An open space for global conversation
Welcome to Occupy Cafe's ongoing inquiry into the evolution of the Occupy movement, aka "Occupy 2.0" ( a phrase we borrowed from Walt Roberts of InterOccupy.org fame).
As we begin the new year, we invite a shift in focus and energy for these calls and for our work at Occupy Cafe in general. We plan to have the Cafe emerge as a sort of laboratory/playground for the wider movement. The conversation for this round will begin that shift by asking the following questions:
Once the call is complete, we can continue our dialogue using this forum thread.
Here is the link, that I was asked for, to the documentary I mentioned, about the power of the "collective mind" to effect change. It is rather long (2-1/2 hrs) but well worth watching. It is called Quantum Communication.
The other resource I mentioned was Paul Hawken's - Blessed Unrest - "How The Largest Movement In The World Came Into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming". Interestingly, someone at Table 2 for the second question knows him. He sees the worldwide movement for social and environmental change as a "collective" of small (and larger) movements & organizations and even individual actions. He says "a movement that has no name, leader, or location, and that has gone largely ignored by politicians and the media. Like nature itself, it is organizing from the bottom up, in every city, town and culture and is emerging to be an extraordinary and creative expression of people's needs worldwide." Sound familiar ? You bet !! It was published May 2007.
I want to thank you Ben for putting me at Table 2 for the second question. It was valuable hearing from on-the-ground people, about the difficulty of the GA process. I think there is a very real & valuable opening for Occupy Cafe to facilitate or at least develop the process & methods for the on-the-ground movement to have virtual GAs with online back-up to allow flexibility of "weighing in" on decisions in perhaps "closed" groups where membership approval is necessary for voting purposes. The online teleconferencing and online document possibilities could take not only Occupy 2.0 to the next dimension but the GAs as well. Just my 2cents post-call.
"We need a constitutional amendment that fixes ALL problems."
What if the problem was in documents that preceded the constitution? The history of law is always relevant in times of change, and it goes back a very long time.
Ok, Mr. Ben. Your first question is:
"What bold collaborative action might you lead to bring forth an evolutionary shift in the nature of the Occupy movement?"
My answer to that would be -- right now, the Occupy movement is important and potentially powerful -- but absolutely scattered -- and, it would seem, in some danger of collapse into the black hole of its complexity and confusion. The "InterOccupy" site barely begins to coordinate what this movement could/should be -- and, as far as I can tell, offers no innovative ideas. There has been a powerful and articulate critique of the Occupy movement, by people who believe in it and want to see it succeed -- but the movement itself, or its leadership, if such there be, has not yet assimilated this critique.
I think we need a systematic, careful, well-organized process of negotiation that contacts every Occupy group or individual, and calls them in to a kind of agreement. This agreement has to keep track of details, and understand from the beginning that unity is not monolithic agreement. We have to build the capacity for constructive disagreement and creative dialogue into the Occupy movement. And we need a stable, consistent, well organized, highly enlightened approach that builds a shared vision and a core body of agreement by people who want to come into the movement for their own reasons.
Your second question is:
How might Occupy Café evolve to support the design and testing of such ideas?
My answer to that would be -- probably in a bunch of ways. First of all -- what does this "alliance" or "agreement" concept mean -- and secondly, how do we frame it -- and third, where does it live -- where does it exist...?
Just speaking for myself -- I can simply say that I just don't have the resources to spend large amounts of time on conversations that cannot lead to stable constructive results. I spent two years exploring all of this through the Coffee Party -- and that part of my personal learning curve is pretty-much behind me. I don't have the time to talk endlessly with people I don't know, trying to present complex ideas they never heard of through a medium that does not have the right kind of bandwidth for introducing significant multi-part new ideas.
We need a simple and somewhat formal process of engagement -- into a stable and consistent evolving framework, that builds on the input everybody brings -- but does not collapse on a daily or hourly basis into a "start all over again" approach. We build something together, yes, and everybody has a voice, yes -- but we don't toss out what we did because a new person wanders into the room. If we don't do this -- the "conversational approach to revolution" is a lost cause. We need a way to build together, in a way that does not fall apart. And yes, this somewhat flies in the face of some Occupy thinking -- that I believe is naive and unworkable. So, be gentle, be patient, be kind, listen carefully -- and build something stable. Build an agreement. Negotiate an agreement -- that interconnects every person and every organization that wants to have impact. This is bottom-up, yes -- but it is also top-down. Bottom-up alone does not work, cannot work, and never has worked. How long is it going to take before our learning curve or exhaustion reinforces this lesson? Let's figure this out and get something done.
Having said that -- thanks, Ben. I think this place CAN do something significant -- and it might be more important than ever. Peace.
- Bruce Schuman, Santa Barbara
Occupy Express -- http://sharedpurpose.net/home/index.cfm?tq=579402
Thank you for the thought provoking comments, Bruce. I agree that we need containers in which conversation moves into structure, decisions and action. We are getting ready to run our first iteration of such a process over the coming six weeks or so. It will use a combination of conversaitonal processes that flow as follows:
--an initial process of discovering who is here and where their passions and visions lie
--a collective visioning process, where ideas such as your "agreement" can be offered and cross pollinated with other people's inspirations to produce a compelling vision for how OC can serve an evolutionary role in the movement and the wider world
--a design phase where people cluster around strategies that call to them in alignment with the vision, and develop tactical plans for implementing them. Part of the design work will include an infrastructure for the Cafe that provides the support needed to enable the implementation of the larger vision. We plan to use the system of "sociocracy" for this infrastructure, and that will have some of the characteristics you describe above.
So... It's nice to see you active here again, and the timing is good. Count me among those who are not interested in endless conversation for it's own sake, even as I recognize that the simple act of connecting people in conversations that matter has transformative power. Hope you can find some time over the coming weeks to play with us and let's see just what might be possible here. With people like you involved, there's a lot to work with if we decide to come together and create something.
There’s something about the word "agreement" that doesn’t land for me, but I'm thinking that the idea behind that are actually pretty close to things that I do "agree with" (hehe).
I get inspired by the idea of an ecosystem of ideas and action where things happen that are in alignment with our highest aspirations without requiring us to debate the details of which approach or idea is best. And the key would be that the ecosystem would allow for clustering of groups and ideas and initiatives, like imaginal cells in a cocoon, so that more and more complex and powerful outcomes emerge over time.
That said, perhaps there are some core values (sound familiar?!) or, better yet, principles that it would indeed be worth seeking agreement on, and within the bounds of which unlimited creative action is supported. Things like...
Hi Ben, thanks. I'll get into the details of your comments shortly. For me, this is an important discussion, and worth pursuing.
Just to quickly note -- your first bullet in the above message reminds me of the "mission and vision" of my 501c3 -- the Interspirit Foundation -- which I put on FocalPoint here:
The theme is: "Dialogue is a conversation with a center, not sides...."
which is a quote from William Isaacs, author (and MIT professor) of "Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together".
Circles and dialogue are the core of my deepest beliefs. So, I support most or all of what you said above. But -- I also am forced to agree with Ken Wilber's critique of the "green meme" -- which basically says that the price of broad inclusion is often an endless/bottomless conversational process that cannot form a conclusion. He says this is a debilitating psychological condition that has seriously afflicted new-age and progressive thinkers, and labels the condition "Boomeritis" -- since it afflicts so many well-intended baby boomers. Yes -- we need the INclusion -- but we also need CONclusion -- somehow, someway. Or the conversation becomes something like an open wound, with plenty of hot air rising and nothing getting done -- while sucking out all the juice that should be motivating effective action.
Yes, I'm familiar with the "green meme," and also read an interesting critique of it recently (can't find the link now) that suggested it wasn't really true to the basics of Spiral Dynamics. Be that as it may, your desire for everyone to agree on something actually sounded "green memish" to me when I first read it! The ecosystem I imagine is supposed to be yellow/turquoise. I'm not much of an SD expert though, to say the least. Anyhow, I think we agree on this--we're just saying the same thing in different ways.
[For those of you who are wondering about all these colors, see this chart and Google Spiral Dynamics for more.]
"Same thing in different ways" -- an important lesson in politics --
Over on sharedpurpose.net, we built a ton of features for collating the collective input of people, so we can do all this polling stuff. If you can get people to click into a sophisticated interface -- like "My Citizenship" -- which is like a high-dimensional online voting booth -- we could establish common ground pretty quickly across a bunch of demographics and differences.
But the way it feels to me now -- is that the movement is so scattered in so many different ways -- it's very difficult to get people to trust something, or invest in it. Tons of different websites, many different agendas or takes on what is important, different definitions of what the movement is about. So, I am not abandoning that strategy -- but I think where this is going for me now -- is to look for people that I personally think are providing leadership, or bringing a vision that overlaps with others. That doesn't make me an authority or "the decider" -- but it does make it possible to get an initial framework on the board, that we can poke around with and try to improve and bring into better focus.
I think I could say that I have more or less given up hoping that conversation alone is going to form a movement. I think we already have tons of pertinent information, and a very powerful and brilliant array of skills. But so far, we just can't bring any of that into focus. So, we just keep talking, and tending to go over the same ground. It's friendly, and I am sure it does some good. And I totally agree that these conversations are the foundations for the essential "co-creativity" that we really need, if we are going to work together for collective change.
But the process needs facilitation -- not because we need referees to keep us from squabbling -- but because there are hundreds of moving parts -- and the movement is a house of cards that must be held stable -- by somebody or something.
A movement like this -- at least as I see it -- is "synthetic". It's an "out of many, one" kind of thing. Many forces, many motivations, many issues, many demographic groups. Maybe the biggest issue is "money in politics" -- but there are a lot of other concerns -- and they all need to be factored in.
So -- I am just beginning a process of trying to weave constructive forces into a single focus -- by identifying individuals and groups that I personally think are doing some good, and trying to involve them in a negotiation process that can lead to solid common ground.
Nobody sees the whole picture -- but all together, we see a lot. It's absolutely a community project. It's "division of labor". Everybody picks up their corner of the tapestry, and together -- IF we can organize it coherently -- we can become an effective and highly multi-faceted political force.
PS -- yes, I am interested in Paul Hawken's vision and statement, and he is a strong force for good. But he comes from that "bottom up is all you need" school of thinking -- and so, his entire project suffers from the same problem: a zillion interesting and meaningful and important connections -- and no focus, no coherence as a movement. It's still "every man for himself, do your own thing", we'll slog forward in a huge chaordic cloud of semi-related and but non-coherent actions that might, if we are lucky, actually end up not entirely canceling each other out. That point of view says -- "It doesn't matter if the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing", and gives you a passionate argument as to why. But sorry -- I don't buy it. I say -- we gotta work together -- IN the context of our diversity -- because that is the real world, and the only way this "movement" can ever hope to be a movement "in the same direction". So -- imho -- something new is needed. I say -- weave the alliance in an intentional way, and negotiate the details along the way. But don't just sit around and hope that incoherent independent/separate/fragmented actions will transform the world. How many monkeys does it take to type Shakespeare? We need focus and coherence. Concern and heart-felt motivation are great. Now, let's get coherent....
My Saturday afternoon rant....
Here's a suggestion for a lab/playground for the Cafe: everyone gets a "Goals & Strategies" page which they have responsibility for and can modify at any time. Anyone can send comments or arguments as private messages to an author about their page, and the author can incorporate those ideas or reject them as they see fit. Ideas can be copied from another author without attribution and modified in any way. Every so often a poll is taken to determine the "best" page, and that page (or a synopsis thereof) is then featured on the Cafe's home page in order to encourage further consideration and refinement of the ideas which -should- closely resemble the canonical goals & strategies of Occupy.
Just thought I'd share a conversation that we've started at Organization Unbound that's very connected to the Occupy 2.0 inquiry. It explores how the experience of community and direct democracy that has been so strongly felt in recent revolutionary movements can be sustained and deepened as these movements begin the longer institutional walk of reinventing society. We currently have reflections from Egypt, Greece, Iran and Canada and are interested in expanding the conversation over time with more voices and movements, including Occupy.
Here's the link: Taking the Revolution Forward
Superb conversation - but it misses a salient point. Whoever gets to facilitate sets the framework for the broad group - but the wisdom is in the individuals, not in the bulk. I am a chemist - when other people try to tell me how chemistry works - i need to understand the context from which they come. But it doesn't change the way that i know chemistry works. When i speak of chemtrails, it is from a point of understanding a complex issue over years of thought and debate - when a chemtrail denier comes in with their red herring, as they seem to always do, I shut up and leave, i don't need to hear it.
This movement suffers from not listening to people who have been there and insisting that models that don't work be forced through. Get off the democracy kick - it serves as an illusion that tilts the playing field. People who have developed responsibility for their actions have to be able to keep that responsibility, no matter what the group thinks or says. If you want to chase away the true thinkers - set the frame so that they can't or won't play. Then, you don't have to listen to their often valid objection.
I cut my teeth politically with the Reform Part of America after Perot's first run. The party had ballot access, but no structure. Two years of developing Bylaws and making a grass roots party (the American Party) were rapidly defeated in 1996, when the Perot folks came back to support their candidate against Dick Lamm. The idea of compromise was completely lost, because we had to elect a president. What a fiasco - proved to me that politics will never work as a voting shared responsibility. If we really represent the 99% - we have to give responsibility to people that know what they are doing, and then allow them to do that.
Rather than voting, perhaps we can find a better system for evaluating facts - to measure performance. One of the really good things about sports is realistic performance measurement. Teams don't select their shortstop by a vote of fans. If we set realistic metrics of measurement, then we can tell what is good or bad based on the score that it earns. A 30% average is pretty good for hitting a baseball - why do kids need to get 70% to pass a course?
Well food for thought - but please keep me away from boxes where people tell me how i have to think - i think i represent 99% of the 99% in that opinion. (perhaps a form of consensus minus one, would work).
Thanks to everyone for the provocative reflections. I am hearing familiar themes around the tension between democracy and inclusive group processes on the one hand and the ability to focus coordinated and effective action on the other. And along with that, a parallel concern about how to move "from talk to action," or as I prefer to look at it, from talk that is simply "interesting" to conversations that bring forth insight, inspire commitment and generate transformational energy.
The process we will be launching shortly (looking for a catchy name--how about the "Occupy Caffeine?!") is being (collaboratively) designed to examine and work with these tensions. Our process will start by mapping the "positive core" of passions and visions held by individuals connected with the cafe, then have us come together for a collective visioning process around ways that the Cafe can both serve and model the evolution of the movement. Out of that, we plan to support an "ecosystem" of projects and processes that emerge from the various inspirations within the group.
Our hope is that this blend of individual, whole system and self-selected group phases will produce alignment without majority rule, creating space for everyone to pursue what most inspires them in a way that synergizes with the whole. We will be doing several iterations, refining and improving the process as we go.
If you are interested in participating on the core design and planning team (figure on a 5-10 hour/week commitment), please email me ASAP. firstname.lastname@example.org