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It was a bit of a surprise to hear at the end of last week, and verify over the weekend, that Barack Obama has been awarded the nobel peace prize for 'extraordinary efforts' to improve world diplomacy and co-operation.  My initial response, no doubt mirrored around the world, was what has President Obama done to warrant receiving this award?  This is a question that numerous other blogs have covered directly, for example Gideon Rachman's blog at the FT.

It was a bit of a surprise to hear at the end of last week, and verify over the weekend, that Barack Obama has been awarded the nobel peace prize for 'extraordinary efforts' to improve world diplomacy and co-operation.  My initial response, no doubt mirrored around the world, was what has President Obama done to warrant receiving this award?  This is a question that numerous other blogs have covered directly, for example Gideon Rachman's blog at the FT.

One answer of particular interest to the Connected Communities programme can be reached if we turn this question around.  That is, if we ask why would the Nobel committee grant President Obama this award so early on into his presidency?  Looked at this way round, I would argue that a strategic motive for this gesture emerges.

That is, it could be argued that this prize was given to Barack not so much in recognition of achievements to date, but rather so as to characterise his presidency as one directed by peace-making from the off.  In many respects, this is the nudge principle writ large.  Set 'peace presidency' as the default position, but leave the door open to opt out (although significantly such an exit could not be achieved quietly given the issues at stake).

Such a strategy has interesting implications for our work at Connected Communities.  In particular, at last week's AGM the question of how to involve leaders in our proposed Community Garden Project was a thorny one.  On the one hand, it was recognised that identifying leaders at the local community level was critical as they can generate so much momentum on the ground.  On the other hand, it was also recognised that going to existing leaders can reinforce existing community divisions, and that a fine balance between leaders and facilitators must be struck.

Here, then, the question arose as to how Connected Communities might not only use existing local community leaders, but also help people to generate leadership qualities at the local level.  Might it be, therefore, that one approach may be not to only view leadership as something earned, but also to ascribe leadership to individuals (e.g. by rotating committee duties between local residents interested in participating in a community garden scheme).  That is, by simply assigning responsibility (for reviving a disused local space or, more ambitiously!, world peace) might we also provoke more responsible decision-making?

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