Enabling do-ocracy – leveraging the power IN the crowd

We recently wrote about the real driving force behind smart cities and the responsibility of government to recognise, encourage and empower these movers and shakers – smart, resilient communities.

But the buck doesn’t stop there. At engage2, we believe it is up to all of us to create the place, society and environment we want to live, work and play in. And we do this by committing to active citizenship and participating in our communities. It’s a little something called ‘do-ocracy’.

In a do-ocracy, citizens identify problems and create solution rather than falling into ‘complain-cency’. They are more interested in doing than deliberating and they focus on the public good and civic needs. Do-ocracy also has the potential to deepen democracy as we know it.

“Democracy is more than just a vote, and I mean that from a government perspective as well as a community perspective,” says Amelia Loye, Managing Director of engage2.

“From a government side, that means listening to, engaging with and working with community. And from a community perspective, it means active responsible citizenship where people share their views and listen to others. They also participate in their community by looking for constructive ways to help solve challenges instead of just expecting things from government,” Amelia says.

 

Do-ocracy vs advocacy

Do-ocracy also differs from advocacy or activism. “It’s not just talking about it or asking someone for permission or banging on a door because you’re angry and mobilising other people to get behind your cause. It’s actually doing something and then mobilising people to work with you,” Amelia says.

In short, it’s a “see something, do something” model, she says.

These ‘doers’ mobilise and create projects that can be ephemeral or long term. Examples include community energy projects, Hack for Refugees, Random Hacks of Kindness and the outcomes from these kind of events.

Dementia Adventure Wildlife Holidays (credit: Dementia Adventure).

In the UK, communities have developed outdoor initiatives for people with dementia or transformed local parks with the help of the Big Lottery Fund, while others have created a range of smart city initiatives with the help of the Knight Foundation and its Knight Cities Challenge.

And while day-to-day problems garner the attention of doers, crises can also bring out the best in them. Like the communities in Yorkshire, who organised their own emergency hubs, work teams, security patrols, community kitchens and crowdfunding after floods in December 2015. As one documentary team put it: “This is the story of community self-empowerment and organisation, and how natural and intuitive this is. People are amazing. Talk to your neighbours.”

Sign thanking Mud Army Volunteers

Earlier this year in Queensland, a ‘Mud Army’ of volunteers helped communities clean up in Logan, Beaudesert and the northern Gold Coast after they were ravaged by floods and Cyclone Debbie. They were there to “help humanity”, and it wasn’t the first time either: the Mud Army also stepped up in 2011 after Cyclone Yasi.

According to Imrat Verhoeven, another defining characteristic of a do-ocracy is the cooperative nature of the relationship between doers and government or business. In a do-ocracy, citizens approach these players as potential partners, rather than seeing them as impediments or opponents.

 

Supporting the doers

The importance of enabling these doers and partnerships drove the launch of our inaugural ChangeCampAU on July 28. The success of the day highlighted the potential in our communities, the desire for cross-sector collaborations and the very real need for support for those who want to participate in our communities. It also highlighted the way they are currently served and governed.

“ChangeCamp was an opportunity to identify those people in the community who have a bias towards doing and to give them a very open platform to share their initiatives, to ask for support and to meet other people who might be able to give them support,” Amelia says.

“We’re not about cultivating activism. We’re about identifying and leveraging the potential in community, and making those people who want to contribute feel like they have something valuable to offer and they don’t have to do it alone. It’s about leveraging the power in the crowd, not of the crowd.”

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And now, more than ever, there is a need for people and sectors to work together to address challenges and deliver social services and outcomes.

“The more we experience socio-economic challenges, such as housing affordability, extreme weather events, growing migrant populations, inadequate infrastructure and so on, the more important it is that those who are able to ‘do’ – and particularly those who feel motivated to contribute – have the opportunity to participate in a way that is safe and valued,” Amelia says.

 

Building resilient communities

The government has a very big part to play in this by recognising and enabling the latent potential of these communities.

“We talk about engaging and activating community but it’s actually quite activated already. A lot of what we don’t see behind the scenes – especially in smaller communities, like in rural towns and non-english speaking populations – is the way that people help each other out. If it wasn’t for those individuals out there supporting each other, there would be big gaps and we would have more social challenges,” Amelia says.

“We do quite a bit of work with government, and through our work engaging community for government we see a lot of this potential. And we don’t see that potential recognised or that desire to contribute being encouraged” she says.

“If we’re going to get serious about resilient sustainable communities, we need to acknowledge and empower the networks of support around those people to develop community.”

Philanthropic organisations like the Knight Foundation and Big Lottery Fund can also play role in empowering these communities.

“Governments provide community grants, but they can be hard to access as an individual or small collective, so it's great to see more social impact and philanthropic investment happening in communities. This is really encouraging, and personally I think it’s helping people feel a lot more empowered to act, to do something when they see something,” Amelia says.

Get in touch with us if you would like to workshop ways your organisation can better understand and enable the power IN your community.

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