Swarmwise Culture

The Individualist Movement was established in March 2018 by 2 people, Trevor Watkins and George Werner. How do we expand this small movement into the thousands? How do we become a force to be reckoned with? How have others dealt with this situation before?

Fortunately Schalk Dormehl came across a document and website called Swarmwise by Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party. Starting with nothing in 2006, this unconventional party rose to prominence in Swedish politics, capturing up to 8% of the vote and winning several seats in the European Parliament. Rick has written up his philosophy for managing the Pirate Party in this document, and I believe it is highly relevant to what we are trying to do. It presents an approach much more in line with libertarian philosophy than the hierarchical, top-down models of management traditionally adopted for organisations. I summarise the main features of the approach below, although I recommend that all members consider reading the full document. Be warned, the approach is unconventional and radical.

On June 7, 2009, the Swedish Pirate Party got 225,915 votes in the European elections, becoming the largest party in the most coveted subthirty demographic. Our campaign budget was fifty thousand euros. Our competitors had spent six million. We had spent less than 1 percent of their budget and still beat them, giving us a cost efficiency advantage of over two orders of magnitude. This was entirely due to working swarmwise, and the methods can translate to almost any organized large-scale activity. This book is about that secret sauce.

A swarm organization is a decentralized, collaborative effort of volunteers that looks like a hierarchical, traditional organization from the outside. It is built by a small core of people that construct a scaffolding of go-to people, enabling a large number of volunteers to cooperate on a common goal in quantities of people not possible before the net was available.

There are 3 components to the organisation – the leadership, the framework and the swarm. There are some key but non-intuitive ideas which need to be taken on board:

    • Nobody gets to tell anybody what to do. You lead by inspiring others, by example, not by instruction.

    • The leadership sets the vision, not the message.

    • The leadership sets exciting, realisable goals. The swarm accomplishes the goals independently of the leadership. For example, our goals could be

      • setup new IM regions in many areas

      • recruit 500 new members

      • add 1 new blog article each day

      • design and sell bumper stickers

      • design and sell T shirts

    • The swarm is open and transparent and inclusive. Everybody can see almost everything all the time.

    • Trust, transparency, speed and scalability are the key concepts.

    • No regrets, no blame games, no backseat drivers, no hindsight. Mistakes will happen, learn from them and move on.

    • Goals must be tangible, credible, inclusive and epic.

    • If any 3 people support an idea then they can do it. They take accountability and exercise authority to accomplish the idea. Asking permission is asking somebody else to take accountability for your actions.

    • They recommend 3 basic group sizes, 7, 30 and 150. Forums are used to communicate at all levels.

    • Meetings are for synchronisation and health checks (are you still there, are you still active?). Meetings are max 1 hour. Most planning and work gets done in the swarm, in forums or face to face.

    • Voting makes winners and losers. Only vote in rare and exceptional circumstances. If you don't like something, then do something better. You cannot instruct anyone on what they must or cannot do. This is called a do-ocracy, where you allow many different things to be tried.

    • If voting cannot be avoided (eg resource allocation), try to do a consensus circle (Keep going around group with 30 second segments until consensus reached).

    • This process must be FUN for the participants. People do stuff because they want to. Our slogan could be “Make friends, have fun AND change the world.”

    1. How can we implement some of these ideas within the Individualist Movement?

The 3 person exco should concern itself with defining the vision and goals and strategy, not executing tasks.

We should try to develop a second level of regional organisers who take responsibility for dealing with members in their region. These regional organisers would make personal contact with new members, setup dinners, coffee meetings, etc.

We should invite everyone else, members, marketing, friends, activists to join our swarm. They would be given access to google drive (some docs may be protected, but most would be available), the individualist@googlegroups.com email forum, facebook and google+ pages, etc. Authors for the blog would be expanded after 1 or 2 trial posts. An infrastructure for establishing and reporting on projects and initiatives would be setup. Although membership and registration should be encouraged, it should not be a prerequisite. (If some guy wants to design and distribute a 1000 bumper stickers, why stop him because he hates filling in forms.) We would explain the 1-2-3-go idea (get 3 people to approve an idea and its yours to go ahead with).