“Democratic by Design: How Carsharing, Co-ops, and Community Land Trusts Are Reinventing America ” by Gabriel Metcalf is a book that looks at how alternative institutions’”small-scale, self-organized projects that work outside the traditional structures of government and business’”can ultimately scale up to effect widespread social change. The book explores the idea through stories of social movements, both successful and un-successful, and tries to develop a full theory about institutional change that activists can draw on today. Gabriel Metcalf sketches out a strategy that starts with small-scale, living examples of a better society like car-sharing organizations, community land trusts, credit unions, workers co-ops, citizen juries, community-supported agriculture farms, mission-driven corporations, and others that can ultimately scale up to widespread social transformation.
There are a lot of ways to change the world, and most of us are open to just about all of them: whatever works. But alongside the well-known strategies like community organizing or electoral politics, there has always been an important tradition of direct action that approaches social change through the concept of prototypes. This approach involves creating alternative institutions as living examples of a better society’”projects that can then be seen, studied, improved on, and copied. If the alternative institutions are good enough at what they are trying to do, they will expand and multiply. Eventually, some of them will actually begin to out-compete the mainstream institutions that they stand alongside.