The hallmark of a system of Local Electors is the community. Individuals would participate in government by participating in their community, and communities would come together like building blocks to form the larger bodies of government. The soundness of the government would depend on the soundness of the communities. And while individual participation is the critical dependency in our current system of government, communities would be the critical dependency in a system of Local Electors. As groups, communities would be a more reliable dependency than individuals are now since they would be organizations. But this dependency does present a potential risk to the system. If left alone, it is possible that some communities could become dysfunctional, members might stop participating, and they could cease to operate as organized communities altogether. Weak communities would weaken the system, and if this occurred on a large scale, the viability of the entire system would be threatened. How could we prevent this from happening?
To help us understand this problem and to help find a solution, let’s consider how a similar problem is handled in the business world. Large scale retail chains have stores scattered all over the world. Walmart, for instance, has approximately 4,300 stores worldwide. Rather than allowing these stores to run independently and autonomously, Walmart has area managers who are responsible for monitoring the health and performance of individual stores. Each of these managers is part of an infrastructure of people who build and maintains expertise related to running stores. Much of what makes Walmart successful as a company is the body of knowledge it has developed related to managing stores, as well as its ability to monitor each store and use this knowledge to ensure each store is successful. If a store runs into trouble, the area manager responsible for monitoring it steps in and works with the store’s management to get it working smoothly again. In the process, the area manager may enlist the help of trusted people from other stores and from the corporate office. Walmart could not function on a large scale without this process of monitoring its stores and correcting any problems that arise.
Likewise, it makes sense that in order for communities to be successful we would need to develop a body of knowledge related to building and maintaining successful communities, and an infrastructure of people responsible for monitoring communities and working with community leaders to ensure their community is healthy and successful.
Local Electors and the Community Leadership Board (CLB) could not be relied on to do this job themselves. Certainly over time they and everyone in the country would grow accustomed to community life and would learn what it takes to make a community successful, but these leaders would come from within their community and would not have a core competency in these matters. It would be a mistake to leave the health of communities to chance. Just as we as individuals maintain our own health but rely on a doctor when we have health problems, communities would need a separate organization that they could rely on when a their health is at stake. It would need to be a separate, more traditional organization whose core competency would be maintaining the health of communities and ensuring their success.
We would call this organization the Department of Communities (DCM). The DCM would be part of the executive branch of each state government. Communities would be grouped into districts and regions, possibly along the same lines that state and national legislative districts are grouped. The key official in the DCM would be the Community Advocate (CA). Each CA would be assigned to a group of communities within a geographical area. They would be responsible for attending community meetings and working with community leaders in an effort to monitor of how well the community is functioning. If community leaders need assistance, if the community is not operating properly, or if the community is in a generally bad state of health, the CA would be responsible for working with community leaders to address the issue and nurture the community back to health.
As part of the DCM, CAs would have expertise and many of the skills necessary to properly run community meetings and maintain communities as healthy ongoing organizations, and would be prepared to teach these skills. CAs would also be familiar with community best practices, and would know what is working well and not working for other communities around the state and country.
The skills CAs could teach would include things such as public speaking, how to manage meetings, and conflict resolution. They would understand what causes community members to participate and why some people resist participating. They would suggest ways to get community members involved, such as by creating groups, activities and benefits that members find useful and enjoyable. And if there are underlying problems that are creating a drag on participation, they would work with the leaders to address these issues.
For communities that have difficult or entrenched problems such as chronic lack of participation, consistently unsuccessful meetings, or persistent community conflict, CAs could enlist the help of specialists and possibly volunteers to assist them. If necessary, a concentrated effort to assist an ailing community could be undertaken. When a system of Local Electors is first implemented, more of these concentrated efforts would undoubtedly be needed, but as communities become more stable and the system matures, fewer resources would be needed.
The DCM would also play an important role in elections. A list of members in each community would be maintained by the DCM, and the CA would insure that only those members are permitted to participate in elections. CAs would attend all elections and would be responsible for ensuring elections are conducted properly.
The DCM of each state would produce information, training material, courses, and perhaps even college level programs on topics related to community leadership and success. Much of this would be available online and would be free of charge to the general public.
The DCM, and particularly the CAs, would be responsible for determining what is working in communities, what is not working, and how to make the system of community-based government better. They would consider questions such as what is the ideal community size? How can adjacent communities work together better? What can community leaders do to be more effective in the role they play? What types of groups and activities within communities foster participation and connections between community members? All of this information would be shared between CAs, and a body of knowledge would be developed and used to build strong communities nationwide. This would allow us to build a stronger, happier, healthier country from the bottom up.
Part of the idea behind community-based government is that healthy, productive communities will produce healthy, productive individuals. In our current system of government, citizens are expected to work directly with government agencies when they need help. But while government agencies can provide services, they cannot provide care and support. When government deals with problems that are fundamentally community and individual problems, it is often like using a sledge hammer to pound in a nail. What we need is not a patriarchal government to service us, but a community that we can connect with and that will be supportive of all its members over the long term. In a connected community, people have a vested interest in having healthy and productive neighbors. As individuals, we need support and friendships, and when we are part of a connected community, we will surely be happy to reciprocate as supportive friends.
With strong and healthy communities, many of the worst problems we currently experience in society would never arise. Most violent crimes stem from child abuse, and if families are connected to a community, abusive parents would be held accountable by neighbors and would feel pressure not to abuse their kids, causing violent crime to plummet. There would also undoubtedly be less spouse abuse. Property crimes would also drop with kids growing up in supportive communities and learning to understand and respect others. In many cases, community members could rely on each other when they have mental or medical problems, causing our national health care costs to drop. By building healthy communities and empowering people to deal with problems while they are small, they wouldn’t fester into more serious problems that affect the greater society. Society as a whole would benefit enormously and the cost of government would likely be a fraction of what it is now.
The risk of communities as the weak link in a system of Local Electors is actually a benefit. It would force us to focus on building strong communities. Individuals would benefit from being part of a supportive community, and the country would benefit by consisting of strong communities.
Imagine the cumulative benefits that would result from a country of strong communities working together for the common good.
These are some thoughts about the Department of Communities. Much public discussion will be needed in order to flesh this out.
Continue Reading: Community Jurisdiction