Transform the System: A 16-Point Step-by-Step Program

NOTE: Following is the first draft of “A 16-Point Step-by-Step Program,” which will be included in “Transform the System: A Declaration.” To my knowledge, no organization of the sort envisioned here currently exists. As stated in the Preface:

A widespread commitment to that goal could help unify a broad array of forces into a “transform-the-system movement.” Various organizations could fight for specific causes while doing so for the sake of the larger cause. We could affirm both/and, within a shared commitment to systemic transformation. We could build momentum by occasionally supporting one another on timely priorities when victories are near. With that approach, we could inspire discouraged, inactive people who want to have a short-term impact. And we could inspire idealists who want long-term fundamental reform.

Feedback is welcome.

A 16-Point Step-by-Step Program

The following presents a scenario for how a coalition to transform the System might develop. These ideas are a “thought experiment.” There’s no assumption they will be fully implemented.

  1. A diverse organizing committee forms with the intent to find or help develop a multi-issue national coalition that:
    1. Helps members undo the System’s divisive conditioning.
    2. Stays together over time and quickly mobilizes large numbers of individuals nationwide to fight for priority issues one at a time.
    3. Promotes a new common purpose for our society.
    4. Aims to help reform all of our major institutions, our culture, and ourselves to serve that mission.
  2. The committee drafts a brief statement of principles to guide its work. To whatever degree it chooses, it draws on material presented in this booklet.
  3. The committee widely circulates that draft, solicits input, and modifies it.
  4. The committee looks for an existing national organization that already embraces the approach presented in that statement of principles.
  5. If it’s unable to find one, it seeks a local branch of an existing national organization, such as a local Democratic Party, that’s willing to adopt the project as a model that could be used to persuade its national body to take it on.
  6. If it’s unable to find such an organization, the committee explores forming a new organization itself with the following methods:
    1. It requests individuals to endorse its principles and pledge to join the organization if and when a certain number of individuals, perhaps 100,000, sign the pledge.
    2. The organizing committee also asks a broad array of organizations to endorse the statement of principles and pledge to mobilize their members for joint actions (perhaps once a month if needed) if and when the organization is launched.
    3. The committee tells organizations with more than a certain number of members that they will be able to designate a representative to the organization’s governing body.
    4. When the individual-member threshold has been crossed, the organizing committee forms a governing body.
    5. The governing body launches the coalition and collects membership dues, which will be the coalition’s only source of income.
    6. The governing body guides the Coalition by adopting written policies and delegating to staff the responsibility for implementing those policies.
  7. Individual members reach out to neighbors who live in the same voting precinct and form a precinct-based club with two or more members.
  8. Those clubs:
    1. Meet at least once a month.
    2. Share a meal.
    3. Organize and convene social and educational activities that enrich members’ lives.
    4. Open meetings with each member briefly reporting on one of their self-improvement efforts.
    5. Discuss how to engage other neighbors in mutual learning dialogs and recruit them to join the club.
    6. Unless its local Democratic Party already engages in year-round precinct organizing and fights for the Party’s national platform year-round, the clubs work together to persuade the Party to do so — and to persuade the State and national Party to do the same.
    7. Work with other organizations to develop slates of candidates for local and regional elected Democratic Party positions who agree that the Party should engage in year-round precinct organizing and fight for its platform year-round — and promise to push the state and national parties to undertake that kind of precinct organizing.
    8. During elections, engage in voter education and get out the vote.
  9. The coalition’s national office publishes a list of precinct clubs on the Web so new members can join their local club.
  10. When a few clubs in the same Congressional District (CD) have formed, those clubs select one or two members to participate in a CD action team. Democratic Party members who do not belong to one of the coalition’s precinct-based club may also participate in those CD action teams.
  11. Those self-governing CD action teams may engage in one or more of the following activities, as well as others:
    1. Send representatives to meet at least monthly with one of their Congressperson’s staff, ideally the chief of staff, to explore ways of working together to advance the coalition’s goals.
    2. As a model for the rest of the nation, persuade the Congressperson to convene an open-ended monthly community dialog at the same time each month to enable the Congressperson’s constituents (randomly selected if need be) to ask questions and make statements to the Congressperson.
    3. Persuade the national party to undertake a nationwide Precinct Organizing Project and dedicate itself to fight for its platform year-round.
  12. Each month, the coalition’s national office, after soliciting input from members and conducting straw polls, identifies a timely top priority winnable issue and asks all of its members to communicate with their Congressperson about that issue (which may or may not be an issue being advanced by the Democratic Party).
  13. If their Congressperson resists supporting the coalition’s position:
    1. CD action teams will gather support from other community-based organizations, elected officials, and local governmental bodies.
    2. If necessary, CD action teams may conduct public demonstrations and if needed and feasible, nonviolent direct action.
  14. If their Congressperson supports the coalition’s position, the CD action team works with the Congressperson to raise funds for the national Precinct Organizing Project and takes on other projects to strengthen the Party in other regions.
  15. When that issue has been resolved with a complete or partial victory, a defeat, or a stalemate, the national office undertakes a campaign on another timely issue. Regardless, from the outset, the Coalition will affirm that no victory and no defeat is ever final. The work is never-ending.
  16. The coalition moves toward being a bottom-up, member-controlled organization with the following methods:
    1. After the coalition has operated for two years, each CD action team will be invited to send one or two representatives to a regional advisory body. Each such body will represent 15-20 CDs. The national office will establish a method for maximizing diversity on that advisory body.
    2. Those bodies will meet every three months to evaluate how the Coalition is operating and send advice to the national governing body.
    3. After another year of operating, those regional advisory bodies will select representatives to a diverse national advisory body.
    4. After another year of operating, the national governing body will be selected democratically in a manner that assures diversity, either with a direct vote by the entire membership or by a vote by the regional advisory bodies.

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