, I am encouraged. Thank you Pew Internet.