Tue 11 Feb 2020 10:29PM

Defining the best questions

OS Oli SB Public Seen by 105

At OPEN 2020 we're going to try and come up with some answers, to really move things along, and get people collaborating inside a new economy. But that means defining the best questions....


Oli SB Tue 11 Feb 2020 10:49PM

Part of the plan for OPEN 2020 is to run a kind of citizens assembly where groups will be tasked with tackling questions, and developing answers, to report back to the wider group.

If we start with the idea that the event seeks to determine "How can we co-create a new economy which puts people and planet before profit?" What do the best sub-questions become?

Some ideas could be...

  • Which tools can we use to collaborate more effectively in working groups?

  • Which tools can we use to coordinate more effectively between working groups?

  • How can we fund new working groups and address the 'capital conundrum' for co-ops?

  • How can we start to move our business from the old economy to the new?

  • How will we reach the required scale to enable a vibrant alternative economy?

  • How can encourage subsidiarity in our governance?

If you've got ideas for specific questions which you would like to discuss pop them in the comments and we can try to tease out the best ideas to make the event as effective as possible...

May the games begin :)


Simon Grant Tue 11 Feb 2020 10:59PM

  • How will we design and construct a suitable open knowledge base for people to share how to do everything necessary?

  • How will we help people arrive at a common approach to this?

  • If that common approach includes diversity of technology, what will the open common standards or interfaces be?

  • How can this knowledge be effectively found by as many people as possible, with diverse backgrounds, and perhaps using varied languages?

  • How will this all be effectively governed, by commoners, as a true knowledge commons?


mike_hales Tue 11 Feb 2020 11:04PM

What are the characteristics that we need the new economy to have

  • In the lives of individual households

  • In localities

  • in the new skills and kinds of knowledge and organisation that people will need

  • in relationships between regions?

I don’t think the tools questions can be sharply framed, until questions of this kind are answered. What are we making with the tools?


Oli SB Thu 13 Feb 2020 9:57AM

but surely we know the main 'characteristics' we need the new economy to have already... don't we? they're the opposite characteristics to the existing one! i.e. Abundance instead of scarcity, diversity instead of mono-cultures, decentralized instead of centralized etc etc - but maybe you are saying we need to get more into the 'values'? or something else?

I guess maybe I need to define the 'vision' a little better to answer your question about 'what are we making with the tools?' but, briefly, I'm thinking that...:

What we need to build is "a movement which co-creates an alternative, democratically controlled economy which enables an alternative means of exchange, investment and management of value flows (just like the existing economy) but which puts people and planet before profit."

I think the way we might want to do that is mapped out in this post about enabling small groups https://networkweaver.com/the-foundations-of-exponential-impact/

So, in terms of tools I was thinking specifically of tools which help small groups to work together on the above vision, and tools to help coordinate the groups. Make sense?


mike_hales Thu 13 Feb 2020 10:46AM

That helps Oli, thanks. The notions of movements or formations, and cells, help to specify the architecture of tools. imo “people and planet before profit”calls for a whole lot more specification. But for present purposes, maybe it’s enough?

The main tweak I would insert is to make ‘movement’ plural. A single movement is so last-century, a modernist ambition? The future is plural - ‘a pluriverse’? And perhaps that pushes the challenge of tools-architecture into a whole other domain? Many cells (activist formations) weaving into plural movements (coop, commons, permaculture, new-municipalism, FLOSS, Web3, all the threads of the solidarity economy, feminist economics, etc etc etc). Personally, I don’t feel that the anarcho-libertarian DNA of FLOSS tools culture can be trusted to develop collectives and associations in that way. The heritage of ‘coop’ means solidarity, community and common weal? So that’s a challenge to address?


Oli SB Thu 13 Feb 2020 10:52AM

really good points Mike - I wonder if we can develop a clear concise question from this thinking that will help us get to appropriate answers!?


David De Belleville Tue 11 Feb 2020 11:51PM

Capital sub-question : what could be legal forms and statutes that simultaneously enable
- access to capital for growth
- shared ownership and democratic control
- sanctuarized mission and values (making demutualization impossible).
Interesting elements from multistakeholder coops and steward/foundation ownership.


John Waters Wed 12 Feb 2020 12:39PM

The number of questions to which can possibly find an immediate answer is limited. New questions will arise as contexts change. (That doesn't mean that I disagree with the questions already raised, but these are short- to medium-term issues in contexts currently understood.)

Whatever the components (subsystems, entities, whatever term we might use - individuals to the whole planet, and everything in between), their inputs, outputs and sustaining needs will change over time as they interact in new ways, form new relationships, and abandon old (damaging) relationships. As I see it, we need to design tools that enable these components to identify and nurture new, synergistic, co-operative relationships, and we lack the omniscience to predict what these might turn out to be. We also need tools to enable these components to understand, predict and measure the consequences of their actions at every level - from the local to the global. The fundamental problem (as I see it) is to optimize the matching of resources to needs in ways that are least damaging at these numerous levels.

Unfortunately many at the individual or intermediate level ignore (or fail to recognize) the need to minimize damage up to planetary level. I fear many never will, so (as I see it) appropriate metasystemic levels need to be constructed to match the variety of those categories to that of the planetary system - and matching the variety of those constrained by ignorance, indifference or conditioning is no small challenge. Self-organization and co-evolution will be far more important factors than design or detailed analysis (neither of which are practicable to more than a very limited extent).

Relationships will change rapidly during any remedial phase, continuing to change more slowly once a terminal sustaining state has been reached - no matter how short-lived that might be. No "steady state" will persist for ever, but the slower the rate of change in any phase, the greater the ability of any subsystem to stabilize. However things unfold (and I believe it would be both futile and dangerous to try to predict this in any detail), I believe only the simplest of fixed reference goals - care of the planet, care of people, and finding acceptable resolutions to the many conflicts between the first two - are realistic.

Therefore I believe the most fundamental questions should include:

  • What can we agree as shared objectives?

  • How can we minimize the risk of unintentional damage to others' remedial and sustaining initiatives?

  • How can we develop approaches identifying points of synergy?

  • How can we co-develop layered metasystems, what tools might help in the short term towards this goal?


Diana Finch Thu 13 Feb 2020 11:08AM

The big problem is that we are all trying to work on complex systems that cannot be predicted. For this reason we need a variety of experiments and to see the impacts in the real world. Hopefully we can work out from those projects what approaches work, and gradually refine our work. So for me the questions have to be about:

  • How do we share information about what we are all are doing - and ensure that everyone working in this space knows about this method for sharing information?

  • How do we share learning to avoid repeating mistakes and capitalise on effective approaches?

  • What are the indicators we should be focusing on, that have the potential to show at an early stage whether a project is likely to produce the intended impact at scale? Should we standardise on indicators and measurement, and if so, how, given that all experiments will be pretty unique?

I guess in effect I'm saying that over-emphasis on design questions, desired impacts and trying to preempt the consequences in complex systems is not the right focus. No amount of thinking can predict the unintended consequences or maximise the intended ones. No amount of joint working will come up with an approach that will definitely work and therefore should be our 'common' approach. We have to learn by doing and experimenting in varied ways, and we need to focus on ensuring all the learning opportunities are maximised.


Oli SB Thu 13 Feb 2020 11:48AM

great questions - thanks Diana

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