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Non-member survey – very preliminary results

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This blog was co-authored by Lambert Meertens and Jane Johnson.

The survey for non-member visitors to our website has been up now for eight weeks.  In that time there have been 15 respondents, too few for any meaningful statistical analysis, but if that rate continues, we may hope to see close to 100 responses by the end of the year. 
We surmise that almost all respondents are preselected by the fact that they feel sympathy towards the IOPS aims – after all, why should one go through the effort of taking the survey for an organisation you feel indifferent to? 
Unfortunately, some respondents have only answered the questions on the first page and have left the second page blank.  We assume that these respondents either failed to see that the survey has a second page of questions, or that they saw the second page but were unable to or did not want to continue with the survey (perhaps they had not read the entire content of the IOPS organizational description, which was required for the second page of questions).   This makes their responses unusable for our primary purpose: to analyse why people may agree with the IOPS vision and yet do not join Nevertheless, we still have 12 fully filled-out questionnaires.  While this is too low a number to detect statistically significant correlations, there are however a few striking things that can be observed already. 
The first is the very low number of female respondents.  Out of the total of all 15 respondents (including those who only completed the first page), just three were female Are women less inclined to take web surveys? Or are they generally less sympathetic to the IOPS aims? Or do so many fewer women surf the web? What is going on here? While we don't know the answer, we wonder if somehow the present website has considerably less appeal to women than to men, making them less inclined to investigate in more detail.  Again, we don't know, but it would go a long way to explaining the gender imbalance. This is certainly something that deserves further investigation. 
For the second striking observation, we confine our attention to those respondents who were unreservedly positive about the IOPS vision and mission, as determined by their responses to the following three statements: 
* The world is suffering from many problems: poverty, hunger, war, ecological disasters, racism, economic injustice, and so on. The global economic system is based on greed and serves the powerful. But the situation is not hopeless; if enough people who reject the current unjust system join forces to build another world, together we will succeed. 
* If the IOPS vision is realized, the world will be a better place. 
* IOPS has the potential to unite the many positive initiatives around the world, molding them into a powerful and effective force.  
Eight people out of 12 indicated in response to all three statements that they agreed or strongly agreed. (Other response options were neither agree nor disagree, disagree, and strongly disagree.) A comfortable majority. Now you might expect that these respondents would all be eager to join this wonderful new promising organisation. But no. Of these eight, only four agreed or strongly agreed with the following statement: 
* I can make a meaningful contribution by joining IOPS. 
The other four either disagreed, or neither agreed nor disagreed. 
What to make of this? Four out of eight is a lot. People who don't think that by joining IOPS they can make a meaningful contribution cannot be expected to join, however much they further share our vision. Apparently, these last four respondents do not readily see what their role could be in the early stages of IOPS. Perhaps we should blame ourselves, for not making sufficiently clear how everyone who shares our vision can contribute to the birthing process of a new world. 

Discussion 17 Comments

  • Jane Johnson 24th Feb 2013

    If any non-members are reading this and would like to participate in our survey, you can do so by following this link:



  • Gregory VanGaya 4th Mar 2013

    Hi, what to make of this is that people are deeply cynical. People believe that nothing can be done, because almost no one else will sacrifice to organize for a new world... What new world, who's new world? How to get past the plutocracy-oligopolies? How to find spare time, while not letting down my family?

    If I risk will other people risk?

    I moved to a new town, we're wintering here in Mexico, where revolutionary fervour is high. I somehow found 7 revolutionaries here in this smallish, bourgies tourist expat town. I finally called a meeting, went around and face to face reiterated the vision, and that I'd now found each of them for a total of 9 of us (my partner and I inclusive), most everyone was wide eyed... Not a single one of them showed tonight.

    Back in my home town of Vancouver, perhaps the oldest most established parecon town in the world (arguably) has finally agreed on a course of action for self-educating, self-organizing, and then externally educating and organizing.. Can't even get someone other than me 4000 miles away, to call the next meeting, and we're now over 2 weeks from the last. And this after great excitement for the last meeting, which had waited 2 months to occur.

    It is some kind of deep psychological rut as a society. Change seems impossible, risking for it seems stupid or at least somehow undesirable.

    I feel that even if my strategy - Federated Participatory Co-ops - got somewhere, and there were hundreds of parecon jobs that people would be falling over themselves for, and thus there were huge cultural, day-to-day, familial centers, etc., spaces, that even then there'd be problems enrolling people.

    In trying to organize here in Mexico, I first sat down with an old American 60's radical who's been here, in this part of Mexico for 30 years. I explained parecon, IOPS, CoHo, and she kept asking "great, where's the model, where does this exist?" I said we don't have one over and over... Finally she said to me - "It's like you're asking me to participate in derivatives. Do you know what derivatives are?" me - "Ya, like in mathematics." Her - "Exactly".

    I couldn't agree more with her. I don't know why I'm nearly the only one still, in our tendency who thinks that the first step for us, is to build a model, which gets us some capacity to incentivize participation and self-education of new-comers. It is the hardest first step, but at least we'd not be spinning are wheels 15 - 20 years in (since Parecon propagation) and would have something to focus our attention in a daily way, that us fanatics would have kept more committed contact and working relationships with each other.

    Growing up my family was a part of a small circle who brought about a civic party called COPE in Vancouver. It was the wild eyed party, and we had nothing save one alderman who took 9 elections to get on.

    Finally in 2003 the city fell in our lap. We went from the kitchen table meetings of my childhood, and fundraisers in our family rec room, to 5000 person halls. That kind of overnight change in participation because 'maybe those radical commies could now actually achieve something, my idea of something', because we now had power, because participation might actually mean meaningful change. Participating wasn't pissing in the wind. (It was still pissing in the wind because there was no longer a deep enough culture and level of education for socialism like in the 70s, so that even most of our councilors who got in on the slate were social democrats, but that's a little beside the point).

    Anyways, never mind me, I'm just sitting here with the crackers and cheese and wine glasses still out all by my lonesome, again, for the 8th year running as a paresoc organizer.

    • Lambert Meertens 10th Mar 2013

      I agree that many people have become too cynical, which sets up a psychological barrier that is hard to break through. However, I don't think such cynicism can explain the choices of respondents who agree with all three positive statements about the vision and potential of IOPS. Someone who holds the cynical view that nothing can be done because no one else will help is not going to agree with the statement that "the situation is not hopeless; if enough people who reject the current unjust system join forces to build another world, together we will succeed", and will also not agree that "IOPS has the potential to unite the many positive initiatives around the world, molding them into a powerful and effective force".

    • Jane Johnson 14th Mar 2013

      Hi Gregory,

      Apologies for the delayed response, I've been offline for a while. I agree that many people are deeply cynical, but what is interesting is that of those who have participated in the survey so far, very few have answered in a cynical way. As Lambert indicated above, the questions in our survey which best determine whether someone may or may not have a cynical view are questions 5 and 8, where respondents are asked to let us know to what extent they agree or disagree with the following statements:

      5. The world is suffering from many problems: poverty, hunger, war, ecological disasters, racism, economic injustice, and so on. The global economic system is based on greed and serves the powerful. But the situation is not hopeless; if enough people who reject the current unjust system join forces to build another world, together we will succeed.

      8. IOPS has the potential to unite the many positive initiatives around the world, molding them into a powerful and effective force.

      Twelve more people have completed the survey since we wrote this blog so we now have 24 fully filled-out questionnaires. We will write another blog at a later stage with further analysis of the results but for now, since you mentioned cynicism, I thought you might be interested to hear the breakdown of the responses so far to questions 5 and 8. Twenty out of all twenty four respondents (that's 83%) agreed or strongly agreed with the statement in question 5. Furthermore, "strongly agree" was the most popular response to this statement, with 12 people (50%) selecting this option. For question 8, the responses were only slightly less positive, with seventeen of the twenty four respondents (70.8%) stating that they agreed or strongly agreed with this statement. So, while cynicism may well be a valid reason why people don't join IOPS, the early results of our survey appear to suggest that this is not the reason for the overwhelming majority of people who have participated in the questionnaire.

      Thank you also for sharing your experiences with us and for all your hard work and effort where this is concerned! I get the impression that many other IOPS members are finding it very tough to organize meetings and get other members together, especially in areas where membership is low. I'm not experienced with this type of organizing but I'm guessing that this work will be hardest in the early stages of building IOPS. I reckon it will get easier as membership grows and people become more confident and enthusiastic about the potential of IOPS (which I think will happen!). So I guess we just have to persevere with hard work and determination in these early stages :-)

      And I agree with you about the need to build a model!

  • Kuan Phillips 6th Mar 2013

    Great work on this, Jane and Lambert, and thanks for sharing your experiences, Greg. The things that are putting me off IOPS are the hierarchical internal politics and, to a lesser extent, the lack of projects and ideas that I find interesting. I find Parecon pretty interesting, but I read the book years ago. The leaders of IOPS basically say that Albert's ideas are right and that new members should accept that, which leads to a pretty boring conversation from my point of view. These are things that turn me off, maybe the 4 other people you mention felt the same.

    • LedSuit ' 6th Mar 2013

      Kuan, couldn't leave your comment alone. Sorry that my response is not in line with the blog.

      I have no idea who these "leaders" you are speaking of are. I have found none since I joined. perhaps some of greater experience, knowledge of things, confidence etc. Have had no experience of people who "basically say that Albert's ideas are right and that new members should accept that".

      I also don't know where these "hierarchical internal politics" are. There have been disagreements and people expressing their views strongly which is to be expected. However, how you see it is how you see it, but this is how I see it, from an extremely ordinary perspective.

      I also commend Jane and Lambert for doing what they have done.

      "If I risk will other people risk?"

      The million dollar question Greg. Ideas for change are out there. As one zooms in on the crowd and then onto individuals one starts to encounter the complexity of the human psyche. The complexity of dispositions that have a basis in one's own biology and environment (which also contain the biological/psychological complexities of others one is in contact with as much as physical terrain). Some people, like Chomsky, aren't much of a joiner. Go figure.

    • Kuan Phillips 6th Mar 2013

      Hey James, hope you're good. I didn't understand what you meant by the phrase "extremely ordinary perspective" so I'm not able to respond to that sentence without further explination from you.

      I am a bit fatigued by the whole project, which I've been involved with for 3 and a half years. I'm honestly giving my impression, which might be the impression that new members have too.

      I can try to back up what I said with evidence and stuff if you want, but I think you probably know who I think the leaders are and why I think it. I've certainly talked about the IOPS hierarchy enough in the last few months on my and Michael Alberts blogs. I also don't want this thread to turn into a repeat of those discussions with other people piling in here because I've mentioned their names.

    • LedSuit ' 6th Mar 2013

      I'm not bad, Kuan. Understand your fatigue.

      Perhaps should have said inexperienced perspective.

      I'm not interested in furthering this either Kuan.

    • Jane Johnson 14th Mar 2013

      Hi James,

      Chomsky might have said once that's he's not much of a joiner, but we have to remember that he DID actually join IOPS! To me this says that IOPS is such a worthy and promising organization that it should attract even those people who consider themselves "not much of a joiner".


    • Jane Johnson 14th Mar 2013

      Hi Kuan,

      Thank you for your comments, and apologies for the delayed response. The four respondents that you mention and that we discussed in our blog did not make any comments about the issues you raise. I would have thought if there were any issues they felt especially strongly about, to the extent that it was putting them off from joining IOPS, they might have made a comment about it (although I realise this is not necessarily the case). As I mentioned above, twelve more people have completed the survey since this blog was written so we now have 24 fully filled-out questionnaires. Of those, I think only three respondents have made negative comments specifically about IOPS, which seems a low number to me. Obviously it's much too early to draw any conclusions about this, I guess we'll have to wait until we have a great deal more responses.

  • 6th Mar 2013

    It is unfortunate that in IOPS there are people who work hard and stress out. There is something wrong.

  • 6th Mar 2013


    Thanks for your (and Lambert) hard work to help members to understand the situation.

    About this: "I can make a meaningful contribution by joining IOPS"
    My respond, before joining IOPS, was that the statement is not good, it is one sided. IOPS should not seek individuals to have contribution. Living with IOPS should contribute to its member. It is not good to say: you should not ask what your country has done for you, you should ask what you have done for your country. IOPS cannot be an abstract entity, it can only be some internal humane relations in order to be able to liberate its members.

    We need to do something to have this feeling that when we face people, tell them that join us, you are going to have good life.

    • Lambert Meertens 10th Mar 2013

      The statement "I can make a meaningful contribution by joining IOPS" is meant to mean the same as: "I expect that by joining IOPS I will be empowered to make a meaningful contribution to the shared effort of building another world". If people interpret this statement fundamentally differently that would be unfortunate, but in the context of the immediately preceding statements I expect the reader to get the right idea. None of the respondents' comments given on this question suggest otherwise.

    • Jane Johnson 14th Mar 2013

      Hi Kiomars,

      Thank you for your comments and apologies for the delayed response. I agree that it's important to emphasize how IOPS can contribute to it's members, rather than simply asking what members can do for IOPS. The Structure and Program document does list a number of ways in which IOPS aims to support and empower the lives it's members, for example:

      "The organization’s broad action agenda or program, while of course regularly updated and adapted, nonetheless always:

      - works to substantially improve the life situations of its members, including aiding their feelings of self worth, their knowledge, skills, and confidence, their mental, physical, sexual, and spiritual health, and even their social ties and engagements and leisure enjoyments.

      - seeks to learn from and seek unity with audiences far wider than its own membership, including emphasizing attracting and affirmatively empowering younger members and participating in, supporting, building, and aiding diverse social movements and struggles.

      - seeks to develop mechanisms that provide financial, legal, employment, and emotional support to its members so that its members can be in a better position to participate as fully as they wish and negotiate the various challenges and sometimes negative effects of taking part in radical actions."

      I'm sure you've read the Structure and Program statement, I just thought it might be nice to paste a few of the relevant statements above so that anyone who is reading this can be reminded of all the wonderful things that IOPS aims to do to improve our lives! :) Participants of the survey are asked to read the IOPS organizational description before completing the survey, so they should be aware of these things.

      The main purpose of the survey is to analyse why people who agree with the IOPS vision do not join. One reason may be that they don't feel they can make a meaningful contribution by joining IOPS, therefore it is necessary to ask this question in our survey. There has been just one comment about this statement which is along the lines of what you have said above, perhaps it is your comment if you participated in the survey before your joined. I agree with Lambert on what the statement is intended to mean and I would also expect the reader to get the right idea given the context of the proceeding statements.

  • 14th Mar 2013

    Lambert and Jane, thanks!

  • simon thorpe 18th May 2013

    I think a massive danger for IOPS is that it may come across as a Michael Albert cult more than a broad international anarchist organisation... I'm still trying to find my way around and work out for myself how much of the former is present and how much potential there is for the latter, and I still feel unsure of what to say when I try to describe IOPS to people, i.e. I try to stress the latter and deemphasise the former, but feel unsure whether this is even correct! Should you be an IOPS member if you haven't read Parecon? I still don't know o_O

    I think this confusion may put people off even if they agree with the IOPS statements. And it's not like IOPS is the only far-left game in town.

    PS. Big respect to everyone who's putting energy into all the nitty gritty stuff.

    • Lambert Meertens 23rd May 2013

      Hi Simon,

      IOPS may not be the only far-left game in town, but I hope you agree that it is currently our best bet for an organization that has the potential for unifying the many initiatives around the world and combining them into a powerful and effective force for creating another world.

      The danger you see does have a basis in reality, as you can see e.g. here: http://thecommune.co.uk/2012/11/02/whats-wrong-with-iops/. That is not the only spot where I have witnessed this, and personally I feel IOPS does not do enough to avoid feeding the incorrect perception that IOPS is more-or-less committed to Parecon. On the other hand, I'm convinced that the vast majority of potential IOPS members is not aware of Michael Albert's ideas and has never even heard his name, and so the danger is perhaps not "massive".