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The "Revitalizing Democracy" Project of
The Co-Intelligence Institute for The Year 2000

We thank the Nathan Cummings Foundation for its support
of the The "Revitalizing Democracy" Project


The democracy designed by the creators of the American republic is now out of date.

Our democracy is inadequate to meet the most pressing challenges of the 21st Century. Those challenges include but are not limited to

  • the deep erosion of community and sovereignty,
  • the influence of corporations and wealthy individuals on media and the political process, and
  • the emergence of technologies toxic to democracy (some of which risk human extinction).

Our democracy is not consistent with what we learned about the world and ourselves in the 20th Century. The 20th Century brought us powerful new sciences -- among them

  • chaos, complexity and living systems theories;
  • quantum mechanics and field theories; and
  • ecology.

It also gave us a bountiful harvest of understandings and methodologies related to our individual and collective humanity, such as:

  • the human potential movement,
  • the organizational development and transformation movement, and
  • new approaches to community and whole-systems change.

All of this incredible knowledge has profound implications for democratic theory and practice which, if adequately explored and developed, could provide us with the means to deal wisely with the challenges we face.

The "revitalization of democracy" that we need is not so much to realign with the centuries-old structures of our society, as to break through to new forms and understandings which allow us to live the age-old democratic dream more deeply and successfully than ever before.

The ultimate goal of this project is to help transform human culture's current and brilliant capacity for collective self-degradation and destruction into a capacity for conscious, wise collective cultural evolution. As noted above, we are lucky to have tremendous knowledge resources available for this effort.

Project Purpose:

To use the special knowledge, connections and resources of the Co-Intelligence Institute to help bring into being a democracy capable of dealing wisely with the collective challenges of the 21st Century.

Project Priority:

This will be the primary focus of the Co-Intelligence Institute in the Year 2000, constituting no less than 90% of its work. (That focus has continued to be primary well into the year 2003.)

Project Genesis and Evolution:

This project grew out of the Co-Intelligence Institute's work on the Year 2000 Problem. Our Y2K work was intended (1) to enhance community resilence and sustainability and (2) to deal with the primary underlying cause of the Y2K threat -- our inability to collectively recognize, reflect on and creatively deal with the collective dangers and opportunities we face; in other words, our lack of collective intelligence at the community and societal levels.

Early in 1999, as it became increasingly clear that governments were not going to ensure adequate societal and communal preparation to deal with significant disruptions, the Institute determined that our best strategy was to increasingly focus on (2) while maintaining our support of (1). As the year progressed, efforts to enhance community resilience and sustainability in the face of Y2K were increasingly thwarted by government-based PR reassurances. Therefore, our work turned increasingly toward enhancing collective intelligence.

The uneventful Year 2000 rollover was a virtual death knell for Y2K-based community organizing. After months of no Y2K crises, Y2K is no longer seen to be something communities need or want to address, be educated about or respond to. Therefore, Y2K is also no longer a good medium through which to pursue the revitalization of democracy (which does, after all, have to do with the real, conscious concerns of The People). Communities cannot be prepared against their will for a danger they do not think is there.

However, since Y2K was also a subset of a broader set of threats to community well-being (e.g., info-warfare/ cyberterrorist attacks on infrastructure; natural disasters [exacerbated by human impacts on nature]; economic crises [exacerbated by multinational globalization]; technologies run amok [like biotechnology]; etc), communities and societies still need resilience and sustainability. Unfortunately, we don't have the collective intelligence to recognize that this need exists nor how to satisfy it. Since people won't listen if we preach preparedness, preaching preparedness is futile. So the Revitalizing Democracy project now focusses on advocating new political and governance forms that ARE capable of recognizing the need for (and ways of enhancing) resilience and sustainability. The highest leverage we know of to enhance the liveability of communities through whatever Y2K-like challenges they face in the future is to promote these new political and governance forms and the collective intelligence they engender.

Project Areas of Focus:

1) Create or muster the theory needed to move democratic thought beyond the intrinsic adversariality of the Newtonian/Darwinian paradigm (isolated, self-interested entities applying force to each other and their environments in a battle for survival and dominion) into the holistic paradigm (interconnected entities and environments who are both unique and expressive of larger continually-emerging fields of reality, co-creating whatever happens next). Although we won't ignore the esoteric dimensions of this (because there may be power there, too), we shall focus on extracting practical, usable answers to such questions as: "What would democracy look like if we took our wholeness, interconnectedness and co-creativity seriously?" and "What do the new sciences -- ecology, chaos theory, quantum physics, etc. -- have to teach us about how democracy works and could be enhanced?"

2a) Promote existing high-leverage processes and political innovations (particularly citizen consensus councils) through research, theoretical work, articles, messages on email and the CII website, and efforts to get publicly-concerned people trained, experienced, and/or enthusiastic regarding these processes and innovations. 2b) Help people promote the use of these processes and innovations in and through their organizations, networks and communities (especially in the CII's hometown of Eugene, OR). 2c) Promote the integrated, synergistic and repeated use of diverse co-intelligent processes and innovations, rather than one-time applications of single processes. 2d) Promote experimentation with such integration and with new variants of co-intelligent processes to advance our knowledge of their dynamics and uses.

3) Research the growing movement to increase the capacity of communities to govern themselves wisely and effectively. Increase the sophistication of those advocating "public participation" so that the generativity (wise, co-intelligent results) of such participation is considered as important as the mere fact of public involvement.

4) Intensify our research on the new sciences -- particularly chaos, complexity and living systems theories -- and how they could enhance a democratic society's capacity to self-organize wisely and sustainably. Instigate broader dialogues about this subject.

5) Promote the positive vision and mythos of resilient, co-intelligently democratic communities and societies, and link this vision and mythos to issues of contemporary concern. Specifically, publicize the dangers to our collective survival and democracy -- e.g., corporate globalization, technological developments, new elitist ideologies -- and in each case refer to the role that democratic innovations could play in dealing with them wisely.

6) Increase the capacity of activists and public interest groups to use and promote democratic collective intelligence, the wholeness of the human spirit, and the understandings of the new sciences to move the center of gravity of activism from adversariality to the co-creativity of everyone involved.

7) Include the other aspects of co-intelligence (multi-modal intelligence, collaborative intelligence, wisdom and universal intelligence) in these efforts, but keep the focus on collective intelligence and its implications for democracy at the societal, regional and community levels.

8) Write a book -- The Tao of Democracy -- that introduces the broad concept of co-intelligence in the context of creating a democratic culture capable of collective wisdom.

9) In all these efforts, glean from Y2K work done during 1998-1999 -- particularly reworking materials that are generally applicable to increasing community resilience, enhancing democratic capacity, and alerting the public to the unique challenges of the new world we have created (including future technological and infrastructure challenges). Although the specific threat of Y2K is now diffuse and increasingly difficult to identify or communicate, the more general threat of technologically-based disruptions to communities and democracies is still growing. This project is one approach to ameliorating that threat.

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