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Decentralised Organising by David McMullin

Posted by Claudia Tormey on May 02, 2019 at 04:30 PM


Friends of the Earth supported this training in decentralised organising in mid April. David Mc Mullin, member of Young Friends of the Earth, Not Here Not Anywhere and also member of the Friends of the Earth board has written this article to tell us all about it.

"What, you might ask, is decentralised organising? Some groups might say they operate with less hierarchy and more collaboration, or that they are aiming to cooperate and avoid the kinds of toxic power structures seen in so many organisations. At the end of the day we see various terms referring to similar things - many groups, including voluntary organisations, NGOs and business, want to organise themselves without bosses while maximising inclusion, participation, mutual care, trust and productivity.

"For a weekend in April, members of Young Friends of the Earth, Futureproof Clare, the Dublin Food Coop and the Schools Climate Action Network received training in patterns for decentralised organising. These are common themes the trainers have observed in similar organisations all over the world. While every group is different and none of the training was prescriptive, similar problems do emerge anywhere you have a group of people trying to work together towards a common cause. If your group is struggling to deal with conflict, develop shared responsibility and accountability, or increase ownership and autonomy, there may be some useful insight for you among these patterns for decentralised organising.

"Although the exact number changes from time to time, 10 patterns were taught at this event in April. These were organised in a spiral, starting with the most basic - the retrospective, which can be used to introduce all the others. Other patterns of particular interest were:

  • Methods for collective decision making - ranging from full consensus, through consent, mandate and advice. Treating each method as a tradeoff between speed, autonomy, participation and trust, while also introducing clever ways to visualise positions, showed the importance of picking the right method for the right situation, instead of trying to choose just one for all occasions.

  • Conflict resolution - developing our skill for digging deeper to find shared values, including a quick crash course in non violent communication!

  • Stakeholders and roles - introducing the 1-9-90 rule which describes how most groups will have roughly 1% highly involved, 9% somewhat involved, and 90% of its members will be not very involved. Encouraging the explicit recognition of these groups, along with their rights and responsibilities.

"The training was hosted by Carraig Dúlra permaculture teaching farm. This venue provided a fresh, welcoming retreat for attendees, with beautiful surroundings, energetic animals and even some fresh leafy greens to boot! The training was funded in partnership by several organisations - Gluaiseacht for global justice, the Wheel and Stop Climate Chaos."

If you’d like to learn more about patterns for decentralised organising, you can read more from the trainers themselves here on their website.


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