Leaderless Change

We have an opportunity to see first-hand an example of leaderless change in the model that Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is employing.  The model is based on consensus decision making through the application of general assemblies.

We have talked in many of our blogs about the importance of sponsorship in driving change.  OWS is an example of undefined specific sponsorship, although with a general understanding that Adbusters gave it the initial kick in the pants to get started.

The question is, can leaderless change continue, or does it have to transition at some point to having named, quantifiable leadership?

In a conversation yesterday, a friend drew a comparison between OWS and the Arab Spring.  The initial actions in both of these movements are “leaderless” – perhaps even qualify as anarchy.

How has the the Arab Spring progressed?  From William Green

As revolts continue in Syria, their leaderless quality — so useful in deterring crackdowns by the secret police — has become a liability. Organizers in and out of the country are now struggling to shape a set of shared political goals, and intellectual coherence and leadership is increasingly seen as important in that process. “No one wants to be accused of hijacking the revolution,” says Sadik Jalal al-Azm, a Syrian philosopher and advocate of greater civic freedoms. “This excessive fear is becoming a hindrance.”

And what is the message of the “General Assembly”, the governing body of the original financial-district occupation in New York?

“New York City General Assemblies are an open, participatory and horizontally organized process through which we are building the capacity to constitute ourselves in public as autonomous collective forces within and against the constant crises of our times.”

To find out more about recent items presented at the General Assembly for OWS in New York City, with outcomes, please read the minutes.  These provide a great example of loosely-jointed leadership, with individual egos exhibiting, but not dominating.

Can leaderless change truly endure?  I look forward to seeing what happens.  May you be blessed by living in interesting times!

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