Social Application
"What impact can collective wisdom have on existing social environments and institutions? What new configurations are possible?"


SEED PAPER: Power, Responsibility & Wisdom: Exploring the Issues at the Core of Ethical Decision-Making and Leadership by Bruce Lloyd

The objective is simple: ‘Better decision-making’. The only issue is that there are so many different views over what we mean by ‘better’. At the core of all decision-making is the need to balance Power with Responsibility, as the vehicle for resolving the ‘better’ question. This article explores why that is so difficult? It also argues that exploring the concept of Wisdom can provide invaluable insights into how to achieve the most effective balance between Power and Responsibility, which is central to what our values mean in practice, as well as how we incorporate ethics into our decision-making.

EXCERPT: Democratic Dialogue -A Handbook for Practitioners by Bettye Pruitt and Philip Thomas
[drawn from the collective experience of four international aid organizations: CIDA, IDEA, OAS and UNDP]

In 2003, four international aide organizations came together to pool the numerous lessons learned in their collective experience using dialogue processes in their pursuits of peacemaking, development and democratic governance worldwide. These participating organizations were the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Their intention in this collaboration was to distill best practices from their very wide variety of experiences and, as a result, to provide a user-friendly methodological tool for dialogue practitioners -- that is, for people actively or potentially engaged in organizing, facilitating or promoting dialogue within their own institutions and societies.

The resulting Handbook from this endeavor addresses basic questions about democratic dialogue: Why is it needed? What is it, exactly? and How does it contribute to positive change? In addition, it offers different ways of doing things and guidance around a wider range of approaches and tools. We include here both the full text of the Handbook and an excerpt of three chapters describing dialogue-in-use. The excerpt includes three vividly illustrated examples of applications of dialogue processes: A regional dialogue organized by the OAS in San Mateo Ixtatan, Guatemala; a country dialogue sponsored by UNDP in Mauritania; and an International IDEA democracy-building project in Nepal.

APPLICATION: Festival in the Workplace

Roosevelt Finlayson's life's calling has been about personal and organizational transformation, the creative process, and how groups in the workplace might find together their greater potential.  His inquiry led him to adapt the Junkanoo festival, central to life in the Bahamas, to the life of organizations.  Read about the fruits of his efforts in Festival in the Workplace.

EXCERPT: Addressing the Blind Spot of Our Time by Otto Scharmer
               an executive summary of the new book, Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges

Otto Scharmer introduces readers to the theory and practice of the U process, based on a concept he calls “presencing.” A blend of the words “presence” and “sensing,” presencing signifies a heightened state of attention that allows individuals and groups to shift the inner place from which they function. When that shift happens, people begin to operate from a future space of possibility that they feel wants to emerge. Being able to facilitate that shift is, according to Scharmer, the essence of leadership today.

EXCERPT: "Cracking Through the Eggshell" (Argentina Dialogue)
               a multistakeholder conversation excerpted from
               Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening and Creating New Realities

In 2002, at the height of political, economic and social crisis in Argentina and in an atmosphere of national fatalism, a group of Argentines decided to try a new, more open approach for moving forward. A small group of citizens, with the support of the government, the Catholic Church, and the United Nations Development Programme, launched a process they called “Argentine Dialogue,” a series of multi-stakeholder conversations. They brought together hundreds of leaders from all parts of society in a series of roundtables, to talk about the crisis, to make proposals, and to act. Adam Kahane, invited to join a team of facilitators, describes his own and the group’s experience with these dialogues. From his later return to Argentina, Adam offers insightful observations of the qualitative shift in outlook, consciousness and actions that resulted. Included here is an excerpt from Adam Kahane’s book.

SPEECH: Family Constellations - Failure, Evil, and Guilt as Sources...

In this speech to the International Transpersonal Association, (ITA) Dr. Albrecht Mahr points to the importance of including evil in our discussions of collective wisdom. (How do we move beyond an ethic of perfection without scaling down into moral relativism? How can we pay attention to and navigate within varied field influences?) From his systemic constellations perspective, Dr. Mahr coined a phrase for the experience of shared fields as “knowing fields”. He includes three stories of systemic constellations. The paper brings our attention to the rich and natural perceptual capacities of our ‘knowing body” that mediate collective wisdom.
To learn more of this application for collective wisdom, see conference description “Collective Wisdom: New Perspectives for Resolution in Small and Large Group Conflicts, in Families, Social Groups and in Politics”, April 28-30, 2005 in Germany.

EXCERPT: Twelve Leverage Points to Intervene in and Influence a System

Donella Meadows, (1941-2001), systems analyst, journalist, writer, teacher and farmer has been a major influence in the lives and understanding of many active practitioners in the emerging field of Collective Wisdom. As a systems analyst, she observed that there are “levers” or places within a complex system (such as a firm, a city, a family, an economy, living being, an ecosystem, an ecoregion) where a “small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything”. These she described as “leverage points”. She developed a scale of leverage points, i.e., places to intervene in a system with increasing influence. Awareness and manipulation of these levers is an aspect of self-organization and can lead to collective intelligence. We include here a link to The Donella Meadows Archive: Voice of a Global Citizen, 15 years of essays published as the award winning bi-weekly Global Citizen newspaper column.

SEED PAPER: Beyond Innocence: Creating a Space for Wisdom in Organizations

Kate Regan describes innocence in organizations as our inability to hold the opposites and to “lean into” what makes us most uncomfortable. She examines what it is, in ourselves and our organizations, that we have been “rushing away from.” In an exploration full of kindness and insight, she probes deep into what generates collective learning and wisdom in groups and how individuals can provide leadership for this difficult process. She offers us a way to hold the opposites while pursuing social action that is meaningful and grounded in real life.

SEED PAPER: Deepening Democracy

Rosa Zubizarreta's thoughtful paper explores ways in which we can engage the full possibilities of democracy, to awaken our collective wisdom and facilitate the unfolding of our social potential. Both knowledgeable and comprehensive, this paper links the reader to many inspiring thinkers and leading edge experiments in the "creative engagement with diversity" in the political realm. It offers hope and encouragement in a time of despair about a peaceful future for our world. This paper is intended to seed a further conversation.

SEED PAPER: Co-Creative Power: Engaging Networks for Learning and Innovation

Ann Svendsen and Myriam Laberge, both of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC, Canada, describe how collective wisdom contributed to finding sustainable solutions to an entrenched conflict between a multi-national logging company, environmental advocacy groups, and First Nations in their area. Going beyond consensus building and conflict resolution, the parties engaged with each other in a way that fostered and supported collective inquiry, learning and innovation. For further articles, please see Co-Creative Stakeholder Engagement Model. See also Co-Creative Stakeholder Engagement Workshop.

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