A/UK has been working with Extinction Rebellion to develop a Future Democracy Hub
Extinction Rebellion is gearing itself up for the next stage of uprising against climate catastrophe. Since XR’s successful April disruption of London streets, which brought global attention to the emergency we all face, AUK, together with Empathy Circles, Thinking Box, Flatpack Democracy and others featured on these pages, has been helping XR design and build a Future Democracy Hub which will launch on September 10th – join us if you can.
The intention of the hub is to answer - at least - three questions.
Firstly: what does the issue of democracy have to do with climate crisis?
Secondly: how do I start the difficult process of bringing together my own community?
Thirdly: what difference can any of us make in the time given?
While the hub is not designed to provide all the answers, it opens up the questions in ways that help people arriving at XR for the first time, to participate in finding the solutions. Using methods that directly link the growing desire for more agency at the community level, to better outcomes for the planet.
Here is the website’s call to action:
In XR we are calling for a transformation in our democracy to facilitate the necessary policies to address the climate and ecological emergency for all of us.
This transformation, to be successful, we believe requires new democratic tools to be embedded into the DNA of the culture at all levels from local communities to the highest levels of government.
The Future Democracy Hub is a central location and resource to support this transformation and all those who want to take an active part in it.
In the section described as ‘going deeper’ we offer a very brief analysis of why XR needed to happen – themes that The Alternative UK has been developing for some time:
HOW OUR CURRENT DEMOCRACY HAS ENABLED CLIMATE BREAKDOWN
People have no mechanisms for expressing their objections, other than to choose between political parties once every five years. Political parties, within a first-past-the post-system of voting, cannot collaborate. They are locked into opposition with each other.
This formation has prevented them from responding clearly to a crisis we know exists. Similar to parents on the top floor of a burning building, arguing about who is right about the right way to evacuate. Rather than holding hands and leaving.
For more on this see Compass publication: Is The Party Over?
THE CURRENT PACE OF REFORM IS TOO SLOW. WHY DISRUPTION IS NECESSARY
There are innumerable initiatives and think tanks aimed at reforming party politics. But turkeys don’t vote for Christmas. A new democracy has to arise from outside of Westminster, causing it to respond. The people waking up to the environmental breakdown will orient themselves around a new kind of agency in order to see results. This is not a threat to democracy, but an overdue evolution of democracy.
A RADICALLY DIFFERENT DEMOCRACY IS ALREADY POSSIBLE
Only 2% of people in the UK (and across Europe, 2-5%) are members of political parties. Not only do they hold the power, they also control the mainstream narrative about what matters, who ‘the people’ are and what ‘they’ want. However, outside of that 2% innumerable groups have been experimenting with new forms, practices and mechanisms for meaningful participation. From personal to social and global development tools are available. We will host the best of them here.
HOW A NEW DEMOCRACY DELIVERS A BETTER LIFE AND HEALTHIER PLANET
Our current party-political system has an insufficient representation of the human being at the heart of its operations. We are imagined as homo economicus - easily measured by our material inputs, outputs and needs.
However, our own experience of life reveals us to be complex bio-psycho-social-spiritual beings, not easily measured and requiring much more than is offered on party manifestos. When people have more autonomy to design their own community systems of support, provision and opportunity to create, they will deliver better lives for themselves and each other.
A more autonomous democracy, will factor in a healthier environment to support them. Becoming response-able will result in more direct solutions being chosen more quickly.
And here is how the XR strategy translates as a democracy project:
STRATEGY: TO DISRUPT AND TRANSFORM SIMULTANEOUSLY
Not everyone will take action in the same way: the aim is to design a system of enlightened actions, respecting each other’s role in the huge task before us.
HARD POWER: CREATING OUTCOMES THROUGH NON-VIOLENT FORCE
The front line - the thing that is most visible to the mainstream media - is disruption of ‘business as usual’ by taking over the streets. This is bringing hope worldwide. However, if the only possible result we are working towards, is a response from the government, we are replicating our failed democracy and our imposed powerlessness. Instead, we have to share the many ways to be in action ourselves. The Future Democracy Hub exists to point to and integrate these tools: Transition Towns, citizen action networks, Flatpack Democracy, municipalism and so many more.
SOFT POWER: CHANGING OUTCOMES THROUGH THE POWER OF ATTRACTION
An American concept born out of US dismay at losing the Vietnam War. Joseph Nye pointed out that despite the failure of guns and money, US values and culture (freedom, the American lifestyle Dream, strength) will always attract people. That has proven true until now. Long term, the loss of international soft power through Trump, is the biggest threat to US in the future.
Since Nye’s use of soft power to shape US public diplomacy however, the term has been used to describe a more general distinction between the tools of force and influence.
Soft power tools and practice includes offering alternative narrative through better media, stories of successful new models and prototypes, experiences of regenerative cultures, ways of being together - anything that attracts and engages people as they reach to get their needs met. Art is a soft power - reframing, enchanting, energising - pulling people towards outcomes. But it should always be remembered that both hard and soft power are neutral tools: can be used for good or bad.
CULTURE: RADICAL INCLUSVITY, HUMAN CENTRED
FROM 20TH CENTURY MACHINE CULTURE TO 21ST CENTURY RELATIONAL CULTURE
Complex democracy cannot be carried by simple linear connections and tick boxes. It must be carried through capacious relationship between people and organisations. A healthy democracy arises from the capacity to generate and regenerate healthy relationship between people - internally and externally - and power. See also relational welfare.
A HEALTHY DEMOCRACY IS NEVER EXCLUSIVE
It recognises and welcomes the unique contributions of every person within its constituency. It understands that without input from everyone, on their own terms, it cannot reach its highest potential.
At the centre, the concept of the complex bio-psycho-social-spiritual human being.
In the bigger picture, relational culture implies a relationship between individuals, the community in which they live, the environment which enables them and the planet they impact. I-We-World.
ACTION: MULTIPLE ENTRY POINTS, LEADING TO COLLABORATION AND DECISION MAKING
Diversity means not only different cultures, genders, economic circumstances but also different levels of agency arising from the above, but also other individual circumstances, histories and stages of life. A healthy democracy provides multiple forms and speeds of entry into the collective conversation.
Once a meeting comprised a group of experts sitting at the front of a hall and the audience signalling their approval or rejection. Healthy meetings allow a high level of participation, carefully facilitated to enable diversity of input and lead to collaborative decision making.
LEARNING: UPGRADING OURSELVES FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
Below is just a few of the many skills, learnings and developmental tools we can get for free from the internet, or even better - through agreements - from each other. This kind of acknowledgement that we ALL need to shift our understanding and skills to create something that will equip us for 21st Century democracy:
· Hard power / soft power