Campfire Convention's Pete Lawrence on social networks we can believe in again


A great essay from Pete Lawrence, the serene powerhouse at the heart of Campfire Convention, the bottom-up activist social network. It's about what the continuing crisis of Facebook can teach us about how to build better networks in the future.

Pete should know - he's been using Nation Builder to develop a rich digital platform that provides an entire media-space for "firestarters" and "beacons", to organise and express themselves. We've worked with Pete, and will continue to support his movement. 

Here's some extracts from the piece

The future of social networking is actually quite simple. It must lie in a smarter business model that is free of algorithms and advertising and doesn’t harvest and exploit data.

It should be based around a ‘pay what you feel’ membership contribution (minimum £20 a year or the equivalent of half a cup of coffee a month). The membership would sustain the development of new technological standards and innovation and would enhance collective involvement through the act of building something together.

Those who really can’t afford a membership contribution can still write and request a free subsidised membership.

It should have community at its heart – working towards social change and building resources together for the good of all. A kudos scheme would reward engagement for time investment with profit shares to the most active members once there is profit.

This social media platform would encourage its members to host local events – real life, face-to-face meetings running in parallel to online activity – where conversation and calls to action galvanise local communities to act.

It should enshrine a constitution that recognises that we, as prospective members, are all stakeholders – we’re all working to build something that everyone has an interest in making successful.

By becoming a member, each person helps develop collective vision through direct input and by voting on key matters within a modern social enterprise context (a community interest company).

...The paradigm shift necessary to create a new model of social networking is dependent on a parallel shift already taking place – one that defines new parameters for how we interact and how we give space to one another. Our era’s focus on personal development has a key part to play in how we might build a social enterprise together. 

George Monbiot talked in his recent book ‘Out of The Wreckage’ about the ongoing move from ‘extrinsic’ to ‘intrinsic’ in our mindset. He asks what does the good life—and the good society—look like in the twenty-first century? For him, and many others, it’s a recognition and a reckoning.

Monbiot describes it thus: “A toxic ideology rules the world – of extreme competition and individualism. It misrepresents human nature, destroying hope and common purpose. Only a positive vision can replace it, a new story that re-engages people in politics and lights a path to a better world.”

This vision involves changing the mindset from competition, celebrity, pursuit of profit at the expense of others and getting as much as we can by paying as little as possible, to a viewpoint that is mindful of what we can contribute and build collectively as an alternative.

Almost by default, these newly defined values and principles at the heart of a new social network create a new politics: a ‘politics of belonging’, as Monbiot described it. Democracy, economics and community life can all be radically reorganised from the bottom up by starting at grass roots level, “enabling us to take back control and overthrow the forces that have thwarted our ambitions for a better society”.

We become an eco-system that changes as it learns, a new networked philosophy that replaces the traditional capitalist default. 

More here. 

(And while we're at Campfire Convention, here's another inspirational piece from that platfrom, written by one of our A/UK Manifesto writers, Mary Variakis.