Alternativet, the new Danish open source party

Introduction by Sam Richardson based on an interview with founder Uffe Elbaek:

(Uffe is the former Minister of Culture of Denmark and the founder of the Kaospiloten school)

Pascale Mueller IMG_0496

Photographer: Pascale Mueller

“Uffe Elbæk’s new party is a politician’s worst nightmare. Not only do Alternativet (The Alternative) have a radical green agenda, they’re proposing a complete rethink of how politics is done. They refuse to place themselves in Denmark’s political spectrum, question capitalism and the welfare state, and want to reach beyond politics into a mysterious ‘fourth sector’. With a somewhat clichéd name and apparent addiction to media buzzwords – ‘open source’, ‘network-based online platform’ and ‘dogmas’ are just a few – the party has taken just two weeks to utterly bewilder voters and the national media. Explaining themselves to the public will take a miracle.

Elbæk may well be the man for the job. Innovation runs like a thread through his career – from setting up Aarhus’s KaosPilots alternative Business School in 1991 to his appointment as Minister of Culture in 2011. It’s not been a smooth ride – Elbæk’s time as Culture Minister ended amidst criticism for hosting government events at an organisation in which his partner worked, although he was later cleared of misconduct. September saw him leave Radikale Venstre, his party for 15 years. He’s now back in Aarhus to meet potential voters.

Given his creative background, one might be confused by Elbæk’s new-found determination to end Denmark’s ‘growth philosophy’. “My feeling is that people, on an emotional level, really can understand that we can’t continue our way of living. Of course if we do, we will pass a tipping point from which there is no return”. The Alternative are first and formost a radical green party. They want to craft “a new type of sustainable balance…economically, socially and environmentally.” Or, as Elbæk more bluntly puts it, “to make sure the life quality of the citizens goes up, and the [use of] national resources goes down.”

Denmark’s got no shortage of environmental advocates, far-left party Enhedlisten being the most vocal. So what else are The Alternative offering? “What we’re building right now is a very solid platform” Elbæk answers “we came up with a manifesto; we came up with a very clear values; we came up with five political topics which we think are key elements which we will decide next summer.” What the party didn’t come up with, however, was any policies.

Politics without policies is of course an oxymoron. But Elbæk sees method behind the madness: “We could have written that manual so easily”, he explains, “[but] people will feel much more motivated if they can be part of the process”. The Alternative’s politics are ‘open source’; anyone is welcome to suggest policies and help build the party’s manifesto. If you’ve ever used Linux, the computer operating system, or Mozilla Firefox, the internet browser, you’ve used open source software designed collaboratively by volunteers. Elbæk promises “several popular political laboratories…both, on a digital platform, but also face-face, in physical meetings”, the policy suggestions from which will be edited down into a paper and voted on at the party’s first meeting in June 2014. After that point, Elbæk assures me, “it will be strictly policy.”

2 Comments Alternativet, the new Danish open source party

  1. AvatarJanne P. Hukkinen

    Interesting. But are the open source methodologies used to create a traditional party program, or something more flexible? I’m thinking and promoting Liquid Democracy / Feedback as a logistical solution for traditional representational democracy here in Finland. With Liquid Feedback, the representation can be distributed, crowdsourced, and non-fixed.

  2. AvatarSimon Gramstrup

    At the moment, they are crowd-sourcing ideas, thoughts and making connections to similar organisations around the globe.

    Liquid democracy, as used in Finland has already been suggested to them. If you have experience with it, then give them a hello at their (ugly) page below.

    They seem to be open for all kinds of suggestions while building a foundation of ideas, and it has stirred some excitement amongst those of us outside the mainstream traditional way of thinking.

    English version:

    Theres not much yet, but it will give you an overview of the thoughts behind the party/movement.

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