The Voter’s Role in Election Congestion

This is the text of a short article published in this week’s LGC

The recent experience of people “denied a vote” is a potent example in the ongoing debates about “behaviour change” and the responsibilities as well as the rights of citizens within their community and the state.  There is something absolute about the right to vote that makes it a useful example to think with.  Is it such a right that we should have contingency plans for the entire UK electorate to pop in at 2150 on the way to the pub?  And if we say no, then we need behaviour change, a fair way of rationing, or both.

Economists talk about rationing resources by money (through differential pricing) or through time (eg road congestion) and sometimes the two overlap, for example with toll roads offering a way of turning money into time savings for those that wish to choose it.  I suspect that even the “easyest” of councils would draw the line at expedited voting for a fee, though!

If I join the ticket queue at a railway station so late that I miss my train, the people I blame are firstly those in the queue making transactions they could get at a machine, secondly myself for being late and only thirdly the rail company – provided the staff seem to be working hard to get through the queue.  It will be interesting to see how much citizen frustration is directed at people who slowed things down by not bringing their polling cards.  We seem to default to blame of the public service, and some of the behaviour change debate is about directing constructive blame back at ourselves – tricky!

We will probably discover that some mistakes were made by returning officers and their staff, but we may also find solutions within differences of practice, just as we do from the plurality of local government more generally.  Some polling stations, it seems, gave priority to those who had their polling cards and so could be processed faster, thus maximising the number of actual votes, and a reasonably grown-up engagement with the electorate next time around will probably involve sharing information – polls must close at 10pm, you will be given priority if you bring this card, please come early to minimise the risk of missing your vote, or get a postal vote.  It may be that the folk-memory of people denied a vote through late arrival may actually resolve the problem anyway.

I shall be fascinated to see whether this issue is resolved in a way that gets to a more grown-up, solution between the electorate and the polling process, with local lessons learnt where necessary, or whether we get a gold-plated, nationally-imposed solution which puts even less responsibility on the citizen, and disempowers the locality.


Personal Policies for LinkedIn

I find LinkedIn a very valuable tool for keeping in touch with a network of contacts from past and present roles.

New modes of engagement need new protocols and there’s always a risk of giving offence as different people have different protocols and expectations.

Because of my current role as a senior headhunter, and Linkedin is increasingly relevant as a tool for headhunters, I’ve given this quite a bit of thought and have reached some personal “policy” conclusions. I’m capturing these here for the wider debate amongst both of my regular readers, but also so that in future I can point to this post as a signal that the application of my policy decision is just that – ie it isn’t personal.

1. I only connect to people with whom I have had some meaningful contact and interaction.

The power of linkedin for referrals, and second and third level networks is immense, and the underlying ethos of connecting only to people you know, and would be prepared to be positive about, is very important.

This doesn’t mean I have to have known someone for years, but I’m not going to connect to people with whom I’ve had no personal contact. This is entirely consistent with LinkedIn rules anyway, but clearly there are some folk who use LinkedIn more like facebook or twitter. That’s their choice. This is my choice. I’m also on facebook if people want to connect more appropriately there, and I can’t stop people following me on Twitter!

2. I don’t do recommendations any more.

Because of my current role, and the prospect that some of the people in my network may be candidates for roles that I work on, there’s an issue of perception were someone to be appointed to a role who I had separately recommended!

Additionally, I find that within-company recommendations of current work colleagues lack credibility.

I’m always happy to act as a referee for people I have worked with, by agreement.

3. I connect with headhunting competitors only if they “share” their network.

Although the default setting is that your network can be seen by your connections, it is possible to set it so that you hide your connections.

For me a significant part of the personal benefit of linked in is positive networking (which is why I only want to connect to people I know). My connections are open. I want people in my network to be able to access others in my network, a place where former work colleagues can find lots of mutual friends when they first sign up to LinkedIn.

In the headhunting world connections and knowledge are a basis for competition. Nevertheless the whole microeconomic theory about Networks show that all gain when networks are shared. So what that adds up to is “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”. People who I know from competitor organisations (ie still subject to policy 1 above) I will connect with only if their connections can be seen by their other connections.

Others may draw this line in a different place. If I were purely a headhunter, or were working in a research function, then I might decide to keep things closed, indeed people may feel that it would be unethical for connections to see who else you’ve been talking to, but there’s more to my life and career, past and present, than that.

Comments welcome!

Update October 2012

For the reasons stated above regarding recommendations I won’t be “Endorsing” people either.