The Transhumanist Party represents a new branch of the Transhumanist movement, and as such is now taking the first steps in a long journey. Here at the beginning, we have the opportunity to consider how our movement will be organised, and what kind of character we want it to develop. We have a lot to think about, and work toward.
One such issue confronting us is whether to operate according to traditional managerial models (often characterised as hierarchical, sometimes accurately), or something more decentralised and agile such as Holacracy. Holacracy (see here and here for descriptions) is a recently popular form of Holarchy, which is to say a non-hierarchical, recursive organisational model structurally reminiscent of a hologram or fractal.
What does that mean in plain English?
Simply, that we must ask ourselves whether the Transhumanist Party should have traditional “bosses”, or a more experimental and communal style of decision making.
The best answer to that question isn’t obvious. On the one hand, clear leadership, vision, and lines of responsibility are important – and that’s without even considering that certain traditional things like Party Officers are required by law in countries like the UK. On the other hand however, we do need to be flexible, resilient, innovative, and to strongly encourage grassroots initiative within the party. We can’t have a leaderless free-for-all, both as a matter of pragmatism and law, but we also cannot have micromanaging “party chiefs”, or everybody sitting back and waiting for permission or instructions. As is so often the way of things, we must find a way to strike an intelligent and practical balance.
How do we balance leadership and flexibility?
Here in the UK, the Transhumanist Party has settled on a solution. Basically, the party as a whole runs according to a constitution with features required by UK law and the necessities of clear leadership, but each of its six administrative departments operates as a semi-autonomous, Holacratic organisation.
The first thing to note is that the party is required by law to have a traditional party constitution and Party Officers responsible for certain key functions, and we have found the development of that structure to be very useful. The constitution both makes it clear how we will fulfill our legal and financial obligations, and additionally draws the line within which activity may be legitimately considered to be on behalf of the Transhumanist Party. We have taken care to develop a constitution which balances a few simple core principles which define the party, a National Executive Committee to handle administrative matters (more on that in a moment), and a voting membership to develop party policy. This gives us a party that is well prepared against any disruption or “mission drift”, but which at the same time puts many traditional leadership decisions in the hands of its regular members rather than a small group or single leader.
As innovative as this is, it still falls within the broad category of “traditional” management models. The constitution does, however, divide the party into six departments, each led by one of the Party Officers. That division of the workload is partly pragmatic, and partly required by law. Those Party Officers (along with elected members’ representatives and additional non-voting advisors) collectively form the National Executive Committee (NEC). The key thing to note here is that the six departments are effectively semi-autonomous organisations falling under the umbrella of the Transhumanist Party, each of which is required by the party constitution to maintain its own core operating document, and that’s where the possibility of Holacracy arises. That’s because Holacratic organisations avoid relying on a vague, hierarchical sense of authority, replacing it with a constitution which makes their operating procedures clear.
The six departments, and “circles”
The six departments are as follows: (1) Party Secretary’s office, (2) Treasury, (3) IT dept, (4) PR & Campaigns, (5) Fundraising, (6) Nominations & Liaison. At the moment these are just very small volunteer groups – single people in some cases – but we intend to make this framework the basis of all party activity as it grows and develops. Right from the outset we have been keen to encourage a high degree of grassroots initiative (“just do it!”), but are aware that all initiatives must eventually be the responsibility of one department or another, otherwise the party would be wide open to disruption by those acting in our name but who do not share our goals or values, or have our best interests at heart.
The answer seems to be that each department operates as a Holacratic organisation, with its own constitution making it clear how that organisation operates. In a Holacratic organisation the emphasis is not on leaders issuing instructions, but rather on small, overlapping teams of volunteers (called “circles”) which have their members’ roles, goals, and responsibilities clearly defined. This means that volunteers know what is expected of them, but they don’t have to wait for permission or instructions to do anything. Instead they should simply get on with creatively exploring their role, secure in the knowledge that no boss will intervene unless they have broken the explicit, written rules of the circle.
The closest thing each circle has to a boss is a “lead link”, which is one person tasked with ensuring a good flow of information and potential collaboration between the team and other circles, both within and between departments (not to mention other organisations outside the party). The lead link is the person within each circle who is primarily responsible for ensuring that the circle as a whole is acting in accord with the departmental constitution, just as each member of the circle is expected to operate in line with the written terms of their role.
A long journey ahead
From now on, the Transhumanist Party will act as a Holacratic organisation in this fashion. Each department will maintain a public constitution which presents its operating rules, recognised circles, and the volunteer roles self-determined by those circles. People will be able to see what’s going on by reading each department’s constitution, and contact circles directly to get involved. Those six public documents aren’t ready yet, but as soon as they are links will be posted here and on the Transhumanist Party website.
It is our hope that by doing things this way, we will be able to maintain a strong, coherent vision and goals, and yet still have a party built out of agile, innovative networks of teams ready to face the challenges of the 21st Century.
Keep watching this blog for updates, to find out how our journey progresses!
initially published here: https://transhumanistparty.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/holacracy-and-the-transhumanist-party/