Alliances For Change

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<p>In ancient Greek cities, an open space serving as an assembly area and backdrop for commercial, civic, social, and religious activities was an essential part of life. It is where citizens did business, talked philosophy and politics and where debate and rhetoric became important skills. It was called the agora and situated in the middle of the city or near a harbour. Public space was valued much more than private space. Well off and worthy citizens might live in humble dwellings but the public space was far from humble. This is where the energy and flow of citizenship took place.</p>
<p>Today private space has grown at the expense of the public domain. People value what they own in an acquisitive society and community and public places to actively express citizenship has declined. The shopping mall is where people meet today to have coffee between hopping in and out of shops without thought or discussion about what they are doing. Try to hold a debate in the middle of a shopping mall and you would soon be evicted. Today the suburban 'civil centres' have been privatised, and opportunities for expression limited to those with deep enough pockets to pay for the privilege</p>
<p>There is a great need to reintroduce public space back into life where people can meet again and talk about the pressing issues of the 21st Century &ndash; issues that are so important that they can impact on our very survival. How to do that is the difficult question. Political parties are no longer the forums where political debate takes place. They are vote-catching machines that organise their existence through public relation techniques to solicit votes. Dissent is often frowned upon if it undermines the drive to electoral victory.</p>
<p>Citizenship today is not about open debate as it was in ancient Greece but a device to ensure social cohesion in a diverse world. It is more about control and acquiescence than it is about the honest airing of differences in a truly democratic arena. Education has become defined in terms of exams, targets and shaping the individual to the labour market rather than exploring ourselves in our world in an open and honest way.</p>
<p>21st Century Network was set up partly as a way of re introducing public space back into our lives where people can again discuss the issues of our century. By bringing people together with decision makers, voluntary and business organisations 21st Century Network seeks to encourage debate that could lead to social action and change. It is not the only organisation engaged in this important task. For example a number of Hubs are beginning to appear around Europe with three already in London as a members club, a business incubator, an innovation agency, a dynamic public space and as a diverse community of people who believe in creating a radically better world.</p>
<p>Also the social media revolution is beginning to help recreate public space by encouraging people to engage in social action groups and discussion. Sites like meetup are combining Internet contact with real meetings and this site JustMeans is bringing businesses, groups and individuals together to make a radical difference in our society and culture. The great need is to combine the strength of these online groups like JustMeans with discussion and debate such as those organised in 21st Century Network. It is this new alliance for change that can shape our future and change the whole nature of politics. Political parties have singularly failed to do this and have been taken over by power elites. So there is hope but it lies in this new alliance for change that is now emerging and it can be very exciting. JustMeans and 21st century Network are at the cutting edge of this change and it is here where politics can be recreated positively and the importance of public space protected.</p>