- Bureaucracy will prevail, but we could change the way it works
- How we see the future depends on our vested interests
- THE GUIDE TO SURPLUS ENERGY ECONOMICS
- Good Idea, Bad Idea: The Merits of Renewables, the Folly of Electric Vehicles
- No matter where you live
- Left or right, up or down?
- Janet’s Story
- Seeing things from the bottom-up
- Top-down and bottom-up are already living together.
- Bigger but not Better
When thinking about the future it is essential that we do so fully conscious of the assumptions we make about our own prejudices. Where do you sit? Looking down on us below or up to those above us? It took me almost a life-time to recognise this in myself.
For over 50 years, after leaving school in 1953, I was not conscious of how I was thinking about how things were. It was a mindless journey in which my biases and prejudices were implicit and driven by my working life. Now, in so-called “old age”, I have discarded my top-down mindset and I like to think that I am able to base my thinking on my personal values and prejudices, and see things from the bottom-up.
In hindsight the actual experiences of my working life have enabled me to see how different kinds of systems of governance work and the outcomes they have on those they are supposed to serve.
My experience of institutional life began in a very small village school of children aged 4 to 15, where the Lord of the Manor (a lady) visited us on high days and holidays, such as Empire Day (Queen Victoria’s birthday) . Then, after grammar schooling and training as a municipal engineer, I climbed the hierarchical ladders of six local authorities and a university. That was enough bureaucracy for me and from 1983 onwards my wife and I ran a business, from a cottage in the Welsh Marches.
As a bureaucrat I was content with my lot. The further up the ladders I went the more control I thought I had over the eventual outcomes. And the higher I rose I discovered (albeit subconsciously) that to go further up I had to behave in ways which convinced those above me to let me have more staff below me, to enhance my prospects of further promotion or a better job in another authority. My work at the lower levels was to design projects, which then went up the hierarchy for approval at each level. These mindless systems use predefined objectives, standards and processes, mostly sent down from government and generally seen as the proper way to do things.
The outcomes “on the ground” may be subject to consultation with so-called “service users”, but it is the top-down processes which determines what happens. The services people get are nothing to do with what they want; it is a quirk of how the top-down management processes operate.
Seen from above the system seems to work well, even in times of financial constraint, because there are ways to hide underlying problems. Increasing indebtedness or endless reorganisation has been the story of UK public service development, with top-down hierarchies getting bigger and top manager’s salaries and pensions increasing. Not just public service organisations, but also the private sector organisations spawned by public service spending. Which is not a criticism; this is the way it is.
Then I got to know the small Channel Island of Sark and was the Planning Adviser to the Island Government for a few years, just before the feudal system of governance and land ownership began to be dismantled. So I learnt about Ordinances, the Treizieme, Tenements and Clameur de Haro. Understanding how this tiny independent island works has enabled me to become aware of my own long-held top-down prejudices.
Imagine a community of 600 people, making their own laws and putting them into day-to-day practice, with no interference from above, and you will begin to understand.
In finding out how a bottom-up system actually works I now realise that if fundamentally different ways of doing things are to be sought, those involved must be aware of their prejudices and be open about them with others.
This is an attempt to devise a way of finding our way through the connectedness of how things are – that is if you want to do this. Most people don’t want to because they are perfectly content with where they are.
A good reason for wanting to find out about the connections is to enable better decisions to be taken about personal or institutional development. Things like buying a house, dealing with old age or developing incapacity, planning housing development, building or improving transport infrastructure (roads, railways, telecommunications), even thinking about possibilities for the future of a local authority or a country. Any kind of development where you want to fathom out the potential consequences of different actions.
This blog is not structured in the usual top-down way, with categories and tags. My current idea is to think in terms of topics. Each post will have one or more topics attributed to it. If you click on the title of the post you will then see, at the bottom, that you can receive future posts on these topics by signing up at the bottom.
The underlying aim is to explore the future, from the bottom up.
We each have a mindset which is unique. Your vested interests and beliefs are perhaps the most important aspects of your mindset. Maintenance of your current position and promotion of your interests may be all-important.
You see things differently from anyone else. You may agree with others on a particular subject but you will do so for different reasons. It is your mindset which determines how you see things.
From the bottom up everything is connected, but you cannot see the connections from the top down. You first have to focus on an element and then look at how it is connected to other elements.