In the future, what's the role of government?

All participants, working in small discussion groups, were invited to respond to this question.  Their responses on post-its were collated on a wall under the headings: Yes, No and Unsure.  These responses inform the following observations and comments.

While there were a number of opinions that were either not sure or a straight out “no” to this question, the largest number of comments suggested that YES the government has a primary role in these optimistic futures.

Reasons were varied but focus was more on the style and quality of a government including that it be:

  • Empowering
  • Enabling
  • Open
  • Sustainable 
  • Inclusive of diversity in solutions
  • Offering radical transparency

A smaller number of comments from participants indicated that the government has NO primary role in these futures.  Comments included:

  • Better harnessing of civil society for localized solutions
  • Indicating that communities are the central part of life
  • A focus on arts and creative expression

Those who were NOT SURE whether the government has a primary role in these futures was smaller than the “yes” group but larger than the “No” group.  

Comments from this group included:

  • The need to change our system of distribution
  • An end or change to representative democracy 
  • The need for ecological literacy
  • Design capability
  • Robust equitable ethical discussion and debate into policy
  • Unleashing an innovative and entrepreneurial public sector
  • A post colonial approach
  • Te Ao Maori presence

In order to deliver on optimistic futures  by 2050 there is  general agreement that active leadership is required from us all, i.e. citizens and government.  

What Is less obvious but no less important is the process which is required to deliver on this aspiration.  From observation at this event key components which made a lively, participatory experience were the softer skills required: 
 

  • dialogue, lots of it and ongoing
  • having time to connect, discuss and deepen our understanding of issues
  • making room for the uncomfortable opinions
  • the importance of having the belief that an optimistic future is possible
  • the importance of talking with others across a range of interest areas and avoiding silo’d conversations.

Where to from here?

If the responsibility for our future sits with us all, then keeping this conversation alive is essential to move foward on delivering positive aspirations for 2050.   Suggested ways to do this are:

  • Themed Workshops, starting with applied skills for citizens and governments to deliver on these optimistic futures;
  • Future events that build on previous themes.

Responsibility for our future sits with us all.


In summary the participants indicated the need for active leadership in both citizenship and government to ensure that these optimistic futures are actualized by 2050.  

The responsibility for these futures sits with us all.