Social Leadership: Citizenship

Yesterday i reflected on democracy, our structures of representation, and the ways in which they are adapting, which led me today to consider ‘citizenship’, a reflection on responsibility, as well as rights. I’ve tentatively contextualised this within Social Leadership, to reflect a recent thought i had on ‘Citizen of Apple, State of Lego’, where i considered how ‘citizenship’ may be a notion moving beyond nation.


Let me also point out that this writing is part of my own reflective process, so not necessarily a considered position, but rather part of my shared reflections to figure out what it means to me!

A definition of citizenship? Perhaps, ‘a balance of what we put in, and what we take out’? I’m familiar with the ‘traditional’ definition, which relates back to being a denizen of a city. A definition rooted in geography and identify. But in the context of the Social Age, geography has globalised, and identify is fluid. So perhaps we need a new notion of what it means to be a citizen?

The notion of ‘what we put in, and what we take out’ simply reflects my current thinking on Social Leadership as being about balance, within an ecosystem. Perhaps, in similar vein, citizenship is about balance, within whatever ‘society’ we are inhabiting?

Certainly i like the notion of putting something in: for me, personally, citizenship is as much about responsibility, as it is about rights. Of course, in a civil society, the rights are granted to everyone, even those people who choose to simply take, and never to give. But to be a good citizen, you probably need to give. Indeed, you probably need to give, even to those people who simply take.

I recognise that i’m getting into areas of moral judgement, but perhaps, in the context of the Social Age, all judgement is, to some extent, socially moderated.

I am quite interested in models of micro engagement, and aggregated surplus, as ways of solving civic challenges. For example, gamifying homelessness, so that people can earn civic currency by giving up their surplus space, resource, or time, to help solve civic issues. Or can perhaps earn a different civic currency by engaging in civil disagreement. If you look at issues like Brexit, it’s clear that dissent will only get us so far: at some point, we have to engage in peace.

I woke this morning to hear a definition of war on the radio (in my sleepy state, i did not catch who said it), which considered war must always be entered into on the basis that peace will be negotiated. Ultimately, we all have to give something.

At an individual level, we have to consider our actions, to other members of our society, even those with whom we violently disagree (either through violence itself, or a violence in our stories).

As those societies become increasingly fragmented, concurrent, and diversified, so too do the nuances of our membership, and the flavours of our citizenship.

When i was at school, we were not taught citizenship: whether it is a damning indictment of society that my nephew and niece now are, or whether it represents a progressive attitude, i am unsure.

I think it was left to me, to learn, and to figure out, for myself, how to be a citizen. I received no guidebook, and took no exam. But perhaps it’s a good thing to provide rails.

I do agree that, in the context of our unending, and accelerating, social upheaval, a process which is just beginning, it’s probably a good thing to consider the nature of citizenship, and the location of it. If i am a citizen of Twitter, i had better hope that the other citizens are considering not simply what they take, but what they give.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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7 Responses to Social Leadership: Citizenship

  1. Bruce Caiirns says:

    I woke this morning to hear a definition of war on the radio (in my sleepy state, i did not catch who said it), which considered war must always be entered into on the basis that peace will be negotiated:

    It was Margaret MacMillan on Radio 4 on Tuesday morning: well worth a listen

  2. Bruce Caiirns says:

    Julian, I reflect on JFK’s Inauguration Speech when this debate comes up: “Ask yourself not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. It’s absolutely what we need our leaders to be saying to us now.
    We’re become so habituated to acting as consumers that I don’t think many people realise how much they focus on what they can get rather than what they can give.
    Whilst there’s many many people who do still try and give back to their community and society, they do it quietly, it’s not a dominant and overt theme in our national conversation and it needs to be. We need to create an overt social norm around giving, to encourage it as a mass, society-wide habit.
    David Cameron was on to it with the Big Society. We saw it in the 2011 London riots and the response of the broom army. I don’t know why he gave up talking about it, or why no other mainstream politician has taken it up.

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