When I started to study the think tanks phenomenon, one of the first organizations I visited was the Social Market Foundation. It was and it is a small socialdemocratic think tank. At that time, one of its outstanding members was Robert Skidelski, biographer of Keynes. Mr Skidelski left the SMF but the project continued. It is not a famous institute like others in Westminster, but I believe it is doing a good job.
A good example of the right way they are following is one their latest publication, Assertive Citizens: New Relationships in the Public Services In this report they explain that citizens are adopting in politics a similar behavior they have as consumers. They are active, they do not agree with any proposal from the public sector if they think the service is poor or does not fit their expectations. The consumer’s revolution has brought one of the main changes in our democracies. Citizens have waked up to asking for a good quality of products and services they demand and companies have been pushed to respond properly to the new rules of commerce.
Members of SMF believe that the new conduct is not valid only for economic matters, but also for politics. Voters want to participate in the way public services are delivered.
«Public service users are now more aware of their rights, expect a better service, and defer less to established sources of advice such as professional opinion. This creates profound challenges for the relationships between the users of services ? pupils, students, patients – and providers, such as doctors and teachers».
The Social Market Foundation considers this movement is positive for the growth of democracy, although it increases the challenges for a good number of professionals, like teachers, doctors and other public servants. The new environment asks for a revision of relationships and implies to respect more the opinions of citizens. The think tank recommends to reinforce the work in several areas:
- Better training for teachers on how to cope with assertive parents
- Teaching young people how to get the most out of public services as part of the citizenship curriculum.
- The establishment of a co-production fund to serve all public service institutions.
- The role of professionals must change.
The report helps us to discover another way to balancing the power in democratic societies. If politicians do not take into account the new political behavior of voters, they will have difficulties to win elections and, after that, to stay in Government.