THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY IN OHIO LOOKS LIKE! Ohio’s democratic/self-determination “infrastructure”

American Friends Service Committee Northeast Ohio Office, January 2017

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Summary :

Alternatives to corporations, corporate governance and elite control exist In our communities and across the state.

Scores of documents, policies, institutions, structures and groups reflecting inclusiveness are in place – examples where those who are affected by decisions and policies have a legitimate role in the shaping and making of those decisions…or could if we made the effort. They are where We the People have a voice…or could have a real voice if we merely flexed our self-determination muscles.

Many of these documents, policies, institutions, structures and groups are built on the notion of the commons, broadly understood historically as any set of resources (i.e. land, water, air) that a community recognizes as being accessible to any member of that community. Implied is that every member of the community with equal access to the commons has a voice in managing or maintaining them.

Not all of these examples are “governmental,” some are grassroots created and maintained alternative initiatives bypassing corporate and/or top down government versions of the same function. In the midst of dysfunctional, nonfunctional, undemocratic and/or corrupt state or corporate structures, these alternative grassroots initiatives represent “parallel” institutions that currently coexist with state or corporate power but could over time assume greater legitimacy, if not substitution, if they become more effective in fulfilling the needs of people and communities.

All together, this is what democracy in Ohio looks like!

Some of these examples are unique to Ohio, most are not. They are meant to inform and/or remind us what we may too often take for granted – that documents, policies, institutions structures and groups exist that are, once were, or for the very first time can become democratic/self-determining. When we fail to use them or be involved in them, they will wither and die. By not being aware of them, they surely will be manipulated, eliminated or replaced by shells or shams controlled by corporations, top down government and/or the power elite.

The examples listed below are in no way equally “inclusive” or “democratic”— some, in fact, might quite rightly be argued to be at the moment not very inclusive or democratic at all. There are varying degrees of self-determination here, some more so on paper than in practice, some more so depending on the place, condition, and people involved. But all have democratic “openings” or possibilities. Where social change energies should be placed is a separate strategic question. They also reflect a basic human reality – institutions or structures, no matter how democratically constructed or configured, never alone ensure democratic outcomes. The commitment to and will of people in creating and nurturing authentic self-determination may be most important of all – the force needed to drive a wide and deep wedge into even the narrowest organizational democratic crack.

This directory is not meant to be useful primarily from a “consumer” perspective (i.e. in answering the questions, « Where’s the nearest food coop? » or “Is there a public radio station in my town?”), but rather from a democracy/self-determination perspective. That is, it seeks to raise public awareness of the value of democratic/ self-determination openings that still exist or could exist with investment of individual and/or collective activist energies. It also strives to emphasize the importance of working for democratic social change through creating or nurturing alternative organizations and policies and also pursuing the democratization of existing laws, constitutions, policies, practices, and organizations. Finally, the goal of this directory is to stimulate awareness of and actions addressing the multiple threats to what are deemed “public” and available for common use by the constant and cancerous corporate and top-down governmental encroachment in the name of “privatization” or “corporatization.”

Democracy/self-determination is not just aims but processes, not just ends but also means. Listed are examples of both – documents, policies, institutions, structures or groups actually reflecting democratic/self-determining values and principles and/or calling for them, even if the callers are not themselves the perfect practitioners.

This directory in many ways reflects and speaks to the need for what is called a “Solidarity Economy” – the growing global movement of people and organizations seeking a new framework for social and economic development based on the principles of social solidarity, cooperation, egalitarianism, sustainability and economic democracy that puts people and the planet before private profits and power. A national organization working in this direction worthy of support is the US Solidarity Economic Network,