Certainty - at any cost?

12 Nov 2008 by Karl Hallam

Donald Rumsfeld's famous "unknown unknowns" phrase got an airing on a Radio 4 discussion about politicans and uncertainty on Sunday. The point being made was that politicians are not allowed to admit they don't know something: the public demands certainty from them. Baronness Estelle Morris gave an interesting insight into the process by which politicians learn to sound certain at all costs "and play the game ... although it is a very bad game".

Cadence have used Donald Rumsfeld's infamous analysis in a number of projects. It can serve as a helpful reminder of the limitations of some of the data that policy makers work with. The broader point about an apparent need for certainty, and the simplication of the topic that it often entails, is a good one. The heartbreaking news from Haringey seems likely to provide us with more examples of politicians offering us certainty where there is none: Children's Minister Beverley Hughes is protesting that it wasn't lack of resources or over-burdensome bureaucracy that failed Baby P, but a failure of professionals adequately to question the mother's version of events. 

A different response might also acknowledge that the role that we ask of professionals who work with children at risk is so complex that mistakes will inevitably be made. It is a mistake to make judgements on such a case based on the press coverage, but questions an enquiry will need to look at include what was known, and how was it responded to - and what was unknown.

Cadence's work on a blueprint for club-based youth work is looking at the whole question of balancing risk against challenge. The view of psyschologist Professor Lew Hardy suggests that young peope "need boundaries and challanges in a relatively safe environment". This is a reasonable view, but society's assessment of real and perceived risk is not always a good guide to best practice.



your comments

Posts: 2
Reply #2 on : Tue January 31, 2012, 14:07:39
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Posts: 2
Reply #1 on : Sun January 29, 2012, 03:51:12
Stellar work there everyone. I'll keep on raednig.

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