This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.

It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.

It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Using Online Communities to encourage Direct Democracy for On-The-Ground Communities

One of the greatest challenges facing anybody attempting to implement a new community paradigm within their own community will be how to organize venues that allow for decisions through direct democracy on behalf of the group or organization or even entire community. Usually this is left to the traditional political body but this effort would not be seen as necessary by the community if that was already happening to the full extent to which it needed to happen.

In this post, we are introducing other resources available through the New Community Paradigms Wiki related to Governance, particularly the Community Governance and People’s Governance wikipages.

People’s Governance wikipage offers some direct and indirect resources for direct democratic participation.  One of the issues with Direct Democracy which means having community members having direct impact on policy issues is logistically coordinating a large number of people and obtaining the votes. There are tools and resources to address this challenge.  With very large numbers, it may work better to use other methods of ascertaining the wishes of the community as long as the members of the community are comfortable with doing that.

The Center for Deliberative Democracy  which is housed in the Department of Communication at Stanford University does research on democracy and public opinion and developed the concept of Deliberative Polling® which makes possible what can be called Deliberative Democracy.

This concept was applied in the What's Next California? Deliberative Poll | that took place last year.  The project was a first state-wide deliberative poll in California and the 30 proposals presented were deliberated by a statewide scientific sample of 412 participants.
What's Next California is an unprecedented attempt to bring the people into the process in a new way—one that is representative and thoughtful. A scientific random sample of the entire state will be transported to a single place for a weekend of face-to-face discussions, in small groups and in dialogue with competing experts. In California's first statewide “Deliberative Poll,” the people will be supported by factual information and will consider the critical arguments on both sides of issues, then will articulate their priorities for fixing the state.
More can be learned from watching CDD: California State of Mind: PBS Special which features excerpts from the PBS documentary on the What's Next California Deliberative Poll® on governance reform which aired last year.  What's Next California is also on Facebook.

More recently on November 1, 2011 the PBS Newshour did an in-depth report about California and featured "What's Next California's Deliberative Poll" and some of its results in the story California Voters Fed-Up With Gridlock as Budget Crunch Lingers | PBS NewsHour.    

Jim Fishkin of Stanford University, who originated the concept of Deliberative Polling®,  wrote about 100 years of California ballot measures, highlighting findings from the What's Next California Deliberative Poll that could be applied to the challenge of how to Fix California’s Democracy Crisis

SPUR or San Francisco Planning + Urban Research Association will be holding a panel discussion on January 3, 2012 by three key organizers of the project — James Fishkin of the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University, Zabrae Valentine of California Forward and Lenny Mendonca of McKinsey & Company to discuss the project process and findings regarding the originally considered four basic areas: the initiative process, the Legislature, state/local relations and tax/fiscal issues.

MATT MISZEWSKI'S GLOBAL OPEN GOVERNMENT BLOG FIXING POTHOLES back in 2010 looked at the possible ties between Deliberative Polling and crowdsourcing.
The question I have is whether our newer social computing technologies and platforms can move this effort into a better set of outcomes. What if we utilized social media to crowdsource our deliberative polling efforts. The technology, and actually its constraints, can help policymakers better understand the effect of viral messaging within a population, a population that has self-selected interest in a particular topic via their profiles, tagging or other indicators built into new platforms. As a result the Social Deliberative Polling (should I trademark that ) would also be much quicker and provide much needed clarity within a much faster policy ecosystem.
This could allow a community to create a system that kept an eye on the community's vision on a fairly continual basis without being bogged down by endless meetings.  It is also possible though to have public input by all voting community members on very important issues in large American cities.  NYC Gives Citizens a Say in the Budget
"Participatory budgeting allows for citizens to get past that bureaucracy barrier and feel empowered about ideas and about making a difference in the community."
There is still though a need for Everyday Democracy and the organization of the same name, along with other organizations, works with both its website and the Everyday Democracy Facebook page toward the ultimate vision of local communities creating and sustaining a public dialogue for community problem solving believing that such strong local democracies can form the cornerstone of a vibrant national democracy.
Check out this TEDx video about civic empowerment beyond civic education. How do we reach untapped "domestic reserves of energy" - people who don't vote, don't volunteer, or don't talk with neighbors. It starts with participation, respect, and working together toward a common goal.
Completing “we”

There is no attempt to judge whether any particular community should want to use these resources to push for substantial change in their community.  The political body traditionally assigned the basic responsibilities of community building may be fulfilling this function so well that the issue never comes up. The political body may partner or help with the effort because it sees the potential benefit and realizes that it can no longer do it on its own or it may become more entrenched and oppose the effort to protect its squandered power.  This blog discusses only two communities, Parochialville and Innovattown and neither one of them actually exists.

This is not an effort that can be fully implemented by any individual alone. Individuals would have to gather as groups, groups would have to coalesce into a community-based organization and that community based organization would need to become integrated into the larger community of which they were all members by means of direct democracy, raising again other challenges.  Each level though can still be a catalyst to forming the next level of organization if the need is truly there.  What would also be needed is an environment conducive to dialogue and deliberation that would allow for  Community Governance  and that will be examined more closely in the next post.

Past Posts