The Case for Citizen Think Tanks
Not in all communities, but in many communities, there is a growing sense of confusion, frustration, and even anger in America, and it takes its form at the street level upon which most Americans live their lives. The confusion is larger than what any one mind can grasp. It races like a dark shadow ahead of us into our futures, and most of us sense that we can do little more than try to ignore it. Situations which seem too complex to understand remain obscure. We don’t want even to talk about them because we don’t want to feel responsible for thinking about them. We impulsively sense that some will win, and others will lose, and that our tightest circle of like-minded spirits is our greatest hope for weathering the storm. Fundamentalism, of both the civic and the spiritual form, holds us in its grasp this way.
Heraklion DEMOSCOPIO: A vision for democracy, cooperation and dialogue
The municipality of Heraklion in Crete, Greece will soon open the Heraklion Demoskopio, a new institution that will engage the stakeholders of the city in open and focused dialogues. It will be a public space for eliciting citizen concerns, hosting their dialogues, and posting those concerns and results on its walls and windows of the town’s citizens.
The essence of a democratic act is the co-construction of a coherent understanding of a shared circumstance. All else flows from this constructed understanding. It has never been easy, and today may be much more difficult that it has been in the past. This is frustratingly ironic to many who turn to the Internet as mankind’s last best shot at a democratic global future.
In a recent blog titled “Detroit and the Temptation of Ruin,” Tufts University civics scholar Peter Levine speaks of art, poverty and hopes for renewal. The story, as Levine notes, is tragic in the Aristotelian sense – local art and architecture documents a rise to power, a celebrated era, and a collapse to “700,000 people who live amid the empty shells of its industrial past, while the nation looks away.”
The Institute for 21st Century Agoras presented a technology poster at the EPA’s 13th Community Involvement Training Conference in Boston on July 30 – August 1.
Our poster is entitled A Democratic Approach for Sustainable Futures, with a more lengthy sub-title “Framing Consensus Views for Collective Action: The Sociotechnology of Interpretive Structural Modeling Embedded within Structured Dialogic Design.”
The London School of Economics and Political Science blog site carries an evocative – if not provocative – post from a Senior Researcher at the Centre for European Studies, at the University of Oslo. The post is nine months old, and hasn’t drawn much response – however, the commentary does beg for an audience. Plato indeed may have set the Western tradition innocently in search of philosopher kings, and technocracy may have now quite fully co-opted Plato’s intentions for inquiry with proclamations from elite-led multilateral economic institutions. It may be time to begin again.
In an inaugural event in NYC last weekend, the NoLabels movement presented its view of a way to resolve the hyperpartisan crisis in America. “Legislators need to stop fighting and to start working together.”
It is unclear how and when legislators choose to fight. Newly seated legislators don’t come into office with aggressive intent. They typically come from cultures where collaboration has prevailed. Given this, one might suppose that there is either something about the working culture of Congress or about the process of dealing with the complexity of federal lawmaking that causes congressmen to cling too tightly to their parties.
At this time in history, 78 is still far too young an age to be swept into the future. For four decades, Elinor and her colleagues have been slaying a myth that was breathed into life by Ecologist Garrett Hardin‘s misunderstanding of the nature of “The Tragedy of the Commons.” The myth is that people cannot self-govern … and yet that, somehow, a higher mortal authority is imagined to have the elusive capacity to govern with humane wisdom.
Democracy is in the business of continually creating a new narrative … oral, textual, and graphic … that can move through and transform communities. While some voices within the Club of Rome have railed against the shortfalls of distorted democracy (and we can see their points), there are few alternative governance approaches which we feel can carry our faith through the changing cycles of national leadership.
The director of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation recently asked listserv members for responses to the concept of a “national dialogue infrastructure.” The goal was to gather some input for an NCDD summit to be held in Seattle in the fall of 2012, and the request called attention first to the “values” that might be expected of such an infrastructure. 1) inclusive access (“distributed”), 2) collaborative intent (“helping others”), 3) personal safety (“anonymous expression”), 4) integrated operation (“coalition / confederation), and 4 transparency / sustainability (“cost effective nonprofit’).