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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.

How Should We Reduce Obesity in America? (NIFI Issue Guide)

The issue guide, How Should We Reduce Obesity in America?, was published on National Issues Forums Institute site in Spring 2017. This issue guide gives three options for participants to deliberate around the issue of obesity in the US. In addition to the issue guide, there is a moderator’s guide and a post-forum questionnaire, all available to download on NIFI’s site here.

From the guide…

Obesity is a health problem that is growing rapidly in the United States and other parts of the world. In this country, it is epidemic. About one in three Americans is obese.

It may be natural for people to gain at least a little weight later in life. But that is no longer the issue. The problem today is that by the time American children reach their teens, nearly one in five is already obese, a condition all too likely to continue into adulthood.

This issue guide asks: How should we reduce obesity in America? It presents three different options for deliberation, each rooted in something held widely valuable and representing a different way of looking at the problem. No one option is the “correct” one, and each option includes drawbacks and trade-offs that we will have to face if we are to make progress on this issue. The options are presented as a starting point for deliberation. (more…)

Practicing Civic Courage in Our Time

The article, Practicing Civic Courage in Our Time, was written Martha McCoy and published February 2017 on Everyday Democracy’s site. In the article, McCoy shares different ways in which to have more civic courage by reaching in, reaching out, and creating spaces for democratic participation.  You can find the full article below, as well as, on directly from Everyday Democracy’s site here.

From Everyday Democracy…

The day after the election, we shared a piece by our board member Peter Levine, in which he called for civic courage. As division, uncertainty, and anxiety continue to grow, I find myself coming back to this important idea. When messages of fear become louder and more frequent, what does civic courage look like? How can we practice it?

At difficult times throughout our history, many people have exercised civic courage. What kind of courage do we need to practice today? What will it take to advance a democracy that values the voice and participation of people of all racial and ethnic groups, economic means, creeds, ages, genders, sexual orientations, abilities, and walks of life?

Since Everyday Democracy is a national civic organization that focuses on providing ways to lift every voice, we have opportunities to work with and learn from civic practitioners and visionary leaders across the country. Here are a few lessons about civic courage we have drawn from their experiences:        (more…)

Equity in School Forums: An Interview with John Landesman

The 14-page article, Equity in School Forums: An Interview with John Landesman (2016)was written by Carolyne Abdullah, Christopher Karpowitz, and Chad Raphael, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. In the article, the authors interview Landesman of Everyday Democracy to share his experience working to address the barriers within the Montgomery County Study Circles Program, which he helped to coordinate. Landesman clarifies the importance between equality and equity; and how these play out when designing a process to effective address the power dynamics that arise within school spaces between admin, faculty, parents, and students.

Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

For adults and youth, American public schools are a major entryway to public engagement. Not only are public schools charged with preparing students for civic life, but they are the custodians of parents’ educational and economic aspirations for their children, often the largest recipients of taxpayer funding in a community, neighborhood hubs that host public meetings and events, and institutions that are formally accountable to the community through school boards, parent teacher associations, and other public forums. Schools need active support from their communities to approve school bonds, attract donations, enlist mentors and volunteers, approve (or at least accept) curriculum reforms, engage parents in supporting their children’s learning, and address social problems such as academic achievement gaps among students of different racial and income backgrounds, bullying, and gangs. Yet, like other institutions of democracy, public school governance is often dominated by the voices of politicians and policy makers, professionals (administrators and teachers), and privileged citizens (parents of higher socio-economic status) (Nabatchi & Leighninger, 2015).

In Maryland, the Montgomery County Public School system offers a hopeful example of how public dialogue can improve school governance. John Landesman, a Senior Associate at Everyday Democracy, coordinates the Montgomery County Public Schools Study Circles Program. The program engages parents, students, staff, and administrators in dialogue to address racial and ethnic barriers to parent involvement and student achievement in this multilingual, multi-ethnic school district. These dialogues have helped to build trust and collaboration, and increased involvement by parents of color, as well diminishing differences in achievement among students from more and less advantaged backgrounds (Childress, Doyle, and Thomas, 2009; Orland, 2007; Fagotto & Fung, 2009). (more…)

Red Blue Dictionary

The Red Blue Dictionary, in partnership with Allsides, is a collaborative effort with dozens of dialogue experts from the NCDD network, to create a site that gives definitions for a wide variety of words to help those all across the political spectrum better understand each other.

The idea for the website stemmed from the “Red Blue Dialogue brainstorming session” at the 2012 NCDD conference in Seattle, where Joan Blades, Amanda Roman and Jacob Hess decided to further develop the idea. Living Room Conversations, in early 2016, continued to support the effort by funding Jacob Hess to develop the site. Since then, all contributions to flesh out the Red Blue dictionary have been on a volunteer basis. You can peruse some of the highlight of the Red Blue dictionary below and find the full site here.

From the site…

This guide to America’s contested vocabulary has been written by a politically diverse team of 30 contributors from the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation. Inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s Team of Rivals, our editorial and contributor teams draw together dialogue experts from maximally diverse backgrounds: religious & atheist, liberal & conservative, Marxist & capitalist, anarchist & libertarian, independent & partisan, hippie & traditionalist, Neil Diamond fans & the rest of us.

Are Americans losing the capacity to disagree in healthy ways? If so, how can we restore (and preserve) our civic ecosystem?

What would it mean to get curious about our differences? (and maybe even smile a little..)

Welcome to a Less-Painful, More Enjoyable Conversation (more…)

How are WE Doing? A Public Engagement Evaluation Platform

In June 2016, the Davenport Institute released, How are WE Doing? A Public Engagement Evaluation Platform, which was designed for public leaders to evaluate their public engagement processes and/or apply to be recognized as a “publicly engaged city” on a silver, gold, or platinum level. The Davenport Institute offers support to officials looking to engage their public better; and offer training and resources to help improve this process. Below describes how the platform works, the way it was designed, and the support provided by the Davenport Institute. You can find the link to the eval platform, access resources, and apply to be recognized for your public engagement processes here.

From the Davenport Institute

For almost a decade, the Davenport Institute has been researching, training, and consulting with public officials to improve the ways in which governments involve their residents in making tough policy decisions. This work has taken us throughout California and across the country, learning about and teaching the latest techniques in effective participatory governance.

We continue to hear from public leaders seeking to capture a “30,000-foot view” of their government’s practices in this area. That is why we are launching “How are WE Doing?” to be that lens through which you can evaluate your municipality’s public engagement processes.

There are two ways to use this tool:

  1. Self-Evaluation: These questions are designed to help you think through your own engagement efforts. We hope they will help you identify areas of strength and weakness, and guide you to appropriate resources for making your relationship with residents even stronger.
  2. Recognition: If your municipality is already doing a great job of legitimate public engagement, we want to know! This platform allows you to submit an application to be recognized as a “publicly engaged city” at one of three levels. Answer the questions, and share some of your story to encourage other local governments to keep engaging!

For more information, we’ve answered some frequently asked questions below. You can also email the Davenport Institute or give us a call at 310-506-4494 for more information. (more…)

End of Life: What Should We Do for Those Who Are Dying? (NIFI Issue Guide)

The 23-page issue guide, End of Life: What Should We Do for Those Who Are Dying?, written by National Issues Forums Institute and published on their site on November 2016. This issue guide provides three options for deliberation for participants to explore end-of-life decisions, as people are able to live longer and options for “right to die” become possibilities; what is best for those who are dying? In addition to the issue guide, there is a moderator’s guide and a post-forum questionnaire, all available to download on NIFI’s site here.

From NIFI…

What ought to be done at the end of life is both a personal and public decision. As our population ages, it is becoming a matter of great concern for the entire nation. Diseases that would have been death sentences a few decades ago are now often treatable.

This guide explores end-of-life decisions and examines options and trade-offs inherent in this sensitive and universal issue. Medical advances make it more likely that we will care for relatives in their final days, facing decisions regarding their illnesses or death—as well as our own. Even those who never face such choices will pay for them through tax dollars and the cost of insurance premiums. And as more states consider passing “right-to-die” laws similar to the one that took effect in Oregon in 1997, this debate may become a local one.

Under most circumstances, end-of-life decisions remain difficult and uncomfortable. A Consumer Reports survey found that 86 percent of those polled wanted to die at home. But fewer than half of the respondents over age 65 had living wills detailing their dying wishes, leaving them at the mercy of hospitals and stressed-out families forced to decide on their behalf. In 1990, the US Supreme Court affirmed an individual’s “right to die.” Later, in 1997, the court upheld New York and Washington state laws banning physician-assisted death, leaving it for individual states to decide their legality. These rulings established legal precedence for a national conversation.

This issue guide asks: What should society allow, and support, at the end of life? It presents three different ways of looking at the problem and suggests possible actions appropriate to each. (more…)

Shaping Our Towns and Cities (IF Discussion Guide)

The 40-page discussion guide, Shaping Our Towns and Cities, was published by the Interactivity Foundation in 2014 and edited by Jeff Prudhomme.  The guide offers seven contrasting public policies to consider when shaping our towns and cities. These policies are broad approaches on how to design our communities; and while not exhaustive, these are mean to provide a starting point for creating public policy that supports thriving communities.

You can view the discussion guide in full on IF’s site and it can also be downloaded as a PDF for free here.

From the introduction…

As we look to the future of our towns and cities, what choices might we face about their design and development? From this one core question many more follow.

What basic vision of community design might guide our decisions? What makes good community design? What makes a good place to live? What values might guide our community design decisions? What if our values are in conflict?

The appearance of a community (its aesthetic qualities) is often a key value for many people. What would it take to design beautiful towns or cities? What about designing a community for a thriving economy? Some people value a sense of social connection in a community. Can we design towns and cities for a thriving community life? Can we have communities where young and old live together, where people are urged to stay rather than move to a new community in their later years? Can we design communities in a way that encourages interactions among all kinds of people who live there?

Cities and towns grow beyond their boundary lines as newcomers and immigrants arrive. Populations change with new languages and cultures. Cities also shrink as industries die off or as young people seek opportunity elsewhere. How can community design take account of such changes? What are the environmental considerations regarding community size or community design? How might we harmonize the constructed environment of our communities with the natural environment surrounding them?

Many community design and development decisions depend on transportation policy. Could our transportation decisions be the key to designing our communities? What model of transportation might we embrace as we design our towns and cities? The sprawling design, or lack of apparent design, of many communities depends on widespread car ownership.

What if people need or want other transportation options? What happens if fuel and energy costs spike to the point where car-centered designs are no longer tenable for most people?

Of course many of our community design decisions depend on funding. Our models for funding housing, infrastructure, public spaces, and so on determine much about the design and development of our towns and cities. Finance models determine who gets to live where, in what kind of housing, in what kind of neighborhood, and with what kind of transportation options. They determine the kind of infrastructure we have and the public and private spaces that make up a town or city. What different funding models might there be? (more…)

Ideals of Inclusion in Deliberation

The 23-page article, Ideals of Inclusion in Deliberation, was written by Christopher Karpowitz and Chad Raphael, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. In the article, Karpowitz and Raphael, build off of previous research they performed regarding inclusivity within democratic deliberation.

They propose four ideals of inclusion summarized in the abstract, “These principles of inclusion depend not only on the goals of a deliberation, but also on its level of empowerment in the political system, and its openness to all who want to participate. Holistic and open deliberations can most legitimately incorporate and decide for the people as a whole if they are open to all who want to participate and affirmatively recruit perspectives that would be underrepresented otherwise. Chicago Community Policing beat meetings offer an example. Holistic and restricted forums (such as the latter stages of some participatory budgeting processes) should recruit stratified random samples of the demos, but must also ensure that problems of tokenism are overcome by including a critical mass of the least powerful perspectives, so that their views can be aired and heard more fully and effectively. Forums that aim to improve relations between social sectors and peoples should provide open access for all who are affected by the issues (relational and open), if possible, or recruit a stratified random sample of all affected, when necessary (relational and restricted). In either case, proportional representation of the least advantaged perspectives is necessary. However, when deliberation focuses on relations between a disempowered group and the rest of society, or between unequal peoples, it is often most legitimate to over-sample the least powerful and even to create opportunities for the disempowered to deliberate among themselves so that their perspectives can be adequately represented in small and large group discussions. We illustrate this discussion with examples of atypical Deliberative Polls on Australia’s reconciliation with its indigenous community and the Roma ethnic minority in Europe.”

Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

Tensions between equality and equity occur at every stage of public deliberation in civic forums, but perhaps nowhere more than with respect to the question of inclusion. Given that deliberative theory is premised on the idea of free and equal citizens exchanging reasons and making decisions together, an abiding concern from both critics and champions of deliberative approaches has centered around whether background inequalities harm disadvantaged groups at various points in the deliberative process (Young, 2000). Such harm may occur prior to any reasons being exchanged at all when inequalities shape who is able to show up to deliberate in the first place. As Gutmann and Thompson put it, “When power is distributed unequally and when money substantially affects who has access to the deliberative forum, the results of deliberation in practice are likely to reflect these inequalities, and therefore lead, in many cases, to unjust outcomes” (2004, p. 48). (more…)

Safety and Justice: How Should Communities Reduce Violence? (NIFI Issue Guide)

The 28-page issue guide, Safety and Justice: How Should Communities Reduce Violence?, written by Tony Wharton was published on National Issues Forums Institute site on January 2017. This issue guide provides three options for deliberation around how communities should address the violence within their communities. In addition to the issue guide, there is a moderator’s guide and a post-forum questionnaire, all available to download for free on NIFI’s site here.

From NIFI…

After falling steadily for decades, the rate of violent crime in the United States rose again in 2015 and 2016. Interactions between citizens and police too often end in violence. People are increasingly worried about safety in their communities.

Many Americans are concerned that something is going on with violence in communities, law enforcement, and race that is undermining the national ideals of safety and justice for all.

It is unclear what is driving the recent rise in violence, but bias and distrust on all sides appear to be making the problem worse. Citizens and police need goodwill and cooperation in order to ensure safety and justice. For many people of color, the sense that they are being treated unfairly by law enforcement—and even being targeted by police—is palpable. Others say police departments are being blamed for the actions of a few individuals and that the dangers, stress, and violence law enforcement officers face in their work is underestimated. Still others hold that if we cannot find ways to defuse potentially violent interactions between citizens and police, we will never be able to create safe communities in which all people can thrive and feel welcomed and comfortable. (more…)

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