In pursuit of a transformational movement


Richard Moore

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letter from Switzerland…

Susie J. wrote re/ letter from Switzerland:
Thank you for this -it was good to hear some positive stuff is happening in Europe.

I agree, I was very pleased to encounter so much positive energy during my visit. I feel I’m now part of an emerging community and movement, centered around the energy of the espace-noir folks.

Hill Eshbach wrote:
Excellent, Richard!  Thank you!  – Hill

Howard Switzer wrote:
Thanks Richard, so glad to hear it.  I wish we could hear the dialogue or maybe see some further explanations… 
One thing I would like to hear a little more on is the concept of “competition in the small leads to cooperation in the large”  and “avoiding the party trap.”

The full slides of all the charts we made can be seen here, thanks to Chris Zumbrunn:

Re/ “competition in the small leads to cooperation in the large”
This is true of ecosystems, and of economies. In ecosystems, organisms compete, and the overall effect is to cooperate in creating a nourishing environment for all the life forms that are present. In a small-town economy, individual shop-owners compete, and the overall effect is to cooperate in providing the goods & services needed by the community. 

Re/ “avoiding the party trap”
What we call ‘democracy’ is actually a system based on competition among parties who want to get elected to power and perks. As we can see from history, and from current reality, such a system ends up being an oligarchy: the real decisions are made by wealthy interests, who fill party coffers and wield influence in many different ways. Legislation ends up being written by lobbyists for wealthy corporations, banks, and special-interest groups. 

If a social movement is hoping to change the system, to make it more democratic, it is important to avoid becoming yet-another faction, yet-another wannabe party, in the manner of the Greens. The major political parties are professional, seasoned masters of that competitive game. They are skillful at co-option, and they have the support of the wealthy interests, and media, who back them. Trying to dominate this game by means of a factional approach is like diving into a pool of hungry sharks, thinking you’ll tame them before they eat you.

If a social movement is hoping to change the system, to make it more democratic, it is important that the movement be based on inclusiveness. It needs to be a movement that can eventually bring in the whole 99%, not just the X% who might respond to some manifesto or program. The only game the parties can’t co-opt is the game of unity: a united people can accomplish anything. 

This creates a different kind of framework for movement building. The problem is not to rally people around  a cause, rather the problem is to bring people together, and help them identify their shared interests and aspirations. After all, we are all in this together, and we all want basically the same things, a better world for ourselves and our children. The problem is one of public engagement: how to get people to engage in public conversations at all, and how to nurture the emergence of transformative forms of engagement.

In pursuit of engagement
Jim Rough shared a very important presentation just yesterday, a film of Manfred Hellrigl giving a talk in Sweden on the topic, “From Consumers to Citizens”. Manfred is the director of the Office of Future Related Issues (OFRI) for the state of Vorarlberg, Austria. He is passionate about facilitating the emergence of public engagement, and he’s tried many approaches over the years. There are useful lessons to be taken from his presentation, and it’s a pleasure to watch, very positive and very inspiring:
He is a strong proponent of the principle that a randomly-selected microcosm-group can be an effective way to bring in a genuine grassroots voice. I get the impression he was thinking this way even before he heard about Wisdom Councils. He likes to begin things with Appreciative Inquiry, which focuses on identifying all the things that are currently working well. He seeks to facilitate the emergence of ‘self-organizing engagement’, and he’s got some impressive successes under his belt, as described in the film. His favorite process tool is now the CIC – Creative Insight Council. 
The session we had in Beu-Séjour was a CIC. We had a ‘wicked problem’ – to figure out what ‘deepening democracy’ was about – and we used Dynamic Facilitation. I was very encouraged by the results from that weekend’s conversation. And we came away with a sense of, even a commitment to, ongoing engagement as a group. This echoes some of the experiences Manfred describes, re/ self-organizing engagement.
It would be good if a second CIC session could be organized, of randomly-selected people from the St-Imien area, and if it could kick off with a presentation by folks from the first session. The first group was intentionally selected, and self-selected. I think it’s important to find out how their ideas resonate with a randomly selected group, and where the second group goes from there. 
Creative Insight Panels
This CIC thread weaves in with some ideas that have come up in my work with the Awaken Ireland movement. We’ve talked about organizing ongoing study groups, on a range of problem areas, relating to ‘a better future for Ireland’. Manfred’s presentation lays down some good guidelines for these study groups.
In fact, I’d like use the name ‘Creative Insight Panels’, instead of study groups. CIPs are like CICs, in that they involve randomly selected citizens, and they are seeking a unanimous perspective on their problem area. Unlike CICs, they are ongoing, meeting on a regular basis, and they don’t use DF for every session. 
Following Manfred’s cue, we’d want to start them off with a bit of Appreciative Inquiry. And we’d want to line up some knowledgeable people, with a wide variety of viewpoints on the problem area, who could give presentations to the Panel, and answer questions. DF would come into the picture at critical times, when a new batch of information has been gathered, and the Panel wants to dig in and do some serious visualizing and problem solving (aka ‘choice-creating’). 
In pursuit of a transformational movement
In Awaken Ireland, we want to develop a comprehensive vision of a ‘best way forward for Ireland’, and we want the vision to come from the people themselves. We see this as a way to bring people together on an inclusive basis. If we can identify the major problem areas involved in creating a better future for Ireland, Creative Insight Panels could be a good way to get started on the development of a comprehensive vision. 
These Panels could get together once in a while, in national conferences, where they could share their results and seek to harmonize their visions. And roadshows could be organized, where people from various Panels report to public meetings about what they’ve come up with. These reports could be followed by breakout sessions, general discussion, and Q&A. We’d be seeking a productive dialog between the Panel members and the public, expanding the scope of concerns and ideas that the Panel will be taking into account.
The Panels themselves, presumably, would be examples of Manfred’s ‘self-organizing engagement’. For the movement to really get off the ground, we’d be seeking to generate self-organizing engagement in communities themselves, in the wake of the roadshow events. If the Panel presentations are sufficiently inspiring and engaging, we could encourage the creation of local Panels. It seems to me these local Panels would be considering the vision-as-a-whole, rather than a specific problem area, and they’d looking into what the vision means in their community, whether it makes sense there, and how the vision can be improved.
In this way, we could hope to facilitate the emergence of a national grassroots conversation about Ireland’s future. And with the help of the Panels, and various kinds of conferences, we could hope for this conversation to bring people together, and to converge on a shared vision of a ‘best way forward’. 
I think this line of thinking is promising, but it would be a major project, full of challenges and unknowns. It would make sense to start with a pilot project, a single Creative Insight Panel, and see how that goes. This is what I’ll be proposing to Awaken Ireland, when we get together for a strategy session next weekend.
best wishes,