Blogs

Dotmocracy Demonstrations in My Last Weeks in Venezuela

(See my previous blog post to understand why I'm in Venezuela and what the are Communal Councils that I was investigating).

My last month in Venezuela was very fruitful. After sending out hundreds of emails to various government contacts and journalists, I lucked out with one response from a passionate political writer, Ramón E. Garcia S. (read his blog in Spanish) who's day time job is a computer network system administrator for the government tax office. He invited me to stay with his family in Bolivar City and to demonstrate my Dotmocracy group decision-making technique (Método "¿Que opinas?” in Spanish) to various government representatives and community organizers there.

Two women discuss an idea part of a 65 person Dotmocracy demonstration for "Mision Cultura" in Bolivar City.
Two women discuss an idea part of a 65 person Dotmocracy demonstration for "Mision Cultura" in Bolivar City.

Why I'm in Venezuela where mob rule is the law

[Leer una version en español aqui]

I have been in the town of Cumaná on the eastern coast of Venezuela for four months now. Growing up in Toronto, Canada, I'm far away from home and everything I knew. While the climate and exchange rate are obvious pluses, I have had many a friend and stranger ask why Venezuela? Why go to a "developing" country known for its violent cities? Isn't that where Hugo Chavez, the president, is a crazy dictator?

Two kids in Simon Rodriguez community in Cumana, Venezuela

Two kids in shanty town community of Simon Rodriguez in Cumanà, Venezuela.

My answer is quite simple: I think a better future is dependent on participatory democracy, and there is no country in the world that has more of it than here.

Online Tools for Brainstorming, Deliberating and Rating Ideas

While my main interest is in tools for group decision making and governance that people can us without the need for computers, I am frequently asked by the geek types "Hey, I bet dotmocracy would work great online. Do you have a web version?" In short, I don't but there are web applications for brainstorming ideas, deliberating them, rating and recognizing the level of agreement among participants, similar to the paper based dotmocracy process. Here is short list of the best ones I found:

A Positive Review of “Collaboration Handbook”

Collaboration Handbook - coverCollaboration Handbook - coverSolid advice on how to make collaboration work between community organizations.

Collaboration Handbook: Creating, Sustaining, and Enjoying the Journey

Co-Authors: Michael Winer, Karen Ray
Publisher: Fieldstone Alliance
ISBN: 978-0-940069-03-9

This text definitely earns its Handbook title. It is a complete 178 page manual on how to initiate, grow and support a successful collaboration between not-for-profits, community groups and institutions.

A Review of “Collaboration: What Makes it Work” 2nd Edition

Understand the 20 factors influencing the success of collaboration between community organizations.

Collaboration: What Makes It Work, 2nd Ed.
Co-Authors: Paul W. Mattessich, Marta Murray-Close, Barbara R. Monsey
Publisher: Fieldstone Alliance

A Positive Review of "The Community Planning Handbook"

Community Planning Handbook coverAn excellent resource for conducting citizen consultation and engagement into neighbourhood development.

The Community Planning Handbook:
How people can shape their cities, town and villages in any part of the world.
by Nick Wates.
Published by Earthscan Publications Limited, 2000.

This book is the A-Z of community lead local planning. It includes 200 pages of concise and clearly explained principles, methods, example scenarios, forms, check lists, a glossary, contacts and other incredibly useful how-to resources.

A Review of “The Deliberative Democracy Handbook”

An excellent collection of case studies of public deliberation in the aim of influencing government decision-making.

The Deliberative Democracy Handbook:
Strategies for Effective Civic Engagement in the Twenty-First Century

John Gastil (Editor), Peter Levine (Editor)
ISBN: 978-0-7879-7661-3

Venezuelan Communal Councils - a new model for participatory democracy

I recently wrote and posted a complete article on Wikipedia describing Venezuelan Communal Councils. This new model of community based deliberative and participatory democracy is being intensively promoted accross Venezuela as the base of popular power in their effort towards demonstrating a new kind of "21st Century Socialism".

A Critical Review of “The Change Handbook” (first edition)

A good introduction to the field of participatory change implementation and an overview of known methods, but not enough detail to actually implement anything.

The change handbook: Group methods for shaping the future
Editor: P Holman , T Devane
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
San Francisco, CA Copyright 1999

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