Flatpack Democracy 2.0
by The Alternative UK
We are very pleased to bring you news of Flatpack Democracy 2.0 (buy here). This is the compendious update to the original booklet from Peter Macfadyen, ex-mayor of the Somerset town of Frome, and leader of the Independents for Frome that have taken over their parish council from the usual political parties.
They’ve shown the world (see here) how an intimate, humans-first and sophisticated local democracy could be done – and this book records their progress both in their town, and as an exemplar in wider, more global debates about the communal, local and municipal.
Peter sets the scene for the new book, and the new forces that Flatpackery contends with (like climate crisis and democratic technology), in this blog, reproduced below:
I am proud to have been part of Frome Town Council, one of the most impactful groups to have been elected at this level. I am also delighted that Flatpack Democracy (written in 2014) has played a role in encouraging and supporting other groups to find ways to achieve real change at a local level.
After not standing as a councillor this May, I finished Flatpack Democracy 2.0 which aims to further support those already elected as local councillors and encourage others down that route.
With Peter Andrews’ interviews of those already on the path adding considerably to its depth, we hope the story will take this idea further towards becoming a movement for real democratic change which, I would suggest, is needed!
Over the last five years, more and more often, I have found myself stating that we have never lived in a democracy and what pretends to be one is an obscene farce. Now no one is pretending any more.
As individuals our powers to act are strictly limited mainly because we have given our powers away to so called representatives, the most influential of whom have all been sent on an extra holiday until 15 October.
Meanwhile, it becomes increasingly difficult for many people to find and retain housing, to find employment that is not short term and poorly paid, and to meet other basic needs. As most of you reading this will know, my response to this been to initiate and support actions at the most local level.
I believe that by focussing on the things we can control and pushing those boundaries to the limits we can reclaim the decisions that affect our own lives.
This is even more important now, not only because our politics is so fundamentally broken and needs a total makeover, but also because the pressures we face are increasing so rapidly.
As we (almost certainly) crash out of Europe, we’ll find ourselves dealing with much more stress and uncertainly not to mention the lack of certain foods, medicines and other things we take for granted
A joined up, resilient community will have more chance of riding out the chaos and emerging less damaged and ready to move forward positively into the future.
Add to this the great unknown of the impact of climate change which could well make everything else that went before seem insignificant.
A town council focussed on regalia, twinning and bus shelters will be completely unfit to do much in the way of supporting its own community over the coming years.
If you haven’t already, I would urge you take over your own council and drag it into 21st century (and if you don’t have this level of council, there are ways to create one).
Only then can it begin to address the big issues we face now and into the future. Flatpack Democracy 2.0 was written to help you on that journey. I hope you find it useful and relevant.
More here. There’s a great quotation at the end of the book, from organisational consultant and complexity theorist Margaret Wheatley:
There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about
Much of Flatpack Democracy 2.0 sets out in clear, funny and helpful prose the advances and setbacks in the IfF’s governance of Frome – it’s an essential guidebook for those who live under moribund or complacent town or parish councils, and want to revitalise them.
But the strongest message of the book is that method and practice – the way you do a daily democracy – is as important an element of its transformation as any elaborate new plan or system.
So it might be good to reproduce the IfF’s “Ways of Working”, the closest these friendly anarchists ever get to a manifesto or platform. Standing behind these are the five core principles: independence, integrity, positivity, creativity and respect (compare Alternative’s own core values: courage, generosity, transparency, humility, humour, empathy).
But here are the Ways of Working:
Avoid identifying ourselves so personally with a particular position that this in itself excludes constructive debate
Be prepared to be swayed by the arguments of others and admitting mistakes
Be willing and able to participate in rational debate leading to a conclusion
Understand the value of constructive debate
Accept that you win some, you lose some; it’s usually nothing personal and there’s really no point in taking defeats to heart
Maintain confidentiality where requested and agree when it will be expected
Share leadership and responsibility and take time to communicate the intention of, and the approach to, the work we undertake
Have confidence in, and adhere to, the mechanisms and processes of decision making that we establish, accepting that the decisions of the majority are paramount
Sustain an intention to involve each other and others rather than working in isolation
Trust and have confidence and optimism in other people’s expertise, knowledge and intentions. Talk to each other not about each other
Immediately comprehensible – and evidently effective: see this feature on their advance from John Harris earlier this year, How to take over your town: the inside story of a local revolution.
This was originally posted on the Alternative UK blog on the 10th August 2019.
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