The ideas of the many

They’re known as the Mob Squad: digital activists, fundraisers, face to face recruiters, direct dialoguers, volunteer and action coördinators — Greenpeace staff, volunteers, and fellow travellers from other groups whose job it is to rouse rabbles, to people power campaigns for the planet, to take issue and create movement(s).

They gathered here in a secret mountain location in the south of Spain to figure out better ways to win the “War on Terra.”

The facilitators meeting last night set the tone: this is not a traditional meeting. It isn’t led by a core group of élite or elect. It’s run collectively. Facilitators are not heroes with the answers, they aren’t there to be rockstars or experts: they’re there to create a space for learning and discussion. They guide and focus, they quiet the talkative, they encourage the silent to speak. 

The organisers will not huddle at breakfast. They will not plot outcomes. They will not steer the meeting to a desired result. 

The agenda is barely set before we arrive: it will be created as we go, with a mob process involving candidate topics on post-it notes, what facilitator Gunner calls his “Favorite data capture device.” Once the mob view of what we want to learn discuss and decide is posted on one massive wall, the “Mosh Pit” begins: cluster, arrange, classify, until the big themes the meeting will address rise to the surface. Advantage? As Gunner explains, “Any agenda designed in advance privileges the people who have time to input. That tends not to be the folks on the ground, the people in the boats, the ones head down in a campaign and keeping the trains on the tracks.” 

The first time I encountered this style or organising, I heard the voice of “THIS IS NOT HOW IT’S DONE” screaming in my head. I wanted a linear story, some assurance of where we were going, an omniscient narrator, a plan. I remember David McTaggart in the early days of the organisation writing the minutes of meetings before they happened. 

But I’ve seen the magic of this style, and by gum, it works. It’s rooted in a concept which is a fractal image of a change we want to see in the world, and one which we’re driving in the organisation itself. Simply stated, it’s this:

The ideas of the many will always be stronger than the ideas of the few. 

You can follow the discussion via the hashtag #GPDMS on Twitter and via Storify.

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