• Nelson Guedes

The Advantages of Collaborative Democracy

A Better World Requires a Better System

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” — Richard Buckminster Fuller

Every day there seems to be a new protest, a new revolution, or a new coup d’état. As the People of Earth struggles against the centralized hierarchical governments and corporations that dominate and control our lives, it is clear that we must break away from the illegitimate systems that have been designed to repress us and justify the control exerted by the plutocratic elite. While we are revolting against the systems, so long as we fight, rise to power and replace the current elite, we ultimately only end up with a new elite. Egypt has been a good example of that trap. That is because the system of top-down control remains, and it is dysfunctional regardless of which party holds the power. It becomes crucial, then, to break away from the patterns of domination that we have grown accustomed to. We need a new system that works from the bottom-up.

One of such systems is Direct Democracy. While Direct Democracy is far superior to Representative Democracy in many ways, it still has its troubles. Direct Democracy is actually not a new system. It has been used before, in ancient times, and it had its issues. In Greece, it still required a lot of management year-round, even when issues were not being discussed. It also only worked well with a relatively small population. As population grew, management became harder and corruption more likely. Direct Democracy has a trilemma, where the ideal system would have to include high levels of participation, deliberation and equality, which are very difficult to provide together. There are other issues that Direct Democracy doesn't address. For instance, democracy in general is a fallacy of population. Only because a majority makes a decision together, that does not imply that such decision is the optimal one. As such, democracy does not work in practice unless the population is educated on the issues and possess the critical thinking skills required to solve them. Direct Democracy is also limited to government and does not directly influence the realm of businesses and corporations, which are a major threat to democracy. Furthermore, Direct Democracy generally still relies on majority rule, which is inferior to consensus and not necessary reflective of the needs of voters.

While Direct Democracy is a good option, today we have the technology and the knowledge to create a superior form of participatory democracy, a “Collaborative Democracy”. The fundamental principle of Collaborative Democracy is that every person who is affected by a decision made must be involved in the making of that decision. In other words, if a decision needs to be made and the person is affected by that decision, they must be involved in the process. What makes Collaborative Democracy superior, in this sense, is the fact that there are no artificial boundaries to limit participation and the boundaries that do exist limit participation only to those who are affected, which makes the whole population involved smaller and more meaningful. If you feel a decision can affect you and you can prove that it will affect you, you are allowed to bring your needs to the table and be involved. Such approval process can easily be facilitated by citizenship rights in all organizations that affect the citizen. From this first principle, legitimacy and accountability are naturally derived based on the relationship between decision-makers and the influence the decisions exert on them. Natural Legitimacy is achieved because those who are making the decisions are those who will be affected and, thus, they are the ones who are most qualified to be involved. In contrast, under the current systems, legitimacy is derived by a single vote once every few years and the claimed “expertise” of the politician, which is hardly legitimate. Natural Accountability is derived from the simple fact that nobody would ever make a decision against their own well being for their own benefit, unlike the corrupt systems that we have now, where decision-makers are rarely affected by the decisions they make. Therefore, from the principles of Natural Legitimacy and Natural Accountability, Natural Sovereignty is achieved on an individual level and within the whole affected community of Citizens.

Another superior aspect of Collaborative Democracy is the fact that it is consensus based and directly related to the needs of the decision-makers. A consensus is reached, not by debates and voting, but by a sharing and reconciliation of perspectives and needs through a process regulated by a combination of Dynamic Facilitation and Non-Violent Communication. By sharing needs and perspectives openly, participants are able to reconcile their views and find solutions that work for every affected party. As such, a consensus is ultimately reached. Because of the consensus that is reached, all parties are actively involved and interested in the implementation of the solutions, which they themselves can be further improved by the same process. The process also includes all elements of critical thinking and it is based on the evidence provided by all parties, but unlike any other process, the goal is not to prove one side is wrong and another is right, the goal is to reconcile all information for the benefit of everyone involved.

Collaborative Democracy is also not limited to governments. It can be used within co-operatives and other organizations. It can even be used to facilitate resolution to a regional conflict, whenever it is needed. It is not defined by any time or space, it emerges when needed and subsides when it is not needed. It is not tied to location, it is tied directly to issues. It is very dynamic, organic and open. Those who participate in the process, regardless of their position in the process, rather they are customers, co-owners or citizens, their needs are taken into account.

Let’s recapitulate:

  • Decisions are made by all those who are affected by them

  • Natural Legitimacy, Natural Accountability and Natural Sovereignty

  • Consensus based

  • Reconciles perspectives

  • Addresses everyone’s needs

  • Uses Dynamic Facilitation and Non-violent Communication

  • Uses logic, critical thinking and evidence

  • Not artificially limited by time or location

  • Dynamic, organic and open

  • Effectively facilitates and co-ordinates

Collaborative Democracy fosters a higher degree of ownership, trust and collaboration between people. This higher degree of trust and collaboration leads to a greater cohesiveness in society, a flattening of organizations and a greater distribution of wealth and power among all people, decreasing the amount of inequality worldwide. Collaboration ultimately reconciles the needs of each individual with the needs of the entire planet.

Finally, Collaborative Democracy can be combined with technology, making it easy to implement, replicate, spread and scale. This makes it a powerful tool for global change. To learn more, please visit www.openearthproject.organd (coming soon).

Nelson Guedes is a Systems Savant, Interaction Analyst, Interaction Designer and Philosopher from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He has a very diverse background that includes a wide range of subjects from Philosophy to Economics and his ultimate goal is to reconcile Human Systems with Natural Systems. He is currently working on his book, The Code: A Simple Theory of Everything and The Open Earth Project, a system to facilitate and co-ordinate global collaboration.

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