Last Thursday the Austin Project for a Participatory Society put on our first talk, a presentation titled, "Introducing Parecon: Participatory Economics as an alternative to capitalism." The talk was advertised and delivered to members of one of the University of Texas’ housing coop networks, the ICC. I’m happy to say it went great! I was nervous beforehand but the presentation went well and afterward we had a great discussion and several people were interested in getting more involved with the group.
There were three of us that were mainly involved in preparing the talk, which involved brainstorming ways to approach the topic and describe parecon, developing a powerpoint slideshow, editing and modifying it (over and over), and practicing and critiquing each other giving the talk (over and over) . We started preparing for it a month ahead of time and all three of us have been with the group since it started a year ago, so it felt terrific that we pulled it off and are picking up momentum.
The talk itself was value heavy and institution light; that is, our emphasis was on what we wanted in an economy, although we did give a basic institutional framework for how parecon proposes to achieve these values and described what a parecon workplace might look like. My friend and APPS member Dan introduced the pareconish aspects by presenting problems the economy has now and how we might go about thinking about a new economy. After I described and illustrated parecon’s values and institutions, Dan presented several ideas for how these ideas could be used within ICC and by individual co-opers.
I must say, public speaking is hard! When practicing the talk it quickly became apparent that it doesn’t matter if these ideas make sense in your head: getting them out of your mouth and into listeners’ ears intact is a whole ‘nother story. Plus, when you’re putting it out there like that there’s no pretending about what you do and what you don’t have a handle on. But that’s part of what is great about the Project–in addition to promoting an emphasis on vision and strategy and the ideas of parecon and parsoc, it’s helping develop skills to get us there.
Our next event is going to be a public talk titled, "Beyond Capitalism: Participatory Economics and the Economic Justice Movement." This one will be advertised more widely and generally geared toward people already active in left movements and campaigns. In this talk we want to focus more on how we might get to a parecon/parsoc and how current activist efforts could become part of a path moving toward a new economy. This talk will happen on Thursday, February 28th at 8pm at Monkeywrench Books.
It also looks like we’ll be hosting Robin Hahnel for a talk at the end of March. Beyond that we have a few other ideas for events we could put on, one being to host a panel of members of local worker and consumer coops to talk about their values and goals, struggles, and perhaps how they might work together to be more effective at reaching their goals.
If this kind of thing interests you make sure you join the Project for a Participatory Society ZSpace group, and feel free to send me an email. Maybe we can talk about how you can start a Project of your own!