That “Stakeholder” “Conference” – a third account #Manchester #climate #macf2013

Roger Griffiths, a long-time MCFly reader and contributor, attended the recent “Stakeholder” “Conference.” In the third – and probably final – attendee account to be published on MCFly, he makes some very astute points.  Read on!

Dear Marc,

Sorry to have taken so long to write this [Actually, less than 48 hours is very very speedy!! Ed]. After the meeting I could not understand what I had been to, or get my head round the details. I tried reading the reports they gave us but it got worse. It’s too vague for me. Like nailing a jelly to the wall as they say. So this is really a letter to you, with at least some of your questions answered. If you want to put some of it in the blog that’s fine. I saw David’s report which I thought was good.

The meeting was held at a shiny new building at 3 Piccadilly Place. On arriving at the 7th floor I entered a very large room with perhaps two dozen round tables covered in white table cloths. Was it a wedding breakfast I’d come to? Or symbolic; the mass nuptials of the great minds of Manchester ?

Then I saw two women trying not to notice me. So I went over to say hello which gave one of them the chance to leave. The remaining lady seemed quite pleasant. I looked at her badge and saw she was a member of the sub committee. What a chance I thought. “I see you are on the sub committee” I said, “is it still in existence ?” She nodded. “It’s just that some of us have be trying to get hold of the minutes of the meetings but we cannot.” She looked bewildered and replied “They are in ‘Drop Box’” she said, “anyone can see them there.” I asked how you access them but she didn’t know. She said she would have someone let me know but I have yet to hear. Edging to another question I said I was acquainted the the editors of ‘Manchester Climate Monthly’. At this her lips hardened. She didn’t quite stagger back on her heels and hold a cross to my face but said “They were here last year. They were very negative. They were very rude and kept disrupting the meeting.” (1) Supportive as ever I just said “That’s them!”

Before this Steve Connor started the proceedings. He talked about the 30 strong steering group, sustainable buildings and that more and more people were “getting” it. They are “getting it” and it makes a lot more sense – and it is good for business.

Sir Richard then spoke for a while. He talked about the “plan of action” and then the poetry flowed – only city using stakeholders, significant progress, Liverpool and Leeds Core City Groups, Low Carbon Hubs, Green Banks, Hydro Power, more fish and best, of all, “Memoranda of Understanding” He added that many changes were not obviously visible. Later there were more talks from visitors from Liverpool and Leeds.

As for us punters I guess there was about 100 of us. Most of us were white – I saw two black people. Again, at a guess 60% were men average age say 45 and probably mostly business men. The women were probably 10 years younger and perhaps more academic. As for unused badges there were about 30, mostly housing groups, research and university groups.

Eventually we all sat down. We had all chosen two subject groups with whom we could have a round table session. These were reasonably well chaired and some useful ideas were discussed. Then we translated them into drawings or plaster scene models. Most of us cannot draw or model therefore our ideas were largely reduced to nonsense. I am not saying this was deliberate but it was quite clear that the event was micro-managed to perfection. There were no official windows to ask questions while I was there, but I did leave a few minutes early.

To be fair I think there is a genuine concern about climate change. They say they ‘get it’ but I suspect many of them ‘get it’ at the stage many of us were 10 years ago. Someone did say that we only have 4 years to turn it round but I feel they are trying to tackle it with standard business models. I suppose it’s easy for us to sit in the wings and crow and come up with ideas but it’s for them to implement them. Could we do better ? I don’t know. We really need to find a way to work with them. (2)

Kind regards,


Footnotes (by MCFly)

(1)  MCFly says – this is, of course, inaccurate and defamatory. We are used to this sort of thing though …

(2) We could try sending them a letter listing a series of cheap and implementable suggestions, like this one that the MCFly editors sent in January?  January 2012, that is.  No acknowledgement, no reply. We have started doing some of these items ourselves…


About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
This entry was posted in Climate Change Action Plan, Event reports, Manchester City Council and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to That “Stakeholder” “Conference” – a third account #Manchester #climate #macf2013

  1. One of the simplest actions could take is to switch off all unnecessary lighting. Have you walked past Central Library and the Town Hall extension late at night, with lights on all over, even a footpath which is now fenced off. Not rocket science is it?

  2. Sam Gunsch says:

    “stakeholder conferences” unfold like this here in Alberta, Canada… since the early 1990’s… modern coporatism.

    re: ” the event was micro-managed to perfection.”

    see: Managed democracy… Sheldon Wolin

    and/or sounds similar to the manifestations of corporatist governance as per John Ralston Saul’s writings on corporatism:

    The various forms of democracy appear to be in place, but society is being governed by corporatist negotiations among the vested interests and their related government departments and elected members of government constitute the effective governance of society.

    And this by a political columnist in Alberta who noticed what happened to politics here in the early 1990’s…at it’s most manipulative and destructive of democratic process:

    “The round table was an attempt to move public policy matters out of the hands of elected politicians and into the hands of another body largely made up of people directly involved with the industry.

    As a general concept, that’s hardly new. It smacks of a theory pushed in various forms around Europe and North America over the last two centuries; different versions went under names like syndicalism or corporatism. The old United Farmers of Alberta embraced a variant with their theory of group government.”

    Sounds like your round table was rather more an effort at appearance of doing something rather than delivering a pre-determined policy output… but obviously, while a different mode, still serves the powers that be, who’ve decided where things are going.

    Punters invited as necessary elements to make the round table a successful “legitimating technology.” Can’t remember the poli sci wonk who coined this term. But I think it’s accurate and great jargon.

    Sam Gunsch

  3. Sam Gunsch says:

    In the ‘first-report’ I’ve noticed significant similarities to the ‘stakeholder’ processes here that have mostly achieved trivial or marginal change in public policy/legislation/regulations.

    A lot of the observations, and the words to describe the observations are almost exactly what’s been written here for years about our ‘stakeholder’ processes. Over here it long ago became ad nauseum territory. Here, is, Alberta, Canada, the tarsands homeland.

    …some excerpts annotated:

    re: But the main feeling from the day is that this was – once again – a comfortable corporate event for professionals making a living in the low carbon world…”

    so…corporatism: as in, vested interests maintaining the appearance of participatory democracy e.g. professionals that behind the scenes have a representation system superior to citizens, but understand they must attend ’roundtables’, ‘public forums’ to maintain the form of democracy.

    re : The workshops …being unhelpfully compartmentalised (‘Transport’, ‘Culture’?).
    ….control of policy options discussion: “unhelpfully compartmentalised”, such that any policy options, that vested interests have previously managed to have excluded via insider-negotiations, will not emerge from the workshops.

    re: ” encouraged as participants to feel that we are the evangelists, and that we can change the world. ”

    Insidious, isn’t it? Change the world by using only those policy options/programs that were allowed to be written up by the facilitators, i.e. options that don’t rock the vested interests’ boats.

    re: In a sense you don’t want to go to these meetings, but you can’t not go. Perhaps I feel more critical about the meeting than some because no one was paying me to be there. It makes a difference – I really don’t like wasting my time

    essence: ” but you can’t not go.”
    essence: “I really don’t like wasting my time”

    Your instincts are accurate… you are being used: attending enables the ‘stakeholder process’ to be a successful “legitimating technology” of corporatist governance.

    I have no advice that I can be certain is superior about alternative, more effective actions to participating in these processes.

    But, based on my observations of what’s been done here in Alberta, Canada…tarsands land, to largely tie up the ENGO’s in consultation processes for 2 decades plus and my personal investment in these sorts of processes in the 1990’s, there is so little to be gained inside these processes, most of these sorts of processes don’t justify full participation.

    And as is already being undertaken by some of the people here, I think cctive monitoring and critique of these processes re their progress toward their claimed lofty agendas, and publicity of that critique to the citizenry, seems to me the important accountability function that engaged citizens ought to invest in on behalf of the common good.

    Keep the onus on the ‘corporate professionals’ and elected or wannabe-politicians that tout these processes, to show substantive actions.

    BTW, I’m motivated to share my views because of the futility of these sorts of processes that I’ve seen and was part of for over a decade. Many good people here gave too much of their lives to these sorts of processes with very little gain… 20/20 hindsight of course.

    Sam Gunsch

    Google is to blame for me finding

  4. Sam Gunsch says:

    I meant the actions taken to critique and push these processes to be real, taken by you ‘punter’ folks in Manchester when I said this: “And as is already being undertaken by some of the people here,”

    I’ve read what you are doing in Manchester.

    Readers might have thought I was again referring to Alberta. Sorry.

    This challenging of these processes, demanding follow-through, accountability, action rather than more talk, as done by McFly and like-minded citizens in Manchester is really not happening much anymore here in Alberta.

    The ENGO’s that still participate in processes like this rarely ever complain publicly anymore about the process design being used to thwart action. Some inside them, actually believe that to do so would hurt the processes and that being stalled out on action has to be dealt with inside the process, not in public… told me directly. Full-blown hostage syndrome or something I guess.

    It’s mostly small ENGO’s that have stopped going to processes, and these are very few. And continue to be marginalized by the existence of these processes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s