Outside the Circle

Cindy Milstein

Occupation in Philly, Day 2

At Philly’s occupation, we’re not doing full consensus or consensus minus one, but rather confederated direct democracy, striving to get as many (or all) of the people involved and impacted to decide things are a good idea and also to implement them, through a process of setting our own goals/agenda, making clear proposals, clarifying them and raising concerns through focused dialogue, thoughtful deliberation, and decision making, when ready. Last night, the general assembly ended up deciding not to decide on “permit vs. no permit,” but to create a temporary working group (which looked like about a 100 people) that met right afterward; that group is going to bring its discussion back to the assembly today.

We’ve been doing a consensus-seeking process, and if needed, we will vote (simply majority for most stuff, but super majority if it’s really crucial–although we haven’t had to do either); the fact that we seem to be able to create a space where people really speak and listen well, stay on focus, and have substantive conversation about the decisions has, so far, allowed for pretty clear decisions through a series of “testing for consensus” using straw polls. We often incorporate breaking folks up into small, self-chosen groups for deliberation before & after testing, and that has done wonders to help all of us come to better decisions that more of us agree on. The core of all this is, first, directly demo working groups (I think 15-20 at this point!), which each send a delegate (we encourage rotation) before each general assembly to a coordinating council; the council determines the content of each assembly, including proposals; the general assembly then hears from each working group briefly (and folks can join them afterward), and then the general assembly discusses and decides on proposals, or sets up a process to deliberate more (which we’ve done 3 times now, coming to a decision at a later assembly, when folks are ready to decide).

On another note, two of the folks who thought up the brilliant idea of bringing a couch to open the Philly occupation thought up this idea, day 2, of broadcasting the Phillies game, DIY style; city officials tried to step in and do it (& take credit); then a local arts group ended up making it up. Anarchist direct action gets the goods, even if the anarchists didn’t actually have to do the work of making this happen in the end!

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This entry was posted on October 18, 2011 by in Dispatches from Occupy Philly.
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