In the Year of the Whistleblower (2021), it gives me great pleasure to welcome you both to Parrhesia Inc website and the Parrhesia Network professional network. Parrhesia has been gestating for a full 9 month term since James and I set about organising a Seminar for the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences (www.toblowthewhistleornot.org ) and then cobbled together a couple of ideas about whistleblower protection and the need to present cogent arguments to policy makers based on well researched evidence conducted by experts.
If I may quote from Parrhesia’s opening statement ‘About Us’:
Parrhesia Inc will build a website that will document the work it does and act as a resource for the public on these issues. DONE, ACCOMPLISHED – YOU’RE ON IT
Additionally, it will disseminate thought leadership through blogs and reports, eventually founding an academic journal specific to the field of whistleblowing. IN PROGRESS. THIS IS WHERE WE ARE AT NOW AND WHAT YOU ARE READING IS THE FIRST ENTRY
Parrhesia Inc will fill a crucial niche in the UK whistleblowing landscape by drawing together the expertise across the sector and taking it to a new level. We will develop concrete, highly credible, evidence-based proposals for reform and generate momentum through strong collaboration with other NGOs, participation in NGO networks, and by forging strong relationships with lawyers, law enforcement, parliamentarians, and the media. THIS IS WHERE WE ARE GOING
This blog seeks to provide an active forum for Fearless Speech – yes I couldn’t resist the insertion of the Foucaultian tagline, so that we can hold an intelligent and informed conversation about the various aspects of the whistleblowing topic. We are aiming for weekly articles (13 per quarter) led by a general theme written by one of the Trustees or Executives and followed in alternate weeks by a piece from either a member of the Academic Council or the Policy Advisory Group. Hopefully they will qualify one another. An essential part of our ethos about making this ‘the place to go’ to for an educated view on what is happening and what should happen around the general topic of whistleblowing. We are looking for challenging, topical, referenced, qualified opinion to highlight perceived obstacles to progress and how to remove them.
The experience of the last ten years has shown us that shouting loudly into the void of public opinion is not going to effect change in how whistleblowers are regarded – and therefore treated. Not only have we got to study the subject, but we have to be able to format our arguments and then communicate them to the right people: those who CAN effect change. Cultural change can follow as we educate the public, but essentially we have to focus our collective messages on the Government who have the ability to make new legislation or reform old legislation that does not properly meet the task. I treat the Government in this regard as not only those who hold executive highest offices, the Secretaries of State of relevant Government Departments, but also their Ministers, PPSs, Backbenchers and the civil servants who support them. It is they who formulate the policy, do the detailed staff work, prepare the briefing papers, agree the task organization and find the budgets to resource the enabling framework. We need to convince them of the current deficiencies, possible options, costs and benefits and, most importantly, the ongoing need and benefit to society as a whole.
I am convinced that the Media has played a large part in propagating the message about the worthiness of those who speak out about wrong-doing. Taking a Behaviouralist approach, if we were to compare the number of mentions of whistleblowing and whistleblowers in the Press over the past decade then I believe you will find that it has increased by a significant factor: there is at least a Master’s dissertation in this piece of research for some budding acolyte to prove or disprove this assertion and its implied effects! I’m sure we can find a resourced home for anyone who wants to put a proposal forward to the Academic Council? Nonetheless, we must keep up the pressure to ensure that the general public understand the good that comes from the brave few who act on their behalf, lend their voice in support for their greater protection and face down powerful gainsayers who have more to gain from maintaining the current status quo.
I believe our time has come: the ground has been prepared, the climate is right and we now need to arm our supporters with sufficient well-researched evidence to allow them to add their voices to the calls for change. Feel free to add your comments in either support or critique – or even better, offer an article for publication here? I look forward to reading your contributions