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Changing Our Behaviour. What Is The Role Of Government?

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Can And Should Government Change Behaviour?

Governments of all colours have recently encouraged good citizenship. But what does this mean? Does it mean citizens deciding themselves what their role is within society or does it mean Governments attempting to change behaviour to create the citizens they want?

This meetup is about whether changing behaviour per se is a legitimate aim for government? Is it the role of government to intervene into areas of emotional wellbeing and character development? What are the implications for a free society if they do this?

To help us with this discussion we have three speakers,

Dave Clements is a social policy professional with over a decade’s experience working in local government, and currently responsible for a flagship volunteer-led social media project in London. He is co-author of The Future of Community (Pluto, 2008) and convenes the Social Policy Forum at the Institute of Ideas. Dave writes for publications including The Guardian and Huffington Post.

Peter John joined UCL in September 2011 as Professor of Political Science and Public Policy. He was previously the Hallsworth Chair of Governance at the University of Manchester, where he directed the Institute of Political and Economic Governance. He holds a D. Phil from the University of Oxford. He has overseen a project that uses experiments to study civic participation in public policy, with the aim of finding out what governments and other public agencies can do to encourage citizens to carry out acts of collective benefit. This work comes together in a book with Bloomsbury Academic, Nudge, Nudge, Think, Think: Using Experiments to Change Civic Behaviour published on 26 August 2011. He is planning to carry out more randomised controlled trails to test how the provision of social information can influence citizen behaviour.

Patrick Chalmers is a journalist and author of Fraudcast News (http://fraudcastnews.net/book) — How Bad Journalism Supports Our Bogus Democracies. You can listen to him talking about Fraudcast News in a “pop-up” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGnPdpQkTb0&feature=youtu.be) interview from last year’s Rebellious Media Conference. Patrick will be joining us from France via Skype.

In face of policy rhetoric about the Big Society and ‘people power’, what happens when unseen experts and policy groups seek to influence and direct adults’ decisions about what they eat, how many units they drink or whether they give up time to help the community. And then again do individuals have a responsibility to consider the wider community impact of their behaviour and when there is a wider impact does this not mean a role for Government?

VisionOntv will be joining us at this meeting to record some vox pops about what we think the role of government should be regarding our behaviour. We are working with VisionOntv to develop a number of projects including some meetings in August at the Global Summit being held then. VisionOntv are helping to develop video citizen journalism so that citizens have a voice in the public square. You can visit VisionOntv here .... (http://visionon.tv/)

Baroness Neuberger chaired the Science and Technology Committee inquiry into Behaviour Change. Their Report makes some interesting findings about efforts by the Government to change the way we behave. Perhaps the most important thing they say is that to solve the really big problems that face society – like increasing levels of obesity and all the associated health problems, the struggle to meet carbon emissions targets, or antisocial behaviour and knife and gun crime – the Government will need to do more than just “nudge” people in the right direction.You can see what she has to say here.