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The 3rd Paradigm of Local Government

Editor’s Note:  Most local government leaders don’t get it.  They believe government that their expertise or election gives them insight into what citizens really need–and how those needs should be met. But the “government as expert” paradigm turns citizens into apathetic (or angry) customers waiting for others to solve their problems (“Vote the bastards out!”).  In this insightful article from Axiom News, we see a more productive, sustainable government paradigm:

“The third paradigm, that of citizens as the “owners” of the community’s well-being and government as a “modest” entity, acting in support of those initiatives.

Originally printed in Axiom News by author Michelle Strutzenberger, who can be reached at

In the municipalities of Olen and Houthalen-Helchteren, Belgium, citizen demands are increasing and resources to meet those demands are shrinking. In the face of these challenges, local government leaders are becoming more open to experimenting with the addition of a new paradigm to their current ways of working.  For more from Ms. Strutzenberger, please click:

In alignement with the Third Paradigm discussed in Ms. Strutzenberger’s article, Community Voices believes that government should move…

From just…                                                  To include…

Government and institutions                     Citizens, neighborhoods, street N.P.s

Struggle for control                                     Concert of action

Single issues                                                Interconnected problems

Finite options                                              Emerging practices

Decisive votes                                              Open-ended and cumulative deliberation

Intended results                                          Collective learning

Winning or losing                                        Changed course of events

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