OneAction NZ

Democracy Co-operative

Better ways to tackle big issues

Posted by Rhys Goodwin on March 31, 2021 · 6 mins read

In thinking about the recent policy announcements aimed at addressing our housing issues, which have been decades in the making – I wondered, what other issues are just below the surface gradually building momentum but still at a level we can go on ignoring them. Then I wondered, what if a very large number of Kiwi’s got a bit more deliberate about addressing these issues. What if we used technology in new ways to build consensus on tackling some of the big issues before they came to bite us? Further, imagine if we used that same technology to find agreement on ways to accelerate our progress as a country, as a group of people working together.

Imagine a new business being created – a small diverse group of people bringing their ideas together with excitement and anticipation, they work together, trying to see each others point of view, sharing and informing; holding on to some ideas, while letting go of others; productive and intent on working together to build something awesome. Perhaps it sounds like a fairy-tale, but we know it happens, and we know that organisations which have this kind of ethos are likely to go further, faster, than teams who are overly combative, competitive and unwilling to work together. In a new business start-up, not only are the right attitudes needed, the right tools and processes are also required. These days, for most organisations this means having the right technology to make things run smoothly. For example, email, video conferencing, online document sharing, smartphones etc. This is true whether it be a hands-on business like forestry, or an online tech business. Technology can make us much more effective, allowing us to get more done with less effort.

This analogy of a start-up business represents a microcosm of our entire society. It’s probably fair to say that the larger an organisation gets, the more difficult it is to co-ordinate, communicate and find points of agreement. I guess the question is – at the widest scale, the whole-of-country scale, could we do better? All organisations have their share of conflict so of course it’s natural to find it in our biggest organisation, but could we cultivate a culture and an ethos that is more intent on working together to find solutions, to give and take, to soften ourselves and our political views a little? Of course, that wouldn’t be enough to be effective – like, a good business, we’d need the right tools to help us work together. And it’s a toolset that looks very different to the tools used by even the largest business – it’s a toolset that enables meaningful participation at massive scale, while requiring a minimum of effort to use.

Our current stale political party model is not the best toolset for the job. It’s more likely to focus on the things we disagree on, to create a point of difference, as it casts a net for votes. It’s a broken model that thinks you don’t really care about the direction of Aotearoa. But I’d argue that most of us do care about where we’re heading, but we don’t have a means to express our values in a way that has a direct impact. It might be suggested that we pay MPs to take care of all this stuff and we shouldn’t have to get involved. That’s fair to some extent but we need to give them clear guidance about the kind of New Zealand we want to build. Otherwise, they don’t have our collective courage or ambition behind them, they’re left floundering. It’s often been shown that engagement in democracy is declining across western nations. Is that the fault of ‘the people”? Yes and no – it’s not our fault because the current model isn’t very appetising, it wants our vote but not our voice, but it is our fault in the sense that we haven’t yet created a new model. We’re still sitting with an 1890s political party model, and it’s not serving us well – if it were, we wouldn’t hate politics so much. The model is not fit for purpose. It’s broken.

In answer to my own question – could we do better? I believe that with the right toolset and with a new model, we could do a lot better at working together in this great organisation we call New Zealand. The OneAction Democracy Co-Op is the model I’m proposing. It aims to solve many of the problems created by the traditional vote-driven political party model. It exists to give everyday kiwis a real voice in the decisions that shape Aotearoa New Zealand. So while there’s much political theorising going on, which is sometimes interesting, and is increasingly considering the role of technology – OneAction aims to provide a practical implementation of a new model. One which you can actually get behind today.

The model on its own however is just that, a model. To bring it to life we need an exceptionally large number of Kiwis to support and own the model. This is a monumental ask. Essentially, I’m looking for 25,000 everyday kiwis to make a mental shift in the way they think about politics, and spark 200,000 more to do the same.

What do you think? Do we need a better way of doing politics? Should we decide to work together a bit better, to take a bit more ownership of the direction of Aotearoa?

  • Yep, I’ll support the idea, sign me up
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