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Modes of Governance

For me, the failure of CS to sustain any democratic principles, freedom of speech, or abiding to the law or ethics, equality was the breaking point. So realizing they were not, nor ever would become that kind of an organization I had to go before further hurting myself being involved with people who could never understand what I stood for, what made me tick, and originally made me want to volunteer for CS. I tried as long as I could and was in no way “politically active” as the new race of outcasts on CS now is called (I was present in a situation where new person for some site tasks was needed, and the ones in charge went through their groups posting history to see there was nothing whatsoever that could indicate this was a person with critical thinking of any kind, especially towards CS). It’s only after seeing quite a bit of behavior and attitudes that I could not align with, as well as quite a bit of undermining, bullying and ignoring those who had, despite their differences with the LT worked very hard for CS that finally destroyed my faith in the leaders.

As an interlude, there was a strong push (in earlier times also officially sanctioned by the CS elite) to act in a more ad-hoc way (term coined by Dani I believe as “do-ocracy”). For me, this provided a way to get things ahead when no leadership was around to deal with many real issues rising up from the “bottom”, the community, through various means: groups, contact us section on the site, personal connections, real-life meetings. But at some point it became clear that in absence of leadership of any kind, it was those only interested in their own goals and visions for which Couchsurfing was merely a supporting platform, who were going to be the ultimate winners of the do-ocracy model. So naturally the LT might have been scared, I know I was. The critical error the Admins aka Leadership Team did in regaining their power was however to not take the good coming out of do-ocracy model so far, and not learn ways to actively listen to and engage with their community, which could have made all the difference in creating a network truly in line with its (current or future) vision statement and the values of its members.

On BeVolunteer/BeWelcome on the other hand the statutes clearly state what the values are, so that anyone wanting to volunteer clearly knows where they stand since the start. I’ve seen & heard “democracy doesn’t work” quoted by some along with rather condescending wishes of good luck. Well, this might be true – it’s certainly not easy to handle multi-national organization just starting out where many of the active people haven’t even met (yet). But still I’d say there’s a far bigger chance of survival thanks to the explicitly stated democratic principles (so neither dictators nor lone gunmen with their own motives can thrive for very long) to produce a sustainable organization and gradually grow into a viable alternative for those seeking hospitality.

6 Responses to “Modes of Governance”

  • i think you overuse the word democracy by a far margin. dont mix up a council based consentual governance with democratic processes. i dont see any democracy on bewelcome, as in the citizens of bewelcome deciding what to do. its rather a council of veteran and volunteer people making decisions, with somewhat defined processes on becoming part of the decisionmakingcircle.
    i have yet to see any objectively democratic concept for governing a webpage, that happens to actually work in reality.

  • Note the separation made above: BeVolunteer/BeWelcome. I’m fully aware BeWelcome is not the governing body and thus doesn’t have the processes for that (although there’s a plenty of discussion of how to build the bridges needed for the community involvement, which I also would need to see)

    In case this separation wasn’t clear, here’s some background: the separation between volunteer organization BeVolunteer (with the statutes and legal founding (some information)) and the BeWelcome website it’s running currently was made consciously and in order to be able to eventually extend beyond hospitality as well. Hope this clarifies my post a bit. And please take into account I didn’t say “it’s perfect there, come on over, NOW!” – just that I’m somewhat more hopeful of this setup than that of CS (or others) – if you have any better ideas I’d be interested in hearing them ;)

  • i am aware of the differences, i was referring to bewelcome since no similar governing body as bevolunteer exists for cs, hence its a moot point.
    i know we both agree that a council type of system is needed for cs, with a legal certainity, similar to bw.
    i know my frenchiefrog PC runs a good organization, i have confidence in his judgement.

  • This is a common misconception: BV is not a “direct democracy”, but it *is* a true “representative democracy”.
    For reference:

    Direct democracies tend to be fairly conservative, so I wouldn’t recommend it for a (progressive) hospitality network anyway. But, both systems have advantages and disadvantages.

  • I’ve always prefered the Meritocracy ideal. Just makes sense to me.

  • About being progressive: I once thought CS would be that, with all the free-spiritedness of the core people as I perceived it at the time, expressed from time to time with things such as the below, and underlying “fun” vibe I was sensing
    “404: PAGE AIN’T HERE. I bet you’re all “Whatever!”. I am too.”

    Little did I know, that particular brand of fun and “do good” stuff seems to be stemming more from San Francisco / Burning Man vibes. These, while “free” in the sense of allowing a ton of stuff considered revolutionary and off-beat in the rest of the US, is somehow too constrained in that subculture, without an attempt really apply the sense of liberation and progressive thinking back into the real world where it could make a more sustainable difference.

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