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"Can our field present a united front to the new Administration? Let's start by seeing if we can develop a set of principles for public engagement we can all endorse..."

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    The Co-Intelligence Institute's Principles to Nurture Wise Democratic Process and Collective Intelligence in Public Participation


    Wise democratic processes are those which utilize a community's or society's diversity to deepen shared understanding and produce outcomes of long-term benefit to the whole community or society. Not all public participation serves this purpose. Public participation can either enhance or degrade the collective intelligence and wisdom involved in democratic processes such as making collective decisions, solving social problems, and creating shared visions. The principles below offer some guidance for designing wise democratic processes.

    1. INCLUDE ALL RELEVANT PERSPECTIVES: The diversity of perspectives engaged in a wise democratic process will approximate the diversity of the community of people affected by the outcome. In addition, community wisdom and buy-in come from the fair and creative inclusion of all relevant perspectives -- all related viewpoints, cultures, information, experiences, needs, interests, values, contributions and dreams. Furthermore, those who are centrally involved, peripherally involved or not involved in a situation each have -- by virtue of their unique perspectives -- uniquely valuable contributions to make toward the wise resolution of that situation. Creative inclusion of perspectives generates more wisdom than mechanical inclusion of people.

    2. EMPOWER THE PEOPLE'S ENGAGEMENT. To the extent people feel involved in the creation or ratification of democratic decisions -- either directly or by recognized representatives -- they will support the implementation of those decisions. This is especially true to the extent they feel their agency and power in the process -- i.e., that they clearly see the impact of their diverse contributions in the final outcome. Thus, it serves democracy and collective intelligence when expertise and leadership are on tap to -- and not on top of -- the decision-making processes of "We, the People" and anyone democratically mandated by the people to care for the common welfare.

    3. INVOKE MULTIPLE FORMS OF KNOWING. Community wisdom arises from the interplay of stories (with their full emotional content), facts, principles, reason, intuition, imagination, inspiration, and compassion or empathy. To the extent any one of these dominates or is missing, the outcome will be less wise.

    4. ENSURE HIGH QUALITY DIALOGUE. The supreme test of dialogue is its ability to use commonality and diversity (including conflict) creatively. There are three tests for the quality of dialogue towards desirable outcomes: Is it deepening understanding? Is it building relationships? Is it expanding possibilities? Most public forums need good facilitation to ensure high quality dialogue. For approaches to dialogue see "A toolbox of co-intelligent processes for community work."

    5. ESTABLISH ONGOING PARTICIPATORY PROCESSES. Since intelligence is the capacity to learn, and learning is an ongoing process, collective intelligence can manifest most powerfully in democratic processes that are ongoing, iterative, and officially recognized by the whole community or society. One-time events (such as public hearings and conferences that are not part of a larger ongoing democratic process) are limited in their capacity to generate collective intelligence for a whole community or society. The institutionalization of official periodic citizen deliberations according to these principles maximizes collective intelligence. For examples, see "Citizen Deliberative Councils" and, especially, Wisdom Councils.

    6. USE POSITIONS AND PROPOSALS AS GRIST. Early focus on positions and proposals can prevent the emergence of the best possible outcomes. In general, collective intelligence is supported by beginning with an exploratory approach which notes existing positions, proposals and solutions as grist for exploring the situations they were created to handle. Exploring the assumptions, interests, needs, values, visions, experiences, etc., that gave birth to these particular proposals tends to deepen understanding and relationship so that new and better solutions can emerge. See "Beyond Positions: a Politics of Civic Co-creativity."

    7. HELP PEOPLE FEEL FULLY HEARD. To the extent people feel fully heard, they will be able to hear others and, ultimately, join in collaborative deliberation and co-creative problem-solving. Among the approaches to helping people feel fully heard are Active Listening, Nonviolent Communication, and Dynamic Facilitation.


    Uniquely valuable contributions to make toward the wise resolution of that situation. Creative inclusion of perspectives generates more wisdom than mechanical inclusion of people.

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Welcome to the NCDD website. What you see here, in the way of web design and layout is a work in progress. The forum feature works as you would expect, but we have just begun our web re-design and are testing the "bare bones" with this conversation. Many of the links and buttons outside the forum may not work as expected and we thank you in advance for your patience with us.

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