Some thoughts on organic grassroots organizations / organisms

2008-09-19

Richard Moore

Bcc: a few friends

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From: Tony
Date: September 17, 2008 3:03:02 PM GMT+01:00
To: Richard Moore <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: New Earth Intentional Community Feasibility
Hi Richard
I admire the energy that goes into [intentional communities] and have praised several in writing.
My early take may be of more interest to you:
Transnational network of research and service communities …
May I take this opportunity to salute your continuing energy in your list 
messages. Much appreciated and a fantastic demonstration of sheer guts
Best
Tony

Hi Tony,
Thanks for you nice words. 
You organizational ideas look interesting. I didn’t have time to read in detail, but I noticed there are a lot of details, a lot of systematic analysis. That led me to review my own ideas about organizations. I’ll share it with you and perhaps you’ll have comments. 
rkm
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Some thoughts on organic grassroots organizations / organisms
In talking about an organizational form, there is analysis and there is prescription. As analysis, the more detail and depth the better, so long as its sound & coherent. The purpose of analysis – assuming we are talking about grassroots organizations – is to help the change-agent understand what he or she is trying to do; it’s their homework.  
As prescription, one needs to think in terms of seeds and evolutionary dynamics. You cannot freeze an organizational form by means of by-laws and constitutions. An organization will be stable and vital only if its structure & dynamics are inherently sound and stabilizing. And organizations always evolve toward their ‘inherent form’, according to the dynamics of the organization and the impact of outside forces. By using analysis, the objective is to identify organizational forms whose ‘inherent forms’ are sound and whose evolutionary dynamics are self-stabilizing. 
When such a form is identified, the next step is to identify the minimal version of that form – the smallest seed that can be expected to evolve into the fuller form. The task of launching the organization then becomes a matter of planting that seed. The idea is to use an organic model instead of a hierarchical model for organizational development. This does two things. It restricts ones attention to organizational forms that are organic in their dynamics, which is I think a good thing from a grass-roots direct-democracy perspective. Second, it simplifies the start-up process, minimizes the need for funding, etc. 
In planting the seed, we are talking about prescription: advice to people about what to do. The seed should be some initial organization, or activist group, brought together around an objective that the group can reasonably expect to achieve. That is, a seed must already be viable in its own right, not just a group of people who like to talk about what a bigger organization might be able to do. 
The seed has form and content. The form is an embryonic version of the desired organizational form, and it is critical that the initial dynamics naturally push toward the desired ‘inherent form’. As the seed group deals with problems, successes, and failures, the expected stress forces need to reinforce the desired form rather than undermine it. 
The content is the initial project of the seed group, their motivating focus. This content needs to have a certain relationship to the objectives of the eventual organization, but the relationship is not likely be a direct one. The long-term objectives will be far beyond the scope of the seed group. Otherwise the organization wouldn’t be very interesting in its potential. What you want is an initial project that gets the group started on a path that will naturally lead them to the arena in which you ultimately want to engage. 
Planting the seed amounts to bringing together the initial group. The motivation of the participants can come from the initial project or it can come from the bigger vision of the organization and its objectives. It is important to note that the bigger vision may be of very little interest at first. The way the seed is planted depends on the particular soil and its sensibilities. It may be an oak bush that is immediately desired, but it is an oak tree that will eventually emerge. It can be counterproductive to try to get people initially to see the virtues, or the achievability, of the tree. They will understand when the time comes, and the tree won’t emerge unless it was meant to.
In my own work, I see the ‘organization’ as global democracy, and the ‘seed’ as community awakening. And then there’s the seed of the seed: the initiation of appropriate dialog processes in communities. The exact form of the right proto-seed is a matter of ongoing research.
cheers,
richard

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