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Governance: Project ideas

Governance, in simple terms, means making the rules and upholding them – ideally in line with the social norms/values of the people that the rules cover (e.g. of a certain country).

Unfortunately, in practice, the people that make the rules are not infallible in their rule-making efforts.

For instance, the rules might not be in line with the country’s values or even certain universal values (like the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights). Or, the institutions (e.g. governments) that should implement the rules, don’t manage to reinforce them (or worse, they ignore them themselves).

Or, people might find loopholes in laws that make certain actions technically legal, even though they go against the social norms that were the inspirations of the laws in the first place.

When the traditional institutions fail, the crowd can have an enormous impact. There are some really inspiring examples of how the crowd has been successful in changing societies for good. For instance, learn about how the Polish started taking their TV sets for a stroll in defiance of the Communist leadership below. Find nine more inspiring stories here.

Just some examples of project ideas (feel free to add in the comments below!):

  • Tax avoidance (1): If X companies commit to paying their fair share of taxes, not using letterbox companies or other circumvention practices, we all do.
  • Tax avoidance (2): If X people commit to sending a letter to a letterbox company to express their issue with the company’s tax policies, we all do.
  • Corruption: If X people in country/city/region Y stop paying bribes to institution Z, …
  • Freedom of speech/press: If X people commit to sharing censored materials on social media, we all do (and there is no way the government can prosecute thousands of people for the same crime)

...Please add your ideas in the comments box below!

Inspired? Start a project for your community or join an existing one at www.collaction.org.

Inspirational story: Poland, 1982: Want to make a political statement? Take your television for a walk.

“The rise of Solidarity, a popular movement created in August 1980 by striking workers in the shipyards o f Gdansk and across Poland, caused panic in the region that had ruled the country since the Second World War. On December 13, 1981, the Communist authorities put tanks on the streets to stop Solidarity once and for all. Hundreds were arrested; dozens were killed.

Despite the tanks and arrests, Poles organized protests against the ban on Solidarity, including a boycott of the fiction-filled television news. But a boycott of the TV news could not by itself embarrass the government. After all, who could tell how many were obeying the boycott call?

In one small town, they found a way. Every evening, beginning on February 5, 1982, the inhabitants of Swidnik in eastern Poland went on a walkabout. As the half-hour evening news began, the streets would fill with Swidnikians, who chatted, walked, and loafed. Before going out, some placed their switched-off television set in the window, facing uselessly onto the street. Others went a step further. They placed their disconnected set in a stroller or a builder’s wheelbarrow, and took the television itself for a nightly outing.

“If resistance is done by underground activists, it’s not you or me,” one Solidarity supporter later noted. “But if you see your neighbors taking their TV for a walk, it makes you feel part of something. An aim of dictatorship is to make you feel isolated. Swidnik broke the isolation and built confidence.”

The TV-goes-for-a-walk tactics, which spread to other towns and cities, infuriated the government. But the authorities felt powerless to retaliate. Going for a walk was not, after all, an official crime under the criminal code.

Eventually, the curfew was brought forward from 10 p.m. to 7 p.m., thus forcing Swidnikians to stay at home during the 7:30 news, or risk being arrested or shot.

The citizens of Swidnik responded by going for a walk during the earlier edition of the news at 5 p.m. instead.”

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