governance – institutions – politics

From institutional logics to modes of existence

Patterns of social organization and interaction vary from culture to culture, from one social context to another, from one generation to the next. In any particular culture or context, established patterns signal and enforce appropriate action. Such patterns — i.e., institutional patterns — have been conceptualized in various ways, at various levels of resolution. One [...]

Political entrenchment as path dependence

When Russell Brand says, “Voting is tacit complicity with the system” — in last week’s BBC interview, viewed 7 million times and counting — he describes political entrenchment as a type of path dependence, and advocates for tactics to delegitimize the system. Here are a couple of other sources for seeing politics through a systems [...]

Systemic governance and knowledge cultures

“When done well,” emphasizes Thomas Dietz in this talk from last year’s U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) colloquium on The Science of Science Communication,”public participation improves the quality and legitimacy of decisions and builds the capacity of all involved to engage in the policy process.” I’ve written about last year’s colloquium talks by Daniel [...]

Mark Mykleby: Mr. Y on strategic ecology

“I’m not worried about being right; I’m worried about learning,” says former marine colonel Mark Mykleby in this interview for The Conversation podcast. Mykleby is co-author with Wayne Porter of “A National Strategic Narrative” (pdf), written in 2011 for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and currently works with the New America Foundation’s Smart Strategy Initiative. [...]

Robert Kuttner: Policies for debt relief

“Debt,” wrote Margaret Atwood in Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, “is revealed as a double-sided balancing act in which debtor and creditor alike are culpable.” Yet “debt traps are not immutable,” assures Robert Kuttner in “The Debt We Shouldn’t Pay,” a New York Review of Books commentary on David Graeber’s Debt: The First [...]

Scarcity and abundance in types of goods

“Free as in free speech, not as in free beer,” the slogan of free software advocate Richard Stallman, illustrates the distinction between goods that are naturally scarce (beer) and those that are naturally abundant (speech). The topic of scarcity versus abundance was discussed by David Bollier in the interview I posted yesterday and is clarified [...]

Bollier: The commons as unifying discourse

Commons activist David Bollier was interviewed recently by Matthias Spielkamp of Berlin-based Much of the talk covers practices, norms, and institutions in the digital commons, and David mentions his work with Massachusetts-based research nonprofit ID3. At ~23:00 (video link): One of the interesting things about the commons is that it’s becoming an international phenomenon [...]

Gar Alperovitz: Ownership in community

“If you don’t like capitalism and you don’t like socialism… what do you want?” asked Gar Alperovitz and Steve Dubb in a 2012 article (pdf), published by the Democracy Collaborative at the University of Maryland. This search for models of social-economic organization that better “build democracy, community and equity” is at the heart of Alperovitz’s [...]

Design principles: Daly and Farley

How might one design for — that is, strive to elicit — creativity or conversation? How about for civic-mindedness or community resilience? I’ve been collecting design principles: guidelines for engaging or structuring interaction. So far, I’ve posted on principles by Jeff Leitner, Buzz Holling, Gar Alperovitz. Here is a set by economists Herman Daly and [...]

Sustainable development à la Herman Daly

People-planet-profit. Economy-ecology-equity. Society-economy-environment. The problem with these “three pillar” sustainability slogans is that they imply an equal weighting, a balance. And, in that balance, meaningful relationships are lost. We all know the real deal: People depend on the planet’s life support systems, and profit only matters as it serves people — so why not develop [...]

Grassroots diversity in Cailfornia 2010 election

In November 2010, California voters defeated proposition 23, which would have suspended the state’s plans to establish a regulated carbon market. Grassroots organizations and people of color turned out in force against the ballot proposition, as I’ve recently been reading. From “A Perfect Storm: Lessons from the Defeat of Proposition 23” (pdf), published by the [...]

Carl Malamud: By the people

On Inauguration Day, it’s worth reposting, Carl Malamud’s 2009 Gov 2.0 talk, “By the People” (pdf). Malamud is founder of and I would like to leave you with three propositions that should be true in a democratic society, challenges our government can and should address today: First, if a document is to have [...]

Institutional formation: Pacific salmon fisheries

[After yesterday’s Yi-Tan conversation on institutions, Jerry Michalski reminded me of a post I’d written in March 2010, reprinted below.] Legal scholar and economist D. Bruce Johnsen offers a fascinating perspective on indigenous cultural practices in “Salmon, Science, and Reciprocity on the Northwest Coast,” a recent paper in the Resilience Alliance open-access journal, Ecology and [...]

Buzz Holling on target-based management

I’ve been following the discussion of social impact bonds, in which a social venture like prison inmate training and rehabilitation is financed by a third party, evaluated against certain targets, and ultimately paid for by taxpayers if the targets are met. In this context, I took a look back at Buzz Holling’s writing on target-based [...]

Corporations = people? The people respond.

Corporations are not people, as voters in eight states insisted yesterday on a range of 2012 local and state ballot initiatives. The nonprofit Move to Amend has a full tally, on which majorities range from 52% to 85%. One example: Montana’s Initiative 166, Stand with Montanans, establishes an official Montana policy that corporations are not [...]

2012 Citizens’ Initiative Review

Again this election season, Oregon voters can benefit from an innovative experiment in democratic process: the Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR). Here’s how it works. A CIR panel of 24 people is selected from among volunteers to be demographically representative of the state’s voters — by age, gender, ethnicity, education, location of residence, and party affiliation. [...]

The case for regionalism

I’ve listened to last week’s talks by political economist Gar Alperovitz several times (videos from Seattle and San Francisco), and one piece that caught my attention was his case for regionalism. As expressed here (~1:00:40 into the Seattle talk), Gar’s main concern is the challenge of engendering political participation across vast geographic scales and growing [...]

Proxy voting platforms for liquid democracy

Citizen deliberative councils, participatory budgeting, the Occupy movement’s consensus decision making: These are all experiments in more participatory forms of democracy. Technologies can support these types of experiments, from the keypad and CoVision technologies used by AmericaSpeaks in deliberative dialog and polling to the geographic information systems used by the Madrona platform for participatory spatial [...]

The atmosphere is a public trust

An Austin, Texas district judge has ruled that the Earth’s atmosphere is a public trust. The plaintiffs are teenagers who seek to force the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to regulate greenhouse gas emissions; and the case is part of a coordinated effort by the nonprofit groups Our Children’s Trust, iMatter, and WITNESS. Unfortunately, according [...]

Ray Ison: The travesty of targets

I’ve been reading through a couple of chapters of Ray Ison’s 2010 book Systems Practice: How to Act in a Climate Change World, courtesy of downloads offered by The Open University. “What seems clear to me is that the pervasiveness of systematic thinking and practices associated with goals, targets and projects … does not augur [...]