Follett Conversation on Creative Democracy Set for October

The Second International Mary Parker Follett Conversation on Creative Democracy is scheduled to be held October 21-24, 2004 at Boise State University in Boise, Idaho. The Follett Foundation ( has issued a call for participants and themes addressing the following question: How can we fulfill the promise of democracy as a creative experience, one that releases both personal and social potential, from the local to the global level?

Named after the Progressive Era visionary in the field of democratic thought and practice, this conference will bring together people from all disciplines whose approach to human relations, community building, public affairs and management are based on integrated diversity and continuous creativity among stakeholders. The team-based conversation format will provide an enriching participatory experience that will produce new knowledge, new goals, initiatives and impetus.

- community development specialists
- social activists with grassroots, integrative philosophies
- conflict management and dispute resolution practitioners
- scholars in political science, sociology, public administration and management
- progressive managers in the public, private, and non-profit sectors
- systems thinkers
- organizational consultants

Unlike workshop-based conferences or those focused on the presentation of papers, the Follett Conversation would use a team-based, disciplined conversation format. The format works as follows:
1. Individuals or groups propose themes to pursue. These are circulated to the body of people who?’ve expressed interest in attending, and teams begin to self-organize.
2. Teams of participants interested in exploring topics together begin their dialogue several months prior to the conference, via e-mail. Papers may be exchanged during this preparatory phase.
3. At the conference event itself, participants engage in dialogue for several days and present their findings, ideas, or initiatives in a plenary session at the close of the conference. Presentations can be formal or technical, but creative and artistic presentations are encouraged as well.
4. Teams may continue through to the next year, with original or new participants, or they conclude their work.
5. Several months after the conference, final team and individual papers will be published online in Follett Conversation Proceedings. Selected papers may also be published in a cooperating journal or journals.
This approach ?– modeled after the experience of the Asilomar and Fuschl Conversations on Social Systems Design ?– is a desirable alternative to the conventional conference format because it supports integrated diversity, produces much more mutual learning and new knowledge, and builds long-lasting networks. It also represents a recognition that the most interesting part of typical conferences has been the conversations that occur in doorways, in hallways, and over coffee and meals between presentations.

THEMES OF INQUIRY- The integrating theme of the Conversation is creative democracy. Conversation teams can self-organize around any concern or issue of common interest, in any context, within this theme. Themes must, however, be non-partisan and non-commercial.
- Teams must design their inquiry around a "triggering question" that is intended to lead them to new knowledge, new understanding, new ideas or initiatives in their chosen area of shared concern.
- In order to build a common ground upon which to work, teams may wish to choose a set of shared readings, and they may exchange "input papers" prior to the conference event.

Inquiry themes might involve, but are not limited to, any of the following:
- Organizational Culture
- Neighborhood Life
- Leadership
- Diversity
- Education
- Social Systems Design
- Technology
- Peace as an Active Principle
- Globalization and Democratization
- Dialogue Practices

Themes for 2002, the year of the first Follett Conversation, included:
- Designing a Community Learning System for Learning Democracy
- Post-Hierarchical Leadership
- Understanding Community Learning

See the 2002 Proceedings for more details on these teams.

To provide you with some sense of earlier themes, the following are the titles of teams that were proposed and/or organized in 2002 and 2003 (note that the 2003 event was canceled):

- Community-Based Non-Profits as the Vehicles for Follettian/Pragmatic Democracy
- Designing a Community Learning System for Creative Democracy
- Visualising Post-Hierarchical Leadership
- The Perpetuation of Creativity for Creative Democracy
- Creative Democracy through Virtual Interaction?
- Fostering Democratic Leadership in Emerging and Challenged Democracies
- Understanding Community Learning
- Addressing Power Dynamics and Inequities in Democratic Dialogue
- Metropolitan Democracy through Neighborhood Organization
- Developing a Community-Wide Curriculum for Civil Awareness and Reciprocity
- Empowering Citizens through the Social Planetarium
- Envisioning an Iraqi Model of Democracy
- No Future Left Behind: Promoting the Participatory Redesign of Public Education
- US National Interests and their Impact on Democracy in Pakistan
- Globalization and its Role in Reshaping Individual?’s Perception of Life


April 15: Theme Proposals deadline. Theme proposals must include a description of the concept, an initial Triggering Question, and an idea of what the originator would like to see regarding preparatory work by participants. Teams can consist of as few as two people, or as many as desired. Those who propose teams do not need to bring their own team. They do need to be willing to help organize those who are attracted to their team idea. The proposer must specify how long the team will remain open to new participants. They also need to be prepared to attend the Follett Conversation itself.

Theme proposals should be sent to Matthew Shapiro, Conversation Coordinator, at or by mail to the Mary Parker Follett Foundation, P.O. Box 573, Boise, ID 83701.

May 1: Conversation Themes Bulletin sent out to all persons interested in attending the Conversation.
June: Teams formed and distance-based inquiry begins.
July 1: Non-refundable Conference Fee deposit due ($50).
August 1: Conference Fee balance due ($175). Checks should be made out to The Mary Parker Follett Foundation - Conversation
September: Final Conversation Bulletin sent out.
October 21-24: Conference event.
December, 2004: Team and individual (optional) output papers due for Proceedings
January, 2005: Individual papers due for journal review (optional).
January, 2005: Proceedings published.

Note: While it is preferred that participants find a team that they are most interested in and join that team well in advance of the conference event, participants are not required to commit to a team. Some teams may also remain open to newcomers up until the start of the Conversation itself.

The Conference Fee is $225. Conference Fee does not include lodging or transportation.

The Mary Parker Follett Foundation was founded in 1995 as the Idaho Systems Institute. Its early focus was participatory, community-based social systems design, with projects directed toward educational change. The Foundation (then Institute) was also instrumental in seeing Follett's seminal work The New State reissued by Penn State Press in 1998. The organization was re-named in 2001 as the Mary Parker Follett Foundation to honor Follett more directly, and has been organized with a global scope and the following mission:

To help foster the development of core competencies for the 21st Century that will engender a democratic and just society, create healthy and authentic communities, and build the capacity for all people to actively participate in the evolution of their selves, their lives and their world.

Four program areas are:
- Learning Democracy
- Participatory Design of Social Systems
- Dialogue as Community Reflection
- Evolutionary Inquiry

For further information about the Follett Conversation, please contact Matthew A. Shapiro, Foundation President and Conversation Coordinator, at or (208) 343-3042.

Written material and conference fees may be sent to the Foundation at the following address:

The Mary Parker Follett Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box 573
Boise, Idaho 83701

Added February 08, 2004