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.
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.
Professor Ray Ison of the Institute for Sustainable Futures reports on a Planet under Pressure
We share Professor Ison’s concerns. A split in systemic thinking erupted in the origins of the Club of Rome in 1970. An original proposal by Hasan Ozbekhan and Aleco Christakis offered 49 Continuous Critical Problems (CCPs) and argued for a dialogical method for dealing with them. This dialogue-based proposal was rejected in favor of an expert-design System Dynamics approach that resulted in the publication of The Limits to Growth. As a result of the report and parallel efforts, system dynamics became a dominating example of systemic thinking.