Author: Simon Duffy
We are people who believe in citizenship and who work together in the spirit of equal citizenship.
What we mean by citizenship is explained by our three core values:
Or to put that in the words of our mission:
Everyone can be a citizen.
Sometimes people don’t use the word citizen in the same way as us. We know that governments create rules about who is an official ‘citizen', who has a passport, who has official papers, who is allowed to stay or who can benefit from certain rights. But that’s not what we mean by being a citizen.
You can have a passport and not behave like a true citizen. You can have no passport and be the most amazing citizen in the world. Citizenship isn’t about passports. Governments don’t decide who is a citizen - we do, by our actions.
Being a citizen means recognising that you are responsible. We are responsible for the world, we are responsible for our communities and we are responsible for each other.
Some people say citizenship is about having rights. But that’s not quite correct. All human beings have rights - but it is only when we behave like citizens, when we live up to our responsibilities, that those rights become real and powerful
At its heart citizenship is about love - it’s about taking love seriously: love for the world and love for each other.
It is easy to list all the problems in the world: the damage we are doing to environment, the exclusion and prejudice so many of us face, the economic and social injustices that make life so tough for many and the way governments seems so distant and undemocratic. Even when we focus on just one of those problems it can seem too big to solve. It may seem impossible to try and tackle all of them together.
But at the heart of the solution to each of those problems, buried deep inside, lies the same basic solution - we need to change who we are - we need to become better citizens:
So we need to wake up and start taking our citizenship seriously. We cannot just sit on our hands and hope that we will be rescued by others. We need to take responsibility, to act and to get organised. We need to become people who decide things together, take care of each other, include everyone and take proper care of the world.
Together. Citizenship is not just about becoming people who take responsibility; it is also about working together. So, first of all, Citizen Network is working to build a community of citizens who can support each other to tackle the problems we face. And also we know that our work needs to be connected to all the other good work that other people are doing.
In the end people and groups need to come together to help us tackle our local and our global problems. But we are trying to lead the way by showing how we can think and act in a more connected way. This has already led to lots of exciting developments, here are just a few examples:
With so much happening it can seem confusing and that might put people off:
“This all seems very demanding and complicated. Can I really help with any of this?”
That’s a good question. It can seem hard to understand and we are still learning how to help make all of this work. We began this work with no money, a few ideas and a lot of hope.
We are making progress; but we still have a very long way to go.
One of the challenges we’ve particularly faced is to try and picture all of the things going on within Citizen Network in a way that is both clear and helpful. After a lot of testing things out we’ve found one model which seems to help. It’s called the Citizen Network Agora.
The word Agora is taken from the ancient Greeks and it means the big public space which was found in democratic cities where people could come together to think about things, get organised, buy things, teach, do exercises, meet friends, pray, make sacrifices and host events.
In other words - the Agora is the sacred shared space for getting stuff done together.
So, we’ve used this image from the past and we’ve tried to reimagine it for the modern world. We’ve divided the different things going on in Citizen Network into seven different areas. I've described our Core Values above and I will explain where we are with Coordination further below; but the other main 5 spaces that make up the Citizen Network Agora are these:
There is a place for everyone and every thing good inside Citizen Network, because Citizen Network can be shaped to be the space that we need it to be. If you want to see some of the things Citizen Network is doing today check out the Work section of our website.
The decision to start Citizen Network began in a bar in Vancouver, Canada in 2015. The work began in Sheffield, Yorkshire and the official launch was in Auckland, New Zealand in 2016. In Glasgow 2019 we agreed to establish Citizen Network as an organisation, and later that year we decided that the best form for Citizen Network would be a global non-profit cooperative, registered in Helsinki. In 2020 the coop was registered and during 2021 we’ve been working out how to run the cooperative. In early 2022 we expect to have at least 10 organisations formally join as members of the cooperative and we will also establish a system for individuals to become members of the cooperative.
This might seem complicated. But really it is not too complicated.
In the end what we’ve done is create a space - Citizen Network - a space where many things are possible - a space where new forms of power can emerge.
If you share our values, if you want to be a better citizen, then join us.
Together we can figure out how to connect you, help you and help you to help others.
[If you want to explore the Citizen Network Agora image with an additional key you can download the PDF below.]
The publisher is Citizen Network Research. What is Citizen Network © Simon Duffy 2022