There is a LOT of new democracy thinking and experimenting going on – way more than I could put into a reasonable blog post on the subject. But I want to give you a taste of some new developments and new (albeit alternative) media coverage about them. Take a look. I think you’ll be intrigued.
Our political system’s failures and creative democracy initiatives are in the news, because our politics and our governance are increasingly and clearly in need of major upgrades. In fact, they need to be profoundly transformed.
One of the more interesting commentaries on our current situation is “Confessions of a Congressman: 9 Secrets From the Inside”. It describes some of the less-known dynamics through which money influences political campaigns and the behavior of politicians and how political campaigns manipulate the democratic process and drive polarization – and how the whole ingenious mess generates seriously dysfunctional government. A primary shortcoming of the article, in my view, is that it STILL thinks inside the box of a system that cannot generate and utilize public wisdom or even seriously engage the mass of citizens. Nevertheless, it does provide an intriguing insider’s view.
An article in Kosmos Journal – a print and online magazine with links to the UN and wide distribution among transformational leaders around the world – starts to address that problem. In a recently published article entitled “We the People Have a Few New Ideas about Governance” Kosmos features
- my work on citizen deliberation and public wisdom;
- the work of Steven Kull and his Voice of the People group promoting randomly selected Citizen Cabinets for every Congressional jurisdiction (his advisory board notably includes both Republican and Democratic former members of Congress);
- James Fishkin’s international work with Deliberative Polling, based in the Department of Communication at Stanford University;
- the award-winning Participatory Budgeting Project through which citizens together allocate significant portions of their city’s budget – an initiative that since its inception in Brazil about 25 years ago has spread to more than 1500 cities globally; and
- the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation, a professional network promoting and improving the power of participatory conversation to make a positive difference throughout society.
The online Kosmos article contains links to all of these initiatives, so definitely read it if any of them strike your fancy.
A comparable and fascinating video exploration is the “Beyond Elections Democracy” documentary presented as a video series. Asking “What is democracy?” across the Americas, it explores Participatory Budgeting, Venezuelan Communal Councils, cooperatives, social movements, constitutional assemblies, and more. It doesn’t really cover the role of random selection in politics – even in its description of ancient Athens where random selection ruled – but it does give a vibrant presentation of democracy as PARTICIPATION!
If you want abundant news and perspectives on random selection in politics, do check out the Equality by Lot blog. If you’d like to explore a treasure trove of approaches to participation on every continent except Antarctica, see Participedia’s hundreds of methods, case studies and organizations.
Another democracy news highlight is Oregon’s Citizen Initiative Review, about which I wrote here and here. The CIR’s main organizer, Tyrone Reitman, recently discussed with me some creative variations that would not only make the CIR model more useful to cities and towns (as well as at the state level where it has mostly been applied so far) but also would increase its capacity to generate public wisdom. I find this very exciting.
A special TV program about the CIR was recently produced by Immense Possibilities Radio, itself a fascinating initiative for transformational democracy. For a super-short preview see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cr5cT1hGZuw. The full program will be streaming online on PR’s homepage on Friday May 15 at 8:30pm Pacific time. For Oregon TV viewers it will be broadcast
* on SOPTV on Friday May 15 at 8:30pm Pacific time and rebroadcast the following Thursday at 10:30pm and Sunday at 4:30pm;
* on Oregon Public Broadcasting at 8:30 am Saturday; and
* on KIXE-TV on Saturday at 4pm.
If you miss these options and want to watch this program (or any other Immense Possibilities programs) later, their past episodes can be found at their archives.
Finally (although this topic could go on for dozens of pages), you might enjoy exploring one of the more advanced experiments in online democracy that’s unfolding in Argentina. Buenos Aires municipal legislation gets discussed by citizens online using special open source debate-and-vote software called DemocracyOS and representatives elected by the Net Party pledge to vote the way their online constituents (including non-party members) tell them to. I met one of the organizers at a conference and we discussed how the online deliberations might be made more representative of the general city population and more capable of generating public wisdom. I think these factors are essential for the needed evolutionary leap, but DemocracyOS and the Net Party are making real progress on a few absolutely vital pieces of the larger new democracy puzzle we’re all working on.
For fascinating references exploring this initiative, check out
Democracy 2.0: The Only Digital-First Political Party (from before it started, filled with great questions)
How to upgrade democracy for the internet era (a TED Talk by one of the founders)
Argentina’s Drag & Drop Democracy (the route through amazing challenges!)
DemocracyOS To Launch Online Platform in March (describing how they’re spreading their technology to users everywhere – includes a demo)
Change is in the air. Mainstream media has a lot of catching up to do! 🙂
Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute, POB 493, Eugene, OR 97440
Calling forth the wisdom of the whole for the wellbeing of the whole