Over the past two years I have worked with several local political organizing groups in Boston. During this time, have witnessed the good, the bad and the ugly as far as the failures and triumphs of cooperative democracy or consensus building are concerned.
For part of the past two years I organized with Occupy Boston and other political groups in the Boston area with mixed results. The broad scope of the participants of OB from early on led to shifting priorities around the role and function of the decision-making process. Our general assemblies went from very large and long-winded events with side show qualities to the smaller groups that continue to meet, and arguably function, to this day.
Throughout the process or building consensus, one thing has become apparent. People will work towards a goal only if they feel a sympathy, trust and a measure of respect for the people who they are organizing with. The broad and often vague message of the 99% left open much room for debate as to the credibility of the revolving door of organizers. Many questions about the legitimacy of the stalwarts of the group remain, and any loyalty to the cause for good or bad has ultimately been met with a large degree of mistrust and suspicion. Still, the problem of the large amount of time that making sound decisions involved was never adequately addressed when establishing priorities and goals. I witnessed organizers originate great ideas with often weak priorities, poor planning, blunt tools and shabby execution.
Nonetheless the crazy experiment of OB has allowed me to develop patience and to apply the wisdom gained from both triumphant and disappointing experiences to an experimental collaborative democracy project like Interwinkles. Intertwinkles takes the useful pieces from the broken shards of an impromptu movement like Occupy and attempts to empower groups that are actually invested and committed to working together towards common goals. The toolkit of software actually gives organizers the needed opportunity to organize effectively before executing major projects. At the same time, smaller and less extensive decisions can be accomplished more quickly and managed more effectively through employing these tools.
Many of the tools including the Twinklepad are familiar and useful for helping people work together remotely while very thoroughly retaining the integrity shared information. The Twinklepad offers real time text editing by numerous writers from remote locations. Resolve is an on-line tool that allows group members an opportunity to draft resolutions, amend them and vote on them without committing to regular face-to-face meetings. The potential for saving energy, travel time, while including busy participants with conflicting schedules makes the Twinklepad and Resolve both great options for members of housing cooperatives who might not otherwise find time to regularly meet to arrive at decisions and determine common goals.
As the Intertwinkles project progresses, time will decide if housing cooperatives are able to find common ground through employing consensus building software that aims to make life less confusing.