I wrote the following blog in the IOPS blog system. Placed on IOPS, it was a suggestion regarding activity for current IOPS members. Placed here, in the ZNet blog system, it serves as a report of some of what is happening in IOPS. I hope other IOPS members will also make reports indicating what is going on, not only here, but elsewhere too, of course.
IOPS, The International Organization for a Participatory Society is an interim organization hoping to become large enough to have a founding convention and then continue growing and contributing to winning new social structures beyond capitalism, patriarchy, racism, and authoritarianism. IOPS now has 1,000 members. This is a milestone, but, more important, it raises the question what next?
Different IOPS members will have different answers. Here is what makes sense to me.
The limits of small size
1,000 members, in so short a time, especially, is nice - but it is not enough, in my view, for members to be setting off on program, campaigns, and decision making, more broadly. The first 1,000 members are from 70 countries. Therefore some countries have a couple of hundred, perhaps, but many coin tries have a handful of members - and cities have tens, or a few or even just one member. Even interim decisions that are only temporarily binding until there is a convention, should not be taken by just a few folks, to the extent we can possibly avoid it. Similarly, general campaigns should not be undertaken by just a few - not least because more members are needed for successful activity, but also, again, and more importantly, because it would bind the organization to certain paths before it has enough members to be reasonably embarking on any specific paths. Internal projects of some members make sense. Determinations that the whole organization will do x or y, beyond perhaps the most obvious and essential steps, do not.
Of course members can and should, at least in my view, keep on with their various commitments and involvements as they decide. And of course members can do so both exactly as they had done so before, or, instead, now additionally noting their IOPS membership and even influenced by it - but not as a specifically IOPS campaign. For a designated IOPS campaign, we lack numbers sufficient to justify such decisions.
So what can IOPS members do specifically as IOPS members?
The benefits of growth and participation.
We can get more members.
Some might say recruitment is just recruitment - it is not action. It is not not program, not something aimed at affecting the world. Let's get serious, they might say.
However, this is like saying that a below ground foundation of a building that won't house anyone, isn't really the building itself, so that we should get on with building a ballroom or a meeting center or other rooms that people will use, and set aside working on the foundation. Membership is prerequisite to lasting and worthy program, projects, and struggle, the same way a foundation is prerequisite to a lasting and worthy building. So recruitment is part and parcel of organizational program, projects, and struggle, just as laying a foundation is part and parcel of having a ballroom, or a meeting center, or other rooms that people will use. The latter, might be the aim, but the former is the means.
And, there is a second general point to make. It isn't just membership that is needed, before we can to more on to program, projects, and struggle. It is informed and engaged membership. So, not only is recruitment a legitimate and necessary current priority, so too is facilitating the involvement of those who are recruited, as well as their steady gain of insights, confidence, and trusting ties to others.
We can now ask, again, what can the 1,000 members do?
Self improvement generates participation
First, we can self educate.
The 1,000 members can move from reading and agreeing with the broad organizational commitments, which was necessary to join, to exploring more in depth discussions of the IOPS vision, strategy, and structure descriptions and related materials. Forming reading groups, as some have already begun to do, makes very good sense, whether with face to face gatherings or, for the moment, even using the forums and other tools across big distances. Indeed, just individuals reading, even alone, makes very good sense. Inviting guests to speak, and then discussing their contributions, makes sense. Holding Skype gatherings for the same purpose, for example, of people in a chapter, or even in a country - not only to get to know one another, but perhaps having some author or authors of IOPS related documents that people want to explore make an initial presentation, also makes sense. All these are desirable ways for people to become confident in their ability to explain and then to possess, refine, and use IOPS views and related insights.
But so too does members moving from learning on to expressing the insights make sense. This might involve giving talks to however few people, maybe even just one or two others, at first, to become adept and confident. It might involve writing, maybe initially in emails and then later as blog posts, or whatever. These acts, to get practice, to become confident, to deal with issues that arise, and of course to communicate with others, can build confidence and skills.
But there is another dimension to ensuring that new members are participating members. That is, old members welcoming new members, connecting with them, and indeed, becoming friends with them. In this respect, the 1,000 current members can use IOPS search tools to find people in their vicinity and to try to hook up, whether in a country, region, or city. After a time, when there are, say, ten or more IOPS members who are in range of one another, people might meet face to face, perhaps regularly - including establishing ways to welcome and incorporate anyone new who joins in that area.
The above steps - and no doubt other members will think of many other possibilities (such dinners, other social events, public talks or meetings, etc.) - are of incredible importance because this kind of activity can create an ethos and a practice that is welcoming, empowering, and engaging. They can generate our own mutual aid. Or, on the other hand, the lack of this type activity can lead to a habitual state of mutual alienation in which people join IOPS, but that's it. There is little or no communication for many or even for most members beyond just joining.
There is an old saying, you can lead a horse to water, but your can't make the horse drink it. Well, what I am suggesting is that while IOPS can't make new members participate and become comfortable and confident, it can make it easy for them to participate and hard for them not to. It can make new members have to literally reject a welcoming ethos if they are to avoid participation that will otherwise come naturally - rather than making them have to aggressively insinuate themselves against an alienating ethos to attain participation which will otherwise be absent.
Outreach generates members
But what about recruitment? If 1,000 members, even if they are all confident and engaged, isn't enough - and it isn't - then how do we get to 2,000, 5,000, or 10,000 or more members?
There is no mystery in this. Just think of the phenomena would make it more likely that people will join. These are the phenomena that we must bring into existence.
Consider some individual with views that are closely compatible with IOPS but who doesn't even know IOPS exists, or who is too busy to have taken a look, or who is too skeptical to have taken a look, or who has a wrong impression of IOPS which makes him or her reject it without looking. What could increase the likelihood of this person visiting the IOPS site and then deciding to join (or not) for him or herself?
Hearing about IOPS at all.
Hearing about IOPS from someone they trust and respect
Hearing about IOPS in a way that dispels mistaken notions of it.
Hearing about IOPS in a way that overcomes skepticism about possibilities for it.
Maybe there are other phenomena to add to that list, but I think it is already enough to generate some clear implications.
So what can 1,000 members do that enhances the likelihood that an individual with views that are highly compatible with IOPS but who doesn't even know IOPS exists, or who is too busy to have taken a look, or who is too skeptical to have taken a look, or who has a wrong impression of IOPS which makes him or her reject it without having taken a look, comes in contact with the above sorts of information?
The answer, trivially, is that the 1,000 members can find ways within their reach and means, to tell others about IOPS, and especially people who trust and respect them already - giving clear and accurate information and also reporting on on-going events and developments that can inspire hope in prospects.
This can mean writing email and letters to friends and family and to people one works with, who have views that are highly compatible with IOPS. It can mean telling people clearly and accurately about IOPS - and reporting on-going activities from the site. It can also mean writing blog posts, or doing interviews. It can mean getting others to write to their friends and mates. It can mean using social networks, comments on existing sites, etc. It can mean having gatherings in one's home, or wherever else, to talk with other people about IOPS. It can even mean pushing progressive periodicals and media you relate to, or even that you just read, to link to, or to report on, or to even take a stand on what is occurring.
Perhaps there are other steps too - maybe some visible signs would help, like buttons or flyers. I have no doubt that all members uploading a brief bio and a photo would be very helpful because seeing photos of folks says to people visiting the site that members are relating. Even little things like always signing what you do in ways noting your membership, matter. Indeed, anything visible, matters.
The point is, this type activity, however far from actually struggling with the state, or with an employer, or with patriarchy, or racism, and however far from actually building the seeds of the future in the present via implementing some new project, is nonetheless the stuff of success. It is this very simple stuff - self improvement and outreach - that can move IOPS from a fine idea with a wonderful bit of online infrastructure and a promising early membership, into a large and powerful organization that is self managing its own program and projects in a trajectory of change leading toward a new society. It is this that will lay the foundation of what we all hope will follow.
The activist's task is always to do that which matters. Right now, and in my view for some time to come, the main thing that matters, indeed, virtually the only thing that matters regarding IOPS, per se, is recruitment and the involvement/empowerment of members.
So that's what we members ought to give whatever time we have available for IOPS activity to. Or so it seems to me. We don't have to all agree on anything, not even on this point. What we do need, however, if we are going to keep moving forward, is that some agree on this point, and act, on it. Indeed, as many as are able to do so.