5.0 Prescriptions for Overcoming Barriers
Just as barriers to change exist, so too do conditions that facilitate change. After a brief introduction to the concepts of civicness and social capital, this chapter summarizes what interviewees perceived as conditions that facilitated implementation of some Clouds of Change recommendations. Suggestions for initiatives that could overcome some of the barriers to Clouds of Change and enable the adoption of actions that support sustainability are also presented. This chapter builds on the analysis in chapter four and readers are encouraged to look there for additional explanations of each condition and/or suggestion.
5.1 A Word About Civicness and Social Capital
In a national study about what factors contribute to effective regional government in Italy, the degree of "civicness" of a region was found to be the leading contributor above education and economic development (Putnam, 1993, 98, 118). In fact, education level of the populace, demographic and social changes, urbanization and personal stability did not appear to be determining factors in government performance (Putnam, 1993, 118).
Civic governance works well when there is a civic community marked by an active, public-spirited citizenry, by egalitarian political relations, by a social fabric of trust and cooperation. Some regions... are blessed with vibrant networks and norms of civic engagement, while others are cursed with vertically structured politics, a social life of fragmentation and isolation, and a culture of distrust. These differences in civil life turn out to play a key role in explaining institutional success (Putnam, 1993, 15).
Institutional success is defined by an ability to take action, to implement policy initiatives (Putnam, 1993, 8).
Civicness is characterized by interdependent relationships, trust, reciprocity and cooperation, closely interwoven associations and social networks, high newspaper readership, diversity among Councillors' backgrounds, a belief that citizens can and should make decisions about issues that affect them. In short, the citizens do not feel alienated and powerless vis-a-vis their government (Putnam, 1993, 96-105).
Lack of civicness in a region is primarily characterized by dependent relationships of favouritism and servitude, distrust and cynicism, unequal distribution of wealth, predominance of individual power. Citizens feel alienated from the decision-making process and lack faith that there is a system of fair and equal treatment (Putnam, 1993, 146).
A high degree of civicness operates in several ways to improve government performance. A belief in government's integrity coupled with the belief that other citizens will obey the rules and regulations established by the government sets a norm of compliance in a community. In a highly integrated social network, non-compliance is feared not so much for possible punitive measures, as for negative social consequences such as ostracism by peers or the loss of advantages gained by being a part of a social network in the community. The denser the social networks in a community, the higher the possibility for cooperation in self-help initiatives (Putnam, 1993, 173). Thus, the social fabric of the community encourages compliance and cooperation. This point is crucial to understanding how management of public resources might be effectively carried out.
Where there is distrust, there is a high tendency to defect, i.e. to abandon one's responsibility to work cooperatively. Acting on suspicions that others will not comply, people remain unmotivated to take action. Thus, they help bring about the very negative consequences they fear. This scenario resembles that depicted in chapter two where individuals acting in their own self-interest contribute to a situation that is eventually detrimental to all.
Civicness, on the other hand, encourages individuals to act cooperatively. It provides the contextual situation to act according to conscience despite economic and immediate, need-meeting motivations which encourage one to do otherwise. Thus, civicness provides a means of completing the feedback loops which encourage actions that support sustainability, when such loops are not being completed by other social stimuli. Therefore, civicness can help overcome barriers to implementation of government initiatives to support sustainability.
Analysis of chapter four reveals that many of the barriers to implementing Clouds of Change stem from lack of civicness. Citizens have expressed feelings of alienation from government decision-making, both Councillors and citizens allude to cynicism as a stumbling block to cooperation, feelings of disempowerment to solve air quality problems permeate City Hall and the constituency.
In order to improve this situation, it may prove advantageous to examine ways to improve civicness in the City. At best, results from such initiatives may take years to materialize; however, much research related to sustainability is already focussed on "building community." At the heart of civicness is what might be referred to as social capital. Social capital stocks include those things which encourage individuals to participate in activities where they meet other members of the community (be it from the neighbourhood or city) and discuss common interests and concerns. Examples are, the number of local sport clubs, social clubs, volunteer organisations, business associations etc. that exist. The longevity of such organisations as well as their size indicate the health of these stocks (Putnam, 1993, 149). Improving social capital might be a means of getting people to work cooperatively in support of sustainability.
Finally, an important feature of civicness is that it is self-perpetuating (Putnam, 1993, 147). This points attention to the potential role of the catalytic personality and autocatalysis. Putnam's findings reveal that government effectiveness is highly dependent on the informal, social connections of the populace, stimulated by their involvement in local activities. It is in this area that local agents can most effectively work together to promote behaviour among community members that is cooperative and adaptive to changing environments (Osborn and Gaebler, 1992 50). Developing confidence in these informal and innovative ways of relating should enhance the emergence of a society which behaves in ways that support sustainability. Municipal government should therefore consider supporting community organisations and community events, encouraging membership in local organisations and perhaps even look to these organisations for help and support on demonstration days such as "clean air day." A sense of fun combined with a sense of purpose should denote such events.
Utilizing catalytic personalities in autocatalytic situations helps build social capital and over time can help improve the civicness of a city (Osborn and Gaebler, 1992, 51). In facing the new challenge of making urban areas ecologically sustainable, those who are able to find solutions and engender their permeation through others shall prove to be significant forces in social change. For, not withstanding individual choices and ideology, the movement towards sustainability can be viewed in a broader, societal context and some structural modifications and activities need to be encouraged for this reason.
5.2 Conditions that Facilitate Change
In many regards, the interviewees identified the conditions that facilitate change as the inverse of those factors which constitute barriers. Examples are: someone to champion the issues, perfect understanding among the citizenry of the relationship between cause and effect, certainty about the future impacts of global warming and stratospheric ozone depletion, adequate funds to implement proposed initiatives etc. The following encompasses a list of factors, identified by research participants, which were thought to facilitate implementation of some recommendations.
Comprehensiveness of the Report was cited as Clouds of Change's strongest asset. The report touches on a wide range of issues and it constantly reappears in staff documents thanks to Council's stipulation that City actions and development proposals should include a section describing how City decisions and/or actions by the proponent will affect air quality and Clouds of Change initiatives. One Councillor observes:
Staff refer to it (impacts regarding Clouds of Change) in reports dealing with all kinds of issues... If it were just a one time thing, i.e. linearly focussed, then we would have dealt with it and forgotten it. Because it is so broad in terms of the issues it encompasses, it is constantly resurfacing.
CityPlan was often mentioned as a helpful process to improve communication links between government and its constituency. CityPlan is the largest public participation process undertaken by the City to date. Its purpose is to aid the City in developing its new official city plan. The high degree of citizen involvement it fosters, bringing people together to discuss local issues, helps build social capital. By encouraging citizens to identify solutions to air quality problems it is believed that CityPlan helps diminish the barriers of: acceptance of the status quo, and fear of losing constituent support. CityPlan is also seen as a way of establishing a much needed method of priority setting among the many competing issues that face Vancouver.
Championing by Council Members kept the report on City Hall's agenda. The interest of a few particular Councillors, namely Libby Davies and Gordon Price, in readdressing certain Clouds of Change recommendations was perceived as crucial to the ongoing implementation of the report. This demonstrates the impact a catalytic personality can have on improving action-taking in an institution.
Staff Initiatives were perceived as fundamental in re-establishing the Special Office for the Environment and in the City joining the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. Academics such as Mark Roseland who referred to the report during public presentations provided an incentive for staff, such as Nick Losito, of Environmental Health, to take action. Again, this demonstrates the role catalytic personalities play in advancing government towards actions which support sustainability.
Media Interest rekindled awareness about the report, especially in the minds of citizens. Newspaper articles printed in the Summer of 1993 provided a forum for discussion, and catalysed the start of this research. It is unclear whether media interest stimulated action-taking by City Hall; however, it furthered the role of the report as a political issue in addition to an environmental one.
Financial Need can be a stimulus for governments to adopt taxes that penalize behaviour that is deleterious to the environment. According to one Councillor, although the CO2 tax was rejected by the Province because it was a regressive tax, financial need stimulated the Province to adopt a one cent per litre gas tax. Partial revenues were then directed to help support public transit operations. At the municipal level, financial pressures stimulated the adoption of actions that supported sustainability and resulted in the City moving to economy size cars for its fleet. The City also switched many vehicles from gas to propane. Thus, need-meeting behaviours (see chapter two) can operate at an institutional as well as a personal level and in certain circumstances can contribute to the emergence of sustainability initiatives.
Ease of Implementation was the most commonly cited factor. Recommendations are easy to implement if they do not create controversy, do not require behaviour change, are relatively inexpensive and immediately visible. These factors were seen by and large to be the reasons behind the actions taken to implement the bicycle network (rec. 11) and the methane burner at Burns Bog (rec. 8). This finding corroborates the findings in chapter two which point out that what prevents the adoption of actions that support sustainability is their conflict and interference with other need-meeting behaviours.
City Already Pursuing was another factor commonly cited in accordance with recommendations showing visible signs of implementation. The fact that some of the recommendations paralleled existing City plans and initiatives was seen as a primary reason for their eventual implementation. Such recommendations include: increased housing in the urban core (rec. 16), transferring the city fleet to economy sized vehicles (30ai), and creating bicycle networks (rec. 11).
Ongoing Lobbying by ENGOs was also believed to be a major factor in implementation of the bicycle network (rec. 11).
Serves Multiple Objectives was another factor cited as improving a recommendation's chance of implementation. For example, recommendations which would result in improved air quality and increased savings for the City and/or improved social conditions for the poor will have a much better chance of implementation. Because many environmental issues include an element of uncertainty, and the outcome of incentives to address them is not guaranteed, the possibility of making improvements in other areas when an initiative is undertaken helps make it more palatable.
5.3 Suggestions to Overcome Some of the Barrier
sThis section documents the suggestions interviewees made regarding how to overcome some of the barriers that impeded action-taking by government. Many of the suggestions allude to the ideas presented in chapter two regarding how change can happen. For the most part, the suggestions are thematic, identifying directions for local government to consider as it continues to pursue actions that support sustainability.
Limit the Number of Recommendations. Although the comprehensiveness of Clouds of Change has kept it at the forefront of decision-makers' minds, many interviewees suggested that limiting the number of recommendations to two or three and providing detailed strategies regarding how these could be implemented is an approach which offers a higher chance of implementation success than presenting many recommendations with sparse guidelines for implementation.
Revisit the Report and attach priorities to the three most important things that need to be done. Work with staff to create a mutual feedback and buy-in process and to create an implementation strategy for those recommendations which have been chosen. Concentrate on developing a public education programme centred around the three chosen initiatives to facilitate public buy-in and to ease the way for Council to take action. It was suggested that the three most important recommendations should be chosen by a working group consisting of Councillors, Task Force members, civic staff and citizens. The citizens might be members of the citizen group which reviewed the City's State of the Environment report and which has now been asked to monitor progress on Clouds of Change implementation.
Demonstrate the Advantages. More effort must go into demonstrating the advantages of adopting recommendations. Attention must be paid not only to environmental improvements, but financial benefits as well. The opportunity to serve multiple objectives should be highlighted wherever possible. The advantages should be presented using detailed information. Vague promises are not persuasive enough to gain the approval of skeptical decision-makers.
Establish Standards. In some cases recommendations cannot be implemented if targets, such as 1988 levels of CO2 emissions (rec. 1a), are not known. Because investments required to establish such standards are viewed as too costly for the City to bear alone, the Municipality should take advantage of its membership in the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives to liaise with other municipalities in an attempt to establish what appropriate standards might or should be. The City might also want to consider contacting local, private sector organisations and senior levels of government for this information.
Prioritize Issues. This would reduce the number of competing issues and help staff make decisions about the re-allocation of funds in their budgets to accommodate new initiatives. Council should indicate the priority of newly adopted initiatives vis-a-vis existing projects.
Improve Networking and Cooperation Among ENGOs. Continue active lobbying by citizen groups and improve communication and coordination among these groups when addressing common interests before Council. This suggestion identifies the important role organisations outside of government play in creating social change.
Provide an Improved Question and Answer Programme. The City has a new policy for directing citizen enquiries. If a civic employee cannot directly locate the correct person to address a caller's concerns, then s/he will take responsibility for the question, find the person who can best address it and have them return the citizen's call. In addition to supporting this new policy, suggestions for improved communication links include providing a computer on-line system so that citizens can post questions at any time and civic employees and/or Councillors can post responses the following day (see Clouds of Change rec. 14d). The element of direct and immediate communication reduces citizens' cynicism of government.
Include Civic Staff and Councillors in the Creation of the Recommendations. This would allow staff and Councillors to familiarize themselves with the recommendations, discuss concerns, and develop implementation strategies. A Councillor used the "Ready or Not" programme run through the Social Planning Department as an example of the type of planning process that encourages civic staff buy-in. The Urban Landscape Task Force's approach to formulating its recommendations was also cited several times as incorporating a good buy-in process.
Develop Government Structures that Accommodate Long-Term Decision-Making. Structures such as the round table, and community forums should be examined to provide means of decision-making based on a longer time horizon than the three year term of elected officials. Such a long-term oriented decision-making group can function as an auxiliary to Council in an attempt to balance the short-term oriented feedback loops in which Council must function.
Develop Government Structures that Reduce the Workload of Elected Officials. Most Councillors interviewed expressed a sense of overwhelming burden, in terms of workload, to the point where they felt their ability to make decisions based on thorough investigation and understanding of certain issues was being compromised. Therefore, structures such as the round table, community forums, and the ward system etc. should be examined to provide means of decision-making that offer a greater role for citizens. Such systems could contribute to social capital and may engender, among the citizenry, increased awareness and willingness to adapt behaviours which do not support sustainability.
The fear, however, is that citizens will not uphold their responsibilities to actively participate in more autonomous forms of government. To work around this fear, some suggested a mixed Council consisting of members representing the City at large and elected community representatives as well. These elected community representatives would be Councillors in every sense of the word, salaried and working from an office in City Hall. Rather than ten Councillors at large, there might be three or five. The rest, and perhaps a few additional, would be directly answerable to a community. Delegating decision-making responsibilities through a revised institutional structure is perhaps a bold suggestion when addressing the question of how to overcome barriers to implementing Clouds of Change. It nevertheless draws attention to an issue which will most likely continue to receive increasing attention as the need for adaptation to changing ecological circumstances grows.
Appoint Councillors to Community Centres. Councillors should be appointed to Community Centres so that they get exposed directly to the citizens they are supposed to represent.
Include Representation from the Planning Department on the SOE.
Implement Recommendations 34 and 35. These recommendations require the City to play an advocacy role in promoting awareness of air quality issues among government decision-makers and the public. The goal of such awareness is to enhance sensitivity to these issues as a first step in trying to raise adaptive tendencies among citizens and political decision-makers when considering behaviours and policies which affect air quality. In this role, the City should also advertise publication of documents such as the Special Office for the Environment's annual status report on Clouds of Change.
Examine Other Successful Campaigns. The "no smoking" campaign has achieved great success recently and may hold useful lessons about how to raise public awareness and inspire actions based on improved awareness. Using messages which encompass symbolism, memorable facts, and interesting statistics which affect citizens at a personal level, may all be strategies worth examining and perhaps applying in efforts to implement Clouds of Change.
Promote Self-Help. Citizens have grown accustomed to looking to government for solutions to social problems. They do not realize that their expectations for government to produce change are too high. Citizens and government look to each other for leadership and complain when none is forthcoming. One civic employee remarks that hopefully through CityPlan citizens will be educated about the trade-offs and costs involved in undertaking different initiatives. Hopefully a charter of citizen responsibilities will come out of this, along with a charter of City responsibilities. This will identify things people can do for themselves.
The barriers, such as those identified in this research, which inhibit government's ability to take action in support of sustainability must be made known to the constituency. Citizens must be made aware of their own responsibility for bringing about the changes they desire. As a department head pointed out: "Citizens have more rights than the City. Therefore, they have more freedom to act and can initiate more projects than a municipality."
Emphasis on self-help may contribute to a norm of personal responsibility among social networks. It draws attention to need-meeting behaviours which do not support sustainability and their perpetuation by incomplete feedback loops. It identifies the individual as a major source of power for change, thereby highlighting the need for personal sensitivity to local changes in the environment and a willingness to adapt behaviours in response to them.
Delegate More Power to the Municipal Level. At least one Councillor expressed the desire to see power over certain issues brought as close to the municipal level as possible. This would give the municipalities a broader range of powers with which to implement their goals.
Extend GVRD Authority. At the minimum, the GVRD should obtain planning authority over inter-municipal transportation so that it can enforce its mandate to attend to air quality issues.
Institute Citizen Review Board. The City is considering appointing the same group of citizens who reviewed its State of the Environment report to monitor progress on Clouds of Change implementation. However, such monitoring has not yet commenced.
Expand Communication Links with Other Cities. The City should follow in Toronto's footsteps by communicating with other municipalities both locally and internationally. National and international recognition of the issues and recognition of the City's attempts to deal with it provides a stimulus for the City to continue its efforts. Internet provides an inexpensive yet highly efficient opportunity for this type of communication.
Work on Constituency Building. In the same way that public recognition stimulates civic action, so too does it stimulate corporate action. Several interviewees representing large corporations expressed an interest in working with the City to achieve its goals contained in Clouds of Change. Programmes designed to facilitate this type of cooperation could build social capital and could positively influence employees, encouraging adaptation of their need-meeting behaviours to ones that are ecologically considerate. Such an outcome could in turn reduce city employees' feelings of disempowerment and cynicism. The net result could be a substantial increase in civicness. Furthermore, when presenting requests to the Province for the delegation of power, the City might be able to enlist the support of such corporations, thus strengthening its case.
Identify Lead Agencies and coordinate policies appropriately. The problems associated with a segregated, departmentalised government structure sometimes results in lack of cooperation and no designation of a lead agency. Lead agencies responsible for addressing various air quality and atmospheric change issues must be identified. Once designated, they must be held accountable for the coordination of government policies and implementation efforts among the various government agencies concerned.
Develop Policies that Improve Choices. Policies which penalize motorists are resisted for fear of disadvantaging the poor; however, policies which facilitate transportation for the poor are simultaneously neglected. For example, inter-modal transportation, accommodating bicycles on public transit vehicles such as Sky Train, Sea Bus and wheel chair equipped express buses, would benefit the poor and improve transportation options that do not require an automobile. Implementing policies which support people's choices for self-help and sustainability must become a priority of Council. Such policies provide the interim steps to reaching Clouds of Change objectives.
Follow-Up Task Force Initiatives with a Public Participation Process. Although too late to benefit Clouds of Change, this suggestion was made by members of both the Vancouver Task Force and the Victoria Task Group. Both organisations felt that as their respective reports were nearing completion, public interest in them ran very high. Public participation processes run at that time might have provided opportunities to build social capital, by helping citizens identify the trade-offs required by the recommendations and strategies to deal with them, i.e. overcome the barriers to action-taking such trade-offs might impose. Furthermore, such a process would indicate to Council that a large section of the constituency wanted change, and that they were willing to grapple with the consequences of what that change might necessitate. Ideally, the strategies devised by the public for coping with the necessary trade-offs should be included in the final submission of the report to Council.