Tom Atlee Writes about Mapping, Democracy & Collective Intelligence

My friend Tom Atlee, President of the Co-Intelligence Institute, emailed his list today with descriptions of four maps of transformational realms, plus some questions about this whole approach to mapping. According to Tom, "mapping domains of knowledge, inquiry and activity is an important aspect of our developing collective intelligence." This message expands on an earlier piece about knowledge mapping currently posted here on the NCDD wiki (collaborative workspace). Click below to read his message.

Dear friends,

This morning I was alerted to the existence of The World Future Council Initiative. I was impressed by the many names I recognized as endorsers. The initiative seeks to generate guidance for national and international officials grounded in citizen values, the knowledge of wise expert elders and the just passion of youth. It seems to be making some progress.

While browsing their list of issue areas that need to be addressed, I remembered recently learning how Barbara Marx Hubbard's Conscious Evolution efforts divide up the sectors of society that need to be re-conceptualized and re-constituted. The Conscious Evolution list is similar to the World Future Council, but differs in significant ways. Then I remembered one of my favorite such efforts to map-the-whole-territory -- EcoTrust's "Pattern Language for a Sustainable Economy," which provides logical links between the different parts of its map.

There are dozens, if not hundreds of ways to divide up the transformational task we face. But I wanted to share these three and reflect on what they're up to. All provide ways for people concerned about the world's problems or social transformation to gather together in "communities of shared interest." They also provide structures into which information, innovations and visions can be organized to be more usefully accessible by students, citizens and change agents. (That realization, in turn, made me decide to add The Global Ideas Bank to my little list of transformational mappers...)


Part of me carries an ongoing inquiry about these mapping efforts. Do we need different maps to serve different purposes? If so, are these the best maps for their purposes? Should we (especially all the mappers) try to co-create a more widely-agreed-on map? Are there ways to link diverse maps to give people who come to one map access to the similar aspects of other maps? Do we even need maps, or are searchability and networks of common interest sufficient to give us all access to what we want? What value added, if any, do maps provide?


I see this mapping work as part of creating our society's collective intelligence - especially the informational and networking dimensions of collective intelligence. Ideally, I can imagine citizen councils having access to these maps to inform their reflections about the condition and direction of their community, their society, their world, and their sense of what's possible and desirable. I can also imagine them co-creating new possibilities, policy recommendations and stories which could then be posted online, as part of the mapped information accessible to everyone.

Finally, I found myself reflecting on the ways each of these map-makers framed the field of democracy, politics, and governance. In particular, since The World Future Council asked for feedback on their work, I sent them a reflection on their description of the task of "Revitalizing Democracy," which felt to me unnecessarily constrained to voting and participation.

I wrote:

"I would like to suggest that democracy is about power arrangments and modes of discourse that enable good collective decision-making and the means to create our future together, more than about voting and participation, per se. Voting and participation are only two approaches to that broader collective capability we call democracy. And it is quite possible for voting and participation to result in decisions that are disastrous. We need to revitalize democracy in ways that make that less likely.

"A powerful question for the World Future Council's Revitalizing Democracy Commission could be: 'What approaches and institutions will help us routinely generate intelligent, wise decisions together that guide effective collective action resulting in long-term benefits for the community, society, and world?'

"Mass citizen participation and voting have a role to play in that. Expertise has a role to play in that. Stakeholder involvement has a role to play in that. Information, communication and education systems have roles to play in that. Improved forms of dialogue and deliberation that embrace all of those factors have a role to play in that. (See and for more on this.)

"If our collective decision-making processes are skewed by extreme power imbalances, by an inability to hear each other and learn from one another, by the limits of our individual cognitive capacities, or by any other factors, then the actual outcomes of our decisions will to that extent be unwise or even disastrous -- as they often are now.

"What institutional arrangements and cultural shifts can help us produce wise outcomes? If we can answer that, the work of every other World Future Council [issue-centered] commission will be infinitely easier, since they all seek wise outcomes."

As we make an effort to consciously, collectively evolve, maps like these can provide us with ways to make sense of our world, to manage infinite complexity, and to connect up with each other and share information and possibilities. Each of the maps below empower us in somewhat different ways. Take a look at them and see if you find a place for your own efforts in them somewhere. If so, consider connecting up with those who are working with that map, to help the transformation along.

Or just explore and see what you can learn...



The World Future Council Commissions will address important environment, human development, peace, human rights and governance issues by encouraging the implementation and enforcement of treaties and laws. When needed, the World Future Council will commission research and recommend new policies and laws to protect the welfare of the planet and its citizens. The Council, to be made up of 100 globally recognized wise elders, pioneers, and youth leaders, will work with decision-makers and provide direction for a sustainable future. The EarthAction Network with its 2,200 partner organizations in more than 160 countries will build global support for the Council's recommendations. Civil society organizations, UN agencies, cities and others will be invited to help organize and sponsor individual Commissions, each of which will have its own focus. Every Commission will publish reports for the Council's consideration and action. The Commissions are as follows:

1. Good Work for All
2. Monetary and Tax Reform
3. Responsible Entrepreneurship
4. Opportunities and Limits of Commerce
5. Indigenous People and Community Values
6. Intelligent and Sensitive Building
7. Sustainable and Liveable Cities
8. Safe Energy for People and Planet
9. "Closed Loop" Production
10. Climate and Biodiversity
11. Sustainable Uses of Forests and Oceans
12. Nuclear Disarmament
13. Biological, Chemical and Conventional Disarmament
14. Conflict Healing
15. Healthy Food for All
16. Clean Water for All
17. Health and Medicine
18. Revitalising Democracy
19. International Institutions
20. Bio-Cultural Diversity and the Media
21. Education
22. Science and Spirituality
23. Children's Rights
24. Human Rights and Responsibilities

(to which Tom Atlee has suggested adding the following..)
25. Responsible Technological Development


E V O L V E : The Conscious Evolution Community's Synergy Center and Peace Room use a "12-around-1 Organizing Framework for the Sectors of Human Society". It arrays twelve sectors in a wheel formation which can be replicated physically in a conference to allow diverse conversations, as well as a central location where linkages between the sectors can be explored. It also uses this pattern to organize its online conversations, networking and resource-sharing. Its twelve sectors of society are:

Art and Culture
Environment and Infrastructure
Health and Wellness
Relationship and Empowerment
Energy, Food and Water
Economics and Business
Science and Technology
Communications and Media
Governance and Law
Social Justice and Security
Learning and Education
Spirituality and Religion
A central space in which to integrate and synergize the others


Ecotrust's "Patterns of a Conservation Economy" delineates a "pattern language" for bioregional sustainability -- a coherent collection of design elements ("patterns") needed to make a liveable Place. Each pattern (see below for a taste) can be viewed as a systemic "need" which communities can satisfy in a wide variety of ways, allowing for creativity and diversity. On the website, clicking on one of these patterns reveals a succinct description of the problem/solution dynamics of that pattern and its relationship to other patterns, as well as links to actual case studies, organizations and books related to it. If widely used, this holistic way of organizing transformational factors would help people find others they could creatively work with. Here are the majority of patterns (some lower-level patterns have been edited out to shorten the list).


Fundamental Needs
Subsistence Rights
Shelter For All
Access To Knowledge
Social Equity
Cultural Diversity
Cultural Preservation
Sense Of Place
Beauty And Play
Just Transitions
Civic Society


Ecological Land-Use
Connected Wildlands
Productive Rural Areas
Compact Towns And Cities
Ecosystem Services
Watershed Services
Soil Services
Climate Services


Household Economies
Green Business
Long-Term Profitability
Community Benefit
Green Procurement
Renewable Energy
Sustainable Materials Cycles
Resource Efficiency
Waste As Resource
Product As Service
Local Economies
Value-Added Production
Rural-Urban Linkages
Local Assets
Bioregional Economies
Fair Trade
True Cost Pricing
Product Labeling


The Global Ideas Bank
solicits bright ideas for social innovations (existing and envisioned) and allows visitors to rate them and their feasibility, originality and humor. It then compiles them by rating and category, in a searchable database. It makes for fascinating reading and potential transformational power. Here are their categories.

Communications & Internet
Environment & Ecology
Education & Children
Social invention & creativity
Neighbourhood & Community
International & Developing World
Crime & The Law
War & Peace
Arts, Leisure & Lifestyle
Science & Energy
Work & Unemployment
Business & Economics
New Money Systems & Financial Innovations
Old Age
Health & Therapy
Quality of Life
Death and Dying


Tom Atlee
The Co-Intelligence Institute
PO Box 493, Eugene, OR 97440

Added by Sandy on June 27, 2004