(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.
Over my two weeks in Bolivar City we had many disappointments when meetings were cancelled or there was low attendance. We also had some great successes including a demonstration for the enthusiastic Communal Council of Marhuanta, a well attended workshop at the new socialist Bolivarian University of Venezuela, two mornings of demonstrations in a public school as parents signed up their kids for the new year, a small community leader training workshop, a 65 person demonstration for local representatives of “Mision Cultura” and we even got a short article with photo published in a regional newspaper.
Communal Council of Marhuanta shows of some of their 38 Dotmocracy agreements
After big hugs goodbye to Ramón, his lovely family and his friends who tirelessly supported my presentations and investigations, I flew to Caracas for my final five days at the end of this six month adventure. Thanks to some phone calls from Ramón, within two hours of landing I was able to walk into the Ministry of Popular Participation and Social Protection and present Dotmocracy to various coordinators that work with Communal Councils. The next day I pressed my luck and walked into the Fundacomun building in hope of meeting the director of education for Communal Councils, Iluska Salazar. After only a few minutes wait she was happy to see me. Apparently she had received some emails about my work and thus was not a total stranger to Dotmocracy. After a 20 minute chat she invited me to present my method in a workshop in three hours later. The workshop was for a group of facilitators who were part of a training-the-trainers pilot project in the La Vega area of Caracas. This was the pinnacle of my input into the Venezuelan revolution to date. If these people adopted Dotmocracy it could potentially be distributed throughout the country as part of the Fundacomun education activities. I also gave each contact a CD full of facilitation resources in Spanish.
Iluska Salazar, director of Popular Power Education for the Venezuelan government (far left) and several faclitation trainers after our Dotmocracy training workshop
Overall I was amazed how much of the real changes were pursued by local citizens who were now empowered by a political climate change towards participation and support for community initiatives. I met a miner who helped people get new houses, a home-maker who coordinated upgrades to the infrastructure of her neighbourhood, an air-conditioning repairman who help get new health clinics built and a corner store owner who organized the construction of a community daycare centre. These were the people that made the revolution real.
It's been about six weeks since I left Venezuela. I have heard from Ramón in Bolicar City that dotmocracy is being shared within the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela and was used for student consultations at the Bolivarian University. From my friends at Fundacomun in my original residence city of Cumaná, they say Dotmocracy is being shared there too. But really I have yet to receive any clear indication that Dotmocracy has been truly adopted by any groups. I keep my hopes high but my expectations realistic.
I don't know when I will return to Venezuela but I have been forever changed by the vision I have seen there of real participatory democracy and real positive political change being pushed at all levels, especially the local communities and the president's office. Now I'm back in Toronto where we are still using the same political system since 1792. But that could change this year. See www.citizensassembly.gov.on.ca
¡viva la revolucion!