"Democratic governance must evolve rapidly if it is to guide us through our social and environmental challenges. We require a deeper, more integrated form of democracy." John Richardson Founder Party 'X'
The lingering memory of a recent Paul Hawken speech was the delivery of a comment from the audience. Stepping back from the mike a representative of Occupy Vancouver proceeded to speak in a manner that would have satisfied the classical elocution teachers of the past. She would pause enabling those close to her to repeat and amplify her remarks. This chorus of course enabled the rest of us to hear what she was saying and the speaker perhaps to gather her thoughts.
What interests me the most about the Occupy movements is their attention to doing democracy differently. No one is in charge. All voices are welcome. Decision making is patient. Everyone is engaged. Everyone is responsible. Everyone is capable.
This move to participatory democracy started before Occupy, was lifted by Occupy and will continue whether Occupy does or not. Sure it's not perfect – there will be mistakes and diversions. I'm grateful my own miscues of youthful protest exuberance weren't magnified in a media spotlight.
John Richardson opened my eyes to the intentional manner in which democratic principles are being rescued by a new generation of activists. They know having the 'right' analysis and solutions isn't enough. They seek new ways of working together, across differences, past hurts, competing solutions and either/or mentality.
John no stranger to reinvention. He transformed the concept of a legal clinic when he founded Pivot Legal Society. Pivot understands the root causes of poverty and social exclusion will not be extinguished by the law alone. They use the full creative force of the law to address violence against women, police brutality, the rights of sex workers; and the criminalization of addiction. Equally Pivot worked just as thoroughly to address cultural attitudes and beliefs that undermine marginalization and inequity.
But that's in the past. After 10 years, an extended silent retreat, John is applying his considerable skills and passion to PartyX. He is not satisfied our current decision making processes are adequate for the task of addressing our complex environmental and social challenges.
Here is PartyX's intention:
Today, representative democracy is our best solution to the challenge of collective decision-making – but current models suffer from significant shortcomings. Invented hundreds of years ago, they disconnect all but small group of politicians from meaningful decisions.
What about the distributed intelligence of the whole community? What is the potential of the internet to raise the level of collective engagement and dialogue, and respond more effectively to the increasingly complex problems facing society?
Party X's vision is the emergence of a new form of democratic governance through developments in multi-party decision-making software, and from the spread of those applications to all facets of society.
Their focus – the decision-making challenges faced by the Occupy movement, with implications for grassroots organizing generally. Their plan is to convene a working group out of this meeting that can work with tech groups in other Occupy cities to create a mobile-based decision platform.
If you are not in Vancouver stay tuned. Their efforts are bound to ricochet around the world like so many other awakenings in 2011 – Egypt, Arab Spring, Occupy. These may be the early stages of a world wide movement – one enabled by social media and smart, thoughtful democrats like John Richardson.