The governance arrangements for the Collective are developing. As it grows, questions are arising about who is accountable, has control, exerts power.....

One way to challenge our thinking about this is to ask the question ‘are we building a movement or an organisation (or neither)?

What is a movement? They start with an idea. They can be bad as well as good. (The Alt-right is a movement, so was the Khmer Rouge). They tend to hook people emotionally, look at  #METOO for example.

As might be expected there is a lot of evidence on why movements grow or wither. (Most wither). The organisational dimensions of this evidence are perhaps the most relevant at this point in the Collective’s development. Movements:

  • depend more on individuals than on marketing strategies
  • require ‘places’ (real or virtual) for people in the movement to come together
  • often develop a structure that connects up the ‘cells’ of people behind the movement
  • decentralise the work to the cells, to the members
  • giving members the tools to spread the idea.

As such, movements tend to be self-organising and lateral, not hierarchical. Leadership is distributed.

Movements take time to leave their mark. Donald Watson set up the Vgean Society in 1944 and spent most of his life in the wilderness. Today, half a million people follow the creed.

There is much more to be told about that story and about movements in general, about how they operate in a ‘moving frame of action’, how they lead to system change etc.

But how about the other side of the equation? Organisations. There is a lot of evidence here also, bucket loads of it. One counter-cultural example might be useful as a backdrop to upcoming discussions.

Tesco is a supermarket chain. It has big shops, and small shops -Tesco Local. The Tesco Local in Camden sells different things than a Tesco Local in Barking. (What they sell reflects what local people buy). All Tesco Local stores employ people who live nearby, people who look and talk like the people who come in and shop.

But this localism is achieved through central structures and good data. Somebody at mission control monitors the data from every Tesco Local and works out how to make it ‘more local’, more in tune with the neighbourhood, more likely to cause a queue to get in through the shop door.