Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Up Close: Jared Duval ’05

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. These young leaders, he observed, tended to use a new model for political organizing, one based on collaboration and empowered participation. Duval soon realized that their approach had 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. (An “open-source” software program is one in which code is available to others for further development or modification.)

Duval’s new book on this subject is Next Generation Democracy: What the Open Source Revolution Means for Power, Politics, and Change (Bloomsbury, 2010).

Why did you write 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, and we can hold elected officials accountable…. If we create ways for citizens to participate directly in policymaking, we will develop common sense policies that the vast majority of us support. And collaboration: in the book, I write about a web site called 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. The best example of how young people organize is 350.org, which is almost totally run by Millennials. Last year the group organized 5,200 simultaneous rallies in 181 countries, to spotlight the need to lower carbon levels. They call their approach “open-source organizing.” Rather than working on a campaign handed down from “central headquarters,” young people want to engage in decentralized efforts, be part of networks and communities, and be able to customize efforts so they feel they are their own.”