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Tag Archive for 'politics'

Hospitality Exchange Communities and real-life campaigns

This document is created because the discussion about the relation between HospExchNetw and the real-live comes more and more into the focus. The question “So how can we reach the 5 billion people that have no computer?” rose in a discussion on the BeWelcome Forum and a post on the the Open Couchsurfing Blog with the title: “Is travelling noble? Or: “The Emperor´s New Clothers”. The replies/comments to this thread/post motivated me to publish this approach.This document is a proposal for the second General Assemly of BeVolunteer in 2008.

It does only raise one idea of how Hospitality Exchange Networks, in this case BeWelcome, could take a step into the real world. It s not intended to be the only way/step but one of plenty. It brings up reasons why BeVolunteer should be a part of The Other Campaign which is based on the Sexta Declaracion de la Selva Lacandona of the EZLN.

I m posting this on the OpenCouchsurfing Blog because most of the reasons I bring up here could be applied to Couchsurfing as well.

What is the Other Campaign?

The goal of the The Other Campaign is to create a diverse, plural and multiple world-wide network of subjects of social rebellion. The mission of the Network is the creation of another way of organizing our entire world – without exploitation, unequally, oppression or discrimination. It is explicitly anti-capitalistic and anti-systemic. Invited for participation in this network are: Truly left-wing parties without an official register of members, social movements, collectives, cultural groups, independent and critic media, civil organizations and Non Government Organizations. The organization of this network is fundamentally horizontally without any hierarchy or authorities. It refuses all uni-personal leadership. It encourages all members to take there own decisions and use there talents in their own way. The lax network refuse from the beginning all tendencies of homogenization or uniformity. It is intended to be a Network of help, solidarity and mobilization of all the members. This network should be able to create alternative ways of social communication. This is the point where BeVolunteer comes into the game. [1]

Why does BeVolunteer/BeWelcome fit in this description of participants of the other campaign?

The members of BeWelcome and all our Volunteers are creating an alternative way of bringing people together. We offer hospitality, and soon other things like bikes or books to share, without expecting money for it.

Lots of Volunteers working voluntarily for our common dream. It would actually violate statutes of BeVolunteer if any volunteer would receive money for his work. Voluntary work does not fit in the capitalist logic. In the pure capitalism you exchange your work force for other goods or money.
The organization BeVolunteer is a Non Profit Organization. An organization in the capitalistic way has to make profit to be competable with other concurrents.
BeWelcome is not a competitor to other networks. BeWelcome is more likely another option for people who care about democratic way of organizing an organization. (at least thats what I believe)

The members of BeVolunteer have all the power. This makes us, like the the other Campaign slower, weaker and lower but like this we guarantee that BeVolunteer is really driven by its members. The Board of Directors is based on annual elections and the members of BeVolunteer or lets say the General Assembly is the highest power. We refuse uni-personal leadership. Each year there are elections of the Board of Directors who are representing the members of BeVolunteer and managing the daily issues.

One of our goals is the intercultural exchange with people from all over the world. Thanks to that our members are aware of the consequences of the neoliberalistic policy in the world. We meet face to face with people who are suffering in the current system. We are desperate for a high plurality within our members to increase the possibilities of our members to really enter in a intercultural experience. One objective of the Other Campaign is to bring the political discussion into daily life. Democracy is not done with going to vote each 4,5 or 6 years not even with a vote every year at the GA of BeVolunteer. Everyday there are decisions to take. It s not always necessary to organize a huge congress or a manifestation to get people together for a discussion or for protest. That can happen everyday in the decentralized network of BeWelcome.

To be Part of the Other Campaign BeVolunteer has to subscribe the Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lancandonan. I don t know yet how you sign this declaratio but thats just a formality. The question right now is if BeWelcome/BeVolunteer or any other Networj wants to take this step into real life political campaigns or not.

[1] Carlos Antonio Aguirre Rojas, Chiapas, Planeta Tierra, Mexico 2006, S.165ff

PS: I hope it s readable – the Spell Check didn t work …

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.

Three easy ways for direct action

Did you ever volunteer for CouchSurfing? Please edit this (incomplete) summary of time spent volunteering for CS.

If you’re active in the CS groups you probably found out that it’s not allowed anymore to discuss politics and policy in the Brainstorm groups. Threads are moved to the newly formed Politics and Policy group. Since groups are ordered by number of members, it is not so prominent yet, but with 39 or 42 members (39 on the group page, the number 42 can be deduced from Casey’s profile; and I hope this is just a normal bug) in its short period of existence it is a sign that couchsurfers do care about the politics of this organization. You can help by joining the Politics and Policy group, so that it will be a bit more prominent (hint: you can set it to “No Communication”, if you don’t want to be on it at all times, that’s how I set all my groups, and that’s how I found out that someone kicked me out of Brainstorm and then joined me again).

If you haven’t already, please fill out this survey about the questions that will be offered to the Leadership Team. And although I would have posed them in a different way, I think the most important questions are:

  • Are there any full bye-laws of the corporation, further than the Articles of Agreement, or a draft thereof, and if yes, will you post it?
  • Are you willing to adopt a clause in the corporate bye-laws that irrevocably dedicates all assets to charitable purposes?
  • Is there any draft of the 501(c)(3) application (Form IRS-1023), and if yes, will you post it?

But of course, just pick your own favorites. You can choose 20!