cj#1108,rn> dialog re: Democracy & Consensus Councils


Richard Moore

Date: Mon, 17 Jul 2000
To: Tom Atlee <•••@••.•••>
From: "Richard K. Moore" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: tools for institutionalizing trans-ideological dialogue
Cc: •••@••.•••, •••@••.•••

Dear Tom,

I visited your site.  Very good work!  

The range of situations to which the model has been applied
is intriguing.  I'd like to learn more about the Loka
Institute... any pointers?  Does the Co-Intelligence
Institute sponsor consensus councils or are you only
researching them?
    > I'd be happy to dialogue with you further on this if you

I do wish.  These citizen councils, as you describe them,
have an incredible revolutionary potential.  They can, I
suggest, be used to help build a grass-roots movement which
evolves into an empowered civil society.

Your model is general, and comes with a rich terminology
with which to characterize variations.  The applications I
have in mind, which you may already anticipate, are 
well within the scope of your model.

As you've said, the expectations, the charter, the selection
process, the report-back mechanisms... all of these things
affect the outcome and value of council sessions.  Off the
cuff, I can think of three citizen-council scenarios which
could be practically realized and which could have dramatic
outcomes, provided various conditions are appropriate.  The
success of such councils could be publicized by various
means, and the process might hopefully prove contagious --
and begin spreading non-linearly.  Presumably this kind of
thinking would be familiar to you folks at The
Co-Intelligence Institute, given the effective
propagandistic style of your excellent website.

One of my scenarios is community oriented, another is region
oriented, and the other is faction oriented.  They would be
expected to synergize dynamically in actual practice.

Community Scenario
Pick a community beset by problems:  highway coming through,
plant closing, farms failing, toxic hazard uncovered,
whatever.  Let the community also be divided by factional
strife: ethnic divisions, religious divisions, rich-poor
divide, town-gown divide, whatever.  Recruit / select
council delegates according to the criteria you have
identified -- ie, balanced representation of constituency
groups.  Tell delegates that their job is to speak for their
family, friends, and neighbors -- 'their people'.  Tell them
to pretend they were selected by these people somehow, and
that the community is counting on them to develop, on a
consensus basis, practical agendas for improving the

Questions to be addressed by the council:
    1) How could this place be made into vibrant community where
    we all want to live, we all can make a living, and we all
    get along with one another?
    2) What can we do as a community to achieve such goals?
    3) What could we achieve in exchange / alliance with similar
    communities elsewhere?
    4) What support from our elected representatives might we
    expect / request / demand ?
    5) How can we as a community make our voice heard?

Outcomes to be encouraged:
    1) People start thinking in terms of community identity,
    mutual support, and common interests.
    2) People start perceiving themselves as political beings,
    empowered to think for themselves about societal options.
    3) The community begins to awake as a collective organism,
    able to identify objectives and pursue them coherently.
    4) The suspicion-energy and hate-energy of factionalism
    begins to transform into the excitement of new
    collaborations, broadened perspectives, and new-found
    5) The community feels inspired to reach out to sister
    communities. [which segues into the Regional Scenario...]

Regional Scenario
Assumptions: Several communities have been energized /
empowered by processes along the lines of the Community
Scenario above.  From their sense of empowerment, and their
new-found strenth through collaboration, these communities
naturally begin to think of expanding the collaborative process
outward, toward other communties.

Convene a 'second-tier' citizens council, whose delegates
are trios of delegates selected by communities by means of a
democratic process developed by the community itself, as
part of its growing ability to act-as-community.  I say
'trios' because with three people (a black woman
etrepreneur, a gay business executive, and an
environmentally minded steel worker?  (:>)  ), I surmize it
is possible to ensure that nearly every viewpoint receives a
fair hearing in this second tier.

I'll leave the 'Questions to be addressed' and 'Outcomes to
be encouraged' for future discussion.  Intriguing?

Factional Scenario
The idea here is to recreate in microcosm the society-wide
divisions which plague a given society.  By the consensus
process, the microcosm provides a forum in which societal
healing-by-proxy can be facilitated.

For example, with respect to the women's movement... suppose
we got together everyday folks from the following groups:
fundamentalist Christians (male and female), staunch
advocates of feminism and gay rights, middle-of-the-road
conservatives and liberals, women who have experienced
abortions, Joe six-pack misogynists, working women,
full-time mothers, single parents, teenagers of both sexes, etc.

By setting the Questions and Expectations appropriately,
one might hope to achieve not only useful 'Resolutions &
Conclusions', but more important one might hope to shatter
the 'us-them' mentality, and begin to spread the seeds of a
'We're all in this together' mentality.  Or, as the
enlightened motorist Pogo put it: "We have met the traffic
and it is us."


Date: Mon, 17 Jul 2000 15:28:08 -0700
To: "Richard K. Moore" <•••@••.•••>
From: Tom Atlee <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: tools for institutionalizing trans-ideological dialogue
Cc: •••@••.•••, •••@••.•••

Dear Richard,

For several years people have been sending me articles of
yours.  I've been impressed but set them aside as indicating
a major doorway I should use when I finally have things
together enough to move co-intelligence ideas into the
progressive activist community out of which I've come.  This
year, when I was finally ready, I was given other avenues to
work with, such as organizers of the Seattle WTO protests. 
So I hadn't gotten around to contacting you yet.  But it is
with immense pleasure that I suddenly find myself in
dialogue with you!  Heaven knows, this collaboration could
bear much fruit.

I am delighted that you so quickly "got it" re citizen
consensus councils. (Many people just don't see the
possibilities).   As for myself, I find it hard to work on
other issues, since this sort of democratic innovation would
make work on every other issue so much more fruitful!

I'm particularly interested in Jim Rough's Wisdom Council
idea (he's working towards a Constitutional amendment to
institute it) because it not only offers real possibility of
doing an end run around corporate control of our political
system, it also creates a turbo-charged level of
creativity-on-behalf-of-the-whole.  I've taken Jim's
"dynamic facilitation" class four times now and watched that
creativity at work.  In our first class (last year while the
Seattle demonstrations were happening across Puget Sound
from us), we redesigned the US health care system in ways
that none of us had ever heard proposed before -- structures
and principles which made incredible sense to us and blew
our minds.

I had been promoting Wisdom Councils for 4 or 5 years before
then, simply on the basis of what I thought I knew about
consensus.  But I was leaning so heavily on the Councils in
my theoretical work that I felt I should get more direct
experience of the process associated with them.  So I took
Jim's seminar.  In doing so, I learned that Jim's process
goes far beyond consensus; just how far is hard for people
to understand until they experience it.  I have a paper that
compares dynamic facilitation with consensus process [as
practiced by Quakers and direct action groups in the US] and
Roberts Rules of Order [the dominant vote-based procedure in
the US]; I'll send it to you if you want; it's long.

(NOTE:  What you sent out was the Citizen Consensus Council
[CCC] page, not my site's home page.  The home page is
http://www.co-intelligence.org . CCCs are only one part of
the political vision, which is only one part of a very much
larger vision and philosophy...)

    rkm> The range of situations to which the model has been
    applied is intriguing.  I'd like to learn more about the
    Loka Institute... any pointers?  Does the Co-Intelligence
    Institute sponsor consensus councils or are you only
    researching them?

The link to the Loka Institute -- http://www.loka.org -- is
on the page you downloaded and sent to your list.  Dick
Sclove, the head of Loka, has really interesting things to
say about the intersection of technology and democracy (as
well as the internet and democracy... science for the
people... and a lot more); he has ideas you don't hear
elsewhere.  He is brilliant.  He's also a very good human

The Co-Intelligence Institute doesn't sponsor CCCs; it
doesn't have the resources.  ("It" is actually me + a
board.)  I research CCCs (and other collaborative processes
and innovations for "holistic politics").  The "Pat and Pat"
story referred to at the end of the page you quoted in full,
gives a sense of the sort of politics and governance I'm
working towards.

Another focus of mine for the last six months has been
trying to create the seed of a movement around Jim Rough's
dynamic facilitation.  Jim, who is a corporate consultant,
has been teaching the process for over a decade to major
corporations.  Last November (in my first workshop with him)
I immediately saw its value for activists:  It could produce
breakthroughs within activist organizations; in coalition
work; in public conversations; and in democracy-building
work (e.g., the Wisdom Council).   With Jim's full
cooperation, in the last eight months I have gotten three
dozen activists, transformational agents and community
builders trained in dynamic facilitation.  In Eugene Oregon
we now have a little community of practitioners strategizing
on how to get the word out and how to best use this powerful
process on behalf of our community and social change
movements.  Smaller groups of practitioners are forming in
the San Francisco and Seattle areas.  An activist friend Jim
trained in March has now made this her life's work and is
working with Jim to design advanced trainings, more
accessible trainings for activists, and trainings of
trainers (that's Rosa Zubizarreta, who sent me your essay
that prompted this interchange with you; she's also
bilingual, which offers intriguing possibilities).  I am
hoping that, out of this buzz of activity, some local wisdom
councils will form, which can then be video'd and written
about to provide the catalyst needed to sprout the idea
elsewhere.  Currently we are limited by (a) the inability of
most folks to "get it" without actually going through the
process (so even activists "have to be dragged kicking and
screaming" into the training, only to emerge as converts),
(b) the lack of compelling video material to show to the
folks in (a), the lack of real life wisdom councils in
communities, and (d) the lack of trained facilitators to
handle the demand for facilitation were people to start
"getting it" in any significant numbers.  The process is
very facilitator dependent, because it is designed to work
well with conflict, confusion, difficult people and
impossible problems, and is extremely evocative of latent
group energies which, if not adequately channelled, could
blow a group apart.

Your instant insight into the potential of CCCs is a very
encouraging development.  Your publicizing it and engaging
activists in dialogue about it could help clear the way for
social change agents to benefit from these innovations at
last.  ...

    rkm> One of my scenarios is community oriented, another is
    region oriented, and the other is faction oriented.  They
    would be expected to synergize dynamically in actual

Yes.  This synergy factor is extremely important -- a source
of free power, if done well.  While a certain amount of
synergy is natural, a lot can be designed into the overall

In the intro to "A toolbox of processes for community work"
, I call that synergy "complementarity" and write:

"If anyone should combine servant leadership [collaboration
between the top and bottom of a community], regularity
[doing processes regularly instead of one-time-only] and
complementarity [using multiple processes synergistically]
into a community involvement program using a number of these
tools, they will have transformed the system in which they
operate -- moving into a form of democracy never seen
before."  [There's more on these three factors in the
"toolbox" article from which this quote is taken, whose link
is given above.]

    rkm> 'Community Scenario'... Pick a community beset by
    problems... Tell delegates that their job is to speak for
    their family, friends, and neighbors -- 'their people'.

There's an important point to consider here -- a revolution
in perspective about democracy.

Counter-intuitively, the sort of "representation" you
propose would undermine the effectiveness of the process. 
What we need are "individuals of a type" not "agents of a
constitutency."  Here's why:

To the extent that council participants are "delegates" or
"representatives" ("agents of a constituency") they will
defend POSITIONS asserted by that constituency to protect
their interests in the adversarial system they're used to. 
Those positions are the primary barrier to collective
creativity, closing down people's imaginations and ability
to hear, relate to and work with those who differ from them.


Dear Tom,

I cut off our dialog, above, because we'll need another
posting to really get into the issues.  I'll say a few words
to set the stage...

I haven't yet seen your home page, nor your wider
philosohical thinking.  So far I'm just looking at the
consensus council concept on its own.  As I see it, the
primary outcomes from such a council are (1) "an agreed
creative solution" to the problem in question, and (2) the
development of a "collaborative mentality" among the
participants, a mentality which we hope proves contagious.

The questions I raise are "How can the council process be
harnessed to facilitate the democratic governance of
society?"... and  "How does a democratic society operate,
and what role might consensus councils play in such a

Consensus aside, I consider it a fundamental principle of
democracy that it be decentralized, that local decisions be
made locally, and that power hierarchies be avoided.  What
democracy is, I suggest, is a bottom-up power structure,
where the citizen has voice in the community and the
community has voice in the society, achieved through
appropriate representational mechanisms at various levels.
At each level there is a spirit of collaboration for mutual
benefit, and a desire to take into account all concerns and

From everything I've looked at, from various perspectives,
my conclusion-so-far is that this is what democracy looks
like.  There are numerous real examples of societies which
have operated successfully according to such a pattern, and
I've seen nothing I would call democracy that followed a
substantially different pattern.  Furthermore, from a sytems
point of view, this is the kind of structure you need if you
want society to be stable and capable of resisting attempts
at centralized power-grabbing.

Within this model, consensus councils seem ideal as a way to
achieve community consensus, and equally ideal as a way to
enable community delegates to collaborate with their
counterparts in achieving solutions to wider-scale problems.
 If the representation issue creates challenges for the
council model, then we need to find a way to successfully
address those challenges.  

Hope to hear from you when you get back,

Richard K Moore
Wexford, Ireland
Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance 
email: •••@••.••• 
CDR website: http://cyberjournal.org
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                A community will evolve only when
                the people control their means of communication.
                        -- Frantz Fanon

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