One technique we’ve seen more recently for engagement in digital organising is that of locally organised committees. This formalised structure is taking distributed organising to the next level and adding a formalised approach to representation. Committee structures have been shown to be successful in a number of movements and parties, including in even presidential elections, and, most recently, with our latest project out of Italy: Comitati Azione Civile.
Here’s how it works: Imagine you’re interested in a political party or candidate and you want to take local action to support it or them. You go online to the party’s website to look for a committee near you to join, and either see that there are none that have been formed in your region yet, or that the ones that have been formed aren’t focused on the issue that matters the most to you, so you decide to form one yourself. You reach out to a few friends and family members who are also excited about joining a movement where they can inform the direction of the party. You’ve formed a committee that is now an active part of the party and use the party’s online platform to connect to others, raise funds, attend and hold events, and take other actions to grow the movement.
This is the beauty of Comitati Azione Civile. Comitati is a centre-left movement in Italy that Tectonica has been working with to move their committee structure to the NationBuilder system where they can combine their online approach with even more power to engage with the system’s set of integrated online organising tools.
In contrast to the claim by Italy’s Five Star Movement (M5S) that M5S use the internet to engage in direct democracy when, in fact, they are heavily controlling the messaging from the top down, Comitati uses digital organising to organically grow their movement with a strong democratic base in their actual supporters and their participation. The movement has hundreds of committees between 6 and 20 people each, all over Italy, and each committee focuses on a progressive political topic, such as a united Europe, anti-nationalism, justice, open society, representative democracy, or sustainable growth.
Comitati has gone on to launch two rapid response petitions on the system since its launch, which in the first 10 days have gained over 58,000 signatures.