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Neighborhood Assemblies Network (NAN)

NAN is committed to creating an assembly in every neighborhood, worldwide, so every individual can have a meaningful role in building a community that fulfills everyone's needs and nourishes everyone's highest aspirations. Neighborhood assemblies bring together the full diversity of voices in a community, in large numbers; they use robust, participative processes to give rise to high-quality dialogue, shared community vision, and commitments to collaborative action. Remarkably, such community assemblies can transform government and culture. Based in San Francisco, NAN is co-directed by Marc Tognotti and Kenoli Oleari.

NAN helps communities build skills to…

  • enable people to work together effectively in highly diverse groups of up to 2,000 or more
  • bring together people, business, government and organizations of all kinds
  • include everyone, not just people who share a given ideology, status or world view
  • assure every person is heard
  • collaborate effectively without having to resolve conflicts
  • build shared vision and action plans supported by the whole community
  • build powerful people networks that get things done

NAN Core Beliefs – The Promise of Face-to-Face Democracy

  • Every human being yearns to find a meaningful place in a community they love, and to be admired and respected for who they really are.
  • Real democracy answers this need by creating face-to-face opportunities for every person to participate directly and meaningfully in shaping the visions and decisions that affect them and their community. John Adams, one of our founding fathers, saith that invisibility is worse than poverty.
  • Only by knowing the dreams, views, needs and capacities of the whole community, can individuals and groups know the larger meaning and worth of what they do, or choose to act in support of one another and the whole. A shared community vision is like a public compass pointing to true north: it helps guide youth and adults towards meaningful and rewarding action that supports community and planetary values, answers community needs, and provides a sense of belonging and purpose in life.
  • Participatory democracy teaches the value of inclusiveness and mutual respect, it develops trust, healthy relationships, and collaborative skills — the only basis for creating safe, prosperous and proud communities that are a wonderful place to live.
  • Only grassroots direct democracy in local communities everywhere can provide the sure foundations that representative democracy needs and lacks today to bring diverse peoples and cultures into harmony with one another and the planet.

The NAN Vision

NAN believes we can build collective wisdom and energy at the level of ordinary citizens everywhere to help make the world a more balanced place.

New self-sufficient community power can be created in the vacuum that now exists between people and government, and between local places and multinational corporations, mainstream popular culture and global media.

NAN realizes that direct democracy and representative democracy are not only compatible, they need each other. Direct democracy is needed for two reasons: to make representative democracy strong and to make local communities prosperous, safe and happy. To make our lives more meaningful and satisfying, and to balance the problems that happen when power, political and economic, gets too far removed from ordinary people in communities.

NAN's vision involves restoring to communities around the world the capacity to utilize the wealth and skills they already have. NAN uses methods that give expression to the full diversity of individual voices in the community, in a way that leads to the creation of a world that works for all.

NAN's methods are innovative and yet simple and teachable. They help turn diversity of interests and expertise into a source collective wisdom rather than conflict.

We know what we're talking about is possible.  In our work around the world, we have seen that the most successful community ventures, even in remote villages in Africa and Asia that have little "material' wealth, are those ventures people set out to build through their own, community-based resources.

Co-Directors (pictured)

Marc Tognotti – Prior to founding NAN and joining Horizons of Change in 2002, Marc worked for over ten years as an independent communications consultant to Fortune 500 companies and Internet startups, writing executive speeches and white papers, developing marketing and branding campaigns and advising on conference design. Marc earned his Ph.D. from the Stanford University English Department, where he pursued an interdisciplinary course of studies in Literature and Modern Thought. He wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Emerson and American Revolutionary political philosophy and has taught a variety of courses at Stanford.
Kenoli Oleari – Recognized as one of the country's leading practitioners of large-group dialogue and deliberation techniques, Kenoli has over 30 years experience in community organizing. Kenoli has worked closely with leading innovators in organization development practice and large-group dialogue collaboration methodologies, including Marvin Weisbord, Sandra Janoff and Kathy Dannemiller. His article, "Whole Systems: A powerful Tool for the 21st Century Manager", was featured as the cover story in the December, 2000 issue of Public Management, the journal of the International City Managers Association. He is the author of chapters in sever anthologies on large group methods.

Resource Link: sfnan.org


2903 Mission St. #5

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