How r’evolution carries itself forward by the Working Groups of Occupy

R’evolution is shorthand for the jump time of evolution, when social relations that have been frozen for a long time start thawing and the obsolescence of the dominant social order becomes obvious to the multitudes. It’s a time of unfreeze, a fascinating moment, when what the future can become is up to us, to our collective consciousness and connective intelligence.

Collective consciousness is the intimate knowing of our collective self, who we are as a movement, as a social force capable to change the future. Connective intelligence is much more than a wordplay on collective intelligence. It is the act of connection that gives rise to new life forms, thought forms, and forms of organizing.


Working Groups are organs of the awakening social body of the 99%. Currently, they carry out functions essential to the well-being of the Occupations. I see them also as seeds for the new institutions that we’ll need for stewarding the well-being of the emerging, post-capitalist society.

They can be roughly broken into three categories: operational, sectorial, and strategy-focused. The first deals with everything needed to assure the viability of a given Occupation, including its finances, outreach, press relations, process, etc. The work of WGs in the second category is focused on such sectors of social life as education, health, economics, etc. In the strategy-focused WGs, members address issues of the emerging Occupy vision, strategic planning and navigation, and how the 99% can win.

At the end of the first part of this series, I referred to WGs as a form of real, participatory democracy, which is liberating vast reservoirs of human and social creativity. How does it do it? Well, an answer to this is that Occupy is an emergent platform, where free agents combine their talents to create something together that they value, and couldn’t create separately. When free from the binding structures of wage slavery, people can collaborate on their own choice, and it is in these conditions that the floodgates of creativity open.

I took this picture at the “Beyond Capitalism?” conference that was one of the last ones in Occupy London’s Bank of Ideas, currently re-taken by UBS. Notice the mischievous child in the left corner of the mural, who has just painted O-C-C-U-P-Y on the shields of the police. (She or he reminded me of Gavroche from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.)

The morphing of a sympathizer into an Occupier frequently happens when she or he finds the right WG to contribute to, or decides to start her or his own. It can occur in such a natural and easy  step, as joining the kitchen crew and showing up regularly, or participating in the collaborative development of the critique of representative democracy. As long as the fruits of the work belong to all, one person’s work is not more important than another’s.

As more of us in the Occupations find the best fit between our talents and the movement’s needs, the richer the variety of the WGs becomes. The increasing variety of needs and opportunities that the movement can respond to is proportionate with the number of us, who choose to participate in one of the Working Groups. (That number also depends on the adequateness of the welcoming structures and the process that the General Assembly has for helping the orientation of  newcomers.)

With the increasing variety comes increasing flux. WGs appear and disappear following the ebb and flow of personal attention and energy that a particular focus holds over time among the Occupiers. In other words, WGs can just as easily die as they are born. Yet some of them enjoy more solid continuity than others, and thus they have a better chance to learn from their own experience.

But what is it that we, as a movement, are learning from the experience of WGs? While Occupy is re-inventing itself for Phase 2, something is also happening to the longer and bigger learning journey, the evolution of human society and consciousness. What is that? Let’s observe the answer to both questions through the lens of some evolutionary drivers that are at play, namely, the one that affects emergence at all scales: the triad of “differentiation-integration-transformation”.


Life is carrying itself forward through the workings of the “d-i-t” triad. Permanent differentiation without integration is decay, which in the social domain means a loss of cohesion and capacity to evolve into higher-order social forms. This is also known as balkanization. When a social movement balkanizes, its potential for bringing more justice, dignity and joy into the life of people is lost.

That fragmentation is not to be confounded with the initial conditions of a multi-centric mass movement, such as Occupy, where the globalized existence of capital evokes similar phenomena of resistance in various part of the world. While balkanization is a post-unity state of affairs, the unnecessary duplication of effort in Occupy is a pre-unity symptom. How can we address that? Here is an example:

We need the work of the various Economics/Corporations/Economy WGs around the world to evolve to the point where they can see  and become attracted to the benefits of organizing themselves into a rich ecosystem of people, joint research and prototyping projects, and the shared knowledge resources, of an “economy commons”. Only then will they have the chance to tackle the complexity of the planetary economic and environmental crises created by capitalist globalization, and only then can we work out the fine points of issues like how to assure a basic income for everyone.

We need the work of the many Education WGs to evolve to the point where they  also become integrated into an ecosystem of education innovators and projects experimenting with, for example, new combinations of peer learning and expert panels. Only then will we have a better chance to move to a global society where the full development of each and every human is the goal of the whole.

The socio-economic system that dominates the planet at the moment achieves integration through mergers and acquisitions, where an ever-bigger part of our collective resources end up in the pockets of an ever-smaller number of owners. To achieve the large-scale resource co-ordination necessary to whole-system transformation, Occupy is using horizontal integration. It implies not a scaling up of all WGs working on a given domain into a global “super WG,” but a scaling through lateral relationships, connecting expertise, resources, driving questions, and smart solutions.

Mark Jagdev, who wrote the “Can Occupy occupy Strategy?” blog, quoted the following statement from Occupy Venice: “the purpose of the strategic planning working group is to come up with a mission statement first, goals second, objectives third and tactics *last*.” Imagine what the movement will be able to accomplish when the various Think Tanks, Vision, and Strategy WGs start interacting on a more regular basis, and integrate their perspectives in Occupy style – bottom up, rather then driven by a Central Committee or a Board of Directors.

Of course, integration doesn’t have to stop at the boundaries of WG’s. As Colin Davis (San Francisco), author of the essay “MORE” , recommended, “Look around the world for individuals who have already developed cutting edge solutions to these problems – some are already in your ranks.” There are much more Occupy-supportive professionals with specialized knowledge outside than inside the WGs. Not connecting with them is a typical mistake of WGs with an insular, inside-looking practice. On the positive side, a good example of WGs working co-creatively with Occupy-supportive members of the professions is the healthcare WGs that Anna Betz blogged about here.

Life’s natural tendency to create new connections and new relationships leads to new and surprising capacities.“  (A Simpler Way, by Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers) If you’re a little bit like me, then you’re very curious of what the movement could become capable of when all of its Assemblies and WGs are richly connected in a web of federated, collaborative action, in which each part retains its autonomy, yet together achieve something that none of them could do alone.


What can Occupy learn from the evolutionary dynamics of  differentiation-integration-transformation? What can that triad bring to answer the epic question, how can the 99% win?

In nature, as in society, qualitative transformation, the appearance of a new system is happening by emergence.

Emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions… An integrative level, or level of organization, is a set of phenomena emerging on pre-existing phenomena of lower level. Typical examples include life emerging on non-living substances, and consciousness emerging on nervous systems.”  (Wikipedia)

In Part 1 of this essay, I wrote about General Assemblies: the primordial soup of social life in the 3rd millennium, comparing the new dynamics that Occupy is creating with the emergence of life from the non-living. It is a metaphor hardly exaggerated if you consider that none of us can experience the joy, freedom, autonomy, creativity and solidarity of being alive, until all of us can. In that sense the emergence of life from the non-living is still ahead of us!

What is the role of strategy if emergence, by definition cannot be “designed?” Well, we can design conditions that foster the emergence to an integrative level. Here are two of them:

• Connecting the existing conversations in and around the movement among those who are looking at strategy from the greatest whole they can put their arms around.

• Hosting a strategy learning community, a commons of people passionate about growing individual and collective competences in strategic sensing, thinking, planning, and navigating.

If life and “r’evolution carries itself forward by the working groups of Occupy,” then “to lay claim to the future, we need to connect and amplify the activities of the working groups as stated by Tia Carr Williams in her article MORE.

A bottom-up transformation of an unjust society that favors the few will, indeed, require the further differentiation of the working groups, and their integration within and across Occupations. This integration can catalyze transformation and allow us to start functioning as the competent institutions of our new, participatory democracy, at increasing scale.

Tags: connective intelligence, , , , integration, , transformation

Categories: Identity & Strategy, Thinking Together, Working Groups


Subscribe to our Social Profiles

8 Comments on “How r’evolution carries itself forward by the Working Groups of Occupy”

  1. Reply
    February 13, 2012 at 2:46 am #

    Directly relating to George’s post on the need for integration across the occupy movement, i was excited to receive an email from Michel Bauwens (P2P foundation) on the integration happening thru the World Social Forum network…

    … World Social Forum participants in the run-up to Rio+20 — where Governments will try “to make it look as if they are doing something significant for the environment” — are preparing for a People’s Summit Rio+20 in late May. A wide array of these groups recently met in Porto Alegre, Brazil, to do some advance planning…

    Michel Bauwens shares info on the WSF’s strategy where the people have determined “A framework and kaleidoscope of social practices for another possible world”

    I see mirrored here, many of the same concerns that occupy is grappling with including “one of the most recurrent… the tension between the local, the regional and the global”. I would be interested to see what other occupy strategy people think of this planning document?

  2. Reply
    March 4, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    Occupy needs to uncover the worst face of capitalism, which is found in part within the medical arena. It can be shown by lay, humane people that the diseases that plague modern society are not what the medical industry will have us believe. This is part way in highlighting two big problems that to date have remained hidden. One is that when you begin to understand how these diseases come into being, you begin to see that pathogenic stress is the means of power and influence for the sake of manipulation and control by a multitude of interconnected networks of toxic/evil people. These are threaded seamlessly in every society on earth and knows no borders. The second is that evil people (possibly around 10-15% of the worlds population), who play foul games with other people’s lives, are being protected by the medical industry because they affect the health of hundreds of millions of people across the world thus creating a multitrillion dollar bonanza. At you’ll the need is to occupy the medical arena now! You can get more information if you visit my blog

    • Reply
      March 4, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

      Dear Kyrani99,
      I am in awe of the huge amount of energy you put into writing your blog. You have clearly devoted a lot of time, passion and skill to unearth a lot of the harmful practices within the medical sector. Chronic stress is certainly a killer by causing the biological functions of our bodies to get out of balance. Symptoms of ill health being the natural result of an imbalanced system.
      The medical sector like all other sectors of our capitalist system are in crisis. All systems including the capitalist system need interconnected parts/organs and processes/networks that make the whole thing functional. From my experience there are many ways to bring a sick system back into balance. Violent revolutions rather like the aggressive suppression and control of unwanted symptoms may bring about short term change but from my experience are of limited use longterm as they fail to address the underlying causes.
      As underlying causes seem always to be connected to peoples mental models, beliefs and values what do you think may change these? For example what responsibilities and opportunities for dealing with the crisis do we have as individual users and user groups of the medical system? Are there already new models worthwhile networking and collaborating with? How can we embody the change we want to see? I would be curious to learn what your vision of a healthy medical system would look like.
      I have some thoughts on this myself and welcome generative conversations in order to find out and model what a healthy healthcare system could look like.
      Maybe you want to check out these links:

  3. Reply
    March 4, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    i will look into the links you provide. However let me point out here that my blog is not about models of how we think and what beliefs we uphold. It is about the underhanded violence that is at present being meted out by people who seemingly look good on the outside but harbor hatred in their hearts, enough hatred to harm those around them in their lives, especially their spouse and their families.

    I have certainly views on a healthy health system but primarily it is for the current system to rid itself of the greed and the excess that is only serving capitalist interests at the expense of people’s health, quality of life and life itself.

    There are good doctors and it is for those to band together develop tests for toxicity and then apply them as to develop an organization of non-toxic doctors. Then let the market forces prevail. Who would go to a doctor that is not certified humane?

  4. Reply
    March 13, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    “You say my particular interest is in protecting Healthcare from enclosure and in supporting the right of everyone to optimal health.” What that says to me is that you are interested in the welfare of the healthcare system and reasonaby because this is your line of work. However you need to consider that in the coming future the healthcare system will be significantly downsized because people will discover the truth about disease. Consider this. Those doctors and health care professionals who are humane/ non-toxic, not greed driven, need to get together now, develop tests for toxicity and apply those tests to form a humane organization of health care professionals. (And you don’t need to test a single toxic doctor or health care professional) you only need to apply it to those that come forth, who are humane. Then let the market forces decide. The only healthcare professionals left standing at the end of the day will be those that are humane.


  1. Reclaiming the commons as a social theory of collective action | The Future of Occupy - February 7, 2012

    [...] How r’evolution carries itself forward by the Working Groups of Occupy [...]

  2. The Future of Occupy Newsletter “Occupy will never die; Evict us, we multiply!” | Take The Square - February 20, 2012

    [...] Read MORE [...]

  3. The Lessons of 2011: some theses on what recent struggles have to say about organisation | Orango Quango - March 23, 2012

    [...] of universality, if we discount the latter’s teleologism. Interestingly, it could be noticed that more optimistic readings of such movements, while ostensibly predicated on something like ‘collective [...]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 295 other followers