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September 05, 2007


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This is excellent. Thanks for blogging it.

I think I'm between a seven and an eight: I've seen too many aesthetic decisions (community gardens, murals, etc.) decided by "the community." The results have been decidedly mixed.


I follow your thought, Albert. "Power to the People right Now." Then, you meet the people, sit in a circle, work towards consensus, and agree to something asinine out of exhaustion days later. There is something to be said for representative democracy, or some kind of structure where some at the center or the top act conscientiously on behalf of others, though subject to checks and balances. The book linked to in my post gives a detailed account of how Haymarket Foundation tried to operate as a pure democracy, with poor people granting out funds donated by the rich people. You can imagine the interpersonal dynamics. The book, Susan Ostrander's Money for Change, helped me to see that 8 is not my ideal as a practical matter. Omidyar.net's experiment in giving away $25,000 through "the community" is another example. Led to a meltdown from which the community never recovered.


Albert, the word I find myself using all the time is "partnership." Maybe at level 9 we have community/foundation partnerships, in which we ask, Who leads and who follows? And the answer as in dancing may not be obvious except to those deep in the dance.

More Ado About Nothing

There is something to be said for representative democracy, or some kind of structure where some at the center or the top act conscientiously on behalf of others, though subject to checks and balances.

This is a core issue, I think. Structure, roles and responsibilities in making and implementing decisions is fundamentally necessary. Right now people seem to think that absent traditional hierarchies, everything collapses into anarchy, exhuastion, asininity ... an early part of the forming and definition of a community is some basic agreement as to how it will function, and an awareness of the tools and processes it can use.

Networks and P2P dynamics offer much potential, but also require some structure and leadership. The problem, as I see it, is that there isn't just one model of structure (like the classic organizational hierarchy) any longer ... "community-initiated and directed" can take many different forms and the community (and/or its leaders) can choose those as they are fit for purpose.

Arguably, that is a key role and responsibility of leaders in a networked community; offering up, explaining and guiding the use of the most useful structures and processes ... creating, holding and modifying / moderating the space, as it were.


We're never absolved of using our wisdom. Community-led processes can end in pogroms; processes directed by elites have their own familar troubles. Bauwens' typology is nevertheless an especially good corrective for our times. So few rationales for philanthropic investment make it out of the boardroom (or would command assent if they did).


Jay Hughes is particularly good on the formation of governance structure in large multigenerational families or clans. What he suggests about forming such governing structures could be ported over into other areas. "Universal suffrage," everyone is allowed to participate in a central assembly or voting. "Legislative Assembly" consisting of representatives of the constituencies. "Executive Committe" to carry out the rules made by the legislative body. "Judicial/Elders," a group of wise men and women charged with settling disputes without losers, where possible, or better yet mediating disputes. All legislators, exec committee members and elders to serve for set terms. The tribe also has a written constitution setting out all of the above.

Another body of wisdom on this topic of governance might be the Chaordic Commons approach, not of governance, but for agreeing on rules. A constittuional convention.

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