Note: The wisdom council is one form of citizen
For a detailed vision and plan for a national Wisdom Council,
read Jim Rough's
Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
Developed by organizational development consultant Jim Rough, a
wisdom council is a one-time, randomly-selected group of stakeholders
who, through special facilitation, produce
a consensus statement which is made
available to the larger population for further dialogue
and action. For an example see "A
High School Wisdom Council" on this site.
As a tool for collective
intelligence, wisdom councils are most powerful when they are
done periodically (e.g., for a week or two every year, each time
with a different membership) as a function of ongoing community
dialogue. Each wisdom council generates a quantum leap in shared
insight which, when fed back into the community dialogue, raises
the quality of subsequent collective reflection. Then, after a period
of broad dialogue in which everyone's understanding matures further,
another random handful of people are selected to do another wisdom
council, thus generating another boost for the community wisdom,
and so on. Thus, when established as a political/governmental institution,
Wisdom Councils are chartered to be held at regular intervals.
The fact that a wisdom council is facilitated towards consensus
makes it especially powerful, because it helps non-participants
vicariously work through issues that they may not be able to work
through in personal dialogues because they lack such skilled facilitation.
On the other hand, the wisdom council's findings must be digested
and modified by the community in widespread dialogue before those
findings qualify as usable collective wisdom. The more dialogue
the larger group undertakes before and after the wisdom council's
deliberations, the more powerful the resulting collective wisdom
Rough envisions using wisdom councils at the level of national governance.
He proposes a Citizen Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He says:
"Adding the following amendment to the U.S. Constitution would
facilitate us, We the People, to solve the underlying systemic problem
we face. The Citizens' Amendment proposes that:
"Each year 24 registered voters will be randomly selected
in a lotto drawing and form a Citizens' Wisdom Council. The Wisdom
Council will act as a microcosm of the people of the United States.
It will meet for a week to consider issues it chooses and to determine
consensus statements. At the end of the week, the Wisdom Council
will present these statements to all of The People in a new State
of the Union message. The Citizens' Wisdom Council will then disband
permanently and the next year a new Wisdom Council will be randomly
selected. The Citizens' Wisdom Council will be facilitated to
assure a creative conversation and unanimity."
Rough comments: "That's it. There's no risk. There is no coercion.
In fact, there is no change to the current mechanisms of government.
This small group of people only present a statement and then they
disband." Leaving everything the same, and everything totally
different. Over the years such an public proxy might start to have
a significant impact on all other governmental and civic activities.
As Rough explains: "The Citizens' Amendment provides each living
generation with a way to manage its affairs responsibly. It is not
a liberal nor conservative approach. It doesn't even change the
game. Instead, it provides a way for We the People to call 'time
out' once a year, so we can think together about what is happening,
what we are doing, and who we really are."
For more information on Wisdom Council see www.wisedemocracy.org
or read Jim Rough's book Society's
Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the
People (1stBooks, 2002).
You can read about a one-time precursor of such a nation-wide approach
in "Canadian Adversaries
Take A Break to Dream."
Note: The Co-Intelligence Institute has a Wisdom
promote this democratic innovation.
Although I often wonder how many different kinds of facilitation
could be used successfully in a Wisdom Council, I have now taken
Jim Rough's dynamic facilitation
workshop in which he teaches the sort of facilitation
that he designed the Wisdom Council to use. In fact, the idea
for the Wisdom Council was born in one of his workshops years
ago. I have to admit that I now see why he loves it so much. Any
other facilitation style is going to have to work hard to keep
up with this one. Here's what I wrote after the workshop. -- Tom
A key feature of dynamic facilitation is the use of four chart
pads -- one for various statements of the problem at hand,
another for ideas regarding solutions, a third for concerns,
and a final one for data. Off to the side is another one,
reserved for any decisions the group makes. But the first
four are key to the process, because the facilitator uses them to
catch thoughts and responses out of the group on an ongoing basis
-- not as a record, but simply to let people know that what they
said was heard and is welcomed into the dialogue. And that dialogue
changes as the process unfolds: people end up speaking less with
each other (in cross-talk) and more in interaction with the evolving
collective picture of what they are discovering as it takes shape
up in the "shared space" being held by the facilitator
and the chart pads. When this process is flowing, it is quite remarkable
One important thing I learned in the process was that the objections
we have to each others' ideas can be framed as concerns -- to
be acknowledged, understood, and placed in public view for all to
consider. We can each learn to do this on our own, and I'm
personally trying to do it more, myself. (e.g., "I am
concerned that the World Trade Organization makes it harder for
societies and communities to care for their own well-being and the
well-being of their world.") We CAN monitor our own communication
in this way. But, even more importantly, facilitators
can help groups translate group conflicts into concerns. In
Jim's workshop I experienced a novice facilitator instantly plucking
up my objection at the first signs of argument, saying "So
what is your concern here? Give it to ME. Let's get
it written up here.... Good. So, tell me what you think
should be done, instead. Let's get that written up here, too....
So, now, who else has an idea for a solution to this...."
With Jim's aptly named dynamic facilitation the facilitator keeps
the group moving ahead with their creative imaginings of how they
might approach (or even reframe) the situation they're working on
-- until the most remarkable solutions begin to crop up and everyone
in the group starts exclaiming, "Wow! Look at what we're
coming up with!!!"
Never before have I seen so much creativity. Jim and a couple
of the particularly quick student facilitators deftly channeled
each budding argument into a blossoming of useful information, greatly
enhancing our ability to explore together. There was a dynamic
forward motion to the group process which -- miraculously -- enhanced
thoughtful reflection rather than steamrolling over it. Every
voice was heard, and each one of us had a chance to say more of
what we had to offer (without blocking other offerings) than in
any other process I've experienced. The group energy was very
high, with great comradeship despite considerable diversity.
I will probably write more about this in the future, but for now
I'm happy to say I truly believe that this process -- in the hands
of a competent facilitator -- definitely does have the power to
generate group wisdom and deep, creative consensus. And I
think THAT is a powerful resource to help us address our collective
Home || What's
New || Search || Who
We Are || Co-Intelligence
|| Our Work || Projects
|| Contact || Don't
Miss || Articles || Topics
|| Books || Links
|| Subscribe || Take
Action || Donate || Legal
If you have comments about this site,
Contents copyright © 2004-2008, all rights reserved, with
generous permissions policy (see Legal Notices)