FYI: Community Empowerment Project Proposal – Version 2


Richard Moore


The Community Empowerment Project
   - Version 2 -



The goal of the project is to learn how real democracy -- 
self-governance -- can be manifested.



The objective of the project is to carry out an intensive experiment 
in some community, involving various kinds of dialog processes, 
seeking to facilitate the awakening of a coherent and inclusive sense 
of We the People in the community.

We want to give the project every chance of success, by making an 
all-out effort, so that if we fail we will know that we need to 
rethink our fundamental notions of democratic process.



The basic idea behind the experiment is to combine Wisdom Councils 
with more informal dialog processes, directly involve as many people 
as possible in dialog, continue this for several months, and seek to 
create a situation where the community as a whole 'owns the process', 
and it becomes self-perpetuating. If this is going to happen at all, 
my guess is that it should happen within about six months. 

That's surely not enough time for democracy to fully blossom, but it 
should be more than enough time for the value of the endeavor to be 
apparent to all, and there should be more than enough community 
energy aroused to carry it forward. If this happens, I'd be quite 
eager to stay involved; I might even move to the community. :-) 
However if it doesn't happen by then,  a project post-mortem would 
probably be in order.

The heart of the project is a series of six Wisdom Councils, convened 
monthly, each involving four all-day sessions.The four-day sessions 
are critical to success, because it takes a while to get to a full 
head of steam with the process, and it is in that mode that the most 
impressive, creative breakthroughs occur. The frequency and duration 
of the series is critical to success, because it will take time for 
awareness of the process to spread in the community, and it will take 
time for the process to converge toward an inclusive 'sense of the 

The rate of community convergence depends on two factors: the quality 
of the Council outcomes and the degree of public involvement in the 

As regards quality of outcomes, DF should serve us very well. We can 
assume that twelve randomly selected participants will bring with 
them a reasonable cross-section of the concerns in the community, 
just as in a jury. DF enables them to work together to find creative 
solutions that deal with all participants' concerns, which implies 
those solutions should resonate with a reasonable cross section of 
the general community.

As regards public involvement, we need to be pro-active. Publicity in 
the local media and a meeting following each Council are not enough 
to ensure widespread interest in the endeavor, nor do they provide 
adequate opportunity for motivated people to participate in dialog 
directly.  Based on feedback from the first version of this proposal, 
I've come to the conclusion that circle processes, applied in a 
variety of contexts, can be very effective at facilitating public 
involvement, and accelerating the process of convergence. In addition 
the wider direct experience of dialog is important in itself -- the 
deep potential of dialog can only be appreciated by experiencing it.

One can imagine neighborhood circles, meeting in peoples homes. Or 
circle processes being adopted in already existing meeting scenarios. 
Open circles held regularly in public places, ala Conversation Cafe. 
Circles formed just because people want to get involved in the 
endeavor.  The possibilities are many.

Presumably there will need to be an initial 'pitch' to the community, 
some kind of announcement in the media, flyers, a public meeting, 
whatever. Conveners would presumably be talking about' community 
empowerment', 'a chance to make a difference', 'past successes with 
Wisdom Councils', etc. etc. It would be important to bring in circles 
right up front, as an equal part of the democracy experiment along 
with WCs -- and to encourage people to create some circles, even 
before  the first Wisdom Council. Perhaps the conveners can each host 
a circle, to kick the process off. It will take a while for circles 
to get started, and for people to get comfortable with the process. 
The earlier we can get something started in this regard, the better.

If we can somehow manifest a network of circles in the community, of 
various kinds, and if the Wisdom Councils begin to produce outcomes 
that resonate strongly in the community, and which generate 
excitement, all the mechanisms will be in place to enable maximal 
progress toward community convergence. Once the convergence reaches a 
certain level, I believe that a tipping point will occur. A point 
will come when people will begin to say or think, "This is something 
that really can work! It's powerful stuff.  By golly, I'm going to 
see that it through!" If that kind of intent emerges, it will be time 
to open the champagne. From that point forward the process will 
become self-perpetuating, and the experiment will be destined for 



The next step, as I see it, is to find some activists somewhere who 
are interested in organizing a convening group to pursue this 
proposal -- presumably with local refinements -- in their community. 
In fact one very good activist, Molly Morgan, who helped organize my 
recent tour, has expressed initial strong interest. She also came up 
with a very good suggestion: part of the convener's responsibility is 
to get themselves trained in DF, and then to donate their services 
over the six months for the WCs and for training other facilitators. 
This largely removes the problem of funding from the endeavor, while 
increasing the commitment required from conveners.



As I mentioned above, I believe the first tipping point in the 
experiment will come when people begin to own that they really want 
the endeavor to succeed. That kind of intent, combined with the 
energy produced by creative dialog itself, will in my opinion create 
an unstoppable momentum toward a local democratic awakening. I think 
there will be a second tipping point as well, an emotional one, when 
people begins to experience 'We' as a supportive force, when they 
begin to remember what it was like -- thousands of years ago -- to 
belong to a supportive, cooperative society. When that tipping point 
is reached, the sense of community will be everywhere palpable, 'We' 
will be emerging as a dynamic, coherent  entity, in harmony with its 
constituency, its holons.

In this description so far, I've been focusing on the process aspects 
of the endeavor, because that is mostly what the conveners will be 
dealing with. In that regard, I've emphasized the 'people' aspects of 
the convergence process , and the 'feeling' tipping points. Equally 
important, however, is the 'content' convergence that accompanies the 
'process' convergence. The two manifest always together, that is the 
nature of the DF process. The democratic spirit arises specifically 
from the experience of success in dealing collectively with complex 

If we look at the cities in South America where participatory, 
consensus processes have been used with some success, we typically 
see cities that receive international acclaim for their innovations 
and for their quality of life. As people learn to awaken and combine 
their wisdoms, in the process dimension, they will at the same time 
be developing a wise assessment of their situation and their 
resources, as a community, and they will together be creating a 
framework for civic transformation. That's what it's all about, 
improving the community, the quality of life, the vitality of the 
economy, etc.  DF is characterized by its ability to facilitate 
breakthrough solutions to impossible problems, and I would expect 
that the changes manifested in the community -- whatever they might 
be in the particular -- will be as impressive as the democratic 
awakening itself..

That first tipping point I mentioned is a big one, and its 
achievement is uncertain, but I have a strong sense that if that 
tipping point is reached, these other consequences above will become 
very nearly inevitable. If so, then we can expect any successful 
experiment to be a GREAT success. A success that would inspire other 
communities, near and far.



The level of commitment and responsibility  required of conveners by 
this plan is considerable. It's  a non-trivial project, and it would 
require a group of people who can work effectively together, who have 
enough time available to be able to deliver reliably on their action 
items, who are very good at communicating with people, and who can 
keep this up for a considerable time. And there is no guarantee of 

The upside potential, however, is so great that in comparison the 
investment is negligible. If there is any reasonable chance of 
success, then it seems to me the attempt 'needs to be made'.


Escaping the Matrix website
cyberjournal website  
subscribe cyberjournal list     mailto:•••@••.•••
Posting archives      
   cyberjournal forum 
   Achieving real democracy
   for readers of ETM 
   Community Empowerment
   Blogger made easy