PGO - The Post-Governmental Organisation

One of the four main themes of the N5M3 is the 'Post-Governmental Organisation', a title that is meant more polemically than descriptively. The 'PGO' label raises the question of the practical, political and ethical impli cations of strong, potentially global, independent organisations. The theme will be approached from different critical, analytical and ironic perspectives in a public debate, and the PGO Design-Show ("Get Organised!").

The PGO Theme

The notion of the 'Post-Governmental Organisation' is obviously an ironic variation on the now well established concept of the NGO, the Non-Governmental Organisation. Over the past twenty or so years, NGO's have become im portant actors in the arena of national, international and global politics. The role of NGO's in the struggle for human rights, the ecology, debt relief, migrants' rights, humane working and living conditions, etc., is in creasingly recognised by official political bodies. As a result, NGO's are now regularly represented at global eco- summits, they advise different UN institutions and are used as experts in court cases. Thus, NGO's are taking over tasks that traditionally were the domain of nation states, whether democratic or not. They become part of what Saskia Sassen has referred to as a 'crisis of governance', in which political decision-making and co ntrol is shifting away from national governments towards private and public NGO's of all sorts and types.

NGO's which do not only survey, criticise and complement such governmental structures, but which take on an active role in replacing government functions, can be called PGO's. The PGO theme will focus specifically on new non-institutionalised ways in which people organise themselves around cultural, social, and political concerns that emerge in the internationally networked communication environments.

This implies that the PGO cannot be seen as generally good or bad. Rather, the hypothesis of the PGO suggests that for many independent initiatives and organisations, the question of responsibility and power is changing i n a fundamental way. Whereas they used to be able to define themselves as the 'other' of given power structures, the erosion of hierarchical political structures has created a more heterogeneous political arena in which p ublic agency is 'up for grabs'. Much of the political vacuum is created and filled by unholy alliances between political and private actors, who make sure that they benefit from the retreat of the nation state. But many well-meaning, morally sound, independent PGO are also finding themselves in a position where they have to switch from strategies of protest and campaigning, to strategies of political agency and the building of organisatio nal structures.

The PGO theme at the N5M3 tries to straddle the double-sidedness of the theme. It tries to formulate a constructive critique of the PGO, pointing out its dangers and, at the same time, analysing the most creative and insp iring models for building PGOs. After all, there is a continuing need for new, critical and independent organisations that are able to challenge the debilitating and exploiting political structures that stifle large parts of the world. And why not learn from the successes and failures of Saatchi & Saatchi, Soros, the IMF, financial consulting companies and informal networks of independent radio producers?

Experience has shown that, in many ways, organisations like Greenpeace and Amnesty International are better equipped to deal with the conditions the new system of power create. This is partly due to the fact that they hav e always been organised as distributed, international entities, relying heavily on their communications infrastructures. They also seem to be more fit for the new environment because they are organised around spheres of i nterest rather than traditional geographic and socio- political structures. However, while the NGO's have become important actors in the arena of international and global politics, they have also become bureaucratic struc tures that often act as a 'state without the state', with little or no democratic accountability or legitimisation.

The PGO is neither East nor West, North or South, nor Post East/ West/Modern, it is rather an attempt at an answer to the contradictions and the syndromes of globalisation. Therefore, some people prefer to translate PGO a s Post Global Organisation. For them, the crucial question at this stage is not so much the relation with governmental structures, but how we can get over the myths of globalisation, and what the necessary organisational structures for this era beyond the ideology of globalism would be.

The challenge for the PGO strand at the N5M3 will be not to get stuck in an impasse, but to use the critical debate as a starting point for a fresh approach to the construction and the shaping of strong static organisatio ns, both beyond stifling debates about the nation state as well as beyond the NGO question.

The PGO Design Show

Get Organised! Design Your Own Post-Governmental Organisation As a part of the PGO debate, N5M3 will host a unique 'PGO Design Show, in which contributors will present the most and the least effective strategies for achieving global presence. The PGO Contest will offer models and co unter-models, witty and serious, inspiring and ridiculous proposals for organisations that just might change the world for the better.

An open call is issued to all those who have the blue-print for a Post-Governmental Organisation and who want to present it to an international audience of enthusiastic, desperate, and power- hungry minds.

After an initial selection, the most promising 15-20 model PGO's will be demonstrated and discussed during the PGO Design Gala at the N5M3.

Categories can cover a wide variety of areas like:
- the independent tactical Internet Service Provider
- the PGO that legally issues passports to the Sans Papiers
- the attorney who got rich on fighting the McLibel-case
- the first virtual trade union for digital workers
- the international company for helping illegal citizens crossing borders
- the producer of the most effective infowar weaponry
- the video company that won an Oscar with its promo video for the PMF (Proletarian Monetary Fund)
- the Culture Board for cultures in ruin, which fights the state's disregard for culture
- the PGO that recycles redundant, y2k-incompatible computer hardware to Silicon Alley's next generation
- the Interfund that replaces public funding for media culture (Create Your Own Solutions)
- the Bureau of Investigation and Counter-Surveillance that tackles racism in police and other public organisations.

Do Your Own PGO!