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A Democratic Approach to Sustainable Futures

This 2011 workbook has been designed to support scholarly role playing in the arena of global diplomacy and human system planning.  Audiences include students, faith-based groups, and community members who like to grapple with the big picture — arguably the biggest picture — or our times:  global sustainability. The modular 4 or 5 week course can be extended as different groups might choose. Through role playing, audiences will collaborate with others in an authentic engagement with the world’s complexity through participatory democracy. This experiential learning opportunity has the power to change lives, and the promise to save the planet.

Learn more and purchase the workbook, authored by Thomas R. Flanagan and Kenneth C. Bausch, PhD at https://www.createspace.com/3571032.

The exploration begins with the challenges faced by the founders of the Club of Rome circa 1970. The founding prospectus identified the problematique underlying global sustainability as a set of 49 continuous critical problems. These interacting and entangled problems create what more recently has been called a wicked mess. They are not solvable in isolation because fixing one of them will likely further complicate others.

Considering the full set of problems causes individuals to feel overwhelmed. For that reason, the structured dialogic design divides the challenge of understanding the problem up among members of the group, and then has them interact as a community of “experts” in their assigned problem areas. In a step wise process, this group of experts sequentially clarifies meanings, explores similarities among ideas, and identifies relationships between ideas. In this fashion, the group avoids becoming trapped in a reductionist approach to problem solving and enters into a communal understanding of the complex situation.

Readers who wish to participate in an exploration of the problematique underlying global sustainability are invited to join a group through the Institute for 21st Century Agoras. In addition to the book itself, readers will be provided access to a software tool for tracking meanings that are uncovered, prompting decisions during deliberation, and then also presenting outcomes of those decisions as an easily read “tree.”

A Democratic Approach to Sustainable Futures builds capacities for understanding and resolving highly complex problems in collaboration. It is a “self help” workbook for communities sensing urgency for starting today to build their futures.

The authors, Drs. Tom Flanagan and Ken Bausch, are systems scientists who each have over 20 years of experience in complex systems work. The inspiration for the workbook comes from their collaborative online teaching with Janet McIntyre and her students at Flinders University in Australia.

From the Preface by Ambassador John W. McDonald:

A Democratic Approach to Sustainable Futures: A Workbook for Addressing the Global Problematique requires students to guide their own learning. This is one of the most effective means of learning, and students following this workbook can expect to feel like they have accomplished significant gains at the end.  This is an excellent workbook for serious students who are not satisfied by simple theory or impractical practice.  This is the book to prepare for the messy, multi-layered, multi-faceted, personal, political, real world of applied global activism.

David Loye, award-winning author of The Healing of a Nation and Darwin’s Lost Theory


To link the hopeful new wave of students fed up with the status quo and wanting to work for change with an effective method for doing this is one of the most urgent tasks of our time.   This need is powerfully addressed by Flanagan and Bausch in A Democratic Approach to Sustainable Futures: A Workbook for Addressing the Global Problematique.  The key to their approach is to at last provide the new activist wave with a computer-aided way to effectively deal with the complexities that currently so quickly—and tragically—turn too many of them off.

Alexander N. Christakis, Founder,  Institute for 21st Century Agoras

Flanagan and Bausch have offered humankind a real gift by revisiting forty years later the original prospectus of the Club of Rome on the “Predicament of Mankind.”  They managed to excavate its architectural wisdom and enable us all to internalize it by rediscovering individually and collectively the Global Problematique.  People from all walks of life studying this workbook will be able to appreciate our contemporary predicament and the challenges of authentic, participative, and sustainable democracy.

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  1. Heiner Benking Says:

    YOU WRITE The exploration begins with the challenges faced by the founders of the Club of Rome circa 1970.

    Maybe dig deeper? Please check these interviews with Christakis in Europe’sWorld, so you can more easily check “roots and wings”:

    9 / 2011 The Predicament of the Individual, Communities, and Humankind in the 21st Century
    Deliberations about Structured Dialogic Design, Systems Thinking, Policy-Making, Multi-track Diplomacy, Empowerment and the Wisdom of the People http://www.europesworld.org/NewEnglish/Home_old/CommunityPosts/tabid/809/PostID/2711/language/en-US/Default.aspx

    2009 – 2010 Learnings and Vistas based on revisiting 40 years “Global Problematique”
    summing up 40 years “Predicament of Mankind” (Club of Rome early report), look-outs, and new forms of structured dialog and deliberation / decision cultures in an Interview with Alexander Christakis. http://www.europesworld.org/NewEnglish/Home_old/CommunityPosts/tabid/809/PostID/1128/language/en-US/Default.aspx

  2. Tom Flanagan Says:

    Heiner, as you and I both know, Hasan authored the foundational piece. The monograph makes that point most clearly. Sandy is on firm ground with what she has stated. You have interviewed and published your interview of our founder. Thank you. Tom