FEATURE14 May 2015

The good citizen

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Disillusioned with the advertising business, Jon Alexander set up the New Citizenship Project to encourage a move away from consumption and toward participation.

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Whatever you do, don’t mention the word ‘consumer’ around Jon Alexander. While the term is liberally used in any conversation involving marketers and market researchers, often just a lazy catch-all shorthand, for Alexander it is terminology that should be prohibited.

The reason for his absolutism is a moral argument twinned with a creative argument. “When you use the word ‘consumer’, you can’t help but think of people as having only one real line of agency – buying from you. Use the word ‘citizens’ and you immediately think of people as having multiple lines of agency to participate, co-create, challenge, build and more, ” he explains.

“We think you can have a far more creative, generative society if we, the people, are allowed the space to think of ourselves as citizens, not just told we’re consumers constantly.”

So the choice of title for the organisation he founded – the New Citizenship Project – was carefully crafted. Its remit is to help “a more genuinely participatory ...