Rethinking Activism

My blog output is small not because I have nothing to say, but because new ideas pile in so fast I struggle with which to choose or how to combine them!  Top of the pile this morning is my realisation that the lack of true democracy we face here in Frome is the norm.  The conventional view is that ‘over half the world lives in a democracy of some kind’ (123 out of 192 countries).  The devil is in the detail of ‘some kind’.  How many of us live with a system of government in which citizens have any meaningful say in how they are governed?


More than anything Flatpack Democracy has led me into interesting conversations and massive personal learning since it was published.  Last week I met with Els and Koenraad from a small Belgian town where it would be a complete joke to describe their local council as representative.  The week before I met with nascent revolutionaries in a small town near home where the extent of representation or participation is worse than pathetic.  Today I have an email from a man in South Korea ‘….full of disillusionment we felt of our systems and leaders….’.


In all three cases there is a growing awareness that the systems we currently operate are simply not fit for purpose and ultimately this serves none of us. At a different level of government, that’s the message big time from Carne Ross in Accidental Anarchist: Life without Government (BBC4) which I watched with huge admiration.  An ex senior British diplomat who makes absolutely clear that the complexity of our modern world requires constant attention to the communities at the base of the pyramid, as the ‘leaders’ cannot possible function in the ways of old (a case he also makes in the Leaderless Revolution).


To change all this requires a rapid acceleration of activity at all levels, across the planet. With that in mind, Annabelle and I are hugely excited to be heading for Aarhus in Denmark to take part in Rethink Activism.  Alongside the more predictable events of Aarhus as cultural capital of Europe, the three day event aims to ‘….raise awareness in society that each one of us can be part of the transformation of the world. By using our creativity and capacity to act and most importantly by actually doing something, we want to show that it is possible to change our lives and the society that we live in, if we collaborate and mutually support each other……’  I’ll report back on whether thousands of people at 150 events aimed at rethinking the city from the bottom up have been able to move the process forward!

About the author

Peter Macfadyen

Social activist, ex Mayor and Leader of Frome Town Council, author, public speaker, undertaker, grandfather.


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  • Wow Peter, this sounds an awesome event, and so great that you and Annabelle are going to bring its learning back and contribute your own. I’m much emboldened by the fact you’re pursuing this work, please keep going! I’m probably behind the curve in only going to a UK event, but am similarly excited by the forthcoming ‘Movement Builders’, a five-day training event for people working towards big systemic change, run by NEON in London which, if accepted, I’ll attend from 22-26th September.

    I too found Carne Ross’s program informative and inspirational and I’m coming across other fantastic pertinent articles/initiatives at the moment on things like the potential for Corbyn’s labour to fully embrace becoming a social movement, the tension experienced in Ecuador when a social movements achieves political power and then that Movements relationship with the government it facilitated, SEEDS FOR CHANGE’s vision on how a society based on consensus(ish) decision-making could operate, etc etc!

    As the Anti-Frackers in Lancashire have it, ‘Until we win!’ (Win-win of course! ;-))
    Best wishes and I look forward to your and Annabelle’s report,

    • Interesting stuff Ben…. it would be good to talk it through sometime if you are this direction. I’m deeply sceptical of any Political party being the way ahead – locally ‘Corbyn’s party’ still manage to bury themselves in controntational vitriol…. the potential may be there but can a leopard’s spots be changed?

    • Hi Ben,
      Did you attend the “movement builders” event in London? Like yourself and Peter, I’m also interested in what is needed from activists and social institutions in order to deliver real democratic solutions.
      I live quite close to Frome, so if you do come by to do an info-share with Peter, I’d love to come along.

      • Elbe, i am not sure if this gets sent to Ben! It may do….. If he is about I will try adn remember to let you know….

    • We are back….and as usual I have too much to think about/write/say…. but I’ll get to it in the next few days (as long as apple pressing doesn’t take over!)

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