The Alternative is an international political party for those who want to work for a sustainable, democratic, socially just and entrepreneurial world.
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The Alternative is more than a party. It is also a political movement and a cultural voice. Together, we want to work to rediscover a dynamic balance between ourselves and the planet we live on. That demands that we have the courage to challenge the current concept of growth and the economic order which prevails globally.
The Alternative as a party will prioritise the development of serious transition scenarios – environmentally, economically, socially and culturally – so that the ambition for a sustainable society is neither perceived as either a threat against individual freedom nor as a society standing still and lacking in dynamics. Instead, The Alternative should be perceived as a vital political vision which guarantees that our children and grandchildren will be born into a better world than the one we ourselves were born into. Where we increase the quality of life for the individual at the same time as reducing our consumption of the planet’s limited resources.
The Alternative has been started in Denmark and has strong cultural and political connections to the other Nordic countries. This is where we are based from a legal point of view. But anyone in the world can be part of the party and the political movement which The Alternative is. And the knowledge and political strategies which will be produced by The Alternative on an ongoing basis will of course be made available for anyone who wants to work with democratic dialogue and sustainable development.
The Alternative will therefore have as one of its first tasks the creation of a socially open, diverse and network-based online platform where knowledge, contacts and alternative political role model examples can be shared and further developed between every part of the world, every country, every city and every classic ideological division. Alongside the creation of the online platform, a corresponding physical platform will also be established.
Finally, it is important for The Alternative to emphasise the significance of culture and art and their role in the development of other life values and life strategies than material consumption and financial wealth. So a strong cultural and artistic vein will run through all The Alternative’s political proposals, events and actions which will help to create nerve, dynamics and a feeling of freedom in everything we say, do and recommend.
The six core values are:
Courage. Courage to look problems in the eye. But also courage about the future we share.
Generosity. Everything which can be shared will be shared with anyone interested.
Transparency. Everybody should be able to look over our shoulders. On good days and on bad.
Humility. To the task. To those on whose shoulders we stand. And to those who will follow us.
Humour. Without humour there can be no creativity. Without creativity there can be no good ideas. Without good ideas there can be no creative power. Without creative power there can be no results.
Empathy. Putting yourself in other people’s shoes. Looking at the world from that point of view. And creating win-win solutions for everyone.
The values are not just there to be brought out on special occasions. The six core values must be constant indicators that are visible in our daily political work – in the way we think, speak and act. From debate, to political initiatives and to the way we campaign.
There is always an alternative!
The Alternative is a political idea. About personal freedom, social dignity, and living, sustainable communities. A hope. A dream. A yearning. For meaning, sense and compassionate relationships. The Alternative is an answer to what is happening in the world today. All around us. With us.
The Alternative is a shout out. Against cynicism, lack of generosity and the ticking off which prevails in our society.
The Alternative is a positive countermeasure. The desire to bring real and serious answers to the environmental and resource crisis our planet is in the midst of. A crisis which every day worsens our own and our children’s and grandchildren’s opportunities for good, rich and meaningful lives.
The Alternative is curiosity. About developing our local societies, cities and nations. We want to take back ownership of the economy and of democratic decisions. At our workplaces and in the places where we live our lives. Without losing the global vision for the responsibility for finding mutual solutions with our neighbours – including those who live on the other side of the world.
The Alternative is collaboration. We know that private companies alone cannot solve these problems. Neither can the public sector, and neither can the NGO movement. So we need to invent completely new links and ways of working together where we use the best from the private, public and the NGO sectors.
The Alternative is openness. Towards trying out new ideas and creating solutions which work. The Alternative is also thoughtfulness. About understanding complex contexts and resisting the temptation of simplified arguments and pleasant illusions.
The Alternative is courage. To look problems in the eye. But also courage about the future we have to share together. The Alternative is also humour. Without humour there can be no creativity. Without creativity there can be no good ideas. Without good ideas there can be no creative power. Without creative power there can be no results.
The Alternative is already a reality. Around the world new types of institutions, businesses and social networks are being created. Whether in Copenhagen, Seoul, Durban or Rio. Individually they may not be that significant, but together they form a global wave of change full of vitality.
The Alternative is for you. Who can tell that something has been set in motion. Who can feel that something new is starting to replace something old. Another way of looking at democracy, growth, work, responsibility and quality of life. That is The Alternative.
What is the Alternative?
The Alternative is a new international party for people who want to work for a sustainable, democratic, socially just and entrepreneurial world. We have started in Denmark but hope to have sister parties and groups around the world within a few years.
Why not just a Danish party?
That The Alternative puts so much emphasis on the international perspective is due to many of the problems we are struggling with today not just being confined to one country. Or as the UN says: problems without passports.
So we don’t just have to work together, we also have to learn from each other as well. We have been very aware of the international perspective as we have developed The Alternative – both politically and organisationally.
But at the same time, The Alternative is as Danish as it could possibly be. Because we see ourselves as having clear roots right back to the Danish co-operative and high school movements.
Whose initiative is the Alternative?
The ideas and ambitions for The Alternative stem from the volunteers who helped with Uffe Elbæk’s 2011 parliamentary election campaign A Different Agenda and the Under the Radar initiative which has been running for the past half year. The first actual strategy paper about The Alternative was written by Uffe Elbæk in late summer 2013.
Who is The Alternative today?
The Alternative currently consists primarily of a small core group of volunteers from Uffe Elbæk’s election campaign A Different Agenda and the cross-party initiative Under the Radar. Until publication of The Alternative, it was important for us to keep discussions tightly contained within two very small groups of people in Aarhus (Denmark’s second city) and Copenhagen respectively.
In addition, we also had contact to a number of people elsewhere in the world we wanted as international ambassadors for The Alternative. We are happy that most of them have agreed to join us. So now we have Alternative ambassadors in various different cities such as Hong Kong, Brisbane, Durban, Zagreb, London, New York and Toronto.
Experts in their own fields who have also agreed to evaluate our concrete political aspirations before we finally present them at the forthcoming annual People’s Meeting on the Danish island of Bornholm.
How is The Alternative organised?
Initially we are organised as a regular association with a board and a chairman. But in the spring of next year we plan to develop a new organisational model which can encompass what The Alternative is – both a party and a movement. That is somewhat of a challenge. But a good and very necessary one.
If you have to say what The Alternative stands for in one sentence, what would that be?
To say what The Alternative stands for in one sentence is as follows: “To increase the quality of life for citizens at the same time as significantly reducing consumption of scarce natural resources”.
Where do you stand on the political spectrum?
Actually we don’t really want to be put on the traditional spectrum of left and right. But there is no doubt that in Denmark, if we had to choose between current social Democrat Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt and opposition leader Lars Løkke Rasmussen, then we would support Helle Thorning Schmidt. Even though we are very critical of parts of the political agenda her current government has presented.
In fact we don’t believe that the current centre-left government has made use of the popular mandate it was elected on. At the time, two years ago, many Danes were ready to make very far reaching centre-left reforms. But what they got was in many ways more of what the current opposition did when it was in government. Unfortunately.
What are your most important political points?
The most important points The Alternative has right now are:
1) Serious sustainable transition. Which means a completely different economic and societal understanding than the current very neo-liberal economic model which has dominated both the USA and Europe for the past few decades.
2) Living everyday democracy. In other words a much more thriving democratic culture from the bottom up. Locally, in institutions and at places of work.
3) The entrepreneurial forces of the community and the individual. If we are to meet the challenges we are facing, we have to be much more socially inventive and entrepreneurial than we are at the moment. Because you have to be pretty creative if on the one hand you want to take the environment seriously and on the other hand create all the new jobs to replace those that cease to exist or, in the case of Denmark, get moved abroad.
Why do you not yet have a party manifesto?
It is intentional that we are not yet publishing a complete manifesto. Because the whole idea with The Alternative is to involve Danes in building the party and movement. We believe that it will give much greater ownership and commitment if we do it the way we have chosen to do.
So the publication of The Alternative is first and foremost a broad invitation to Danes to join in an exciting new political dialogue about questions which really mean something for us all. Not least how we turn Denmark into a really sustainable society. Socially, environmentally and economically sustainable.
That dialogue will take place all of next spring with the intention of presenting the first serious transition scenarios for how Denmark can become sustainable within a given timeframe. The presentation will take place at the People’s Meeting on the island of Bornholm.
But if you haven’t got a manifesto right now, how can people know what you stand for? Do they really have to wait until next summer to find that out?
By publishing now we have set out our long-term political ambitions, our values, the most important political questions we will work with and lastly some clear statements about five important political themes. So people in Denmark have already got lots of opportunities to find out who we are, what we believe in and what we will be working on up until the People’s Meeting.
Why are there so few famous names in the group behind The Alternative?
In the same way as we have chosen not to publish a finished manifesto, it has also been important for us to break with the political VIP culture which says that you can only be elected to Parliament if you are famous. That attitude is not good for democracy.
Another thing is that we see it as a big democratic problem that apparently only around 4% of people in Denmark want to be members of a political party. Because that means that the recruitment pool for selecting candidates to local councils, regional councils and parliament is very small. Much too small, we feel.
So we have chosen to focus on the 96% of the population who are not members of any party. They are the people we want to have a dialogue with. It is also among those people that we expect future candidates for The Alternative to come from. Whether they are famous or not.
Have you been in contact with other members of Parliament about moving over to The Alternative?
No. Again, that has been a conscious choice. We’re not keen on fishing for potential members in other political groups in Parliament. That would be completely wrong and also against the political rules of play we are working from. On the other hand, everyone is welcome to become part of The Alternative now that the party has gone public – including of course current members of Parliament.
Who are your financial supporters?
There is no rich bank or interest organisation behind us. So The Alternative has only got this far because of people’s voluntary commitment. So one of the very first tasks we face is to raise the necessary financing needed to run The Alternative as a party and a movement. Initially, we will get a mixture of micro-funding, support contributions and membership fees.
What you see as some of the most important challenges in Denmark right now?
We see three top-level challenges for Denmark. Firstly what we call the empathy crisis. That is to say our inability to put ourselves in other peoples’ shoes. Which means the feeling of solidarity between Danes has been weakened. There is a tendency to knock people who are more vulnerable than we are ourselves.
Secondly what we call the system crisis. That is to say that neither the market, the state nor NGOs are in a position to solve the problems we face alone. So we have to get the three sectors working much more dynamically together.
And finally the environmental and climate crisis. That is the most important for us to deal with. Which also means that we deal with the empathy and the system crises as well. Because without greater solidarity and without much better collaboration between the three old sectors, we will never overcome the massive environmental and climate challenges we are facing now and will be in the future.
That is why we say it is necessary to develop a completely new definition of growth.
If you don’t accept the current growth agenda, how will we create more new jobs?
Firstly it is important to underline that we cannot make Denmark sustainable from one day to the next. Because right now, every person in Denmark uses four times as many resources in their day-to-day lives than they ought to. So how we transition our economy to a genuinely balanced society where we do not use more resources than the planet can regenerate – that is the big challenge.
But we are convinced that there are many new jobs to be found in development of new green technology and recycling of waste and other by-products from manufacturing.
So we have to be much more high tech and low tech in the future. Both at the same time. What’s good is that we will need lots more capable craftsmen if in future we have to be better at both maintaining what we have and recycling resources in new contexts. Look at a sector such as bicycle shops. A few years ago, it was a dying sector. Today, new cycle shops are constantly springing up on every street corner in the large towns in Denmark.
How will you manage to get the necessary signatures to have the party officially recognised for parliamentary elections?
We are already collecting the 20,260 signatures we need and expect to have reached our goal in around six months’ time. Again, the People’s Meeting on the island of Bornholm is our finishing line. We shouldn’t just hold our first annual general meeting there. We would very much like to have got enough signatures to be able to field candidates at the next parliamentary election. But we know it will not be easy. But we have to try.
How can I become a member of The Alternative?
You can join on our website. And anyone can join. Regardless of where you live in the world. We have decided that the membership fee will be each country’s lowest denomination coin per day. That means that in Denmark, membership will cost 182.50 kroner. And in France, membership will be €3.65.
How can I be selected as a candidate?
We haven’t decided that yet. But we are thinking about doing a much more open process than what normally happens in Danish politics. Some of our thoughts are inspired by the primary elections in the USA. We’ve also been inspired by what social media can be used for. The final nomination and selection process will be developed during next spring.
You say that you are a party, a movement and a cultural voice. What does that mean?
Many people in Denmark are not keen on joining a party, but would however like to be politically active with a specific issue. That is why so many people join grassroots movements, but so few join a political party. So how do we combine this desire to be involved in projects with what happens in Parliament?
The Alternative will try to build a new democratic bridge between what is happening inside and outside Parliament. Because that is the only way we can rebuild a much more lively democratic culture. So The Alternative will be present just as much outside Parliament as within its walls. To put it briefly, we want more Parliament out in the world, and more world inside Parliament.
And as regards the cultural voice, it is about The Alternative wanting to create a common platform for all the people, all the initiatives and all the organisations who can identify with our overall objectives and values. There are so many people who make a big difference in any society, but they just don’t meet each other. We think they should. So The Alternative will also be a meeting place. Not just for members, but for anyone who can identify with The Alternative’s values.
You also say that the next social wave of innovation will start in what you call the fourth sector. Can you explain that term?
The fourth sector is the empty space between the three old sectors – the private, public and the NGO sectors. Write now a large number of new businesses and organisations are appearing which have taken the best from the private sector (finance and customer orientation), the best from the public sector (investing for the common good) and the best from the NGO sector (an active volunteering culture).
What is happening in the fourth sector these days is reminiscent of the early phase of the co-operative movement. And The Alternative believes that can be the seed for generation 2.0 of that movement.
Aren’t there too many political parties in Denmark already?
It is not the number of parties which matters. What matters is whether the parties have the right policies and the right answers to the challenges society is facing. We don’t believe the existing parties do. Maybe they have good answers and proposals in certain areas. But in others they don’t.
The Alternative believes that by combining a serious sustainability strategy with the renewal of democratic processes from the bottom up, with support from a much stronger and entrepreneurial culture, then we will move Denmark forward to where it should be. And that also means that we will end up working together with the vast majority of political parties in Parliament in specific areas. But if you want to have the absolute right combination, you have to support The Alternative – of course.
Why have you chosen not to have a party leader, but just spokespersons?
That The Alternative does not have a party leader, but just a number of spokespersons, is because we are bringing best practice from grassroots movements into The Alternative. The Alternative must not stand or fall because of one party leader. There are far too many bad examples of that happening. The Alternative must however stand or fall with the many people who together make up The Alternative.
So by choosing a model with spokespersons rather than a party leader, we are sending a clear signal that what we are doing is a democratic and popular project .
What is the role of the international ambassadors?
The international ambassadors will be our eyes and ears in the region they live in. In other words they will give The Alternative content about people, organisations and milieus we ought to know about. They will also act as contacts for local enquiries which they can forward to us here in Copenhagen. And finally they will also help us when we travel to somewhere where there is an ambassador. In other words help us to run workshops or seminars.
What is the role of the members in the transition council?
The experts in the transition council will evaluate the more specific political proposals before we publish them. The transition council will have an especially important role in the run-up to the People’s Meeting so that the scenarios we present there are as solid as they can be.
But it is also important to underline that the transition council will only express its expert opinions.
That is because at the end of the day, it is the ordinary members of The Alternative who will decide what the policy should be. It is just important that the basis for a final decision be as serious as possible. That is something that the transition council’s members will help to ensure.
Who do you think will vote for you? Or rather: who do you think that The Alternative will take votes from?
That is not the way we are thinking. Each party has to stand up for its own policies and proposals for the political direction Denmark should move in. That is definitely what The Alternative will do. We will focus on our own policies, and not who we might take votes from.
If you believe that the environmental agenda is important, if you believe that Danish democracy needs renewing and if you believe there is a need for a much stronger entrepreneurial culture in Denmark, then you shouldn’t just vote for The Alternative, you should also actively support us. Because The Alternative will never be better than the people who chose to join or support us.