Topic 3 Democratic-Participatory Networks

For a process to be able to maintain itself, it must be based on the collective leadership built from the base. In other words, that people feel and verify that their initiatives are taken into account, by the whole process, in the groups and meetings, at least to a certain degree. This does not mean that everything that occurs to people is followed, but that there must be a transparent decision-making process from the bottom up, where any analysis or proposal has the opportunity to be considered, debated and weighted.

We start, then, from the informal networks of daily life, from the comments of bars, markets, squares, etc., until we see how they are grouped by “action sets”. We now move on to the ways of functioning for decision-making in the process.

(Eco) organisation*

Thus, for example, each work group (in the GT graph) or activity group can meet with other similar or different ones by Thematic Tables (Education, Health, Safety, Work, etc.), and the Motor Group (in the graph GM) together with the multimedia group do their transversal work to encourage everyone with the idea-force, overcome blocks or problems of coordination, or dissemination.

It is more about a flexible map of self-organized operation and revisable every year, than a hierarchical and rigid organization chart. In other words, it is a question of equipping itself within the process with a scheme of a democratic and participatory network (that facilitates the leadership of the people) to present itself before the administrative or economic powers with a collective voice and with concrete projects, so that the negotiation and monitoring more viable and efficient.

* An operational and democratic organization is proposed that is capable of responding locally to the challenges posed. It is not frequent that this type of organization exists, but rather some organs of local or sectoral power of a consultative type and generally a little atrophied in their operation. The question is not to change one organization chart for another in internal debates in the administrations, but we must previously take note of the socio-gram that has emerged from the self-diagnosis and update it, to see how the action sets can be organized “ad hoc” at work tables, workshop or centre or neighbourhood meetings, assemblies, etc.

The peak moments in which the initiatives of the whole year are reflected are the open Assemblies, where the Thematic Tables or territorial areas present their initiatives, debate and ponder.

An Assembly is a broad and open meeting, and must give rise to a participatory process of collective reflection. It is, therefore, not only an informative space but also a meeting place and a forum for debate. However, it must be taken into account that it is difficult for all the participants to do so at the same level, and the greater the number of attendees, the more difficult it is to articulate that all people can give their opinion.

In order for the assembly to be operational and effective as a Planning and Programming technique, we must articulate it in work commissions, tables or workshops where we can apply the techniques of working with small groups (some of which we have seen in previous chapters).

In a Participatory Assembly it is convenient to work from personal contributions in small groups (before or during the act), which allows each one to express their initiative in ideal groups of 6-8 people and no larger than 10-12. In this way, a group of 100 people can collect the opinions of 10 groups and discuss them in plenary.

We have to mark the times so that these assemblies do not last forever and end up boring.

They are not places to “give rallies” that monopolize information, but places to propose collective analyses and operational proposals, which can be pondered as in the case of creative returns that we mentioned.

Assemblies should not be held every month, but at least one or two a year are recommended. Therefore, they must be framed within a schedule and have them as a reference. It is to the participatory assemblies where the proposals must arrive (both from the “work tables” of each geographical area and from sectoral issues).

Here are two examples of how this could work in a Neighbourhood and in a Region.

In the subsequent example published in a brochure distributed in a neighbourhood of Malaga, it is proposed to listen and consult the 6 thematic tables on each of the issues that affect them. And the same of the 4 Tables in which the territory of the neighbourhood can be divided (about 30,000 inhabitants). From the work of these groups, proposals are made (once or twice a year) to the Assembly so that it gives them legitimacy, and prioritizes their most urgent actions and their work proposals in the medium and long term.

All this would not work without an active and dynamic Motor Group, without a Creative Team (multimedia) and without a Control Commission that monitors and renders accounts of the decisions carried out in the Assembly. In addition, there must be a space or Negotiation Table with the Administrations and the media, to make the commitments effective, gather information and monitor the agreements reached.

Example of a democratic-participatory network of a Plan in a neighbourhood

In the table of the following example we summarize the participatory process in six steps, distributed in the left column, and in the other 4 columns we have put the operating proposals for the different networks in which democracies can move face to face, democracies with workshops and participatory assemblies, electronic democracies, and democracies of audiovisual media. It is an attempt to articulate these forms of taking initiatives from the base, and to agree on proposals from the collaboration (in this case, of the associations of migrants and pro-migrants with the regional administration).

The participatory democratic aspect in recent years is proposing new forms of decision-making based on:

  • the collective construction of the proposals,
  • the replacement of the “representatives” who interpreted what the people wanted with “spokespersons” who only transmit the initiatives of the base or of the technicians,
  • the articulation of new channels for the participation from the daily life of people, of unorganized people, and not only through associations, although these continue to be very important (but because of their activity, not because of their representativeness).