I thought it would be useful to write a lengthy post about swarms. Apologies for the length, but I want to make sure we are all on the same page.
This is a way to facilitate people doing things and how to manage party activities. We have competing needs to get Pirates active in a much bigger way than we currently are and to fulfill AEC requirements of a registered party. We can’t purely use swarm organising for everything, but need a hybrid organisational structure to manage our obligations.
Swarmwise was a book written by Pirate Party Sweden (and global movement founder) Rick Falkvinge. It details how he set up the Pirate Party as an instruction manual on how to set up and run an organisation.
The basic idea of swarms is to allow members to decide the activities that they undertake. The party lays out a basic structure and some activities that need doing and when members come along wanting to get involved, they can take on a tasks or role that they think is most important for them to undertake. This method of organisation gives maximum freedom to members to pursue the causes that most interest them and for each person to put energy into where they feel it is best spent.
Unlike traditional top down, command and control organising, swarm organising means the agenda is set by member activity. Debates over where to put resources become less relevant because that decision is made organically (it is still relevant where money and authorisation is concerned, more on that later).
There are a few aspects to how this is better for the Pirate Party than top down command and control.
We are volunteers, getting people campaigning on what they think is most important helps keep them motivated. This is quite literally voting with your feet.
Many debates become moot points because our members will decide what is most important by doing it. Arguing over scarce resources uses those resources for the argument.
Empowering members to make their own decisions not only gives them ‘a sense’ of ownership over the party, it gives them actual ownership over it’s activities.
We have way more tasks that need completing than people volunteering to help, the exact activities that people involve themselves with is not anywhere near as important as getting members to do something productive.
How Would This Work?
Assuming everyone agrees with us adopting swarm organising as part of out strategy, we would use the strategy process to create tasks or roles that we would point our members at, then encourage activity. The NC would be responsible for managing the structure, distributing party funds and keeping a general eye on things. Members would participate in the campaigns, roles or activities that they feel most comfortable undertaking. The campaigns that matter most to our members would get the highest participation, and unpopular campaigns would get nowhere, such is the will of our members.
To make something happen, we will need to institute the three pirate rule. This states simply, if three pirates agree to an activity then it is an approved activity. A really stupid idea could get the support of one member, they might be able to convince a second member, but getting three members to agree to something crazy is highly unlikely. Just in case, we expect to know who the three pirates who put their name to an idea are, so should there be some catastrophic backlash, the NC knows who to yell at / explain why they did the wrong thing.
There are exceptions to this rule:
When people want party funds for their activity, the NC will need to approve it.
When something needs authorisation under the electoral act and you don’t want to authorise it yourself. You will need to get the Secretary to sign off on it as it is in his name.
When campaigning outside of the platform in any significant way using the Pirate name. We don’t want to suddenly find our name on ‘Return to Absolute Monarchy’ flyers as a bad example.
Part of the beauty of swarm organising is that pirates can propose their own tasks too, they just need to be added to the Tasks for Pirates page. So people who have more ideas than time can propose tasks and the tasks are any good, they will get completed without your help.
The Ideas Behind Swarm Organising
Be the change you wish to see in the world -Mahatma Gandhi
The medium is the message -Marshall McLuhan
A big part of what we are trying to do as a movement is to empower ordinary people to be able to better control their lives. The swarm method of organising embodies that principle. There are many examples of this sort of organising that pirates have likely participated in. If the swarm is the medium for our activity, the message is we trust the community to organise it it’s own best interest. I think it is the organisational structure that best embodies our principles.
This sort of organising has been used for centuries in different forms, so it isn’t brand new. The Internet makes it especially effective and was used to create us. Rick Falkvinge founded the original Swedish Pirate Party, and used his knowledge of getting that going to help Roderick (Rodney @serkowski) found Pirate Party Australia. I will keep to modern examples to illustrate, because they are of most use to us.
It parallels organising gaming communities in many ways, with the formation and self organisation of gamers into clans (I haven’t read that link yet, couldn’t find the article I was looking for, but it seemed alright from a quick scan). We can use the skills people have from organising gaming to help organise our own swarm. The skills are transferable.
Valve famously use a flat organisational structure to run the company, the swarm is essentially the same principle being deployed for political purposes rather than economic.
Swarms accurately describe pretty much any time anarchists actually organise something as a large group. They organise into affinity groups (roughly the equivalent of a pirate crew) and then organise larger actions through spokescouncils (the link is a guide to direct action from Occupy). I participated in this form of oganisation before the Pirate Party existed as part of a local Wollongong anarchist crew, so I know this version of swarm organising well.