Citizenry Building

Most actual politicking done in the United States in 2019 takes the form of harassing strangers. Either we importune them on the street – canvassing – or we interrupt their dinners – door knocking – or we spam their telephones – phone- or text- banking. We do this even though the same supposed experts telling us to do this also understand and believe that these methods don’t work, and that what works is working through social networks in which trust has already been established. But most of us don’t have such networks any more; if we have *any* close, trusted friends, we could probably gather them all in our bedroom closets without removing the spare shoes. And walk-in closets are a thing of the past, also.

So how do we build such networks? We still need to go out and meet people, and all of the ‘traditional’ methods outlined above accomplish that. But if we then continue to follow those methods, we ask them to do something that we have decided is of benefit to *us*, by assuming or pretending that it is of benefit to *them*, without investigating or questioning our own belief, or looking at what the best interests of this particular voter actually are. No wonder they see us as intrusive jerks.

So, having gone out and made contact with this voting stranger, what should we do differently?

How about asking them what *they* think their responsibilities are as a citizen? And then asking them what tools, assistance, and support would be useful to them in discharging them? And promising to go look for those things and report back on what we can find or create?

We do have our own ideas of what the responsibilities of a citizen are, and I’m not suggesting we conceal them. I *am* suggesting that reasonable etiquette for such a conversation does involve letting the other party go first. We can phrase further questions along the line of “And what about this other thing? Is this something you feel you should have an opinion on? If you have that opinion, what would you like to be doing about it? And how?”

Eventually, we come to the conclusion that the job of a citizen is Everything, which is why it became un-doable a couple of centuries back. We can no longer even track what “everything” *is*, let alone develop informed opinions about all of it. So how do we reconcile people to the ideas that they have had an impossible job and have been failing at it, and their predecessors with them, for centuries?

We don’t. We present *enough* of the job to make sure it surpasses what they are reasonably and personally interested in doing, and then present the alternative of a delegatory system to get done those parts of the job they do *not* want to commit to – Positive Proxy Research is an example of such a system. If they do eventually recognize how huge the whole job is and become overwhelmed by that, there are well-understood and well-practiced counseling techniques to help them cope with this sensation of being swamped.

And we *do* go do our due diligence and our follow up, and make a very determined attempt to find the tools, assistance, and support our clients have requested, and we do report back to them on what we have, or haven’t, found. And if we can’t find it, we see if we can make it. This effort on our part, in addition to being a social transaction in and of itself, is a form of paying real attention to our clients. This is an excellent basis from which to build a trusted relationship.

So how shall this be organized? Let’s start with two slightly-conflicted districting systems already in place: Metro Districts, and Portland Neighborhoods. There are six Districts, and at last count 94 Neighborhoods. They don’t exactly line up; different Districts contain different numbers of neighborhoods, and some neighborhoods are split between two Districts. (I haven’t checked yet to see if there are any neighborhoods split between 3 or 4 districts, but it’s not impossible.) There are also areas we will have to figure out work-arounds for that are inside of a District but not in any recognized Neighborhood.

If we go to each Neighborhood, and find one person to be our lead volunteer in that neighborhood, that’s a good start at a volunteer network. And if we then group those neighborhood leaders by Metro District, and create support services for them by District, we can provide backup services for our volunteers in a systematic and organized fashion.

Would you like to be a neighborhood leader? Or go to neighborhood association meetings and recruit some? Or start setting up support services for your Metro District? Or do you have another idea that you’d like *our* help implementing? If any of these apply, please click the link below and let us know.

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