One of the initial obstacles faced by advocates of participatory vision and strategy is that of simple ignorance. Most people don’t know anything about parecon or parpolity etc. Most people – including much of the left – don’t know that these models exist.
It follows, therefore, that one of the primary tasks of advocates of this approach to organising is simply to popularise participatory vision and strategy. Obviously this means convincing people that PPS activities are worthy of serious consideration, but mostly it is just a matter of getting out there and putting participatory vision and strategy on the map. The more we do this (assuming we do it reasonably well) the harder it gets for people and the media to dismiss and ignore us and the more likely it is that people will start to take us seriously and, in the end, hopefully join our efforts.
So, with this in mind, members of the Project for a Participatory Society – United Kingdom (PPS-UK) asked one of the key figures in the development of these ideas – ZNets very own Michael Albert – if he would be willing to come to the UK to give a series of talks. Characteristically Michael agree and so we got to work organising a UK tour.
The first thing we did (if I remember rightly) was to create a thread on the PPS-UK forum dedicated to the MA UK tour. This was open to all members, but I think about ten people joined in the end, with varying degrees of participation. I think it is probably true to say that none of us had any prior experience of organising an event like this. Regardless we were very keen to make this happen. One of the first problems we came up against was – surprise, surprise – money. As an organisation we had no money and as individuals we have limited finances – you know how it is. So we had to figure out a way to finance the tour within these limitation.
At first it seemed like the only option was for members of PPS-UK to pay for the whole thing, which meant asking members outside of the MA UK Tour group (which was being run as a self-managed project) to contribute. Now because most PPS-UK members don’t really participate at all this proved very difficult. Thankfully, however, one of our members (I think it was Flo) established a deal with some faculty members at the university where he studies whereby they would pay for Michael’s accommodation and food plus travel to the next talk destination. This meant that – if we could establish similar deals with other universities around the country – members of the MA UK Tour group would only need to pay for flights for Michael and promotional material for the tour.
So following Flo’s example we set to work trying to establish similar deals at various universities around the UK. This approach meant that the project suddenly became much more realistic (i.e affordable) but there was still a lot of work to do. Nevertheless, over a number of months, and as a result of much hard work and persistence, we put together a two week schedule of something like twenty talks in different parts of England, Scotland and Wales – unfortunately none of our contacts in Ireland came forward with an offer, but hopefully, as things develop, this will not happen in future (please get in touch if you are in Ireland and are interested in parecon etc!).
We then sent this schedule to Michael and asked him if he was happy with it. After getting his approval we then asked for further confirmation from the host universities etc. In the mean time another member – Jason – built a website for the MA UK tour. As all of this information came together we moved towards a point where we were in a position to buy the flight tickets for Michael to travel from the US to the UK – which we did a couple of days ago. The actual tour will take place at the end of this coming October – see http://www.ppsuk.org.uk/matour/ for details.
Okay, so we are now at a stage where we have all talks confirmed and flights booked plus (I think / hope!) all expenses covered. So what now? Well, there is still a very important part of this project left to deal with – and that is PROMOTION! The MA UK tour team will do our best to promote this tour, as will the host universities etc, BUT their is no such thing as over promoting an event so if you can help promote this tour then please tell people about it. You can do this by –
- Circulating the tour website address – http://www.ppsuk.org.uk/matour/ – to everyone you know who might be interested in attending one of Michael’s talks.
- Downloading and distributing flyers for the tour at events or at school / college / university or within your community / workplace (you get the idea) which are also available from the tour website – http://www.ppsuk.org.uk/matour/
Just to finish – and hopefully to further encourage you to promote this tour – I want to highlight some of the objectives we have in mind as outcomes for the tour.
First: We would like to see more people in the UK become Z Sustainers. I hope that hearing Michael speak will encourage more UK based activists to get a ZSpace and join or set-up a new ZGroup. ZCom is such an important resource for organising and could be even better with more support.
Second: As a result of hearing Michael talk hopefully people will take a closer look at his work (we will be selling books on parecon etc at the talks) and then consider joining PPS-UK. In particular we are hoping to further develop our local and regional chapters but also we are look for students to form a network of some kind – maybe a Students for a Participatory Society group that could be part of PPS-UK. This is all part of a broader effort to move us towards the establishment of an International Organisation for a Participatory Society (IOPS).
Finally I want to just add that this tour has been organised – to the best of our abilities – along participatory lines. Unlike other Left organisations that pay lip-service to nice sounding values whilst organising within structures that undermine these very same values (think the Cooperative movement, the SWP etc.) we try to practice what we preach. We, at PPS-UK, think that this is important and I hope that you do too. If so then please help promote this tour and help us build a popular movement for a participatory society here in the UK.