It is not enough to make a plan;
we must evaluate the results of that plan.
A few months ago, we wrote of the need for all of us to engage in a reevaluation process. We have, since then, taken our own advice. The question we asked ourselves was, as our title indicates, “What happened?” Yes, we failed to meet the organizing goals we set ourselves, but, to understand the nature of that failure, we needed to know just what our organizing efforts were. To that end, we set about a process of data-gathering and analysis, and made findings that we share with you now, in the belief that they should inform all our organizing efforts going forward. But, before we share those findings, we would like to tell you a little bit about the chapters we represent.
IOPS (County) Dublin
IOPS Dublin first got together in September 2012, and, after a few stop and starts, have been meeting monthly. We spent the first year working through the mission and vision, getting to know one another, discussing hopes for IOPS, and other educational work. Only very recently have we begun to get involved in public events. We had a stall at the April 2014 Anarchist bookfair, and one of our members gave a talk on IOPS. We also recently attended the opening of a bridge here in Dublin, in solidarity with other activists around Europe, and in collaboration with IOPS Vienna. We have never been considered an “active” [-- i.e., “working”] chapter, as we do not meet the female quota. (June 2014.)
IOPS Melbourne was founded in a pub in February 2013. We’ve generally met fortnightly ever since. The active membership is currently 12 strong, comprising two pre-existing friendship groups and five individuals. Early meetings were spent getting to know each other and developing meeting processes. Actions so far include hosting bi-monthly screening and discussion events, running stalls and workshops, instituting an English language project for refugees and new immigrants, joining a rent collective for the establishment of the West Papuan independence movement’s campaign office, and organising the inaugural protest against the introduction of anti-protest legislation in the state of Victoria. (June 2014.)
IOPS Missoula is a kind of hybrid organization -- of the 19 members that meet monthly as IOPS, 10-16 of those same people meet weekly as a radical "intentional community" for fairly rigorous study, discussion and food. Membership building to the chapter has thus far been through personal invitation by a core member as we waited to see what became of the "International." Our hope is to introduce an anti-capitalist critique and IOPS vision into the local climate movement. (June 2014.)
IOPS New York City
IOPS NYC began around a tiny kitchen table in 2012 and has grown to bi-weekly meetings. We work in various social movements, including The Participatory Budgeting Project, the Free Chelsea Manning Network, and Justice for Trayvon Martin. We have organized successful events and projects, including music against the TPP, workshops on the IOPS vision at the Left Forum and the NYC anarchist book fair, a contingent at the May 1st March, and production of political music videos. We engage the IOPS platform by discussing Occupy Strategy, and have had an active majority of members of color throughout our history. (June 2014.)
IOPS Salem began meeting regularly in October 2012. Like IOPS Missoula, we are first and foremost engaged in “mental preparation for social change.” However, many of us have not been involved in activism through the years. We’re older, more ordinary, less certain. We see study and analysis as necessary for us to understand real existing capitalism and today's social relations. We have attempted to insert ourselves and our critique into existing projects and blogged about our experience, but Salem is the capital of Oregon -- a government town of socially and intellectually conservative people, although many see themselves as progressive. Just engaging in discussion is extremely challenging. (June 2014.)
We founded IOPS Vienna on 16 February 2012 and met roughly every two weeks since our first meeting. Issues we addressed were Participatory Economics, Commons, Global Villages, Universal Basic Income, Economic Democracy, Italian Workerism, Workers Rights, Right to the City, Slums, Discrimination of Refugees, Participism, Organizing and Care. We addressed them through demonstrations, a rally, a march, workshops, talks, discussions, a documentary screening, declarations of solidarity, an open breakfast, reading circles, leaflets, posters and newsletters. Lately we began organizing on a European level together with IOPS Dublin and others. Since very recently however, we no longer satisfy the female quota. (June 2014.)
IOPS Inter-Chapter Workgroup
Delegates from all of the above, along with a few others, have been working together on IOPS organizational issues since May 2014. A few months before that, IOPS Vienna and IOPS Dublin began developing a cooperative relationship. The rest of us came along on the initiative of one of the international admins. None of us knows “why” we did not make a concerted effort to collaborate earlier, and we can only speculate as to what we might have accomplished had we reached out on our own to other chapters with offers of mutual aid and support in our organizing efforts. Maybe we thought we “knew” what was happening; we’d seen the blogs and forum discussions claiming that people aren’t joining because the organization isn’t growing fast enough, or not enough is happening, or the website is too “yesterday” or too hard to navigate, or the vision and commitments are not friendly enough, or people are afraid of failing or wasting their time, or they don’t have any time, or they’re too distracted, or too busy trying to make ends meet, or too active elsewhere. But, even assuming all that were true, it need not have kept us from reaching out to each other. So, perhaps the best thing to be said about failing to reach our interim goals is that it finally brought us together to share our successes and frustrations and come to understand a little about each other’s circumstances.
After due consideration, we decided that the first step to finding out “what happened” would be to determine, as best we could, all the IOPS-focused organizing that occurred between January 2012 and June 2014. Because the main focus of most of the organizing was the goal of 20 “working chapters,” we needed to understand what that term meant. So, we went to the ICC’s definition, as set out in poll question #2:
For purposes of Question 3 [How many working chapters should we have in place and operating before the founding convention?], a chapter is a group of members that meets regularly, develops shared commitments, shares experiences, etc., maintains an IOPS chapter web page, and has a membership of at least: [5, as decided by the second poll.]
We noted the absence of any discussion, by anybody, of a quorum requirement. Thus, participatory societal values aside, a chapter of, say, 100, 30% of whom are women, would satisfy the ICC’s definition of “working,” even if only 10 were meeting regularly. We also noted that, within a few weeks of the poll’s closing, the definition of “working chapter” was being reinterpreted to omit the “maintains an IOPS chapter web page” aspect, and later, to require that only five members regularly attend meetings, and even later, to require that only 30% of those attending meetings be women.
Next, we ran a bunch of queries of the database. To a current list of all chapters with chapter page admins, we manually added chapters with five or more members. To that, we manually added the chapters whose members included a member of the ICC. Then, we studied the national, regional and local chapter pages of each one on the list and made notes of any sign of organizing activity. Based on the results of that study, we decided to focus further research on local chapters that had at least one admin and more than five members (our “research criteria”). Then, we manually divided the list into nine global “areas”: Nordic Netherlands (Nord-Neth), Northwest Europe (EurNW), United Kingdom and Ireland (UKI), Eastern Europe- Middle- East-Asia (EurE-ME-A) South Africa-Australia-New Zealand (SSAAusNZ), Japan-Western North America (NA-W&J), Mid-North America (NA-M), Northeastern North America (NA-NE), and Southeastern North America (NA-SE) & Central/South America (C/SA). Note: the abbreviations appear on tabs at the bottom of the list. Just select the appropriate tab to examine our data on that area.
With our list in hand, we wrote to select members of the chapters that fit our research criteria, telling them what we were doing and what their chapter pages told us about their organizing activities since inception and asking them for any additional details they might be able to give us. Many were slow to respond, did not respond, or provided information that was not particularly helpful. Those who did respond usually responded to follow up questions, but not always. We are certainly grateful for those who did respond and for their information and insights. We would have liked to include many more than we had space for. Letters like this, for instance.
Our findings, below, were/are based on all the information that was available through the above process and sources and on reasonable inferences taken therefrom. Readers in possession of useful additional, or contrary, information are invited to share it by posting the information as a comment or by personal message to any of the authors. To give the findings context, particularly for the many members who joined in 2013 and 2014 and those that may join hereafter, we begin with a timeline of what we considered relevant “events.”
Please read the rest of this exciting blog here, in its entirety. We apologize for the brief interruption in your reading.