Community empowerment: a shift in strategy


Richard Moore

Bcc: Glasgow folks & other relevant friends

2012: Crossroads for Humanity

Community development: The Co-op Coupon Model


I wrote the first three chapters of the new Crossroads book in just one month. Those are about ‘the problem’, and describing problems is much easier than solving them. The next chapter, about the localization movement, took two months to complete. It took that long to find a way to segue sensibly from global problems to localism as a possible solution, and to give a fair hearing to the various threads of the movement. That brought us up to the beginning of July.
Ever since then I’ve been struggling with the problem of how all this localization energy might be prodded in a direction that could lead to community transformation and empowerment. Sometime in August I hit on the idea of a ‘neutral convener team’. Such a team, I was hoping, could gradually bring activist energy into convergence, and with their newly-found united front, the activists could then ‘build a fire’ in the community.
My first setback on this approach came when I visited some activists in Glasgow, hoping to get some buy-in, and perhaps even launch a first convener team. Not only did I encounter a lack of enthusiasm for the idea, there was even a bit of scorn from some: activism and neutrality simply don’t go together!  This sentiment was also expressed by our own Sharon Stevens, who sent me the following comment:
I was a bit skeptical of your “neutral convenor groups” as there’s nothing neutral under the sun: sustaining the status quo, disengaging into passive live-your-own-life alienation, and actively promoting social justice are all political. … Every process you choose also has a politics: even if a process does not control outcomes, it will shape those outcomes.

These objections did not deter stubborn me however. These folks, I figured, just didn’t ‘get it’ about neutrality.  But then two other thing happened. The first thing is that I just couldn’t pull the next chapter together. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t visualize the neutral-convener approach leading naturally to a path of community empowerment. There was a missing piece. There were too many ways that path could lead into a cul-de-sac, and achieve only marginal outcomes. 
The second thing that happened is I got a message from an Eric Vought, who is President of a group called ‘The Statesmen For Our Constitutional Republic’. He said, in part:
I would like permission, if possible, to include your 2009 paper [“Co-op Coupon Model”] in the County Restoration Handbook ( ). Specifically, your paper would be printed in the “Supporting Documents” section of the paper Handbook, the PDF would be attached to the entry in the Bibliography online, and the PDF would be included on the supplementary CD-ROM.

Of course I gave permission, and I also went back and reviewed that coupon model, which presents a systematic framework for creating a vibrant local economy. I then realized that this model is the missing piece for my next chapter. Indeed, this model is my only really substantive contribution to the pursuit of community empowerment.
In developing the model, I had to draw on what I know about mathematical models, central banks and financing, local money systems, development projects, and even the Enneagram paradigm. In all humility, I don’t think anyone else has their finger in enough pies to come up with this model. I’ve looked at lots of ‘new economics’ ideas, and none of them are nearly as sophisticated.
As a result, the new book has been reorganized. Besides moving the development model to stage center, and dropping the emphasis on neutral conveners, I’ve also added Prologs to each Part, providing segues that make the flow of the book more understandable. There’s a lot of work left to do, including considerable changes to the model, based on later learnings. I now feel, however, that the book has ‘clicked into place’, and I should be able to finish it relatively quickly, say about two months. 
Below is the Prolog to Part II, which kind of sums up the new structure of the material.
best wishes,

Part II: A grassroots response to the crisis

Last update: 13 October 2010

Table of Contents: 2012: Crossroads for Humanity


The conclusions reached in Part I are rather stark. Chapter 1 concluded that we are headed for a planned dystopia if things are allowed to continue as they are; Chapter 2 traced our current predicament back to the origins of civilization itself, and Chapter 3 identified the core systemic problem: hierarchical governance always becomes tyrannical.

These conclusions may seem exaggerated, or even bizarre, to many readers. The evidence for those conclusions, however, is quite clear. I see myself in the role of the child who pointed out that the emperor has no clothes, not someone who has done unique historical research. I suspect these conclusions are seldom entertained primarily because they are so frightening: what hope do they leave for us? Nonetheless, that is our situation. And real hope only becomes possible when the reality of our situation is recognized.

Our only real hope is to turn the pyramid upside down from the grassroots, by finding our collective empowerment in our communities, and creating real democracy for the first time since our civilizations began. And in fact more and people are turning their attention to the local as a place to deal with the problems of society. In this part of the book we will be exploring the question of how the emergence of empowered communities might be facilitated.

Chapter 4 surveys the localization movement, in its various aspects, and examines why its impact on communities has so far been marginal. Chapter 5 presents a framework for achieving economic empowerment, based on a synthesis of the various ideas that are being put forward by the localization movement. Chapter 6 explores how local democratic processes can be developed in conjunction with pursuing economic empowerment.


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