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FoO Workshop at the OWS Making Worlds, Commons Forum

This workshop was made up of two parts, facilitated by Mary Beth Steisslinger. The first question asked was: what are the challenges to successful horizontal politics? Then secondly, Why and how to form knowledge commons for horizontal strategy? The two questions were given their separate time slot/section of the workshop. Both sections were informed by and inter-linked with the Occupy-Commons strategy workshop, that was taking place before the event, concurrently, and following on from the event online at the FoO website.

 

1. What are the challenges to successful horizontal politics?

Introduction

What does “political work”, “political action” and “political thought” mean from the standpoint of the commons? (Vicente Rubio) Or, as a participant of the Occupy-Commons strategy workshop, Ed Lytwak put it online, “how do we create a new horizontal politics in a world defined by vertical, aka hierarchical, politics?

If politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions, then there are a couple of other questions to explore together before we can successfully address the ones that Vicente and Ed asked, including:

What are the specific challenges to grow our seeds of our horizontalist processes

into strong institutions of real, participatory democracy,

capable to challenge the politics played by the political class and its backers

in their so-called “representative democracy”?

Participants were asked:

What other questions do you all see that we need to look into, when exploring the internal and external challenges to effective horizontal politics at all scale?

Internal challenges include the conditioning of our thinking and behavior by the ancient regime. It calls for a re-programming of our wetware (aka attitudes, habits, and thought patterns) that don’t serve us anymore.

External challenges include the lack of tools and working methods for absorbing complexity, without putting a new class of experts on the neck of the people. It calls for boosting the power of our collective thinking, sensing, and self-reflection.

Then an Interactive exercise was performed:

a. Brainstorm on and collect responses on post-it notes about:

What are some of the other internal challenges to effective, horizontalist politics?

What are some of the other external challenges to effective, horizontalist politics?

b. Do a collaborative “affinity diagramming:” clustering responses that are close to each other, and giving a name to each cluster.

c. Promise that we will post the clustered responses on the wiki, as input to post-Forum follow up work by anybody who wants to contribute to tackle those challenges together.


2. Why and how to form knowledge commons for horizontal strategy?

To boost the power of our collective thinking, sensing, and self-reflection, we need to discover/invent the appropriate tools and methods for it. That requires sustained attention by Occupiers who feel called to work on that.

Using Elinor Ostrom’s commons design principles and supported by those remarkable commoners among us, who support both Occupy and the Commons (e.g. Bollier, Quilligan, Steisslinger), we can co-create a commons for the production of our collective thinking, sensing, and self-reflection. I imagine it as a people’s think tank with porous membrane, always open to new members, and having sufficient boundaries and structure to protect it from abuse.

What would be your vision for such a people’s think thank? What goals would it pursue? How would it support and be supported by the movement everywhere? How would thinking and doing marry in the practice of this commons?