Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Starfish Gazing

"In starfish organizations, power is spread throughout. Each member is assumed to be equally knowledgeable and has power equal to that of any other member."

Ori Brafman and Rod a Beckstrom, The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations

So, my question concerns whether Obama's Organizing for American (OFA) is a spider or a starfish organization -- or maybe a creative hybrid. That is,is it a top-down, centralized organization or a decentralized,multi-centered network? My observation is that it was more of a starfish hybrid during the campaign--lots of local independence but a centralization of mission, funding, and, of course, goal. Since winning, and the formation of OFA, it has become more of a spider -- issuing commands and making fundraising requests. I hope I'm missing some major starfish components that are working below the radar screen, at least mine.

Keeping the starfish elements alive would have required encouragement to be decentralized. For example, wouldn't it have been useful to set up 8-10 regional funds to support local grassroots organizing. Or, wouldn't it have been useful to set up Wellstone camps around the country to train new leaders for political races and community organizing? Maybe some common campaigns would have emerged.

I remember talking to some people right after the election who kept harping on how keeping alive the connections between the grassroots and the presidency. They got it backwards: the real question was how the president could be connected to a vibrant grassroots movement?

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