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Book of the Day: Swarmwise

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
17th May 2013


“It is an instruction manual for recruiting and leading tens of thousands of activists on a mission to change the world for the better, without having access to money, resources, or fame. The book is based on Falkvinge’s experiences in leading the Swedish Pirate Party into the European Parliament, starting from nothing, and covers all aspects of leading a swarm of activists into mainstream success.”

* Book: Swarmwise. By Rick Falkvinge. 2013

Here`s an excerpt from the book in progress, Why I don’t believe in leaderless swarms:

Rick Falkvinge:

” We can observe around us that change happens whenever people are allowed to inspire each other to greatness. This is leadership. This is even leadership by its very definition.

In contrast, if you have a large assembly of people who are forced to agree on every movement, including the mechanism for what consitutes such agreement, then you rarely achieve anything at all.

Therefore, as you build a swarm, it is imperative that everybody is empowered to act in the swarm just through what they believe will further its goals – but no one is allowed to empower themselves to restrict others, neither on their own nor through superior numbers.

This concept – that people are allowed, encouraged and expected to assume speaking and acting power for themselves in the swarm’s name, but never the kind of power that limits others’ right to do the same thing – is a hard thing to grasp for many. We have been so consistently conditioned to regard power as power, regardless whether it is over our own actions or over those of others, that this crucial distinction must be actively explained. We will return to explore this mechanism in more detail in chapter five, as we discuss how to create a sense of inclusion and lack of fear as we mould the general motivations in the swarm.

As a result, somebody who believes the swarm should take a certain action to further its goals need only start doing it. If others agree that the action is beneficial, then they will join in on that course of action.

The key reasons the swarm should not be leaderless are two. You will notice that I refer to ”its goals”. Those come from you, the swarm’s founder. If the swarm would be allowed to start discussing its purpose in life, then it would immediately lose its attracting power of new people – who, after all, feel attracted to the swarm in order to accomplish a specific goal, and not out of some general kind of sense of social cohesion.

The second reason is these very mechanisms, the swarm’s culture of allowing people to act. These values will be key to the swarm’s success, and those values are set and established by you as its founder. If the swarm starts discussing its methods of conflict resolution, meaning there is no longer any means to even agree when people will have come to an agreement, then the necessary activism for the end goal will screech to a halt.

Therefore, I believe that leaderless swarms are not capable of delivering a tangible change in the world at the end of the day. The scaffolding, the culture, and the goals of the swarm need to emanate from a founder. In a corporate setting, we would call this ”mission and values”.

But I also believe in competition between many overlapping swarms, so that activists can float in and out of organizations that best match the change they want to see in the world. One swarm fighting for a goal does not preclude more doing the same, but perhaps with a slightly different set of parameters.”

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