How one-eyed lobbying for one perceived solution can make people blind to other solutions…and the reasons why we’re NOT advocating for a Citizens’ Assembly on Suicide Prevention!

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In recent Twitter exchanges with representatives of The Citizens’ Assembly Lobby, I’ve been told that Citizens’ Assemblies are “the only way” to fix our democracies. When anyone tells you that anything is ‘the only way’, we can be sure that it isn’t, it isn’t democracy, this ‘one way’ is not being fully scrutinised, and there may well be better alternatives that are not being considered by those with the blinkers on!

There are so many ways we can improve our democracy, it’s important not to just get obsessively focused on what we might think is one way or the best way to enhance democracy to the point of stifling discussion and debate around all the alternatives. Indeed, to do so deliberately is anti-democratic!

With the many failures of our democracies — and there seems to be a high degree of agreement that there are problems to be solved here and on many dimensions of what these problems are — it’s important to have width of vision in seeking ways to reform and enhance our democracies. …

Time for some healthy self-deliberation!

Many recent publications about Citizens’ Assemblies and Citizens’ Juries have focused on how to design and implement them, as the ‘Deliberative Wave’ promotion of these deliberative processes has tried to move us quickly on, often discouraging critical analysis — one prominent DelibWave advocate told me, worryingly, “the science is settled on Citizens’ Assemblies”!

Let’s look at some fundamental questions of ‘why’ deploy these tools, and ask the kinds of critical questions a healthy democracy should be asking.

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Some people have clearly thought deeply about Citizens’ Assemblies & Citizens’ Juries, some for many years, even decades in my own case, but the past couple of years — the ‘Deliberative Wave’ — has been characterised often by an uncritical promotion of these methods and an uncritical acceptance of them from those desperate for solutions to poor governance and pressing issues like Climate Emergency. Time to stop, reflect, think, reset!

In critical analysis and critical thinking disciplines, we go back to first principles and we also approach the issue from multiple perspectives.

Some evaluations of Citizens’ Assemblies (CAs) and Citizens’ Juries (CJs) have focused on what was done and how it was done, not why it was done, what was not done, and what the alternatives might have been. They’ve also sometimes been rather superficial and subjective, eg asking participants if they enjoyed taking part and asking post-rationalisation questions such as ‘did taking part in the CA/CJ make you…?’ rather than objective measurement of impact, so we need more rigorous evaluation as effectively another component of critical analysis. …

As promised at the #OTGSP event, on 10 September 2020, the Organising Team has been collating a list of useful sources and resources.

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Picture: an attendee at One Team Gov Global event in London 2018 sits knitting — it’s good for mental health!

This post brings together resources that:

  • the organising team have researched and sourced,
  • have been recommended by those in our networks, including by Mental Health First Aiders who joined our breakfast takeover on 19 August, and,
  • our contributors and speakers at the World Suicide Prevention Day event have recommended.

We’ve broken the resources into sections to make them easier to find; below you will find:

  1. General reading and resources
  2. Crisis services and practical support
  3. Suicide prevention organisations
  4. Diversity and inclusion organisations and initiatives
  5. Practical resources, training and shareable video
  6. Suicide bereavement services
  7. Workplace mental health
  8. Resources from outside the UK
  9. Our speakers as ‘resources’! …

We know enough about how to save lives to say it’s time for action — practical action!

The Global ‘Zero Suicide Community’, collaborative initiatives across the UK, regional & local partnerships, and a dynamic network of people with Lived Experience of suicide loss, have been coming together in 2020 to highlight actions to save lives — inspiring others with their thinking, their passion, their demonstration of ‘what works’, and their belief that most suicides are preventable so we must be more focused on those actions that save lives.

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Stakeholders often refer to ‘building’ a framework, and ‘building layers of support’ — hence the ‘building’ analogy. We have strong foundations as a (global, national, and local) ‘zero suicide community’, taking both top-down leadership approaches (eg what can government do, and what do we want government to do?) and ground-up leadership (what can we do, in many cases independent of government?). We’ve then identified and developed four key layers to help us build strong sustainable infrastructure, purpose-designed to save lives.

This is an edited version of my longer piece (link immediately below) published just before World Suicide Prevention Day 2020 #WSPD2020 (which featured the amazing OneTeamGov event #OTGSP with 928 people from government, businesses, and charities signed-up)... …

Routes to a community (your community) without suicide!

I write this piece at a time when three significant events are happening in my life and work. Firstly, after 6 months of engagement with key partners in the global ‘Zero Suicide Community’, we’ve mapped out the ‘desired state’ vision for moving towards zero suicides, and how to achieve this; and just had a graphic designer (thanks Chris!) encapsulate this in a single visual:

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Stakeholders often referred to ‘building’ a framework, and ‘building layers of support’ so the ‘building’ analogy was born. We have strong foundations as a (global, national, and local) ‘zero suicide community’, taking both top-down leadership approaches (eg what can government do, and what do we want government to do?) and ground-up leadership (what can we do, in many cases independent of government?). We then identified and developed four key layers to help us build strong sustainable infrastructure, purpose-designed to save lives.

I’ll return to this later with more context and explanation of how the transformation model works (and it does work!) and the various Suicide Prevention Transformation Projects (SPTPs) we now have up-and-running or ready-to-launch.

Secondly, I’ve been part of a One Team Gov Team organising an event for World Suicide Prevention Day 2020 (#OTGSP #WSPD2020) which has resulted in an amazing line-up of Speakers (almost everyone we asked said ‘yes’ — which meant we have realised this particular ‘desired state’) with more than 600 people registering to attend the event on 10 September, 2pm-5pm. …

On 10 September One Team Gov will be running an event on the theme of Suicide Prevention, find out about our first set of collaborators here

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If you’re not familiar with OneTeamGov, check it out — it’s a talented, friendly network! Photo: lanyards from the One Team Gov Global Unconference in London, July 2018

10 September is World Suicide Prevention Day, designed to raise awareness of the human tragedy of suicide and also raise awareness of (practical) steps we can all take to help save lives.

This blog post showcases the One Team Gov event #OTGSP #WSPD2020 taking place on 10 September 2020 at 2–5pm. It will:

  • provide some context for the event,
  • highlight some of our excellent Contributors,
  • emphasise how everyone can help to ‘make a difference’ in preventing suicides, and,
  • explain why you should click through to register for the event…without delay! [Link below]

Some background

Based on recorded deaths by suicide — and accuracy of data is just one of the many issues we see in the area of suicide prevention— someone takes their own life, somewhere in the world, every 40 seconds. This is despite most deaths by suicide being preventable.

Have you checked your support network recently? Do you need some support?

It’ll be World Suicide Prevention Day soon, 10 September (#WSPD2020) and there’ll be many events and activities taking place around the world, mostly online of course due to COVID19, which has been another source of stress, uncertainty, anxiety, concern, frustration, anger, fear…on top of all the other factors that adversely affect our wellbeing.

World Suicide Prevention Day is an annual event designed to raise awareness of the problem of suicide (someone takes their own life every 40 seconds, despite most suicides being preventable) and what can be done to save lives (indeed, transform this tragic source of loss and move towards zero suicides), including much that can be done in our policies, services, and workplaces. …

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The beautiful, historic City of York — so many phases of evolution from the Romans, the Vikings, the Merchant Adventurers…through the deliberative and participative democracy revolution, 1989–1991…and now another revolution underway 2020–2021 with the goal of 100% Digital City.

In response to many requests from my government clients and partners, this piece focuses on the history and evolution of deliberative & participative democracy, with key references for further reading or listening (as we go and at the end of the piece). The primary focus is on the UK, where I’m now residing (again) but most of the points, and all of the lessons, are transferable to any country, society or community that aspires to be a democracy.

There are a lot of other ‘histories’ around these days but many are partial, either because they’re pushing a particular barrow (so only include ‘convenient evidence’!) or because the authors, in good faith, are simply not yet aware of key historical evidence because it hasn’t previously been published (many engagement practitioners are busy practising, not writing papers!), …

First, a challenging analysis of ‘the problem’, then solutions to the ‘problem’ — in this case (as in many, if not most, cases) — the ‘problem’ being largely in the heads of those who are ‘problem focused’ rather than ‘solution focused’.

Please read on (right to the end, and help support our bold goal for 100% digital access!), and please, please, please focus on all possible ACTION rather than just talking about ‘the problem of digital exclusion’!

I’ll finish by telling you about an initiative in one City to give ‘digital access’ to every resident but, first, it’s important to understand why some embrace such an initiative — and make it happen — whilst others don’t even consider such action for community engagement and empowerment. …

Privately, community planning professionals hailed it as a model case study in how to ‘engage, involve and empower’ citizens and communities but, publicly, I didn’t speak about it or write about it out of respect for the victims’ families. 24 years on (and almost 50 years on from when this place first became ‘the House of Horrors’) it’s time to tell the story.

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Many people will remember this picture, and the amateur metalwork of the ’25 Cromwell Street’ house sign. Sadly, many will remember the mugshots of ‘The Wests’ but, out of respect to the victims’ families, I won’t show those. But most people don’t know what happened next…until now…

I got a call from my client at Gloucester City Council saying “Can you get down to Gloucester urgently. We’ve got a project for you. It’s a one-off. Needs someone like you to handle this sensitively and creatively”. …


Paul Vittles

Researcher (FMRS), marketer (FAMI), consultant, coach & counsellor who helps people and organisations with transformational change and sustainable success.

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