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CouchSurfing member council

Following the recent idea to create elected ambassadors and my post about channelling our energy, I have an idea. I think the concept of elections are very powerful. While not a perfect mechanism, it is a good one. So I’m bouncing ideas around trying to figure out how we could use elections within CouchSurfing.

We want to avoid resistance from the established systems. So I think using the term Ambassador will cause confusion. However, a group of people could quite reasonably choose to elect a “community leader” or “community representative”. That idea got me thinking about creating a CouchSurfing member council.

A group of democratically elected representatives who have the permission of the community to address matters on their behalf. This could be a very powerful mechanism. These individuals could serve as a channel for members to interface with the CouchSurfing organisation.

I think most people agree that communication is the biggest operational problem facing CouchSurfing right now. A mechanism like a member council could help this process. If there was one person for each town / city, speaking on behalf of the community, the voice would carry a great deal of weight. Likewise if the system scaled up to regional / national representation.

Of course, there is a great risk that it would simply create politics for the sake of politics. But I do believe it could work.

Does anyone have experience of designing systems like this? Any experience in organisations of this nature? Would anyone care to share their comments / feedback / criticism / etc?

7 Responses to “CouchSurfing member council”

  • Callum, although I admire your relentless optimism, I am very cynical about our chances of success with a system of representation like the one you propose. I’m not even sure if this would constitute a positive change.

    The positiveness of having elected representatives (let’s call them ‘tribunes’, at least for the duration of this post) is entirely dependent on what they can achieve. The answer: NOTHING. Given the closed/sectarian leadership style and the legal setup, this will be pointless and will just be a source for further frustration for a lot of people.

    Nevertheless, I do agree with you that ‘we’ (that is, all users critical of the current course CS is sailling) need to get organised. For two reasons; opening people’s eyes to what CS inc. is doing to the noble concept of Couchsurfing (and hopefully getting them to move on to a platform better suited to carry on the legacy), and becoming a factor to be taken into account in legal proceedings (filing a joint complaint with the IRS / Attorney General of NH is more influential than that of an individual). But neither is a ‘positive change’ of the kind you seem to envisage.

  • Hey Neils. I suppose it’s a bit like a democratic government in exile. I believe their very existence and organisation can be beneficial, even if they can’t actually “do” anything.

    I do take your point though. Perhaps we would be better focused on doing something. I have another idea on that front as well. I’ll post more on that later, don’t want to flood the site! :)

  • Isint this something like the failed election coup in belgium

  • For one, I think it would be good if we upgraded this venue of ours to a proper website. The blog should of course remain the most central point, but it would also be good if we started a few more durable pages.

    Main problem that I see with streamlining this operation is that we have to agree on a course. Most active posters have very different priorities: safety, legal status, open software, democracy, communication, accountability… Or should we make them ‘supreme leaders’ of their own little section of information, and thus keep running multiple separate campaigns under the same flag?

  • Niels allows you to make different forums and group for each cause in seconds

  • thanks Callum
    where I live, this kind of emerging leadership is already forming because our ambassadors aren’t very active. The people who are most interested in meeting up generally organize events (several things weekly sometimes) and just use CS as a message board. They arent’ interested in the politics or managerial issues of CS…they just use the site as they like.

  • The whole idea is based on (at least) two premises:

    * Couchsurfing could be changed to the better
    * Democratically elected representatives are a working tool in this context

    Hmm. I guess, I don’t believe in both. While CS (or: the single-person-run-hospex-network) is just a dead cause, the question of representatives is an interesting question. From my experience a new typus of representives would just create a new version of corruption through power, status, whatever. (This is also true for BW and could become a problem there too.)

    Usually status by positions attracts a lot of assholes, while you really have to force the good people into those roles. The people in the hospex-context I respect most, never asked for titles, status, extra power … they just contribute, whereever and whenever they could/want to.

    (For the locals Margaret description is right for Hamburg as well: while the amb is just a figure of fun, the cs-group is a messageboard for those who just organize themselves. but politics isn’t a regular topic.)

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