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Governance Structures – Decentralised or Constellation model

As Zeitgeist Movement chapters around the world are increasing in size there are a number of them growing beyond the size that a single co-ordinator can handle. On top of this, the Venus Project is feeling like it has lost control. As this happens there becomes questions about information flow, decision making, and how to prevent the bickering and in-fighting which will prevent humanity from taking the correct path and is far more likely that civilisation will spiral out of control, instead of finding itself at the veritable oasis that is the Resource Based Economy.

What is needed now is a defined governance structure which allows everyone to have a say, but with weighting given to those who have a greater understanding. The two main models are the Constellation model, and the decentralised Starfish model.

The Constellation Model of Collaborative Social Change


"The Constellation model is a governance framework for multi-organisational collaboration. It is a way of organising a group of interested parties to meet a need without having to create a new organisation to 'hold' the issue.

It is a tool to help us recognise and become conscious designers in a complex ecosystem of organisational collaboration. This constellation model emerged out of a need to support a tight partnership of 11 organisations – the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment. It has been emerging and serving since 2001 and is in constant flux as we iteratively adapt the structure to serve our vision and to expand our reach and more effectively engage our ecosystem." -- http://www.socialinnovationexchange.org/node/169


In mid 2010 I attended a Social Innovator Dialogues talk by Tonya Surman about the Constellation model of collaborative social change.

The concept is a hybrid centralised/decentralised approach to helping and handling bundles of self-organising teams based around a common 'magnetic attractor'.

In this case that magnetic attractor would be a better future for all humanity and the vision statement is the Resource Based Economy.

Using this model the Venus Project, Zeitgeist Movement, Resource Based Economy Foundation, Free world charter, Tromsite, Humanity test.org and other such groups would form different constellations. With representatives from each being a part of the 'Stewardship Group'. [Refer to the the framework diagram below]

Each group could focus on what they do best. For example The Venus Project can work on the technical/engineering answers. The Zeitgeist Movement is good at spreading the word and helping change peoples mindset, the RBEF has a more resource gathering focus, and Tromsite is a great educational resource.

I like to think of the framework as an expandable net around the group. If the casing is made of steel then whilst it is hard to break, it can't expand and adjust very easily. In this example the steel box would be a large corporation with all its policies, procedures and legalities.

On the other spectrum, completely unmanaged groups have nothing to tie them together so they fly off in various directions very easily and can't push humanity towards the magnetic attractor (the RBE). It is hard to keep such groups focused. Think of it like this, Boiling water will turn into steam, but without being directed and focused it won't be able to turn the turbines that create electricity.

The Constellation model allows the right level of rigidity and flexibility for the current stage of RBE transition. It allows all the groups to work synergistically. To work together collaboratively and co-operatively, just as everyone is advocating the rest of humanity do.

For those that need more convincing that everyone can't go it alone, realise that it is hard to gather the resources required. 100 groups individually trying to raise enough time, money, members and physical resources to implement a transition will mean that none of them will properly succeed, but 100 groups working together certainly can. We need a certain threshold of resources before we can really start. Something far easier if there is 1 main group which is gathering the resources for 100 chapters/sub-groups. An example is that a government or corporation can donate time, money and resources to a registered non-profit, but can't easily contribute to 20 groups of ad-hoc members who meet every couple of weeks. On the flip side, the 20 ad-hoc groups can get a lot of work done, especially when they are action focused teams.



[Diagram] The Constellation Model Framework

Constellation Model Framework

For more information, and an explanation of what the wacky diagram means, check out the PDF.


I personally think ZM is already using something very close to this setup with its chapter structure, so it is not a very big leap. We are really just expanding who we regard as friends.

The other 'non-pyramid' based governance model's I've come across are the Starfish (vs the Spider) model explained below, and also the Geodesic dome principal that World Mind posted a lot about.

Moving forward we should aim to use the most effective governance model for the situation. The Constellation model could be perfect for the moment, but later on we will likely transition to a more Starfish, decentralised basis, and maybe after the transition we can use the Geodisic Structure. Note also that different constellations will likely have different structures internally. Some projects may themselves use a constellation model.

Please, do read the PDF and discuss.

Links :


The Starfish : Decentralised Governance


One thing that business, institutions, governments and key individuals will have to realise is that spiders and starfish may look alike, but starfish have a miraculous quality to them. Cut off the leg of a spider, and you have a seven-legged creature on your hands; cut off its head and you have a dead spider. But cut off the arm of a starfish and it will grow a new arm. Not only that, but the severed arm can grow into an entirely new body. Starfish can achieve this feat because, unlike spiders, they are decentralized; every major organ is replicated across each arm.

But starfish don't just exist in the animal kingdom. Starfish organizations are taking society and the business world by storm, and are changing the rules of strategy and competition. Like starfish in the sea, starfish organizations are organized on very different principles than we are used to seeing in traditional organizations. Spider organizations are centralized and have clear organs and structure. You know who is in charge. You see them coming.

Starfish organizations, on the other hand, are based on completely different principles. They tend to organize around a shared ideology or a simple platform for communication- around ideologies like al Qaeda or Alcoholics Anonymous. They arise rapidly around the simplest ideas or platforms. Ideas or platforms that can be easily duplicated. Once they arrive they can be massively disruptive and are here to stay, for good or bad. And the Internet can help them flourish.

So in today's world starfish are starting to gain the upper hand.

How did tiny Napster cripple the global music industry? Why is free, community based Wikipedia crushing Encyclopaedia Britannica almost overnight? Why is tiny Craigslist crippling the global newspaper industry? Why is Al Qaeda flourishing and even growing stronger? In today's world to answer this it is essential to understand the potential strength of a starfish organization.

The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, explores the phenomenal and unstoppable new power of the starfish organizations and will change the way you look at the world.

Links/Resources :


Carl Sagan Speaks Zeitgeist

This is a great video. Carl Sagan never officially supported the Zeitgeist Movement because he died before it even existed, however this is a great example of how revered scientists have very similar beliefs in the world.

Note : It helps to enable the subtitles.


Tangible vs In-tangible and understanding peoples perception of the world

The information presented below is based on observations which I (Michael Kubler) have gathered over the last few years along with an understanding of the biology of human behaviour, psychology, motivation, and predictably irrational behaviour.

Note : By categorising different types of people it can be harder to see the subtle differences between the categories, however the knowledge below can hopefully help you understand why some people are more open to ideas than others.

People come in lots of different shapes, sizes, and types. Depending on their environment, their friends, family, experiences, genetics, and hormones they are also likely to exhibit different types of behaviour.

When I am trying to get to know someone there are a number of different types of categories you can think about which can help you tailor your concept or message to them.

  • Open Mindedness
  • Market Segment (Bell Curve)
  • Tangible/In-tangible
  • Time Perspective
  • Hunter vs Farmer
  • Consumerist mentality
  • Ways of Learning