Next steps on networking for democracy

Over the summer, I researched and wrote Networking for Democracy, funded by JRRT. It looked at the needs, capacity, tools and approaches for the democracy sector to better share information, to coordinate and collaborate. This post is about what happened next.


Drawing the social network of digital diplomats

Twiplomats graph (Fruchterman-R)
The entire Twiplomacy network graphed and laid out in aesthetically-pleasing fashion. Click on the image for a version you might actually be able to read. A link to a PDF version is at the bottom of this article.

Inspired by Lada Adamic‘s excellent Coursera on Social Network Analysis I thought it might be interesting to try to graph the network of Twiplomats – the world leaders or diplomats on twitter. Simply to see who follows who, who the central nodes in the network are, and whether hubs or communities have developed.


Mark Zuckerberg’s letter to investors – the governance 2.0 bits

The founder and overlord of facebook on social media and governance. Emphasis added.

Whether any of this can really be upheld in the face of demand for profit, whether Zuckerberg had any specific projects in mind – indeed, whether any of it has actually been an objective for facebook since its foundation – remains to be seen.

There is a huge need and a huge opportunity to get everyone in the world connected, to give everyone a voice and to help transform society for the future. The scale of the technology and infrastructure that must be built is unprecedented, and we believe this is the most important problem we can focus on.

We hope to strengthen how people relate to each other.

Even if our mission sounds big, it starts small — with the relationship between two people.

Personal relationships are the fundamental unit of our society. Relationships are how we discover new ideas, understand our world and ultimately derive long-term happiness.

At Facebook, we build tools to help people connect with the people they want and share what they want, and by doing this we are extending people’s capacity to build and maintain relationships.

People sharing more — even if just with their close friends or families — creates a more open culture and leads to a better understanding of the lives and perspectives of others. We believe that this creates a greater number of stronger relationships between people, and that it helps people get exposed to a greater number of diverse perspectives.

By helping people form these connections, we hope to rewire the way people spread and consume information. We think the world’s information infrastructure should resemble the social graph — a network built from the bottom up or peer-to-peer, rather than the monolithic, top-down structure that has existed to date. We also believe that giving people control over what they share is a fundamental principle of this rewiring.


We hope to change how people relate to their governments and social institutions.

We believe building tools to help people share can bring a more honest and transparent dialogue around government that could lead to more direct empowerment of people, more accountability for officials and better solutions to some of the biggest problems of our time.

By giving people the power to share, we are starting to see people make their voices heard on a different scale from what has historically been possible. These voices will increase in number and volume. They cannot be ignored. Over time, we expect governments will become more responsive to issues and concerns raised directly by all their people rather than through intermediaries controlled by a select few.

Through this process, we believe that leaders will emerge across all countries who are pro-internet and fight for the rights of their people, including the right to share what they want and the right to access all information that people want to share with them.

Finally, as more of the economy moves towards higher-quality products that are personalized, we also expect to see the emergence of new services that are social by design to address the large worldwide problems we face in job creation, education and health care. We look forward to doing what we can to help this progress.

Full letter via the Guardian

Flickr credit: TonZ

Thinking Uncategorized

The global #occupy movement seeks a cosmopolitan democracy. Here’s why they should read David Held CC VBlessNYC

On 17 September, around one hundred people set up a camp in a small private park a block away from the 9/11 memorial site in New York. Their example has swiftly grown and spread around the world. Mainstream media has been confused by the fact that Occupy activists make no single demand and have no spokesman. This is an example of new networked leadership. The protestors are united in a sense that their democratic system is broken.

In Europe, Germans cannot believe that those in Greece were able to put themselves in such a precarious financial position, and Greeks are angry about having to take severe welfare cuts perceived as orders from the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank.

 CC mkhalili

Earlier this year the UK public, whose trust in politicians is extremely low, rejected voting reform that could have changed the system, perhaps because they no longer believe that national electoral system is the problem. 

The link between these groups is the feeling of powerlessness in the face of forces they cannot control.

David Held’s book, Democracy and the Global Order, published in 1995, to some extent foresaw this. There is now, particularly following the global economic crisis, a deep underlying public understanding of the subject on which scholars such as Held have been writing for decades.

Democracy in its current form is being deeply tested by globalisation. How we respond to this should be the greatest debate of our time. Though they cannot yet articulate it, the occupiers of Wall Street, Bay Street, Paternoster Square and the Puerta del Sol are partly appealing for a new cosmopolitan democracy in Held’s model.

Democracy and the Global Order

Essentially the book is a call for a renewed form of democracy, a form that can cope with the complexities of a modern global life and its economic, political, social and cultural facets. Held argues that the Westphalian model of state sovereignty and autonomy is outdated, in both a real and normative sense. In this model sovereignty is granted both internally, by those in a territory of a state, and externally, through recognition by other states. Autonomy is the power and freedom of a state, and the state alone, to set rules for its territory.

Held argues that the UN Charter model has altered the Westphalian model of states somewhat, introducing the concept of the legitimacy of a state, granted by respecting democratic values and human rights [i.e. the ‘international community’ intervenes in Afghanistan, Libya etc.]

Held further demonstrates that the autonomy of states is constantly being reduced by environmental governance, world economic forces, the increase in international organisations, the growing power of civil society associations and changing political and cultural identities. These converge to radically change the governance environment in which the modern state finds itself.

His question, ultimately, is how can democracy be achieved in this interconnected, overlapping world, in which there are so many centres of power?

His answer is to start from the guarantee of individual autonomy. Autonomy is the the ability to take self-conscious, reasoned decisions on the matters that affect you. It requires legal delimitation of various sites of power (be they economic, biological, cultural etc) to ensure the possibility of political participation.

From this, Held develops the concept of a cosmopolitan democratic law. Since any global force can affect individual autonomy regardless of location or state membership, laws to protect autonomy must be realised globally. They must also guarantee autonomy in the various bodies politic and the various sites of power, which are multifaceted: from local to global, from cities to states, from corporations and entire economic markets.

From 1995 to 2011

Until now, the world has lacked the mechanical solutions for organising polities around the issues that affect them. But social media, and a little Arab Spring inspiration, can connect people (like Google+ circles!) around the issues they care about, regardless of national borders. The occupy movements are trying to give some physical presence to global online movements. The banking industry globalised long ago – that’s why they run the show. It’s time global democratic governance stepped up too. 

Below is the manifesto from the ‘United for #globaldemocracy movement’, though movement may be too strong a word, published in the Guardian on Friday. (Geeky spot: note how they list New York as though it were a country)

United for #GlobalDemocracy
On 15 October 2011, united in our diversity, united for global change, we demand global democracy: global governance by the people, for the people. Inspired by our sisters and brothers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, New York, Palestine-Israel, Spain and Greece, we too call for a regime change: a global regime change.

In the words of Vandana Shiva, the Indian activist, today we demand replacing the G8 with the whole of humanity – the G7,000,000,000.

Undemocratic international institutions are our global Mubarak, our global Assad, our global Gaddafi. These include: the IMF, the WTO, global markets, multinational banks, the G8/G20, the European Central Bank and the UN security council. Like Mubarak and Assad, these institutions must not be allowed to run people’s lives without their consent. We are all born equal, rich or poor, woman or man. Every African and Asian is equal to every European and American. Our global institutions must reflect this, or be overturned.

Today, more than ever before, global forces shape people’s lives. Our jobs, health, housing, education and pensions are controlled by global banks, markets, tax-havens, corporations and financial crises. Our environment is being destroyed by pollution in other continents. Our safety is determined by international wars and international trade in arms, drugs and natural resources. We are losing control over our lives. This must stop. This will stop. The citizens of the world must get control over the decisions that influence them in all levels – from global to local. That is global democracy. That is what we demand today.

Today, like the Mexican Zapatistas, we say “¡Ya basta! Aquí el pueblo manda y el gobierno obedece“: Enough! Here the people command and global institutions obey! Like the Spanish Tomalaplaza we say “Democracia Real Ya”: True global democracy now!” Today we call the citizens of the world: let us globalise Tahrir Square! Let us globalise Puerta del Sol!

Thinking Uncategorized

Do It Yourself Foreign Policy: notes on @SlaughterAM’s talk at the Personal Democracy Forum 2011

Much of what this blog’s going to be about is not actually technology.

The technology isn’t the important bit – it’s what the tech allows us to do. And right now, that’s about social networks. And connections. And everything Anne Marie Slaughter talks about in her Personal Democracy Forum 2011 talk below.

I liked it so much it’s this blog’s first post. Here’s a very quick precis of Anne’s talk:

  • until now it’s essentially been a small clicque of men who drive foreign policy, each representing one nation and fighting for its own separate interests
  • today we don’t start from separation, we can start from connection. Now you define who you are in relation to others.
  • the world of nation states still exists, but there are growing number of charities, social action groups, civil society groups, religious groups, private corporations, trying to get involved at the global level. At the big institutions, these are called non-state actors. As Clay Shirky says: ‘calling these things non-state actors is like calling an automobile a horseless carriage.’
  • women get this better than men. Women have often been defined by their relationships, or define themselves that way, see feminist Carol Gilligan – today there is also a generational gap in this way we perceive ourselves.
  • so now we have governments and a growing set of social actors, connected in ever-changing ways and ever changing identities.
  • Christakis and Fowler showed that you can join up individuals in different ways: connect in a linear fashion = bucket chain, telephone tree = efficient dissemination of information, etc
  • the Mr Y article (full pdf) written by two senior members of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, essentially says the world has moved from a closed system to an open system, and in an open system, having power means having credible influence. We can no longer control by force. The US has to (again) be the most connected and influential nation.

So here’s what we do to address global problems

  • with any global issue the goal is to map the space and connect enough people to mobilise to create the solutions to address those problems. 
  • this happens in these case studies [Ed: not sure these are the big global problems] AirBnB (expensive couchsurfing), Zinch (all US scholarships in one place), Interaction (network of 190 US NGOs), Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves [that’s a global issue], Partners for a New Beginning (US State Dept attempt to encourage public/private partnerships that deepen links between US and ‘local communities abroad’). [Ed: I’d look at things like Ushahidi, Avaaz, maybe charity:water – but more blog posts to follow on these, esp. Avaaz)

“Here’s the bottom line:”

we imagined that we lived in a world of closed opaque orbs – states that pursued national interest – now we live in a world of ‘open system’ foreign policy with infinite possibilities of connecting. Global problems are open problems – we as a world have to grapple with these. By mapping, linking and creating we can create the coalitions to address them.


build local, go global, and change the world

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