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#CitizenSpring: Time for Citizens to Get Together and Do Something About Climate Change

Xavier Damman from Open Collective at the Community Leadership Summit #2

Xavier Damman is a core contributor to Open Collective, a transparent platform to organize communities.

In this talk at the
Community Leadership Summit #2, Xavier encourages people to initiate and support citizen initiatives around climate change.


I'm from Belgium. Belgium is not a country, it's a concept. But that's not the topic of the day. I work at Open Collective, it's basically an open source platform for communities. Think of it like WordPress, but not for blogging, for communities.

All of those communities are great, but what keeps me awake at night is how can we use all of those communities to do good and to me the big fight that our generation has to face, the big elephant in the room, is climate change. I keep wondering what can we do about it? Because I'm tired of just complaining to our governments because they don’t do enough.

In Belgium, we actually don't have a government anymore. I told you it's the concept. I want to be active and I think that we are actually millions around the world who want to do something about it, but we just don't know where to start. What can I do?

When you have such a big community of people who have a common mission, in this case climate change, the first thing to do is to go into sub groups. So we need to actually split into subgroups. People need to be in small communities, but we have to create groups that are going to have the same kind of mission. Okay, what can we do? I'm a designer, I'm a teacher, I'm a video editor or whatever, we each want to contribute in our own way.

We need the open source revolution, but in the citizen initiative space

To me an inspiration is actually Github and open source software in general. To me what's amazing there is actually, without knowing it, Github has built the largest engineering team in the world. Where every engineer who wants to contribute  can create a product bottom up. They do something and that open source project becomes a building block that everybody else can reuse to start building something different and bigger. It feels to me that this open source revolution is what we need, but in the citizen initiative space. From helping refugees in Berlin to create a zero waste shop.

How can we develop all of those citizen initiatives that can become building blocks so that together without knowing we build a network? The largest, bottom up organization to tackle those global problems that we need to face.

The days for citizen initiatives

One other thing that we've been working on recently in Belgium is #CitizenSpring. We want to say to citizens “look, we need to take the future in our hands”. The good news is there are already a lot of citizens taking initiative, left and right. People doing zero waste shops, doing shared gardens and doing repair cafes.

What's interesting in all of those initiatives is that they show us a new way to live, and most people need to see it before believing it. Since the dawn of time we learned through storytelling. Storytelling start with a story. The story start with someone taking an action. And then the story spreads.

What we are trying to do with #CitizenSpring is to put the spotlight on all of those people who actually do something. And that's going to inspire people. In Belgium we have the days of the industry where companies open their doors for a few days and you can go visit the factories and it's kind of visiting the 20th century economy.

We need the days of citizen initiatives. We need open days when you can go meet, wherever you are, those citizen initiatives that are happening near you and where you can make a difference. There is this food cooperative that needs you. There is this new shop that just opened. There is this new public benefit company, this new co-op.

Citizens are going to be defined by what they do

That's what we are trying to do. It's gonna be the first few days of spring, March 21-24 so that it runs through the weekend. This is a totally decentralized thing. All of you come from a lot of different cities. Please share the idea. Go ahead with it. I think this is something that is decentralized in every city, we just need to create a map of what are all of those different initiatives.

Can they do something during those four days in particular? And can we publish it and thereby put the spotlight on them so that more people can get to know them, be inspired to do the same, be inspired to join and contribute, join a new community, and also really experience this future. Citizens used to be defined by what they consume and I think that moving forward citizens are going to be defined by what they do, by what they create.

All of those communities that you are all part of, all of those communities create opportunities for citizens to contribute, to go find their tribe. That's our role to give citizens more and more opportunities to join something that they believe in, where they can use their skills, but also with the higher purpose of changing the way we live, because of climate change and increasing social unrest.

We can do something about it. It's the big priority of our generation. We need new tools because you cannot discover new lands with an old map. We need to organize. And I think the answer is right in front of our eyes. We just need to go fucking do it.

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