[p2p-research] The National Assembly

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Sat Nov 21 17:48:13 CET 2009

superb, reports for our blog would still be very welcome,


2009/11/20 Smári McCarthy <smari at anarchism.is>

> In an interesting development on this case, the government of Iceland has
> decided to enter into formal cooperation with the organizers of the
> (crowdsourced) National Assembly to ensure that the results be taken into
> account in the coming future and that the ideas brought forth at the
> assembly be implemented.
> Score one for chaos, eh?
>  - Smári
> Paul D. Fernhout wrote:
>> Smári McCarthy wrote:
>>> An article my friend Sam Knight wrote about the National Assembly in
>>> Iceland yesterday, which he describes quite aptly as the "first attempt
>>> to crowdsource a socio-economic-political manifesto in history"
>>> http://ohmygov.com/blogs/general_news/archive/2009/11/13/in-iceland-trying-to-reprogram-government.aspx
>>> The results are in. A brief English distillation is at
>>> http://thjodfundur2009.is/english/ but the Icelandic datasets are
>>> fantastic: http://thjodfundur2009.is/
>>> I hope (and expect) there will be more translation of them in the coming
>>> days.
>> That's all great news.
>>  From the first link it says: "It is a nationwide calamity that will
>> affect Iceland for generations."
>> I don't see that. :-) We're maybe twenty years to a complete reordering of
>> the core principles of global society, if for no other reason than increased
>> robotics and improved materials.
>> Is it coincidental that student protests are happening at the same time?
>> http://listcultures.org/pipermail/p2presearch_listcultures.org/2009-November/006005.html
>> Or is this all part of a larger global trend -- both as "capitalism hits
>> the fan" and as people also have at least unconscious hopes for something
>> much better from all the technology and information we have built up?
>> I look at that picture at the first link of the room with all the computer
>> screens presumably connected to the internet, and 2D printers, and I can't
>> be anything but hopeful. :-)
>> Anyway, on how to proceed using all those computers, the article says:
>> """
>> At the assembly itself, the masses will be broken down into groups of
>> nine. With the help of discussion facilitators who have been trained to
>> ensure the roundtable discussions are healthy, participants will  discuss
>> what values defines them as a nation. To ascertain exactly how these groups
>> of nine will arrive at a larger consensus, when each participant comes up
>> with a proposed value – Mr. Gudjonsson expects 20,000 ideas to be proposed –
>> it will be “tagged” by that group electronically, like on a blog.
>>  Tags will be monitored by a backroom staff who will ascertain which
>> values were deemed important most frequently. The top nine will be
>> considered Iceland's moral pillars for the purposes of the National
>> Assembly. From there, slightly larger groups will discuss how to build
>> social frameworks — economic, educational, justice, and health care systems
>> — based on these core values. For each value, the assembled groups will come
>> up with nine ideas on how to improve society (nine, according to Mr.
>> Gudjonsson, is an ideal number for group work.)
>>  Mining the data for a consensus in this section will be relatively more
>> qualitative, but at the end of the day participants will have drafted a
>> manifesto that will give the country a better idea of what sort of future
>> society it would like to build. Not bad for a Saturday’s work.
>> """
>> That sounds like a fantastic start.
>> If you want to continue improving on that, my wife (Cynthia Kurtz) has
>> written extensively on using stories (narrative) to help with that sort of
>> thing. Here is a free online book she wrote about that:
>>  http://www.workingwithstories.org/
>> """
>> When you work with stories, you can ask people to tell stories about their
>> experiences related to some subject of importance to you (and usually to
>> them), and you can also ask them to answer some questions about those
>> stories. When you do these things, you can find out things and make things
>> happen that wouldn't be possible otherwise. You can:
>>    * find things out,
>>    * catch emerging trends,
>>    * make decisions,
>>    * get new ideas,
>>    * resolve conflicts,
>>    * connect people,
>>    * help people learn, and
>>    * enlighten people.
>> This online book is an informational resource for people who want to get
>> started working with stories on a small scale in their communities and
>> organizations.
>> """
>> When you get people telling stories to each other (essentially, p2p done
>> with stories), the whole interaction often changes, and people will often
>> talk about things in different ways than "focus groups" or another approach
>> that just focuses on collecting ideas. One thing that stories often convey
>> is the emotional context for the ideas and situations described.
>> For example, I look at this list:
>>  "9 themes: Here are some of the main results from each of the categories
>> discussed"
>>  http://thjodfundur2009.is/english/
>> and while the ideas are nice, they lack the emotional connection that
>> stories can bring. Stories help people to go from the specific to the
>> general. So, for example, to pick one result at random, consider:
>>  "Formulate non-partisan comprehensive policy with emphasis on sustainable
>> utilization, nature conservation and education"
>> That sounds nice, but connecting that with stories about it will be more
>> persuasive and illuminating. So, what is a story about when some part of
>> this did happen? Or what was a consequence of a situation when it did not?
>> Also, the emotional aspects of stories may help you prioritize which of
>> these issues to focus on first. Is that issue more important to most people
>> than, say, another item from that page:
>>   "research and innovation to create strong alternative industries"?
>> People can tell stories and then you can ask them to rate them on things
>> like "emotional intensity". Then you can analyze the results statistically
>> in various ways and look for trends.
>> And how do the two issues interlink, assuming most people deeply care
>> about them? Sometimes stories can have themes that show how different issues
>> overlap, like if both involved an archetype (theme) of "the innovator" or
>> perhaps "the conservationist" for example. You can do that in other ways,
>> but an emphasis on the narrative (story) aspect, can often help in making
>> sense of all that. If you have you stories tagged with themes or archetypes
>> that have emerged out of group sensemaking exercises, then you can use that
>> information to look for more patterns and connections.
>> You may already have a lot of stories in what you have collected, so you
>> may just be able to connect them up even with what you have, either as is,
>> or with some more group exercises (perhaps on smaller or larger scales). She
>> has these pages that might help, based around the idea of "Look, Think,
>> Talk":
>>  http://www.workingwithstories.org/look_findingpatterns.html
>>  http://www.workingwithstories.org/think_makingsense.html
>>  http://www.workingwithstories.org/talk_connectingpeopleandstories.html
>> My wife has done dozens of projects of this nature for governments,
>> corporations, and non-profits, and the techniques can help people make sense
>> of what they feel and believe as a community. A key aspect of what she
>> understands is how the people in a community can themselves come to better
>> insights through an interactive process as a community (through various
>> semi-structured exercises), rather than just use the community to collect
>> data and mine it later by someone else.
>> But, like anything, there are tricks to doing this well depending on the
>> situation. Here is a chart about what methods work best in different
>> situations, base on her experience:
>>  "Summary of method recommendations"
>>  http://www.workingwithstories.org/summaryofmethodrecommendations.html
>> For example, in many settings, it is generally best not to ask directly
>> for stories in many settings for various reasons, so in some settings if you
>> asked, "Please tell a story about Kreppa babies?" people might not think of
>> something they want to say, but if you use "eliciting questions" you can
>> often get people talking about stories anyway, like "So, you found out your
>> friend was pregnant, and then what happened?" Examples of how to do that,
>> depending on the context:
>>  http://www.workingwithstories.org/askingforstories.html
>> (Hopefully I'm not mangling her work too much in my explanation of it or
>> made up on-the-spot examples. :-)
>> So, if you do this again as another iteration, a focus on stories may help
>> with continuing to improve your data analysis and collection, even though it
>> seems like you have done amazing stuff already. You may be asking for
>> stories already, of course. But most people don't. It's a slowly growing
>> area of expertise, and there are not that many people in the world who focus
>> on this yet, relative to the vast number of information collection projects.
>> Many information gathering projects have a goal to extract something from
>> the community for use by a center of power and profit-making, and so
>> information collecting techniques have been shaped by that perspective;
>> these narrative techniques are also often used for that, sadly, but they
>> have the potential to help communities in other ways, and that bigger
>> picture has been my wife's aspirations for them. Most work on stories is
>> also about storytelling (often as propaganda), not story listening
>> (understanding and insight), so it's not that common a perspective, even for
>> people who know a lot about stories in other ways. And, as above, you may
>> find you already have a lot of stories that you could do something new with,
>> including present them back to the Icelandic community and have people rate
>> them on things like "emotional intensity" or "estimated frequency of
>> occurrence" or lots of other things. So, a story-based approach could be a
>> next step to build on the data you have already collected and use it so the
>> Icelandic community can get even more useful information.
>> As one caveat, her methods have generally been tuned for small groups and
>> divisions in companies. I'm not sure how they would apply on even the scale
>> of Iceland. You could talk to her about that.
>> If someone in Iceland (you, Sam, or someone who trains those facilitators)
>> wanted to talk to her about this in more detail, feel free to contact me (or
>> her) directly to set up a phone call or Skype chat with her.
>> She also has some free and open source software for small groups to share
>> their stories with each other, but it is still in beta:
>>  http://www.rakontu.org/
>> "Rakontu is a free and open source web application that small groups of
>> people can use together to share and work with stories. It's for people in
>> neighborhoods, families, interest groups, support groups, work groups: any
>> group of people with stories to share. Rakontu members build shared "story
>> museums" that they can draw upon to achieve common goals. "
>> She designed it to be easy to modify to support other languages, so by
>> editing a few template files, someone might even have an Icelandic version
>> in not that much time. :-)
>> But, you can use these sorts of methods even without any specific
>> software.
>> --Paul Fernhout
>> http://www.pdfernhout.net/
>> http://www.beyondajoblessrecovery.org/
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