We spoke to Cédric Vandaele from Sicoval’s Development Council about civic participation and the importance of local democracy.
The recorded interview is in French. An English transcript can be seen below.
Hello, my name’s Cédric Vandaele, I’m responsible for the Development Council and the citizen participation projects throughout the region of Sicoval, France.
Why did you choose to work in the civil service?
I chose to work for a local government institution because, unlike the private sector, we’re not driven by immediate profit. We work for the well-being of our citizens, for a collective interest: these are my values, too, so I am really happy to be working within local government.
How do you feel you have the greatest impact?
To me, the best way I can have a positive impact on society is to bring people together, to involve them, to get them to work together, and to have them discuss real issues. I don’t underestimate the importance of listening to people from different backgrounds, even those who feel that they don’t know the subject very well. In doing this, we can all learn and develop new ideas collaboratively. You then demonstrate that together we are stronger, and connecting ideas is key to this success. It’s very rewarding at work.
What do you think can be done to help local democracy thrive more?
In order to help improve local democracy, each actor must alter their position slightly. Elected officials must move from a position where they are solely representative of general interests, to one where they are more active in public debate (even though they are still responsible for final decisions and legitimising policy). Inhabitants should move from being consumers of public service to being active and engaged citizens belonging to a territory. For public servants, they need to break away from bad habits, processes, and bureaucracy, and try to experiment with new techniques and new ways of doing things. It is everyone’s responsibility to help us move towards a stronger local democracy.
What do you think the benefits of civic participation are for your community?
There are so many! For elected officials, it’s interesting to engage in citizen participation and listen to the population in order to enrich decisions. It’s always more rewarding to undertake a project that meets our inhabitants’ expectations, rather than to do something to plan with technicians and architects but that in the end does not serve a neighbourhood’s needs. These projects are for our inhabitants, and it is them who will live with the results.
What has been the highlight of your work with Civocracy?
It’s interesting working with Civocracy as it brings an additional dimension to our work. We know that more and more people are equipped with smartphones and laptops — communities are moderinising quickly — so it’s great to have a digital tool at our disposal that can get quality input from a broad demograhic.