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Democratic Assemblies

"… the mistakes that are made by a truly revolutionary workers’ movement are, historically speaking,immeasurably more fruitful and more valuable than the infallibility of the best possible ‘Central Committee’." - Rosa Luxemburg, critiquing the Russian revolution

The following outlines a practical governance structure which the Circles communities: seasonal democratic assemblies.

This system of local neighborhood, municipal and local seasonal assemblies allows for people to come together and decide on the organisation of their own local economic circle. This means embedding the real economy by using Circles, by bringing different sectors of the economy together, and creating a local, interconnected system of value where different things can flow.

What is an assembly?#

The assemblies are the self-administration structures formed by individuals. An assembly is a local democratic system of governance where people from the community (village, neighborhood, city, canton, etc.) get together to discuss and decide over the different aspects that affect their lives.

Why are we choosing it to start experimenting with governance structures for Circles?#

Because Circles aims to create a system that provides people a basic income to live, an assembly creates a democratic structure to come together and decide over how to get there. The assembly serves as the space whereby people can choose over what they need in the network, take direct actions to make it happen and maintain the system. The goal is the formation of local assemblies with members from diverse cultures who belong to different social classes, yet are working together with a common goal. The democratic principles of the assemblies are as follow:

  • Discussions, decision making and the implementation of decisions regarding the democratic organization of the economy should be carried out with the people who use Circles
  • Equal representation (gender, youth, elderly, minorities etc.) must be implemented
  • Co-spokespersons by the coordination group should be implemented in all economic councils (see coordination group)
  • Why periodic assemblies?

Having assemblies allows people to plan for change and adapt accordingly to the fluctuations of the year and the emergent needs of each cycle. Assemblies are to be organised at least on a monthly basis to explore changes that need to be made, onboard (trust) new people, resolve any problems and conflicts and decide on the goals, tasks and responsibilities. For example, the Berlin assembly is the first Wednesday of every month. They could be seasonally structured into 3-4 month periods (Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn) or 6 month periods (Dry and Rainy) or however seasons are rooted in each region. The periodicity not only allows us to keep a steady pace, it provides us with an openness to change and experimentation. People’s needs change throughout the year, so the seasonal assemblies help to portray that.

Coordination Group#

In order to decentralize power both within and outside the assemblies, it is important to have a coordination group which cares for the democratic organisation of the local economy with Circles. The coordination group is in charge of:

  • Organising the assembly
  • Taking protocol of the decisions taken and making sure the decisions produced in the assembly are carried out
  • Administration of the different elements that arise
  • Having an overview of the different working groups and their interconnectedness
  • Support the needs of the working groups
  • Speaking on behalf of the assembly when needed
  • Represent the local assembly at the regional, confederated assemblies
  • The coordination group can be made up of 3 to 5 people depending on the size of the assembly, which should rotate after a specific period of time. The coordination time is decided upon by the local assembly (can be 3 months to 4 year terms, this depends on the group and its needs)

Economic Councils#

The aim of the Circles currency is to become a community basic income where people can attain a basic livelihood from it. What this means and how it is achieved depends on each community. The seasonal economic councils are meant to organise different elements of what makes up the economy, or household, around you - so that you can get the things that you need in Circles. They are to be decided upon in the assembly based on the needs in the region. The economic councils are the ones in charge of talking to different sectors of the economy (or household) in order to onboard them in the system and coordinating between each other. These sectors may include: merchants, shops, cooperatives, businesses, communities, urban gardens, farmers, care, cleaning, manufacturers, retailers, restaurants, wholesalers, housing, construction.

Below are some examples:

Food Organisation Group#

Within the assembly, one of the groups that might emerge is one that organises food in the region. Depending on each bioregion, the group will have to talk to local food producers, depending on the needs and what can be sourced locally. Everyone wants food in their own local currency. What is important is that those who provide the food (e.g. farmers, fishermen, etc) have a place to spend circles that is useful for their own needs. So if you onboard the cereal farmer who produces flour, it is important the food group can connect them to someone else who can fulfill one of their needs. So, for example, if the mill is outside the cereal farm, they could accept circles from the farm as part of their service fee. Alternatively, the cereal farmer could use the circles they receive to pay for labor or buy goods from other farms. You have to think in (interconnected) circles!

Ecologistics - Distribution Group#

One of the things you will discover when organising a local economy is the role distribution or logistics plays in bringing stuff from point A to point B. Today, most of these channels are a monopoly. Most people have never thought about the process of where the things they buy come from. From food delivery to letters to regional transportation of heavy equipment and food, “logistics” is today largely organised by medium sized and big international corporations, which control the flow of goods and add to their cost to the end consumer. To organise Circles, one way to get a lot of local merchants and producers to join is to organise local and regional distribution groups which accept Circles for payment. This lowers costs for them and creates a more intimate relationship between buyers and sellers. Local community distribution of goods is more ecological. In Berlin, one of the self-organised distribution platforms we came to know called itself Ecologistics, to embody the values of a sustainable economy.

Caring Circles#

You make a cup once, but you wash it a thousand times. In order to democratise the economy, it is important to visibilize and change how we value the reproductive work which today sustains the rest of the economy. A care group can get together to organise circles of care - people who consciously provide care work for others in need. Whether that is babysitting, therapy, elderly-care or simply doing maintenance or repairing work for others, those who provide care work can accept circles and spend them again in circular ways.

Housing Group#

The housing group can engage the everyday citizen into joining Circles and organise together for a more fair housing situation, that takes into consideration the real needs and capacities of people. A housing group within Circles is responsible for talking to landlords and house-owners, to get them to accept Circles for part of their rent. This is a practical way where landlords can support the community at large, by giving their houses and apartments for cheaper in national currency terms, by also accepting Circles. Land owners could also accept Circles for the buying of land. Together with the coordination group, the housing group can engage the municipality, to tell them the benefits of accepting Circles as taxes. This would allow Circles to circulate more widely. Landlords who accept Circles can spend them at local shops or pay local service providers, like energy providers or even as taxes to the local municipal government.

Computer Programming Group#

If there are people in your area who have computer programming experience, they may be able to help in building localized, situated software for the Circles system, even creating their own clients and instances of the protocol. They can also provide support in other tasks like administration, logistics and so on. Having someone knowledgeable of computer science in your local network will help you organise and in democratizing the technical knowledge of the Circles system.