Read

Search form

Introducing Loomio: Occupy-Inspired App For Consensus Decision Making

Introducing Loomio: Occupy-Inspired App For Consensus Decision Making
Thu, 3/27/2014 - by Douglas Rushkoff
This article originally appeared on Shareable

The best thing about Occupy Wall Street wasn't what it argued politically or accomplished legislatively, but what it modeled for us: a new way of engaging with issues, resolving conflict, and reaching consensus. It was a style of engagement that seemed like it could only happen in person, between young people willing to sit in a cold park all night until they could come to an agreement over an issue.

But now, a small collective in New Zealand has developed a digital platform through which any group — large or small, local or global — can take a page from the Occupier’s handbook. It’s called Loomio, and it’s already being used by civic activists in Ukraine, thousands of direct democracy advocates in Greece, municipalities in England, foundations, and credit unions.

It’s all based on what the Occupy movement called the General Assembly, an alternative to parliamentary procedure, borrowed from the Ancient Greek senate. It’s a deceptively simple (and easily satirized) process where the crowd waves their hands to indicate their approval or level of objection to a proposal. It may look a little silly, but it proved a valid or even superior method for forging consensus than traditional debate, where one side wins and the other, well, loses.

The problem with the General Assembly, like representative democracy, is that it’s quite limited in scale. You can only have so many people engaging with one another, blocking motions, and making arguments. Plus, it just has to happen in person.

Well, now there’s an app for that. The first time I saw it in beta, I asked if I could be an advisor to the collective working on it. (They agreed.) And this week, they’re finally releasing the application and doing a crowdfunding campaign to develop it further.

Amazingly, there exists no great tool online for groups to make decisions. There are plenty of platforms on which to collaborate or work together. But the most complicated decisions most of us have made online deal with the time or location of a meeting.

The Loomio application lets members of a group offer proposals, discuss their merits, make changes, and register their feelings all along the way. By entering into this process in good faith, even large groups can steer towards outcomes that may not be perfect for everyone, but make the fewest people unhappy — and nobody too very upset.

It’s not much more than a pie graph with four buttons, but its simplicity (and privacy) is getting it positive attention from a broad cross section of people across the globe—from remote villages in India, community hospitals in Vietnam, to government departments and early childhood education centers. Even the Wellington City Council that 12 months previously had been trying to evict Loomio’s developers from the public square, is now using Loomio to collaborate with citizens in developing policy.

I can only wonder what would have happened if the recent controversy over installing a synthetic football field at the high school in my community had been conducted on platform like Loomio instead of at contentious town hall debates. I know people who still aren’t on speaking terms as a result of our all-or-nothing, winner-takes-all, scorched earth battle.

Likewise, the possibilities raised by Loomio force me to question our nation’s reliance on a two-party political system hatched back in the 1700s, especially as the spin cycle of 21st Century media and markets only intensifies its polarities. What was supposed to be a way of generating multifaceted solutions has devolved into intransigence and extremism. And paralysis.

Debate itself is a form of combat, not an approach to reaching an agreement. It’s geared toward creating no greater number of winners than losers. That’s not what democracy was supposed to be about. As one of Loomio’s founders, Ben Knight explains, “Democracy is about collaboration — people coming together and making decisions. Democracy is not a scarce resource; it doesn’t need to be this abstract thing that we only get access to once every four years, managed by a professional class far away. With the right tools, it can be a skill that we practice together every day, in our schools, our workplaces and our communities.”

While Loomio might not replace representative democracy — nor should we necessarily want it to — it may take some of the pressure off our democratic institutions by giving people the ability to make a whole lot of decisions for themselves, and with one another.

Add new comment

Sign Up

Article Tabs

Some of the biggest issues facing our country are forgotten once the cameras switch off, but our ADD news cycle only makes us more vulnerable to repeat disasters like the Flint water crisis.

climate change denial, climate deniers, Donald Trump, rising sea levels, carbon emissions

The billionaire who called global warming a hoax is now warning of its dire effects in his company's application to build a sea wall to protect Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland in County Clare.

wealth inequality, income inequality, wealth gap, growing poverty, growing disparity

After 35 years of wealth distribution to the super-rich, inequality has forced much of the middle class towards the bottom, to near-poverty levels, and to a state of helplessness in which they find themselves being blamed for their own misfortunes.

climate change, climate denial, Portland Public Schools

In a move spearheaded by environmentalists, the Portland Public Schools board unanimously approved a resolution aimed at eliminating doubt of climate change and its causes in schools.

single-payer healthcare, Obamacare, Affodable Care Act, public option, health insurance industry, health insurance companies

There's a not-insignificant amount of evidence that when you strip out the names of parties and candidates, support for government-run insurance cuts across partisan lines – and most Americans want a single-payer healthcare system.

Bernie Sanders, political revolution, money in politics, political left, generational shift, revolutionary politics, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, Fight for $15, young voters, Bernie supporters

Without Occupy, Black Lives Matter, the Fight for $15, the mobilization of teachers and nurses, immigrant movements, and many other struggles, there would never have been a Bernie Sanders campaign.

Posted 6 days 2 hours ago
Activists in Ibeno, Nigeria.

Last weekend, tens of thousands of activists in 13 countries on six continents protested against climate change and the burning of fossil fuels.

Posted 6 days 2 hours ago
climate change, global warming, Break Free from Fossil Fuels, climate protests, global climate movement, Carbon Brief, carbon emissions, climate arrests, British Petroleum, BP, Enbridge, Flood Wall Street, People's Climate March, risking arrest, civil dis

My arrest didn’t feel like a risk, it felt like a transaction. I’ve found freedom in facing my fears and dispensing with false choices.

Posted 3 days 7 hours ago
Nestle water grab, water privatization, Columbia River Gorge, Cascade Locks

Voters in one Oregon county last week approved a ban on commercial bottled water production, stopping a years-long effort by Swiss transnational Nestle to sell over 100 million gallons of water a year from the Columbia River Gorge.

Posted 3 days 8 hours ago

Some of the biggest issues facing our country are forgotten once the cameras switch off, but our ADD news cycle only makes us more vulnerable to repeat disasters like the Flint water crisis.

Posted 1 day 3 hours ago
climate change, global warming, Break Free from Fossil Fuels, climate protests, global climate movement, Carbon Brief, carbon emissions, climate arrests, British Petroleum, BP, Enbridge, Flood Wall Street, People's Climate March, risking arrest, civil dis

My arrest didn’t feel like a risk, it felt like a transaction. I’ve found freedom in facing my fears and dispensing with false choices.

Austrian elections, Alexander Van der Bellen, Austrian Green Party, far-right governments, Norbert Hofer, Freedom Party, anti-immigrant sentiment, xenophobia, migrant crisis

Alexander Van der Bellen, an independent candidate backed by the Austrian Green Party, fought neck and neck with far-right Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer and scratched out a narrow victory in the historic election.

single-payer healthcare, Obamacare, Affodable Care Act, public option, health insurance industry, health insurance companies

There's a not-insignificant amount of evidence that when you strip out the names of parties and candidates, support for government-run insurance cuts across partisan lines – and most Americans want a single-payer healthcare system.

Nestle water grab, water privatization, Columbia River Gorge, Cascade Locks

Voters in one Oregon county last week approved a ban on commercial bottled water production, stopping a years-long effort by Swiss transnational Nestle to sell over 100 million gallons of water a year from the Columbia River Gorge.

Some of the biggest issues facing our country are forgotten once the cameras switch off, but our ADD news cycle only makes us more vulnerable to repeat disasters like the Flint water crisis.