July 13, 2024

Author’s Background: Author Maggy MacNikol, a vibrant woman of 58, embodies a multifaceted identity that extends far beyond titles. A dedicated policy advisor and a relentless agent of change, Maggy has made improving society and pursuing the common good her life’s mission. Her extensive experience spans diverse platforms, fostering engagement with a wide range of stakeholders in government, non-profits, and the private sector. Fuelled by a burning passion to elevate the quality of life for others and create a brighter future for all, Maggy’s journey has instilled in her a profound understanding of the intricate tapestry of societal needs and how to address them effectively.

Questionnaire:

Neel Preet: Firstly, Congratulations on your book, Empowering Voters!” What kind of responses are you getting from this book of yours? Please share your experience about this book.

Maggy MacNikol: Certainly! With over 25 years of experience in policy-making and public administration, I have had the privilege of collaborating with passionate individuals dedicated to improving our communities. However, despite these efforts, I have come to a conclusion – the challenges we face often exceed the capacity of traditional approaches. That is where the inspiration for my book on empowering voters steams from. It is a call to action, a recognition that real change requires active participation from every member of our society. Through democratic processes, citizens have the power to shape the future they want to see.

I am excited to share the insights and strategies I have gathered over the years, and I hope my book will inspire readers to join me in this journey towards a brighter, more inclusive future for all.

Neel Preet: What inspired you to write this book? What was the impetus behind this work of yours?

Maggy MacNikol:

The key message of the book is that real voters empowerment comes from engagement. The people we vote for and elect, like mayors and governors, have a really important job in deciding what happens in our communities. They make big decisions in areas like healthcare, schooling, and taking care of the environment. These leaders have the responsibility to figure out what people need now and in the future. They then have to make plans and use money and resources in a fair way so that everyone benefits. But, as the reader will see in the book – this isn’t easy to do.

The journey or policy process is like a roadmap that leaders and elected officials follow to make things better for everyone. By engaging with and understanding this journey, citizens become active participants in shaping the direction of their communities and nations. Failure to engage in this process means missing out on a crucial aspect of democracy—one where individuals have the power to influence change and contribute to the collective well-being. Through initiatives like those outlined in my book, we can empower citizens to navigate this journey confidently, ensuring that their voices are heard and their needs are addressed in the decision-making process

Neel Preet: You’ve given a very interesting title to your book, which is very thought provoking too so, what made you go for this title for your book?

Maggy MacNikol: Thank you! The title “Empowering Voters” was chosen to encapsulate the core message and mission of the book. At its heart, the book emphasizes the crucial role that informed and engaged citizens play in a thriving democracy.

Through voting, individuals have the power to elect representatives who align with their values and visions for the future. Yet, this endeavour is not without its challenges. To really make a difference when voting, people need to know more about how the government and its policies work. This means learning how policies are made, put into action, and checked to see if they work well. Knowing this helps voters get involved in important issues right from the start and follow them through to the end.

The book emphasizes the significance of active citizenship —it’s a guide for citizens to explore diverse perspectives and understand the critical issues at stake in any election that profoundly impacts their lives. Whether you’re a policymaker or an engaged citizen, this resource offers insights into the complexities of decision-making and the ways in which policies directly affect people’s lives. By acknowledging the multifaceted nature of political environments and embracing inclusive approaches to civic engagement, countries can adapt these strategies to foster a more vibrant and participatory democracy tailored to their unique contexts and cultural norms.

Neel Preet: What was your mind-set, while working on this book? What do you expect the readers to extract from this book?

Maggy MacNikol:

The message is clear, together, we can overcome barriers, build consensus, and create a future where every voice matters and every vote counts. But first lets learn more about it!

By showcasing success stories where communities have embraced any type of reforms – in education, in health sector, etc. – and experienced positive outcomes, in “Empowering Voters”  I am focused on inspiring optimism and confidence in the transformative power of democratic participation of every reader.

In “Empowering Voters,” I take a refreshing approach to addressing these concerns by bringing in simple yet compelling narratives about citizens like Alice and Fabio, navigating the complexities of voting decisions. Through these stories, reader can witness first-hand the impact of these reforms on everyday individuals, making the issue tangible and engaging. By inviting everyone to the table for open discussions and collaborative problem-solving, we can foster a sense of unity and shared purpose in advancing electoral access for all. And in the book this is what Mayor Sabina Bianchi is doing in Greenville!

Neel Preet: How is this book of yours different from the other titles of the same genre?

Maggy MacNikol:

The book is very different from other titles. Starting to write this book, I realized I had embarked on a challenging journey. In my research, I found a huge gap in resources to help citizens make informed voting choices. Beyond basic registration guides and campaign materials, there are almost no comprehensive books explaining the importance of voting, how to choose suitable candidates, and how to hold elected officials accountable. The basics every citizen should know include understanding the impact of their vote on public services, knowing the candidates’ policies, and the importance of active participation in elections to ensure accountability and effective governance. Our participation directly influences the quality and delivery of public services, making informed voting crucial for a functioning democracy, and this is exactly what critically impacts our lives. So, my focus was on bringing closer to the readers the following – What are the “basics” we all, as citizens, need to know before we cast our ballot? How do the elections and our participation or non-participation as voters influence the delivery of public services?

Neel Preet: Next, I would want you to tell us about some of those writers, who had inspired you and whom you follow!

Maggy MacNikol:

I do not think I follow a specific author. The book is a self-help guide for citizens, addressing something unexpected. Most self-help guides focus on individual talents and self-improvement. However, “Empowering Voters” is about us as a collective power, improving our lives through voting.

The inspiration for “Empowering Voters” came from traveling back in time and exploring the remarkable work of Ambrogio Lorenzetti in medieval Siena in Tuscany/Italy. His 13th-century fresco, “Allegory of Good and Bad Government,” vividly illustrates the profound impact of governance on society. The depiction of poverty as a destructive force that undermines communities and deprives people of essential services and opportunities resonated deeply with me. On the other side, the portrayal of good governance, where justice and the rule of law prevail, showcases a society where leaders are fair and just, fostering trust and cooperation. This powerful visual narrative integrated in the fresco underscores how leadership shapes the welfare and destiny of our society. Inspired by Lorenzetti’s timeless reflection, I realized the need for a modern guide to help citizens understand the critical role of informed voting in achieving good governance and improving public services.

Have a look in CHAPTER 2 Lessons on leadership and society from the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, to find yourself why this fresco sends so powerful message!

Neel Preet: Which segment of readers is your primary target through this book of yours? And, how is your book relevant in the present day scenario?

Maggy MacNikol:

The primary target audience for “Empowering Voters” includes engaged citizens, educators, policymakers, and media professionals. These are individuals who are keen to understand the mechanics of democracy and the importance of transparency and accountability in governance. The book is also aimed towards young adults and first-time voters, who are at the beginning of their journey in civic participation and have a desire to make informed decisions.

At the beginning of each chapter, the reader will find short stories, where the key actors are Fabio, Alice, and Mayor Sabina Bianchi. I portrayed Fabio as a character marked by apathy towards the voting process, firmly entrenched in the belief that his individual voice could not influence the broader political landscape. On the other side is Alice defined by her optimism and her ability to inspire change in others, demonstrating a deep understanding of the significance of each vote. Mayor Sabina Bianchi emerges as a transformative figure within the narrative of Greenville’s elections for a Mayor, embodying the spirit of innovation and inclusivity. She is characterized by her forward-thinking approach, understanding that genuine engagement goes beyond mere campaigning.

In today’s scenario, the context in which all leave – the relevance of this book cannot be overstated. We live in an age where misinformation and political polarization are significant challenges. By fostering collaboration between governments, citizens media organizations, and prioritizing transparency and accountability, we can counter the challenges effectively. The book aims to provide readers with the tools and knowledge to navigate the complex landscape of information, understand policy-making processes, and hold elected representatives accountable.

That is the reason why in each chapter I integrated LAB Guideline.  The objective of the guideline is not only to help summarize the key issues in the also to encourage the reader to think deeply about each real-life dimension that affects his life. Being an active and informed citizen isn’t limited to one particular system of government; it’s about understanding how things work, asking questions, and finding ways to participate in the decisions that affect our lives. These questions are a way to explore what that means for each of us. The “Thinking LAB” includes questions for reflection that the reader will find after each “LAB Guideline.” They serve as vital checkpoints in the ongoing journey of understanding the complexity and the interconnectedness in which we find ourselves as voters.

Neel Preet: Is there any message that you would like to convey to your readers? Or any piece of advice, which you would like to give to the readers out there!

Maggy MacNikol:

Yes, sure! The key message is that the world’s transformation is not merely a spectator’s role for us; it’s an active and participatory journey where we contribute to shaping the narrative, values, and direction of our shared local and global community. As we navigate the complexities of this evolving world, it is important to recognize the potential we hold, the responsibility we bear, and the capacity we possess to ensure that the metamorphosis we witness is one that leads to progress, equity, and a better world for all.

The first issue to keep in mind when reading the book is that elections and voting are not just about politicians and government officials; it’s about us, the people, and how we fit into the system. We might not all be experts in political science, but we all live under the rules and regulations set by those in authority. In other words, keep in mind that while we as ordinary people are not dealing with politics and policy-making, the politics and policy-making are heavily dealing with our lives! And this is the core of each chapter – but from different dimensions.

Neel Preet: Are there any other books being worked by you? Please let us know about your future projects.

Maggy MacNikol:

One of the subtitles of the book is “The World in the Making Project,” indicating that this is just the beginning. Whether it is making sure our voices are heard, understanding what our leaders are doing on our behalf, or navigating the complex processes that turn ideas into laws, these issues are starting points for becoming more aware and engaged as citizens and voters.

Given that the topic is rarely explored from the perspective of citizens, the approach I am taking will lead to new and interesting titles. These will help develop new engagement frameworks for voters, recognizing the bidirectional influence between politicians and voters. My focus is supporting the our society to develop a more knowledgeable electorate, capable of understanding and participating in the policy-making process to ensure effective governance and the realization of societal goals. My future projects will continue to focus on empowering citizens and enhancing knowledgeable participation.

Neel Preet: Thank you so much for answering all my questions. All the very best to you for future and your book too!

Maggy MacNikol:

Thank you too Neel! Thanks for your thoughtful questions and kind wishes. I was pleased to discuss my book and my vision with you. All the best to you as well!

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