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The Innovations in Democracy and Beyond Project

(DRAFT v. 2.0, January 2, 2001)

One of a series of complementary New Democracy Projects




The 2000 Presidential election has, through its partisanship, drama, complexity and downright strangeness, stimulated a remarkable public fascination with the workings of democracy. We are all in the middle of an unprecedented national (and even international) civics class that has the power to change this country.

While many Americans will no doubtedly return to life as it was, a significant number of Americans will want to engage with these issues of our politics and governance. The Presidency was pursued in ways that millions of Americans feel is not legitimate, so we have a precious opportunity to increase the wisdom with which we conduct our shared public life.

Recent decades have produced a blossoming of innovative understandings, practices and resources which could (and in some cases do) enhance democracy. Most people -- including the innovators themselves -- don't know about most of these innovations. We hope that an effort to bring them together in one place -- in one network and on one website -- will support everyone who is working for more potent, resilient, wise democracies. We believe these new forms of democracy are even now, in their earliest stages, providing fertile ground for higher forms of civilization to sprout....

The Co-Intelligence Institute plans to use the current opening of the public mind to promote any and all innovations that could enhance our democracy, collective intelligence and wisdom.

For example, at the leading edge of traditional democratic reforms are remarkable innovations like these:

Innovations like these can revitalize democracy.  But democracy, as much as we love it, can still seem limited.  This widely held frustration was famously articulated by Winston Churchill when he said "Democracy is the worst possible form of government except -- all the others that have been tried."

The fact is, we're going to have to generate a lot of collective wisdom if we're going to get through the 21st century.  Few of the people we've asked think that the kinds of democracy we're used to will be able to generate the wisdom we need.  So The Co-Intelligence Institute is digging deeper and looking wider for innovations that can help us move beyond politics and governance, per se, towards heartful, wise, self-organized co-creation of our shared lives and future. 

For years we've been promoting many leading-edge approaches that are part of that vision -- innovations like Citizen Consensus Councils, Nonviolent Communication, Study Circles, Future Search Conferences, Community Asset Mapping, World Cafe, and so many others.  Our recent investigations have uncovering further exciting innovations that give us a taste of what may be "beyond democracy":

This is only the tip of a very big iceberg.

What is unique about this historic moment is that all the research that's been done on these innovations for decades can now be brought together and promoted as an integrated vision for the first time. If Americans grabbed the opportunity to create major improvements in our politics and governance, many other societies might well follow. The chances are good that this project will be able to enhance real democracy around the world.

This initiative has three main features:

This project is seeking funding for staff and operations. The basic start-up budget we expect for our first year of operation is as follows

Researcher/webmaster - $15,000
Project manager  -  $20,000
Outreach director/networker/organizer - $15,000
Non-staff project operating expenses -  $20,000

Thus we are seeking at least $70,000 for this project for a strong beginning. More funds would permit us to engage more accomplished experts and do more intensive networking. Supporters will be kept informed of developments in the project. Donations made out to "The Co-Intelligence Institute" are fully tax-deductible and can be sent to the following address with "democracy innovations" or "IDBP" in the memo line.

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

A tentative outline of the website


The innovations will be organized in "clickable" topic areas such as those
listed below. The innovations will serve as answers to the questions given
in each topic area. Since democracy is really one subject, these topic
areas and questions overlap -- so many innovations will show up under a
number of topic areas.

Each topic page will begin with one or more essays exploring the topic in
general and connecting it to other relevant topics. These essays will be
followed by an annotated list of innovations, each linked to its own page
or site. Finally, every page in this site will be connected to a page
where its subject matter can be discussed by those interested.

We expect that the new democracies of the 21st Century will be made by the
people who are part of this network and those who visit this site. We hope
to provide them with some of the "big picture" information and forums they
need to succeed together.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

DEMOCRACY (incl. issues of social evolution) -- What is democracy? Why is
it important? What is it's current state and meaning? Where is it
headed? (Examples: Definitions of democracy like "people having an
effective voice in shaping the decisions that affect them" and social
evolution models like Don Beck's and Christopher Cowan's "Spiral Dynamics"
and Jay Earley's "Transforming Human Culture")

CAMPAIGNS -- How can campaigns around issues and candidates help citizens
make informed, wise decisions? (Examples: Project Vote Smart, many
varieties of Campaign Finance Reform, and websites that articulate all
sides of various issues in fair and engaging ways)

CITIZENSHIP (incl. activism and participation) -- How can people best
engage together to co-create their public life? (Examples: Communities of
Practice, Frances Moore Lappe's and Paul DuBois' "The Quickening of
America", and various guidelines for citizen participation that have been published)

DECISION-MAKING (incl. voting, representation and direct democracy) -- How
can the combined preferences and decisions of individual citizens produce
coherent governance that serves the welfare of the whole community or
society? (Examples: Consensus process, approval voting, instant runoff
voting, proportional representation and Porto Allegro's citizen-generated
municipal budget)

POWER (incl. issues of leadership) -- In what ways can power be effectively
distributed and balanced? How can the power of citizens and communities be
enhanced for the benefit of the whole society? How can any necessarily
concentrated power be made answerable to those over whom it is exercised?
What non-traditional forms of power and leadership can be used to enhance
democracy? (Examples: Gandhi's theory of power, Servant Leadership, and
Ralph Nader's Concord Principles concerning citizen oversight institutions)

JUSTICE (incl. issues of equity) -- How can fairness be assured? How can
we pursue equity in ways that honor the real differences between people and
encourage excellence? Does justice include healing the community and its
broken members as well making sure individuals get what they deserve?
(Examples: the Restorative Justice movement, the Guaranteed Income
movement, and Manitonquat's prison program)

FREEDOM (incl. issues of rights, choice, empowerment and responsibility) --
What forms of freedom are appropriate in an increasingly independent world
-- especially when people have increased capacity to harm each other? How
can we empower people to use freedom responsibly? Do non-human entities
have rights? Do people have responsibilities to nature? (Example: Motor
Voter Registration, Vicki Robin's new book on Freedom, and various
inner-city empowerment efforts)

INFORMATION (incl. media and education) -- How can citizens better discover
and use the information they need to understand the issues and options they
face? How can democratic society better produce and move the information
and insight it needs to deal with the changing circumstances in and around
it? (Examples: the E-Democracy and Civic Journalism movements; Study
Circles; Deliberative Polling; Robert Theobald's "Problem/Possibility focusers")

CONVERSATION -- What forms of conversation -- especially public
conversation -- and group process best serve the needs of citizens working
together to wisely guide their communities and societies? (Examples:
Dialogue, Dynamic Facilitation, The World Cafe, Open Space Conferencing,
Theater of Liberation and Scenario Work)

ECONOMICS -- What economic arrangements best empower all people (who, after
all, are citizens as well as consumers and producers) to co-create
long-term quality of life for everyone involved? How can concentrated
economic power be made answerable, decentralized or monitored so it doesn't
undermine democracy? (Examples: David Korten's "The Post Corporate World:
Life After Capitalism"; Paul Hawken's and Amory and Hunter Lovins' "Natural
Capitalism"; the global Simultaneous Policy movement)

DIFFERENCES -- How can we deal with our conflicts and our growing diversity
in ways that enhance our collective welfare, rather than setting us against
each other or letting differences fester? (Examples: The Search for
Common Ground, the Public Conversation Project, Mark Gerzon's "A House
Divided" and various school mediation programs)

THE COMMONS -- What do (or can) we hold in common that can serve our
collective welfare and our capacity to create a good future together? How
do we nurture a widespread, living awareness of the things we hold or have
in common? (Examples: Multi-stakeholder collaborations like Future Search
Conferences and Natural Resource Leadership Institutes)

COMMUNITY -- How can we strengthen the bonds and interactions between
people so that their collective exercise of citizenship is vibrant,
meaningful, and effective? (Examples: The National Civic League and
Asset-Based Community Development)

SKILL- AND CAPACITY-BUILDING -- What do people -- individually and
collectively -- need to know and be able to do in order to have a thriving
democracy? How do we increase the citizenship capacity of individuals and
the collective intelligence capacity of communities and societies?
(Examples: The "arts of democracy" promoted by Frances Moore Lappe's
Center for Living Democracy, and The Consensus Classroom)

HUMAN POTENTIAL -- How can a society evoke and enhance the best that people
have to offer, to give themselves and their communities richer, happier,
more deeply functional and meaningful lives? (Examples: The efforts of
California Senator John Vasconcellos and Presidential candidate John
Hagelin to focus on improving human capacities)

SELF-ORGANIZATION -- What factors support the ability of a community or
society to organize, heal, learn, develop and sustain itself -- with little
or no outside intervention or top-down control, and minimal damage to its
members or its environment? (Examples: The Chaordic Alliance and The
Institute for Local Self-Reliance)

SPIRITUALITY (incl. issues of values) -- How can we bring spirituality and moral values into our citizenship, politics, civil society and public lives without evoking religious divisiveness or domination? How can citizens of diverse faiths and values systems work together to nurture a more moral culture? (Examples: The Global Renaissance Alliance, The Center for Visionary Leadership)

WISDOM -- How can wisdom inform -- or even arise out of -- democracy?
Where can we collectively find the wisdom we need to guide our collective
journey into the future? (Example: Jim Rough's Wisdom Council and the
Danish Citizen Technology Panels; The Parliament of the World's Religions
"Towards a Global Ethic")