With the general cutbacks and austerity measures and the extensive transformations in the social domain it seems that new governance paradigms enter the local public domain. One of the most extensive challenges is to strengthen the social cohesion, i.e. the consistency between citizen, society and our natural environment.
This combination of vast transformations under the circumstance of increasing social stress simply demands an accurate reflection on public governance.
The main political course seems to be that of a withdrawing government. But as we may know is that trust of the citizen in government is waning. Politics is searching the answers in its own development of power, where collectively felt values are not addressed properly. And we know that the stakes are more and more fragmented within the spiral of increasing individualism. The social fabric is more and more in danger. What to do now?
Back to basics! Public leaders should take place ‘at the side’ of society and should migrate away from certain stakes, despite the difficulty of this. What really counts is the whole of society, more than ever. Therefor a holistic approach has to be developed to stimulate citizens and companies to take their own responsibility. To make this possible though government should not withdraw, but guide. To empower citizens and stimulate private initiatives is the new governmental task to fulfill. To make a guided and gradual transformation possible towards reduced collective costs, own responsibility and more trust.
This form of governance demands a renewed dialogue between politics, society and citizen. One of daring to cross the boundaries of the self conviction. Government as steward and connector therefore seems necessary to give new life to our society. A centrally and guided approach is absolute urgent!
* Paul Wagtmans is former Deputy of the Province of North-Brabant, The Netherlands