My reply to the ZCC mailing list lost all of the formatting, which sucks, so I’m posting my response to Zach’s questions to my blog.
Before we get to my reply. I would like to mention that I have posted a rough draft of ZCC’s objectives, as well as documents for the discussion of each objective on google docs. Please sign up and email me if you are interested, or if there are strong objections to using google, we can discuss them. The reason I am in favor of using google docs is because it saves a revision of each user’s edits, that is accessible by multiple users, so that we can go back and see the changes that were made. It also allows users to change the document in any way they see fit, without destroying previous work. I think that it would be a great experiment, and we could always launch our own wiki site later if we want, but in the interest of keeping momentum, just using google docs would be a great start. If interested, please send me your gmail address so that I can add you to the list of allowed editors. Below are non-editable links to the most up-to-date version of each doc (the 2nd link below is empty, a placeholder for now).
My replies are inline below:
> I’m glad this idea gained some traction.
>A few things that come to mind that I’d like to see the group address before diving in to lists of enhancements and changes are: * What’s the mission/charter of the group?
I think part of the mission will be to act as a democratic institution that gives Z users a more focused, powerful voice than they have as individuals. I’ve seen it happen too often, where the forums end up being a place where sustainer’s ideas go to die, because they are unable to get a true feel for the thoughts of other users, and instead, get discouraged when Michael says, "Sorry, I don’t see it." The function of the group will be to facilitate the correct assessment of the needs and desires of participating members by the staff of Zmag. My hope is that by seeing the discussion of our thoughts and desires, the Z staff can gain better insight into our needs.
I think the other part of our mission/charter should be the conscious, deliberate embodiment of the ideals and institutions of parecon and participatory planning, etc. We should strive to make our processes participatory. More importantly, in formulating and implementing our institutional goals, we should strive to combat the evils of over-specialization and monopolization of tasks in our society. Efforts should be made to recognize our roles as much as possible, to analyze the tasks we perform, and where there are differences in balance of power, skillsets, etc., those differences should be addressed.
The idea of Zcc is radical, and could represent a revolutionary shift in the balance of power. It could be wonderful, or a disaster. Here’s a dangerous thought, if we do form a sustainers/consumer’s council, who gets the monthly donation? Do sustainers that join this council give their money to the council, which then gives it to Zmag? Obviously, it’s each sustainers choice where their money goes, but it’s something to think about. How we organize this institution is important. The last thing I want is another layer of beauracracy. The success of Zcc, in my opinion should be attached to the extent that it successfully captures, conveys, and facilitates the implementation of the thoughts and aspiration of it’s members, and to the extent that it creates a truly participatory institution.
> Can we get free members of Z involved so the direction isn’t dependent on being able to pay?
We can, but we should ask ourselves if that’s what we want. The last thing I want is to have a group where those with little time or money invested get just as much say as those who are affected greatly. I think we need to aim for the democratic principle of giving people a say in proportion to how they are affected. We could choose to make exceptions for those who are unable to contribute. I would prefer, in the long run, for there to be a system of dues, maybe 1% of income for those making above a certain amount. I already contribute 0.5% to Z, so 1% wouldn’t be a huge jump. We also need to figure out if ZCC shouldn’t also be affiliated with IOPS. ZCC could be the consumer council of IOPS, and perhaps provide a working model of participatory planning in action.
> What’s the process for evaluating, prioritizing, and proposing requests from the group to Z?
We could have commitees that oversee the formulation of proposals. Assignment to this commitee would be based on equitable distribution of tasks (i.e., the same people can’t be on the commitee at all times). Votes for proposals and allocation of funds could occur using a number of voting systems including instant run off, majority voting, etc. Users could submit changes, which are then voted upon by members as ammendments. A lot of how it’s set up is arbitrary, but ensuring that we stick to our principles is a bit more difficult. I think the tricky part is how do we encourage participation while at the same time distribute power fairly. I worry that taking power away, may discourage those with good ideas, or overwhelm those who are unprepared for their roles. At the same time, I worry that if do it any other way than parecon, that we could quickly turn into an organization where tasks are monopolized. We could also iteratively plan using collaberative software such as google docs or wikipedia. Just as important as the process are the roles that are played in this process. We need to ensure that tasks and their corresponding roles are distributed in a way that promotes, equity, solidarity, diversity, and self-management.
> What type of schedule is feasible? (e.g. group meets monthly to discuss and prioritize ideas and meets with Z staff quarterly, twice a year, etc.)
I think it would be great if we could have face to face meetings, and would really like it if we could use this as a way of bringing Z and it’s users together on a regular basis. For those in large areas, local meetings could be as often as every week or two. Regional meetings could be once a month.