For those of us who are interested in setting-up an International Organisation for a Participatory Society (IOPS) one of the initial question we need to consider is: How do we start an IOPS? This was the subject of my last blog post: IOPS – 4 Questions. Another question we also need to consider in parallel with this question is: How will our newly established international organisation grow? This is the subject of this post.
So let us suppose that we have built an IOPS website and (as described in my previous post) it has, amongst other things, facilities for people to nominate candidates for the initial membership. Once we have reached our minimum criteria of 27 members (located in 3 different Nationals, each with a minimum of 3 regional branches, and each with a minimum of 3 members) the IOPS can go live.
At this point, a major concern that we have to consider is that this initial 27 member organisation is much more likely to stagnate and die than it is to grow and prosper. How can we avoid this outcome? How could we generate a dynamic for growth? The answer, I believe, will depend on the relationship between the IOPS and ZCom.
Roots: The IOPS should have its roots in the Z community. This seems natural and right given the historical connection between Z and the development of participatory vision and strategy. But what does this mean in practice? Well, quite simply that all IOPS members are also active members of the Z community (ZSpace). It also means that the IOPS website will be located inside ZCom (perhaps at the IPPS site which is now an archive). However, whilst having its roots very much in the Z community the IOPS will be self-managed by its members – so in this sense will be independent of Z.
Growth: Having our roots inside the Z community will help overcome any feelings of isolation that can lead to stagnation. Also, we can assume that the vast majority of interest in IOPS membership is going to come from the Z community. This means that IOPS members have an additional interest in seeing Z grow.
IOPS and Z: Ideally the relationship between IOPS and Z will be mutually beneficial. As already stated IOPS members will, no doubt, be active members of the Z community. This means that they will make a positive contribution to the Z community in a number of ways. It is safe to assume, I think, that they will be key developers and advocates of ParSoc vision and strategy – writing articles, blog posts etc. But they could also take it upon themselves to network with ZSpace community members encouraging them, for example, to take courses at ZSchool. Such activities would help generate a radical and vibrant culture within the Z community that in turn would generate future IOPS members. IOPS members organising outside of the Z community could also encourage people to become Z members / Z sustainers – once again contributing to the growth of the Z community in a way that also will, hopefully in the long run, contribute to the growth of the IOPS.
Function: So we can see that there is no complete separation between ZCom and IOPS. However there is little point in setting-up a new international organisation that is simply going to duplicate what is already taking place within ZCom. What we need is to clarify the function of the two organisations. To help us do this participatory vision and strategy may be divided up into three main categories -
1. Development / Research.
2. Advocacy / Popularisation.
3. Organising / Campaigning.
What I would like to suggest, as a means of avoiding duplication and as a means of clarifying functionality of the two organisations, is that ZCom focus on 1 and 2 where as IOPS could focus on 3 and 2. From this we can see that members of the Z community would continue with development and research into participatory vision and strategy whereas the newly formed IOPS would focus on organising and campaign work. We can also see that both ZCom and IOPS would engage in advocacy and popularisation of participatory vision and strategy. So there is an overlap between the two organisations whilst at the same time a clear functional distinction between them.
Success and Failure: Lets say that after a year of being live the IOPS has gone from its initial 27 members (with 9 regional chapters in 3 different countries) to 18 regional chapters in 6 different countries. So let’s say IOPS membership roughly doubles in its first year with approximately 57 members – is this a success or failure? Unless we say that we want to reach a specific number by a specific time I don’t think that we can answer this question. That aside, I do think that whatever growth we have it will need to be steady and manageable – so doubling annually seems like a reasonable guide for success.