As Joanne Richardson once wrote, the rhizome is not characteristic of civil society-based peer production communities but a general characteristic of all power structures:
“It is naïve to invoke a rhizomatic mode of organization as a means of contestation and as an alternative to global capitalism since it has become what they have in common rather than what holds them apart.”
Alec Evans and David Steven have published a series of articles proposing a new approach for public diplomacy that can deal with contemporary global crisis such as climate change. It is a good example of how global and national institutions are called to move even further towards their own kind of participatory and ‘rhizomatic’ structures.
A recent overview article summarized their views, which they have presented in expanded form elsewhere.
Their calling for what they call ‘shared operating systems’:
“First, public diplomacy is about building shared awareness – a common understanding of an issue around which a coalition can coalesce. The task here is not simply to accumulate information, which often exists in abundance, but rather to invest in analysis, synthesis and dissemination. Are state and non-state actors using the same data? Has a common language emerged? Is there a hub for discussion and debate?
Shared awareness should be the precursor to the construction of a shared platform. The new public diplomacy will usually – perhaps invariably – be a multilateral pursuit. The objective is to build a network of state and nonstate actors around a shared vision or set of solutions: something a bilateral programme will seldom be able to do. This vision or solution need not be provided by a particular government and then ‘sold’ to its partners. The approach is less top-down that that: a really compelling vision will in itself have sufficient power to draw together a network and motivate it to campaign for change.
The end point is institutionalising this network’s beliefs, thinking and structures into a framework for managing a particular problem. Given the amorphous and dynamic nature of the challenges we face, this framework will seldom be a permanent one. Rather, it will involve the creation of a shared operating system that distributes our response to a risk, and is flexible enough to evolve as that risk evolves. The result should be a change in the structure of globalisation, a rewiring of our ability to act together in the face of a collective challenge.”
From a civil society point of view, this is of course fine as far as it goes, but crucial is of course, how much participation goes into the process, as, if only the elite is heard, this shared response can only be inadequate.
A more recent expanded treatment of their ideas can be found in the as yet unpublished draft document: Multilateralism and Scarcity.