Thursday, July 10, 2008

Focus group frustrations

The 'Countdown 2009' Faith Focus Group met this afternoon. Its report to the executive body, made during my time on holiday seems to have been given short shrift when it came to spelling out its medium and long term objectives. Time constraints on the meeting, due to certain other Focus Groups hogging time, and, who knows, impatience in meeting management over any input that dares to look at a slightly bigger picture. On these occasions, there's barely enough time to log the immediate practicalities of making the city credibly safe clean, easy to navigate and open for business by Christmas 2009. The process is always too hurried, coped with by busy men (yes, men - the girls are still taking the notes rather than directing the listening in Local Government affairs. I'd like to think it would be better if they had a real equalities policy from top to bottom, as I'm not too sure men perform all that well in getting others to collaborate and consult.) What it tells me is that all any Focus Group is really being asked to do is to decorate policy for implementation with helpful suggestions, rather than asking questions that might enhance the whole enterprise.

The whole point of having a faith focus group, (apart from pandering to faith community ego), is to invite a contribution that adds value to the city, that helps create a social environment that feels natural, wholesome, richly diverse, local and not sterile, managed, pretentious, disconnected. We are paying the price now for decisions taken in a vacuum many years ago. Humanising our new city centre development is going to be a formidable challenge, with or without the contribution faith communities could make.

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