Book News: August 21st, 2008

This report from Reform, an independent thinktank, suggests that government can be transformed for the better if it adopts some of the values of the IPOD generation, which is characterised as insecure, pressurised, over-taxed and debt-ridden. Developing a more open approach to government, providing principled leadership and professionalism as well as communicating in exciting and imaginative ways is seen as the way forward.

The report is based on a workshop with 18-34 year olds, and it argues that this generation is frustrated with what is sees as an opaque and remote government geared towards the more cynical “Generation X” and “baby boomers”. They want to be communicated to in a more direct way, not feel excluded or confused by political spin. In particular, the report claims, they want to know where their money is being spent and who is accountable for delivering public services. Value for money and localised, personalised services are key.

The report demonstrates that the main political parties are correct to have accepted the principle of “choice” as a centrepiece of public service reform policy since it is instinctively seen as desirable and necessary by this generation. However, the report emphasises that choice has to work in practice. Young people want a limited range of services from which to choose and clear, accessible information to help them make the right choices, as opposed to being caught up in an abstract debate on choice and delivery options.

In the same way that young people respond to consumer branding, they will reward a government that communicates in innovative and exciting ways with their attention. The report contends that government and politicians must get to grips with modern communications technology if they are to engage this generation in a meaningful way.

It also suggests that policy-makers are right to have shifted their interest from higher spending to value for money and from centralisation to localism.

The report is available from Reform.