Self-Org: 2011 - 2012
Marsha's open letter 22_04_11:
Happy Easter. Spring as sprung and the weather is marvelous. And yet, I've been feeling the heat in other ways and wanted to share two things with you. Apologies for this lengthy post.
First, I was chatting to an artist friend the other day and she was smitten by my description of the HUNT trial. She thought it sounded great. And then she asked. "How does it relate to Critical Practice--assuming, that is, CP is really about self-organization?" I must confess, I was stumped. Is CP, at heart, about self-organization? And if so, how does the Hunt mesh with this?
Metod 26. 4. 2011
I am not going to spend too many words of appreciation regarding Marsha's open letter. But I would like to say thank you for poking under the ribs in good faith to efficiently self-organize in the future.
It is known that unless one does what you did Marsha (pokes), people quickly default to normal passive engagement (though I am sure that will not be sufficient still) – passive engagement is an oxymoron. And Marsha I am glad you have poked. I suppose we all need to be reminded of our commitments now and then to keep alert, of the commitments we pledge on every single meeting. Of course the empirical fact that we are all super busy, supper committed here and there, dispersed, etc. Though it isn't to say one should prioritize CP over other exciting layers in life. But, as Marsha and many others say, one needs to stand beside the the commitment one does.
I too commit and then dissolve in the ether of time and energy shortage. I have no excuses. It is the laziness, and poor priority management. And I believe that goes for the majority of us. It is easy to hide in the group, it is easy to be carried around on the hands of few members and then collectively harvest the crops (as we say in Slovenia). (I have done this in the past and in fact we all have at some point.)
And this comes at a price. Because we have not (yet) committed to crediting individuals within the group (and I stand fervently behind that!!) there is little reason why one would do more than the other if the incentive is equal (of course we find value in a myriad of things but still). I am not saying we should create a pyramid structure and reward by things done (almost hourly). And besides who would sit on the throne? Would we perhaps take European Union's model where each country presides for 6 months, where each individual would "rule" the group?? I think not!
Parade publication is a prime example. Of course Neil is legitimately credited as an editor as had driven the publication from the beginning to end, negotiating with Chelsea, then with us, then with designers, and again with us... You were in the crossfire for months. But you Marsha contributed a great deal to the publication too and is credited among the rest of us (CP).
I think the appreciation is often hidden within our cluster, tucked away in a polite smile of facial expression. Internal politics and micropolitics are so delicate within the CP that we are afraid of offending whoever. Although I like British way of "business", politeness drives me up the wall, drives me beyond mad, furious in fact, because I know it is largely hypocritical. Are we capable being more direct? Are we allowing ourselves voicing our thoughts without hurting others? Should others loosen up and take the criticism open minded?
What happened in the Cafteria Dominguez was not only incredible, it was healthy and productive "war" between the three of us (Scott, Marsha and me). At the end we had something to show, we had resolutions. If you want to know what has been debated in those 7 hours here are two examples: Membership (we should strictly use it in practice) and Aims among other things. Although I too wish more of you would witness the crossfire it would be ultimately different if there were more of us meeting.
Although I don't see CP purely as an open-organization exercise, or mastery of it, I see it as a tool of engagement, an ethos as Neil describes. But if there is little action and mostly reactionary engagement we fail in open-organization. Marsha I support the Workshop 1 and propose we start in May 2011!
Cinzia 28. 4. 2011
Marsha's discomfort and energy are both very precious. The discomfort has deep roots - not only in CP, but in the history of self-organizing groups. It was good to look back at the first OO workshop. It was good to be reminded where these ideas come from. Marsha and I were both at the amazing Workshop 2. It doesn't come across on the page, but I do remember clearly from going back to the Open Organizations's website that the guidelines were elaborated to safeguard 'members' from the pitfalls of 'spontaneous' structures that appear in non-burocrartic groups. These are inevitably shaped by personal qualities, unacknowledged power currents, conflicts, etc. I copy the introduction here:
The structures that organizations typically use for decision-making are closed: individuals are unaccountable, abuses of power are hard to prevent and knowledge is hoarded. The goal of this project is to explain how to set up and maintain transparent, accountable and truly participative communities. The desire for open organizations stems from a widespread dissatisfaction not only with the formal power structures found in governments and corporations, but also with the informal structures found in many voluntary and activist groups. Informal structures are sometimes created intentionally, but more often they appear 'by default'; since they are hidden, and often personal, they are very difficult to challenge, or even to identify and discuss. This is one of the major causes of conflict in activist and volunteer groups. It often takes up a lot of time and energy at the expense of the ideals pursued and projects undertaken, and has a demoralising effect on individual groups and on the movements they are involved in. Open Organizations is one of many initiatives that attempt to propose solutions to this problem. It is focused on elaborating a concrete framework for action.
In a way, good organizational practices should be there to counterbalance the micropolitics that we cannot discuss. It is fair and natural that we cannot avoid them, unpack them or be free from them ... as much as we would all like to be better!!!
I agree with Marsha: it would be good to have seasonal meetings to keep our core organizational practices fresh and focused. Metod, I think that these should be prepared and practical, so I would think May is a bit too early. I also think that fortnightly meetings are too heavy a commitment for most of us.
I would like to propose - to extend Marsha's injection of energy - that, instead of trying to duscuss 'things', we each suggest possible strategies to counterpoint the difficulties we perceive, and set up a series of PRACTICAL workshops to foster those suggestions as the cluster's organizational culture. Making use of the OO guidelines (or other sources, if you are already aware of them) as a starting point would be good (in line with aim and objective 4) and avoiding wastes of resources like re-inventing the wheel!
If you don't think it will make the next meeting too long and rich, I suggest that in the next meeting we start proposing possible strategies and workshops to develop in the future.
I would also like to include in this conversation a sentence that Neil included in his last e-mail (I hope I'm not taking this out of context, Neil ...):
I would just add one thought, I am of the opinion that not every functional element (project) that runs, or ran within CP - like PARADE for example - needs to be "about" self organisation. For me self organisation is an ethic that suffuses CP, not a doctrine that dominates all its functional elements (projects). Many fuctional elements, seem to have taken many different organisational forms.
This is absolutely true! I think that this suffusing ethics should be nurtured - particularly after large, demanding projects, like Parade. We should also find ways of harversting some of these different organisational forms that have appeared in practice - in the making of projects. I shall put my thinking hat on, and start an agenda fo next week!
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