In common purpose organisations, collective decisions are democratised through the feedback of interested (self-selected) people in open information systems. Democracy is measured by the openness of the system, not by the number that vote or the level of feedback. Feedback is self-filtered by interest – those that are interested feedback, those that are not, do not.
The democratic, open information system works because those with most interest in a particular issue are those most informed on the issue and most affected by it.
Pursuing power or money leads to autocratic decision-making. No feedback is sought. Policy and collective decisions are made by experts and controllers appointed by fiat. The only democracy is of elected officials, not present in most organisations. Decisions are autocratic whether a controller is elected or not. Policy and decision formation is closed and delivered as decree.
In current democracies there is little difference between decisions dictated by elected representatives and an enlightened, self-appointed dictator. They both work for what they believe will benefit the public, but both without open, democratic systems for public feedback.
Protest and media freedom are rough versions of feedback in society, but these are heavily constrained in commercial and public sector organisations, and are not as legitimating or democratic as open information systems. The mainstream media also has its own interests, and these often align more with what is scandalous than informative.
In the common purpose organisation of decentralised, distributed responsibility and open information systems all participants are leaders. They lead in their areas of responsibility on the parts they contribute.
A common purpose organisation is a collective of responsible individuals managing their own contribution and making the decisions they are best placed to make – those at their locale. However, central decision-making is still required on issues that affect many and these are mediated through open information systems where those affected feed in, rate others feedback, and arrive at consensual decisions.
The expectation that a single, central decision-maker, makes immediate decisions for the whole group, automatically prevents the best decision being made, as it excludes the relevant information needed to make such a decision in the first place.
Information must be gathered from dispersed sources – that is the nature of information in its natural state. Decisions must be made at the point where information naturally converges. For a central decision, this is at the center, but, this requires the convergence of all the dispersed information, including information on the preferred decisions at each location.
The first step is to gather information, to collect and consult. If a decision is urgent, then it must be decided on the balance of information, urgency and risk so far calculated, and then be constantly reviewed.
Ideally an organisation has open information systems that allows decision-making in any and every part of the organisa-tion to be currently informed.
There have to be democratically elected representatives. But these representatives need to transparently factor and use the methods of open information systems and feedback to come to their decisions, which is a form of direct, participative, deliberate democracy.
These decisions must reflect the feedback of the most popular ideas submitted via open information systems. People cannot expect an open information system to organise all the detail of policy implementation and practice, but it can input on key themes and specific details that policy should follow.
The democratically elected representative helps institute the methods and the culture. People need leaders to institute free and responsible cultures and participatory methods of democracy. People need national leaders to represent them on the world stage. At the local level people need leaders to represent their localities at the national level. But their mandates and programs must be based on the feedback from open information systems.
Leadership is not in knowing everything, that is ludicrous, but in knowing to listen, confronting the truth, seeking answers and enabling responsible freedom.
A democratic structure of multiple elected organisers and representatives in multiple groups each working to demo-cratically prioritised tasks is an organic organisation.
If everyone knows what their work is and are free to contrib-ute their labour and improve their work as they wish they can all be fulfilled. But if there are controllers, then the game comes to be evading that control, not contributing; and the greater the control, the less the fulfilment.
The solution is democratic, common purpose organisations with decentralised local decisions, distributed responsibility and shared information.
[Excerpt from The Common Purpose Manifesto]