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Doing Democracy: 10 Practical Arts

To be effective in creating societies that reflect our values and work for all of us, it helps to approach democracy-making as a learned art. As in learning any art – from ballet to basketball – it helps to break the process down to its core elements. So we’ve chosen ten arts of democracy, a nice round number – not with any pretense of creating an exhaustive guide. Rather, these practices seem a great place to start. They contribute to enhanced decision-making, mutual regard, and to group learning and staying-power. This 40-page guide is a companion to Frances Moore Lappé’s 2006 book “Democracy’s Edge: Choosing to Save Our Country by Bringing Democracy to Life.” It is designed for educators, group leaders, and any citizen who wants to become more powerful.

We’re convinced that the better we become in practicing such arts, the more satisfying our public lives become. Moreover, our improved public practice can’t help but enhance our private lives as well.

The ten arts of democracy explored in this handbook are…

Art One: Active Listening – encouraging the speaker and searching for meaning

Art Two: Creative Conflict – confronting others in ways that produce growth

Art Three: Mediation – facilitating interaction to help people in conflict hear each other

Art Four: Negotiation – problem solving that meets some key interests of all involved

Art Five: Political Imagination – reimaging our futures according to our values

Art Six: Public Dialogue – public talk on matters that concern us all

Art Seven: Public Judgement – public decision making that allows citizens to make choices they are willing to help implement

Art Eight: Celebration and Appreciation – expressing joy and appreciation for what we learn as well as what we achieve

Art Nine: Evaluation and Reflection – assessing and incorporating the lessons we learn through action

Art Ten: Mentoring – supportively guiding others in learning these arts of public life

Frances Moore Lappé

Originally appeared in Frances Moore Lappe’s book “The Quickening of America.” Jossey-Bass (1994)

Resource Link: www.democracysedge.org/handbook.pdf

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