An experiment on collaboration: trying to change the world

By mdangeard, published at 16 July 2008 - 12:42am, last updated 9 years 18 weeks ago.

Ever wondered what you could do to change the world?
Just decide, say it publicly, and things will start to happen.

This is the theory behind a lot of the recent (and not so recent) ideas that float around, things you can find in the self help book like "A New Earth" from Eckart Tolle, or "The Secret" from Rhonda Byrne, and concepts behind Buddhism. The idea is that you have to ask, and start living according to this goal that you are trying to reach, and things will naturally start happening. A lot of this makes sense when you start thinking about it: you are what you do and things happen because of who you are. And it all starts with the story you tell to yourself and to others.

And now there is a chance to experiment with the concept as a way to improve the world we live in:
It is happening at http://www.neo.org : you can change the world by committing to some action in whatever area you choose to focus on. Then you can invite your friends, to let them know about your goal, so that they can be aware of it, and eventually help you achieve it. And then, because all this is happening in public, you will also naturally feel committed to making progress, and this public declaration you have made will help you keep focus during the good days and the bad days along the journey.

This type of website, trying to channel the individual energy into larger bigger world changing projects, is not new. I have seen several instance of similar concept.
But so far nothing that was so simple yet potentially so powerful: it is not voting for an idea somebody else had, or signing a petition, or subscribing to a newsletter, or sponsoring through donation, or pledging time as a volunteer like the many things I have seen before. It is a personal commitment to action. No need to state anything specific if you do not have a plan, but you need to define a mission for yourself, and then see how it feels.

There is an interesting parallel with the dynamics that can be observed in the Open Source movement, where developers commit to work on resolving an issue, and then their work becomes public as part of the open source process. The incentive in that case is to make the best possible work, because it is a showcase for what you can do, and nobody likes to look like a fool in public.

Will it be like Open Source, where a large crowd of remotely connected people with no formal organization (at least not in the sense of an institution that owns the work in itself) can accomplish something very complex and requiring a lot of resources of all kind?

Could this be a recipe for "Open Government"?

Will leaders emerge from this process?

I find the idea interesting, and since I am by nature a naive optimist, I want to believe that it will actually help make a difference.
Give it a try and let me know how it works for you :-)