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Wisdom of the crowd

Weekly column from Council Courier e-newsletter by CEO Greg Hallam, Friday, 1 September 2017.

A decade or so ago, I was lucky enough to read a book titled The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, by James Surowiecki.

His argument was that extracting information from groups and making decisions accordingly is better than one person in that group guiding the decision. The outcomes of the most recent Fred Rogers Community Attitude biennial survey and the Ipswich Mayoral by-election proved that nostrum again.

The punters almost always get it right and the bigger the crowd the more likely they get the answer correct.

Those who throw political mud are rarely rewarded for what they perceive as their own genius. They might take some bark off their opponents but in the end they do more damage to themselves. Our communities have an innate sense of when they are being had, and an acute nose for self interest and sour grapes. As a result, positivity triumphs over negativity 99 percent of the time.

For all we mere mortals the fundamental questions that confront us on death’s doorstep is what have we achieved in a lifetime, how do we live our lives and how will we be remembered in death.

Are you a positive person, an uplifter of others and the community, an energy giver, a contributor? Or a spoiler, naysayer and energy sucker? There are those who take to the playing field of life and others who forever are sideline commentators - the could-have-beens.

The good thing is the community are great arbiters of who’s fair dinkum and who’s not. The 2017 Fred Rogers Community Attitude Survey, the 11th since the series began in 1997, is proof that the crowd does indeed get it right. Despite the difficulties of the ongoing Paul Pisasale saga, our fellow citizens see councils for what they are - a positive force for good. I must confess I was worried about the result but should have trusted Queenslanders’ common sense and perspective.

The survey found an overall community satisfaction rate for councils of 69.39 percent, a little down on the 2015 result but not statistically significant - bang on the average over 20 years.

The results also suggest councils perform best in the public’s view on services to do with community and lifestyle (parks, libraries, etc). See the LGAQ Media Release and Community Satisfaction Survey Report.

But the survey suggests, as it has in previous years, that councils need to do more work on customer service and communicating with the public.

As the members of the self-appointed Queensland Local Government Reform Association - a group of largely disaffected and vociferous citizens - meet in Gympie this weekend they might ponder what contribution, if any, they make to this state. A brief look at their agenda suggests they are motivated by vengeance and confected outrage, and the last thing on their minds is wanting to be positive contributors with an agenda for taking Queensland's diverse local communities forward.

It was sad to get the news this week that a great lifetime servant of local government and a personal friend of mine for 25 years, Garry Storch, had passed away aged 69. Garry was of course the last chief executive of the former Caloundra City. He also did long stints heading up the Hobart and Darwin city councils. Gary’s calm authority was an invaluable asset to those communities he managed. A champion in every sense of the word. Vale Garry and condolences to his wife Gill and family.


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