One Web for Days of Independence

by brittb

When I first saw the worldwide web in a university computer lab, I knew it would change everything but had no idea that it could help people take specific actions to manage politicians and government employees. That’s not surprising. Most of us still don’t know how close we are to that goal.

I started blogging because Doc Searls exhorted me to. How’re you gonna say no to that? I made lifelong friends just by reading and writing on the web, and that led to me becoming embedded with the Howard Dean campaign, following a weekend mini-summit, just over 5 years ago.

That’s the thing about online discoveries, especially when you discover people:

  • Strangers become allies.
  • Their conversations become relationships
  • Relationships grow into visible groups.
  • Groups meet online or off and behave like other activated groups.
  • Above a certain energy level, they deliver money and votes.
  • Impossible things become probable.

Campaigns organized by well-heeled candidates have figured that out, but my Dean experience convinced me that we could develop a web service for all Americans to have that power. Knowing how little money campaigns spend on the tools they use (they spend a lot overcoming their tools’ limitations), we were sure we could build a campaign-in-a-box. And we’re about done. The web framework we call

ORGware started out to be a campaign-in-a-box, and it’s pretty good at that (though we’re working this week on thirteen items that are still frustrating to users – software involves changing your design as soon as you build it, because its inadequacies are immediately obvious).

But along the way, it became obvious that everything people do in government involves a campaign, with all the elements of a campaign for President or dogcatcher: People, Attention and Money combine to convince uninterested people to do something they’re not sure will either work or even matter. So then it became clear that a broad framework of accessible sites, “located” where real people could use them, could help people form committees to guide the thinking of politicians and government employees. On the web, a committee can get really big, even in a small town. We gave committees the tools to collect money and pledge votes in quantities sufficient to guide the thinking of politicians and government employees. Committees are groups that commit to something. They have real power when equipped with the tools to do the thing they commit to. That’s where Independence Year comes in.

Independence Year

So we created the Independence Year project: a public utility for management of politicians and employees at every level of government. Independence Year runs from 7/4/08 through 7/4/09 because this is such a great year to change everything. In order to be like the cool kids, we call it iYear. Here’s what’s included;

NewPrez.US

  • An independent site for every Presidential candidate
  • A “master site” for feedback to the sitting President

A radical idea: Candidates no longer control our discussions of their candidacy. These sites will live on after Election Day, helping us tell the new President what we care about.

NewGov.US

  • 50 sites, for citizen input to each state’s law makers
  • A citizen-controlled site for state legislative districts
  • A “master site” for citizen guidance of Federal legislation
  • A networking engine at each of the 435 Congressional district sites
  • A networking engine for each of the 100 Senate seats

Our collective voice redirects the focus of local and regional political discussions. NewGov sites remain in place, as the politicians come and go…

GovAdvisers.US

  • Collective citizen input to every Federal agency, bureau and office
  • Send a message directly to the agencies performing work you care about: FEMA.govAdvisers.US; INS.govAdvisers.US, TSA.govAdvisers.US, etc.

PeoplePressure.US

  • The people’s war chest to hire and motivate the best Washington lobbyists
  • Uses the fundraising techniques that propelled Ron Paul and Barack Obama to the forefront of people-financed power

The sharp tip of the iYear spear. Speak the language that politicians understand: Money. Power. Connections.

Nobody owns the iYear service because of the arrangements made by the Independence Year Foundation %uFFFCand the Independence Year Trust. It’s also set up to be insulated from influence for political or commercial gain.

The iYear platform is held in trust for its readers and members. The Independence Year Trust is prohibited from owning tangible assets: money, bank accounts, securities, etc., but the Trust is authorized to have relationships needed to keep the platform online: contracts with an Internet Service Provider and domain registrar, and some trademarks for its artwork and trade names. There is no board of directors to change the rules, and the Trustee is prohibited from changing the rules. There is no “business model” for iYear. So, like the web itself, iYear has the three virtues of the Internet*:

1. Nobody owns it.

2. Everyone can use it.

3. Anyone can improve it.

* Thanks to iYear’s friends, Doc Searls and David Weinberger

Story by Britt Blaser CEO of Open Resource Group from New York. Britt’s blogs about Politics, Economy, Love and death in his Escapable Logic You can reach him at britt at openresourcegroup dot com.

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