Archive for February 2nd, 2004

Emergence on a landscape that already has been settled

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I’d like to suggest you consider a subtle but important nuance in how
we think about emergence.  Emergence in society is not like the
emergence that created organic molecules out of primal matter. 
Emergence in society must take into account that society already
exists.  And society is pyramidal, with a few elites living at the
top. 

So emergence does not happen on an empty landscape.  It happens on a rich complex and hierarchical landscape.

Thus consider:  Emergence is when the priorities of the bottom of
the social pyramid start to be expressed in the behavior of the top of
the pyramid.  In the case of the presidential campaign, the people
at the bottom of the pyramid—the millions of people who care about
society—want their own social scene to be richer, warmer, more
vibrant.  They want to enjoy more “social capital.”

When the Dean campaign contributes to the development of social
capital, it is rewarded with contributions and other forms of volunteer
support.  When the campaign gets sucked into a battle of negative
campaigning, like it did against Gephardt in Iowa, the campaign gets
punished by the voters.

This suggests a path forward for Howard Dean: Continue to invest in
creating social capital.  Continue to follow your dream of
facilitating citizen power.  Citizens will lift you up and support
you.

And to the extent that you need to let us all know you better, Howard, help us understand why this dream is so important to you.

The Dean campaign restocked by grassroots

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Lots of folks are punditing about the Howard Dean campaign—most working
with few facts.  So here are a couple of facts to mull over. You heard it first:

1.  Through today, thousands of grassroots supporters continue
restocking the Dean campaign with cash.  As I reported here
recently, in the 72 hours after New Hampshire more than 10,000
supporters contributed almost $70 each—for a total of $680,000 in three
days.  This shows the power of the large numbers of people that
can easily touch the campaign through the web.  I don’t know what
will happen next, but I can say that numbers suggest that the
grassroots can completely reload the campaign with cash if they want to.

2.  We all know that where an organization gets its funding has a
powerful effect on its priorities—even if the members think
otherwise.  So I find the following intriguing, given the
centrality of grassroots funding in this current period: Probably the
most influential person in the campaign right now is Zephyr, our
grassroots evangelist.  She is organizing all sorts of initiatives
and creating momentum. In addition, word has it that Karen Hicks, the
community organizer extraordinaire who led our New Hampshire grassroots
campaign, and who worked with Marshall Ganz and others to create the
house meeting model, is taking on a new and central role in the
national campaign.

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