OneAction NZ

Democracy Co-operative

Democracy Co-operative vs. Traditional Party - Part 1

Who carries the load?

Posted by Rhys Goodwin on September 30, 2022 · 5 mins read

Folks, I keep rabbiting on about a “different way to do politics”, but what would it actually look like? How is it different from what we do now? Is it even worth building? Over the next few posts, I’ll look at some key differences between a traditional political party and a democracy co-operative. In this first post I look at who carries the load – who owns the decisions and the direction of our awesome wee country? And why does it matter?

In a democracy co-operative like OneAction decisions are made collectively by the co-op members after deliberation on the options and trade-offs. This means that responsibility is shared evenly amongst all the members. Let’s say for example, a democracy co-op like OneAction is in a coalition government and holds 20% of the seats in Parliament and they strike a deal with the other parties to get a policy implemented. Now imagine that policy ends up being a failure. Responsibility for the decision and the failed outcome are owned by the co-op members. The failure can be openly acknowledged, and the policy can be repealed or repaired. Of course, failure is an inevitable part of careful progress. When decisions are carefully and collectively made in good faith, then such failures are not something to be ashamed of – humans are limited, we can’t see around every corner. In fact, given the complexity of society, failure is more likely than success. There are always unintended consequences. This makes it all the more necessary to recognise failure as quickly as possible – fail fast as they say.

Now compare this to the way our current parties work, when a policy fails the PR machine goes into overdrive, MPs duck for cover and the spin machine tries to make things look better than they are. Meanwhile opposition parties gnash their teeth for blood. Sorry, but how exactly does this kind of politics serve the public? Is it any wonder though? How can a small group of MPs shoulder all that responsibility? Is it even realistic to expect them to?

The more democratic we become, the more power we devolve to the wider community, the more that burden can be spread and as such we can carry more, and the more purposeful we can be in solving problems.

When I think back to what started me on this whole journey it was when the penny dropped that the quality of our government, and our politics is proportional to the engagement of us everyday citizens. Engagement is an overused word but what I mean is that we actively participate in guiding our country. That is, we pay attention, and we do things to make sure our views and values are in the mix. We don’t just let things slide. That is, we take responsibility for our country.

Righto, so to make our politics, our government and our country way better (and we know things could be better), all we need to do is pay attention and actively participate? But as you know, it’s not that simple. Really meaningful participation (the kind that’s worthwhile) takes a lot of time and energy - great for people with spare time and money. So, the question then becomes, how do we make meaningful participation super easy and accessible?

I don’t know exactly what it will end up looking like but I’ve presented some high-level concepts here, here, and here. Inevitably it will need to consist of both digital participation as well as strong offline/hybrid groups. Importantly, it needs to cater for a range of levels of participation where at the easiest level it takes less than 2 minutes per month (currently that’s the TallyUp™).

While acknowledging it’s a mammoth task, in some ways the question of how to build this new kind of political party is less important at this stage than the question of whether to build it. That’s a question for you, and for 200,000+ other New Zealanders. Is our current way of doing politics fit for purpose for the challenges we face? Can it really stand up in the face of issues like climate change? And that’s a huge issue, no matter what your view on it is. Should a very large group of us from diverse backgrounds and political views build a new model and become (even slightly) more active in directing our country? Why wouldn’t we do that? It’s within our reach.

Join here to support this idea – it takes less than 2 minutes per month.

Ngā mihi nui