I read Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody not long ago, and I’ve mentioned it here a few times already. The subtitle of the book is, “The Power of Organizing Without Organizations,” and I must say that it provides some excellent food for thought on the future of the institution contrasted with the power of loosely-affiliated mass collaborative efforts. The word “organization” might be used, but in some contexts it creates an expectation of more formality than actually exists.
Coming out of a context where a valid question (which I now reject) was, “Who is your covering?” the concept is refreshing, and describes a context of freedom without control. Shirky presents the concept of a “power law distribution,” which explains the old 80/20 rule. In the world of institutions, the 80/20 rule is a challenge, because too many resources are spent organizing and directing the 80% that underproduces. The world of mass collaboration, as a self-organizing environment, the 80/20 rule is an opportunity, because the contributions of the 80% are not lost to being “written off” as too difficult to organize, and the 20% can be more focused on the task at hand simply by not having to continually direct the 80%.
Thanks to a TED Talk by Clay Shirky, I don’t actually have to present an entire overview of the book — he gives a pretty good précis himself.
And yes, this is related to my Wikiklesia chapter:
Hyperlinks Subvert Hierarchy: The Internet, Non-Hierarchical Organizations, and the Structure of the Church
With the advent of the Internet, technology and business cultures and structures are being reshaped by collaborative work environments and decentralized modes of organization. Other industries and arenas are following suit, with individuals becoming increasingly empowered within them. To date, local churches have not widely exhibited these new organizational forms, which has increased cultural distance between established forms of church and the culture which surround them. What can we learn from the phenomenon of decentralization… is it a viable option for the local church?
I like Shirky’s suggestion that institutions are going through Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Kübler-Ross said that the steps don’t have to come in order or be experienced by everyone, but that a person will experience at least two. Naturally, I began to consider which of these the inherited church might be experiencing. Denial, certainly, but what else? And how might some of us be helped through to the acceptance stage? Or is the notion way off-base?
Does this talk provide inspiration for what the church can accomplish using these forms, or fear that it might not be properly directed? For me, it seems an accurate expression of what the emerging church would hope to be. Further thoughts welcome…