Democratic control of information channels.

You have an idea and you want to share it with the world. Internet allows you, in theory, to send it to everyone as a private message so you make sure they know that your idea is there. If everyone does the same we would all be flooded with message coming from everywhere. Most of them undesired. Information becomes invisible, intractable, useless, there is too much of it.

If I want to know what you think, I subscribe to your channel, you subscribe to mine, we talk to each other, the information is useful but incomplete. We do not know what is happening in the greater world. There must be channels to which we can tune in and listen to what is happening, to what people have to say, and the contents of those channels MUST NOT be controlled by a few people who can decide what we hear about and what we hear about it.

As a practical example we have the general mailing list of DiEM25. This is a powerful tool who is now controlled by the CC. It makes sense to look after it, not to let it become a spamming machine to serve personal interests, but it also makes sense that there are mechanisms to let the grassroots talk to themselves and use it. If a sufficient number of members agree that an issue should be shared with the rest of DiEM, it makes sense that it is indeed shared with the rest of DiEM. What does “sufficient” mean?

Well the answer can also be customized by each member, because the technology allows for it. We could have a model by which members could subscribe to communications backed by X number of members, or by members of such country, or by members of N different countries, or coming from a particular group, such as, for instance, the CC.

Now, once the message is sent, there is no need for all subscribers to get all replies. The message could immediately become a thread to which interested members could subscribe or not. It should be able to subscribe conditionally. If there are more than N responses, or responses from N people or responses from people from N different countries.

No person of group should have the power to control what other people say to each other. No person should stop communication among others. The use of information channels in a democratic structure must be regulated so every individual has the same level of access, and this only depends on the will of other people to spread the message.

Until we solve this fundamental problem we will have no hope of creating a large scale grassroots movement.

Salud, Paz y Democracia
Pj

Distributed network collectives, local groups and grassroots democracy.

This post describes the program for the workshop of the same name, organised by the author for the Berlin DiEM25 event of May 25th 2017. It is composed of two sections which will open and close the two day program.  The objective of this workshop is to define concrete lines of constructive work to revitalise the democratic nature of DiEM25 in the coming months. In the first place we will devise a mechanism to improve internal communication in DiEM25 based on distributed Network Spontaneous Collectives. Then we will figure out how we can put such mechanism in place.

The more or less theoretical concepts which will be developed in the first part of the workshop will underlie some of the work proposed by other workshops and presentation. During our interactions for two days the practical implementation of the theoretical model will be taking shape.

In the closing session we will tray to put together all the work done during the two days defining a project plan to spread the idea of NSC, provide a toolkit for future collectives and a methodology for communication among them.

Part I (Thursday 27, 12:30):

The first part of the workshop will be a collaborative effort to device optimal topologies (relationships between DiEM25 members as seen in a piece of paper) to foster horizontal communication in a grassroots movement and to create a new framework for channeling grassroots energy into action and decision making.

  • Presentation (20 minutes):

Present the concept of NSC.
What are we going to do.

  • (5 min) Devise and analyse different geometrical alternative to connect DiEM25 members by means of personal connection.
  • (10 min) Think what do they imply from the point of view of geographical dispersion and language perspective.
  • (10 min) Summarise conclusions trying to draw an ideal network of networks. Graphical presentation of results.

Part II (Friday 26th 17:30):

This second part of the workshop is about getting our hands dirty, preparing a line of work for the next few months, as a result of which horizontal communication and grassroots democracy in DiEM25 can be improved.

  • Introduction (10 min)
    Non local DSC’s as an intermediate step towards NSC
  • NSC start up kit (5 min)
    Which tools does an non local DSC or NSC to operate?
  • NSC concept promotion (5 min)
    How can we promote the organization of NSC in DiEM25?
  • The NSC project plan.
    All interested are invited in defining a project plan to implement widespread networking by means of NSC’s within DiEM25.

 

Salud, Paz y Democracia
Pj

A topolgy for grassroots democracy

This post only expresses the opinion of the author

At the centre of grassroots democracy lies the individual. Her thoughts, fears and desires. She will have more or less concerns about how the wider world is ruled, but as many as she has, she has the right to express her will. She may not want to vote A or B in a particular referendum but she may wish she could have done it so many other times. The problem is that if we are all together and speak at the same time, we cannot listen. To be able to express our thoughts freely we must be surrounded by trusted people. We must be in small groups. The question is how to bring the conversation outside the small groups where is best generated.

We have to accept a fundamental limitation of humans. We can only know and trust so many people. In large groups the conversation tends to be controlled by power eagerness rather than by ideas. If we are in small groups, such DiEM25 Spontaneous Collectives (DSC), the basic organizational unit of the movement, our thoughts and ideas may spring easily, but they do not go far. Information has to flow out from our DSC and into other DSC’s. From your mind to my mind. The coordinator’s list, an e-mail group in which one member from every DSC participates, is an attempt to make information flow, but it makes conversations impossible. Too many people, too much information, too little trust. The coordinator list is a bottle neck. The DiEM25 forum proves also inefficient because of its impersonal nature and because it requires a very proactive attitude from individuals. Another solution is needed.

Let us assume that all DSC’s meet once every two weeks and every alternate week there are many meetings, online or otherwise, where people from different DSC’s get together. We will call this groups where DSC’s mix, Networking  Spontaneous Collectives. The ideas which where discussed in the comfort of a local the DSC meetings will have a low resistance path into all the other DSC’s through the NSC’s, by simple mouth to mouth. If  only the “coordinator” of each DSC is involved in outside conversations, this person will be a bottle neck for the information flow. Ideally, every single member of the DSC should be involved in a different NSC to ensure that we have a redundant network for the information interchange. This is the topology of the Internet. Multiple alternative paths exist between any two points. It is extremely efficient, extremely resilient to failure, extremely democratic.

In practice this total level of engagement will never happen, because most people will not take part in more than one group.  Nevertheless, as long as at least one does participate in one NSC, the DSC will no longer be isolated. Once the human relationships have been established among people across Europe, IT will come to the rescue by strengthening and making the information flow flexible and reliable, but the connections must be build around individuals, around their ability to relate to another limited set of individuals involved in one single large scale conversation. To think of the internet as a solution to the problem of democracy is a simplistic mistake. Democracy is about people, and and the internet is the most incredible democracy tool that people have had, but it is only a tool.

We must accept that many people are not interested or motivated enough to spend part of their life finding ways to optimise the use of the commons. I like to think that at one person every one thousand is a natural activist. From 500 million Europeans you will probably never have more than 500.000 people interested in an active political live, however, that should be enough to ensure true democracy. However, this is already a very large number to take part in a single conversation. If we picture a movement like DiEM25 eventually turning into a successful European party, this means that it will gather hundreds of thousands of activists who need to talk to each other.

If we have such large groups, a myriad of interconnected, redundant, networking nodes will be necessary to connect everyone with the rest, so ideas actually flow mouth-to-mouth from Faro (PT) to Rovaniemi (FI), from Hammerfest (NO) to Naxos (GR) in a matter of days or weeks. We could ask ourselves what is the optimal structure to unite with least intermediate steps each DiEM25 member to the rest. The ideal topology resulting from a formal mathematical analysis may serve as a guideline, but it would be entirely unnatural, inhuman and will never work on a movement relying on spontaneous participation.

We may, in order to initiate or trigger the creation of NSC’s, create placeholders inspired in that optimal topology. We may create NSC’s based on language or topic which people may want to join, but things would only really work if individuals decide to organise their own NSC to talk about what they want, to speak in a particular language or meet at a suitable time of the week. If NSC’s emerge naturally, they will be less efficient at creating the mesh of nodes, we will have to compromise on the number of steps between members, but in exchange we will foster quality communication because people would have chosen on what, how and when to take part. They will quickly get to know people in their NSC (or NSC’s) and they will find the trust needed to speak up their mind, share their views and those from people in their DSC.

If a good network of DSC’s and NSC emerges from DiEM25, ideas would flow like crazy in Europe. We will then have to ask ourselves, all together, what is the solution to true large scale democracy.

From a practical point of view, Network Spontaneous collectives must be easy to implement. There should have a toolkit consisting of basic rules of the game, (may be similar to those used in DID or otherwise) and clear models to streamline all the information generated by the NSC ( where to put files, recordings, votes and so on). They should be offered facilities to easily teleconference (not necessarily sharing their personal details, but joining an anonymous call). Also, new tools must be designed or found in order to allow everyone to have a clear overview about which topics are being discussed at any given time: in the NSC, in other DSC’s, in DiEM25 at large.

Network collectives must have the same sort of recognition than any other DSC, they must have visibility. Their activity must have some window to the outer world: tools should be available to share meeting minutes and recordings, memos and other files. Taking part in a NSC must be easy and fulfilling, but for that they have to be relevant. They become relevant when their opinion is taken into account. That is, they can become relevant when the channels exist for the information to flow without bottlenecks.

Salud, Paz y Democracia
Pj

Justice and internal democracy.

This post only expresses the opinion of the author

In our last DiD meeting, we faced a potential conflict. As per our own voting procedures, if someone needs more time to debate before making a decision this can be stated, and the entire “Simple voting procedure” can be delayed. The condition, however, is that a case must be made to delay the vote. Someone had requested more time, but had not indicated the particularities to be debated. Hence a decision had to be made. Should the vote be kept open? Should it be closed according to the previously established closing date?

We there and then realized that we were facing a judiciary decision. The law, as generally understood, is written in words. Sometimes it is a code others is just a set of precedent from previous trials. Either way, at a certain point, someone will have to INTERPRET the law, in order for a decision to be made with respect to the facts under consideration. The person or group who interprets the law is the judge or tribunal and without any intention the biweekly meeting attendees found themselves in front of such decision.

It just so happens that most of us had slightly vested interests in the results of the vote (basically, not to lose time which we didn’t think was going to benefit anyone), although it was really not a very critical decision to take, but because of that alone we were not the ideal arbiters of the decision. We were, however, the only ones facing it and we had to proceed one way or the other. Let us say that there was little disparity on our opinions about what to do in this case but surely I would have preferred someone external and neutral to make the decision for us.

DiD is so small that it hardly needs a tribunal, although the right of the meeting attendees to make such decision should be made explicit and approved by the totality of the members. DiEM25, however, is not so small. We are talking about an organization which prides itself of consisting of several tens of thousands, in which there has been already conflicts of interest, and in which executive decisions have been made which have affected the internal dynamics of the movement. There is a constitutional law, the Organization Principles, with its reference to article zero: the manifesto. Who interprets this law?

This is a question which we should ask ourselves, a question which is vital for internal democracy. It is essential that every member of DiEM25 be confident that no one is using executive power inadequately. And for that, a certain organism should exist. Call it Tribunal of Guarantees, call it however you want. Can a triad of members of the AP elected by lottery play this role? Would they accept that? Is that a plausible idea? Should we think of something else?

Democracy needs separation of powers, and that is beyond any doubt. Internal democracy requires internal separation of powers, and that is also beyond doubt. The only question is how to implement it.

Salud, Paz y Democracia
Pj

Non Local Networked DSC’s

What are non-local DSC?
Non*local DSCs are spontaneous collectives of DiEM25 members that are concerned about a specific topic and/but are not able to meet locally and thus resort to technology to discuss those topics and take action on them.
Why do we need Non-local Networked DSCs?
DiEM25’s goal is to democratize the European Union and to reform the European economic system. 
The lack of a common public sphere is one of the main reasons for the current dysfunction of the EU. Political debate is still national, so persons and groups in different European countries cannot discuss common problems together and organize to solve them. In order to build a more democratic Europe, DiEM must be able to give a space for people and groups across Europe to deliberate on common matters together.
The current internal system of forum discussions is inadequate as can be seen from the low activity. We propose that DiEM members should be allowed to create online networking hubs / DSCs across Europe – so that they can discuss issues that matter to them but find no echo in local/surrounding realities.
The proposal for Non-local Network DSCs is also meant to strengthen grassroots democracy in DiEM by giving the grassroots more control over the policy processes. 
The case for allowing non-local DSCs:
In DiEM’s organizing principles, there is no specific dispositions forbidding DSCs from organizing online. According to the OP DSCs are indeed thought as mostly local (“DSCs are best suited for people who live reasonably close to one another”) but there is nothing forbidding its online spontaneity. In fact, there is a mention to this possibility – DCS are supposed to think of ways for their meetings to “make participants leave the (physical or digital) room feeling enthused rather than alienated”
 
DSCs are also “self-governing, with no need to validate their actions from the CC”. and are expected to develop policy proposals to be submitted to the Forum or even to the CC.
 
Amendment to the OP: Non-local Network DSCS
 
DiEM25 should allow for Non-local Network DSCs. 
Non-local Network DSCs offer DiEM members a forum for pan-European policy debate on their topics. The Non-Local Network DSCs are open for all DiEM members and usually deal with transversal topics, common to the entire membership (gender, transparency, internal democratic procedures, Human Rights and Immigration etc).
The CC member responsible for coordinating a specific policy area (e.g. Human Rights) shall be invited to become a member of the corresponding Non-Local Network DSC.
 
Non-local DSCs shall be allowed to take part in all discussions and activities which fall within the objectives and aims of DiEM25
 
Non-Local DSCs should have the same rights as other DSCs, including the right to propose policies and sets of policy alternatives for a membership vote. 
The CC and DiEM coordinators should support the work of the Non-Local Network DSCs in the same way they support the work of regular DSCs.

Support this proposal
 
If you would like to support this proposal you can sign below in a comment and sign this Change.org petition.

 
 

Results of the first DiD Survey

Dear DiEM25 members,

Please find below the results of the first DiD survey, on internal transparency, democracy and movement building. Because we don’t want to offer you an interpretation of the results that would be in any case biased, you can download the results of the survey instead, according to the different languages in which the survey was organised:

English_ResultsDiDSurvey

French_ResultsDiDSurvey

Spanish_ResultsDiDSurvey

Italian_ResultsDiDSurvey

Deutsch_ResultsDiDSurvey

Finnish_ResultsDiDSurvey

 

How to build a grassroots democratic movement.

This post only expresses the opinion of the author

The short answer is YOU CAN’T. The movement has to grow by itself.

A perfectly democratic movement is one in which every individual has equal decision power or at least equal chances of access to the positions of so called power. A grassroots movement is one whose strength lies on the individual contributions of it members who unite to pursue a comon goal and not in the strength of the leadership.

The image of an uncountable number of grass shoots covering the prary is excactly what describes the aspirations of a grassroots movement. Every wisp of grass is autonomous, is independent, is free and strives to make the world greener. The question is then “Which are the conditions in which the grass can best grow?”

The key to grassroots movements is self organization. Anyone, anywhere within the movement, as long as he or she doesn’t contradict the principles of the movement, should be invited to work along the line of personal choice. If there is anything that the movement, as an institution, should do, is precisely to offer a helping hand for those people to start working how they think fit.

In this post I refer to the fact that some people would like to cooperate with other people in their neighbourhood, while others would rather work with people who live thousands of miles away. They will do that because they speak their mother tongue, because they have the same approach to life or just because; but what we, the rest, need to do, is to help them thrive.

DiEM25 is organised around the concept of Spontaneous Collectives. If people spontanously group though the internet and not locally, their contribution to the overal movement should be welcome, and they should be given the chance to take part in the overall game like any other DSC,

Furthermores, in order to interconnect the members of DiEM25 across the continent we should not only be thinking of which tools (Forum, Slack, Loomio, Democracy OS) should we use, but also, more importantly, in which human connexions can make the movement coherent. Technology will never replace human connection. It will make it easier, but not replace it. To work together, to be able to commit to a project, you need to know with whom you are working, be it by means of pen and paper signed letter, teleconference or face to face. There are only so many people you can be in touch with, and you have to trust them

If I personally hear from my colleague in Helsinky that their DSC is going to take to the streets I can happily put my hand in the fire when I talk to my colleagues in Dublin about that action which we may want to support in our city. Of course, a coordinating group could do the same, but it presents a bottle neck in the information flow, because its members can only personally know so many people, and hence they cannot dedicate enough time to each of the people who have to work with them. This is a true fact about information theory as well as about human nature, not a personal remark – and should not be taken as criticism. Note that the internet is so successful precisely because it communicates using redundant paths. You cannot break it. The information will flow some way else if you try.

Thus, in order to foster the growth of the movement, in order to nurture its roots, we should encourage the multiplication of national and trans national spontaneous network collectives, which can either deal with day to day DiEM25 issues or have their thematic lines of work. However, their top priority should be to feed back into their local groups what is happening in the larger world. Anyone coming into DiEM25 must be able to see, with her own eyes, that this is truely a pan European movement, where s/he can work along people from many countries in the subject of European Democracy.

If there where at leas two or three members of each DSC who were simultaneously active in one of multiple and diverse DiEM trans national network collectives, the horizontal information flow in DiEM25 would be so incredibly fast and efficient, that we would be in a possition to say with one voice to the rest of Europe “Come and work with us, we are building a great place to live”

Salud, Paz y Democracia

Pj