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Leader: SMantz
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Group Name: Economic society
Description: America is on the verge of some moments of great decision. In addition to record-level budget deficits, national debt, and trade deficits, we also have the upcoming retirement of the Baby Boomers, as well as the decline of the dollar, and outsourcing of industry. There is also the erosion of American economic and political influence, as well as our need to lead in creating a more sustainable society, and to address global warming.

What sort of opportunities does this create for deliberation? Is there room in the deliberative community for processes which address and respond to these pressing issues? Your input is welcomed.

This is also being discussed through a new effort, the Phoenix Conversation. You can learn more about this at another group here at NCDDnet, Phoneix Conversation Group. Thanks.

Category: Issues Addressed Through D&D
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SMantz – 10:56 AM on Dec. 18, 2007 reply | message
Hi all. There is a discussion at the main NCDD list, on some approaches to issue topics like this one. NCDD is currently looking at different ways to make these NCDDnet online groups useful. Until those finish, we will can use the main listserv for discussions on this.

Below is an email which went to the main lisetserv. Hope you find this helpful as an insight into some of these developing issues. thanks.


Hi Diane. I agree completely. I feel perhaps we could begin such a process on a local basis, but we could all gain much by having at least some small degree of connection with folks in other communities to partner with.

Here in NYC, one task might be to join the local perspective and the actual needs of our communities with the slightly excessive tendency here to focus on abstract aspects of the global economy and the new technologies. It’s always tempting to focus on the newest and most exciting aspects of new developments, but it’s time to start reminding people that they have local, regional and national concerns on a more prosaic level which also need tending to.

By partnering with other communities, we can remind people how we are part of a national fabric which brings its own real and specific concerns, and how those are in need of our attention too.

Regarding the format for such discussions, there are a variety of formats which can be can used. I hope to discuss a few of the more minor details off-list, at least until we get a better idea of what issues and topics people actually care about. The key part is getting a core group together, which can give us a clearer idea of some of the existing concerns which people are considering now.

I have asked Tom Atlee to send me some more information on some of the discussions and also on some ways that perhaps a few ideas might be added to any existing thoughts. I agree with you that this discussion in a useful format can be beneficial to a wider group. I feel that as it proceeds, the focus will probably swing periodically from one group to another, possibly depending on who at that moment has some new resources to pursue this within that format. I have no problem with that, even though I find that often there are people here who have more experience and local structure than sometimes occur in my local area. However, I am quite interested to see the discussion here advance via any community region, and hope to support any efforts in this area. I really appreciate your reply. hope to be in touch further. thanks.


Diane Miller <[email protected]> wrote:
Hi All,

I read Tom’s post with interest, as I just returned a few weeks ago from a week-long training with Otto Scharmer and the folks at the Society for Organizational Learning on the Presencing model ( which seeks to foster leadership capacities that help people engage with very complex, systemic challenges and develop generative, adaptive solutions. I find this “Theory U” to be a very rich approach as it attends to a multitude of aspects that are important in change efforts (observing the nature of the problem, moving into deep dialogue, letting go of preconceived certainties so new possibilities can emerge, trying out “prototypes” of solutions on a small scale to foster learning and innovation). One of the case studies we looked at was of the Sustainable Food Laboratory (, which is a network of business and social change agents committed to creating a major transformation in our global food systems so that they will be economically, environmentally and socially sustainable. I think that the learning history that the facilitators provided could be an interesting resource ( for thinking about how an effort like Tom describes in his email could unfold (if not in exact design, but in what is attended to and fostered throughout the process). Another rich resource is a website compiled by Scharmer and others on interviews conducted with leaders in business, science and other fields that were concerned with profound innovation and change in our world (

I am very attracted to the kind of initiative that Tom describes, and am already deeply committed to and embroiled in issues around growing in sustainable ways (as I’m staff at a non-profit that deals with regional planning in Austin, TX). My inclination would be to approach things on a smaller (say regional) where a community could be developed that builds on folks shared commitment to their home, but brings in the larger questions (and knowledge, experience, etc) and connects to other communities around the country working in the same vein. I feel like the U model offers an interesting and helpful method for thinking about how this could be designed (and gets to some of the questions Tom’s asks near the end of his original email). I’d by happy to connect with others interested in brainstorming this further, perhaps through direct email exchanges or a dedicated list serve (did we ever finalize the approach we’d take as NCDD list server users on how to handle topic-specific discussions?).



Diane Miller
(512) 971-3033
[email protected]

On 12/17/07 3:28 PM, "Tom Atlee" <[email protected]> wrote:

It is still in the vision stage, Steven. The four of us who initiated it — Peggy Holman, Susan Cannon, Jennifer Atlee, and myself — have correspondence going with a few possible collaborators and funders, but nothing solid has come up so far. I, for one, do not wish to be the central organizer of it, as I am strongly called to other work (research on evolutionary dynamics that can be used to transform social systems). However, I would love to be a thinking partner for anyone who really gets on fire about an approach such as the one we are suggesting, or any other attempt to create a conversational program that is of remotely comparable magnitude to the crises we face, especially as evolutionary opportunities. Coheartedly, Tom

Hi everyone. hope all is well. Could anyone please tell me, what is the current status of the effort which is referenced below by Tom Atlee? thanks.


A small team of us believe that a "perfect storm" of complementary
>>crises will be emerging in the near future, starting with (but not
>>limited to) peak oil, accelerating climate change, and serious
>>economic disruption. We see tremendous denial surrounding these
>>issues — e.g., mainstream news reports about Atlanta and other
>>areas running out of water in 2-12 months, but no reports about
>>what will happen to its 5 million people, hospitals, restaurants,
>>Coca-Cola bottling plants, etc., if and when they actually do run
>>Furthermore, we believe it is possible to convene strategic
>>conversations that could clarify how the now inevitable tragedies
>>associated with these emerging crises could be addressed so that
>>our social systems and cultures are transformed in ultimately
>>beneficial ways. We might think of this as using conversation to
>>enhance how consciously our societies evolve.
>>However, it is one thing to imagine this, to frame the rationale,
>>possibility and necessity of such strategic conversations. It is
>>quite another to actually pull them off. My daughter, Jennifer
>>Atlee, who is on our team, cogently noted three factors associated
>>with these emerging crises that make such an undertaking very
>> * impacts arise faster than our understanding (e.g. each IPCC
>>climate change report, developed over years, does not include the
>>latest discoveries about the speed-up of climate change, e.g.,
>>about forests destroyed by storms or fires becoming net CO2 sources
>>rather than net carbon sinks)
>> * action lags behind understanding (e.g., Kyoto is totally
>>behind the curve)
>> * time to think about issues — and resources to address them
>>– decline as disasters increase
>>So what conversational designs can help overcome those limitations?
>>In other words,
>>"How do we rapidly evolve models of inquiry to meet demands of the time?"
>> or, from an evolutionary perspective
>>"How can we enhance the potential evolutionary power and wisdom of
>>conversation in times of crisis and catastrophe?"
>>We are currently imagining an action-learning series of multi-day
>>gatherings of experts in these crises issues. We envision using a
>>mix of mostly open space and scenario exercises, linked and spread
>>by ongoing online explorations, making it possible for each
>>gathering to build on previous ones, and for participants to
>>network and collaborate on new intiatives.
>>But is such an approach, as ambitious as it is, of comparable
>>magnitude to the challenges we face? Probably not. Jennifer
>>raised a numer of inquiries that could improve matters:
>>* How can we develop faster, even more concentrated and effective
>>in-person modes of collaborative inquiry — with and without the
>>helpmate of the web? * How do we reduce the per-person resources
>>to attend such gatherings to increase the diversity of participants
>>and reduce the strain on natural resources now, while increasing
>>the likelihood that the model will be useful in more
>>resource-limited times?
>>* How do we enable more rapid cycling of inquiry to action back to
>>inquiry — without diluting the depth of inquiry — to promote more
>>rapid feedback and learning — and make it more likely that those
>>predisposed to action over inquiry engage fully in the dialogue?
>>* What are the approaches and resources already available for this?
>>* What new areas of inquiry should we explore along these lines?
>>Any thoughts and expressions of interest would be welcome.
>>Tom Atlee
SMantz – 11:26 AM on Sep. 24, 2007 reply | message
This group can be our place to exchnge thoughts and ideas on the issues which most affect America’s well-being as a society. Please feel free to join, and to add your comments and thoughts.