Introduction to Collaborative Democracy workshop - March 26, 2009, Detroit - for the USSF 2010

Welcome! Let's start with a very brief go around in which everyone says their name and the organization they are representing.

Thanks. As Josue has mentioned, we need your help in developing a statement of principles for building technology for the social forum.

I'd like to start by briefly introducing what we mean by technology and principles, and then break the group into smaller groups of 2 - 3 people, and, using our collaborative democracy software, collaboratively write the 10 most important political principles for developing technology for the US Social forum. We'd like to wrap up with a discussion about the experience, the principles we come up with, and how we'll present this statement to the National Planning Committee.

By way of introduction, my name is Jamie - I am one of the co-directors of May First/People Link. MFPL is a membership-based activist organization with nearly 300 members. Our mission is to organize the left online - ensure that the values of collaboration, openness and democracy are defended and expanded on the Internet so our members can effectively organize the Internet for real political change.

You may have heard of us in relationship to the 2007 social forum. We were not the organization that did the technology for the social forum. We were the group that organized and participated on the technology team that did the technology for the social forum. And that distinction is most important to us, especially in that way that our experience will inform the 2010 social forum and, fundamentally, the reason we wanted to meet with you tonight.

Technology is the term used to describe the tools humans use to do what we think we have to do. Internet technology is really no different than anything else human beings do and the way we develop it is no different. We talk about it, each of us brings to that discussion what we've learned up to now, and we make decisions about it collaboratively.

There are people who try to argue that technology is something made by a few people or a company or some other organization and then offered to the rest of us to use. But the truth is that everyone who works in developing effective technology brings to that work what he or she has learned from the people who use it. The term "user" is very broad. While technologists are developers, we are also users.

That's the core thinking that guides our organization and everything we do, including our work at the Social Forum.

As we all know, it's also the core thinking that drives the Social Forum and that's why we have always believed that technology is no different from any other aspect of the social forum: the best way to organize it is democratically and with political intent, just like we organize outreach, fundraising, registration and all the other committees. We simply can't afford to out-source it or treat it as something separate from the politics of the social forum itself.

I'm very proud with what we accomplished in 2007. However, quite frankly, the tech team had to create political rationale in situ. One of the biggest lessons from 2007 is that our political rationale needs to come from a broader and more politically integrated body - in this case, both the local organizing committee and even the NPC.

To give you a sense, some of the political issues we faced in 2007, were:

  • Choosing between different software platforms, including offers of "free" technology and software. We had numerous entrepreneurs offering us every product under the sun for free (in exchange for the promotion of the product).
  • Integrating the progressive use of technology with the Social Forum's normal build-up and organizing activities (including preparatory decision-making)
  • Creating a process for addressing the major issues facing technology like transparency, full and open use, and the innovative use of technology to advance the struggles people are waging.
  • Making technology "inclusive" and resist the lure of racist and sexist patterns of decision-making in technology decisions
  • "Internationalizing" the activities at the Social Forum so that the world - that is so interested in what's happening in this country right now - can get a good look at what we're doing here and how committed and strong our movements are.
Last modified 13 years ago Last modified on Mar 25, 2009, 2:42:33 PM