Joseph Rathinam and Neighbourhood Democracy

Joseph Rathinam has helped inspire grassroots neighbourhood democracy across Southern India.

Joseph Rathinam has been training people to set up and operate Neighbourhood Parliaments for almost thirty years, and has been the elected leader of his own neighbourhood in Chennai (a city in Tamilnadu, southern India) for about twenty. He has helped people to set up tens of thousands of hyperlocal democratic mutual aid institutions across India and around the world.

 Most recently, city officials in Augsburg, Germany, have decided to adopt a European version of the Neighbourhood Parliament model in the wake of his visit to Augsburg in August of 2022. They want the high-engagement, low-cost benefits of neighbours helping neighbours that this model promises.

In summary (and converted into Western terms) the model of neighborocracy has these features:

1. Street-level - The basic unit is street-level government - no more than about 60 people or 30 UK households

2. Inclusive - It is essential that everyone is included and everyone has a vote and all decisions are by consensus (although you can vote ‘I can live with that’)

3. Empowering - Everyone takes on a leadership role - minister of finance, energy etc. - roles and strategies are agreed together 

4. Subsidiarity - What can be done at the street level is done at the street level - the indirect goal is to invest in each other - not in corporations 

5. Federative - Streets federate to neighbourhoods - neighbourhoods federate to municipalities - municipalities federate to regions - goal is global democracy 

6. Intergenerational - There are 3 interlinked kinds of Parliament organised by age: Children/Young People/Adults 

7. Convergence - Don’t threaten the existing system of power - run parallel- create positive pathways with old system 

Joseph's work builds on the work of Father Edwin Maria John who started to develop Basic Communities in the 1980s, and which it was itself inspired by the Liberation Theology movement from Latin America. It links to the emerging practice of sociocracy and the emerging movements of New Municipalise, or what Citizen Network calls Neighbourhood Democracy.

You can listen to Josephy talk on the Scottish Communities Climate Action Network podcast here

The following collection of films provide inspiring stories and examples shared by Joseph. This film focuses on the value of Children Parliaments and the emergence of new kinds of schools using sociocratic methods.

This film also focuses on the organisation of Children Parliaments:

This film was produced together with Nathaniel Whitestone, Indra Adnan, Swarnalakshmi Ravi and Joseph Rathinam and explores the reasons why neighborocracy is powerful and an essential part of the global transition of to a just and sustainable world:

This is a longer interview with Joseph, in conversation with young people, exploring the ideas that have inspired him and the lessons he has learned:

Film | 08.08.23

local government, Neighbourhood Democracy, India, Film

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