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A shared vision

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A wise woman climbed to the top of a Himalayan mountain and thought long and hard about the human condition. After long consideration and deliberation she had a vision of how to relieve much of human suffering.

Unbeknownst to her, another wise woman had at the same time climbed to the top of an Alp and thought long and hard about the human condition. After long consideration and deliberation she had a vision of how to relieve much of human suffering.

As the case was, these two wise women had constructed the same vision. Question: did they now have a shared vision?

Let us agree that when we say people have a shared vision, not only does it mean they have the same vision, but it also implies they are aware that they share that vision. So our two mountain thinkers, while unknowingly having the same vision, did not truly share it.

What is the point of this? Well, I want to revisit the issue of organization versus network.

Our Structure-and-program document teaches us that our structure and policy always celebrates internal debate and dissent. So consider this an opportunity for celebration.

Words like 'organization' and 'movement' do not define a specific form of association, and there is no guarantee that we understand them to mean the same when we loosely use them. But they have different connotations, which can also differ for different people. To me, 'organization' is more static, inert, closed; 'movement' is more dynamic, agile, open. But of course you could have something that self-identifies as a movement but is fossilized, and an organization that is nimble. I've observed that for some people the term movement has a connotation of being a temporary association for a short-term goal. For me it more evokes the sense of 'labour movement'.

Whether we call the future incarnation of IOPS an organization or a movement is of secondary importance. I prefer 'movement', but will stick to 'organization' in the remainder of this post. What is really important, however we call it, is that notwithstanding the differences that will always be there, we have a shared vision that we strive to realize together. That is what binds and defines us.

An issue to be decided, regardless of how we name ourselves, is to what extent we will have institutionalized membership. I believe we can have a vibrant organization with a clear identity but without institutionalized membership. An organization formed by a network of close-knit groups with a shared vision and who self-identify as part of the larger whole, knowing that we are all in this together.

I'll go further. I think that throwing our organization wide open will be key to its success. What it takes to be a member, is that you share its vision and self-identify as part of it. But we should also open up to people who aren't at that stage yet; they should be welcome at our meetings, and welcome in our discussions.

I know that to some (including myself) this may seem a radical, dangerous and unproven idea. Nevertheless, it is what I have come to believe. And compared to all the radical, dangerous and unproven ideas we need to believe in, in order to believe in our shared vision, this one is not even that radical.

This idea will encounter objections. Let's discuss them quietly, in an open-minded way. After all, all our ideas raise objections -- you must have heard them a thousand times ad nauseam, 'I wish you success, but these ideas are not realistic!' Please, let's not cheat ourselves by rejecting all wild ideas offhand. Let's think instead together how we can make them work.

Discussion 112 Comments

  • Ian R. 2nd Aug 2012

    Hi Lambert, you wrote:

    "But we should also open up to people who aren't at that stage yet; they should be welcome at our meetings, and welcome in our discussions."

    I agree to that and think that this is a normal modus operandi of any pluralist organization and not very much a point of dissent here.

    However it would be different with membership. I can tell you what happens with a left and progressive movement that has a few active and many more passive members and then opens it´s smembership to everybody with the right to immediately change the programm and statutes of this organization.

    It´s taken over, devided and finally splits.
    This happened many many times in the history of left movements.

    • Lambert Meertens 3rd Aug 2012

      Isn't our membership open to everyone who shares our vision now?

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 2nd Aug 2012

    Good on you Lambert, I welcome the raising of this issue and also all the other questions you have raised in previous blogs. Let the democratic debate begin, hopefully in a friendly, patient, exploratory, 'prefigurative' way, folks.

  • 2nd Aug 2012

    Isn't our membership already open in the way you describe? Right now you have only to agree with the organizational commitments: mission, vision, structure/program. What's different about what you're saying? I also don't know what you mean by institutionalized membership.

    It's a good question whether meetings should be open to nonmembers too. I guess the benefit of closed meetings is that you feel safe and secure in opening up yourself. You can also be more productive by having everyone at the same starting point and/or with the same commitments. The drawback is that you're closing off a route of new people learning about the organization and it's work. Are there other benefits and drawbacks that I'm not thinking of? I guess you could have some closed meetings and some open meetings to, with different agendas that suit the different styles.

    How does this tie back to your allegory about the two women without shared visions?

    • Lambert Meertens 3rd Aug 2012

      For one thing, to become an (interim) member of IOPS, you have to register. In China we now have a grand total of seven members, of which only one appears to have Chinese ethnicity. Maybe that low number reflects something else than the relatively low Internet penetration. After all, China has some 500 million Internet users, more than the whole U.S. population. Our key documents are available in Mandarin; that's not the issue. But in general I think the requirement of registering before you can participate forms a major psychological barrier.

      As to the allegory, the point was to emphasize what I mean by a shared vision: not only the same revolutionary vision, but one with a shared revolutionary consciousness.

  • Caragh - 3rd Aug 2012

    Thank you for this.

    If we want a revolution it will take more then wondering around with a list of ideas.

    It will take learning to understand all the ways people have struggled. It will take extracting ourselves from our own drama and ego and becoming immersed in life.

    It will take humility, patience and an unshakeable sense of humour.

    And opening the door is not such a big thing - unless of course we believe we have nothing to learn from the rest of the world :)

    Closing the door means we will just make another prison and spend all our time trying to prove to each other that it isnt.
    All one track minded people have achieved in the past is suffering. Regardless of intention.

    http://www.gentleapocalypse.com/2010/06/history-of-world-from-pre-history-to.html

  • Ian R. 3rd Aug 2012

    @Lambert: surely membership is open to everybody who shares our vision.

  • Lambert Meertens 3rd Aug 2012

    Many movements in history started as revolutionary but gradually adapted more and more reformist positions until all revolutionary aspirations had vanished. The prime example is of course the German SPD, which was put on the reformist path by Bernstein. That did not happen because the SPD had opened their doors whereupon new anti-revolutionary members gushed in and united to subvert the nature of the movement. Rather, the shift was initiated from within its core. You also see this in many other cases.

    Indeed, there is a tendency of initially revolutionary movements in which they begin to view their revolutionary aspiration as unnecessary baggage and eventually leave it at the wayside. This manifests itself particularly strongly when seeking change through parliamentary representation. Where does this tendency come from? I think that the root cause is a loss of confidence that the movement can ever gain broad support if it does not aim for short-term results, together with a deep-felt need to see a viable path to victory. And this need is felt most by the members who are committed most to the cause.

    How is IOPS different? I see in fact several essential points. The first one is that IOPS is both truly internationalist and truly international. That combination is important. Then, we are not a narrowly focussed movement; the revolutionary aspirations of our vision encompass a broad spectrum of major worthy causes. Last, but not least, not only do we advocate self-management as a principle of social organization, but we also live by that principle ourselves.

    Believe me, I fully understand the fear of losing coherence. But consider this. If IOPS does not succeed in gaining a large adherence, what we discuss here is moot. But if we are successful, and membership is not in the thousands but in the millions, then any notion of keeping a central grip through whatever participatory delegation mechanism is illusory. Our coherence can only come from a voluntary bottom-up association fueled by a shared revolutionary vision and consciousness, by local groups being aware and cherishing that they are part of something larger, something that spans the globe.

  • Ian R. 3rd Aug 2012

    Lsmbert, I completely agree in what you said. I wrote my first comment very late and understood you in the sense, that we should not only open meetings and discussions but mebership as well to people who don´t share our vision.

  • Will Henry Lapinel 3rd Aug 2012

    Lambert,

    I appreciate your bringing this up. As you mention, it has been discussed (rather heatedly) before, but it is nice to talk about it calmly and without accusatory language (ulterior motives, subversion and the like).

    Network vs. Organization.

    Are you suggesting that we keep the founding documents, but not require people to express agreement with them before joining the organization? Why would someone join an organization whose aims they do not agree with?

    My concern is that you would then have central, defining document that would have no weight with its own members.

    If the concern is that we are being too restrictive, then the solution is to broaden our documents. That is a more reasonable proposal to me. However, I personally feel that they are already very broad, and to eliminate a principle here or there in order to get more members is taking the wrong approach.

    Yes, we need to educate and reach out to people. But we don't need to recruit people to IOPS in order to reach out and talk about what we feel is important.

    I am a strong advocate of open meetings. I personally have invited many friends of mine, who are very far from the radical left, to my local chapter meetings. My chapter plans to hold a publicized "Intro to IOPS" -type event some time this year.

    I have even said that IOPS could have a "network" function within the website (I don't know why people get up-in-arms at the sound of "network") that non-members and members alike could use to find other leftist-organizations and media sources (where is the international directory of progressive organizations?) But I would be strongly against throwing IOPS open. I think that would soon render our name meaningless and farcical.

  • Gerry Conroy 3rd Aug 2012

    Lambert Meertens:'... But in general I think the requirement of registering [as a formal member of IOPS] before you can participate forms a major psychological barrier....'

    The bit in the square brackets is my insertion for clarity.

    Lambert, I really don't know why you think registering as a formal member of IOPS is a 'major psychological barrier'. You give the example of the current lack of Chinese participation as a possible example - but that would suggest that we'd start to see significant Chinese participation if we abandoned the requirement to register as a member - which doesn't make much sense to me either.

    Also, wouldn't this would mean that absolutely anybody could post in the forums for example - and the endless headbanging that would ensue - wearing out people's patience and driving them away?

  • 4th Aug 2012

    I feel that the amorphous, de-centralized nature of the occupy movement is what led to it becoming scattered and ineffective. I'm all for keeping membership open, but we need to maintain a sense of community while doing so. Likewise, if this does expand and we do end up with millions of members, this popularity will bring with it the "trolls" who will infiltrate the message boards and blogs in an attempt to derail the conversation. If we have open membership, we need an effective means of discouraging that type of behavior.

  • Lambert Meertens 4th Aug 2012

    It is important to understand why and how Occupy became ineffective. For one thing, it was clear what they were against, but not what they were for; what was their vision? For another, the only way to join the conversation was by being physically present on some windy square, with far too many people to have a real in-depth discussion. I think these factors were far more determining than their openness, which was in fact maybe the best part of the whole movement.

    Regardless of everything else, for our organization to be effective in changing the world, we need to function as a network of close-knit smaller groups. And for changing the world we need millions and millions of members, with all the issues that will bring.

    We should not worry over the ideological purity of our members, requiring that every member support every last item in our founding documents with full conviction. That would make us a fundamentalist sect, in which warring over the precise interpretation of this or that phrase will inevitably set in. And from the practical side, it is totally unenforceable. IOPS as a whole does not put more focus on any of the central issues it addresses than on the others. But, inevitably, individual members may give priority to some issues over others; some are driven primarily by ecological concerns, others by issues of social justice. That is fine, as long as we support each other and view our individual efforts as contributing to the shared struggle towards a shared goal.

    In my vision, people do not become members by expressing agreement with our documents, but by actually agreeing with the vision described there and committing themselves to joining in. These documents need to be translated anyway into something broadly understandable; as they are now, their style sends a terribly wrong message. Formally registering as a member is an express token of that commitment, but it is not essential. Anyone signing up can claim that they agree with our keys documents, but we can't know if they actually do.

    Of course we must defend our conversation against derailment by the inevitable trolls, cranks, provocateurs, and what have you. That holds for our website, but equally for face-to-face meetings. We can't do that by having a hellhound at the gates; we can't train that hellhound or whatever to recognize trolls and agents before they reveal themselves through their actions. Given the choice between a troll-free membership of mere thousands, and millions of members while also having to fight trolls, I choose the latter.

    Haven't you wondered why IOPS is not more successful? We have a slow and steady growth in membership, but the emphasis should perhaps be more on "slow" than on "steady". Why doesn't this spread as wildfire? Why are there so few young enthusiasts? I quote from the open letter about IOPS: "We think hundreds of thousands of people, in fact, millions of people, will, on reading the commitments [of IOPS], overwhelmingly agree with them." I think so to. But only a minute fraction of those who agree make the decision to register as a member. If many people agree but so few join, we must be doing something wrong. And if you ask me (thank you for asking), it is because we somehow do not succeed in projecting an open, inviting and welcoming feeling, do not frame our message as a message of hope, and fail to make clear that everyone counts.

  • Gerry Conroy 4th Aug 2012

    Lambert, just to address a few of your points.

    >'Regardless of everything else, for our organization to be effective in changing the world, we need to function as a network of close-knit smaller groups.'

    As long as that means IOPS participates in those networks as a unitary organisation, I agree. And of course within the organisation, we'd expect to have diverse 'currents', favouring different approaches to various issues - but always within the overall organisational definition.

    >'Given the choice between a troll-free membership of mere thousands, and millions of members while also having to fight trolls, I choose the latter.'

    I'd say it's much more efficient to keep them out. :) They'll just put most people off. To be honest, I'd be more concerned with the endless, wearing sectarian headbanging with people who share a relatively close vision to ours - but who are Leninists of some kind, say - or even those who I think of as the 'mystical anarchists' - people who basically fear organisation and the discipline it necessarily imposes. I've seen - and had personal experience of - people with that attitude calling other activists 'fascists' for their more disciplined approach. I believe we need to guard against that kind of thing to maintain a relatively calm space for ideas and related practises to grow - and to avoid 'burnout'.

    >'If many people agree but so few join, we must be doing something wrong.'

    Well, there's tremendous skepticism out there - and cynicism and unfortunately, nihilism. We may not be doing anything much wrong at all! Just trying to grow against the flow and become more convincing for people and then eventually reaching a critical mass.

    • Lambert Meertens 4th Aug 2012

      I'm curious what measures you envisage that will be effective in keeping the trolls out.

      As I see it (as of yet mainly in my dreams), IOPS is the network. I do not see its functioning as a network as incompatible with having a well-defined identity. That identity should be enshrined in a document that inspires people and that they can rally around, and that can only be changed by consensus.

      The nodes of the network are not meant to correspond to "currents". They are formed by groups of people who are confronted with joint issues, like people living in the same neighbourhood, or working for the same company, or who are joined in the struggle for a common concrete cause. Some would call this "cells", but unless you're a Christian in a cell church, that term has a connotation of a clandestine group, which is the very opposite of what I propose.

      With Leninists, either they don't practise the vision they preach, or it is fundamentally at odds with my vision. There are those who see themselves as the revolutionary vanguard who will lead the masses (which, as is well known, can only attain a pre-revolutionary level of consciousness) to the glorious revolution. Well, count me out in that vision. What I see, and believe is possible, is an organization that forms a mass movement and at the same time has a revolutionary consciousness and a revolutionary vision.

      By the way, I'm all in favour of being convincing. Let's start now.

  • Larry Bishop 4th Aug 2012

    Thanks Lambert, This discussion is a very important one that is integral to achieving growth in an fledgling movement and should be an ongoing discussion. Two observations for my part which you have touched on stand out. First: You write, "In my vision, people do not become members by expressing agreement with our documents, but by actually agreeing with the vision described there and committing themselves to joining in. These documents need to be translated anyway into something broadly understandable; as they are now, their style sends a terribly wrong message." I agree that in the sense of language and understandability, there is a density that is probably discourages consumption and it certainly isn't presented with an "everyman" approach. Two: You write "And if you ask me (thank you for asking), it is because we somehow do not succeed in projecting an open, inviting and welcoming feeling, do not frame our message as a message of hope, and fail to make clear that everyone counts." This dovetails with point one in that the average man will not feel included if the atmosphere is rarefied and overly intellectualized. People somehow need to feel like this is an organization where they can make a meaningful and productive contribution and for that to effectively happen there will need to be a greater emphasis on the various ways in which people can participate, each according to his/her means and abilities.

    • Lambert Meertens 4th Aug 2012

      Indeed, the only articulated expression of people's hesitation to join I've encountered is: "I don't see how I can contribute." Nothing like what's on the Why Join IOPS Q&A list.

  • Gerry Conroy 4th Aug 2012

    > ´I'm curious what measures you envisage that will be effective in keeping the trolls out.´

    Well ´trolls´ are relatively easy to identify by their disruptive behaviour and as long as we have the formal membership arrangement (which you suggest is not a good idea), then they can be excluded and can no longer post, same as is done on many forums.

    People who join - and who aren´t trolls - but who disagree with some fundamental aspect of the organisation´s constitution - it´s mission, vision, strategy statements - will have a position of dissent which reflects their disagreement. That simply means they should be in a different organisation - and frequently that could well be an organisation which IOPS could be allied with as part of a larger network or coalition, aiming to attain some shared goals in the near or even longer term.

    • Lambert Meertens 4th Aug 2012

      We have no way to keep trolls from signing up, pretending to be new members, and then start trolling away; you can see that happening at Wikipedia all the time. So I don't believe for a second that formally registered membership will prevent that with us. Also, the unregistered discussant who gives the impression of trolling might well be someone whose intention is to have a serious debate on an aspect of IOPS they think is questionable, but who has a problem conveying their thoughts in an effective way. In the end we can only use our intuition to discern trolling from unintentionally disruptive behaviour for registered members and others alike. But all this is somewhat of a side issue.

      Disagreement has many shades and hues. Someone can disagree with some fundamental aspect in the sense that they would have approached it differently; it does not need to mean that they fundamentally disagree. For many years I was active in a political party that based itself on both pacifism and socialism. Membership was based on conviction; it was not an easy springboard for a political career. So were all members convicted pacifists and socialists? Of course not. Some were principled pacifists, and saw socialism more as a means towards their goals than as a goal by itself. Some others were more anti-militarist than pacifist and supportive of the armed struggle of oppressed peoples, but were comfortable with supporting the pacifist aim. While there were occasionally major differences of opinion in the party on other issues, particularly strategy, even leading to splits, the existing tension between the more extreme proponents of either wing never gave rise to serious problems and did not keep them from respecting each other's position and working side by side.

    • Larry Bishop 4th Aug 2012

      For myself "trolls" are not an issue,they in a sense "go with the territory". However, those who habitually take the bait inadvertently create fertile ground for the troll to do his/her thing. This can potentially lead to what appears to be an organization riddled with rancour and infighting to those who might be taking an initial look as to what this organization is all about. I saw much of this on many different Occupy pages, accompanied by critical remarks from people who were obviously not involved directly in the movement, much of it because they simply couldn't recognize what was really taking place. Much of that could have been avoided if people had simply refused to engage with the "troll" in the first place.

  • Gerry Conroy 4th Aug 2012

    Regarding what people can do, there´s the Getting Involved link on the front page left side menu. Maybe those suggestions could have more detail added? Or the link itself needs a more prominent position - maybe people are missing it?

    Or maybe, "I don't see how I can contribute." is mostly a polite way of saying "no".

  • Mark Evans 4th Aug 2012

    Lambert - I don't understand your argument. It is not clear to me but it seems that you are proposing two contradictory positions.

    1) On the one hand you seem to be talking quite positively about the organisational benefits of shared vision.


    2) On the other hand you seem to be advocating that IOPS should welcome people who do not share our vision -

    If that is correct then I don't understand how you can argue for both these positions. After all if we had members who did not agree with our vision (2) then by definition we would not have shared vision (1). Obviously we can not have it both ways.

    Furthermore IOPS has been set up in such a way that membership is based on agreement with the organisational description, part of which is our commitment to our visionary component. This is clearly in line with (1) and, again, by definition, a clear rejection of (2).

    • Lambert Meertens 4th Aug 2012

      I was thinking of people who agree with us that the world will be a better place if our vision becomes reality, but who are not yet at the stage where they can self-identify as being committed to our efforts -- if only because they think our vision, while beautiful, is unrealizable. Or perhaps because they don't see that they can make a difference. So they agree with our vision, but they don't share it -- yet. There will be many such people. How should we approach them?

      We can tell them, "You first need to see the light, which will give you the key to unlock the gate by which you can enter our club." Or we can say, "Why don't you come to our next meeting, where you can see that we are not a bunch of revolutionary crazies but quite normal (although revolutionary) people." And of course, if they then show up, we don't say, "You can sit in the corner thee and keep your mouth shut." We encourage them to participate in the discussion. They may even have something valuable to contribute.

    • Jason Chrysostomou 5th Aug 2012

      Lambert -

      From my experience, new people who have an interest in the ideas you are organising around - participatory society vision - but are not yet sure if they want to commit to joining the organisation, attending an organisational meeting may not be the best first point of contact. The reason being that anyone thinking about joining may first want to ask questions, talk about the ideas further, find out more first in an informal setting, rather than jump straight in with a formal meeting of members planning actions and strategies. It can be quite intimidating and even off-putting.

      I think it should be left to local chapters on how best to approach this issue - which is an important one. But in my opinion having separate informal introduction or social events aimed for non-members are better settings for those who are interested, but not yet ready to join, to get to know the group and discuss the ideas in a more relaxed setting.

      I think things like trial memberships can be introduced, which allows new members to test out whether IOPS is right for them, before committing to be a full member and taking part in decisions, paying dues, etc.

      Ultimately, of course, when someone does become a full member, it needs to be clear what the rights, responsibilities and expectations are, and, like with any effective organisation, this means sharing the goals and commitments of the organisation.

  • Alex of... 5th Aug 2012

    i have been party to some of the debates on network verses organization, and i really think that IOPS could be both. or that is, SHOULD be both. too heavily focused as an 'organization' is thinking small and just one more fish in the sea. it is, yes, fundamentalist and limited. the part that is relevant is understanding shared vision and i believe that takes experience through collaborate effort as a network.

    so yes, being welcome to those that aren't at that stage yet, while creating an atmosphere of encouragement and exploration. so, meetings based on local networks that don't require automatic subscription to all aspects, yes. and yes, regionally, nationally and internationally as well.

    so as to agreeing with the key documents, then, no, ideological purity should not be necessary. and yes, if one, or a group, is working toward ecological concerns but has never considered too much about the economy directly, that's okay. that's part of developing the vision. right now the vision is just some words, but there are plenty of individuals and groups working on various aspects of that vision in tangible ways, but separated in the cause toward a better world. thus we must network.

    the way i might see a network working, incompletely, would to be as inclusive as possible on all aspects of the visionary statements. if a group or individual is dedicated to ecology, then allow the space for that. in fact, ask for it. ask for their help. don't ask them to join 'us'. we need them, not them us. we need each other.

    i would like to see the spheres of the vision as development centers working on their own, to some degree. and larger groups that are interested could be something an individual adds their membership to. and with all that existing in one place, exploration and relationships to other spheres and groups can grow. i could be a member of ecology and maybe later, economy. i could be a member of 350.org or wwoof here, a member of parecon or a local egalitarian household network, a member of occupy, a member of a homeless shelter. being members of different groups from local to international based on my particular interest within a network helps me explore my inclinations, investments or strongest suit, and expand from. and as many people are doing that we are building bridges and becoming more and more united. in that, the visionary concepts are being strengthened in their fields as well as being realized as different fields start finding a deeper relationship in their connection. the vision is then created by the presence of those in each sphere while existing in a network/organization that has encouraged a platform to share. solidarity. solutions can be built together and calls to action become more possible through a mass movement network built of many networks, groups, cells, individuals.

    • Jason Chrysostomou 5th Aug 2012

      IOPS is an organisation with a mission, vision and programme, and like with any organisation it requires members to share its goals and specific commitments. Our long term goal is to win a new participatory society, but that doesn't mean IOPS is somehow anti-networking or that it can't work with other groups to get there - which would make no sense. IOPS members should be working with other groups on common campaigns and be integrated with the wider movement. IOPS does require those that join it share it's commitments - to self-management, to advancing the vision, to building the seeds of the future in the present, and so on.. But at the same time, I think IOPS members can and should be working in and with other groups around common campaigns when there is overlap. I don't see there needs to be any contradiction here and if i created any confusion in any of my previous posts I apologise.

    • Alex of... 5th Aug 2012

      no apologies i see necessary Jason. thanks. i elaborated a bit further down. just questions, thoughts. so i apologize if they are too unclear, are completely outlandish or just plain contrary to the IOPS intent.

  • 5th Aug 2012

    Hi All,

    Interesting blog and conversation, thank you. Here's to everyone having an epiphanic moment at a serene location.

    Two things I wanted to point out:

    1. The number of participants located in China was mentioned, along with the observation that few of these participants seem to have Chinese ethnicity. I'd respond with a reminder that China is like most places composed of many different ethnicities, though yes there is a numerical / political majority.

    I agree with the point that IOPS membership/participation could be more diverse and inclusive even as it retains coherence around a statement of principles and guiding treatises. But I'm uncomfortable with evaluations of diversity and inclusiveness based on racial/ethnic phenotype (what the photos look like). This is a fraught and messy determination which doesn't say much about the power dynamics or "authorization to speak" within an organization.

    Also, reviewing the IOPS Simpsons video on the home page I notice that the workers in the EPZ scene seem to be racially marked with slanted eyes, a distinctive skin pigment, and uniformly dark straight hair. Together with the panda chained to a wheelbarrow, the video hails China and ethnic Chinese as "the proletariat."

    I agree worker abuse in export processing zones for US recreational consumption is a serious problem, and recognize the merit of calling attention to this serious problem through a popular cultural text. However, I think it's a problem to represent Asians as docile workers suffering and toiling in silence (in the cartoon, only the Americans have speaking roles, and after the initial EPZ sequence the focus remains on introducing IOPS to the small-town American via Lisa Simpson and cartoon Stephen Hawking).

    These racially specific cartoon images echo with a long history of misrepresentation. The "coolie" contract laborer figure has circulated for centuries in cartoons, signaling US and European imperial domination and Asian subordination. Such representations play conveniently into U.S. reactionary politics whereby the causes of deindustrialization and offshoring of manufacturing jobs are obscured in a generalized race panic and hostility toward Asian people (anyone "looking Chinese").

    Given all this, I'm surprised that there is surprise that so few Asians have joined. (Remember, Chinese is conflated with Asian under the "all look same" logic)

    2. The term "revolutionary crazies." Now I get that you're being facetious, Lambert. But I'd also point out something I'd guess is common knowledge, how people who challenge unjust systems are frequently associated with "crazy" (in addition to worthless, lazy, stupid, selfish, spoiled, immature, outrageously queer, uppity, bitcherrific, unpatriotic, elitist, lacking in common sense, or some other variety of social contaminant) for their efforts. Their sanity and their perspective on social reality are already under question for "speaking truth to power" so to speak.

    Also, casual use of the term "crazy" erases the struggles of people with mental illness (or psychiatric disability or diverse neural state) to care for themselves and function adequately in societies that stigmatize mental illness, in part by conflating mental illness with criminal insanity (consider the valences of descriptors like "illness," "disorder," or "madness"). "Crazy" in common parlance separates the diseased from the healthy individual through an fictive norm* of rationality.

    There is a radical mental health movement (with origins overlapping in post-psychiatry, anti-psychiatry, radical social work, psychiatric survivor movements) which encompasses a variety of endeavors to restore autonomy, direct democracy, dignity, and humane care to individuals, groupings, and institutions that address mental health. By "revolutionary crazies" I didn't get that you were referring to any sectors of this radical mental health movement, but that reference came to my mind. While hyperbole and humor have their place, I think it's good to be more precise with language and more critically aware with representation, especially when it comes to trying to represent an Other (the subaltern, the mad & the sad) defined by their inability to represent or speak for themselves.

    I'm willing to answer questions or provide clarification or supporting evidence for 1)- 2).

    *This norm may be fictive but nevertheless has social consequences. It's also a function of power (doctor over patient, institution over individual, and the product/generator of cultural, scientific, medical discourse).

    Best,

    Perry

    • Jason Chrysostomou 5th Aug 2012

      Hi Perry. Do you know the name of the Radical Mental Health Movement or any organisations in it, that look at institutional solutions to mental health problems?

    • Ian R. 5th Aug 2012

      @Jason: Maybe take a look at the page of Bruce E. Levine:

      I don´t know if it´s what you are searching for, but the articles and blog entries are worth reading anyway.

      http://brucelevine.net/category/bruce-levine-blog/

      BTW: I agree to that Simpsons video (I forgot it because I blocked vimeo by accident), didn´t like it for three reasons:

      - The stereotypes Perry mentioned.
      - The geek and pop culture approach
      - The lengths of it.

      I´d prefer if there would be just an issue based infovideo of 2 Minutes with some background music, some moving text (maybe some fitting animation or pictures) & speech.

    • Lambert Meertens 5th Aug 2012

      @Perry: The term "Chinese ethnicity" was not felicitous. What I should have said was that (making an educated guess based on the information available in their profiles) six of the seven appear to be expats originating from the Western world. I definitely did not intend to suggest any racial aspects.

      I used the term "crazies" because it is how many people will describe people who believe they can change the world, at least as they imagine them: as a bunch of uncouth, unreasonable and unsound fanatics raving incoherently. That is unfortunate, but it is a reality we have to break through.

      In general, we should encourage people to break free from all forms of prejudice and stigmatization, of all divisive notions of "us" versus "them".

    • Jon Doe 11th Aug 2012

      Hey perry!

      thanks for your engaged critique! The simpsons video is clips of previously created simpsons shows edited together, with a small amount of voice over to create something new, and hopefully engaging and appealing. It has some significant drawbacks, most obviously it had to use only images that have been created by the illustrators of the simpsons. The opening sequence with the images of the "asian" workers was actually animated by the UK street artist Bansky. It is satirical critique (ie the panda, and unicorn) of Fox out sourcing there animation artists to South Korean sweat shop workers. It does run the risk of being stereotypical, but it also is based on an actual critique of specific labor practices and is done in the silly simpsons style. Because The Simpsons is arguably the most watched show in the history of global televison, it seemed like a good platform for getting out information on a new radical organization in an accessible way to a global audience. But it does have its draw backs. There is a IOPS group that is dedicated to creating new introductory videos with videos of actual IOPS members!

      The IOPS video promo group:
      http://www.iopsociety.org/projects/iops-video-productions

      For more info on the Bansky Simpsons Opening:
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/oct/11/banksy-the-simpsons-bart

    • 19th Aug 2012

      Hi Jon Doe,

      Thanks for the background on the Simpsons video, and links for people to participate in IOPS media production and feedback.

      Simpsons has been taken to task elsewhere for its racially-ethnically marked characters and I should have mentioned that earlier, along with the geographic distinctions among forms of ethnic lumping, along with how these processes coincide with (or are distinct from) the misrepresentation and violence encountered by many other racialized groups.
      By trying to write critique in fast blog comments, I'm doing the very erasures I'm saying we should move away from in order to better understand and support felicitous intercommunalist practices. Back to the drawing board.

      For anyone interested, some hubs for analysis and commentary on U.S. pop culture, race, and politics.

      more culture-focused

      racialicious.com
      sepiamutiny.com (archived)
      hyphenmagazine.com

      aaja.org/category/media-watch/

      more politics-focused

      colorlinesmagazine.org
      jalanjournal.org (archive?)
      peopleofcolororganize.com
      saalt.org

      Best,

      Perry

  • Mark Evans 5th Aug 2012

    "I was thinking of people who agree with us that the world will be a better place if our vision becomes reality, but who are not yet at the stage where they can self-identify as being committed to our efforts -- if only because they think our vision, while beautiful, is unrealizable. Or perhaps because they don't see that they can make a difference. So they agree with our vision, but they don't share it -- yet. There will be many such people. How should we approach them?"

    This still does not make sense to me.

    Lambert - you seem to be arguing that people who do not want to join IOPS should be allowed to join. But if they don't want to join, for whatever reason, then we obviously can not make them join.

    That said, we should, of course, engage with such people and try our best to address their concerns, feeling of powerlessness, etc. and when successful it is then that such people join IOPS. This, I would have thought, would be a primary activity for all IOPS members.

    • Lambert Meertens 5th Aug 2012

      I think you may misunderstand my intention. In my idea, our members are defined by the fact that they share our vision, and consider that part of their identity. So I do definitely not propose that people who do not want to join should be allowed to join. In the idea I am proposing here, that is impossible by definition. Joining is the same as wanting to join, there is no in-between step. If you share the vision, you have thereby joined the ranks. If for whatever reason you don't share the vision, you are not taking part. But we hope that that is a temporary condition.

      You can welcome people to your home as guests; it does not make them members of the household. I think we should likewise welcome sympathizers as guests -- not (yet) as members (see above).

  • 5th Aug 2012

    Hi Jason,

    The Icarus Project Network and MindFreedom International come to mind (both are U.S. based and define advocacy with an inter- or transnational scope). Perhaps others could also suggest links, lit, or resources?

    mindfreedom.org
    theicarusproject.net

    The Philadelphia Association may be of interest, though I don't know how people affiliated with it would locate it in relation to radical mental health or post/ex/anti psychiatry today.

    philadelphia-association.co.uk

    Best,

    Perry

    • Alex of... 5th Aug 2012

      good stuff for a revolutionary wiki!

    • 6th Aug 2012

      Thanks Alex,

      Revolution by the wiki, nice!

      An aside-- I checked out the wikipedia page on anti-psychiatry: looks comprehensive and lists many links to orgs, for anyone interested in the topic.

      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-psychiatry

      Best,

      Perry

  • 5th Aug 2012

    I think there are many people who have not yet joined IOPS that are disturbed by where the world is trending, who want a better world but don’t know how to gain it. They feel powerless and look for ways to escape facing directly what looks like a grim future. These people need our support and vision, they need to come to recognize that they are not powerless when they join with others in a common pursuit, and we at IOPS need to find ways to convey this while working within the framework of our vision. That’s the challenge.

    My guess is this will require that we develop a multifaceted approach since each country and region has its own diverse history, varying beliefs and traditions, and local problems and demands. We have much in common though.

    I think this and other blogs are an indication that we are working toward meeting this challenge.

  • 5th Aug 2012

    Thanks for clarifying, Lambert. My apologies if I misread your post. The challenges of inclusion and representation remain as they would with any similar initiative, and I'd agree with John Vincent that here is a chance to confront and maybe transcend them.
    Perhaps we could come up with other introductory videos that express more or different culturally plural perspectives.

    Levine's blog entries look really interesting and pertinent. Thanks for posting, I.N.

    Best,

    Perry

  • Mark Evans 5th Aug 2012

    "I think you may misunderstand my intention. In my idea, our members are defined by the fact that they share our vision, and consider that part of their identity. So I do definitely not propose that people who do not want to join should be allowed to join. In the idea I am proposing here, that is impossible by definition. Joining is the same as wanting to join, there is no in-between step. If you share the vision, you have thereby joined the ranks. If for whatever reason you don't share the vision, you are not taking part. But we hope that that is a temporary condition."

    Then I don't see what the difference is between what you are proposing in your blog and what we already have here at IOPS... There is nothing stopping members inviting sympathetic people as guests to meetings or events that they organise - in fact I would have thought that would be standard practice.

  • 5th Aug 2012

    Lambert,

    It seems like the small number of Chinese IOPS members could be explained by other factors besides the requirement to register to be a member of IOPS, for example, perhaps most Chinese have not heard of IOPS. Do you have other evidence that registration is a big barrier to participation?

    What's an example of what you are suggesting with non-registered membership?

    I still don't see how the allegory with the women and mountains ties back to the membership discussion. Can you elaborate more?

    • Lambert Meertens 5th Aug 2012

      I have no concrete evidence. But there have been strenuous crackdowns on dissidents using the Internet. We also see very few members in Russia. Undoubtedly more would have joined if they knew about IOPS. But the same forces that keep people from joining although they may want to, may also keep them from spreading the word through the Internet.

      The Why Join IOPS Q&A suggests the possibility of joining under an alias, but that is not well advertized and you must still give a real email address.

      If the heart of the organization is formed by small tight-knit groups, as I advocate, members can be active in such groups without accessing our website. Perhaps they don't even have Internet access.

      I needed to emphasize that merely having the same vision is not enough. It is good to agree on a vision, but in some ways that is the least important part of it. What is essential to our functioning is that we know and feel that we are all working together, worldwide, to realize the same goal, that we know and feel that individually we are powerless before the powers that be, but together, in solidarity, we can change the world.

      To drive the point home that in my terminology a shared vision is more than a vision merely agreed upon, I introduced an allegory.

  • 5th Aug 2012

    For the organization to grow it may take more than just inviting sympathetic people to join or to attend meetings and events, though that is certainly the first step. I think many people who are sympathetic to the gender and kin, culture and community, international, and ecological aspects of our vision find its economic aspects so contrary to the current dominate state of affairs that they are hesitant to join, feeling either that it would take too much effort to understand or that it's an unrealistic aim. I've found this to be true for someone who has accumulated a sizable student loan debt in order to complete graduate school and is now working it off at a nonprofit helping develop schools in Africa. I think we need to find ways to convince people such as this to join; I don't think they should be arbitrarily, or unintentionally, turned away just because they are reluctant to except something that has been engrained since birth. It's a challenge that may be aided as Perry suggests with more introductory videos (or other media such as the Parecomic that is underdevelopment) ones that demonstrate how our economic vision could be realistically achieved over time in today's world.

  • Lambert Meertens 5th Aug 2012

    Months ago, even before IOPS was founded, I started work on a document describing my vision of an international movement for a better world. People around me had asked me to put on paper what I was telling them. Unaware of the formation of IOPS, I continued tweaking and polishing it, on and off. It has been uploaded under Resources in the state it was in when I first heard of IOPS. If you read it, you may have a better understanding where I'm coming from.

    A friend, whom I had given my document, forwarded me the open letter of 23 July. That was the first time I heard of IOPS. When I saw the IOPS platform, I was struck by how much that what I had come up with while perched on my mountain top (just kidding) had in common with the IOPS vision. So much so, that I did not think twice before signing on to join in in the good fight. Still, I was somewhat disappointed with the structure description. It did not have the right feel to it, given our aspirations. Too much like the old conventional hierarchical structure. In the past that would have been the only way to maintain coherence. But things have changed. Now is different, and in particular the growth of the Internet and social networks is a powerful game changer. I fear that if we hold to the old ways, we are missing an opportunity, one that I believe will be the difference between success and failure. (I didn't mean to sound like the Delphic oracle here.)

    How does what I'm proposing differ from the currently envisaged functioning of the structure? (Or, more precisely, from the impression I get when I interpret the current description.) These differences may seem slight and largely psychological, and to a large extent they are, but nevertheless I think they are important. When deciding that enough is enough, that now is the time to come in action, people are driven by their feelings as much as by reason. If we do not project the right message, one that resonates in their hearts, we fail.

    I agree with everyone that maintaining the coherence of our organization is essential, and that our identity must not be diluted. That will not be automatic, it will take a conscious effort, but this will be an effort of everyone together, fueled by an earnest desire and fierce resolution to make this work because it has to work this time. No central committee can replace that.

    The main difference is that, in my vision, the heart of the organization, that which drives it, are small groups of people who regularly meet and get to know each other well – although some geographically dispersed groups may use virtual meetings. These groups are independent of any hierarchical structure, except possibly by voluntary and mainly spontaneous association because it corresponds to their needs. While these groups are largely autonomous, they are not isolated; they form an active network, like the nervous system of an organism.

    Individual members are not assigned to this or that group. They can be active in as many groups as they want and can manage.

    Occasions may arise that require that we determine the consensus regarding some issue of members in a large polity, or even the whole organization. But I contend that will be a rare event, not something we should use as determining the structure and daily functioning of the organization, thereby sacrificing its viability before it even got a good start.

    Our defining documents do not give the reader the feeling of an organization that is alive, vibrant, for everyone. Our hierarchical structure as described gives you no clue how joining IOPS will make a difference – to yourself, or to the world. The vision as described works at an intellectual level, but it is not framed as a message of hope. Unfortunately, all together the impression you get is that this is the hobby of an academic club of learned scholars. Really.

    I know this impression are wrong. If that was what I personally think, no way would I have joined. And surely many will look beyond the surface and see the potential, see why this is different and can really work. But more will not. First impressions do weigh heavily in how people make decisions.

  • Alex of... 5th Aug 2012

    (jason) "trial memberships" as guests. i like the essence of that.

    but i don't think it's just about inviting others to our events. it is also about attending their events, but also not just about that, either (i think). and yes to "multifaceted approach". i'd really like to keep that term going in our lingo.

    and there are (john) those "who want a better world but don't know how to gain it" so we could be a beacon for such individuals, perhaps. but it's not always about addressing their concerns "or feelings of powerlessness." there are many that are empowered and working toward similar visions, or aspects of the IOPS vision.

    so, for those that have climbed the mountain, and would agree with the vision but are not yet sharing, we might want to be ever mindful of how we approach sharing with them if we want 'them' to share with 'us'… as to avoid there existing an us and them… which is where the idea of network comes to my mind, rather than recruitment. this is where i'm wondering if it should really be a matter of "IOPS members… working in and with other groups around common campaigns" or if IOPS has the potential to be a network of groups with common campaigns.

    i've used 350.org as an example of what might be a group membership in a network. Vandana Shiva is on the IOPS ICC and also supports their campaign. but what if that group was a member within ecology on IOPS? with that, many that support that effort toward climate change then gravitate to IOPS as well, finding other groups (in that scenario) as well as exploring other aspects of the vision. many that currently support 350 may not have considered themselves anti-capitalists or seekers of radical system change, but they may be doing work restoring forests through government grants or petitioning for policy change or something. that may not be the long-term we're looking for but those are real actions being taken. by being a network of groups, more people doing that work may start seeing the cross-over with other groups and aspects of the basic visionary principles. join different groups in one place to create that vision.

    for me, the visionary principles are fairly common concepts. i have slightly different views but can still generally agree. some, that are doing work within certain aspects of those principles may not be at the stage where they generally or totally agree with all aspects, or have considered much about before. are they welcome? or could we consider creating a way for them to be welcome in their own field of interest while they are free to explore other aspects over time? could they be really interested in the possibilities of being part of an international organization that allows them to network for ecology, while remaining indifferent to the other fields?

    if one were to create a local network, could that also have a a group membership? networks within networks...

    • Alex of... 5th Aug 2012

      had missed the last three comments before posting this. so, sorry i wasn't keeping up :)

  • 5th Aug 2012

    Lambert,

    It seems like you're identifying two problems related to the internet and IOPS. 1 is that IOPS requires you to have an email address to join (and the internet by extension), and 2 people might be afraid talk with others about IOPS through the internet.

    With number 2 it doesn't seem like we can change the organization to ameliorate this problem. Some of us could work on internet communication technologies that are untraceable. Or we could outreach through non-internet means with people in China and Russia.

    With number 1 we could set up a different way to become a member, through mail, for example. And then we could communicate with these members through mail. Or maybe groups in China or Russia could form, offline, and adopt IOPS commitments and work as their own independent organization toward the same goals, perhaps anonymously sending reports to IOPS through post or through some special internet medium. So, I guess at we could modify IOPS so that one can interact with it more in secret.

    Besides issues of security from the state, like in China and Russia, what are other reasons you think that requiring registration creates a physiological barrier?

    • Lambert Meertens 6th Aug 2012

      Central registration gives the feeling of a centrally run organization, which most organizations on the left are; there is even a tendency that the farther left the organization is, the more it has a centralized command structure. IOPS is different; it is not just yet another well-intentioned but doomed-to-fail attempt to make a difference, but how do we make that clear? Not by saying, "We are different"; that doesn't work. We have to show it. Can't we leave local groups the freedom to accept people as members as and when they see fit?

  • Mark Evans 6th Aug 2012

    What might be causing the confusion here is that when IOPS talks of vision it is referring to alternative social systems for a future society, whereas when Lambert is talking about vision he seems to be talking about the form of our organisation - which is what we would refer to as program and structure.

    But anyway, the thing is that when people join IOPS they are not just agreeing with our vision but also with our core values and structure / program - all of our organisational description. The idea is for members to develop IOPS, but based on actual experience of self-managing local chapters / national branches. For people to join and then, within days or weeks of joing be arguing for fundamental changes to our organisation, simply does not make sense.

    • Lambert Meertens 6th Aug 2012

      I use the term vision to encompass all of it, the better world we are building together as well as us working together to accomplish that.

      How long should I wait after joining before it makes sense for me to raise the question whether a hierarchical chapter structure is the only or even the best way to achieve our mission?

  • Mark Evans 6th Aug 2012

    If members use the word vision in a way that is different to that spelt out in our organisational description then that will cause confusion - the same goes for other key concepts.

    Like I said, the idea here is that people who agree with our organisational description join and then meet, face-to-face, to form local chapters and national branches. The organisation will be further developed based on our collective experience of self-managing these. How long it will be before we have a functioning organisation will, to a great extent, depend on what members do - and I have to say that having endless debates like this is a distraction away from the preliminary organising that is necessary if IOPS is to get off the ground.

    • Lambert Meertens 6th Aug 2012

      I don't understand why you are so dismissive and frame almost everything I say as if it is an absolute. We all believe that IOPS has great potential, and we all are trying to get it off the ground.

      I don't know about you, but I find the slow growth in membership worrying and a matter of grave concern. Worldwide, it is about 20 people per day. In the initial Z poll of last year, more than 95% of the respondents said they would join an organization as described, if not immediately then as soon as they had confidence it really was going to be what it claimed, providing motivation and hope. That is about 3,800 people. Where are they? Apparently we don't provide motivation and hope. Why not? What is holding them back, what is holding all these other people back, and what are we going to do about that?

      I'm trying to articulate issues that I believe are important for the success of IOPS. Apparently you don't think so, but does that mean I should not raise them? And if I should raise them, only not now, then when? Should I wait until after the founding convention?

      I'm trying to articulate issues that I believe are important for the success of IOPS. Apparently you don't think so, but does that mean I should not raise them? And if I should raise them, only not now, then when? Should I wait until after the constituing convention?

      My hope was on a constructive discussion, where discussants take the issues that others raise seriously, even if they are not their own concerns, and try to work together to reach a synthesis.

      The PPS-UK is built around a horizontal network structure. I understand you are familiar with its functioning. What are the experiences and issues? Was it a mistake? If so how and why? If not, why isn't that likewise a good idea for our future IOPS?

  • Mark Evans 6th Aug 2012

    The priority for IOPS at the moment is recruitment. The idea is to get maybe five or ten thousand members organised into local chapters and national branches during the interim phase as a foundation on which to launch and further biuld the international. This priority came from an ICC proposal to which I gave my full support - so I don't understand why you think I do not take the issue of membership numbers to be "important for the success of IOPS".

    Now if your blog had been written after some months of organising in your local chapter / national branch, if it was based on actual experience of organising in IOPS, then we probably could have had a much more constructive exchange. But given that IOPS is only a few month old, that you have only been a member for a week or so, that your post is based on pure speculation, it is hard to take what you say seriously.

    So if I come across as dismissive that is why - but it is not personal you understand.

    • Peter Lach-Newinsky 6th Aug 2012

      Oh come on, Mark, that certainly IS dismissive IMO. Here we go again. As has happened several times before, and despite your own blog on assertive vs aggressive styles of communication (which I really welcomed), I feel your answers to Lambert, like the following quoted below, often seem rather impatient, exasperated, curt, cold and apodictic in tone. It seems as if many issues raised by others that seem to diverge from your own opinion/interpretation on IOPS were already abundantly clear and decided ('spelt out')and they should, by implication, just pull their heads in and get on with
      'recruiting'. The implication to me is that you think those raising these issues just haven't understood IOPS, i.e. YOUR interpretation of IOPS (you don't seem to make that distinction between the two) and need to be 'corrected':

      "For people to join and then, within days or weeks of joing be arguing for fundamental changes to our organisation, simply does not make sense." (To imply that what Lambert is discussing is for a 'fundamental change to our organisation' depends on your definition of 'fundamental', not necassrily mine for example).

      "and I have to say that having endless debates like this is a distraction away from the preliminary organising that is necessary if IOPS is to get off the ground." ('endless debate' is dismissive, so is 'distraction')

      "If members use the word vision in a way that is different to that spelt out in our organisational description then that will cause confusion - the same goes for other key concepts." (Here you seem to be saying that you possesss some kind of authority over how IOPS key concepts are to be interpreted and that any divergence is anathema because it will cause 'confusion', which suggests other innocents partaking in the conversation might not notice that themselves and thus need to be protected from such by laying out the 'correct' line, no?)

      Such an approach to me seems perilously close to boring old trad left practice which rightly turns so many off and miles away from democratic, libertarian, free-and-easy attitudes that IOPS, in my interpretation of course, subscribes to. How about just relaxing a bit? I for one applaud Lambert's attempts at raising important issues.

    • Will Henry Lapinel 7th Aug 2012

      "Now if your blog had been written after some months of organising in your local chapter / national branch, if it was based on actual experience of organising in IOPS, then we probably could have had a much more constructive exchange. But given that IOPS is only a few month old, that you have only been a member for a week or so, that your post is based on pure speculation, it is hard to take what you say seriously."

      So, views are given respect proportionate to the amount of time served by the person voicing that view? So the views of anyone who has served for a week is by definition "pure speculation?" Since I have only been a member for a few months, how would you classify my views? Since you do not value the contributions of inexperienced members, how and when do you plan to institutionalize this experience-based distinction between members in IOPS?

      Mark, I appreciate and respect you and your efforts and your work in IOPS. I think Occupy Vision is an outstanding piece of work so far. I often wish you would take a more friendly, patient, and respectful tone in your comments.

  • Severin Hollander 7th Aug 2012

    It is funny that for an organization that values free discussion and has recruitment as a priority new members are treated so rudely. Here we go again is right. Last time I dared to criticize Michael Albert, he told me I should leave the organization !! Others in the discussion did leave and the whole discussion was deleted.
    What are new members to do? Read quietly until they are told what to do?
    An organization, or network or movement even, grows only if it can develop ways to give more space and authority to new people who come in. So the "we" becomes bigger. The leadership / coordinators / more experienced members need to give up some authority to the new people. This includes giving room to dissenters, internal opposition, minority currents and so on. Michael Albert and Mark Evans and their friends DID build iops, but they don't own it !!
    Why behave like this? Is there a personal interest in this just like some old style corrupt organisations ??
    We hope not, however I notice that donations come in and only Michael Albert gets to travel the world to talk about iops.
    And because the organization is interim only the un-elected website admins get to decide things about the website. And about the founding conference in the far away future.
    After a few months iops ain't so interim, it has some actual live members. Why not elect some rank and file new members to be part of website admin? And to make proposals about the conference? Why not have a discussion of who should travel together with Michael Albert around the world? Is Michael Albert the only one who understands this stuff?
    I was told by Michael that I am childish and rude in my comments so this time I won't mention pajamas.

    • Lambert Meertens 7th Aug 2012

      Some people have invested a lot in this undertaking, not only in time and energy, but also emotionally. It is quite understandable that they are protective of their newborn creation and find it hard to relinquish control, just like parents may find it hard to see their offspring leave the nest and fly off on their own. But for the organization to take off, it is necessary that we all work together to build it up, and that requires trust.

      We all need to keep our egos in check. Michael Albert's planned trip is not a relaxing jaunt undertaken for pleasure, and we don't have the funds to send a whole travelling circus of motivational speakers on a world tour. In this stage of building up the organization it is inevitable that a core group takes decisions affecting all of us. While I think some of these decisions are less felicitous than others, I accept that as a temporary necessity. But please let us be as transparent as possible and open up the organization to the members as much as we can, and especially keep the discussion open.

    • Lambert Meertens 7th Aug 2012

      We should welcome it when founding members and members of the ICC participate in the discussions. I am sure they have much to contribute that can inspire and encourage us all.

    • Jason Chrysostomou 8th Aug 2012

      Severin

      You say:
      "We hope not, however I notice that donations come in and only Michael Albert gets to travel the world to talk about IOPS."

      As has been stated in every fund-raising newsletter sent out and in the fundraising blog, donations received are for work on the website. I'm not sure why you would make the above statement, knowing this?

      Michael has been invited to speak at a 'beyond capitalism' event in Norway, by an organisation there that is hosting him. He will be able to talk to people there about the ideas on Economic Vision and IOPS. I suspect there will be more people joining as a result. Others in Europe are also trying to organise events at the same time. This is something positive. I really think we can be spending our time more wisely by doing serious organising work, rather than spending it writing divisive things on the site. For example, I did an interview yesterday talking about IOPS. In our London IOPS Chapter we are organising some events in September with R.Hahnel on Economic Vision. Lets focus on promoting the ideas and getting people more people to join.


    • 10th Aug 2012

      Hi Severin,

      A response to your comment below (there wasn't an "answer" button so I'm posting here).

      If you'd like to start a project on houses I'm in! Curious to hear what do you make of the shipping container housing phenom?

  • 7th Aug 2012

    Hi All,

    According to the call for donations in the newsletter and on the homepage, the funds raised in the current drive are for website maintenance and development.

    A travel scholarships fund for IOPS members to travel to meetings conferences and such, not a bad idea.

    But it seems that a travel fund fundraising would be a separate effort from the one at present, which is for website development.

    Am I missing something?

    On critical awareness--I think it's important to recognize paternalistic exchanges for what they are, and to be able to speak up and "check" it, and to be respected for speaking up and checking it.
    I'm also in agreement on keeping my ego in check.

  • Mark Evans 7th Aug 2012

    Peter - we can, at times, reasonable dismiss ideas, in fact we all do it all the time in our day-to-day lives. Some ideas just do not make sense, so we dismiss them and rightly so, and I just don't see how it makes sense to join an organisation and then, after little or no experience of organising within it, propose changes / draw broad conclusions etc.

    I say this, not because I want to maintain control over IOPS or am finding it hard to let go (I want IOPS to be a fully functioning self-managed organisations as much as any of us do), but because it is what makes sense following the logic of our organisation, especially during our interim phase.

    Like you I want democratic debate. But I want that debate to be meaningful, which to my mind at least means it is based on actual experience of organising within the IOPS organisational description to which we have all voluntarily sign-up.

    Like everyone else I want to see IOPS develop but again I think such development should result from collective experience and democratic debate based on that experince and not on zero experience and speculation.

    Obviously such debate and development will have to wait until we have that experience - the priority at the moment being raising awareness of IOPS amongst the general public with the intention of recruiting more members - especially women.

    PS. I agree that serious organising can be boring at times, but that is just the way it is, and you should not blame me for that.

    • Lambert Meertens 7th Aug 2012

      If the only experience we gain is with the organizational paradigm of a strictly hierarchical model, then no amount of experience will tell us what the value would have been of exploring a network model.

  • Will Henry Lapinel 7th Aug 2012

    I think Lambert has raised an important issue. It is important because it has been raised before and not sufficiently discussed. It should not be dismissed as illogical; it should be given its due attention and explored thoroughly. I think there are many that feel that we can never grow without reaching out to those whose views are currently widely divergent from IOPS vision.

    I want to reiterate my claim that the solution to this problem is holding events for non-members, not lowering our standards for members (though I agree with above statements that member meetings and non-member events should NOT be combined; non-members should get full and undivided attention and members should be ready to answer their every question about IOPS at these events). There is nothing preventing us from reaching out - there is no need to change the founding documents in order to get more members. I strongly believe that would be putting the cart before the horse.

  • Ian R. 7th Aug 2012

    Once there was a village which citizens from all over the world, but the life in this village was dull and something was missing people were facing boredom, isolation and depression. Then a few of them had the idea to found a Bowling club.

    At this time in the village, Bowling had the reputation of being largely a sport for elderly white men and this new club was founded to attract and include all those who were initially unterrepresented in that sport. Furthermore the members should come from all over the village to promote fair Bowling in their own districts.

    The goal was to include all people who were searching for ways to do sport and their free time differently with more inclusion, tolerance, personal support, fairness and exchange of ideas.

    After the foundation of this club and the building of a central clubhouse were everybody from the village could meet, people joined to play together, but at some time the number of players stopped to increase and from some districts nobody came.

    Some members started a discussion among each other, searching for the reasons, many of them came up with possible shortcomings of the clubs internal rules, others weren´t happy about the informal influence the founding members had and further groups had the opinion that the history of bowling hasn´t been taken into consideration in a proper way.

    There were many rooms in the clubhouse were the groups could meet and argue. Every member were free to occupy such a room and invite others to join.

    However this bowling club had a strange habit. After writing down a statement, every participant of the discussion went out in front of the clubhouse and nailed his or her personal statement to the entrance door, so that all the other members could see it, and no member would miss a single idea made in one of the clubs discussion rounds.

    While those in the different discussion groups thought that this was a very transparent and open behaviour, most of the other mebers startet to ignore the front door of the club house and did practical sports in small groups or by themselves.

    Sometimes there have been posted messages of success in other districts of the village or about tournaments that have been won, which were very motivating and inspiring to all of the clubs members.

    But soon again this entrance door was covered by stream of theory. During that time people all over the village had heard about this new club and came to this entrance door to make a visit.

    Just something that came to my mind, I hope you don´t have an issue with me being a little bit off topic.

  • 7th Aug 2012

    I’m not convinced that debate and development should necessarily wait until we (2380 individual members spread throughout 94 countries) have acquired an, as yet, unspecified level of experience in actual organizing within the IOPS organizational description, assuming that refers to “Structure and Program”. If that were the case, the organization’s website would be little more than a source for referencing documents and managing the membership register.

    Don’t we always, as the program suggests, want to celebrate internal debate and dissent to allow contrary views to exist and be tested alongside preferred views so members will come to acquire a deeper understanding of the organization’s vision and program, learning through these debates how best to present the organization’s vision and aims to a wider audience?

    Don’t we need to welcome and encourage debate and interaction on this site to help “glue” our diverse membership together? For example, if we as an organization seek to learn from and seek unity with audiences far wider than our own membership, supporting, building and aiding diverse social movements and struggles, shouldn’t we as an organization explore ways to express that support more prominently? Wouldn’t that help to further define the organization, giving its vision and program meaning and thus providing additional reasons for people to want to join?

    • Lambert Meertens 7th Aug 2012

      I don't think this detracts from the tenor of what you write, but, just for clarification, "IOPS (Interim) Organizational Description" refers to the combination of the three documents Mission, Vision, and Structure and Program.

    • 7th Aug 2012

      Thanks for the clarification; that's why I find these discussion important.

    • 7th Aug 2012

      Yes, that's unfortunate. I do think it would be helpful if the front page was more inclusive of our diverse membership, finding a way to more prominently highlight members' efforts from each of the various countries, or perhaps the struggles and movements that are important to them, as a way to further define IOPS's role, giving it more substance, meaning and relevance to those visiting, exploring and considering joining the organization.

    • Jason Chrysostomou 8th Aug 2012

      John:
      Any specific ideas for how to 'highlight members' efforts from each of the various countries'?
      Members from local chapters can post blogs of what they have been doing. There is a blog category 'chapter reports' but other than that, any ideas?

    • 8th Aug 2012

      Jason, I suppose that if chapter representatives from the many countries now represented by IOPS are not voluntarily making reports that highlight efforts and local issues it might require sending a request to an individual to make such a report. Reports could then be placed under a banner such as: “Reports from Around the World”, which would highlight two or three every week or so. Would making a request like that violate IOPS’s principle of self-management and put people on the spot? I suppose it might, and who would make the request. Language may be a barrier as well. But if it were possible it could have the potential of bringing interesting issues to the forefront, expand the site’s participation and get feedback from places we have yet to hear from. Maybe it's just a matter of time.

    • 8th Aug 2012

      Jason, or maybe there are members who have an inclination for journalism that would gather and report news of interest, thus avoiding putting those not inclined on the spot.

  • Ian R. 7th Aug 2012

    I´m not against discussion or theory. But maybe the forums and projects are sometimes a better place for that.

    When I come from my work day, I might look which rally or meeting I can attend in the evening or on the weekend. I´m happy to see that IOPS Belgium met and did some work in the real world. I also may read another piece of occupy vision or occupy theory.

    Just I don´t think that our internal quarrels are so much of help for people who like to join us that they have to be necessarily on the front page and I don´t think that they are inviting for people who can only spent a few ours and want to da sth in practice.

    You can post your blogs wherever you want, and do it at the main page if you think it will contribute to sth. constructive, but if I´d open the door for joining a new place to see if people there are actually able to do sth. for giving hope and perspectives in everyday life, the last I´d like to witness as a newbie is a discussion about the organisations basics.

    • 7th Aug 2012

      Yes, I agree. I wonder also about the logic of displaying these blogs so prominently on the front page, it's a bit like hanging out your laundry to dry in your front yard or living room, not the most appealing way to attract people to come in for a visit.

    • Lambert Meertens 7th Aug 2012

      It was meant to be inspiring, not to be a quarrel. I don't understand why it devolved into one.

    • 7th Aug 2012

      (Sorry for the repeat, it belongs here.)

      Yes, that's unfortunate. I do think it would be helpful if the front page was more inclusive of our diverse membership, finding a way to more prominently highlight members' efforts from each of the various countries, or perhaps the struggles and movements that are important to them, as a way to further define IOPS's role, giving it more substance, meaning and relevance to those visiting, exploring and considering joining the organization.

  • Mark Evans 7th Aug 2012

    "So, views are given respect proportionate to the amount of time served by the person voicing that view? So the views of anyone who has served for a week is by definition "pure speculation?" Since I have only been a member for a few months, how would you classify my views? Since you do not value the contributions of inexperienced members, how and when do you plan to institutionalize this experience-based distinction between members in IOPS?"

    William - that standard applies to all members, including those on the ICC. None of us have yet gained the experience necessary to propose changes to IOPS or draw broad concussions about our efforts so far.

    • Will Henry Lapinel 7th Aug 2012

      Mark, I agree with you that none of us have gained the appropriate experience to propose such fundamental changes to IOPS. And I think we both agree that it would be a mistake to welcome a membership that does not believe in the founding documents of the organization.

      However, I don't see it stated anywhere as a norm or otherwise that discussion of such changes is prohibited or even discouraged. The blog was posted earnestly, coherently and thoughtfully, and I think we should all respond accordingly, or not respond at all. I understand you did not mean any harm, but your statement that "given that IOPS is only a few month old, that you have only been a member for a week or so, that your post is based on pure speculation, it is hard to take what you say seriously" is not giving the blog its due respect.

  • David Jones 7th Aug 2012

    Hi Lambert,

    you wrote a fair bit further up that:

    "we somehow do not succeed in projecting an open, inviting and welcoming feeling, do not frame our message as a message of hope, and fail to make clear that everyone counts."

    I've been worried about this also. RE "projecting an open, inviting and welcoming feeling" there was a blog post written a little while ago, I think before you joined, that ended with three proposals for encouraging more participation in IOPS and welcoming new members:

    http://www.iopsociety.org/blog/seeing-the-world-or-three-proposals .

    The three proposals were:

    1- A home working group - where everyone is in charge of welcoming new IOPS members and we learn how to communicate with people we don't know. People who are shy in real life could perhaps use this as a place to be open and friendly in a safe way.

    2- The development of IOPS theory outside of economics and polity as a priority -with an emphasis on environmental issues, being part of a planet, and interpersonal dynamics including creating a set of guidelines which can help us all to communicate respectfully.

    3- The creation of support structures where we are part of groups with members we feel comfortable with, where we can talk about challenges we are facing in our own lives and how we try make sense of them. Every other person can potentially make us feel uncomfortable but when being vulnerable it is easier if the people you are talking to respect and understand more than a fraction of who you are. It is amazing to have somewhere to run to.

    What do you think?


    • Lambert Meertens 7th Aug 2012

      These are valuable proposals that deserve to be carefully studied and further developed. I had been thinking about the first one myself; thus far I've welcomed the one new member in my local chapter that joined after me.

      There are many areas outside of economics and polity where we should be active in not only developing theory but also planting the seeds of the future. That can also help to draw in members who are not that much into issues of economics or polity. Just as with almost everything else there are no unique answers there, and we should view this perhaps more as educating ourselves than as working on something we can present as "the" answer, or even "the IOPS answer".

      In aiming at empowering our members (that is, ourselves) we should also try to find ways to develop our social and cultural sensitivities, so that we no longer make each other uncomfortable but feel free to let our creativity express itself. We should learn not to try to "win" arguments, because by doing that we have already lost.

  • Caragh - 7th Aug 2012

    I have to add that if dear Lambert happened to be someone that people fawned over in bulk perhaps his opinions would automatically be more valid. If he was a hollywood starlet would you respond the same way? As far as I know, when someone is in IOPS we are supposed to celebrate their existence ,just like everyone else. If you disagree with something then you can try and actually approach it from their point of view before dismissing it.

    We are never going to get minority groups involved, or women,until the discourse shifts from being about being right. If someone has a good intention, and is interested or excited about something why is it helpful to transfer any of your own disappointment or frustration onto them, when all they have are open hands and some hope. When you tell someone they are wrong bluntly, and you are not on equal footing, or you dont know each other, you are not just telling them they are wrong, you are also saying that they are causing you pain by their involvement. It also may remind them that hope is so often used as a leash of submission.

    How exactly is that supposed to 'win' the world?

    Talking about a vision that is shared, means we have to share it, and to has to feel part of us. It has to be mutable, and permeable and practical in our lives. What is the point in a vision if all our time we spend defending it and alienating people that actually want to take part but just might have a slightly different life then the one we have had. Of course it might also have been extremely different :) I always thought that was actually the exciting part of things - deepening nuance.

  • Mark Evans 8th Aug 2012

    William - you are right about there being nothing that prohibits these kinds of discussion, the question is: should we encourage them?

    I say no on the grounds that they are a distraction away from our current priorities.

    If we are to move beyond our interim phase we need to stay focused and give what we have started here a fair chance to work. That means:

    1) raising aware of IOPS amongst the general public
    2) fundraising for further website developments.
    3) organising face-to-face meetings with other members in your area.

    It is very frustrating to me when people state that they agree with what we are doing here on joining IOPS and then almost immediately start to argue for changes to the organisation. If I am totally honest I think it is actually very disrespectful. And then, to top it all off, members like myself are criticised for not being friendly to such people - I find that incredible!

    Hopefully that explains my unwelcoming tone.

    • Lambert Meertens 8th Aug 2012

      Obviously, we disagree here. I believe we ''should'' encourage such discussions. I don't know who has decided how what "our current priorities" are (can you provide a link?), but if discussing such issues, which I think are important for the success of our organization to be, districts away from them, then maybe they are not the right priorities. Making people aware of IOPS while not projecting an open, inviting and welcoming feeling and presenting our message as a message of hope is not going to further our cause.

      Even if you are frustrated, please don't dismiss honestly intended contributions in a condescending way.

    • David Jones 8th Aug 2012

      Mark, I must say that I didn't interpret anything Lambert wrote here as "arguing for fundamental changes to our organisation", but rather as an honest attempt to have a discussion about what might be the best way to move towards realising the actual fundamental aims of the organisation.

      It seems to me that our defining documents encompass quite a broad a range of potential interpretations and implementations of IOPS - and that is a good thing too, IMO. I actually think the number of people out there who will fundamentally agree with what we're about is really quite huge - those people are just currently very disconnected from one another. Lambert seems to be discussing ways to connect them. Clearly you have different ideas to Lambert as to the best way to realise the aims of the organization and what our priorities should be, but frankly, I think Peter had a point further up when he said that you don't always distinguish IOPS from YOUR particular interpretation of it.

      I do think that growing membership towards a convention is a good priority to have. But how well can that happen when new members aren't really sure what they are being invited into? I'm not so sure myself - our founding documents are not incredibly specific (again, a good thing IMO). Aren't discussions such as this valuable for exploring and clarifying things? At my reading, two concrete proposals have crystalised from this discussion, both of which I think are worthy of further consideration:

      1 - a trial membership phase, before full membership

      2 - a network capacity, to complement our organaisation capacity.

    • Severin Hollander 9th Aug 2012

      Hi Mark.

      I want to buy or rent a house. If I have the time and money, I look and look then choose the best one I can. If I have no time and money and I'm desperate I'll take what I can because I need a house. Regardless of weather I'm comfortable or desperate, when I move in I immediately change things. That is because I want to make the new house my home.

      So you say the new iops members immediately want to change things. Their wish to change things is actually a sign of success. The new members take iops seriously and actually feel that they own the organisation and that they are members with the same rights as everyone else (including the people who built iops). The new members have been looking and looking, or maybe they were desperate, and they all chose iops and moved in.

      The more senior members like you could be welcoming this energy and input and try to focus it by giving the new members some authority, some opportunity to do things, and most importantly some process, so their enthusiastic proposals can be tested for approval, review, and support or rejection by the other hundreds of less vocal members.

      Instead you, and Michael, and Jason too, get all defensive.

      Little boys who want their play group to grow... but only if we don't move the toys that they lined up so beautifully...

  • Ian R. 8th Aug 2012

    @David: 3 - a motivational news section on the front page for reports out of the chapters and every day organizing work, separated from other discussions. :)

  • 8th Aug 2012

    Hello Volcanic Starlets,

    A missive from the flatlands of the American Midwest, where today a gentle breeze ushers along herds of puffy sky-cows.

    @ IN, Seconded. Also, curious about the adventures in Bowling Village. Might there be another installment to this saga?

    On the Proposals

    To my reckoning none of these proposals would exclude the others.
    Miles Horton said we'll make the road by traveling it, I'll also guess that due to a healthy multiplicity of functions and inclinations the form might take on something akin to one of those beautiful flying-centaur-griffin-mermaid-unicorns -- part organization, part network, part nomads, and last but, not least, a glimmer of the "revolutionary crazies." =)
    Such a form is a flattering and realistic portrait of democratic global activism. Such a form can benefit anyone happening on the IOPS page looking for a dose of utopia and finding lots of well-meaning individuals who collaborate effectively, articulate their disagreements and are welcomed for doing so (good skills to build for co-op style work).

    On Organizing

    To be honest, chapter joining and organizing is not my scene right now. A great organizing strategy I heard once, "show up and make friends." I'm more about finding that serene location for the epiphany (how to be a better Perry <--> how to be a better intersubjectively produced Perry). So these blogs are precious to me as a kind of "nomads' chapter" with the ethos of take what's helpful, give what's helpful, leave the rest.

    On winning and more winning

    While I'm no fan of agonistic debate styles especially for a win-win-win-win-... enterprise like IOPS, I try to abide by a standard of advancing claims with reasons and evidence (for serious responses. for my not-so-serious responses a different criteria). E.g., "Why we might want to rethink representation and language." It may make for a long piece of text but one can skip it unless you want to engage it.

    On ICC Participation in Blogs

    I do appreciate ICC participation as anyone else's participation in the blogs. By paternalistic exchanges I mean a style of interaction that reinforces the power differential rather than leading to their dissolution. What's the difference between reinforce and dissolute? Messy, fraught, depends on context and participants.

    In the context of these blog conversations, there is a tendency to reinforce power differentials. People of one group, say a particular gender ascription, are consistently made to feel "less than." They are made to evaluate their worth from the perspective of the dominant or coordinating group. This happens for example by persistently dismissing, redirecting, or diminishing their contributions to a conversation. I am not surprised when people resort to excitable speech to try to be "heard" in contexts where they are already shut out, or they leave, or they try to conform to group expectations. These responses might not be the most effective in addressing underlying problem of power differentials based on patriarchal ideology. But it all goes with the territory; counterhegemony is an upstream current. And I'll echo Caragh that favoring a win-lose argument style in this context makes it a harder upstream swim for meeting the agreed-upon goals of numbers and relationships organizing.

    For what it's worth I do respect and draw inspiration from the efforts of those who have rolled that particular rock back up the hill many more times. But I'd prefer not to to impose my particular activist-artist-scholar inspirational sources on the group.

    Just doing my part to help keep super-ego as well as ego in check, for anyone who buys into Freudian maps of the psyche.


    All Best to all,

    Perry

    PS 2300+ is darn good for four months. Awesome, awesome.

  • 8th Aug 2012

    "what's the difference between reinforce and dissolute?"

    that should be "dissolve."

  • 8th Aug 2012

    *Myles Horton

  • Mark Evans 9th Aug 2012

    David - above Lambert wrote "If the only experience we gain is with the organizational paradigm of a strictly hierarchical model, then no amount of experience will tell us what the value would have been of exploring a network model."

    This shows that Lambert sees IOPS (wrongly I think) as a hierarchical model which he clearly does not like. First this raises the question of why he joined IOPS if he does not like our structure. Second it clearly shows that he wants to change our structure to what he calls a network model. If that is not arguing for fundamental change I don't know what is...

    What I would suggest is that those who want to experiment with a network structure - whatever that means - should get together and set something up. That is what I would do anyway. What I would not do is join a new organisation, the structure of which i did not like, and then, based on no actual experience, try to change it.

    So if someone sets-up a network organisation I promise, out of basic respect, that I will not join it and try to change it into the kind of structure we have here at IOPS. Good luck!

    IOPS will be developed collectively, in line with self-management, following actual experience and meaningful democratic debate. To gain such experience we need to focus on the preliminary organisational tasks at hand. This is the very important work that needs to be undertaken now if we are to move beyond our interim phase and this debate is a distraction away from that work.

    • Lambert Meertens 9th Aug 2012

      PPS-UK was set up with a network structure. Is that, in your opinion, a mistake? If you weren't a member already, would that stop you from joining?

      IOPS does not yet really exist; it is as of yet an interim construction, more a scaffolding. Why are you so dead-set against discussing how we want the future IOPS to be? The present organizational description allows for many implementations, including some that are dull, forbidding, and dreadfully boring. I for one want to make it a welcoming place, and I am trying to articulate my ideas on what will make it so.

      The organizational description does not explicitly define the structure, but does mention "national, regional, city, and local chapters", which appear very much to be organized in a strictly hierarchical structure: International > Somewheristan > Thereabout Province > Saga City > Favela Bonita.

      What am I reading wrong? How would you describe, in your words, the model you envisage for IOPS?

  • Florian Zollman 9th Aug 2012

    Hi Lambert, PPS-UK was basically set up with the same structure as IOPS aside from that PPS-UK is a national organisation so it has less levels. You could say PPS-UK has the same levels as IOPS UK, structurally they are the same too. Both are suggested to have a nested council structure. In both cases, this structure only works with a sufficient amount of members in the chapters so that there can be more levels even.

  • Lambert Meertens 9th Aug 2012

    OK, but then I understand what they mean by "network structure" when they write on their website:

    "In contrast a network structure is horizontal and without a centre. This maximises meaningful participation for all those involved. This is why PPS-UK’s internal organisation is built around a network structure.

    We should also add that organising within a network structure is not restricted to national borders and that PPS-UK is only one organisation / project which is being facilitated by the International Project for a Participatory Society (IPPS)."

    If that is how we are organized, and it is fine for PPS-UK to call it a network structure, then why is the same term anathema here?

  • Florian Zollman 9th Aug 2012

    PPS-UK has a network structure in the sense that there is no central chapter or committee. However, that does not mean that there could be higher or lower layers in PPS. For example we hoped to build regional--local--and supra Iocal chapters. We also hoped to send delegates from lower to higher councils etc. We could discuss that separately if you are interested?

    On IOPS, I don't think it is anathema to speak of a network. If I remember right there was some past discussion about whether it would be good to develop IOPS into a network for various left organisations with different visionary outlooks. So I think this was criticised as such an organisation would be something very different as IOPS or PPS-UK is by definition. Generally, I suppose that this depends on what you mean by network. IOPS was developed on the basis of past efforts such as Z Communications, PPS-UK or OFS etc... The issue is now that until IOPS has functioning chapters there can't be real votes or extensive trials. So the idea is to develop functioning chapters and go from there changing IOPS maybe the structure etc from experience. But I also don't see why it would make sense to do that now as IOPS was established the way it is, what you describe as hierarchical but what simply follows the nested council structure model, after the remaining society project and an extensive Poll etc where many people had a say in, not just Michael or Mark, as you probably know.

  • Lambert Meertens 9th Aug 2012

    I use the term "hierarchy" in the sense of a structure in which every component is part of a unique larger component, which in turn is part of an even larger component, and so on, until you have covered the whole. For IOPS, the components appear to correspond to official polities. Correct me if I'm mistaken, but I think the point of adopting this particular structure is to use it for decision making.

    One problem I see, not the major one but still something to think about, is that issues may not respect the neat (or sometimes not so neat) boundaries of established polities. For relations between Greece and Turkey, for example, it is not immediately obvious how decisions on how to approach the issues affect the members in the Manawatu-Wanganui region, but the latter are included in the only level that includes both our Greek and Turkish members. And should prospective members in Ramallah, say, register under the Israel chapter (and which region)?

    The main issue, though, is another one. In my view, as the organization grows and develops and functions as a living organism, decision making will only be a small and relatively unimportant part of what is going on. While we do need to have a structure in place for reaching decisions in a democratic and accountable way when required, I expect it will rarely be called upon for exercising that function.

    Perhaps there is a misunderstanding that in using the term "network" I mean an "umbrella organization", a kind of association of member organizations. That is definitely not what I think we should be. In an umbrella organization people do not self-identify as members of the whole, but at best as members of the separate organizations under the umbrella. In what I have in mind, our members primarily self-identify as belonging to the whole organization. They are all united by sharing a vision.

    Think of the nodes of the network as being working groups, or study groups, groups of people who regularly meet, discuss issues and things to do, and support each other, all in light of that shared vision. In many organizations, I have seen that members who want to be active, be more than a passive supporter, can't actually find something to do other than organizational tasks. Not everyone is interested in that. And there is so much else to be done, much of which cannot be made to fit in a meaningful way into the polity structure. We should allow a flexible structure that can accommodate that.

    • Florian Zollman 9th Aug 2012

      "I use the term "hierarchy" in the sense of a structure in which every component is part of a unique larger component, which in turn is part of an even larger component, and so on, until you have covered the whole."

      >> I think that is how IOPS is structured from smaller to larger units and vice versa.

      "For IOPS, the components appear to correspond to official polities."

      >> I don't understand what you mean by official polities, could you please clarify.

      "One problem I see, not the major one but still something to think about, is that issues may not respect the neat (or sometimes not so neat) boundaries of established polities. For relations between Greece and Turkey, for example, it is not immediately obvious how decisions on how to approach the issues affect the members in the Manawatu-Wanganui region, but the latter are included in the only level that includes both our Greek and Turkish members. And should prospective members in Ramallah, say, register under the Israel chapter (and which region)?"

      >> I guess these issues relate to the software which was used for the website. Those issues might need to be changed manually but as you say I agree that this is not a major problem.

      "The main issue, though, is another one. In my view, as the organization grows and develops and functions as a living organism, decision making will only be a small and relatively unimportant part of what is going on. While we do need to have a structure in place for reaching decisions in a democratic and accountable way when required, I expect it will rarely be called upon for exercising that function."

      >> I don't agree with that. I think local chapters, once they are functional, will continuously engage in multiple decisions and this will relate to the norm that people have a say in decisions in proportion to how the outcome of decisions affects them. The same applies to the chapters. This I would call self-management and I think it is crucial.

      "Perhaps there is a misunderstanding that in using the term "network" I mean an "umbrella organization", a kind of association of member organizations. That is definitely not what I think we should be. In an umbrella organization people do not self-identify as members of the whole, but at best as members of the separate organizations under the umbrella. In what I have in mind, our members primarily self-identify as belonging to the whole organization. They are all united by sharing a vision."

      >> Well, isn't that what we are trying to establish, an organisation in which people share the visionary commitments as outlined in the documents? That is what I signed up for, among other things.

      "Think of the nodes of the network as being working groups, or study groups, groups of people who regularly meet, discuss issues and things to do, and support each other, all in light of that shared vision."

      >> I think we try to establish many different chapters that operate under a shared vision while at the same time decide independently in accord with the norm discussed above. So this seems to be what you are describing, or not?

      "In many organizations, I have seen that members who want to be active, be more than a passive supporter, can't actually find something to do other than organizational tasks. Not everyone is interested in that. And there is so much else to be done, much of which cannot be made to fit in a meaningful way into the polity structure. We should allow a flexible structure that can accommodate that."

      >> I don't see why this is contradictory to what we are doing. Anyone or any current within IOPS is free to establish projects next to the polity structure.

  • Lambert Meertens 9th Aug 2012

    In the sense in which I used the term, a polity is a unit such as a state or an official subdivision of a state, administered by an authority such as a government. It can also refer to the form of governance of such a unit, but that is not what I meant.

    If the project concept can be used to good effect to implement the structure that I think we will need, I'm happy. I associate the term "project" with an undertaking with a specific goal to be attained with allocated resources in a finite amount of time, and it did not occur to me to consider this as a vehicle for forming the nodes of the network.

    If a decision only affects a single group (project / node / local chapter), the organizational structure does not come into play; that happens only when it transcends the boundaries of a group. How much will boundary-transcending decision making play a role in the day-to-day functioning of the organization? We'll see; our expectations are different here, but only time can tell.

  • Florian Zollman 9th Aug 2012

    I think the units chapters may change considerably, particularly in regard to small units in communities which I see as most important. The way the units are proposed for now I think is an approximation to have a start.

    I understand the projects as quite autonomous as longs as they function in accord with the organisational guidelines. I don't see them as nodes of a network because people may be involved in multiple projects at the same time and I don't understand why projects should connect anything.

    I agree that many decisions might not transcent the chapters if that is what you meant.

    • Lambert Meertens 9th Aug 2012

      They form a network, simply because people who participate in several projects form links between them along which information can flow. Informal networks in organizations are essential for their smooth and efficient functioning.

  • Florian Zollman 10th Aug 2012

    ok, then it seems to me that what you have in mind is quite similar from what is and can happen with IOPS. In my opinion the local chapters are very important and they are also going to share links with projects and other groups outside of IOPS and this then might resemble a network as well if we want to use the term. But it seems crucial that within IOPS chapters function according to the organisational guidelines, in a self-managing fashion etc...

  • David Jones 10th Aug 2012

    Founding local chapters seems like a good priority. Discussing here how these local chapters will relate to one another once founded seems like a good priority too.

    I suppose hierarchical (at least as Lambert defines the term above) structures of nested councils constitute one proposed way for chapters to arrive at mutually impacting decisions consistent with self-management. But there might be other ways, and it seems worthwhile to discuss now what these "other ways" might be. And not "beyond the pale" surely? I might have missed it, but I didn't find the words "nested council" anywhere in our defining documents. I didn't get the impression IOPS was committed to that particular organizing mechanic. I agree with Lambert that "the organizational description does not explicitly define the structure" and hence "the present organizational description allows for many implementations".

    With that in mind, Lambert and others may find this thread from our polity forums interesting. It is quite long and detailed (you have been warned!), but discusses two interesting (I thought) alternative proposals to nested councils - two alternative decision making mechanics aiming towards consistency with self-management. The thread is here:

    http://www.iopsociety.org/forum/polity/how-make-decisions .

    To save you time and/or before you read the thread itself, the two proposals are Austin Mackell's "Real Time Democracy":

    http://www.opendemocracy.net/austin-gerassimos-mackell/fumbling-for-change .

    And Rufus Polson's "Scalable Participation":

    http://www.zcommunications.org/scaling-participatory-democracy-by-rufus-polson .

    And here is something on nested councils, what we might call "Orthodox Parpolity":

    http://www.zcommunications.org/parpolity-political-vision-for-a-good-society-by-stephen1-shalom.

    Enjoy :-)

  • Florian Zollman 10th Aug 2012

    Hi David, regarding nested councils that is why I wrote suggested: "Both are suggested to have a nested council structure." PPS-UK, which was among efforts that were foundational for IOPS, aimed to implement nested councils. Furthermore, the structures of IOPS and PPS-UK enable chapters to adopt nested councils. If there turns out to be a better mechanism as nested councils that would be great. Such an approach however would need to consider that it is a reality by definition that IOPS constitutes of "national, regional, city, and local chapters" which "can respond to their own circumstances and implement their own programs as they choose so long as their choices do not interfere with the shared goals and principles of the organization or with other groups addressing their own situations."

  • Mark Evans 10th Aug 2012

    "If that is how we are organized, and it is fine for PPS-UK to call it a network structure, then why is the same term anathema here?"

    Lambert - the issue is not over whether we use the term "network" to describe IOPS or not.

    Rather the issue is people joining who object to our structure but join anyway and then, almost immediately, argue to change it into something that they want despite hundreds and now thousands of other people signing up to IOPS based on an agreement to our organisational description.

    It is assumed that members agree with the organisational description or at least join to find out if they agree and if not then leave. That is a fair assumption for an organisation like IOPS to make.

  • 11th Aug 2012

    Lambert,

    I see how central registration can make it seem like a centrally controlled organization, but I don't think it has to be viewed this way. It's quite decentralized in that it's only up to the user, and their view if they agree with the commitments, and that's it. No approval of any kind required. In fact, what I like about it so much is that the locals can't reject people out of bias, or make the choice. It has to be open to everyone that shares the commitments. This arrangement seems best to me.

    The only difference that might make sense is if locals wanted to have different membership requirements. They couldn't be "weaker" because then not all IOPS members would share the same foundational commitments, but they could be more "focused." However, what happens if someone in the same city wants to join IOPS and shares the foundational commitments but not the more "focused" ones? That seems like a conundrum. It seems like different focuses of locals much be at some more sub-divided level than the local.

    • Lambert Meertens 13th Aug 2012

      New members keep coming in, but it is a mere trickle. I am convinced that the slow growth is not due to a lack of people who agree with our vision. I think it is more likely due to scepticism. Ask yourself, why should they accept that IOPS is not just yet another small and ineffectual group of elitist intellectuals claiming to speak for the common people, like there are so many already at the left side of the political spectrum, each believing to be in the possession of the unique truth, anxiously guarded as if they are the Articles of Faith?

      Saying that we are different is not going to convince them. We have to show it. I signed up because, in the words of Chomsky, "IOPS strikes the right chords, and if the opportunities it opens are pursued with sufficient energy and participation, it could carry us a long way towards unifying the many initiatives here and around the world and molding them into a powerful and effective force." But in my opinion, IOPS only strikes the right chords when it comes to content, but not when it comes to style. The intended content of your message becomes unimportant if you can't deliver it the right way, thereby sending a different message. And I'm very concerned that our style sends a message that is the diametrical opposite of our intention. This concern is the common thread in my various blog postings. Michael Albert wrote that it is essential that academics joining IOPS leave behind any "academic" habits they may have of arcane and obscure communications. But our "defining documents" are largely incomprehensible to many folks without higher education, and they deliver a loud and clear message to them that they won't feel at home here. That means that the initial membership will be biased towards what many common people see as an elite, and once that image is established, good luck in getting rid of it. What could be a sign of real difference with the leftist Churches is an open and lively discussion, but people are leaving, not because they don't share our vision, but because they feel bullied.

      So I agree fully that central registration doesn't have to be viewed as making IOPS a centrally controlled organization. If I myself viewed it that way I wouldn't have joined. But while I agree with that, I'm nevertheless very concerned about the appearance we make. The first emotional impressions people get when they visit a website have a strong impact on how they interpret what they find. Of course not everyone will have the same reaction, but what we have is needlessly forbidding and unfriendly.

      I would be very much against a local group having different membership requirements, and I expect that if someone suggests this, the consensus would be against. (There might be requirements for participating in a group – for example, in a reading group you should at least make some effort to read the agreed material – but that is separate from membership.) But if a local chapter holds a meeting to tell people about IOPS, and someone in the audience says, Yes, I want to join!, can't we then say, Welcome to the club? Or must we say, Well, please visit http://www.iopsociety.org and study the organizational description, and if in spite of that you still want to be a member, you are apparently of the right make to be part of our steeled cadre, so in that case don't forget to register.

  • 13th Aug 2012

    Lambert,

    That sounds reasonable for IOPS to try and be what it says it is.

    I think there are some people working on translating the IOPS commitments into more understandable language. Have you seen that project yet?

    Here's an idea for when you're doing outreach with you local. While you're describing IOPS, take down people's email addresses and names and addresses, and if people want to join go home and register them on IOPS. Shoot them an email or call them and tell them they need to confirm the registration via email and then that they are a member.

    • Lambert Meertens 14th Aug 2012



      The Translating IOPS project has no mandate. If we succeed in producing a less academic and more human-friendly description, we have no authority to replace the present organizational description. Nor is it clear that anyone else has. So it looks like we are stuck with it until it until after the tipping point has been reached.

  • 15th Aug 2012

    Lambert,

    I bet if you were post a translation of the commitments in a blog post asking for comments, and people deemed them equivalent, and then maybe you mail them out in the newsletter asking for comments, etc. and maybe if no objections were raised by the ICC in a mailing to them then it would be integrated into the website.

    Maybe not though and so maybe you don't want to put the work in without the guarantee, but isn't that how it always is?

    Regardless of whether a translation gets integrated into the website now, it certainly seems like it would be useful for convention discussions, right?

    • Lambert Meertens 15th Aug 2012

      I'm willing to see what I can do, but I've lately been neglecting various chores in my enthusiasm for IOPS, so for now this has to be on the backburner.

  • 16th Aug 2012

    Very good points about the language of IOPS, Lambert. By now, this problem has been raised several times by you and others, such as in a recent blog post by Alexis Acello. And yet I think it deserves even more attention.

    I think the jargon barrier of key IOPS documents is a great and underestimated problem. It seems that some can't view the jargon problem from an outsider's perspective and so, they can't see how it is a hindrance when trying to spread the ideas of IOPS. They value jargon because they are already well-versed in activism, and then reason that it is universally valuable to the organization. This may be true for some of IOPS's activities as in political and economic debates. Yet, I fail to see its value when introducing IOPS to those that know little about it.