SECOND CONFERENCE ON DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA

2006-02-09

Richard Moore

Friends,

Before starting on my recent book, I went on a visiting tour
up the West Coast from San Francisco. That was a pivotal
tour for me, learning important things from Tom Atlee, Rosa
Zubizarreta, Tree Bresson, Jim Rough, and others. It was
what I learned in those visits that provided the final
inspiration for the book.

Of all the places I visited, the one that fired me up the
most was Ashland Oregon, where I stayed at David Wick's
"Democracy House", and had the chance to meet David, Irene
Kai, Joseph McCormick, Pat Spino, and Lance Bisaccia.
Joseph and Pat were then organizing the first Democracy in
America conference, which I featured in my book as the
"Michigan Conference".

Joseph and Pat are still at it, and now they've recently
organized the second in the conference series. Once again
we see a politically diverse group of people, and we see
very promising outcome, as a result of harmonization-
style dialog.

Very interesting stuff. Comments welcome.

rkm

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http://democracycampaign.org/SecondConference.html
excerpt:

         SECOND CONFERENCE ON DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA
         "A Trans-Partisan Leadership Retreat"
          
         Gold Lake Mountain Resort and Spa, Ward, Colorado
         December 1-4, 2005
         DEFINING MOMENT - A Microcosm of America

         As the leaders of national membership organizations in the
         room reflected on our mutual concern for the magnitude of
         the issues facing America, there was a moment when the
         question was asked "who's in charge here anyhow?"  It was
         then pointed out that there was a microcosm of America
         present representing in excess of 70 million people.  As
         this weighty realization sunk in the meeting shifted into a
         subtle sense of wonder about the potential power of the
         whole (as distinct from the power of any part of the whole.)

--------------------------------------------------------
FINAL REPORT [from a document sent by Joseph]

_____________________________________


DEFINING MOMENT - A Microcosm of America

As the leaders of national membership organizations in the
room reflected on our mutual concern for the magnitude of
the issues facing America, there was a moment when the
question was asked "who's in charge here anyhow?"  It was
then pointed out that there was a microcosm of America
present representing in excess of 70 million people.  As
this weighty realization sunk in the meeting shifted into a
subtle sense of wonder about the potential power of the
whole (as distinct from the power of any part of the whole.)

RETREAT PURPOSE

According to Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835 author of Democracy
in America, political and civil associations are the
guarantors of freedom in a democracy.  The three day
gathering December 1-4 among leaders of national political
and civil associations -- approximately 1/3 generally
perceived to be left of center, 1/3 generally perceived to
be right of center, and 1/3 generally perceived to be
unaligned -- was intended to build bridges of trust, respect
and communication by engaging in facilitated dialogue about
a) the values that unite us as Americans, b) ways to expand
upon the success of recent trans-partisan political and
civil initiatives, and c) other potential trans-partisan
initiatives.

CREATING A SAFE SPACE FOR AUTHENTIC CONVERSATION

The retreat was held at Gold Lake Mountain Resort and Spa,
Ward, Colorado - www.GoldLake.com. In the mid 1800s, Chief
Niwot (or Lefthand) brought his tribe, the Southern
Arapahos, each summer to the place now known as Gold Lake.
Native lore tells of peaceful meetings concerning the past
years' events and future plans between the warring Arapahos,
Ute and other Native American tribes.

The site is very remote, deep in the wilderness of the rocky
mountains at 8500 ft.  We had exclusive use of the lodge,
cabins and spa facilities.  It was cold, windy and snowy --
there was a clear sense of vulnerability to nature. There
was a visible sense of relief on the faces of some
participants at having arrived safely after driving snowy
roads and being welcomed to a warm cabin and lodge.  The
feeling was something likeŠ"regardless of our differences,
it's nice to be around other humans."

The main lodge was the primary meeting place and was laid
out in such a way as to create a sense of intimacy, a living
room/family room type feeling, allowing for informal
conversations near the fireplace as well as spaces for
council dialogue.

Many participants took advantage of morning and after lunch
walks around the lake as well as the outdoor hot tubs, hot
stone massages between sessions, and a morning yoga class.
These methods of relaxation and re-connection with nature
played an important role.

Following the meeting, a core group of the
facilitation/convening team discerned a number of principles
that went into making the event work as well as it did:

*   Intention - in planning and in purpose
*   The presence of "the whole"
*   A container of safety allowing for authentic conversation
*   A nourishing meeting atmosphere with 
owners/staff connected to the meeting purpose
*   Invocations of silence
*   Numerous blessings / connection to higher guidance
*   Co-facilitation - "Third Side" available of at least two people
*   Ground rules agreed upon
*   Every person's voice was heard, valued
*   Empowerment of the group to modify schedule, ground rules, outcomes
*   Respectful conversation
*   Intentional closure

FACILITATION

Lead facilitators -- Mark Gerzon, President, Mediators
Foundation; William Ury, Director, Global Negotiation
Project, Harvard Law School

Convening team -- Joseph McCormick, Co-founder, Democracy in
America Project; Pat Spino, Co-founder, Democracy in America
Project; Susan Hackley, Managing Director, Program on
Negotiation, Harvard Law School; Robert Fersh, Executive
Director, Search for Common Ground USA; Michael Ostrolenk,
Founder, Liberty Coalition

CONTENT

Conversation on Values

The conversation began with each participant choosing a
value which they held as most important. Were they reflected
on our current political system/government?  On a scale of 1
to 10, how are they fairing today?

Even though the general assessment was that our current
political system/government does not reflect our values,
most all participants considered themselves to be optimists.

Issues of Concern (Open space)

Four initial topics were agreed upon for break out sessions
and participants chose two sessions each to attend:

         Responsibility of the Media/Advertising
         Large scale citizen dialogue that creates citizen empowerment
         Patriotism and terrorism
         Voting and Election fairness, integrity

After the initial topics were agreed upon participants then
brainstormed other topics of concern and were asked to place
a dot next to the topics which they wanted to explore
further:

     Vision for growth / Local Economics         9 dots
     New social contract                                    8 dots
     Role of Religion in Democracy                   8 dots
     Corporate/Government State                     6 dots
     Complexity of Laws:  Election, Tax, Insurance   6 dots
     Energy / Climate change                          4 dots
     Definition of American identity              4 dots
     Role of US in the world                           2 dots
     Health                                                     2 dots
     Police state vs. Individuals                   1 dot
     Privilege and Preference                      1 dot
     Entitlement and Tax Policy                   1 dot
     The war on drug users                          1 dot
     Create conditions which encourage good people to run for
       office
     Benefits for the elderly
     What's next after Katrina
     Marginalization/Exploitation of children
     No child left behind

Mapping the political field - Beyond left and right

Participants counted off and formed three diverse groups to
talk about the political map.  Groups reported out on how
they would map the current political landscape:

Group One - Balance of paradoxes

     Individual Freedom vs. Community, Social responsibility, the state
     Private actions vs. Role for gov. ensuring safety and well-being
     Freedom vs. Rules
     Open vs. Closed
     Engaged/Care    vs. Don't care/not engaged
     Non coercive vs.Threat of violence

     Hierarchy, Top down, father knows best vs. co-parenting,
     small 'd' democracy, participatory, we don't have the
     answers, admit mistakes

     Self-centered/childlike vs. Socio-centered/focus on family,
     immediate issues, nationalism vs. World centered/concerned
     for the whole/empathy with non-Americans

     *   Politicians actually act more on the left/right model.
     *   For all the diversity that we have, our representatives
          end up on one side of the other.
     *   Until we change the coalitions around the
          representatives, then nothing will change.



Group Two - Balance of values

       Mommy values          Daddy values
       ^^^^^^^^^^^^          ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
       People are good       People are flawed
       Cooperation             Competition
       Hope                        Fear
       Compassion             Tough Love
       Community              Individual
       Fairness                  Accountability
       Pluralism               Unity
       Quality of Life         Economic Growth
       Equality                   Freedom

     *   Next step would be values that bridge
     *   We need Mommy and Daddy / Family model
     *   Can we create some common terminology?
     *   We are trying our best to support both, within a system
        that has said you have to be one or the other

Group Three - A compass, not a map

     *   Maps are flat and one dimensional, no smell, taste, boring.
     *   We have a moral compass - Joy, Purpose, Honor, Integrity
     *   The "me" is in the center, with my own decision points.
         Around "me" are the circles of family, community, country,
         etc.
     *   A compass floatsŠWe each float within our frameworks, we
         then maneuver within our days, and challenges from our
         floating center allowing us to be non-stuck, as we see
         others as non-stuck.

Session Closing Comments

     *   In the "red team, blue team" model, we need rules,
         officials, and guidelines.
     *   In the "left and right" map 80% of us are spectators.
         How do we engage the rest? The apathy has gotten so bad,
         that we need to discover how to re-engage the masses.
     *   American people are disengaged spectators, just watching
         the game, but with no power.
     *   We are simpler beings, we just want to go with the good
         people and go against the bad people.

OUTCOMES -- Next Time and Next Steps

What worked?

     *   Diversity
     *   Civility
     *   Courtesy
     *   Small groups
     *   Unstructured time
     *   Group size of the whole
     *   No cell phones
     *   Phenomenal facilitation
     *   Individuals that were invited
     *   Opportunity to meet
     *   Physical layout of the meeting place (Gold Lake lodge)
     *   Exclusive use of the space
     *   The space itself and the setting (Gold Lake), and the
         'family' that runs it
     *   Dialogues
     *   Hot tubs

Considerations for next timeŠ

     *   Altitude
     *   More early playfulness for connecting
     *   Bring in the initiatives we had asked for  (follow
         through with our plan)
     *   Possibly find a facilitator with a different political persuasion
     *   Too much crunchy snack food
     *   Hold the meeting earlier in the year (for weather/holiday reasons)
     *   Hold the meeting after the elections as a healing space
     *   Bring into the room African-American men
     *   Topical areas represented, for example children, or hunger
     *   Offer more information to inform dialogues
     *   Do we expand this group or create new groups?
     *   Do we preplan what issues are on the table?
     *   Could hold smaller issue-oriented meetings, and bring
         what is gathered and learned to the larger meeting
     *   Have a bi-monthly newsletter

Next steps - Planned actions agreed upon by participants (not named)

     *   Plan large scale citizen dialogues
     o   Monthly "American Pizza Parties"
     o   Launch a "Democracy Campaign" in 2006 - a trans-partisan
         nation field campaign that a) convenes a series of issue
         dialogues among experts and average citizens, b) convenes
         monthly citizen dialogues and c) convenes a We the People
         National Convention by 2008
     *   Monthly trans-partisan salons or dinners in DC
     *   Continuing conversation on election laws
     *   Reaching out to women on equal rights
     *   Move forward trans-partisan dialogue on terrorism
     *   Articles for the American Legion Magazine
     *   Third Conference on Democracy in America

CLOSING CIRCLE

Though we planned the last dialogue to be about 'Next
Steps', when Sunday morning arrived, we realized that this
work had already largely taken place and simply allowed 30
minutes for "5 Minute Presentations" of projects already
underway that are examples of trans-partisan work.  It was
evident that as yet unidentified collaborations would spring
from the personal relationship that had begun.

The remainder of the morning was devoted to bringing closure
to an event that in many ways could be described as a
political healing - enemies had met, looked each other in
the eye and were in some way transformed.  Following a round
of heartfelt sharing about the personal impact of the
gathering, we closed with a standing circle in which prayers
and blessings were offered from the Islamic, Judaic,
Protestant, and Catholic traditions.


Appendix I


PARTICIPANTS (Note:  11 women, 14 men -- gender balance played a role)

John Rother, Director of Policy and Strategy, AARP
Robert Spanogle, National Adjutant, American Legion
Grover Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform
Betsy Taylor, President, Center for a New American Dream
Roberta Combs, President, Christian Coalition
Ana Micka, President, Citizens for Health
Dave Keating, Executive Director, Club for Growth
Chellie Pingree, President, Common Cause
Joseph McCormick, Co-founder, Democracy in America Project
Pat Spino, Co-founder, Democracy in America Project
Irma Herrera, Executive Director, Equal Rights Advocates
Tom Beech, President, Fetzer Institute
William Ury, Director, Global Negotiation Project, Harvard Law School
Cheryl Graeve, Senior Director, Membership, League of Woman Voters
Michael Ostrolenk, Founder, Liberty Coalition
Mark Gerzon, President, Mediators Foundation
Scott Heiferman, Co-Founder, Meetup.com
Joan Blades, Co-Founder, MoveOn.org
Ahmed Younis, Director, Muslim Public Affairs Council
Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Assoc. General Secretary, 
National Council of Churches USA
Susan Hackley, Managing Director, Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School
Robert Fersh, Executive Director, Search for Common Ground USA
Maggie Fox, Deputy Executive Director, Sierra Club
Drew Bond, President, Townhall.com
John Steiner, Transpartisan networker


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