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 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.

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

The Problem with Theory of Change

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If you are working in the fields of development or governance it’s highly likely that you’ve come across the term “theory of change” (ToC). At a conference a couple of weeks ago, while answering some questions, I mentioned that I preferred not to use the term. The comment didn’t go unnoticed by some witty observers on Twitter, and I was surprised by the number of people who came to me afterwards asking why I do not “like” theory of change.

I can see why some people are attracted to the term. First, “change” is a powerful word: it even helps win elections. And when it comes to governance issues, the need for change is almost a consensus. Second, the user of the word “theory” gives scientific verve to the conversation. However, the problem is precisely the appropriateness of its use if one thinks of the word in scientific terms. It seems that people are saying “theory” when they actually mean (at best) “hypothesis”.

We don’t have to go very far to find out what scientific theory actually is. Keeping to information that is just a click away, let’s take one of the definitions reproduced in Wikipedia’s entry for “theory”:

A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not “guesses” but reliable accounts of the real world.

 Or “scientific theory”:

A theory is a good theory if it satisfies two requirements: It must accurately describe a large class of observations on the basis of a model that contains only a few arbitrary elements, and it must make definite predictions about the results of future observations.

 And here’s a rap video on the difference between theory and hypothesis:

Granted, the word “theory” is often used as a synonym of “hypothesis”, and even dictionaries do so. But the problem of this in the context of current usages of “theory of change” is that it masks the difference between what we know and do not know about something, often conveying a false sense of scientific rigor. And, particularly when it comes to issues such as development and governance, it is extremely important to have a clear distinction between well-substantiated explanations and every other color of hypotheses, assumptions, and guesses. In fact, in any field, it is a minimal requirement for the production of knowledge.

So here’s an interesting exercise. Search on the web for the use of “theory of change” combined with terms like “accountability” and “open government.” Find, for yourself, which ones are really “theories of change” or, rather, merely “hunches of change.”

Most likely, people will keep using theory of change indiscriminately until the next flavor of the moment comes up. In the meantime, beware.


Also read: Open Government, Feedback Loops and Semantic Extravaganza

Perspectives on Theory U: Insights from the Field

In recent years, the utilization of Theory U has pushed the boundaries of traditional leadership and management thinking, making it an important aspect of change across a broad assortment of international businesses and communities.

Perspectives on Theory U: Insights from the Field, edited by Olen Gunnlaugson, Charles Baron, and Mario Cayer (all of the Université Laval, Canada), brings together an existing array of research on Theory U, including specific aspects of the theory, through diverse interpretations and contexts. While exploring key theoretical concepts and outlining current approaches and blind spots, this book will act as a reference source for researchers and practitioners intending to raise awareness of the applicability of Theory U to colleagues, students, and international business leaders.

See our post on Theory U at for more details on the theory.

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This resource was submitted by Ann Lupold, Promotions and Communications Coordinator, IGI Global (Publisher) via the Add-a-Resource form.

International Journal of Collaborative Practices

The International Journal of Collaborative Practices brings together members of a growing international community of practitioners, scholars, educators, researchers, and consultants interested in postmodern collaborative practices.

This community responds to important questions in social and human sciences such as:

  1. How can we make our theories and practices have every day relevance and how can our ordinary experiences have relevance for our theories and practices, for as many people as possible in our fast changing world?
  2. What will this relevance accomplish?
  3. And who determines it?

Globalization and technology are spawning social, cultural, political, and economic transformations in our shrinking and interdependent world. People everywhere are constantly exposed to real time events in the world and enlightened through television and the Internet. They are fast losing faith in the rigid institutions that treat them as numbers and ignore their humanity. People expect to be directly involved in whatever affects their lives and they demand flexible systems and services that honor their rights and respect their needs.

Faced with such local, societal and global shifts, with the unavoidable complexities they engender, and with their effect on our lives and our world, practitioners are wondering how best to respond. The Journal is designed to serve as one part of a timely and valuable response by spotlighting important interconnected issues such as:

  1. The juxtaposition of democracy, social justice, and human rights;
  2. The importance of people’s voices locally and globally; and
  3. The fundamental need for professional collaboration.

The journal is published once a year, with new issues coming out in the Spring. Sponsored by the Houston Galveston Institute, the Taos Institute, and the Psychology Department at Our Lady of the Lake University, it is an open-access on-line publication that is offered in the spirit of promoting community and collaboration. You can subscribe by emailing

As of August 2013, the Journal is on Issue 4.  Harlene Anderson, Ph.D. and Saliha Bava, Ph.D. are the editors. The Journal is an open access on-line bilingual (English and Spanish) interactive publication. Your participation is invited through the submission of articles and your responses through the Journal blog.

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