What has what happened in Iowa got to do with us?

I’ve just given a really bad/rose tinted explanation of the Iowa caucus process to a colleague, (there’s a better one here). My colleague was however, very keen to point out its pitfalls: its exclusive by design or by accident, it has a poor track record (its a bit unfair to base this view on the 2020 event!) and its expensive. These were the 3 I can remember as he went on a bit

But, I’d argue that these issue can be managed and the caucus approach is worth sticking with, as every democratic process has its downsides ref Dan Jellinek’s wonderful book: People Power- a user’s guide to democracy

At its heart the Iowa Caucus is a demonstration of a participative democratic process and sits alongside many other forms of governance which have been tried/theorised and neatly summarised here

 Who could argue with people being given the opportunity to publicly discuss, persuade and/or concede to their neighbours in a moderated safe place, important matters which affect them and their communities? Now, it looks the wheels came off in Iowa when someone decided a digital application would speed things up/improve the process. (by the way it seems this was untried technology from a company with no track record in supplying systems such as this, so I’d suggest there was something wrong with procurement rather than the ‘modernising’ of the approach). There’s a great review of what went wrong here

 So is there anything we can learn from the Iowa Caucus? , well maybe digital is not best in this instance but more importantly participative democracy can provide some different solutions:

We have used some participative budgeting process when we worked with Mutual Gain on participative budgeting. We think the time may have come for processes such as these as the public sector struggles with ever more difficult decisions about resourcing of services. We might not need an Iowa style  Caucus but we sure do need greater participation from citizens in how public resources are committed.

If you are interested in the Mutual Gain Commission Cubes product give them a call here