Sign in or
Wisdom Councils - Merits Explored
Why Wisdom Councils?Comment received: “True Democracy means elector participation and there is a method of doing just that but no one seems interested in making the representative first and foremost accountable to the electorate. It appears not even your group.”
In our view, democracy means much more than electoral accountability - for several reasons.
With near-total media concentration, it is quite not only possible but easy to manipulate both the agenda (what people talk about) and people’s views. Few people have the time or inclination to search behind the news headlines (which concentrate on celebrity, the sensational, and confrontation) to discover what the really important issues are.
The adversarial system conditions all of society, from Parliament to neighbourhood meetings, to reduce the issues to emotional soundbites, discouraging any real deliberation, let alone a respectful exchange of ideas.
Even with the best of intentions (which is not always the case), legislators are very busy and have insufficient time to really explore the issues. Like the public, they tend to be blown around by the media and their handmaiden, the polls.
We believe that there is such a thing as co-intelligence. (There is also co-stupidity, which (sadly) is favoured by our political system.) We believe that it is possible for ordinary people, with good facilitation, to hear each other’s genuine concerns, to understand them, to deliberate together (rather than shouting at each other), and to reach common understandings of contentious issues that are both more perceptive and more practical than the usual clash of adversaries.
In other words, we believe that representative democracy is a starting point, not a finished product, and it is our goal to push the envelope towards better results by whatever means we can find. The Wisdom Council is our first project, but it may not be our last.
(The views expressed are mine, and they may or may not accurately reflect those of the other members of Wise Democracy Victoria)
“Wisdom Councils do what Jim Rough calls “choice-creating” — the dynamic co-creation of choices that may not have existed or been known about before the Wisdom Council was held — a dynamism that often freely redefines problems in radically new ways that generate breakthrough perspectives and possibilities.” — Tom Atlee
Perhaps the most important lesson of human history is that human nature is not fixed. Both as individuals and as societies, we are capable of being greedy or altruistic, brutal or kind, ruggedly individualist or communitarian. During our history, we have lived in an incredible variety of societies – all the way from the egalitarian and consensual tribal societies that we had for the first 95,000 years or so of our history, to regimented nightmares like Hitler’s Germany - which has some spooky echoes in today’s USA. Hitler demonstrated that even the most “civilized” societies are not immune from slipping into nightmares.
Tom Atlee points out that it is systemic factors such as group processes, cultural narratives, and institutions that determine the character of society. Tom applies this insight to explain the transformative power of the Wisdom Council, and explains the different roles of Wisdom Councils and Citizen Deliberative Councils in creating wise democracy: It is systemic factors, for example group processes, cultural narratives, and institutions, that do or can EMBODY, GENERATE, and ENCOURAGE a certain character – positive or negative – broadly in society. That’s what, for example, the Wisdom Council is all about. One of its strengths is that it can take people AS THEY ARE and have them interact in good ways, because of the process and the facilitator. They rise above their everyday limitations and become (temporarily) bigger beings, whose viewpoints can enrich and raise the public dialogue out of which public policy and mass behaviors arise. Wisdom Councils generate a free, creative voice of the people.
That voice is not limited, channeled, nor specifically informed in any way. What it says comes from the consciousness and knowledge that exist among the ordinary people of the community, uplifted by creative open interaction among a microcosm of the kind of diversity that exists in the community. And it is iterative, continually generating an insight-producing feedback loop between the community as individuals and the community as a whole. This is an extremely important, powerful, and almost unprecedented innovation for large-scale democracies.That said, I in no way believe that Wisdom Councils can do the job done by citizen deliberative councils like Citizens Assemblies (CAs) and Citizens Juries (CJs). Deliberation is not as open-ended as dynamic facilitation, and only sometimes does it even come close to Dynamic Facilitation’s level of creativity, but when used in a citizen-council form it is far more informed and focused than a Wisdom Council tends to be. A citizen deliberative council is given an issue to consider, presented with a spectrum of options that are being discussed in public debate on that issue, provided with (ideally) full and balanced information about the issue and its various solution options, and helped to thoughtfully consider the various options and hear each other in search of the best solution for the community or country. Many deliberations restrict deliberators to specific options, but many others allow or encourage them to break out of those options — to mix-or-match option elements or create new options (as was done by the BC CA on electoral reform).
Wisdom Councils do what Jim Rough calls “choice-creating” — the dynamic co-creation of choices that may not have existed or been known about before the Wisdom Council was held — a dynamism that often freely redefines problems in radically new ways that generate breakthrough perspectives and possibilities. In contrast, citizen deliberative councils do what deliberative democracy practitioners call “choice work”, which is the explicit examination of the often complex trade-offs (costs/benefits, values choices, good-in-this-way-but-not-in-that-way, etc.) involved in deciding which solution to a pre-defined problem is “best”, and doing this through the interactive challenge of their diverse values and views.
The creativity of a Wisdom Council is not weighed down by the issue-focus, option-focus, expert-framings, and deliberative “weighing” of options imposed by the organization and deliberative process of a citizen deliberative council. But a CDC, by virtue of those limiting factors, can be much more grounded in what it produces, more congruent with the limited perspectives and resources of those who will have to implement the solutions. A Wisdom Council is freely creative partly because it does not have to consider realities about which it may be totally unaware. And a citizen deliberative council may be limited by not being encouraged to adventure into new perspectives and possibilities where more dramatically productive solutions may lie. Neither has a monopoly on producing the wisdom that we need. But together they just might have a bigger answer…
A Wisdom Council process is the best way (I’ve so far found) to hear an unadulterated collective voice expressing the concerns, dreams, and creative ideas of a community — a voice that stirs (in all definitions of the word) the diverse, ongoing thinking and conversations of the community as a whole in a way that CAN lead to true breakthroughs. A citizen deliberative council is the best way (I’ve so far found) to enable a community to make informed, thoughtful choices about specific issues, proposals, candidates, etc. (see “Using Citizen Deliberative Councils to Make Democracy More Potent and Awake” <http://www.co-intelligence.org/CDCUsesAndPotency.html>, and note footnote 1 to the article.)
I believe there is tremendous potential synergy between these two innovations that has never been tried out — something Victoria could do. If Wisdom Council members knew that citizen deliberative councils were an option, ONE of the things they could do is recommend that citizen deliberative councils (e.g., citizen juries or consensus conferences or citizen assemblies) be convened to deliberate on whatever issue(s) they identified as vital — AND THAT THOSE DELIBERATIONS INCLUDE WHATEVER NOVEL SOLUTIONS THE WISDOM COUNCIL, ITSELF, CAME UP WITH. Furthermore, subsequent Wisdom Councils could comment on the citizen deliberative council(s) handling of the issue(s), assuming that the community as a whole was very aware of both the prior Wisdom Councils and citizen deliberative councils, so that the random Wisdom Council members could spontaneously come up with that as a topic of interest to them (since the facilitator and conveners surely wouldn’t suggest it!). THAT said, I would definitely leave citizen deliberative councils for later and START with numerous iterations of pure Wisdom Councils because:
(a) through their iterations, Wisdom Councils actually CREATE a voice for We the People (although citizen deliberative councils represent the voice of We the People on a particular issue at a particular time, they can’t happen with the frequency and freedom that is required to create an ongoing voice and consciousness of We the People in the community) and
(b) Wisdom Councils are much less expensive than citizen deliberative councils (which can cost US$10-30K for a local one) and
(c) Wisdom Councils are much more able to be organized BY the people at the grassroots, with limited expertise and ever-increasing energy (as Wisdom Council participants and viewers tell their friends in preparation for the next round).
Latest page update: made by GeorgeRS
, Mar 27 2010, 1:29 PM EDT
(about this update
About This Update
Moved from: History & Mission
No content added or deleted.
- complete history)
Keyword tags: None
More Info: links to this page
There are no threads for this page. Be the first to start a new thread.