cj#802> rkm report on Bear River Sessions – Movement Paradigm

1998-07-20

Richard Moore

Dear cj,

Back on 5 Feb, when we were still on the CPSR listserv, I sent out the
following message "shift of focus for cyberjournal" (below), which proposed
to hold a "leadership conference" in Candada, hopefully on Prince Edward
Island.

This initiative led to the formation of a group called "Citizens for a
Democratic Renaissance", the launching of a new list (renaissance-network)
and the formal announcement of an "Activists Workshop".

The workshop _did occur, in Bear River Nova Scotia, over a two week period.
On 25 & 26 June, there was an "organizers retreat" which included Jan
Slakov, Carolyn Ballard, Frank White, and myself.  This was mainly a chance
to get to know one another face-to-face after having known each and worked
together by email.

On 30 June and 1 July, we held a more formal workshop, including besides
Jan and myself: Bruna Nota, Martin Willis, Ian Russell, and Robbie Bays.
The following report (second, below), of which a longer version was posted
to the rn-list, is mainly about the formal workshop.

Your comments and feedback are welcome, especially regarding how this kind
of movement can be facilitated.

in solidarity,
rkm


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Date: Thu, 5 Feb 1998
From: •••@••.••• (Richard K. Moore)
To: "Multiple recipients of list •••@••.•••"
<•••@••.•••>
Subject: cj#770> * shift of focus for cyberjournal *


Dear cj,

Cyberjournal has been around for close to three years now.  Some of you
have been around from the beginning, and some are very recent subscribers -
by last count we are 1061 altogether.  This would be a good time for
everyone (including lurkers) to send in feedback comments; I'd be
especially interested in any reflections on how the list has evolved over
time, how it has been useful to you, and whether you regularly forward
postings elsewhere in cyberspace.

The focus of the list thus far has been INVESTIGATION and ANALYSIS of
GOBALIZATION in its various aspects, and I think this has been reasonably
successful -- indeed I feel like the point of diminishing returns has been
reached in this endeavor.

A recent thread has been devoted to the topic of a democratic reponse to
globalization, and I've gone so far as to "announce" that The Revolution
has in fact begun (in Candada) and that an example exists of a functional
democracy (Cuba).  This thread has included INVESTIGATIONS into democracy,
activism, building bridges across ideological gulfs, revolutionary
prospects, reactionary counter-measures, and a Revolutionry Leadership
Conference.

What I propose to do is shift the list to an ACTION focus -- democratic
counter-revolution.  Other threads will continue, but the emphasis will be
what we can DO, based on a reasonable understanding of how things ARE.  In
particular, I'd like to declare the intention to proceed to planning and
organizing the first leadership conference.   This will hopefully be sited
on Prince Edward Island and will involve participation by anti-MAI
organizers.  The agenda, tenatively, will be "understanding globalization",
"First-World counter-activism", and "global solidarty".

-<snip>-

I welcome suggestions of organizations and individual to invite to the PEI
conference.  Still more critical are suggestions for people to help
organize the conference.


regards,
rkm
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                         Bear River Report
                 - Sessions: 30 June, 1 July, 1998 -


Workshop was successful
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
We made _very significant progress, progress which was extended further in
later meetings which I held with various activists in the Boston area.  I
came into those later meetings armed with the paradigms and strategies we
developed at Bear River, and found I was better able to `engage and dialog'
with these people and groups, and better able to shift the discussions from
`debate' to `solidarity'.

                               ---


We got what we needed, if not what we wanted
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Last April, when we published our Workshop Announcement, we said:

    WHY WE ARE SPONSORING THIS WORKSHOP...
    The purpose of the workshop is to begin a global consensus-building
    process among diverse activist groups -- to develop a shared per-
    spective on globalization and a common strategy for effective
    democratic counter-measures. This process will be continued in
    larger follow-on conferences and in other ways, aiming toward
    the the creation of a potent political movement...

Although we had many fewer participants than we originally intended, and we
zipped through our agenda in two 2-day sessions instead of a full week, I
believe we largely achieved our purpose, as stated above.

We had aimed for fifty participants because we wanted to include enough
diversity to be, in microcosm, `representative'.  But even with the eight
people who finally attended, due to their diverse experiences and
perspectives, I believe we achieved a workable `microcosm'.  Indeed there
was a significant advantage to a smaller group: we were able to truly use
the consensus process -- there was no time pressure preventing people from
fully expressing their concerns and reservations.

                               ---


A _movement, not a coalition
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Last April, we said we hoped our "potent political movement" would be in
the form of a:
             Global Coalition for a Democratic Renaissance

But in the process of the workshop, as we discussed what a `vibrant
democratic process' would look like, we came to the view that a `coalition'
is too hierarchical, too inflexible, and overall not the best
organizational paradigm for a democratic movement.  Bruna suggested a `web'
paradigm.  Her image was a spider web, which, if disturbed, responds with a
web-wide `elastic robustness', like a trampoline.  All parts strengthen all
other parts, there is a holistic solidarity, rather than the `weakest link'
phenomenon of a chain or hierarchy.

If we can think of the various existing activist groups as being the spokes
of a web, then we can think of `building a movement' as weaving the
circular strands that link the spokes together.  Each spoke, by being
strong, and by being interconnected with others, does its part to
strengthen the whole movement.

It may too early to try to assign a name to such a movement, but we can put
forward a suggestion:
             The Movement for a Democratic Renaissance

I recall that the big movements in the US in the sixties, the Civil Rights
and Anti-War movments, had no central organization.  There were dozens (or
hundreds?) of organizations, some local, and some national, with many
different agendas and organizing styles.  But they all had a sense of being
part of a movement, and they had significant additive political effect,
even if their gains have been gradually eroded away by later regimes in
Washington.

                               ---


How it all fits together
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
There is a serious `horse and cart' problem, in figuring out how systemic
change might be brought about.  We all know that sustainable economics and
resource-use are absolutely central to a livable world, yet many point out
that we can't change such things until we shift the balance of political
power, and so these people see `taming corporate power' as being more
central than enviro-activism.  I've seen some bitter debates on several
lists, about this problem of priorities -- or "Which is the horse, and
which is the cart?"

With the help of various collaborative problem-solving exercises,
facilitated by the participants, our Bear River sessions were able to come
up with a consensus model of how the various endeavors of right-minded
people all fit together in a `movement tapestry'.  I offer this to you as a
`rough draft', to be improved and tuned by feedback from all of you here on
the rn list.

First I'll give you the diagram we came up with, much as it was on our
chalk board, and then I'll try to clarify our somewhat shorthand
terminology...

     - A movement paradigm for a Democratic Renaissance -

     1) Things we can do now to build a movement:
        a) encourage personal empowerment
        b) help disseminate useful and accurate information and analysis
        c) facilitate harmonization of citizen activism

     2) What a widespread grassroots movement could hope to achieve:
        a) to establish vibrant democratic processes at local, national,
           and international levels
        b) to shift the balance of political power to democratic control

     3) How established democratic processes can build a livable world:
        a) limit / control corporate power
        b) `implement' sustainability, rights for all, and peaceful
           resolution of conflicts at all levels
        c) further pursue (1a) and (1b), above


I believe this is a sound paradigm for systemic change, and _eveyone at the
workshop (during this phase) agreed that it captured their essential
`requirements' for the movement -- that's the power of the consensus
process -- no one's ideas were `voted down'; everyone's priorities were
included in some appropriate way.

Is gaia-concsiousness the cause that most empowers you?  Wonderful, we'll
need to have developed models of sustainable practics and principles when
we get to stage (3a), and we need to learn about your visions as part of
(1b) ... more power to you!  I corporate power, corporate charters, and
regulatory policies the cause that inspires you to action?  Wonderful, that
insight and the work you're doing will be essential.

Whereas a voting process leads to compromise-of-principle, a consensus
process leads to generalization-of-goals.  Consider for example the
question of world government.   Rather than voting for `world government'
or `no world government', either of which would have been divisive, we
agreed that what we all _really want is a `vibrant democratic process' at
the international level, just as we do at every other level.  Whether this
is achieved by a loose collaboration among nations, or a more formal
international structure, is something for the democratic process itself to
work out.  It is the _goal we care about, not the _mechanism.  By settling
on _mechanism too early, as perhaps the United Nations demonstrates, one
often fails to achieve ones _goals, in spite of seeming `victories'.

Similarly, we did not try to characterize the detailed mechanisms by which
one might "limit / control corporate power".  Some people want to disband
corporations altogether; others want to limit their charters; others to
`reform' their attitudes.  Debating these alternatives at this time is both
divisive and premature, and so we settled again on a general goal: "limit /
control corporate power" -- somehow -- so that corporations _serve the
democratic interest, and not _dictate the direction of society.

Notice the very first item in our paradigm: "encourage personal
empowerment".  This is a powerful priniciple that acts at many levels.  For
those of us at Bear River, and perhaps for you on this list, this `tactic',
or `paradigm principle', is a call-to-courage, a goad to `own our own
power', and even during setbacks to keep in mind the empowering words of
Margaret Mead:

        Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful
        committed citizens can change the world,
        indeed it's the only thing that ever has.

And as we `dialog' with citizens and activist leaders, we need always to
remember to _contribute to their empowerment, to help them see how their
efforts are not isolated, not hopeless, but that they link into a wider web
of democratic intiatives, all leading to a coherent civil society, and a
bottom-up construction of vibrant democratic processes.

And further, as we seek to mend divisiveness, and to build movement
harmony, we can encourage eveyone to see the value in what others are
doing, to acknowlege that the `others' too are adding to the strength of
the socital web.  In other words, we can encourage _each to encourage the
empowerment of _all, to see in others our comrades, not our competitors, to
feel ourselves part of a vibrant web of civil democracy.  This, my friends,
is the path to true democracy, the path to maximum personal empowerment.
What is democracy after all if not the realization of personal empowerment?


                               ---


The processes we used
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
There was considerable fire and energy in our workshop process.  People had
come long distances, wanted to get real work done, and we all had our own
ideas about priorities, issues, and process -- there was almost a probem of
`too many chiefs and not enough indians', if you know what I mean.   Some
of us were experienced in facilitating, and there were frequent (but
friendly) `grabbings of the chalk' when one of us felt a blockage had been
reached which our particular `process skills' could deal with.  (And the
`grabber' was usually right!)


a) Facilitation and consensus
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
We had no formal rules or procedures regarding consensus itself.  The way
we observed consensus was by writing down a summary of our discussion on
the chalk board as we proceeded.  Nothing was allowed to stand on the board
unless we all agreed to it.  This led to many erasures, rephrasings, and
the drawing of connections between things on the board.  Jan was so kind as
to copy the contents of the chalk board into her notebook, and I'm sure
we'll be referring back to those notes many times.

We didn't really have a formal "question to settle" in our workshop, so
what we had was a `consensus investigation'... a collaborative
investigation into what it would mean to have a `livable world' and how
such might be achieved.  Just as one person might sit down by themselves to
ponder such issues, we sat down as a group and pondered it together.  By
using consensus, that is by taking the time to hear each other out and
reach agreement at each step, we were able to `ponder' the issues in a way
that incorporated each individual's wisdoms, rather than getting stuck in
our various differences of perspective.

Although we did not follow the pre-planned agenda of any one of our
volunteer facilitators, it was a very important catalyst that we had
directed facilitation at each stage.  One value of a good process is that
it forces central issues out of the back corners, gets them to the surface,
while it simultaneously takes attention away from issues that are not
central.  Sometimes the `surfaced issue' was the fact that the current
process was not working, and we faced that one just like any other, and
moved on.


b) the "Change Formula"
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
At one point Bruna put the following formula on the board:

        change =  `vision'  x  `discomfort level'  x  `means'

She has used this formula in many kinds of organizational settings, in
industry and in activist work.  What it means is that the `energy of
change' depends equally on `vision' (the attractiveness quality of the
`alternative'), the degree the parties `care' (their discomfort with the
`current situation'), and the `plan' (the means proposed to bring about the
change).

If there's insufficent discomfort, people won't want to put energy into
making changes.  If there's no inspiring vision on offer, people will be
discouraged rather than empowered.  And if no good means, or plans, are
being suggested, then people fall into utopian dreaming or disillusionment
rather than effective action.  All three parts of Bruna's formula must be
sufficiently strong for the overall force-of-change to be strong and
productive.

With respect to global corporatism and cdr's movement paradigm, I offer
these summaries of how we are employing this change formula:

      * VISION: The vision we offer is a new era of `democratic renaissance',
        a complete paradigm shift from `rule by a greedy capitalist elite'.
        The `overproduction crisis' (!!), so bemoaned by those seeking endless
        profit growth, becomes (under democracy) a boon to humanity.  The
        excess productive capacity of modern technolgies, if used wisely,
        can provide the basic needs of all, and can allow us to `throttle
        back' from `full steam ahead' to `proceed at a sustainable rate'
        without causing suffering to anyone.  We're not talking about
        `give away programs' but about empowering people both politically
        and economically to solve their own problems and provide for
        their own needs, individually and collectively in their societies.

      * DISCOMFORT LEVEL:  Global corporatism, with its limitless demands
        for profit growth, and its draconian market-force economic doctrines,
        has created a global crisis.  And in every crisis lies both danger
        and opportunity.  The danger is that we may allow this disastrous
        course to continue; the opportunity is that the arrogant greed
        and callousness, with which which the corporate community is
        proceeding, is sowing the seeds of a mass movement.  Even the middle
        classes, long the staunch ally of the capitalist system in the face
        of `worker rebellions' or `student movements', has now been all but
        abandoned by the ravages of globalization.  The children of even
        the middle class, increasingly in the West, find that even with
        university educations, they are facing the prospect of unemployment
        or under-employment: the `each generation more successful' formula --
        the people's version of `economic growth' -- has basically come to an
        end.  This gives us the opportunity to encourage a _majority mass
        movement that cannot, if we take care,  be co-opted by the competitive
        party-politics system.

      * MEANS:  Our means _are are ends!  Just as we seek a `vibrant democratic
        process' in a post-capitalist democratic society, we see that a
        vibrant democratic process is the key to creating a movement out of
        the disparate causes and single-issue movements that currently exist.
        We believe this movement paradigm is `means with an attitude',
        something we can `get rolling' through focused engagement with
        movement leaders, and which can rapidly contribute to a `movement
        spirit'.  This is a `means' which builds on itself, and empowers
        everyone in the movement as the movement builds on itself.


In love and democracy,
rkm




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