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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Report on Reboot Alberta's Progressive Values Survey

Reboot Alberta (http://www.rebootalberta.org/) is an emerging movement of progressive Albertans who are re-engaging as citizens and taking on more personal responsibility for the changing nature and the fluid future of the province. The Reboot Alberta movement people were asking what it meant to be a “progressive” in Alberta in the 21st century. To help answer that question a conjoint survey was done tracking 22 progressive values to see what were the most important to those in the Reboot Alberta community. The survey results were shared with the Reboot Alberta participants at a gathering called Reboot 2.0 in late February 2010. I will now share the results with you in some blog posts.

THE REBOOTERS VALUE PROPOSITION FOR GOOD GOVERNMENT:

When we asked what values progressive Albertans wanted politician and policy makers to apply in making laws and decisions that impact the lives of citizens we found some dominant values that were to guide and drive those decisions. The top level values of the 544 non-random, self-selecting Reboot Alberta people who completed the survey, in order of priority, were:

Integrity which should bring a sense of soundness; unimpared or uncorrupted, wholeness and completeness to any policy decision making process.

Honesty which means policy processes and outcomes should be free of deceit and untruthfulness, sincere, fair and just in character and behaviour in coming to a decision.

Accountability is about taking responsibility for one’s actions and conduct and being understandable too in reaching and explaining a decision.

Transparency which means citizens must easily see through and easily discern the motives as well as the intent of actions and clarity of intended consequences of policy positions and decisions.

Environmental Stewardship which has to see political and policy decisions being concerned with a longer-term, integrated management of the entire environmental element of Alberta's natural capital.  This must include promoting biodiversity, conservation, reclamation and mitigation in conjunction with economic and social considerations in an inter-related protection and preservation perspectives.

SOME CONTEXT ON THE RESULTS:

What was interesting about these values, except perhaps for Environmental Stewardship, was their normative nature.  By that I mean they are standard answers to the normal questions we get day to day. It is like people say "fine" when you casually as them  how they are.  That is not necessarilly the truth, just a customary answer.  I tested that normative answer theory at Reboot 2.0 where about 80% of those in attendance had done the survey.  The reply was that these values were chosen because they are important not just the usual answers. What is more they were chosen by people because they do not feel the present political culture of Alberta is delivering on these most important values for them.

If that is the case, transformational political change may be in the air and coming sooner than you think.  Will Alberta shift to the far right with the Wildrose Alliance?  What will happen to the PC Party in the next few years leading up to the next election?  Why aren't the Liberals and the New Democrats getting bumps in the polls from progressive voters?  What will those who can't fathom a reactionary right-wing governing party do if they are concerned about a political culture to best serve Alberta's interests in the future?  Will voters just stay home in even larger numbers and grow more cynicial than they are now?

For more context about the progressive value mindset here is the next group of mid level values that Alberta’s progressives perceive as foundational to forming sound public policy.  They were concerned about policy and political decisions that showed Wisdom, promoted Well-being, were Equitable, committed to Fiscal Responsibility, illustrated Respect for Diversity and supported Learning.  Again this is in the order of priority.  The other eleven attributes were all below the median and while still considered important even though they were significantly lower priorities.

ARE REBOOTERS ENGAGED PROGRESSIVE ALBERTA CITIZENS?

These findings in some ways were expected because they reflected previous opinion poll results done by other pollsters. For example 86% of Rebooter’s were dissatisfied to some degree with the Stelmach government and 77% felt strongly negative towards the current government. That is consistent with previous poll findings.

Another 83% of Rebooters do not feel that their government listens to them and 72% do not believe that their opinions have any influence on the government of Alberta. If this sense of isolation and alienation will happen with the highly informed, influential, opinionated and progressive Reboot people how is the ordinary citizen going to stand a chance of having their voice heard by a largely indifferent government...except at election time?

Before anyone presumes the prior paragraph is merely dripping with self-aggrandizing arrogance of progressives in Reboot Alberta, consider that 88% of them are Influentials compared to 10% of the general population. The Influentials according to Jonathan Berry and Edward Keller’s book of the same name are connected to between 5 and 7 personal social networks. They have opinions that are trusted by others and their advice is sought by others too. They are trend spotters and trend setters and more likely to get involved in organizations, issues and causes.  Influentials and the thought leaders and opinion leaders in any group or society.  They usually are in the small groups that Margret Mead said should never be underestimated in changing the world.  The question is will Rebooters become a citizen's movement that is intent on change in Alberta?

The Reboot Alberta survey of progressive Albertans also revealed that 86% of Rebooters are Cultural Creatives. The characteristics these people are big picture types who have serious concerns for ecological and planetary perspectives.  If any group of Albertans are gong to see the good, bad, ugly and potential implications of the oilsands as owners of the resource, progressives will be at the front of the line.

Cultuiral Creatives have a strong personal emphasis on relationships, they have personal commitments to personal development and spirituality, but religion, not so much. They are distrusting of large institutions of modern life including left versus right old-style adversarial politics. They reject conspicuous consumption and avoid displays of status.  They are focused on solutions that entail a change in worldviews that is values based including changes in personal lifestyle about how you spend you time and livelihoods, about how you make and spend your money. Cultural creatives demand authenticity in all things, especially in politics.

The more amazing thing from the Reboot survey participants was that 76% of us were both Influentials and Cultural Creatives. The potential for a transformative movement to change the political culture of Alberta is potentially to be found in these Reboot progressives who are pushing for policy solutions that go beyond merely updating enviromental regulations and moving into real sustainable ecologically based integrated solutions.
DO PROGRESSIVE ALBERTANS MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

While we do not think our government is listening to us or care about what we think Reboot Alberta progressives believe they are making a difference. While 93% of us believe our personal actions are making Alberta a better place and 96% of progressives are committed to improving the future of Alberta, we are not walking the talk very well. With all that personal commitment only 51% of us strongly agree that we will tell others great things about living in Alberta. What is worse, only 44% of us would strongly recommend that a friend move to Alberta to live. Then consider that only about 46% of us have an intense desire to remain in Alberta or feel strongly that it would take a lot to get us to leave the province.

So we have great hopes and aspirations for the province and our personal commitment to the place is exemplary. However it would appear that we are not all that proud of the place we are committed to improve, given what we are prepared to say to others about how great Alberta is and even the tepid response to our intent to stay in the province. I wonder how that reflects the feelings of the more general population, or is this unique to progressives. Based on these responses it appears that only about 56% of the progressive survey participants are in any way really engaged in their citizenship responsibilities as Albertans.

WHAT IS NEXT?

The next blog post will be about the various responses of survey particpants as Influentials and Cultural Creatives. We will get into the kinds of issues that interest Alberta progressives and the implications for the future of the Reboot Alberta citizen engagement movement.  There is a lot to do to make this movement more of a force to influence the future directions and desitinations of Alberta but given that Reboot Alberta is only 4 months old, a lot of awareness and engagement has already been accomplished.

If you want to know more about the Reboot Alberta community go to http://www.rebootalberta.org/ and explore the website.