Co-Intelligence Institute Launches Pledge Campaign for Policymakers to "Listen to the People"

I received this announcement today from my visionary colleague Tom Atlee, whose Co-Intelligence Institute is launching The "Listen to the People" Pledge Campaign for Politicians and Public Officials. This new pilot program of the Co-Intelligence Institute is designed to generate conversation with politicians and public officials about the role of citizen panels in government. Tom writes, "With your help, using this Pledge, we will also be able to identify leading edge public officials - 'early adopters' - who we can network into a community of their own. They are out there; we just don't know where they are." Read the full message and the pledge...

Dear friends,

Below is a new pilot program of the Co-Intelligence Institute to help you generate conversation with politicians and public officials about the role of citizen panels in government. We have written a pledge for politicians and public officials to sign, in which they promise to "hear the People's common sense" -- to take the recommendations of citizen panels seriously and act on them or explain why they feel they can't.

When you get right down to it, this isn't asking them to commit to much -- especially since it isn't up to them to convene any citizen panels. But the pledge represents a sea-change in perspective, and if you can get them to even consider it, you will be participating very powerfully in shifting our politics and governance into a new set of assumptions that puts the collective intelligence of citizens front and center.

This campaign is, of course, especially fitting for an election year, especially locally, where politicians may be searching for newsworthy issues to distinguish themselves from their opponents. (How novel, to say that you will actually listen to the people!) However, we plan to continue this program -- reworking it as necessary -- for the foreseeable future, since this shift in perspective will take some time and public officials always listen (at least somewhat) to the public.

With your help, using this Pledge, we will also be able to identify leading edge public officials -- "early adopters" -- who we can network into a community of their own. They are out there; we just don't know where they are.

If you think all this is far-fetched, we have news especially for you. On May 22, 2004, one of the leading State Senators of Hawaii, Les Ihara, signed the Politician's Pledge. For a pdf copy, see . Sen. Ihara has been a major figure in Hawaiian politics for more than two decades. You can read about him at .

So see what you can do with this novel Pledge, and let us know what you find.


_ _ _ ___

The "Listen to the People" Pledge Campaign
for Politicians and Public Officials

It is time to move beyond modes of "public participation" that frustrate citizens and public officials alike. It is time to enable citizens, politicians and officials to tap into the latent wisdom of their communities -- and then have that collective, thoughtful voice be truly heard by all involved.

One approach is to get politicians to pledge that they will take seriously any statement that emerges from a well-designed public forum that include diverse community voices in creative ways to reflect and serve the whole community.

The "Listen to the People Pledge" below is designed to do that. You can use it with incumbent office-holders or aspiring candidates. You can modify it to gather commitments from bureaucrats, technical professionals and agency staff. You can use it at any level of our political system, from ward and town all the way up to the national government. You can bring it to political parties, as well.

Any individual, group or organization can bring this Pledge to any politician or government, seeking their commitment to listen to the people's common sense.

Note that in signing this Pledge, the politician or official is not committing to convene or sponsor any citizens' panels of the sort described in it. The Pledge actually involves very little work on their part -- at least until a panel has been convened and completed its work. Then the politician is expected to tell the public how they will act on its recommendations or explain why they can't.

Furthermore, this Pledge does not limit or take away any decision-making power representatives or officials already have. It simply gives The People a powerful advisory role, and helps them see themselves as a coherent community, rather than as nothing more than isolated individuals and competing interests.

We see no legitimate reason -- so far -- for public officials to not sign this Pledge. If they do resist signing it, we are interested in hearing their objections.

We needn't worry at this stage about whether there are resources to hold the citizens panels the Pledge describes. When hundreds of politicians make this commitment -- or when even a few significant players in any one locale sign it -- the prospect of having real impact will attract the resources needed to start holding these forums. Each forum successfully held will become an inspiring story to others.

This process may well snowball (feed on itself and grow rapidly). Or we will learn valuable lessons for the next iteration of this campaign.

The more citizens who let us know they are working on this, the more obviously substantial this effort will be -- and that will attract funds for organizing staff and materials to make the whole program bigger and better. Again, this could snowball.

This pilot campaign will only go where we all take it together. We invite you to do any of the following, or whatever action feels right to you.

* pick one or more politicians you think might be receptive, and set up an appointment or luncheon to talk over this Pledge with them.

* organize a campaign to get dozens of people to mail the Pledge to them, asking them to sign.

* send the Pledge to everyone you know, urging their involvement

* pass out fliers about it at events.

* hold a discussion about it in your living room or schoo

* engage your local media -- quietly or with a bit of creative noise.

Then tell us what you've done. Just email c[email protected] with "Politicians Pledge Action" in the subject line.

Remember this is a big election year in the U.S. For any candidate -- and especially for challengers seeking to make their mark -- this Pledge will mark them as a candidate for the whole community, one who can ask, "Why won't my opponent sign this Pledge? Are they afraid of the people? This is no rabble we're talking about. This isn't the usual suspects, the vociferous partisans screaming their bias or pressuring us from the sidelines. This is ordinary people, speaking to us with real knowledge of the issues they're addressing. Why won't my opponent agree to listen to them? What is he (or she) afraid of?"

Here is a chance to make a real difference.

Go for it.

Tom Atlee
the "Listen to the People" Pledge Campaign
of The Co-Intelligence Institute

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A Public Pledge to Hear the People's Common Sense

NOTE: This is a model draft written for a local politician. For other public officials, you can change the word "community" to county, district, state, or other jurisdiction, as appropriate. This Pledge can be revised to the satisfaction of the politician and those soliciting his or her commitment. However, it should be noted that most aspects of the Pledge are there for specific reasons, and certain changes could seriously undermine the integrity of the process. When in doubt, advice is available by emailing [email protected] with "Politicians Pledge Query" in the subject line.

My job is to serve all my constituents and the welfare of the community. I believe in listening to the people as a whole, hearing all the voices and views, and trying to find the best solutions and initiatives for our community.

When we face challenging issues, I believe we need to move beyond polarization and seriously consider the concerns and viewpoints of different people in ways that can produce some common sense solutions. To do this we need creative, thoughtful dialogue among diverse, knowledgeable citizens, taking many perspectives into account.

One approach is for temporary "citizens panels" made up of randomly selected ordinary citizens to talk for a few days about the challenges we face and then let the rest of us know what they come up with.*

I like that approach. So if a panel that reflects the diversity of our community comes up with a course of action that they believe serves the whole community, I pledge to take their recommendations seriously and to publicly announce how I will advocate and act on them or why I cannot.

The organizers of the panel need to ensure a fair, transparent and creative process that will serve the common good. So I will honor any panel that meets the following criteria:

It consists of at least a dozen, and preferably more, randomly selected ordinary citizens from this community. The selection is free of partisan bias.

The panel is clear on its purpose, rights and responsibilities, and understands the roles of others who are involved. All panelists are treated with respect and are given the support they need to do their job well.

If the panel is assigned a specific issue to deliberate on, they are provided with accessible, balanced, and practical briefing materials on all "sides" of that issue. This includes at least written material, testimony from experts, and a good opportunity to cross-examine those experts. The panel-briefing process is clearly fair to all major viewpoints.

The panel has adequate time to do its work. Previous experience suggests that four to five days is good for addressing an issue. Two days can suffice for more general "state of the community" reflections that don't involve expert testimony.

The panel gets support from content-neutral facilitation that ensures all perspectives are heard; that helps panelists' questions and concerns get addressed; and that encourages panelists to creatively collaborate towards whatever common sense and common ground they all feel good about.

Panelists' activities are arranged to help them think, talk and learn without any pressure except time and conscience. Panelists are not lobbied or interviewed outside of meetings by people they don't already know, and they report any lobbying that does occur.

As they near the conclusion of their work, I encourage, but do not require, panelists and organizers to consult with me or other public officials to find ways to enhance the political feasibility of their recommendations.

Panelists all sign a final document clearly stating any findings and recommendations upon which they all agree, as well as any remaining concerns or significant minority recommendations. Their recommendations can include the convening of one or more additional citizen panels.

The panel's statement is made available to the public and to the media at a public meeting and press conference. It is very desirable for it to also be publicized in other ways, as well.

For my part, I pledge to post the panel's statement on my website for at least two months after it is released. [NOTE: If a public official does not have or control an official website of his or her own, the phrase "on my website" can be changed to "on a publicly accessible website."]

Anyone can organize such a citizens panel, but it is good to go over the design with me ahead of time. If the organizing process is open to examination to ensure it meets the above criteria and is free of major bias, I will take the findings seriously, as follows:

Within ten days of receiving their findings, I will publicly announce -- through a press conference as well as on the Web -- what steps I will take to advocate and act on their recommendations, or why I, as a public official, cannot accept the recommendations as presented. I will also inform major groups on all sides, as well as the panelists and organizers of the citizens panel, so they can respond.

I believe that, by helping us explore our differences and work together toward a deeper unity, this process can allow the true potential of our democracy to surface. I invite other public leaders to make a similar commitment to honoring the informed, trustworthy, and wise collective voice of the people we were elected to represent.

Signed: ___________________
Date: ___________________

* Different forms of citizen panels like this have been successfully held hundreds of times around the world. To find out more about them, see

For sample citizen panel process designs see
For more general theory regarding citizen panels, see:


ALTERNATIVE CLOSING SENTENCE for more idealistic politicians: "I invite other public officials to make a similar commitment to honoring the informed, trustworthy, and wise voice of We the People."


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

Added by Sandy on July 05, 2004