The Climate Psychologist

First Strategy Proposal: Ezra on Movement Organization

I’m very excited to share with everyone the first open-sourced strategy proposal I received for the Human Climate Movement. It is submitted by Ezra (last name: Mystery-man. 🙂 This is a  “partial” proposal; meaning it is an addition to my proposal of “Person-to-person, pledge based approach” which I describe here. Ezra’s proposal addresses an element of the Human Climate Movement that I had not addressed: how the organization itself will be structured; how leadership and power will be divided. Ezra is a freelance journalist who is writing a book on Occupy in the US, Spain, and Greece. In his time with Occupy, he gave a lot of thought to movement organization and dynamics.

My proposal, basically, argues that Civil Rights Movement style tactics, such as protests and civil disobedience are not appropriate for fighting denial, and building a Human Climate Movement. I say that to do this, we must focus on containing anxiety. My proposal says that the basic organizing tactic of the human climate movement should be members working within their networks and amongst their friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances to spread the Human Climate Pledge, which commit citizens to the knowledge that climate change is imminent threat to civilization, that it must be a top political priority, and that we must instigate a World War II style efforts to fight it. The pledge commits the signatory to only donate money or time to politicians who have also signed the Pledge, and in an election in which only one candidate has signed, to vote for that candidate.  The pledge can only be given by an existing member, in person, but is recoded on the Human Climate Movement App. When someone signs, they gain access to the Human Climate Movement smart phone App that, among other functions, tracks how many people you have given the Pledge to, and how many they have given the Pledge to.

I included the HCM App as a tool of communication and empowerment; that HCM central could use it as a platform to communicate with members, and so that members could see their impact grow exponentially, as their numbers grew. Ezra utilizes the App, and the amount of pledges given, in a different, exciting way. But I will let him speak for himself. Here is the proposal he submitted:

The great asset of the Occupy movement was its democratic character, which allowed it to spread across the country with magnificent speed. The great weakness of Occupy was the lack of accountability within the Occupy encampments and organizations. Since no one was officially in charge and decisions were accomplished through consensus, anyone, however involved they were, could stall and obstruct the process of political action.

 If we are to spread the human climate pledge virally, it will take organization and resources. In my opinion, this organization and its use of resources must be democratically controlled by its members. This will help attract exponentially more pledges. If people know they have a say in the movement’s direction, they are more likely to join. At the same time, each member’s voting power on certain matters should be directly linked to their recruitment record, which ideally would be verified through an electronic database.

I propose a system of pledge credits, which could help distribute power within the movement in a way that ideally would spur the movement’s rapid growth.

Here are a few ideas about how a pledge credit system could work:

I propose that you should receive one pledge credit for signing the pledge yourself. You should receive one pledge credit if you convince someone to sign the pledge and you should receive half a pledge credit for your pledge’s pledge. This way, it is in our interest not only to sign up pledges, but to have our pledges sign up more pledges.

I propose that political figures should be weighed differently. You should receive 5 pledge credits for signing up a town councilor, 10 for a state senator, 250 for a congressman or governor, 500 for a senator, and 1,000 for the President of the United States. These numbers are arbitrary, and could be modified.

Let’s say the movement is collectively voting on a major financial decision: Should we give $1,000,000 to Democratic Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren, who has waffled on the pledge but may win the election, or to Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who has signed the pledge but has no chance of winning?

I have accrued 200 pledge credits. The people voting on this decision — anyone who has signed the pledge and decides to participate in the vote — including myself, collectively have 4,000 pledge credits. Therefore, I constitute a 5 percent voting bloc. In the end, 53 percent vote for Stein. Majority wins, and the money goes to Stein.

I propose that this shareholder voting system should only apply to major financial decisions at the national level. There should be other mechanisms of democratic accountability that would aim to wisely distribute power within the organization.

I propose that if you reach a certain level of credits, say 200, you become a member of the organization’s board of directors. This number could be modified on a sliding scale upward year by year, depending on the growth of the movement. Board members would determine personnel matters within the organization and other key logistical decisions, which would be clearly enunciated in a charter. Ideally, board members would seek to make decisions by consensus. If consensus fails, the board should move to a majority-wins, one person, one vote model.

I propose that charismatic movement figures — media spokespersons and political candidates — should be elected or endorsed by a popular referendum submitted to every individual who has signed the pledge. Anyone who has signed the pledge gets one vote, regardless of how many others they have signed on. These charismatic figures should be appealing to the broader movement, not just the dedicated activists who have signed on hundreds of pledges or are on the board. The charismatic figures and the organizational personnel are not necessarily the same people.

I propose that leadership figures — movement staff, spokesperson, candidates — could be impeached by a stringent and robust popular referendum. In order to impeach, over 75 percent of those who have signed the pledge would need to participate in the referendum. Of those 75 percent, at least 2/3 would need to vote in favor of impeachment. Votes would be weighed on a one vote, one person basis — not by pledge credits.

A few questions come to mind. How do we prevent fraud? How do we verify that these people have actually signed on? Should we require that each individual that signs the pledge post their pledge commitment on their websites, social media pages, or the sign-off of their email messages?

How would we organize such a complicated voting system? I imagine we would need highly complex software. I am sure such software is available, however.

Should there be a charge to sign up? A suggested monthly donation? What are the pros and cons of this strategy?

 

There are several things to like about this proposal. First it provides a modified democratic structure for the Human Climate Movement in which activism is rewarded with a stake in decision-making. Second, I agree with Ezra that this type of structure would be very encouraging of the people to join and be active within the movements. Third (and crucially), I greatly appreciate the spirit in which Ezra offered this proposal. He is sharing an idea, based on an area of his expertise and experience, but he is not territorial or defensive about his idea. He realizes that his idea has unanswered questions and needs further refinement; he wants others to discuss and improve on this idea. I think it is a great example of the utility of open-sourcing strategy discussions! (It also makes me realize that maybe I have set the bar too high with my requirements of scholarly citations; Ezra draws primarily from his own experience and imagination, rather than from scholarship, and I think it’s a great contribution, so maybe I should loosen up and encourage less-developed proposals too, knowing that all proposals will continue to develop and grow through open-sourcing.)

So, in the spirit of collaborative open-sourcing, I offer these critique/ comments to Ezra’s proposal:

1)    I think there should be a way of the gaining “points” other than exclusively getting pledge signatories. Otherwise I worry that devoted, introverted members would feel that they were at a disadvantage. There could be a volunteer our conversion such as five hours spend volunteering in some way other than recruiting pledges equals one point. There could also potentially be a donation conversion. Something like donating 1% of your income to the Human Climate Movement earns 10 points. This creates a progressive valuation of financial donations. It is true that tracking/recording number of pledges given is easier than tracking number of hours worked or percentage of income. Those pose more formidable fraud obstacles.

2)    I think that maybe when someone signs a pledge, they should be able to designate more than 1 member who caused them to sign. Though I feel strongly that the pledge should be taken in person, I know that the Internet is a frequent forum for political/ persuasive discourse. So if a friend had began talking with you about the Human Climate Pledge over Facebook, or you had been reading about it on a blog ;), and that is what drove you to seek out an in-person HCP member to give you the pledge, you could credit the online-convincer with ½ a point and the in-person pledge-giver with ½ a point. (Maybe we could break the ‘points’ into finer distinctions, utilizing 1/3 credits or ¼ credits, but I don’t know… perhaps that is too complicated)

3)    I wonder if there should be several levels within the HCM, obtained at (for example): 10 points, 50 points, 100 points, 200, and 500 points, and at each level comes with an increasing level of privilege and power. For example, maybe at  10 points you are included in local leadership meetings, at 50 points you are invited to join local coordination and leadership efforts. At 100 points, you are invited to listen into board conversations, at 200 points you become a voting member of the board, and at 500 points you get to work together to set the board-meeting agenda. I think that having a gradating structure can be motivating and satisfying for people to work hard and ascend.

4)    Crucially, we need an organizational structure that favors qualities that we want in leaders. I think this one does. People who gain power in the organization will have earned it through dedication, hard work, and communicating effectively with people. These seem like important qualities to have in leaders. But is it possible that I’m missing something? Is it possible that this structure would allow for a faction of some kind to gain too much power? Could this structure be undermined by corporate interests some how? Or, as Ezra worries, fraud?

What do you think, readers? Is this organizational structure the right way forward? Do you see areas where it (or any other part of the plan) can be improved? Are you as excited as I am about this? Many thanks to Ezra for the proposal. May it be the first of many open-sourced contributions to Human Climate Movement Strategy!

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