I thought I would explain a bit about the motivation behind Simply Understand, and the questions I hope to resolve through it.
There’s more to the story than this, as a lot of my personal motivation comes from how much bright, articulate people struggle to do the basic tasks the government sets for them, which I see every week through some volunteering I do for a literacy class.
That’s the why, and here’s the rest of it (originally published at socialreporter.com).
I started working in the public sector when I left uni, way back in 2005 (I now work for the British Heart Foundation). While I was working for these government organisations, I noticed more and more a kind of institutional tendency to overcomplicate things. A letter requesting info would become a four-page treaty. Press releases had at least six paragraphs that just repeated the one before, in a slightly different way. And that’s just the really simple stuff! This tendency to overcomplicate was even more obvious, though, in the consultations government departments put out.
Democracy stops where?
Everyone knows about voting. You make your choice, you go into your little booth and make a cross on a bit of paper, then you put that paper in a box, and hope your team wins — the end! Then we complain (and I do!) when they don’t do what we expect them to, and we’re really fond of saying how they don’t listen, and don’t want to hear what we have to say (and I did!). But, and here’s the kicker, we’re all (almost) wrong. For every major piece of work, act or paper, the government has to get our opinion, and they do it through consultations.
I was quite excited about this (sad, I know), so I picked up the first consultation paper that interested me and started reading. And I read it again. And then a little more closely. And then again. Understanding came painfully slowly. I realised then that most people would have given up by the second or third page, and there were 40 more to go!
Why so serious
I was deeply disappointed that something so fundamental to our democracy was so difficult to do. So I thought I would use my public sector experience and do something about it — I would translate these consultations from English into, well, better English! So I made Simply Understand — a “labour of love” according to the people at TheyWorkForYou.com.
Your right to reply
So every month, I collect together three or four new consultations and get people to vote for the one they want translated. Then I try to boil it down to the essentials — all you really need to know about what the government’s planning to make an informed decision, and so you can really tell them what you think. I hope that these revamped consultations will make it easier for people to have their say, and whether you use Simply Understand, or bravely tackle the official versions, I hope you’ll be inspired to do more than just vote — because it’s your right, and your say!