Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Jared Duval

As the national director of the Sierra Student Coalition for over two years, Jared Duval ’05 interacted with hundreds of young activists across the United States. Duval learned that these young leaders favor a new model of political organizing–one based on collaboration and empowered participation. This approach, he notes, has much in common with the “open-source” model of web development, which has engendered such people-powered innovations as the Linux operating system and Wikipedia.

Duval has just published his first book, Next Generation Democracy: What the Open-Source Revolution Means for Power, Politics, and Change (Bloomsbury, November 2010).

Next Generation DemocracyWhy I wrote this book. The ossified decision-making structures of our governments are not set up to handle big challenges such as the climate crisis, which requires transforming our economy to run on clean energy. I wanted to tell the story of how the rising Millennial generation–people under 30–and the open-source model are providing new possibilities to improve social change efforts and potentially to upgrade our democracy.

Why “open-source” methods? Open-source and Web 2.0 principles–transparency, participation and collaboration–can help put our democracy where it belongs–back in the hands of the people instead of in the pockets of corporations. Transparency shines a light on things that are not in the public interest. If we create ways for citizens to participate directly in policy making, we will develop common-sense policies that the vast majority of us support. And collaboration: in the book, I write about the website SeeClickFix.com, which allows citizens to report problems they see in their community–everything from a pothole to a section of town that lacks a supermarket–and then to collaborate with government to fix them.

What’s the difference between the Millennials’ approach to organizing and those of previous generations? Millennials are less drawn to narrow, single-issue causes; they want to work on interconnected or global concerns, such as clean energy, genocide and global poverty. For example, the organization 350.org is almost totally run by Millennials. On 10/10/10, this group spearheaded a “global work party,” consisting of over 7,300 climate-related projects in 188 countries. They call their approach “open-source organizing.” Rather than working on a campaign handed down from “central headquarters,” young people prefer decentralized efforts, being part of networks and communities, and being able to customize their own efforts.