Guerilla gardening for participatory democracy

Michael Allan mike at
Tue Aug 10 09:15:49 EDT 2010

Anne Moreland wrote:
> Mike; "You're awesome dude! " Great insights. Yes to "GUERRILA
> GARDENING" ie. lots and lots of acorns to trees from the ground up
> planted by gnome -like creatures invisible to the power behind the
> single eye on the Yankee dollar etc. etc.. OH YEAH!

The dude abides. :-)  Guerilla gardening it is!

Now what we need is: a step-by-step method for the gardeners to extend
a seedling tree across *two* discussion forums.  (This is mostly stuff
for geeks/wonks to figure out.)  The tree has to remain standing even
*after* the gardeners pull out.  So only the other participants will
be there to keep it alive.  The gardeners then move on to a 3rd forum
and apply the method again - and so on - attracting more participants,
and extending the tree further at each step.

Seedling trees look something like that ^.  Green dots are
participants, and arrows are text flow/vote flow.  Each voter group
would normally be discussing their differences with the delegate in a
separate forum, or thread.

Or like this:

                       (I)  (K)  (L)
                         \ 1 | 1 /
                          \  |  / 1    (A)   (B)
                 (P)  (O)  \ | /        | 1  /
        (R)        \ 1 |    \|/         |   / 1
          \ 1       \  | 1  (M)         |  /
           \         \ |     |          | /  (E)  (F)
            \         \|     | 4        |/    | 1 /
         1   \        (Q)    |         (C)    |  / 1
     (S)-----(T)        \ 3  |          |     | /
               \ 3       \   |          | 3   |/
                \         \  |          |    (H)-----(G)
                 \         \ |    (D)   |    /     1
      1       2   \         \|      \ 1 |   /
  (U)-----(V)-----(W)       (N)      \  |  / 4
                    \ 6     /         \ | /
                     \     / 8         \|/
                      \   /            (J)
                       \ /
                       (X)              8

So group J(D,C,H) is in one forum, while H(E,F,G) is in another.  Note
that delegate H is necessarily in *both* forums.  So I guess the
recruitment of non-gardener, cross-forum delegates will be crucial to
the method.)

I couldn't come up with a method today.  Maybe tomorrow.

Alex Rollin wrote:
> On the technical side technicians are often faced with activities
> like "doing" something so that something else can happen.  Creating
> "Function X" so "User Billy" can get "Output Statement Zed" from
> "Function X" in a way that matches with "User Billy's" expectations
> and doesn't sabotage the large collection of systems of within which
> "Function X" operates.
> Technicians can easily be cornered by such an approach.

That's part of the solution-disease, I guess.  Maybe the cure is to
put our feet on the ground, and get our hands/heads busy with the full
reality of what we're doing?  I'm not sure.  But I *can* report that
politics is far more enjoyable and satisfying than I ever imagined.
(Maybe the Greeks were right.)

> > What we're proposing in Babble (actually *do* participatory
> > democracy in a small way) seems to be the key. What's interesting
> > now, is to see the "lock" that it fits.
> Most groups "do" this in some way shape or form.  Needs, wants, help
> requested, and "My Tasks" are a few of the way that individuals
> broadcast such things, though these are often only valuable within
> small-world networks.

Scope is crucial.  Ed Pastore's idea of starting out in a chess club
won't work.  Cut the scope too far, and you may lose the whole essence
of the problem.  You may no longer be doing democracy.  But more
important, by cutting the scope, you limit the scale.  (Small scale is
fine, but the seedling needs space to grow in.)

But that's a more understandable mistake (conflating scope and scale)
than the one everyone else is making.  They consciously limit the
participatory side, in order to simplify the solution.  They end up
with little better than a *model* of the non-participatory status quo.
The definition of participatory democracy can be pretty simple.
Mills' captures it neatly, I think, in just 4 points:

Nobody has attempted that (all 4 points) in the last 150 years.  They
always attempt something less.  Or am I wrong?  Can anyone point to

Michael Allan

Toronto, +1 647-436-4521

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