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Transformational Politics (draft outline)


by Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute,


For an earlier, longer discussion of transformational politics and the "spectrum of political engagement", see Transformational Politics.


Below is one possible model to clarify different approaches to political work and some directions we might go to align them to our understandings of interconnectedness, wholeness and co-creativity. The categories given below are not exclusive, but overlap and intertwine with each other. Each one, however, has a very different energy and focus. Actions listed later in the list will tend (I suspect) to have a more transformational impact. This list is a draft: the categories, issues, summary statements, and political activities can all be revised. Feel free to use this list in any way that you think might help our political evolution.


Apolitics (issues: personal issues, freedom, stability) --
"Living one's life as if politics has nothing to do with oneself."

(issues: alienation, corruption, hopelessness, utopian visions)
"Sick of the life-degrading dynamics of politics"

Routine politics
(issues: information, fair procedure, majority rule) --
"Playing one's prescribed participatory role as a citizen."

Power politics
(issues: leverage, answerability, imagery, winning) --
"Getting what one needs and wants in a competitive environment."

Cooperative politics
(issues: vision, common ground, participation) --
"Working together to pursue shared visions and satisfy shared needs."

Holistic politics
(issues: synergy, insight, big picture, system dynamics) --
"Generating the wisdom of the whole for the benefit of the whole."

_ _ _ _


1) Future Search - Selected stakeholders together review their shared past and the current dynamics in their shared world, identify shared visions, and then create working groups to move towards those visions. See

2) Consensus community organizing - Identifying projects on which community organizations and "downtown interests" can collaborate, thus building relationships for future projects. See

3) Participatory community planning efforts - Open municipal planning/visioning processes which attract hundreds of citizens to brainstorm, discuss and select improvements for their city/community. For an example, see

4) Listening projects - Canvassing door to door with questions that invite citizens to explore issues in ways that transform their awareness and engage their interest and participation. Contact Rural Southern Voice for Peace <>

5) Study circles - Voluntary, self-organizing adult education groups of 5-20 people who meet three to six times to explore a subject, often a critical social issue. See

6) Citizen consensus panels and wisdom councils - People selected at random or to represent the diversity of a population, facilitated to a consensus that articulates the public interest. Some councils deal with broad issues of values, needs and directions; others deal with specfic issues (and usually involve some study of those issues). For an overview and further references, see

7) Open space conferences of elders on public issues - Open space conferences are self-organized gatherings to help people who are passionate about a topic to co-create the conversations and activities needed to move that issue on to its next stage. See . To generate significant collective wisdom, participants would ideally themselves be relatively wise and be able to carry on respectful, powerful dialogue -- thus the reference to "elders" (which here refers to such people of any age). Disseminating the stories and results of such conferences -- and holding them regularly -- would magnify their power.

8) Publicized scenario work by all stakeholders - Scenario work explores an unknown future -- not to predict or control what happens, but to prepare ourselves to recognize and better work with it, whatever it may be. Contact Douglass Carmichael <>. High-quality scenario work of a small group of well-selected stakeholders can, if well publicized, transform the consciousness of a larger population regarding how to proceed into the future.

9) All-faiths essay contests about our collective future - Spirituality is a vital dimension of wisdom. An essay contest could be designed to engage formal spiritual groups in dialogue about humanity's shared future, and draw collective attention to asking the right questions and looking in the right directions.

10) Satyagraha (Gandhian "truth force") - While many believe Gandhian nonviolence is an adversarial strategy, Gandhi stressed that it involved adherence to truth and the effort to draw everyone involved into dialogue about what is really, deeply true here, in which all participants can become more grounded in their own humanity and the welfare of the larger community.

11) Redefining success - A system's assumptions around, measurement of and rewards for success are among the most powerful shapers of thought, feeling and behavior, both individual and collective. Collective inquiries around the issue of "quality of life for all of us, including our future generations" can evoke real wisdom. For example see . Also see Robert Theobald's book "Reworking Success" online at