Early Reflections on Co-Intelligent Activism

The co-intelligence work emerged from my life-long activist concerns for the world.  I’ve written a lot about co-intelligent activism and just recently discovered my original writings on the subject from two decades ago.  These reflections are still very relevant.  They may well change your idea of what social change activism is – or should be – all about.


My earliest activist memory was joining the San Francisco-Moscow Peace Walk for one winter day as it passed through Pittsburgh, PA in 1961 when I was 13. As many of you know, my activism began a sea-change on the cross-country Great Peace March of 1986.

Although I have written about co-intelligent activism in all three of my books (starting in 2002), I’d forgotten that I had written about it in the early 1990s. A friend recently gave me a copy of some early reflections I’d written for the journal THINKPEACE in 1994 and I was surprised at how meaningful I still found them. Below are the three I’d like to share now.

* Guidelines for co-intelligent social change
* Notes on positive, co-intelligent social change actions
* Some possible characteristics of a co-intelligent society (to guide our social change efforts)

For more essays on co-intelligent activism, check out the activism topic page on the co-intelligence website and my blog posts with the “activism” tag.

Blessings on the Journey.


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Guidelines for co-intelligent social change

• We focus on people and groups who are ready for change.
• We try to prepare for a future where the changes we seek will take on a life of their own.
• We create usable models of what we want to see, be and have.
• We use whatever happens, to learn and teach needed lessons for growth and transformation.
• We actively create opportunities in which we can learn together with others.
• We make change both safe and necessary.
• We learn to respect differences among those who share our values, goals or circumstances.
• We recognize allies (or tendencies we can ally with) in the camp of those who resist the changes we seek.
• We try to learn about and connect with diverse stakeholders.
• We create networks and forums which help people make generative* connections.
• We promote real dialogue.
• We promote and honor many forms of diversity.
• We promote engagement in socially-transformative interaction, even by our opponents.
• We create situations where people can process their fear and despair together.
• We use domination and control sparingly and wisely and clean up the resulting messes.
• We try to use “power-with” early and wisely enough to make “power-over” unnecessary.
• We create communities of people who understand and use co-intelligence.
• We try to embrace and integrate multiple viewpoints, multiple intelligences, big-picture perspectives and long-term vision.
• We clarify for people the difference between conscious and unconscious participation.
• We help people tap into their own values and goals.
• We promote and use power equity, power decentralization, answerability to stakeholders, power balance, and/or conversion from power-over to power-with wherever appropriate.
• We advocate restructuring our educational system to develop people’s co-intelligence.
• We ground ourselves and others in the inclusive embrace of Gaia, our humanity, our deepest spiritual natures and in fellowships of universal crisis, hope and transformation.
• We keep ourselves open to appropriate change and evolution.
• We channel our growth towards greater flexibility and openness.
• We try to generate experiences that are readily understood and embraced by others, unless challenge will stimulate conscious growth.

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Notes on positive, co-intelligent social change actions

We are agents of positive social change (and increase the level of societal intelligence) whenever we:

• reduce power imbalances
• promote holistic myths, worldviews, understandings, value systems, standards
• propagate generative* information, images and meanings through the media and education.
• increase the quantity and quality of dialogue exploring significant issues
• facilitate the actualization of human potential
• encourage personal spiritual experience
• help free people from poverty (not having enough to meet their physical needs)
• help free people from addictions (including addiction to material affluence)
• consciously help process the content of group fields and the collective unconscious
• increase understanding and positive relationship to the unknown. Positive relationships with the unknown include curiousity, humility, openness, tolerance for ambiguity and paradox, and respect for the ultimate Mystery.
• facilitate synergistic (complementary or cooperative) relationships among people, among groups and organizations, between humans and nature, between various academic disciplines and methodologies, etc.
• increase people’s (and groups’) awareness of their role in larger contexts, and help them play that role more consciously
• engage all stakeholders in decisions which will affect them
• increase the number of feedback loops in any and all human systems
• make positive use of both unity and diversity, uniqueness and commonality
• establish or change social infrastructure (the physical and institutional arrangements within which people operate) to facilitate self-actualization and positive interactivity
• monitor the amount and kind of openness/closedness, order/disorder, disturbance/comfort and unpredictability/predictability to encourage high levels of personal and collective vitality
• evoke and process latent or emerging tendencies, both “good” and “bad” (rather than suppressing or ignoring them)
• move individuals, groups, organizations and communities away from old, dysfunctional patterns of thought, feeling and behavior toward new, more functional patterns. This begins with awareness of the need for change and culminates in appropriate transformation.
• create opportunities or establish facilities for conscious transformation
• create or propagate technologies (from telecommunications to composting, from healing techniques to group processes) that facilitate any of the above functions
• provide entertainment and fun activities that serve any of the above functions

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Some possible characteristics of a co-intelligent society (to guide our social change efforts)

• Social institutions support people’s commitment to lifelong learning, self-actualization and wholeness.
• People give very high priority to increasing synergy in relationships among themselves, among groups, and between human and natural communities.
• Dialogue and a spirit of co-creative inquiry permeate the culture.
• Most social power is exercised collaboratively to pursue shared goals. Some delegated power is exercised as an intrinsically rewarding form of service by those competent and interested in various areas of responsiblity. Control-oriented “power-over” is rare and fully answerable to the community of stakeholders involved and concentrates on generating peer participation by those stakeholders (which then becomes collaborative power). Special attention is paid to “metabolizing” (processing into useful form) the negative residues left in the wake of domination. [Note: Everything said here about power applies equally to leadership, technology and media, where power resides.]
• The whole population shares a basic understanding of living systems, natural cycles, feedback loops, and the role that individuals play in the well-being and conscious evolution of the communities they occupy.
• Sufficient high quality, generative* information is available to those who need or want it, and that information evolves into ever-increasing usefulness.
• A facilitative, conflict-metabolizing meta-culture embraces a network of multi-cultural societies who nurture, respect and enjoy their diversity and continually harvest its social treasures. Diversity of age, color, sex, belief, style, opinion, behavior, etc., are encouraged.
• In education, politics and everyday life, people honor the many forms of caring, intelligence and creative engagement – from logic to dance, from engineering to dreaming. The unique powers and limits of each form are understood and their complementary contributions are integrated into the life and wisdom of the culture.
• Explicit means exist – such as art, surveys, statistics, stories, electronic media and, above all, public discourse – for the collective self to reflect on its own state and circumstances, to process what it finds, and to adjust what it finds unsatisfactory. Well-thought-out success criteria let people know how the culture is doing in living its values, and guide people in evolving both their culture and their values.

* NOTE: Things are “generative” when they stimulate positive awareness, change or activity.

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