Avoid Fist Fights with a BeeHive
Letters to the Editor, Free Speech and "Astro-Turfing" by US Command

Emergent Democracy, Direct Democracy and Network-Centric Advocacy

A next stage in direct democracy cannot be reached without policy and tools to build trust with leaders, socialize issues and the chance to participate in process equal to the lobby and those who hire them. Premature attempts to go direct will only bastardize the process as it was yesterday. - Ross Mayfield

Emergent democracy is only going to emerge as groups and movements begin to internalize the implications of pushing advocacy and policy within the networked society. We need to invest in the social connectivity (cheaper because of technology -meetup, web conference, conference calls) for individuals to build the trust levels needed for a new wave of self-organizing advocacy campaigns to succeed.

All poltical advocacy and campaigns are currently conducted by organizations (c-3, c-4, 527), the people and staff of those organizations are still tied to self-interests, governance and ownership of the organizational entity. These organizations are merely exploiting the network nature of society for their own aims. They are not generally adopting the broader agendas of network participants (mission statements and donation managment often get in the way of environmental staff jumping into an antiwar fight. Laws prevent them from election work, etc.)

The samples of truely grass roots fluid self-organized (unregulated) teams plotting campaigns, attracting resources of talent, skills and funding and leading in a new direction are very rare. (9-11peace, poets against the war, FCC fight?, Amber Alert Legislation, Millionmommarch) Succesful network advocacy campaigns are even harder to find (the geeks and self-organizing teams are not making the proper connections with the political wonks.) Poltical wonks still have not seen "wins" so they are resistent to let go of the limited resources they control to untested network-centric advocacy efforts.

"Emergent democracy is about leadership through giving up control, activating the people to engage through deliberation and action, and allowing emergent order to grow from the grass roots."-Joi Ito

YES...However, we are all very excited about the possibilites and not building the "nuts and bolt" strategiges and support structures groups need to influence policy. We are not selling groups like the AARP, civil rights or unions that they should "free up" resources to serve network-centric campaigns. The DNC or NAACP are not going to hand over the political power to a loose band of out of work tech folks without seeing successful campaigns.

The Dean campaign is unique in that they are linking network connectivity with strategy. They walked down this path because they were the underdog with no resources. (vs. Kerry, Gephart, etc) They have effectly learned to plug folks in at the volunteers comfort level. Most importantly, they "have religion" so it won't be difficult for them to translate the openess of the online community to a completely unconnected grassroots world. They are shooting for message volume not message disapline, they are shooting for issue dominance not brand dominance. They are absorbing enerrgy with effciency. The core team seems to understand and therefore they will continue to devise network-centric approach to oganizing those left on the other side of the digital canyon.

What we really need is more talented pople to focus and on connecting the resources that we do have creatively and scaling self-organizing involvement stuctures with our core activists. We also need to invest in strategies that counter balance the self interest forces that pull movements apart (a task that could more be easily accomplished in connected world but one that is by no means assured.)

I hope a new crop of thinkers start talking about investment strategies and tools for exploiting emergent democracy because those with the resources to create this new super level of engagment are only going to "buy-in" when we can layout why it is the only real path to help them realize their own goals.