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Building a Coalition of Everyone
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Pass it on
I'm reading
Building a Coalition of Everyone
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Building a Coalition of Everyone
Pass it on
Pass it on
12 March 2020

Building a Coalition of Everyone

Willow Berzin shares the philosophy and story behind the Coalition of Everyone, a new organisation disrupting politics of fear by removing barriers to participatory and deliberative democracy.

Written by Willow Berzin

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

Funnily enough, the Coalition of Everyone might be about physics. I’ve long been a fan of Thomas Campbell, the NASA physicist who has spent the past many decades exploring the nature of reality and consciousness through the eyes of a scientist. And only yesterday, Sonia, one of our cofounders, said her next PhD will be in physics.

We are citizens of the universe, astronauts on spaceship earth, spinning through space at a thousand miles an hour. We are but specks of dust living on this beautiful blue planet. And we are also full of so much potential. The outer physical world may be finite, but our inner worlds are infinite, our imaginings and potential are truly magnificent.

Yet the daily doings of this modern life have us often trapped in the humdrum of work, domesticity, consumerism and dealing with the highs and lows of the day to day. We now find ourselves living in collapsing systems of our own making—systems that are outmoded and broken, and taking us to the brink.

The Coalition of Everyone is an idea that stems from a deep personal desire to be useful in this moment of crisis. At times I find it all terrifying and overwhelming; you only have to read the news or smell the air, see people’s faces on the street. I think we can innately sense the collapse in our hearts and bones too. Occasionally I fall into despair against the odds we face, but it is generally brief, driven by the need to be able to look in the eyes of my son, when he’s old enough to understand, and say I did everything I could to secure a safer future for him.

At some point last year I gave up asking for permission and started thinking about what actually needs to happen. After coming across the idea of Citizens’ Assemblies at the first Melbourne Extinction Rebellion meeting in December 2018, I went down a road of self-initiated research, trying to understand not only more about them, but also the underlying drivers behind the existential crises we face. When a friend showed me a video of how a People’s Assembly works, I felt like I was onto something. I was intrigued about how I could remove the barriers to these forms of participatory and deliberative democracy for people like myself.

I met my two other co-founders Suse Porter and Dr Sonia Randhawa early last year, and have been working closely with them since. While we are establishing the Coalition as a non partisan, non profit social enterprise, we currently all work other jobs too so we can pay the bills; finding enough time in each day to do the work we are most passionate about is challenging. I am humbled on a daily basis by their courage, support and relentless commitment to make this happen. Listening to our advisors, participant feedback from our events, and regularly checking in with my mentor Adam Jacoby gives me confidence we really are onto something, as we grow a passionate team to help weave this thing into its fullest potential.

Democracy literally means, “rule by the people.” We know the leadership we need from the top down can’t currently function in the way we need—I’d add “yet” because I’m an optimist. We need to reclaim our democratic rights as one of the invisible glues that bind us. We need to reboot healthy participatory and deliberative practices so we can come together through these unprecedented times, step out of fear or paralysis, become radically pragmatic, and to connect ourselves with proactive and actionable ways to be useful. To have impact within our spheres of influence, passion, expertise, professions and communities. And we need new tools and ways to do this, to find the unique roles we can each play in the roadmap beyond zero.

So how do we hasten The Great Transition and mobilise all of our untapped human potential? For a start we need a transition that is democratic and just, or it won’t work, and to allow for self-determination within community activation. We need to move from competition to collaboration, activism to actionism, from silos thinking to systems thinking, from ill-ogical to eco-logical, from the highly corrupted and politicised costs of change to the far greater costs of inaction or short term PR bandaid fixes, from implicit colonisation to recognising what hurts one person hurts us all. And we need to do it all at speed.

These paradigm shifts—coupled with a bottom up approach—go hand in hand with the many new initiatives led by inspiring leaders stepping up and realising the benefits and opportunities the transition offers, as well as the groundswell behind the local council-led climate emergency declarations. They pave way for us all to bone up on our responsibilities and get actively involved.

The idea of a Coalition of Everyone itself is not exactly original; in many ways, it is what it says on the tin. Over the past year we’ve been developing an Assembly Events Framework; at one end is People’s Assemblies for citizen and community led change (including Student and Youth Assemblies), and at the other end is building capacity for policy led change via Citizen’s Assemblies (we currently hold Mock Citizen’s Assemblies—a mini unofficial version if you will).

These events are experiential learning for people to understand how sortition, deliberation and participatory practices work; the best way to get it, after all, is to do it. A People’s Assembly is a bit like a Citizen’s Assembly but much faster (without sortition or the need for government auspice to be legitimate), and we’ve also developed it to be a networking and decision making co-design workshop. These can be held with business, councils and communities across any taxonomy in the transitioning roadmap. They can also adapt to be place-based depending on local needs, as determined by local people. The purpose behind these various event frameworks is to give citizens, communities and government agency to act. We believe this multi-pronged approach is a keystone to the Just Transition.

We want to share this Assembly Framework with the world, helping grow healthy democratic culture into the fibres of our lives, so we can come together through the escalating crises and in the years to come, as we restore a safe climate and renew healthy global ecosystems that work for all. This is why the Coalition of Everyone exists.

The most radical thing we can do now isn’t radical; it’s participation. Participate in democracy and find out how to be useful, move into this new mode of actionism. Radically collaborate, embrace our differences and diversity as strength, and start moving in the same direction, at the same time, towards our common goals.

By coming to grips with the climatic slap of reality, and broadening our awareness as an interconnected global family, we realise we need to become whole systems custodians of the real world physics of our finite planetary resources, by activating our under-realised human potential, we discover an under-utilised resource to do so. Us.

Because transformations don’t occur as discrete phenomena that happen in an instant, and we can’t afford to wait for the top down approach to catch up—it’s going to take millions of local initiatives, at a global scale, and all of us to be actively knowing what we can and need to do, and how. We need accessible and visionary pathways with adjacent possibilities that everyone can get behind. We can shift the narrative to one of hope, building courageous momentum, not waiting for permission to act, but bringing everyone along with and getting on with the job. Hearts, minds and policy all in. The future is emergent after all. And we have a chance to transform the world for the better.

Learn more at www.coalitionofeveryone.com

Willow Berzin

Willow Berzin is co-founder and chief assembler for the Coalition of Everyone.

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