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P2P Provisioning as an Organizing Strategy.

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Preamble (‘Whereas’):

People’s daily lives are onerous. I tried to found 2 chapters, one of which reached 14 members and 7 or so meetings, the other just flat on it’s face… In both chapters it wasn’t enough to ask people to be a chapter for the sake of being a chapter, or for helping advance a decision making process, when there was nothing on the horizon for what to decide about. People today are defeatist and cynical, it’s an overarching condition in contemporary society that we must account for as organizers, people don’t believe meaningful change is possible (not beyond one little issue here or there when there are whole oceans of major issues that are seriously far gone).

 

People do however need help with their kids, paying the bills, staying healthy, connection in their communities, not access to blogs and reporting on just how f*cked the world is. Let’s be the people who meaningfully help communities help themselves through participatory means.

Participatory society modes offer an honest solution. We have to operationalize participatory processes to show that it’s not just a bunch of academic words. Critiquing and organizing against issues does nothing to advance and inspire about a viable alternative. Critiquing and protesting isn’t actually doing anything, it is, essentially to engage in more abstraction which people can not hang on to, dance on, eat, breathe or love.

 

At the beginning of IOPS, before the founding convention was set as our goal, there was talk of a shared project. Which I and others believe is the clear alternative to chapter organizing at this point. A shared (online) project that can be centrally initiated but worked on in unique ways by whatever IOPS member groupings, wherever they might be found. Chapter organizing fell on it’s face, for some real reasons, and here we are somewhat blindly saying ‘try harder’ - well I won’t be involved in futility. Having productive, tangible results come from our members’ involvement is the only way to keep us engaged in a daily and weekly way. Out of the continuously engaged membership comes coherent volition and sustained development… the snow ball. Then comes more self-sustained growth for a diversity of projects and thus skill sets (new mebers) to plug into and run with, and the resources with which to set them firmly on their way.

 

I see a Federation of Participatory Co-ops (FPC). FPCs do business only with each other whenever possible, found new coops to supply Federation and thus plug the leaks of our economy when we find them, incentivise par workers to only consume within other FPC's, work to win semi-democratic institutions and convert them to participatory ones (whehter credit union elections, defunct churches, universities, etc.), etc.

 

A Shared, International Project:

One proposed shared project is a web site (I do own MakeAvillage.net URL) that helps people find each other in their neighbourhoods, and plan resources, like tastes, shared food provision, family-to-family child-care and other daily essentials. It might also include shared tool, and depo$it databasing so that a block or tenament can have 2 lawn mowers instead of 22. It is a kind of online social network except it provides the real goods of daily life - social provisioning networks.

 

When our 1st son arrived my partner had the idea to start a food carousel with 3 other families. We quickly found other young families looking for whatever help to keep eating healthy meals, and brought them together to cook once a week and deliver to the other families, then sit back and get healthy meals delivered to their door at dinner time the rest of the week.

 

We had 6 different families in all, and it was something of a legendary network in East Vancouver. Most everyone who heard about it would immediately have AHA! moments of admiration for our little food pod. Because I was able to cook large quantities, and plan the once a week meal ahead of time, I got our cost of providing 4-5 families’ meals down to about $30 (meals that were healthy, fresh and well regarded). It only took me 2.5 hours and the rest of the week we got proper meals delivered fresh and hot to our door at 6:00pm as we’d be getting home from work. If we can facilitate this kind of solution to people’s daily struggles, then we’re really organizing. This is what organizing used to be; going into communities and helping them live more efficiently (so they could survive the mining strike). Living on the ground with communities, involved in their daily struggles for survival, bread and roses - got an organizer the opportunity and respect to be heard on high-falutin socialist ideas. The revolution in 1936 Spain wasn’t just because of ideas, it was largely because of long standing community kitchens (in most every neighbourhood), nudist-nature retreat clubs on the weekends (dozens of them), reading circles and book clubs, almost a hundred anarchist publications, etc.

 

My partner and I thought of many other applications for such a community organizing web site such as the aforementioned child-care, student study groups, tutoring, etc. We thought of many different mechanisms and intricacies for helping such networks run smoothly, matters of credit and equalization, mapping and matchmaking, etc., which apply to many social-provisioning-network applications whether for families or seniors or student hipsters’ study groups.

 

Basically it’s a website with a calendar, residence mapping, basic user profile page, and a few other standard (free) tools for finding others with similar needs near you. We should probably just pick one service application to start with. My partner and I were aiming to start with just the food carousel service in our web-site.

 

This project is something IOPS members can promote and organize in their communities wherever they are (even if they just want to promote the web site online). IOPS members can actually get out on the street, knocking on doors, and offer people real solutions to real daily problems. And we get to talk about participatory society with them, as the ‘product’ of the services are participatory by nature. The doors to talk about broader ideas open up as you solve real problems (and thus get more time) with people.

 

And because these peer-to-peer provisioning services create real savings for people, the web site can self-sustain through various revenue models, that are showing they may be really profitable (since we were starting our first version of this web business almost 2 years ago, a couple of .coms are becoming real internet players doing this kind of thing and now AirBnB.com - perhaps the most profitable .com of all - is testing a basic meals with strangers idea). This profitability allows IOPS to grow new projects which can expand our participatory networks, capacity and influence of the ideas.

 

Time & Money - what it would take:

The basic web site which my wife and I started to do (before our money fell through) would take about 4 weeks of coding and web design work: $3000 & 5 weeks (finding the available and qualified web developer - 3 weeks).

 

Testing: At first we were going to do as rudimentary a web site as possible, test it with the other families to see how the site functionality needed to be, and then amend the web site based on those real user-interface findings: 6 weeks - $0 (my wife and I could form a food-carousel where we are now probably to test it for the network for free).

 

Final web construction and design - 5 weeks and $3750

 

Find 50 - 100 IOPS members to be the initial test pods in their locals, who go out into their communities and bring other people into the p2p provisioning network: 3 weeks to run concurrently with testing phase.

 

Develop the monetization model - e.g., membership fees, freemiums, promotions on symbiotic products (cookware, appliances, groceries, etc., hopefully supplied by our own participatory co-ops): 3 Weeks to run concurrently with the testing phase.

 

Develop a fun 25 second video for the web site release. Hopefully somewhere in the remnants of our Vancouver chapter we have some of the initial footage and script: $1750. 6 weeks (run concurrently with final web site development)

 

Web site go-live release: 400 hours of online promotion work by IOPS members:

TOTAL = $8,500 & 26 weeks. (less than we raised for Carl, Sean and Parecomic)

 

Admittedly this budget doesn’t get us a hot shit web site, or launch/promotional campaign, but it does get us a lit torch to hand to our members wherever they be in the world, which members can then build larger groups to carry - because it’s real and exemplary of a participatory society. It’s not a bunch of activist nerds in the cave (ahemFoundingcoughconvention) of their far flung ideals, or reacting to the violence of the corporate-state (“ya, what else is new, Activists?”)

 

I pledge $150 and 40 hours now. And if an IOPS group can be brought close to the necessary $8,500 I will probably be up for more, probably about $300 (it would be much more if not for us trying to buy our own family home).

 

Do you have a pledge for this project? ( I will track and tally all pledges here in this thread). We have to put something on the line here.

 

(We can’t all jocky to see how/if it will succeed before we commit our personal resources. Even just two percent of our time and income will make a number of projects like this possible. Yes, this particular P2P provisioning project may fail, but if we’re committed. then other institution building, maybe like this project, maybe not, will gain traction and then we will be the light on the hill, not trying to shine light on the results (single issues) of this system (which EVERYONE already knows about).) Another world is possible! Let’s show it off!

 

 

 

Discussion 7 Comments

  • Gregory VanGaya 1st Sep 2014

    A fair few people have been waiting for me to publish this. The sad truth is that after the failures of the chapters I tried to help with, I have been fairly reticent to propose other things that we might demoralizingly falter on together. Also, I hear one of my venerable fellow Vancouverite pareconistas when he says this P2P provisioning project might not be all that commercially viable. I think the web site is viable, it needs serious neighbourly door knocking and talking to get people using the networked services as communities. Which, hopefully are the kind of organizing resources that we might have as a group.

    Some here have expressed interest for the broader idea of Federated Participatory Co-ops (FPC). Despite me and others thinking it's a worthy idea, I have nothing to show for a fair bit of organizing around it... People just won't sacrifice to get it off the ground together (and/or I suck as an organizer). Despite all this I still think FPC is THE way forward, as it is what could create a real model, and thus real hope and the capacity to LIVE a moral, thriving life.

  • Jon Doe 2nd Sep 2014

    This is a really interesting and valuable idea. From what I have seen from contemporary politics in the US, to start a successful new social justice web project you need a formal supportive relationship to a larger organization (like a hundred thousand person union) or a local government. Those initial startup funds and members are the most difficult to recruit.

    Academic studies of Coops have shown that across countries and historic periods coops last as long and do as well (or better) at wealth creation and are way better at employment then capitalist businesses, but they are much more difficult to start because there isn't capital investment, there is not the broad knowledge about them, and there is a lack of legal resources as to how to start them. Its not that you are a bad organizer! Without hundreds of thousands in startup funds, or some special relationship to another group, new coops fail way more than they succeed. These folks are a US non-profit trying to solve that problem, but I don't know if they are active in canada: The Working World http://www.theworkingworld.org/us/

  • Alex of... 4th Sep 2014

    rise up piece of the puzzle

  • Michael Lidster 5th Sep 2014

    I agree that on-the-ground work that actually does something useful is absolutely essential. And there is always room for more projects on the ground. At the same time, it's good to remember or become aware that there are so many groups on the ground doing practical work already. I think we need to learn about these groups. It is heartening when you see how many people are already hard at it with grounded responses. 'Blessed Unrest' is a book about these countless already functioning groups. We need to realise there are not just a few people working for positive change. There are tens of millions at least. And most of the other people do bits and pieces to help, when they can. When we learn the extent of this 'hidden' movement, a weight is lifted from our shoulders. Then we can decide where to direct our energy, from this informed point of view.

    Improving the world is more subtle and complex than any of our theories tell us. We are allowed to be overwhelmed and exhausted and cynical. Those are natural responses, and we should feel free to feel them. After a rest, we might get back up again. And there is always the chance to understand the situation more deeply, to see how our approach could be more effective. But we should never feel that life will only be good enough when the world is a decent place. Life is already great. On the other hand, life will still be a struggle and difficult, even in a sane world.

    • Peter Lach-Newinsky 7th Sep 2014

      Couldn't agree with you more, Michael. (Tho we also know 'life is already great' just doesn't apply to billions of people needlessly suffering due to the oppressions of class, gender, sexuality and ethnicity, and life will be infinitely less great for all on a totally devastated planet...)

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 6th Sep 2014

    Gregory, you probably know of all the following, but you might be interested in this link:

    http://www.reconomy.org/inspiring-enterprises/more-inspiring-enterprises-from-around-europe/#10

    It's part of the Transition/Relocalisation/Resilience scene, thus mix of co-ops and small 'social enterprises', not sure how many actually participatory/self-managed but some maybe open to going in that direction...

    Sure there's many more, some actually worker self-managed too, e.g. vio.me in Greece:

    http://www.viome.org/%E2%80%8E

    The French site Association Autogestion (Self-Management) gives the global overview of co-ops and worker-managed collectives:

    http://www.autogestion.asso.fr/

    As for the local neighbourhood sharing/the 'sharing economy' idea, one now international org (also here in Australia) is Streetbank (originally UK):

    http://www.streetbank.com/splash?locale=en

    There's also the global ecovillage network etc etc...:

    http://gen.ecovillage.org/

    Salud.

    • Gregory VanGaya 6th Sep 2014

      Hi Peter,

      I was a working member and employee of the Global Ecovillage Network. It was how I started my working/professional life. Thanks for the other links, in particular streetbank, I am aware that this particular project proposal is a little late to the party, not when my wife and I first started, but now it would have to vie for the opening of this industry, and not as 'first to market'. I'm going to tell you why I'm not all too interested in these other orgs unless it's for us as an organization to go to them and educate them about parecon:

      To me it is clear, that when you think through the problem(s) of history, that a. it's systemic, b. creating a collaborative-cooperative systemic change is incredibly difficult if not impossible because of the delicacy of co-operative network logic and our entrenched culture now that markets are entrenched, especially when trying to achieve cooperative systems and cultures that scale. Parecon is the minimalist-maximalization methodology that would give a universal methodology by which to embark over the rough ground of establishing and growing systemic collaboration-cooperation.
      Mutualist movements have obvious, systematic flaws and can never be hoped to achieve more than a few decades of strong workers' capitalism.
      Parecon is the game changer that makes change worth fighting for, even at these current doors to a new World War.
      That's why nothing short of a Federation of Participatory Co-ops is going to get my time. Just not. I'm a student of history, having read Marx at 6 years of age, and mostly completing my studies of history by 21. I am clear that parecon is the first social-science that gives us an embarkation point like that set by Gallileo, Descartes and Newton... Practical enquiry has the 7 step methodology of science, now political economic discourse has it's first internally consistent methodology in parecon. There, I said it. Sorry I lost you Lambert, but I'll go live my white bourgeois life with my family instead of work for the impossible.
      I will work for parecon which is still the impossible but the impossible that at least has a chance of turning us towards a lasting planet of human decency, peace and prosperity instead of the self-destruction course we're on now. (Hey, my personal resolution is better than Rosa Luxembourgh contemplating suicide as World War "1914" became set).