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Entries in democracy (2)


Phases of Regime Change

Observing the patterns of recent events in Tunisia and Egypt, we have developed the following phases to describe how protests spread and a beleaguered regime responds.

1. Enabling environment – creates conditions for potential unrest (commodity price change, corruption, aggressive regime, unfair regime, etc)

2. Catalytic reaction – isolated (e.g. set fire to a person, kill child, etc)

3. Catalytic response – isolated (e.g. shoot mourners at funeral)

4. Catalytic spread – map across isolated incidents (from small incident, spreads slightly – usually because the new people being killed live in different towns)

5. System response – system clamps down – before it has spread, the state gets panicked and clamps down on 'everything' before the spread has properly taken hold

6. Accelerated reactions – now more places, repeated patterns

7. Upgraded system response – harder, set of classic tactics (switch off Internet & mobile phones, bring in military)

8. Mass concentrated reaction – mass events, close down major areas of social, political, industrial activity. The upgraded system response serves to annoy everyone, even though the actions are only intended to affect a small group. Now everything scales up and concentrates (1M march through Cairo, etc).

9. Weak palliative response – failing regime makes an attempt (or several) to reduce the pressure on the core (i.e. fire government, appoint new VP, say that you will leave in less than 5 years, etc)

10. Increasing mass reaction & unlikely system response – harder / impossible to stop 'everything', military action tough (well 'designed' regime changes brings the military on side, with the argument “Egyptians cannot and will not kill Egyptian women, children, mothers and daughters”). Regime therefore loses its fall-back support (which in reality, we now know, could never save them anyway, save in the harshest of circumstances).

11. Transition moment – when key point of the regime goes (agree to stand down, leave country)

12. 3-Day chaos – during this time, no one knows what is going on, reaction and system are in a holding zone

13. Transition formation – developing the state change to 'something'

14. Transition reaction – takes a while to formulate, but as Tunisia has found, a transition system does not gain automatic acceptance

15. Transition acceptance / rejection – based on the level of acceptance, can continue the reactions for regime change (at large scale, because protest movement is still in place), or begin to mellow out and regain sense of (new) normal activity


Redesigning Democracy

As part of our mission to change the world for better, we have looked at ways to improve one of the most popular ways that we as human organize ourselves: democracy. In our view, people should aim to be happy and limit being sad. In order to achieve this, people should have the right to choose. That could be the right to choose where people live, the jobs they do, what they can study, what they can read. We are not deterministic in our view point - we just think that having the freedom to choose is a very good thing.

Democracy is one of those handy systems where the people get to express themselves, casting their vote, on how they are governed. We won't go into the topic, and in any case we'd quickly go to Wikipedia to pull out the core concepts anyway. Suffice it to say that democracy looks like a mostly good thing, and that it would be useful to have it work better and deployed more widely.

Therefore part of our work at Orcasci will be finding ways of improving the workings of democracy, in particular taking advantage of new social and communication technologies and, of course, applying our advances in the field of the Science of Spread™.

The area that most appeals to us right now is citizen election monitoring. We hope to take advantage of the mass of citizens, located in all the places one would expect to vote; enabled and empowered with devices to record and instantly share activities on the ground; augmented with collective intelligence and crowdsourcing tools to aggregate results; and supported by global communication hubs to accelerate news flow.

We have advised on a number of democracy projects, with some good early success. Key elements we have found useful to design these programs include:

  • the power of the masses (abundance)
  • leveraging pre-existing networks of people
  • the power of visual evidence
  • spontaneous transfer of information
  • accelerating the spread of results via communication hubs

We have looked in depth at how the crowd can be used to provide input and guidance to the process of engaging the citizenry. Our first project was at Imaginatik, the company our founders created in 1994, pioneering the use of collective intelligence and idea management for all types of organization. We spent a lot of time, more than a decade ago, investigating the use of early adopters of the technology, and then later putting in place citizen engagement systems directly.

There is a lot still to be learned in the areas of democracy and citizen engagement. We look forward to continuing our research - and helping groups put straightforward solutions into practice.

So, if you have any projects you'd like another pair of eyes on, just let us know. And if you come across any good case studies or resources, we'd be interested and deeply grateful to hear from you.