In january 2011, The Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki-moon, called for revolutionary thinking and action to ensure an economic model for survival. A year later, the Global Sustainability Panel he created to this effect published its recommendations report for Rio+20: Resilient people, resilient Planet, a future worth choosing. The vision of the GSP as expressed in the report revolves around choice, influence, participation and action, and calls for a political process "able to summon both the arguments and the political will necessary to act for a sustainable future."…
Whether one agrees or not with the principles of political economics put forward by the UN, "activating" human agency and political will and addressing the root causes for power unbalance and resistance to change is at the heart of tomorrow's paradigm shift.
This has been my research subject during the past year which led me to draft an action-oriented strategy and process methodology for generating engagement, accountability and outcomes in the political, economic, social and environmental spheres, which may contribute to enable this activation. Inspired by Elinor Ostrom's "Governing The Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action", the objective is to turn around the tragedy of the commons by empowering individuals and communities, nurturing public wisdom and collective debate, helping push issues onto public agendas, and influencing policy and corporate behavior in a systemic and dynamic perspective.
A group of us is now working to pull together the best elements available or in the making on the web to create a global pull platform to engage for the commons and enable a form of evolutionary activism as part as of an emergent collective response in the context of a citizen/actor network and peer to peer commons of knowledge.
The principles of the platform.
The platform is structured around commons, issues of social, environmental, economic nature, such as those included in this framework for reliable prosperity, treated as social objects: the nodes around which social networks are created, conversations and repeated interactions are initiated, new territories explored, meaning and intents shared, learning achieved.
People subscribe to individual issues then designate (ping, invite & follow) the actors who they think may have an influence -positive or negative- on the status of an issue. This ‘pinging of actors’ by ‘citizen-followers’ creates a pull dynamic. Bringing together the parties susceptible of impacting progression on an issue and those to whom they are accountable will yield conversations, knowledge flow, and feedback loops beneficial to learning, progress visualization, and evaluation. The goal is to create a context favorable to collaboration, exchange of ideas and know-how. The pull dynamic is intended to stimulate political action and on-the-ground response, and ultimately advance the governance of the commons
The process consists in letting people/organizations:
- Select, follow, learn as a 'citizen' about the causes, issues, commons they care for and the actors involved
- Keep informed and track progress and status of these issues
- Self assign actor role and communicate/report on self-activity and impact and status of issue. Self assignment is a declaration of engagement at various possible levels (governance institution, activist, champion, observer, kow-how or knowledge resource)
- Share practical solutions, proposals for tasks and collaboration, volunteer for tasks and collaboration
- Find solutions and potential collaborators for action
- Select or refer designated actors to acknowledge or request their engagement and action at various levels (governance institution, activist, free rider, champion, observer, kow-how or knowledge resource ).
- As a selected or designated actor, participate in the conversation, report on activity and impact (or if not, become the object of the action...)
- As a citizen-follower evaluate and rate activity/impact of and trust toward actors' activity, impact and progress.
- As a citizen-follower organize for collective action
- As a an actor, garner follower participation
- Initiate and participate in conversations, debates, deliberations
The ecosystem is composed of:
- Common’s spaces: carefully curated knowledge base, space for learning, evaluating, debating, deliberating, and planning collective action, crowdsourcing solutions. This would include planetary as well as local commons or issues.
- Common’s graph: shows network of followers and stakeholders, possibilities for collaboration, critical mass, power structures and possible leverage points for grassroots action or civil participation.
- Progress & Impact or Situation Dashboard: shows activity, status, impact and progress. Informed by reporting from stakeholders and evaluations by followers, as well as real time indicators provided by independent observers.
Graph, space dashboards of various commons can be combined at various levels for bigger picture views.
The platform creates a context for the following:
- Curate the knowledge flow and increase learning about issues, and physical as well as political solutions through visibility of activity and impact
- Connect and interrelate people, stakeholders, issues, and knowledge.
- Help situate an issue in its physical, metaphysical, political and social space and its network of interdependence and navigate within.
- Define boundaries of an issue/common through its graph of followers and actors, and help define the natural levels of governance or stewardship of a common or issue.
- Help situate self and others in the multidimensionality of an issues’ space (geography, graph, stakes, interests, roles, positions, possibilities…) and navigate within.
- Identify roles and interdependence between actors and issues.
- Visualize the emergent bigger picture, and adopt systemic or transversal approaches.
- Communicate and discern expectations, communicate and evaluate outcomes, identify and act upon gaps
- Discern patterns of possibilities and leverage points, as well as who can generate best impact for specific challenges.
- Stimulate stepping up to task, collaboration between stakeholders and collective response.
The design map above gives an idea of the types of modules that would be integrated together. The platform requires the integration of the best existing networks, tools, process methodologies and user interfaces in terms of learning and action research, curation and issues framing, evaluation and moderation, trustnets, debate and deliberation, e-government/governance, collaboration, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, collective action planning, data collection, visualization; with a focus on wisdom and integrity stewardship...
Such an ecosystem would need to be open source and supported by legitimate institutions willing to forward civil participation.
From a Systemic and Dynamic Perspective
In systemic terms the dynamics at play are the following:
Power Dynamics: users -citizens > pull (designate) stakeholders -actors- > seek accountability/evaluate status > push activity > visualize progress > identify gaps / form expectations : a dynamic + feedback loop >> increase learning & informed action >> building engagement culture >> engagement to participate
Action Dynamics: stakeholders -actors > entrusted & challenged to act by users -citizens> acknowledge expectations & gaps > pull & pool resources & solutions to act > report action & progress: a dynamic + feedback loop >> increase access, community & capability >> building a mindful action culture >> empowerment & enablement to act
From a user perspective.
A Pull Network emerging from Connecting Citizens, Issues & Stakeholders
- As social entities, individuals or groups, the users, 'citizens', designate the issues, topics, commons they care about and wish to follow -i.e. that they would like to learn about and where they would like to see some action engaged, some progress made, with various degrees of engagement on their part. By doing so they become a follower of this issue. Selected issues can be quite diverse, in domain or geography: they can be very global, such as the pollution of oceans or poverty or obesity worldwide or very local such as the preservation of a river or biodiversity or traditional seeds in one particular area, or the economic insertion of a disenfranchised community in a particular suburb...
- For each issue, the citizens also designate/refer and thereby ‘follow’ and 'ping/invite to the conversation' the actors that they believe can have an impact, whether positive or negative, on the progress of the issue or the governance of the common. By doing so, they bring the actors into their community of followers to create an Issue/citizen/actor network.
- This designation/referral works at the level of stimulating an actor to rise to meet a challenge. It is at the very heart of the pull dynamic. Designated actors such as governments, corporations, governance institutions, NGO's, activists, social entrepreneurs, free riders, champions, independent observers are challenged and entrusted by their 'citizen-followers' to deliver outcomes and produce impact and subsequently become accountable for their actions and results.
- Citizens have the ability to self designate as actor to indicate their presence/activity as an actor and share resources, ideas and know-how. An expected effect of this dynamic is to unleash ‘agency’ and turn an increasing number of citizens into actors by providing them with access to possibilities and capacity in the areas that they have chosen and that they care for the most.
The Social Graph - Visualizing & Navigating the Network
- By this dual followship process, each issue/common has a network of followers and actors which can be visualized in the common's social graph. The scope and variety of the followers and actors show the reach (from the local to planetary) and depth (possible various ramifications and interdependences) of an issue. It outlines its boundaries: the natural levels of governance or stewardship of a common or issue and the possible perimeters for pooling resources. The graph shows the critical mass of followers & actors, its density and diversity. The entities who appear in the core represent key constituencies, others interact or watch, and can further be pulled in. The ‘proximity’ and interdependence between the players, the potential for synchronicity and synergies, the insights on power structures and possible leverage points create a context for action to emerge and for negative reinforcement loops to be inverted.
- The aggregation of issues produces a Global Graph that enables to visualize further interrelations and interactions, to navigate between the issues, the various players, and the various levels of intervention from the smallest local level to the planetary, see how some players are involved in several issues and can be 'activated' as such, and ultimately undertake action of a more systemic nature.
The Dashboard - Reporting, data collection and visualization
- Designated actors become entrusted or accountable of their actions toward their 'followship' of citizens. They are encouraged to work on outcomes and to report on actions engaged and the general progress of an issue.
- Informed citizens evaluate the impact of the actors they selected and their level of confidence in outcomes.
- This ‘internal’ reporting and evaluation informs a common's Progress & Impact or Situation Dashboard, and participates in the documentation of the issue.
- External indicators from independent sources also feed the dashboard.
- Visualizing data enables to:
- show ‘evolution in the making’ how small 'local' actions add up to create large impacts, how big goals can be carried out from very small distributed initiatives.
- acknowledge status and evolution of issues as much as possible in real time contributing to learning and informed action.
- help actors engage into more effective political participation and on the ground solutioning.
- highlight the gaps between expectations and outcomes and detect deceptive action
- push things further onto political agendas
The Learning & Action Space
- The Common's Learning & Action Space is the environment where the density, diversity and synchronicity of the network can be valuably exploited, where the data, actors, resources that will have been pulled together to generate optimized outcomes can be put to work. These spaces will need to be widely and wisely moderated and curated in order to avoid oversimplification or hijacking to the benefit of special interests...
- Citizens and actors learn from each other and from the knowledge base, discuss the issue and undertake individual, collaborative and collective action. This is a space where exchange, dialogue, deliberation, facilitation takes place at the practical, social and political level; where users-citizens are able to design their discovery/learning/action journey; where actors can share know-how on solutions on-the-ground; where they are able to find parties to exchange, discuss, negotiate with; where resources can be shared; where solutions can be spread and diffused, co-created or crowd-sourced; where civil participation to policy making and governance can be garnered... informed and bootstrapped by all what is described above.