The paper Efficient Politics, by open politics, deep framing, telework, mobile service and green business guru Craig Hubley, was originally authored in 2004 for the Green Party of Canada in the context of its Living Platform wiki project which was to compile policy answers within the party to brief its supporters during elections.
This project, led by Michael Pilling, was the third attempt to use a wiki-based online service to author a citizen political platform, the first being Hubley's Imagine Halifax, and the second being an effort by the Green Party of Michigan.
Hubley's paper is the only complete theoretical treatment of this approach in advance of a major project. It outlines the basic principles of answer recommendation and policy debate using a wiki. Hubley was first to apply issue/position/argument to complex political debate in a real world context, though the model dated back to Horst Rittel in the 1970s and was in active use throughout the 1980s in strategic military circles. It had never been applied to ordinary political debates among citizens before about 2003.
Hubley's paper outlines a number of simple practices useful to the Democrats today:
- "make it easy to get policy answers" especially via PDA phones and cell phones
- "make policy easy to share" and discuss, keeping the debate focused on policy not persons
- "the net is not enough" - reach out beyond the net to ratify what netizens are telling you
- "parties as protocols" - treat the party itself as having service-oriented architecture
- "manage distributed volunteers" using telework to build volunteer-centered campaigns
- "cross fertilize and co-opt" other groups, preferably by using compatible technologies
- "practice what you preach"
- "spread the virus" -"Sincerity spreads the virus of sincerity better than any amount of propaganda ever can"
- "best practices" - exchange them wherever possible with like-minded organizations
- "political virtues" as defined by Crick, include adaptability, liveliness, etc. should be taught and actively spread by the organization
Inside the party
At the time this paper was written, Hubley was defending the Living Platform project, very similar to dkosopedia itself, from a reactive attempt to scuttle transparency and accountability within that party and impose a more conventional top-down leader-sets-all-policy model where platforms are only advisory. A core argument employed particularly by Pilling was that participation of outside experts (including Hubley) depended wholly on the commitment of the party to actually use the Living Platform material in an election.
A clique around leader Jim Harris opposed Hubley, who derided them as having achieved their success on the backs of the grassroots - Hubley had actually created the district association that Harris took over in Toronto Danforth some years before. Hubley gave Harris' team little credit, claiming that their rise from 0.8% in the November 2000 Canadian election to 4.2% in June 2004, was due entirely to a surge in grassroots actions, especially Green innovations in policy outreach, and a general interest in environmental issues. The low support in 2000 was due in part to the Greens only being able to run in about 100 districts - only one third of Canadians could vote Green. The natural support level would have been two and a half percent or so in 2000 - so Harris and his team could reasonably claim only to have been responsible for a two percent gain of their own. Hubley predicted that by centralizing the party and refusing to distribute policy debate, the Greens would stall - and fail to attract outside policy experts to their cause.
Harris and clique however saw the solution as reliance on their own expertise internally. A complex series of events, the GPC Council crisis, ensued, in which proponents of Hubley's approach went on a talent strike and ceased to support the party or its candidates. Literally all of 2005 was spent in internal conflicts, purges, and even lawsuits and threats of lawsuits. This was reported in the Canadian national press. The party barely improved its standing to 4.5% of the popular vote in the January 2006 election.
Outside the party
The dissident group became quite successful outside the party context, employing Efficient Politics approaches in international lobbying.
In December 2005 Elizabeth May, Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada, along with then Canadian Environment Minister Stephane Dion, hosted Bill Clinton at the COP11 conference in Montreal where (thanks largely to Clinton) the US was convinced to sign onto its first climate change talks. Hubley influenced several clauses in the final draft of the World Municipal Leaders Declaration on Climate Change, 2005-12-07, which went so far as to propose monetary reforms and suggest carbon-neutralizing trade with carbon taxes that undid climate effects of imported goods.
Meanwhile, urban management and emergency response policy in Canada, and also in the UK which copied some of the approaches advocated using Efficient Politics methods, was being reformed. John Godfrey, briefly a contender for the Liberal Party of Canada leadership, noted that he had been inspired by the policy effectiveness of some Greens.
None of this was to the credit of the Green Party however, which ignored their work. It continued at openpolitics.ca which published a somewhat more complete version of the original paper including links to some missing topics that (apparently) had never been discussed in the party, including "governance", "faction", and even the definition of a "political party" or the function of a "Cabinet". It's hard to imagine how one can avoid discussing these topics in a parliamentary government system.
The talent strike ended when Elizabeth May declared her intent to lead the GPC, be inclusive, transparent, and avoid the temptation to put all policy in the control of an opaque clique answerable only to the leader. The leadership convention in August 2006 elected her leader by about a 2/3 majority, and May and Hubley ally Kate Holloway was elected Chief Agent (the party's top financial position) by an even greater majority. It was a major credibility blow to Jim Harris and party financier Wayne Crookes who had put most of their energy into campaigning against her personally. However, the Greens did re-elect some of the individuals who had acted most prejudicially and unconstitutionally to centralize control of the party, most notably incumbent Membership Chair Steve Kisby.
Members at the party's conventions also rejected directives that would have required the party to use only Efficient Politics methods to adjudicate answers to policy questions - a "position protocol" that would generate FAQs, answers to citizen group questionnaires during elections, and be used to vet press releases and platforms issued by candidates.
However, May's faction had a clear Council majority and evidently considered the lobbying focused Efficient Politics methods useful. As of September 2006 Holloway had been placed in charge of a committee to clean up the party's internal governance and put the Living Agenda and possibly Living Platform back on track. Party Organizing Chair Doug Anderson, who had let his membership quietly lapse when Living Platform was shut down in February 2005, longtime member Dan King, and former advisor David Scrymgeour were all determined to renew it in some form.
Meanwhile, Hubley ally Lori-Ann Martino had aligned herself with the Liberals in Newfoundland, and Hubley himself with a renewal faction of federal Liberals, some of which had determined to bring the techniques pioneered by the Greens to the Liberal caucus.
Particularly demonstrative in support of online democracy methods had been Liberal leadership candidates Michael Ignatieff and Carolyn Bennett, who ran lively blogs, and Justin Trudeau and Tom Axworthy who led a youth-focused renewal effort.
In a number of emails Hubley indicated that he thought some US Democrats were doing better work than any Canadian party, and that Canada had "once again lost its lead in a technology it invented."
He cited dkosopedia itself in a number of these internal emails, in particular the way it directly supported George Lakoff's terminology and methods complementary to it. He also noted that methods like Politics To Go, while they lacked a good theory base, were now piggybacking on mobile game technologies being added to mobile phones. A new version of Efficient Politics would certainly have to deal with this trend.