Today has been a day of worrying about what went wrong, what everyone could have done better, how we could have stopped Trump. But we’re not going to stem this angry tide of populism simply by picking better opponents, or trying different election strategies.
Our struggle for an educated, empowered democracy has to be about building something new. The breadth of change required makes this is an ominous task, achievable only through concerted effort from many people working in parallel on many different points of the system.
Because democracy does not mean ‘Politics’ or ‘Elections’. Democracy does not mean a single choice between flawed candidates once every few years, it’s something that needs to be built in to every sector of society. Every system we interact with should give us information and agency, rather than isolation, coercion and inequality.
We need as many people as possible to get involved in building new approaches. Working to improve our society does not always mean marching in the streets (though it’s important to support and protect those who do). You can do it in your job, amongst your friends, and through decisions of how you spend your time and money.
So what are we doing now, and what can we do?
Can you dedicate at least some of your time to making the field you work in more democratic, more inclusive, more transparent, more evidence-based, more sustainable, more distributed?
Can it be reshaped to empower and educate people as they interact with it?
Are you aware of the structural inequalities which exist in your society, and are you trying to do something about them? Or do you know of anyone who is, and can you help them to do it better?
If you work in a profoundly harmful industry or company, maybe it’s time to consider using your great human potential for something else? How can your skills be put to better use?
I know that not everyone has the same opportunity to make changes, but please look for anything that you can do, however small, to help rebuild the world with democracy at its heart.
Today, sharing our outrage and our cynicism feels cathartic, but it doesn’t actually change anything. It doesn’t help in the long run, and neither does sitting around just waiting for the next election to come along.
It’s hard to know where to start, but luckily there are already plenty of people working in the right direction. So today, inspired by Project Drawdown, I started making a list of projects which are working towards this more empowering, resilient and democratic world. It covers many different fields, from journalism, to music, even to the oil and mining industries. Learn more about these projects, share the work they’re doing, support them, get involved, or be inspired to start something yourself.
CC-BY-ND Askew View Photo
This is a subjective, imperfect and partial list of some of the organisations, ideas and projects which are interlocking pieces of a more empowering, democratic society. There is no single idea which should be worked on first, we need transformations in each field and we need people putting their time in wherever they have the need or desire to help out. Some are working on ‘big’ problems, others smaller.
My loose criteria for inclusion on this list are:
- Does this idea/project empower and educate those who engage with it to have more knowledge and agency about the topic?
- Does it provide easy access to tools, knowledge and support to a broad base of citizens, not just those with money, connections or institutional backing?
- Does it use a more democratic form of governance or ownership that traditional models which tend toward inequality?
- is it transparent, evidence-based and accountable?
Not all of these projects fulfill all criteria, and the list is at a very, very early stage. Most projects make their tools and knowledge available open source for anyone to use. Suggestions welcome via the contact form on my home page, via pull request or twitter.
Architecture & Housing
Agriculture & Food
Open Source Circular Economy days *full disclosure, I’m part of the team behind this one :)