I am writing this blog about some of my experiences of organising around participatory society vision and strategy in the U.K. with the aim of sharing it with others in other places in the world who are also making such attempts. I hope this will stir others to write about their efforts and experiences so we can learn and work together.
THE BEGINNINGS – A CYBER DAWN
PPS-UK started off in 2006 with a simple website forum that Mark E put up to enable anyone motivated by par-society to engage in discussions online. people signed up and began forum exchanges. I discovered pps-uk from seeing it promoted on ZNET. Most of us had not met and didn't know each other in person.
MEETING FACE TO FACE
Eventually some of us began meeting up in person. In London where I live we used different public spaces that we could find to meetup for a while until we found our permanent meeting place: The London Action Resource Centre – http://www.londonarc.org – a community run social centre for activists. Our meetings began informally. We chatted about parecon and parvision and then meetings evolved more structure to include real organising and making decisions in a self-managed way. At meetings we try to make them participatory and share tasks by appointing one person as a facilitator and another as a note taker and rotate these roles every meeting. We start by creating an agenda and allocating times to each agenda item, which has been working well. Attendance varies from 2 or 3 people to around 10.
Activities that we have undertaken include giving presentations at events, running bookstalls, attending rallies and handing out leaflets/pamphlets.
THE WEBSITE EVOLVES
Since I have a background in I.T. I decided to put my skills to use on the ppsuk website which I designed and developed along with Florian to add greater functionaliy, to help members organise and communicate more effectively (Flo and I communicated via skype online messaging for a number of months to create the site without having met in person until after the site was finished).
The new website has features such as news, events, resources, and allows anyone that signs up to upload articles, create events, instant chat, and create or join local chapters and projects. Local chapters of different sizes and activity levels and projects have been created which you can view on the site: www.ppsuk.org.uk
OUR NEWEST AND BOLDEST PROJECT SO FAR
Our latest and most ambitious project has been to invite Michael Albert to the U.K. in October on a speaking tour on participatory economics and strategy:
SOME LESSONS AND THE FUTURE…
I think we have done well to move from an initial community of users exchanging on a forum to achieve some level of organisation that we are at now considering the number of committed people involved so far, albeit still with an informal level of structure.
The website has removed many obstacles from participating by providing tools for communication and organising together with others in different parts of the country if they wish. It also provides visibility to others who may not know you exist. We have extended the website to provide the means for people to get involved and organise with others if they so choose.
Some things that we could have done better, at least, in London is to focus much more on doing educational workshops on vision and strategy which would not only be a way to invite others to attend but improve and develop our understanding and ideas. In the future in London we will be combining having our monthly meetings with workshops on parsociety and I would suggest that as an idea to other new groups to do the same to balance time discussing organisational matters with time on educational work.
Having the initial website enabled us to find others motivated by parsoc in the U.K. However, as we grew we didin't really define what a member really is. Someone signing up to the website doesn't tell anyone else much about them. Although we have an organising framework in place, I think having clearer guidelines of what a member is would have helped us in terms of establishing voting rights.
A main issue we are facing now is how we can make national decisions on a broader scale that effect all members. Although we make self-managed decisions at local chapters and in projects we don't have a formal approach to making decisions for the organisation as a whole if they effect everyone. Until or if we are ever at a stage where we have developed active local groups across the U.K that can send delegates then we can implement a more formal nested structure.
So the main issues we are facing now is given the stage we are at and level of support and activity, how should we structure ourselves as an organisation in a way that gives each member a say on national issues, what defines a member and what entitles voting rights, and how we can grow as an organisation.