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Crowd-sourcing ‘The Accidental Anarchist’

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

So as some of you may have picked up elsewhere, I have an exciting new piece of work researching content for the upcoming documentary ‘The Accidental Anarchist’ with Carne Ross. As with most of my work, I thought, ‘why not ask everyone else what they’d include in this film?’

Want to submit a story idea now? Fill this form.

The Accidental Anarchist

The Accidental Anarchist

Some background

I read Carne’s book, The Leaderless Revolution, in late 2012. In it, he tells the story of his transition from high-flying UK diplomat, to anarchist. While many of Carne’s insights felt familiar to me, his journey was unique. If someone in his position, so deeply aware of and invested in systems of government and top-down solutions, can undertake this kind of transformation, it offers hope for countless others to find similar paths, looking beyond current realities to imagine a better world.

As I read the book I began tweeting Carne; insights the book offered, thoughts it raised for me, parallels with parts of my own work. Specifically, I related to the ‘side door anarchism’ approach, bringing ideas of radical equality, non-hierarchy and autonomy into places where they’re least expected (and thus perhaps a little more digestible for some than countless more cliched images and symbols). We started to chat.

Since then, we’ve spoken at two events together in New York, I interviewed Carne for the Guardian, and he read a final draft of my book, offering a nice comment which helped with the promotion. So when I saw the post for research help with the film, it looked like a great opportunity to work more closely together and to help bring ideas of autonomy and self-organisation to a wider audience.

Remarkably, Carne agreed and asked me to help.

What is The Accidental Anarchist?

While the film will be framed by Carne’s personal journey, the majority of screen time will be spent exploring examples of radical, non-hierarchical organisation from around the world. This could mean worker coops or social movements; communes or community groups; autonomous Indigenous communities or worker-run factories. The point is to highlight what people are capable of, without the imposed coercion of a boss, a leader or a ruler.

Also – to be clear – we are using the idea of ‘anarchism’ in its loosest sense; as a very crude catch-all for a number of autonomous organising practices that have a) pre-dated the European notion of anarchism, b) emerged far more recently, and c) existed in parallel for decades and centuries. This is not an exercise in deciding what is and isn’t ‘true’ anarchism. It is an attempt to draw together a range of interconnected threads in the ongoing story of human organisation that are typically ignored, overshadowed or misrepresented by history, politics and the media. While anarchism is neither the first nor the last of these threads, it provides a lens from which to start a more nuanced conversation about how we organise ourselves in ways that reflect our shared values.

Crowd-sourcing stories

My first task is to create a long-list of potential stories this film might tell. This is where you come in. Rather than rely on my own knowledge and experience, I wanted to ask you about your favorite examples of autonomous self-organisation and self-governance, to start from a more complete list than I could ever develop on my own.

In particular – due to my own experiences and interests, my examples are mostly from the following countries:

  • Mexico
  • US
  • Canada
  • Spain
  • UK
  • Argentina
  • Brazil

So if you have stories from beyond Europe, North and South America, they would be particularly helpful!

Due to relatively tight timelines, this is only going to be open for a few days. Some time next week (after September 15), Carne, myself and the producers will look over the options and highlight a shorter list that may make sense to explore in the film. (Keep in mind it is only likely to be a handful of the countless potential stories that will make it into the film, due to both time and budget).

Submit a story

If you have an example you’d like to include, it would be great if you could add it to this form.

Check the current list

If you’d like to see what others have submitted so far, you can check it out here.

And if you have any wider questions or suggestions about the film, feel free to add a comment at the bottom of this post, or drop me an email on liam AT morelikepeople.org

Excited to have you involved!

Liam

PS – feel free to share this post around with anyone you think might have a story they’d like to include. Thanks!

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#Ask4Change: Making better use of our ‘cognitive surplus’

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Imagine if, as Clay Shirky has suggested, a fraction of the time we spent collectively pissing around on the web, could be channelled into constructive, positive and relatively easy actions for social change…

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Twitter Revolution

Image by Patrick McCurdy

Ed Whyman and I have been bumping into each other at events and on the street for at least six months. The first time we met – in the company of David Pinto – we mulled over the idea of a piece of social technology that could match-up small tasks related to good causes, with people a) interested in that particular good cause, and b) with the skill set required to easily do that small task.

On Wednesday afternoon, after a couple of hours at the Centre for Creative Collaboration, conversationally moving between abstract ideas and practical ways of applying them, Ed and I (with the valuable technical input of Andy Broomfield) revisited the idea we had tossed around several months before.

Cognitive Surplus

A few months ago I saw Clay Shirky speak at the RSA on his new book, Cognitive Surplus. His thesis is basically that more and more of us have loads more leisure time than we used to and that the internet is gradually enabling our collective free time to connect with others to do things that we wouldn’t do otherwise, whether sharing YouTube videos of cats doing cute stuff, or giving away stuff we’d otherwise throw away.

I didn’t immediately put the pieces together, but yesterday, Ed and I’s conversation made me think about how this concept might apply to our idea of a still-to-be-built social wotsit…

The social wotsit we were thinking of

Imagine if you were a campaign group or a charity, working around:

  • Human rights
  • Youth violence
  • Drug addiction
  • Cancer treatment
  • International conflicts
  • Etcetera…

And you needed:

  • A database cleaned
  • A legal letter written
  • A venue for a meeting
  • A speaker for an event
  • A CSS edit to a website
  • Etcetera

Now imagine if you were a person (difficult, I know), who had a particular interest in [insert cause from above], and had [insert relevant skill or asset associated with listed need] and had a particular amount of time on your hands, whether five minutes, or five days… and said charity or campaigning organisations was able to easily get hold of you and let you know (with no obligation) that they could use your help… Is there a chance you might do it?

Crowd-sourcing a Twitter app?

So we (Andy Broomfield’s technical knowledge was of great help here) started thinking about this as a Twitter app… we’re continuing the conversation on a Google Doc… and are wondering if anyone with some of the relevant skills or further ideas would be interested in helping make this happen? Or if something just like this already exists and we don’t have to bother?

We are working on an ‘everyone does something that we can all feel good about’ kind of basis, so no money will change hands, but credit will be appropriately shared around… Check out the Google Doc if you’re interested in taking part!

Cheers!

Liam

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More Like People is an association of freelance consultants, facilitators and trainers, working primarily in the voluntary, community and campaigning sectors in the the UK and elsewhere.

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