Posts Tagged ‘community’

Cookie licking and responsiblisation

Thursday, November 10th, 2022

Or: or why the drains are blocked:

Context: “Cookie licking┬áis the act of claiming something as something only you can do, but without actually doing it. (Note: This is considered a bad thing.)

Sometimes public authorities lack the resources to deliver their proper functions (austerity) but cannot admit to this (legal obligation) and so persist in holding responsibility for a task they will never deliver (regulatory inspections once every 200 years). This means that alternative delivery by community groups and individuals is also prevented as the public authority has ‘licked the cookie’ of the task.

This is worse than straightforward responsiblisation where a public authority makes individuals or groups responsible for something the authority should be doing, as in this ‘licked responsiblisation’ those responsiblised are denied even the acknowledgement of their unsought responsibility. Hence, they are stuck waiting for help that will never come, unable to make alternative plans. This is why the drains in Glasgow are blocked and the streets unswept.

I can see two ‘solutions’ to this: The first is to adequately resource public authorities to deliver their statutory functions (unlikely in the UK with the government of the week). The second is for public authorities to admit failure (embarrassing) and enable individuals community groups to take full responsibility for parts of problems (to give them the cookie). For example, in Paris residents can formally take on responsibility for gardening small sections of public green space and do something more interesting with it than the local council could.

The ideal is probably to do both, to resource public authorities to fulfil their function, and for those authorities to have the flexibility to hand over responsibility for small bits of their work to community groups and individuals that demonstrate the ability to deliver something better than the public authority is required to.