Changing London – a blog that might do just that

There are now so many blogs and other opportunities to publish and comment it’s difficult to think that another one more might make a difference to big policy issues, unless backed by a substantial organisation and other resources.

However, I have a hunch that Changing London, started a few months ago by David Robinson and Will Horwitz, might just do that. They say:

We have set up this site to showcase, debate and develop bold, ambitious ideas from you: London’s citizens and friends. You can submit your idea right now, or get in touch with us, via the form on the right.

We are also planning some street activities and some community consultations to widen engagement.

After 6 months we will pull together the best ideas and use them to inform and influence the debate about the mayoralty and ultimately, to help lift the ambitions of the next mayor.

This is not a political blog about the personalities, Westminster rumours or the latest twists in the selection saga. It’s a blog about the big ideas that could shape our city for decades to come. We hope politicians will pick them up and if they don’t we will try to persuade them.

The site isn’t flashy, commenting is a bit limited so far, but there is an impressive range of high quality content, and a strong sense of integrity about the intention and style of operation, that I think will give it influence. That’s not least because of David’s impressive work in East London with Community Links over several decades, his connections at national level, and his colleague Will’s diligence in researching, curating and promoting material. Will’s posts about other cities have been inspirational too. There’s credibility there.

Tomorrow evening, January 30, there’s an open meeting at Toynbee Hall to discuss two themes that have emerged from contributions so far: The best place on earth grow up; The world’s friendliest city, plus a discussion of next steps:

We plan to run the blog until Easter and to lead or to support other crowd sourcing activity throughout this period both off line and on. During this phase we will also begin to draw together some of the principal threads in the conversation. Each of these themes, probably eventually about 8 to 10, will be shaped into a topic for discussion at an open meeting. The combined product will finally be published as a book at the start of the party conference season on October 1st 2014.

Apart from an interest in the themes, I’m fascinated by how the process will turn out. Some 35 years ago, after working as planning reporter on the Evening Standard, I co-authored  a book on London for Thames Television. It was called “London The Heartless City” because in those days there was a lot of concern about people leaving, and London’s economic decline. We’ve got problems today, but that isn’t one of them.

Back then it wasn’t possible to crowdsource ideas, so unless you did a lot of interviews, the temptation was to rely on official sources rather than the views of Londoners. I think Changing London will have more impact because people may feel it is theirs, and they can make a difference. I hope there’s a good turn out tomorrow. I’ll certainly be there.

Comments are closed.