We’re From Civil Society and We’re Here to Help

In a healthy democracy citizens are engaged as mature equal partners with government.

They recognize government’s limitations and pitch in to compensate.

They pursue solutions while also improving the overall decision making capacity of government.

They take care not to undermine faith and confidence in the democratic process.

They create a healthy boundary between civil society and government.

To do so requires a loving mindset. Or if that’s too daring for you, a mindset that sees government as a friend. Recalcitrant, insensitive and arrogant at times, but a friend. A friend as vulnerable and imperfect as you are.

This is different than thinking of government as parent. Pointing out their faults and still expecting them to perform to perfection. Or depositing a problem at their doorstep and saying fix it. Even though you know they can’t.

It takes imagination to redefine your relationship with government.

  • To create a new process for a particular problem or challenge rather than accepting the existing process.
  • To not accept government’s timing EX: 4 or 5 year election cycles.
  • To sort out the subtleties, nuances and complexities of issues as a prelude to government decision making. E-democracy and citizen assemblies for example.
  • To restore civility to policy discussions.

That’s the imagination that led to the creation of Reconciliation Canada. Or that created safe injection sites long before governments did. Or the spread of hospice around the world. Or the Great Bear Rainforest agreement. Or the Vulnerable Persons Standard which guided Canadian legislation on medical aid in dying. Or inclusion and accessibility legislation. Or the Gwaii Haanas Agreement to jointly manage the waters surrounding Gwaii Haanas  National Park and Haida Heritage Site. Or … I’m sure you can think of other examples.

The days when “we’re from government and we’re here to help” are long gone.

Let’s replace them with “we’re from civil society and we’re here to help.”


If history is, as I believe, a feast, the flavour comes from its people. ~ Margaret MacMillan, historian.

Musical accompaniment this post is the hauntingly beautiful Try Again About Everything by Rae Spoon. Consider buying their music. Isn’t it precious?


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