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Citizen Now is an open-source visioning project anchored in a group of Creative Commons-licensed statements — formally, the "Draft Guiding Statements for a Community Convening a Democracy Movement for the United States — that were consensus-developed, from August 2010 to January 2012, by the Principles and Purpose Working Group.

The Working Group came together to support the development of the political organization known as the Coffee Party. But, over time, the Group saw its mission less and less exclusively in those terms — and, by the time the Group concluded its work, it had become completely independent of the Coffee Party.

In January 2012, the Group provisioned the statements with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License, as well as with a dedicated wiki, and published the statements at CitizenNow.org.

Overview

Spring and early summer 2010 saw the emergence in the United States of a new political group known as the Coffee Party. The founders of this group outlined a compelling vision of a new approach to political discourse and problem solving — an approach anchored in civility and shared values rather than party and ideology. This initial vision was oriented less towards developing traditional policy positions than towards building a citizens movement capable of ushering in the structural reforms that are necessary to secure the full and equal participation of every U.S. citizen in their own self-governance, and thus to transform the political culture itself.

By midsummer 2010, however, many of the most active and engaged Coffee Party organizers and other members* came to believe that what was missing — and what was necessary, if the Coffee Party was to reach its full potential — was elaboration of the founders’ original vision through a process resulting in a set of formally stated organizational values and goals.

What these Coffee Party members also understood was that the authenticity, the legitimacy and thus the authority of these Statements would arise from their being anchored in the expressed hopes and visions of the grassroots membership. Such Statements, they felt, should be ratified by the members and adopted by the leaders of the Coffee Party, enabling the Statements to serve as an abiding touchstone to guide the Coffee Party’s planning, conduct and actions.


::  ::  ::


So, in August 2010, some 25 Coffee Party members organized themselves as the Principles and Purpose Working Group. This Working Group aimed to do two things:


1

Engage a large, national sample of Coffee Party members in a conversation about their visions for the Coffee Party. Use member comments and feedback to develop member-supported draft Statements of the Coffee Party’s Core Values, Purpose and strategic Goals. And present these Statements to the Board of the Coffee Party.


2

Conduct the project via an open, inclusive, collaborative, civil, and democratic process of dialogue, deliberation, and decision making that could be replicated throughout the Coffee Party.


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In the initial visioning phase of the project, the Principles and Purpose Working Group cast a wide net, harvesting ideas from a variety of Coffee Party sources: (a) Coffee Party videos and Web sites created by the founders, (b) statements of principles and goals developed by local and regional groups, and (c) suggestions, comments and feedback offered by Coffee Party members at local meetings, in online forums, during facilitated conference calls and during breakout sessions held at the Coffee Party’s September 2010 convention in Louisville, Ky.

This visioning phase jumpstarted an iterative drafting and survey process that lasted for the better part of a year.

Drawing on its initial collection of ideas and insights, the Working Group developed and completed a first draft of Statements of the Coffee Party’s Core Values, Purpose and Goals, in November 2010. Over the course of next two months, the Working Group conducted two online surveys that invited a group of a few hundred Coffee Party members to respond to this first draft. Then, in February-March 2011, the Group surveyed a much larger sample on a revised draft of the Statements.

This final survey attracted the participation of nearly 1,500 Coffee Party members.


::  ::  ::


Over the 17-month life of the project, the Working Group heard from nearly 2,000 Coffee Party members.

The Group also benefited from contributions from some 50 Working Group members, who dialogued and deliberated with one another in nearly 100 (often facilitated) conference calls and in countless supporting conversations by telephone and email.


::  ::  ::


In all of its surveys, the Working Group asked Coffee Party members to comment on, and rate, the individual draft Statements on a scale of 1 to 10. The aggregate response to the Statements always was very positive. On the final survey, nearly all the Statements were scored at 9 or better.

Regrettably, the Coffee Party’s leadership didn’t see the advantage in embracing this outcome, and of bringing the Statements into the life of the organization and using them as a movement-building tool.

But, although the Coffee Party’s founders and leaders never officially recognized the Working Group project, the Group persisted in refining the Statements in response to the final survey and continued to hold conference calls from spring 2011 until well into the fall.

Members of the Working Group long had seen the Group as, first and foremost, the steward of the shared vision of individuals who, in contributing to the Principles and Purpose project, were expressing themselves as citizens first. Indeed, it primarily was a vision for the country — not a vision for an organization — that had come to be embodied in the Statements.

During this culminating period, Working Group members came to understand that it was in the truest spirit of the Statements to make clear that this vision was not the reserve of any single organization or group.

Rather, this was a public vision; and, because it was a public vision, the Statements themselves should be made open-source — should be offered to be accessed, developed, adapted and lived out by all who are involved in the larger project of healing the democracy.

And so — with the January 2012 (a) provisioning of the Statements with a non-commercial Creative Commons license and (b) publication of the Statements both at CitizenNow.org and on their own open-source wiki at wiki.CitizenNow.org — they are.

The idea is to provide We-the-People-oriented individuals, organizations, communities and coalitions with a set of tools that they can use to develop a shared vision for a democracy movement for the United States — a vision toward which so many of them already are reaching.

License Usage

The Statements are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Motivations

From the Overview, above:


Working Group members came to understand that it was in the truest spirit of the Statements to make clear that this vision was not the reserve of any single organization or group.


Rather, this was a public vision; and, because it was a public vision, the Statements themselves should be made open-source — should be offered to be accessed, developed, adapted and lived out by all who are involved in the larger project of healing the democracy.


It was of utmost importance to the Working Group that the Statements be preserved for the most generous possible access, use, adaptation and development by We-the-People-oriented individuals, communities, organizations and coalitions — but also that there be the greatest possible traceability of the origin and the "history of use" of the Statements, so as to facilitate community and movement building.

So the Group adopted a two-pronged approach, provisioning the Statements with (1) a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license and (2) a wiki for further development of the Statements.

Impact

The Statements now are protected for public access and use by communities, organizations and coalitions — of whatever size — that are committed to building a movement for democratic renewal in the United States.

Technical Details

At this early stage, communities, organizations and coalitions using the Statements simply are asked to abide by the terms of the Creative Commons license and to provide the citation specified on the home page (under "Permissions") at CitizenNow.org.