Life and functioning of the Network of Possibilities

In this article I envisage the internal aspects of the Network, technical questions like the admission of new participants, contributions, etc.

Creating a Network of Possibilities

Each individual could create a Network of Possibilities, whether he or she is in a big city or a small town… Obviously it is necessary to have a real culture about an active tolerance.

The creation of such a network would allow one to meet original, open-minded people, and to share one’s activities with others. It would take time, but then all leisure activities do. The biggest time commitment would no doubt be launching the Network by finding some core members. In order to do so, it would be necessary to multiply one’s contacts, to put announcements in message boards, and to receive a large number of phone calls. Then, before accepting members, there would have to be provisional, informative meeting in which one would discuss active tolerance in depth and take note of the objections that it provokes.

Finding members

Admission of new members

At the time of the first meeting, the confirmed members observe and discuss with the people presenting themselves. It might happen that certain people are not right for the Network. There are two reasons to refuse admission straight away:

-  the person is clearly unbalanced (interrupting everyone, showing signs of evident psychiatric problems, behaving too aggressively, etc.)

-  the person does not really understand the ideas of the network. There might be other more subtle reasons, in which case one might adopt a veto system — declaring, for example, that if two administrative members (or founding members) decide to veto, the person in question could not be admitted. Such vetoes of course would have to be extremely rare, or else the association would cease to be open and fall into a system of cooptation.

Voluntary Commitment

The activities, meetings, outings, etc., must be benevolent, that is to say that the members cannot expect a salary for what they organize. Nevertheless the participants could be asked to pay for material, for the entry fee to a show, etc. If the network grows substantially, and there is the need to have certain functions handled dependably and on a regular basis, persons might be compensated for certain clear-cut tasks, such as the maintenance and moderation of an internet site, operating a telephone line or distribution pamphlets, translations of foundational texts, organization of methodical debates, etc.

Membership fee and member obligations

The members have these obligations only:
-  to have attended an initial, informational meeting,
-  to be familiar with the foundational texts,
-  to fill out a file of presentation to be consultable by other members (there are no anonymous members).

There could be networks without membership fee; if there is a fee, it must serve for the upkeep of the site, the printing of pamphlets or the publication of brochures in order to promote the network. The fee is not to be used to pay for activities, which remain benevolent (one may have to pay a locale for an activity, or the entry fee to a conference, but in that case it is the participants of the given activity who must resolve the financial question, which shouldn’t have anything to do the membership fee). Even with a membership fee, a member might be admitted without immediately paying the fee, because he or she wants to “try out” the network, or because he or she doesn’t have the means (in this case, he or she could be asked to do certain services, such as distributing pamphlets, promoting the network on the internet, etc.).

Ideally, members should spread word of the network to those around them, so as to assure the natural growth of the association. A member could be content to participate in activities without proposing anything, and being particularly passive. There was even a member of the first network who would dose off during the meetings!

Statutes

The association of the Network of Possibilities existed in legal form with the name “Garden of Possibilities”. The statutes adopted during that time could be communicated to those who interested in creating a Network of Possibilities, in order to have an idea of the legal form of such an undertaking.

What is an activities network?

To get an idea of the activities, subjects, etc., see the page “The Activities Network”.

The Network can last and grow only if there is a certain number and a certain quality of activities and outings proposed. The Network can’t be transformed into a social circle or a meeting place (or rather, they would have to be a particular kind—intellectual, destabilizing—of meetings!).

Therefore merely banal activities really have no place being proposed within the network. If a member wished to propose a dinner at a pizzeria, he wouldn’t be able to announce in the Agenda (he could write in a personal capacity to other members of the network to ask them, but this is neither here nor there); if, on the other hand, he wished to propose a dinner in Afghan restaurant, he could announce it. Likewise, proposing a game of tennis would be too banal, but an initiation to Jeu de Paume (the ancestor of tennis), why not?

Certain members may want to propose the same activity—sometimes under a slightly different name—, quite often, they want to promote a hobbyhorse, a personal interest or obsession, etc. Either these members create a “mini-group” dedicated to their interest, or else they must respect a minimum frequency—say, once every three months—when proposing new meetings or activities pertaining to their interest.

As regards topics that are poorly prepared or organized, this is one of the risks of the voluntary system, but if members have a complaint they can address it to the internal forum of the network. Nevertheless, though their complaint will be heard, one could not prevent a poorly organized member from proposing what he wishes (an exception would be if a member, for no sufficient reason, fails to show up to the activity of which he is himself the organizer; this could be grounds for warning and eventually for temporary suspension from the Network.)

The limits: illegal experiences and conduct

Certain members will likely propose illegal behavior or forbidden activities. The Network of Possibilities can neither allow nor be associated with these kinds of things, which would jeopardize its legal existence. The moderators of the website must suppress any illegal announcements on the website, even if they are in veiled language.

Preliminary requirements for an activity

The organizers of an activity are the bosses in charge. For certain meetings or certain regular activities (mini-groups), they could ask members, before signing up, to do a preliminary task—if, for example, it were a matter of a sporting activity, or an intellectual one (the organizer of a mini-group called “Learning to Think” used to ask members to read certain texts before coming).

By the same token, before an outing or a meeting with a person exterior to the Network, the organizer may ask members to have a good attitude, to listen, or even to conform to a certain role if that’s useful to the experience, etc.

Every activity stays confidential within the Network, so as to guarantee the possibility for the members to let themselves go, to have completely spontaneous or emotional reactions.

Closed and open Activities/Meetings

It is possible to propose closed meetings and activities. This means that a member decides that the activity he organizes cannot include more that X number of participants. But he cannot choose by name the participants, and by rights all members of the network should be able to participate.

Some exceptions could exist,—within, for example, a mini-group who has worked for a long time on a certain theme, and conducts meetings or activities that are reserved to the members of the mini-group, which should however give an account of them regularly.

Certain activities and meetings can be open to non-members of the Network (for examples the organizer of the meeting or of the activity may invite personal friends. But they must be aware that it is a network meeting where the rules of open-mindedness prevail).

By far the most frequent case should be activities open to all the members of the Network, preferably unlimited in number of participants except for material reasons (size of the locale), in which case the first to sign up are given priority.

Exclusion

There could be exclusions, announced by the head office at the time of a organizational meeting, of certain precise forms of behavior, such as preventing communication and being an obstacle to the functioning of meetings, or excessively monopolizing the discussion, interrupting inappropriately, etc. The head office of the association may decide to exclude temporarily (as a warning) or permanently. In principle one would first give a temporary exclusion, in the hopes that the person will change his behavior.

The administration cannot exclude someone because they have said strange, amoral, false or even intolerant things. On the other hand there must be no personal attacks, which could also be grounds for exclusion (one may criticize ideas, ways of life, beliefs, even behavior, but not the individuals themselves at the meetings and activities of the Network—unless it happened to be the purpose of a meeting to have a kind psychological confrontation).

People who are too procedural or demanding (especially towards the others), who are constantly calling things to order, wanting members to “work”, to do such and such a task, could also be excluded. The Network is not an army, nor a religion, nor a Party: it guarantees each member the maximum possible liberty, laziness, play… A member who has committed himself to doing a task and who fails to accomplish it, may damage his relation with other members, but shall not be excluded. Always passing judgments on others to the effect that they are not equal to the “demands” of the network could result in exclusion!

The Founding Members

To guarantee the ethics of discussion within the Network, and to deal with unforeseen issues (important modifications to status or functioning, personal or financial problems, etc.), there was conceived at the origin of the Network a sort of “Committee of the Wise”, which would have no real power save the capacity to veto certain administrative decisions, or to exclude a member. This idea forming, next to the Network, a committee to guarantee to the spirit of the network and create a body upon which members could call on if they saw problems, is one possibility for reinforce the structure of the network.

Formation of Active Members and Network Leaders

There is no hierarchy in the Network, each member is equal to other members, and the terms “president”, “secretary”, and so forth, are indicative of tasks to be done, or are simple legal obligations. Nevertheless, in order to run the informational meetings, present the Network to the media, on the telephone, on the internet, etc., a basic minimum is required. These tasks demand someone who is familiar with the ensemble of the texts on the website, ready to respond to potential objections, and who has hopefully read some of the works in the bibliography. A participation in a several different Network activities is a plus, as are good communication skills—active listening, reformulation, argumentation.

A minimum culture in philosophy, particularly the work of Karl Popper and Paul Feyerabend, would be important for those wishing to present the Network fully. During meetings and public exchanges, the representatives of the Network should know how to put others first, especially during the informational meetings when each participant should be encouraged to express his or herself, and have their voice count even if it is opposed to the principals of the network. Such representatives do not hesitate to say things like “what you say is interesting”, or “that important point leads me to…”. They consider criticisms and objections as a chance to clarify certain points, and not as obstacles. Those who put others down cannot on principal be part of the “framework” of the Network.

List of works to have read or consulted:

E.J. Duits, L’Homme Reseau : Penser et agir dans la complexité.

E. Morin, Pour entrer dans le XXIème siècle, Point-Seuil

P. Feyerabend, Contre la méthode, (une théorie anarchiste de la connaissance), Point-Seuil

F. Chalmers, Qu’est-ce que la science ?, Poche essais

K. Popper, Conjectures and Refutations, Payot ; La quête inachevée (autobiographie), Press Pocket

A. Koestler, Les call-girls (roman), 10/18 ; La corde raide (autobiographie)

A. Maalouf, Les identités meurtrières, Le Livre de Poche

P. Watzlawick, La réalité de la réalité, Point-Seuil ; Le langage du changement, Point-Seuil

A. Töffler, Le Choc du futur, Folio essai

G. Dispaux, La Logique et le quotidien, Ed. de Minuit