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 Response Page - Potts  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Gareth Potts Interview of


Gareth Potts is a policy advisor in the Office for Civil Society (OCS), a unit within the U.K. central government department known as the Cabinet Office. He visited Minnesota and other places in the U.S. this summer to learn about maintaining and improving public services in times of fiscal constraint. In a meeting with the Civic Caucus he outlined several redesign efforts underway in Great Britain under the title of the Big Society, including:

(1) encouraging public initiatives for more volunteerism, more charitable contributions, and more citizen involvement in public life,

(2) empowering and funding community groups to prevent significant loss of identity when a valued local institution closes or moves,

(3) empowering parents to set up new schools outside traditional school management,

(4) empowering government employees to form new enterprises to deliver the same services under new arms-length relationships with their former employers, and

(5) giving private organizations financial rewards if they succeed in producing better outcomes from delivering services.

His comments were made in an entirely personal capacity and do not necessarily represent those of the U.K. Government.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary:  Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Gareth Potts. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Encourage more voluntary efforts. (8.2 average response) Minnesota state government should encourage more volunteerism, more charitable contributions, and more citizen involvement in public life.

2. Empower local efforts.   (5.8 average response) Minnesota state government should empower and fund community groups that want to prevent significant loss of local identity if a valued local institution is to be closed or moved.

3. Spur employee entrepreneurship.  (6.3 average response) Minnesota state government should empower government employees to form new enterprises to deliver the same services under new arms-length relationships with their former employers.

4. Reward private efforts. (6.3 average response) Minnesota state government should give private organizations financial rewards if they succeed in producing better outcomes from delivering services.

5. Such ideas unsuitable for MN. (2.7 average response) Such changes, whatever their value for preserving services in Great Britain, aren't appropriate in Minnesota.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Encourage more voluntary efforts.







2. Empower local efforts. 







3. Spur employee entrepreneurship.







4. Reward private efforts.







5. Such ideas unsuitable for MN.







Individual Responses:

Bert LeMunyon  (5)  (2.5)  (5)  (7.5)  (2.5)

1. Encourage more voluntary efforts. I think Minnesota already has many citizens involved in public life.  Also, volunteerism and charitable giving are the American way.

2. Empower local efforts.   If these local organizations are already publicly funded, e.g., a community center, OK.  I don't think the community should prop up private enterprises if the marketplace says they are no longer profitable.

3. Spur employee entrepreneurship.  Just privatize those functions.

5. Such ideas unsuitable for MN. There is always something to learn from other nations’ experiences.

Chris Brazelton  (10)  (5)  (5)  (7.5)  (0)

2. Empower local efforts.   Community identity is important to encourage a sense of ownership and investment in both dollars and volunteerism within a community.  Sometimes a small investment of seed money is needed to bring in larger investments over the long run.

3. Spur employee entrepreneurship.  This concept was not well explained either in the interview or through the link provided.

5. Such ideas unsuitable for MN. We must always be open to exploring new ways of thinking about old problems and new solutions.

Pat Barnum  (7.5)  (0)  (7.5)  (0)  (7.5)

1. Encourage more voluntary efforts. Although "encourage" needs to be defined. Encouraged in what way? With taxpayer dollars at stake? Or by getting out of the way and letting true volunteerism thrive without government interference?

2. Empower local efforts.   Absolutely not. A private enterprise has as much right to open as to close. The hamstringing that could occur when a company needs to cut it's loses will harm owners, stockholders, and employees of other locations. Who owns the business? Who took the risks, and who has the most to lose? Why would some "community" group have a right to force a business to remain open despite growing losses or debt?

3. Spur employee entrepreneurship.  Define "empower". Does that mean give taxpayer dollars to a group to start a company? Or does it mean working out a contract for a limited amount of time to give the start-up a chance to get going, and then open up for competitive bidding for outsourcing?

4. Reward private efforts. Because the government is so good at picking losers and winners? No. A true free market, without government interference, will result in the best outcomes in delivering services.

5. Such ideas unsuitable for MN. Getting government out of the way is the best solution for any free country. Attempting to co-op free markets, forcing one entity to pay for something for others, (as in the Banks having to "do their part" as described by the speaker), giving non-owners the right to forestall the eminent demise of a company - all tweaks on socialism, dressed up as smaller government. Britain has discovered what America has not yet: that big government is not sustainable. I applaud the underlying sentiment that they have to get out the cycle of providing for every need for every person. But they must be willing to give up the control as well.

Dave Broden  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (0)

1. Encourage more voluntary efforts. This theme has been suggested and applied by many leaders, governors, and legislators but does not seem to resonate with the public-- it should and to some extent it must. The reason for low acceptance by the public is that government is really not communicating and doing well to show how citizen involvement will make thing better.

2. Empower local efforts.   Local identity must be key to change for government service delivery effectiveness. However far too often the state pushes consolidation or elimination rather than efforts to improve the current status. Thus the local groups become defensive and the state forces the change that perhaps often should not be done.

3. Spur employee entrepreneurship.  This sounds very innovative and could apply to within government or privatization of the function. This definitely deserves more consideration.

4. Reward private efforts. Minnesota was build with a strong private/public partnership that seems to have softened in some ways. There is also some thought that incentives are a bad thing. A reward system whether financial or otherwise is always beneficial.

5. Such ideas unsuitable for MN. It is way off base to say that any idea is not worth considering or appropriate to Minnesota. Why would we throw out an idea without consideration? Only people who promote Luddism and reject change that is not mainstream would think as the question is stated. We in Minnesota are generally more open minded and thoughtful--- at least we were. Are we no more? Then I am looking for another planet.

Robert Freeman  (7.5)  (5)  (5)  (7.5)  (2.5)

1. Encourage more voluntary efforts. Would probably make more sense at local level.  I foresee it being much like the very political process of doling out bonding money otherwise.

2. Empower local efforts.   This is a bizarre concept and I would be surprised to learn it had been successful in the long term.  Are small towns going to save their own post offices?

4. Reward private efforts. This is difficult to quantify. Savings that might accrue in 20 years from now are hard to share in the present.  There needs to be some economic rigor applied which we do not see nowadays from the claims people make about the savings or ROI that comes from their respective causes.

5. Such ideas unsuitable for MN. These changes are coming from a Conservative (with a large C) government that is ostensibly trying to make the UK more like America in terms of the size of its social infrastructure, so I think this complaint is misplaced.  However the governmental model in the UK is differently structured to that of the US, where Parliament has a lot more power than the federal government here in the US, so I think some of these ideas to empower the citizenry might not translate as well as hoped, since US citizens already implicitly enjoy them.

Ray Ayotte  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (0)

Ralph Brauer  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (5)  (0)

1. Encourage more voluntary efforts. This was one of the most provocative interviews so far. Kudos to those who scheduled it. These ideas get far beyond the rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic ideas of so many or the rigid ideological ploys of others. The only reason I did not check “strongly agree” is that this should not take the place of needed government services.

2. Empower local efforts.   In both urban and rural Minnesota this idea is a winner.

3. Spur employee entrepreneurship.  This sounds good, but the devil would be in the details. For example, what would be done with existing contracts?

4. Reward private efforts. I would amend this to read private, non-profit organizations. For-profits are another matter.

5. Such ideas unsuitable for MN. Solutions from anywhere should be discussed. Again, thanks for this one.

W. D. (Bill) Hamm  (10)  (0)  (0)  (7.5)  (2.5)

1. Encourage more voluntary efforts. That would be a great way to reverse our 40-year trend toward this same kind of top down Socialism here. Encourage is the key word since we have fools ignorant enough to think they can force volunteerism. It isn't just volunteerism; it is civic involvement we need to encourage possibly with a 5-year tax deduction.

2. Empower local efforts.   This is where England’s model will fail. While the Government should empower, the minute the Government is funding the project control is established. The power must be turned over without strings. Any top down money needs to come without strings because Socialist central planners can't be trusted.

3. Spur employee entrepreneurship.  More Socialist sewage. Yes, Minnesota should allow for such entrepreneurial adventures but never under neither its control nor the control of any public employee entity, which would be the kiss of death.

4. Reward private efforts. I would agree with short-term tax relief and public recognition, but in no way support such an effort’s being manipulated in any fashion by top-down central planners.

5. Such ideas unsuitable for MN. Great Britain is a Socialist Monarchy so everything this fellow says must be viewed with an understanding (of) his cultural biases to governance. We need desperately to push power back out to the local level in order to put purpose back into public involvement. So many opportunities for meaningful, (not rubber-stamp or controlled process), public involvement have been lost in my 40 years of public involvement. This is very much the reasoning behind people who say, "Why get involved? The only things we are allowed to get involved with have no meaning or power". People need to know that their involvement is going to have real results, not psych games by a top-down elite.

Don Anderson  (7.5)  (7.5)  (0)  (2.5)  (10)

4. Reward private efforts. How would the private organizations communicate - by telephone, mail and other disruptive methods as private organizations do currently in their fund raising activities?

Vici Oshiro       (5)  (5)  (5)  (5)  (5)

In every case the devil is in the details.  E.g., Is it more efficient if the private sector provides a service at lower cost but pays very low wages and thus causes more problems?  Encourage innovation and new ways of providing services, yes.  But pay attention to the details. Don't assume private sector is better than government - or vice versa.

Alan Miller       (8)  (7)  (5)  (5)  (5)

Carolyn Ring       (8)  (5)  (8)  (8)  (7)

1. Encourage more voluntary efforts. Minnesota does a good job in these areas, but it never hurts to have citizens do more.

Chuck Lutz       (9)  (8)  (5)  (8)  (1)

Jim Olson       (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)

As an additional suggestion, perhaps there should be consideration of a Citizens’ Ombudsman office to receive citizens’ ideas on excessive regulation that may be reconsidered.

The Economist magazine has had several articles on the "Big Society" ideas that emerged in the past year.

Al Quie       (10)  (0)  (10)  (0)  (0)

Robert J. Brown       (10)  (8)  (8)  (10)  (0)

Wayne Jennings       (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (1)

I found this an exciting interview with potential for expansion. My wife (retired) volunteers at the Como Zoo and Conservatory on Thursday mornings.  I went to an event to recognize the volunteers and was amazed at the hundreds of volunteers they engage. A skeleton professional staff with expertise manages this “army” of volunteers to maintain this extraordinary resource, which, by the way, is free to the public. A staff member said that without the volunteers we simply would not have the conservancy and zoo.
I don’t know of a study but think this example is also true for the Minnesota Arboretum, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Science Museum, Minnesota History Center, etc.  And volunteer fire departments. This enhances our society and enriches the lives of the volunteers.
I thought also of Steve Rothschild’s comments last year with the Civic Caucus about Human Capital Performance Bond funding of training for Twin Cities Rise from the state repaid by social benefits to society.

Lyall Schwarzkopf       (5)  (4)  (6)  (6)  (5)

Minnesotans already give much money to charity and has a large group of people who volunteer for many different projects.

Paul and Ruth Hauge       (8)  (6)  (7)  (8)  (2)

Wallace Neal       (10)  (10)  (6)  (5)  (0)



The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay,  Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon,
Joe Mansky,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and  Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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