cj#1107,rn> Heads up re * Citizen Consensus Councils *


Richard Moore

Bcc: Tom Atlee, David Korten

Date: Sun, 16 Jul 2000 22:40:45 -0700
To: •••@••.•••
From: Tom Atlee
Subject: tools for institutionalizing trans-ideological dialogue
Cc: [list withheld]

Dear Richard,

I greatly enjoyed your comments on David Korten's work, and your
correspondence with him.  You wrote:
    What is our strategy?  How do we get from here to there? 
    .... In order for change to be possible, large numbers of
    people will need to begin thinking differently... thinking
    must change throughout the population, across all
    categories.  .... I suggest what we need is more dialog
    across ideological divides ... [in which people learn] that
    their common interests transcend their ideological

I want to alert you to an approach that may trigger some new
possibilities for your visioning work.  I've been tracking a
number of democratic innovations that I've lumped into a
category I call "citizen consensus councils"
http://www.co-intelligence.org/P-citizenCC.html .  They
offer a powerful form and neo-democratic logic that deeply
and do-ably satisfies the need you've articulated above.

I'd be happy to dialogue with you further on this if you

You may also be interested in the annotated list of articles
on http://www.co-intelligence.org/CIPol_Index.html .

Keep up the great work.  I've just subscribed to your
cyberjournal.  Let me know if you'd like to be on my email



_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Tom Atlee  *  The Co-Intelligence Institute  *  Eugene, OR


Dear Tom,

Many thanks for your message.  I went to your website and am
very impressed with your work, and with the revolutionary
potential inherent in the citizen-council process you
describe.  It seems an ideal tool with which to facilitate
movment building and the crystallization of the Civil
Society, as described by Korten.  I have sent you by
personal message some comments, which I will most likely
post in the next few days.  If you care to respond for the
record, that would be welcomed, but a private response is OK
if you prefer.

I downloaded your excellent home page and reformatteed it
(below) for email readability.  The URL is at the top.

synergy & solidarity,

From http://www.co-intelligence.org/P-citizenCC.html

The Co-Intelligence Institute CII home // Y2K home // CIPolitics home

Citizen consensus councils
     A citizen consensus council is a microcosm of a larger population
     where citizens dialogue to deep agreement about issues of common
     concern. It is usually a group of 12-24 diverse citizens selected
     at random from (or to be demographically representative of) their
     organization, community, country, etc. A citizen consensus council
     deliberates about issues concerning the population from which it
     was selected, and is professionally facilitated to a consensus
     about how to address those issues. Its final statement is released
     both to appropriate authorities and to the larger population it
     represents, usually through the media. After that, the council
     usually disbands, just as a jury does when its work is done.

Dynamics of citizen consensus councils
The defining characteristics of a citizen consensus council are:

    1) It is a group of citizens whose diversity reflects that
    of a larger population. 2) It is facilitated to a consensus.
    It is the dynamics between DIVERSITY and CONSENSUS that
    generate the level of "people's wisdom" that is so
    powerfully present in this approach.  Wisdom depends on the
    breadth and depth of people's perspectives. Diversity brings
    the breadth:  together, diverse people have a wide range of
    perspectives. The depth comes from people having to go
    deeper in order to find the common ground underlying their
    differences, which is necessary to come to agreement. Also,
    through dialogue towards consensus, each person's
    perspective broadens, steadily including more of what the
    others see. Often dramatic leaps of creativity happen when
    people start seeing more broadly; connections and
    possibilities start to sizzle; and suddenly the group is
    coming up with alternatives that satisfy all their needs and
    perspectives -- and more. This is true consensus process
    (from Latin, consentire, to sense or feel together) and it
    generates true wisdom. Furthermore, since it is so broadly
    satisfying, and was created by a diverse group embodying the
    diverse values and life experience of the larger community,
    the larger population is more likely to respond positively
    to the group's proposals than to proposals created by
    experts or politicians.

The nature of a council's "representativeness"
It is important to know that a citizen consensus council is
not representative in the usual political sense.
Participants are not speaking for anyone but themselves. If
they do happen to be leaders of groups, they need to set
those roles aside and act as individuals while participating
in the council. However, they can and should bring every
aspect of themselves to the table, including whatever
perspectives they happen to share with the groups they lead
or are part of. Their role as participants in a citizen
consensus council -- which they can best serve simply by
being themselves -- is to collectively embody the diverse
perspectives and capacities of the larger population from
which they were collectively drawn. As they learn that the
interests of the groups they're each associated with will be
taken care of by the process of dialogue and consensus, they
can ease up on their assertiveness and position-holding,
freeing the consensus council to discover deeper, newer ways
to engage with the issues they face.

The nature of a council's catalytic role - Another major
factor which is easy to overlook when first encountering
this approach is that the relationship between a citizen
consensus council and its larger population is as important
as the operation of the council, itself. At the very least,
the council must report to that population when it is done
with its work. Beyond that, there can be a popular
expectation developed around the council's deliberations
which adds to the impact of what the council says. That
expectation can come about through PR hoopla and/or from it
having a certain institutionalized status within the
community (e.g., it is part of the town charter). And, since
a primary purpose of such a council is to raise the quality
of dialogue in the larger population, a council's impact can
be enhanced by efforts to organize or evoke such popular
dialogue explicitly around its findings. Finally, the power
of the council is dependent on its ability to clearly
reflect the diverse views and latent wisdom of the larger
population, and so its proceedings should be clearly free of
any outside bias or special interest influence.

Issues in the formation and operation of citizen consensus councils
Many forms of citizen consensus council have come into being. Variables

    * the nature of the larger population from which the council
    is selected
    * the number of participants
    * how participants are selected
    * the council's mandate (e.g., expectations; is it
    open-ended or is there a topic; who, if anyone, is it
    advising; etc.)
    * meeting time and frequency 

    * whether it is a standing council with an ongoing
    membership or, more usually, a one-time group that disbands
    after one successful exploration together
    * the style and quality of facilitation used
    * information access (especially the role of expert
    witnesses or briefing materials -- and what efforts are made
    to ensure an unassailable balance of perspectives)
    * media participation (especially whether the process is
    * whether it is an established part of an institutionalized,
    periodic process

Since this form (citizen consensus council) is new and (to
my knowledge) its variations have never been collected up
and articulated AS variations of a single type of process,
there is great need and opportunity for research into these
variables. I suspect that different designs will be
appropriate for different purposes. However, there may be
general principles we could learn that would apply to all
uses and forms (such as those listed at the beginning of
this article). Our understanding of random selection versus
scientific demographic selection (for example) could be
greatly enhanced with some research -- perhaps even
discovering patterns of replicability comparable to those
involved in scientific experiments. (See A "scientific"
democratic process?)

Existing forms of citizen consensus council
Variations of citizen consensus councils for which I have
found instructions, expertise or replicable models include:

a) Danish consensus conferences (aka citizen technology
panels) promoted in the US by the Loka Institute based on
the Danish model, in which the government brings together 15
people selected to represent the demographics of the whole
population, and gives them a technological issue about which
to recommend policy. They interview expert witnesses from
across the spectrum of opinion, and then are facilitated to
a consensus statement of policy recommendations which is
presented to the government and the media. See Ordinary
citizens evaluate technology for an introductory U.S.
experiment with this approach.

b) Canada's experiment: "The People's Verdict" - In 1991
Maclean's magazine scientifically selected a dozen citizens
representative of Canada's ideological, geographical, gender
and racial diversity, and gave them three days to come up
with a consensus vision for Canada, successfully facilitated
by a team from Harvard led by Getting to Yes co-author Roger
Fisher. Maclean's and Canadian TV gave the process and its
results extensive coverage in July 1991.

c) Wisdom Councils use a form of open-ended, extremely
creative consensus process created by consultant Jim Rough
called Dynamic Facilitation. 12-24 people chosen at random
from the relevant population explore and articulate the
concerns of that population and directions they want to move
in. Unlike the other forms, wisdom council's have no topic,
making them ideal for surfacing broad and emergent issues
and dramatically creative options. Of all the proposals I've
seen, establishing an official national Wisdom Council would
provide the highest leverage for upgrading our democracy and
intelligently handling the serious issues we face. Ideally,
it would be done as part of a broader program with many
other elements (see A New Paradigm Democracy Movement?)

d) The National Commons is a project which convenes diverse
people who are already working on a particular social
problem from across the political spectrum, to help them
come to consensus. Unlike in the other forms of citizen
consensus panel, the consensus people finally reach in a
National Commons dialogue can be immediately implemented,
since they and their associates are the people working on
the problem.

Related forms
I also know of two forms of citizen deliberation that are
closely related to citizen consensus councils, but don't
quite fit the definition. They are modeled on traditional
juries, but don't necessarily use consensus. However, they
would likely play significant roles in evolving to a society
based on citizen consensus standards. They are:

e) Citizen juries organized by the Jefferson Center - "In a
Citizens Jury® project, a randomly selected and
demographically representative panel of citizens meets for
four or five days to carefully examine an issue of public
significance. The jury of citizens, usually consisting of 18
individuals, serves as a microcosm of the public. Jurors are
paid a stipend for their time. They hear from a variety of
expert witnesses and are able to deliberate together on the
issue. On the final day of their moderated hearings, the
members of the Citizens Jury present their recommendations
to the public."

f) Civil grand juries. For an example of how the civil grand
jury system was used to wake up a community to the demands
of Y2K, see the Marin County Grand Jury report at

Integration with other democratic and co-intelligent approaches
Citizen consensus councils are neither necessary nor
sufficient for a co-intelligent political order. However, I
believe they provide us with the most powerful step we could
take in that direction. To increase that power even further,
we need to create synergies between citizen consensus
councils and other forms of co-intelligence and democratic
politics. Articles where I explore this include:

     A New Paradigm Democracy Movement?
    Citizen consensus councils and direct democracy
     The story of Pat and Pat -- the view from the year 2019
     Creating a Culture of Dialogue
     A toolbox of co-intelligent processes for Y2K community work


Richard K Moore
Wexford, Ireland
Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance 
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                        -- Frantz Fanon

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