The Collaborative Democracy Workshop
The Collaborative Democracy Workshop (formerly know as the Internet Rights Workshop) is an organizing tool developed by May First/People Link to develop our skills in participatory democracy and build a consensus on issues that are critical for our movements. The workshop is politically grounded in the Organic Internet.
The Internet is humanity's most explosive and effective form of collaboration, born as we seek a new era of social organization based on justice and respect. To get there, we must be able to make decisions collaboratively. This workshop uses Internet technology as a collaborative tool to write a Declaration of Rights based on topics important for us to agree in order to work collaboratively. Using a local network or operating over the Internet in multiple rooms, small groups write, edit and endorse rights in constant, dynamic collaboration with the other groups. The result is a document for organizing and a unique and exciting experience in the chaos, creativity and power of collaborative democracy.
In this workshop, a group of people collaboratively write a Bill of Rights on a pre-selected topic. The group can be limited to a single room, or can be spread across several rooms in different locations.
In each room, we break the participants into small groups of 4 - 5 people. Each small group speaks with one voice via a "scribe" who enters the group's proposed rights into a web-based system. A dynamic, projected display of the current state of the aggregate Bill of Rights is visible to all.
All ideas belong to the entire workshop: any group can edit any Right, whether they wrote the original version or not All revisions of a given Right are stored, but only the most recent version is projected to the group as a whole. The group which creates a new version of a right automatically endorses that right, but otherwise holds no special connection to it.
Each group also has the ability to endorse any Right that seems worthy. When a Right is edited, existing endorsements are cleared; each group needs to decide if they want to endorse the new version. Rights with more endorsers float to the top of the projected list, while the rights with fewer endorsers sink to the bottom.
To keep the Bill of Rights to a manageable, concise size, only 10 rights can exist at a given time. If 10 rights already exist, the only way to add a new idea to the Bill is to edit an existing right, which requires engaging other groups in a dialog to ensure an adequate number of re-endorsements.
You may also be interested in a more detailed specification of the workshop.
The workshop is capable of operating in a single room without Internet access (over a local wireless or wired network). In addition, it can operate over the Internet with multiple rooms.
The software's interface is available in both English and Spanish. And, it supports up to two languages for the participant-generated text, along with machine translation on user request. In a multiple language set up, participants can submit rights in one or both languages. Other participants can offer translations, which are considered "edits" and cause endorsements to be lost.
The goal of the session is to examine, through interactive collaboration:
- democratic collaboration and decision-making;
- what the Internet really means for us and our movements;
- how it models the society we are struggling for;
- how the way we've developed it serves as a model for how to develop that just society;
- and finally how we as progressive activists can work inside the Internet to broaden its positive impact and protect the gains we and it have made.
You can check out your own copy with:
svn co https://svn.mayfirst.org/mfpl/trunk/ir
- the visual display of the board for an 'ir' session should show number of edits for each right
- Improve display of live images from different locations for Collaborative Democracy workshops
- Add chat ability between groups to IR software
- For IR software, add possibility of requesting a human translation
- Create reporting options for collaborative democracy workshop
- Use of names instead of monikers in collaborative democracy workshop
- meetings.mayfirst.org: theme
- meetings.mayfirst.org: language
- prevent certain aspects of a meeting from being changed after meeting is initially created
- choose scrolling vs. all on one screen board display
- meetings.mayfirst.org: how-to, documentation
- meetings.mayfirst.org "Collaborate" page
People and equipment
The workshop requires:
- one laptop per break out group
- a wireless router
- a computer and a projector
Internet access is not required, unless you are using the software in a multiple location setup.
We've written a sample introduction that can be used to help explain to your group how the workshop works. We have a introduction specific for our USSF 2010 workshop as well - available as a template for using this software to come up with a statement of technology principles for an organizing project.
- US Social Forum, June 2007, Atlanta, GA
- Grassroots Media Conference, March 2008, New York, NY
- Allied Media Conference, June 2008, Detroit, MI
- Grassroots Use Of Technology Conference, June 2008, Boston, MA
- Critical Resistance 10, September 2008, Oakland, CA
- Americas Social Forum, October 2008, Guatemala City, Guatemala + New York City, USA
- World Social Forum, January 2009, Belem Braiil + Guatemala City, Guatemala + Sherbrooke, Canada + New York City, USA. See the rights and the photos.
- Left Forum, April 2009, New York, NY
- At the NYC Grassroots Media Conference in May 2009, we held two workshops. One was on Internet rights and for the other, we re-wrote the You Tube terms of service.
The Online Meeting Center, an internet-based tool based on the Collaborative Democracy Workshop that facilitates remote meeting environments.
The 2008 Making the future of the Internet economy work for citizens, consumers and workers conference in Seoul jointly wrote a Civil Society Declaration to the OECD 2008 Ministerial on the Future of the Internet Economy.