Occupy Wall Street: What is involved in making a new world?

My sleep was cut short last night by waking up worried at 3:30 a.m. PST about NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s ultimatum that the Occupy Wall Street protesters leave Zuccotti Park – aka Liberty Square – at 7 a.m. EST so the park could be cleaned. I won’t share the nightmare scenarios my mind concocted, but I finally got up and was profoundly relieved to find that the intervention had been “postponed”. The Mayor’s office said that park owner Brookfield Properties “believes they can work out an arrangement with the protesters that will ensure the park remains clean, safe, available for public use and that the situation is respectful of residents and businesses downtown, and we will continue to monitor the situation.” When it was announced, the massive crowd of protesters went joyfully wild.

Apparently a number of factors made a difference: massive protest from many quarters (including Canadians protesting to Brookfield, which is a Canadian company); the occupiers thoroughly and very visibly scrubbing down their already quite clean site during the night; a LOT of supporters showed up overnight; and they were visibly preparing for a lockdown resistance – explaining on their site how to lock arms, bike lock themselves to things, etc. Many observers (including me) suspect Bloomberg’s “clean the park” project was a thinly disguised attempt to end or cripple the occupation, but at least he recognized what a mess it would make – in SO many ways – to proceed. So these determined interesting folks have made it over one more dramatic hurdle in their quest for a better world.

Several days ago I sent free copies of my two books (Priority Mail) to the Occupy Wall Street library. I’m happy they escaped the “cleaning” intervention. I encourage any other authors on this list to consider donating copies of their works. The ideas of people interested in co-intelligence should be made available to the protestors. The address is

The UPS Store
Re: Occupy Wall Street
118A Fulton St. #205
New York, NY 10038

While proceeding with work on my new book on empowered public wisdom, I continue to be fascinated by the ever-expanding Occupy movement. I find myself spending about half my time tracking it and its impact. It is quite a remarkable phenomenon. In this posting, I’m especially interested in their process.

Here’s what’s in this message:

First, I offer some fascinating charts about the inequities that inspired the protests in the first place and Senator Bernie Sanders recommendations of demands that would start ameliorating them – as well as news of some 1%ers supporting the 99%ers. Then I share a few key Occupy resource sites, including ones that will be linking up Occupy activities around the world this Saturday, Oct 15 into a “global agora” and “global general assembly”.

Following that is an article describing what’s happening at Occupation Wall Street site, with unusual insight into their “working groups”. I find it intriguing to contemplate the similarities between OWS’s use of working groups and the self-organized sessions in an Open Space conference. I wonder what other processes could be adopted for special use in this movement…

Then I share three interesting ways professional facilitators and coaches are engaging with the Occupy movement: Tree Bressen offers hot points on consensus process. Coaching Visionaries helps people decide on their best role in the movement. And Tim Bonnemann has initiated research into the Occupy movement’s group processes.

After those items, I share a video taken of a General Assembly in Occupy Atlanta where the group discusses whether to hear from civil rights legend Congressman John Lewis who has come to address them – and he ends up leaving. I share the commentary by the conservative group that filmed it, and then offer my own commentary.

Finally, I offer reflections on the shadow side of such ambitious transformational work, and its evolutionary role in learning what we need to learn to actually succeed at creating the world we want.

It is all incredibly rich, filled with problems and promise. If you are (or are thinking of getting) involved in the Occupy movement, consider using the Coaching Visionaries questionnaire to explore your thoughts and feelings. It just might shed light on other areas of your life, as well – and with a bit of adaptation, it could be reconfigured to help you do just that.

Blessings on this and all the other Journeys.



Occupy Wall Street: More popular than you think
Truly remarkable bar graphs showing what the actual distribution of wealth is in the United States, what Americans think it is, and what they think it should be. A mind-boggle… bursting with potential…

To get down into the nitty gritty detail of the economic inequity over the last half century, see this fascinating slide show of 41 charts collected by Business Insider

Six Demands to Make of Wall Street
By Sen. Bernie Sanders

And for news of the 1% supporting the 99% see


Global Virtual Assembly for sharing and networking results of local General Assemblies
800 events in 70 countries scheduled for Saturday, October 15

Global Agora up and running for sending each other videos and messages

The central site for catalyzing and networking all Occupy actions
Especially this great story about the evolution of their site
and access to a growing list of co-created resources about how to create an Occupy action, including descriptions of their group processes


Working Groups as Open Space

Inside Occupy Wall Street: A Journalist-Participant Describes What Life Is Really Like (Complicated and Inspiring) at Zuccotti Park


From Tree Bressen, consensus process trainer:

I am pleased to offer a new handout called “The Top 10 Most Common Mistakes in Consensus Process and How to Avoid Them” http://treegroup.info/topics/Top-10-Consensus-Mistakes.pdf.

I was inspired to write this especially in support of the current Occupy movement, which has bunches of people participating in consensus decision-making who may not be experienced. A two-page quick handout can’t replace a training, but it can help in the meantime. Please forward it to anyone you think would find it useful. Feedback welcome.


From Coaching Visionaries, a group of professional coaches:


We are currently creating this website to support the growth
the vision of the Occupy Wall Street movement. If you’d like to be informed once it is ready, please join the Facebook group or send an email to CoachingVisionaries@gmail.com

Coaching Visionaries is a coalition of Certified Professional Coaches that has come together to join forces with Occupy Wall Street to support the community in envisioning a better future for us all, and calling that vision forth into the world. We are here to assist you in strengthening your already-powerful voice, maintaining a peaceful community, and growing a global movement built on a foundation of solidarity and hope.

We are working one-on-one with individuals, and we are also available to join specific working groups to help you dream a bigger vision and find concrete ways to achieve the vision that is being born from this community. We can also help you connect to your own deeper self to find the strength and courage necessary to discover your own unique role within this process.

What is Coaching and How Does it Work?

Coaching is a partnership that maximizes human potential. When you work with a coach, you will not be advised as to what to do or how to do it. Your coach helps you look deeper within yourself to find your own solutions to the issues that are important to you. You start by presenting what you’d like the coach to help you with, and then the coach will ask you questions that allow you to navigate your own way to the answers that are true for you. We commit to holding a space of non-judgment and unlimited possibility in which you can feel safe to explore the outer limits of what is possible.

The coaches with Coaching Visionaries come from a perspective of aligning with your whole self. We adhere to the importance of the Mind-Body-Spirit connection. Another way of looking at this is that we work with you to engage both sides of your brain – the rational and logical left brain as well as the creative and visionary right brain.

Who is this for?

We are here for Occupy Wall Street. Any issue that is connected to the vision or challenges of this movement are welcome to be brought to us for coaching:  

  • Are you interested in participating but not sure what your role should be? 
  • Are you on a working group that is facing difficulties of any kind? 
  • Were you arrested or witnessed violence and need support?
  • Are you a facilitator and need a fresh perspective on how to organize?
  • What is YOUR role in Occupy Wall Street? Why are you here?

This is an excellent question for you to address with a coach. We’d like to empower you to step fully into an active role in this process that excites you and draws on your unique talents. Occupy Wall Street needs your gifts and strengths!

If you’d like to explore your purpose in connection with the movement, please answer the questions below and then bring your answers to a coach.

Q U E S T I O N N A I R E — Finding Your Purpose in Occupy Wall Street

If you’d like to talk to a coach about how you can become involved in the movement in the most powerful way possible for you, please take a few minutes to answer the following questions and then bring them to a coach.

What really excites you and gets you fired up about Occupy Wall Street? What is most important about what is going on here? Is there anything that you dislike about it that you would like to see change in some way?

What matters most to you in life? Include what makes you laugh, feel alive, motivates you to move and change, gives meaning to your life.

What are your core strengths and qualities? What strengths and qualities do you want to call out in yourself by being involved in Occupy Wall Street? How can your involvement in Occupy Wall Street help you grow as an individual?

How do you envision a role or possibility for yourself within the movement? Think outside the box with this one. Get creative!!!

What is a time from your life where you did something you were very proud of, or where you felt very connected to your core self?


from Tim Bonnemann, Founder and CEO, Intellitics, Inc.

As an exercise in Dialogue and Deliberation research, I’d like to collect first-hand reports from local Occupy sites on any of the following topics:

  • Group methods, meeting formats (what types are being used, how well do they fit) 
  • Facilitation/moderation (how good is the quality, what are the challenges) 
  • Group decision making, incl. consensus (how robust and efficient is the process, what works or not, what are the challenges) 
  • “Dialogic atmosphere” (for context, please see my blog post here: http://www.intellitics.com/blog/2011/10/13/tree-bressen-the-top-10-most-commo… 
  • Briefing materials (what quick guides, handbooks or other training materials for process/facilitation etc. are being used) 

If you’ve been to any of the protest sites and noticed anything interesting in this area, please share your notes! tim [at] intellitics [dot] com


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QZlp3eGMNI?wmode=transparent]

Occupy Atlanta Silences Civil Rights Hero John Lewis!

COMMENT BY THE VIDEOGRAPHERS: Many curious citizens and media outlets came to the first Occupy Atlanta event, and were visible shocked and confused by the consistent Marxism employed by the group. People abandoned their individuality and liberty to be absorbed into a hypnotizing collective. The facilitator made it clear that he was not a “leader” and that everyone was completely equal; words often spoken by leftists, but in this case they actually applied their philosophy. Into this surreal and oppressive environment, Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights hero and icon of American leftism, came to speak as has so often done at left-wing rallies and events in Atlanta. He is practically worshiped in Democrat circles, and was visibly stunned to see these Marxists turn him away. It was reminiscent of previous Marxist revolutions in history when those who ignorantly supported the revolutionaries are, over time, purged and rejected for the “good of the collective”, when their usefulness has expired.

COMMENT BY TOM ATLEE: It is fascinating to view this event through the videographers’ eyes. Their perspective is so different from mine that it offers a great opportunity to reflect on how powerfully our filters shape our perceptions. So here’s my response to them: I find the filmmakers’ idea that the collective overwhelmed the individual to be absurd. In consensus an individual can block the process – and did – forcing a reconsideration. The reference to “hypnotism” seems to be a misunderstanding of the repetitions required to help the whole crowd hear what’s going on when there is inadequate amplification equipment. But if they are used to (and like) a leader making decisions or to hot debates filled with mutual interruptions, I can see how they would go crazy watching this laborious consensus process.

And now here’s what I saw and how I interpret it: Congressman John Lewis walked into an unfamiliar culture. Not only is that culture different from what he is used to, it is still figuring out what it is and how it works. One thing it knows is that it believes in equity. What it doesn’t know yet is how to apply that value most usefully. After all, John Lewis fought all his life for equity, and probably has tremendous gifts of insight and experience to share with the occupiers. But he showed up apparently unscheduled, expecting to be given the priority consideration that he, as a political celebrity, is used to. The occupiers were divided about whether he – or anyone – should be given the special privilege of stepping into the middle of the group’s agenda to be heard. Since they
were using consensus process, everyone needed to agree to turn away from their agenda and listen to John Lewis, or else the group would have to continue on with the agenda. From hand signals during the meeting it seemed that most people in the crowd wanted to both hear John Lewis and continue with their agenda. They finally decided to hear him at the end of the agenda. At which point he left. I’m not sure whether he left because he felt disrespected or dismayed or because he is, after all, a Congressman and has a busy schedule, and can’t wait for the crowd to finish everything else they’re considering before they listen to him. It is clear he never signed up for consensus process, probably has little experience with it, and doesn’t really understand what’s involved.
So did consensus work? Did it come up with a wise solution? In this case, not necessarily. One the one hand, it displayed the group’s determination to live in an environment where everyone is treated equally – and to decide as a group what they are going to do without being unduly influenced by the larger culture’s dynamics of privilege. On the other hand, it clearly left a significant minority (which in this case happened to include many African Americans) unsatisfied with what was happening – which is exactly what the process is designed to avoid. However, consensus is not designed for making extremely urgent decisions; it just takes too long. So what to do? My own long-term suggestion would be for the process working group to come to terms with this limitation of consensus and begin consciously observing when it becomes a problem and developing ways to address each type of urgent situation they observe. In this case, what was lost was an opportunity to learn from and be inspired by John Lewis. One approach would be to have those in the group that wanted to engage with John Lewis, quickly form a John Lewis working group and go to a different part of the occupation site to talk with him – and then bring their learnings back to the larger group when he leaves. However, then they would not have been able to participate in the General Assembly decisions. They would have to trust the group. There may be better solutions, but you get the idea. Choices often involve trade-offs and if we want to use consensus we have to acknowledge its limits, face the trade-offs involved, and create options to deal with them.

My biggest overall response to this video is poignant compassion for these people wrestling with the challenges of creating a new culture AND a fervent hope that they constantly reflect on their experience and refuse to stagnate in any particular box, even the radical box of consensus process. Co-creation – and the need to do it consciously – never stops…


From Riyana-Rebecca Sang

…the Occupy Together groups are starting to have to face the
reality that it is downright difficult to reach our ideal of bringing
together people from all walks of life, with disparate belief systems,
communication styles, education and cultural backgrounds, etc. into one
force that can challenge those in power and lead to laws and policies that
serve a united majority and our sweet garden planet home rather than the
rich minority….

In conversations on the margins of the crowds, people
admit sheepishly about feeling left out for being the vegan, the queer, the
heterosexual, the anarchist punk, the suburban mom, the elder with decades
of experience, the young kid stepping out into the world of activism for the
first time. These moments are the shadows of unity – moments that show us
the growing edges of where we need to go and teach us the tools that we need
to develop in order to get there….

We all want the deep work of great change but we are never actually
prepared for how hard its going to be, or how our personal shadows can snake
through even the most conscious intentions to ambush us from behind. And
that’s how its supposed to be. We can imagine what it would feel like to be
our biggest, brightest selves, and we can envision what this world would be
like if we could truly come together to heal, protect, and nourish our
communities and ecosystems, but it’s the dirty, difficult work of wading
through the shadows that gives us the skills, capacities, and tools to
manifest them and get to the next level. We may have a sense of the what,
but the how comes with the journey, developed through the growing pains of
evolution. Part of that growth process is shining a bright light into the
shadows, not to dis-spell their darkness, but to see what is there and what
we can learn from diving deep into them.

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