Wednesday 15 June 2016

Policy Development 002

Some comments:

David Pavett:
The Loomio platform offers a far more sophisticated solution and should be considered. A website which acts as a repository for substantial contributions is almost certainly required. Then we need to talk about how debate can be organised. Left Futures for example has many qualities but the appearance of materials on different issues is virtually random. Can we set debating themes and try to tackle issues collectively? Should be try to produce an on-line magazine? How should debate be moderated? What place, if any, should be given to theoretical issues along with practical ones? if at all?
Chris MacMackin:
I'm glad to see that David mentioned the Loomio platform, as it is something which I have come across and found interesting as well. Here are some thoughts I had on a possible structure for a policy discussion system. - Position papers put forward by experts, think tanks, groups of people directly involved with the issue etc. - A discussion thread attached to each such paper. The purpose of these would be to provide material for a coherent Response, described below. - A "response" edited in a Wikipedia-like fashion, expressing general reactions to the position paper. The comments could be used as a means to get material for and to discuss issues with the response. - Perhaps some sort of meta-response page for each theme (education, strategy, theory, health, etc.) which would reflect people's overall feelings about policy on that theme. This would be drawn from individual response pages on the theme. I feel as though something like a wiki structure might work best for this. From a technical standpoint, I'm not 100% certain how you'd go about coupling position papers to responses, but I'm sure it's possible. ... People contributing to the response papers would need to be members of this site. Perhaps to register they would need to prove membership of Momentum, or something. Momentum's database would have to give everyone a unique identifier. If they could find that out and enter it in when registering, along with the email or postcode they used with Momentum, then their membership could be verified. This would likely require coordination with Momentum in order to happen
David Pavett:
Is a debate between 1000 people, or even 100 come to that, doable? My guess is that it is but that it would need a level of careful planning, presentation and coordination (some form of on line chairing) well beyond anything we have yet seen. It would probably take a fair amount of experimentation to get there. What I am sure of is that it will only work if each debate is around and initial high quality document or documents. Everyone chipping in their little bit can never be a substitute for the hard research work of putting a coherent case together which others can then extend, criticise and modify.
Questions: who will develop policy, on what basis? What will be done with policy proposals? How will this integrate with the policy development process in the party? How will decisions be reached when the subject matter is far more contestable than more objectvely factual topics, and discussion likely to be far more passionate and positions more entrenched than is the case in most strategic and tactical decisions? Will this be an attempt to build a new policy development framework for the party? Will it involve plebiscites? How, if we are to dedicate scarce resources to the project, do we ensure it achieves something useful and doesn't devolve into a mere talking shop or getting bogged down in the narcissism of small differences?

This is not meant to sound too negative. This could be a very important initiative. As these preliminary questions may suggest, is also potentially a big challenge.

We need to be clear that such a project, if presented as a forum for all members to have their views heard, carries with it the potential for acrimony, distraction from the pursuit of tangible and achievable goals, disappointment of those taking part if their policy proposals are not adopted, and unnecessary friction with other elements of the party.

It will accordingly need careful consideration and planning if it is to provide tangible benefits. It may be that policy development is best seen as emerging from other activities: research, or organised debates/seminars/symposiums which can bring in outside experts and attract press interest and coverage. I've suggested elsewhere we need to be thinking about storing usable units of data. Perhaps we need to tie input to policy discussions more closely to actually providing some such 'product'; a piece of research (which can take many forms), or a clear structured argument with supporting materials, the semantics of which can be interrogated via IT systems?

I think something like this may indeed be necessary because a higly accessible open forum for free discussion is likely, once it achieves a critical mass of participation, to rapidly attract blowhards, casual trolls, saboteurs, the indomitably doctrinaire, etc, as any message board or sizeable blog comments section tends to do: wheil that may make for healthy knockabout debate, it doesn't tend to result in any identifiable progress. I hope it won't be controversial to say that everything we do needs to be focused on making progress towards some significant goal or at least along some some identifiable path.

Having said all that, it may be that there is sufficient within Momentum on some of the more tractable policy issues for novel consensus positions to emerge: are we then looking at an intra- (and extra-)party lobbying or campaigning organisation aimed at trying to promote the Momentum line?

Also, how (if at all) does this area interact with the idea raised in General Discussion 001:
Generating and propagating 'best practice' in making our case - this covers everything from a readily-searchable data base of well-researched facts and figures up to detailed recommendations for a 'party line' on specific issues
(assuming that the idea is one we should be pursuing in the first place). How would policy debate interact or overlap with say strategic and tactical debate? What parallels and divergences exist between these? Could they use the same system or duplicate systems? How important is screening, reputation scoring, demonstrable expertise etc. among participants, if at all?


Tim Wilkinson said...

From Chris M:

"On the collaborative working page, I have laid out some proposals for how to develop policy. I'd be interested to hear people's responses. It certainly is not a complete system, but it could be a place to start? That said, I feel like maybe our first priority should be to develop a system to produce responses to contributions put forward by experts, as I describe in the paragraph Tim quoted in this article."

I'm certainly considering these along with my own similar ideas & am working on the next batch of new posts & post-iterations which I hope will start to bring some of this together and clarify some aspects of the discussion so far. Sorry if this sounds a bit cryptic but no time to explain in more detail here.

Meanwhile all, please continue to provide comments questions ideas etc - anything goes as long as it directly concerns the Labour Roots Project, and everything that does will be incorporated into future iterations of the main topic posts.

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