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Imagining Collectively Intelligent Communities

When I imagine visiting some idealized collectively intelligent community of the future, I come up with something like the following. This vision is only one of many that are possible -- some of which would undoubtedly be even more co-intelligent. This particular vision is shaped by my own perspective and experience (you can tell I love good meetings!). Your vision would undoubtedly be very different from mine -- and I encourage you to explore what it would be like. (If you'd like to share it, I'd love to see it.) But this one is mine, viewed from, perhaps, 40 years hence:

Physical arrangements and structures. Homes and offices are arranged to encourage people to interact. There are many porches, pleasant parks and cafes, and comfortable, easily accessible public meeting spaces with movable chairs and pillows. There are few fences and locks, and people don't tend to spend money to be out in the world together; they do it all the time for free.

Practices and rituals. 80% of the members of the community participate in at least one (and usually several) of the hundreds of "open space" gatherings held each year. Each gathering helps people who are passionate about some topic self-organize into groups to focus on different aspects of that topic. At the equinoxes, community meetings are held at which people share how connections and projects born at the open space gatherings have helped improve the community. No longer is the community fate decided by experts and politicians in controlled meetings, while citizens sit at home in front of TV sets or try to distract or satisfy themselves by shopping.

Beliefs, reality and values. Community schools teach that each person, animal and plant has their own unique sense of reality, which can be a valuable resource for that entity and for the communities of which it is a part. Everyone learns that together they live in and co-generate shared realities. The whole education system is based on the idea that it is good for people to learn as much as they can about these realities and their roles in them so that they can consciously and collaboratively co-create shared realities with everyone and everything. Only the older residents remember when reality was taken for granted -- a fixed state of affairs established by someone or something else -- and, depending on your perspective, the highest value was placed on fitting in, rebelling, winning or sacrificing.

The group story. It took a long time for this community to get where it is. People are always recounting the significant incidents along the way which illustrate how everyone played a significant role, and how the story is still unfolding. Gone are the days when the major topics were sports, soap operas, movies, and big bad politics, with little shared sense of who citizens were together.

Relationships and power. Although there are many occasions when different people lead in areas where they are particularly competent, we find an ethic of essential peerness and temporary power in this community. The general view is that power is most effectively held collaboratively --not to dominate -- and exists only to get desirable things done, not to maintain status or ego-tripping. Most residents belong to spiritual groups that stress the kinship of all people, which creates an atmosphere of respect. Visitors from most other North American communities remark on how little alienation and power-tripping they find here.

Leadership and initiative. When children and youth come up with ideas and possibilities, they are taken seriously. Adults explore with the young people the strengths and weaknesses of their proposals and, when the originators want to pursue them, the adults support that, regardless (unless, of course, they are unduly dangerous). Organizing and networking know-how and resources are made available to anyone who wants them. In this community, young citizens grow up assuming that creative initiative is a natural part of individual and collective life. People don't talk about empowerment here anymore, because that's the normal state of affairs. No one feels unable to make an impact. (Similarly, they don't talk about organic food. Since none of it is poisoned, it's just called food.)

Information and feedback. A system of free, interlinked forums (both online and face-to-face) allow for ongoing collective reflection and feedback on virtually every aspect of community life. The primary role of community governors is to notice problematic situations arising and to alert and enable those involved to improve matters - which is a total reversal of the way it used to be! Well-organized on-line records give any citizen ready access to the understandable facts, ideas and know-how they need to make a difference. Governance has changed so much that "out-of-touch politicians" and "uninformed, uninvolved citizens" are just an embarrassing part of the community's history. Kids have a hard time believing that that's the way it was.

Collective support for individual co-intelligent improvement. All community members tithe to a fund that supports them taking off every seventh year for personal and/or community improvement. Grants range from extensive funding for formal programs combining spiritual discipline and community service, to bare necessities provided to individuals for unstructured personal retreats. There are still some people who think that material success and productivity are the central concerns of life and that this tithing fund is a distraction. But there's not many of them.

Resources for the group's intelligence. The community maintains an active search for other communities around the world who have ideas or practices they can use to improve their collective intelligence. They send out several teams each year to share insights and techniques with distant communities. They don't just sit there trying to figure out all their problems by themselves or waiting for some Higher Power to straighten things out. They do, however, work with spiritual allies, with the intelligence of nature or with the responsive fields of probability, depending on their individual spiritual proclivities.

The collective field. About 3% of the people leave each year because they can't tolerate the intense atmosphere of conscious co-creation. The community has not viewed this as a serious problem, since they've got an extensive waiting list of talented newcomers hungry for this kind of culture. Few other communities have this excited sense of shared magic.