the big idea
Connecting the dots and co-creating a better society
The Mandate Project is founded on the view that each person has, at the very least, the ability to identify and work out her/his own interest. Each of us goes through life and gathers experiences, views, opinions, insights, lessons and eventually, one hopes, wisdom. With this project we aim to bring these powerful learnings into a broader conversation to resolve complex societal issues.
When it comes to tackling such issues – whether one focuses on inequality, climate change, pollution, poverty, sustainable development, increasing civic participation, improving healthcare, education etc. – there is a need to create novel, participatory mechanisms which facilitate dialogue between the multiple stakeholders of society. Through the inclusion of diverse voices, ideas, expertise and viewpoints, we can develop complex approaches to tackling formerly intractable problems. This would provide value to the policy formation and decision making processes and would serve to assist government wherever governance gaps or incapacity may be identified.
One of the shortcomings of the existing process of policy-making and legislative drafting is that it happens behind closed doors, uses language which is inaccessible to the masses and in the end does not translate well into the lived experiences of citizens. As a result of this institutional distancing, people feel alienated from the laws, policies and regulations which apply to them. The problem is that there exist barriers to participation which are a legacy of older institutions of government. It was expedient to have policy-making and legislative drafting limited to experts and delegated officials. However, with increasing access to higher education, internet communication technology, and greater mobility, such limitations are no longer justified on account of simple expedience. It is time to bring the ‘everyman,’ i.e. laypersons, as well as experts into such discussions. This will facilitate richer debates and eventually broader appeal for policies and laws that emerge from the process.
On the other hand, in terms of expert involvement, contemporary approaches remains particularistic, disconnected and largely inefficient. In any given issue area, there are a multitude of actors involved in working out limited objectives. For instance, if we take the issue of air pollution in a given city, you have various health bodies, think tanks, academic institutions, NGOs, governmental bodies etc. which are engaged in finding their own domain specific solutions to the problem. However, most of these actors are not in any kind of informed and sustained conversation with each other – some may not even be aware of the existence of certain other actors. Usually, the extent of their engagement with others is curtailed by institutional or inter-personal networks. This reflects a grossly inefficient approach where efforts are doubled and outcomes halved. After all, no consensus can ever be built from within such silos or echo-chambers.
The Mandate aims to create a neutral platform and eventually a wider ecosystem where any person can get involved with or begin a discussion around issues that they are passionate about. The idea is that such ‘adopted neutrality’ will allow people to focus on the issues themselves rather than their personal political, ideological or other allegiances which have a tendency to frustrate discussion. While each of these aforementioned allegiances are an important element of our lives, it is crucial that we check these at the door, so we may well and truly hear each other with an open mind. It is often surprising how much common ground can be discovered when we do so.
Given each person’s diverse interests and passions coupled with their unique experiences and expertise, there is endless room for us to come together and seed ideas we can work on. The cumulative intelligence and experience may perhaps yield consensus around the simplest solutions, but at least we will know that we are not alone in owning them. These multiple and overlapping communities of interest will give us the strength and confidence required to act. It may also be a stepping stone to crowd-sourcing the material support required to convert such hypothetical solutions into actions.