open party

This definition of an open party by Craig Hubley is on list of position papers, list of process papers. It is not a term yet in common use. When it is, put it on the list of policy terms also.

The GPC Governance Project, political party governance in general, and Elections Canada and other electoral agencies might consider making it easier to build an open party, if only as alternative to electoral reform.

"For seventeen days, athletes from all over the world are roommates, colleagues. For twenty two seconds they are competitors. Seventeen days as comrades. Twenty two seconds as competitors. What a wonderful world that would be. That is the promise I see in the Olympic Games."- Nelson Mandela


A political party or movement is the most rigorous and difficult form of we to keep together. When we declare ourselves, commit ourselves to action, whether as we, the Living Platform users or we, trolls, or whatever, who's we is likely to change. And maybe change fast. A citizen initiative might be sponsored by a party one day and not the next, due to change of leadership or a tradeoff in priorities. But yet some still support it? What should they do? Follow the herd? Split the party? Or something else?

There is every sign that these pressures to split and re-form are getting more powerful. They show up in everything from political party mergers to political secession to speed dating to the divorce rate.

Thinking only about electoral politics and parties, the pressures of e-democracy - and those of running a real-time e-government require far greater tolerance for ambiguity, lack of loyalty, and external input than any traditional political party can manage. There are three constraints that anything that replaces parties must obey:

Such a party represents a process and a place, rather than an ideology rather than a group of empowered people. It can speak reliably for that place through that process, and people cannot easily control it with an interest group.


An open party is a political party that seeks maximum accountability and transparency and cooperation. By doing so it hopes to facilitate participatory democracy to the maximum degree, including among those who are AFFECTED BY decisions they make (citizens, foreigners, children, living things that have no voice, not just those who PARTICIPATE IN decisions. See decision making and consensus decision making for more detail on specific methods.

To transcend the notion of "us" and "them" and dualist (as opposed to dialectic) thinking requires somewhat more complex models of "what parties do" than the typical command hierarchy. The power structure of an open party can be characterized in terms of more democratic structuring, and deals directly with its tensions:

A more metaphorical way to say it is that an open party is a compromise or fusion between

The open party is an attempt to get the advantages of all three so that it can both cooperate and compete at different points in the election cycle. When competing, such as during elections, it is short, sharp, focused and helps cooperation later.


There are several tenets or tests that apply to determine whether a party is "open"; each defined by an adjective:

supports legislators

Many would question how such a party, which is more a collection of protocols, e.g. GPC protocols, built on common principles, than a group of people with loyalty to each other, could possibly exercise any power it might gain.

First, such a party need not be in the legislature to find and exercise substantial power. Because of its wide base of support and consultation, it will often have the most consultative, deliberative, incremental policy. This last edge is important: By relentlessly seeking the best next step in each policy area, that which enables good managers to step and survey the changed situation after each step, it might be able to suggest alternatives, or compromise in ways that are creative and counter-intuitive. Simply because of its topic maps that make very clear how one policy influences another.

Small groups of legislators working outside the formal legislature can exercise power by running "against" say the Cabinet Ministers they wish to influence, making points relevant to their portfolio, and, getting commitments from them (getting them to speak commit verbs in response to questioning or challenges) in front of the public, to which they can be held later. They can afterwards follow up with detailed proposals and usually get a very good reception, if the race was carried out decorously. This is to co-opt.

amplifies a small caucus

When elected with a small caucus the temptation is high to abandon this strategy and become mere critics. This is unwise. An open party has the option of continuing its outside-the-legislature lobbying - a citizen initiative can closely mirror policy, e.g. all citizen initiatives closely maps onto all platform planks in Living Platform itself. The citizens and the party can easily cooperate with appropriate open content terms of use, e.g. the next LivingPlatform.CA terms of use.

This backs the legislators with NGOs and civil society and other work that they can rely on in the legislature even without official party status.

coordinates a large caucus

As a caucus grows, of course, this becomes more difficult, as more legislators with more opportunities to influence are splitting fewer resources and compete more for the party's limited time in the legislature.

Usually in grassroots parties, including the Canadian NDP for example, legislators elected to office had no way to agree on their best next step other than submitting to the agenda of a single strong leader. However, the very structure of an open party more or less guarantees that legislators do have just that, without a strong leader: a system of answer recommendation and quick policy research that lets them compare policy rapidly also lets them quickly update a party platform comparison chart and track their positioning as a party relative to others. It lets them filter and focus all attention in the party on the critical questions, without being told by a leader - this is what the Living Agenda does, in its final form.

can run leaderless

Accordingly, an open party can function even "headless", with interim leader or co-leaders or no leader. This is a decisive advantage, as, a bad leader or personally challenged leader can be retired or removed with no great urgency to replace him or her. This allows time for a fair party leadership race which grows the membership and attracts candidates. The clearly defined member protocol and candidate protocol make it much more difficult to "rig" leadership or nomination races, so, the legislators who have confidence of members WILL rise.

The legislators themselves should choose a legislative or parliamentary speaker or leader. Maybe in preference to the members. In the UK, this is exactly how it works: caucus selects the leader, not the membership. This ensures that the Shadow Cabinet is a viable body led by someone it finds acceptable as a leader at all times, if nothing else.

demands collective intelligence

Whatever human judgement the priority-setting and political opportunity finding system will require, the Shadow Cabinet can certainly augment it better as a group if they are led by someone who cannot force them to comply with his or her wishes, but, must consult them on a daily basis and be aware of their legislative concerns and insights.

Such collective intelligence does not arise easily, but, it is so much more effective than the typical groupthink that it is worth the very great structural adjustments that are listed above to retain. Instead of the group becoming less creative, it becomes more creative. Utopias and distopias can be considered, and, integrated into a scenario analysis that includes visions that are not part of current discourse.

group thought

Thus, actual group thought becomes possible: the use of each other's creativity, knowledge, insight and relationship base to achieve common goals within the basis for unity.

This is ambitious, but, if it is possible, it must be done. It is sometimes suggested that a Hive Mind is required to, among other things, serve as a Voice of Planet or Gaia - a collective intelligence that speaks for the planet. The distance from today's Global Greens and simpol.org to that is very great. But, we must wonder, if it is not achieved, say before 2012, what will we be?

to speak in time

Will we be at war on a devastated planet? In a Babel - unable to cooperate given the diverging technical and cultural languages? Or so subject to hidden agendas and private dealings that we cannot achieve anything except by mere troll culture: seduction, deception, distraction - with occasional flashes of inspiration and surprise action.

Those who believe in institutions, have an obligation to perfect them. Those who believe that a group entity can exercise moral reasoning, have an obligation to attempt it, by forming an open party that speaks with one voice. At least, with one voice at each time on each issue. Let the voice change its mind, but, let it speak also in time:

to speak for place

Places need voices. Groups need processes that help them to agree, e.g. peacemaking or an adversarial process more typical of today's parties. An open party attempts to represent a process as situated in a place, rather than an ideology or any group of empowered people. It can speak reliably for that place through that process, and people cannot easily control it with an interest group, because, it is not built on interests, but on protocols.

It might be more easily translated directly into software - realizing fully the vision of ethical code converging with source code as first outlined by Larry Lessig. It might even be stable - realizing the vision of 200 year software by Dan Bricklin. Seven generations from now, people may look back at our work creating open parties much as we now marvel at the Roman aqueducts: amazed at their foresight, their engineering skill, and their vision.

to sing

Places need voices if they are to retain their integrity as we change, move in and out, despoil them. Places, including whole worlds, whole planets, require us to speak for them.

Let us begin. Let us listen via the medium of an open party. Let us hear the Voice of Planet, then, slowly, surely, begin to augment it, join it, harmonize with it.

And soon we shall not know whether we, or our world, or the very biosphere our world lives within, is what sings.

We shall only hear, act, move, and marvel, for the love of what we are.

to let live

Within that marvel of tolerance, integrity, and acceptance, the smaller, lovelier, more personal we may then thrive.

That is the world we must leave to our children. Why not? How far would we get if we did not so minimize competition? We cannot and should not eliminate it, since we need better ways to say, to live, and this means words and lifeways will and must always compete. But that does not mean that bodies must always follow, that they must inevitably clash over the mere differences of opinion. That loyalty must always lead to vendetta. Dischords, distrust, can be managed, and even:

Resolved, like the chords of a dissonant composition, letting us relax, lie back, enjoy. And merely live.

And let live. For differences will be only to provide new insight, only to make the necessary, even sexual, friction, that makes new life. The creative tension. The dialectic.

But not between "classes" or "interest groups". Rather, between phases, seasons, generations, and other differences derived from nature. Those shall be the only ones we know.

The rest shall be harmony, an open jam, an unfinished symphony.

And other voices, as wise and old as ours, shall join us...