The Wise Democracy Project

The Wise Democracy Project was initiated by Tom Atlee of the Co-Intelligence Institute with impetus and tremendous help from Martin Rausch in Switzerland, between July 2016 and March 2017.

The Wise Democracy Project has been created to inspire the formation of a community of practice around approaches and innovations that can further the development of a democratic system capable of generating wise public policy and collective activities. “Wise” in this context means taking into account what needs to be taken into account for long-term broad benefit. D&D – and conversation and generative interaction generally – are central to this worldview and are contextualized for their gifts among many other dimensions of a wise democracy.

The project includes both broad theory and, in particular, an initial “pattern language” of 70 design guidelines, each of which can be applied through many different modes and approaches, using different tools and resources. The pattern language site (and its accompanying set of freely downloadable modular cards) provides a space for the gathering of additional examples and resources in each design category – and the analysis of any given case of democratic practice or vision, clarifying its specific gifts and improvable shortcomings.

The Wise Democracy Pattern Language was inspired by – and is a large-system companion to – the GroupWorksDeck.org pattern language for group process, which is familiar to many NCDD members. In fact, there is a parallel project underway linking the two pattern languages into a more coherent whole.

The relevance of the Wise Democracy Project to NCDD is that it adds a larger dimension to the work of D&D professionals, a vision of a civilization capable of generating actual collective wisdom. D&D practitioners can, if they choose, view their work as part of that larger civilizational mission and, using the models, patterns and networks associated with the Wise Democracy Project, focus their efforts in ways that empower that larger undertaking.

About The Co-Intelligence Institute
The nonprofit Co-Intelligence Institute (CII) promotes awareness of co-intelligence and of the many existing tools and ideas that can be used to increase it. The CII embraces all such ideas and methods, and explores and catalyzes their integrated application to democratic renewal, community problems, organizational transformation, national and global crises and the creation of just, vibrant, sustainable cultures. The goal of the CII is the conscious evolution of culture in harmony with nature and with the highest human potentials.We research, network, advocate, and help organize leading-edge experiments and conversations in order to weave what is possible into new, wiser forms of civilization.

Resource Link: www.wd-pl.com/

This resource was submitted by Tom Atlee, co-founder of The Co-Intelligence Institute via the Add-a-Resource form.

Ships Passing in the Night

The 20-page report, Ships Passing in the Night (2014)was written by David Mathews and supported by the Cousins Research Group of the Kettering Foundation. In the article, Mathews talks about the two major movements in civic engagement; one in higher education and the other found growing among communities able to work together. He uses the analogy of the wetlands, like how life thrives in the wetlands, it is in communities that can come together, where democracy thrives. Because it is these opportunities for people to discuss details and issues of their lives, that people will become more engaged in the issues that matter to them.

Mathews explores the question, “Why, though, are these two civic movements in danger of passing like the proverbial ships in the night? More important, how might these efforts become mutually supportive?”

Below is an excerpt of the report and it can be found in full at the bottom of this page or on Kettering Foundation’s site here.

From the guide…

kf_shipspassingThe Shaffers of academe are one of the forces driving a civic engagement movement on campuses across the country. Not so long ago, the civic education of college students was of little concern. Now, thanks to educators like Shaffer, that indifference is giving way. Leadership programs are common, and students are taught civic skills, including civil dialogue. There are also more opportunities to be of service these days, which is socially beneficial as well as personally rewarding. These opportunities are enriched by students’ exposure to the political problems behind the needs that volunteers try to meet. University partnerships with nearby communities offer technical assistance, professional advice, and access to institutional resources. Faculty, who were once “sages on the stage,” have learned to be more effective in communities by being “guides on the side.” All in all, there is much to admire in the civic engagement movement on campuses.

Another civic engagement movement is occurring off campus. At Kettering, we have seen it clearly in communities on the Gulf Coast that are recovering from Hurricane Katrina…

People wanted to restore their community—both its buildings and way of life—and felt that they had to come together as a community to do that. The community was both their objective and the means of reaching that objective. This has been the goal for many of the other civic engagement movements in communities that are trying to cope with natural disasters, economic change, and other problems that threaten everyone’s well-being.

Interestingly, a year or so after Katrina, a group of scholars studying communities that survived disasters validated the instincts of Don, Mary, and their neighbors. These communities were resilient because they had developed the capacity to come together. And the resilience proved more important than individual protective measures like well-stocked pantries.

People with a democratic bent like Don, Mary, and their neighbors don’t want to be informed, organized, or assisted as much as they want to be in charge of their lives. And they sense that this means they need a greater capacity to act together despite their differences. That is why they say they want to come together as communities to maintain their communities. Unfortunately, they often have difficulty finding institutions that understand their agenda.

Nongovernmental organizations, according to a recent Kettering and Harwood study, are often more interested in demonstrating the impact of their programs than in facilitating self-determination and self-rule. Even citizens may be uncertain of what they can do by themselves and want to put the responsibility on schools, police departments, or other government agencies…

The Wetlands of Democracy
We don’t have a name for what we are seeing, but the more we see, the more we have come to believe that we are looking at something more than civil society at work, more than revitalized public life, and more than grassroots initiatives. We don’t think we are seeing an alternative political system like direct democracy; rather, we are looking at the roots of self-rule. Democratic politics seems to operate at two levels. The most obvious is the institutional level, which includes elections, lawmaking, and the delivery of services. The other level is underneath these superstructures, and what happens there is much like what happens in the wetlands of a natural ecosystem.

We have been experimenting with a wetlands analogy to describe what supports and sustains institutional politics. Wetlands were once overlooked and unappreciated but were later recognized as the nurseries for marine life. For example, the swamps along the Gulf Coast were filled in by developers, and the barrier islands were destroyed when boat channels were dug through them. The consequences were disastrous. Sea life that bred in the swamps died off, and coastal cities were exposed to the full fury of hurricanes when the barrier islands eroded. The wetlands of politics play roles similar to swamps and barrier islands. They include informal gatherings, ad hoc associations, and the seemingly innocuous banter that goes on when people mull over the meaning of their everyday experiences. These appear inconsequential when compared with what happens in elections, legislative bodies, and courts. Yet mulling over the meaning of everyday experiences in grocery stores and coffee shops can be the wellspring of public decision making. Connections made in these informal gatherings become the basis for political networks, and ad hoc associations evolve into civic organizations.

In the political wetlands, as in institutional politics, problems are given names, issues are framed for discussion, decisions are made, resources are identified and utilized, actions are organized, and results are evaluated. In politics at both levels, action is taken or not; power is generated or lost; change occurs or is blocked. We aren’t watching perfect democracy in the political wetlands because there isn’t such a thing. But we are seeing ways of acting, of generating power, and of creating change that are unlike what occurs in institutional politics.

Why the Disconnect?
It would seem that two civic engagement movements, occurring at the same time and often in the same locations, would be closely allied—perhaps mutually reinforcing. That doesn’t seem to be happening very often. Research reported by Sean Creighton in the 2008 issue of the Higher Education Exchange suggests the connection is quite limited. Even though academic institutions have considerable expertise and a genuine interest in being helpful, they don’t necessarily know how to relate to the self-organizing impulses of Don, Mary, and their neighbors…

This is an excerpt of the report, download the full guide at the bottom of this page to learn more.

About Kettering Foundation
KF_LogoThe Kettering Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation rooted in the American tradition of cooperative research. Kettering’s primary research question is, what does it take to make democracy work as it should? Kettering’s research is distinctive because it is conducted from the perspective of citizens and focuses on what people can do collectively to address problems affecting their lives, their communities, and their nation.

Follow on Twitter: @KetteringFdn

Resource Link: ships_passing_in_the_night

Listening for, and Finding, a Public Voice (Connections 2015)

The four-page article, Listening for, and Finding, a Public Voice by Bob Daley was published Fall 2015 in Kettering Foundation‘s annual newsletter, “Connections 2015 – Our History: Journeys in KF Research”.

The article describes how the design of deliberative democracy by David Mathews, president of Kettering Foundation, and Daniel Yankelovich, president of Public Agenda; sought to address what it meant to have “a public voice”. From this inquiry came a series of deliberative forums around some of the more important current issues, and the results were then shared with policymakers. Kettering Foundation created, A Public Voice, a nation-wide broadcast that would act as the annual report of these deliberative forums, which first aired April 1991 and continues to today. Below is an excerpt from the article. Connections 2015 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

KF_Connections 2015The question was: If the public doesn’t offer infallible wisdom for policymakers, what does it offer? The exchange between Henry and Cheney marked the beginning of the foundation’s inquiry into a public voice—not, mind you, the public voice, but a public voice—that continues today.

In his 2012 book, Voice and Judgment: The Practice of Public Politics, Kettering Foundation senior associate Bob Kingston said researchers wanted “to learn more clearly how the public might find and exert its will in shaping its communities and directing its nation (which sometimes seems, paradoxically, more oligarchy than democracy).”

The research plan included a series of deliberative forums held throughout the country on urgent national issues followed by reporting outcomes to policymakers…

In 1990, it was suggested, Kettering could build NIF’s influence in Washington, and its underlying vision of politics, through a widely distributed, annual report of the forums not much different from the National Town Meetings.

To envision the celebration’s annual national town meeting as a program televised from coast to coast was an incremental step forward. Kettering’s goal was to reach political and media leadership with a message about deliberative democracy and the public voice. To attract congressional attention, the reasoning went, NIF had to be of interest to a significant public audience in congressional districts.

The best way to ensure congressional attention to a public voice, it was felt, was to have congressional participation in the video. The second best way, it was further felt, was to ensure that the discussion was widely seen by elected officials’ constituents.

After reviewing several options, public television—considered to command a reasonable, national audience—was targeted. The foundation’s senior associate Bob Kingston was executive producer; Milton Hoffman, experienced in public affairs, public television programs, was the producer; and senior associate Diane Eisenberg handled distribution.

A Public Voice ’91, a one-hour public affairs television program was taped on April 15, 1991, at the National Press Club. It was the first time A Public Voice was used formally to describe forum outcomes. Bob Kingston was the moderator. Four members of Congress, four members of the press, and four members of the public joined him.

By September 5, 1991, 123 public television stations and 49 cable systems had broadcast the program and it was being distributed by community colleges to their local public access channels. The program continued to be produced in much the same format as the first one from 1991 through 2007. At its peak, A Public Voice was broadcast by nearly 300 public television stations across the country every year.

The program was seen as the central thrust in the foundation’s campaign to bring a new sense of politics to the consideration of the nation’s political and media leadership. The video had a single purpose: to show that there is something we can call “a public voice” on complex and troubling policy matters. And this public voice is significantly different from the debate on these issues as it is recorded in the media and significantly different from the debate “as we hear it through the mouths of political leaders.”

About Kettering Foundation and Connections
KF_LogoThe Kettering Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation rooted in the American tradition of cooperative research. Kettering’s primary research question is, what does it take to make democracy work as it should? Kettering’s research is distinctive because it is conducted from the perspective of citizens and focuses on what people can do collectively to address problems affecting their lives, their communities, and their nation.

Each issue of this annual newsletter focuses on a particular area of Kettering’s research. The 2015 issue, edited by Kettering program officer Melinda Gilmore and director of communications David Holwerk, focuses on our yearlong review of Kettering’s research over time.

Follow on Twitter: @KetteringFdn

Resource Link: www.kettering.org/sites/default/files/periodical-article/Daley_2015.pdf