Engaged Co-Intelligent Citizenship
Each of us has a special function to perform
in the world, based on our unique talents and personal qualities,
our lifetime learnings, and our heartfelt concerns and passions.
When you discover these gifts within yourself and create or uncover
your purpose in life, you will have found the key to a meaningful,
happy life and to making your greatest contribution to healing
-- Jay Earley, "Life Purpose and Social Transformation"
Not every citizen is an activist. Many of us don't even exercise
our most basic powers as a citizen. But we are entering an era
where the consequences of our collective power and fragmentation
are so great that more and more of us will be experiencing the
negative effects of that power as it reflects back into our lives.
Unfortunately, it is growing increasingly likely that each of
us may personally suffer from one or more of the following:
- economic disruptions (like job loss and stock market crashes),
- environmental degradation (like wild weather and pollution),
- very personal stresses (like toxic-induced cancers and lack
- extreme violent social phenomena (like children shooting
each other and extremist groups doing bizarre things),
- technologies gone bad (like antibiotic-resistant bacteria
or new forms of mass manipulation),
- political repression and scapegoating (including surveillance
and pressure to conform and be quiet), and
- a loss of security (from the threat of war and terrorism
to the loss of privacy).
In times like these more of us may find ourselves called to
exercise our citizenship in all its forms, and to try out new
forms of activism in an attempt to make things better. Those of
us who were apathetic and alienated may start voting. Those of
us who voted may start boycotting. Those of us who boycotted may
start working in our communities or volunteering for some activist
campaign. Those of us who campaigned against war or pollution
may start campaigning for institutional changes like citizen deliberative
councils. Those of us who campaigned for institutional changes
may start convening powerful conversations around strategic questions
that shift the consciousness of whole systems. And in and around
the rest of us, some folks may be inventing new technologies that
empower us all, while others may be telling stories that inspire
us all, while still others may be weaving together people or ideas
into more powerfully synergetic webs of relationship, insight
and vision within which we can all become the new world
we want to see.
The seeds of the future are sprouting among us, in everything
we do and don't do. Now is a great time to wake up. We've barely
begun our evolutionary journey. There is still a long and wondrous
way to go. Even at this moment, we are making the road we walk
upon -- all of us together, and each of us individually.
So let's make a difference in the way we do it, even
as we make a difference in the world.
TAKING PERSONAL ACTION
All of us have roles, connections, capacities or resources
that make it possible for us to make special contributions to
this work. I've chosen below some common categories of people
and noted a few basic things that each kind of person could do
to help build a co-intelligent culture. Each one is just a teaser,
a taste of the sorts of things you could do if you are that type
Whether or not you find yourself in the categories below, I'm
sure you know your life and special connections and capacities
better than I do. Connect with others in your domain and brainstorm
what you might do together. You could be Catholic, or involved
in child care, or disabled, or a gardener, or anything else. If
you get together with others like yourself and brainstorm questions
like "Who do we know who could make a difference in this?"
or "What is it about us that could make a unique impact if
we worked together?" or "What media are we connected
to that we should contact about this?" -- you would end up
with far better ideas than I could ever come up with. But the
following will give you a sense of what's possible....
IF YOU ARE A PROFESSIONAL
You could get together with your colleagues and begin building
a professional "eldership network" dedicated to using
your specialty to empower people to co-intelligently self-organize.
Psychologists, educators, theologians, architects, planners,
futurists, sociologists, healers, lawyers, librarians, mediators,
writers and artists, performers, systems analysts, and many others
have a similar, unique gift to offer in building co-intelligence.
They are actually doing similar work. They enhance self-organization,
self-reliance, and self-realization at different levels of the
spectrum of human systems. By that I mean these different professions
deal with individuals or relationships or groups or organizations
or networks or communities or regions or whole societies or the
But they aren't separate. Life at each of these levels unfolds
in the context of all the others. Creativity, healing and intelligence
at any one level is hindered or helped by the state of the other
An "elder" is anyone who enhances self-organization
and co-intelligence at one or more of these levels.
Ideally, the boundaries between the disciplines concerned with
each level would be permeable, many practitioners would be competent
working at several levels, and an overarching ideology and sensibility
(such as the co-intelligence perspective) would facilitate networking
among practitioners at all levels.
Human systems -- both individual and collective -- are very
much alive and need caring attention. Professional eldership networks
could help build bridges between professions in service to the
larger goal of wise self-organization in all facets of human life.
IF YOU ARE AN ACTIVIST, PHILANTHROPIST, VOLUNTEER OR CONTRIBUTOR
You could explore how to see with a whole-systems perspective,
and channel your gifts accordingly.
It is normal for your caring attention to get so caught by
some specific suffering, dysfunction or symptom that you can't
put much attention on the dynamics that generate such problems
-- to say nothing of positive systemic changes that would resolve
All of us are biologically hard-wired to see what's dramatic,
immediate and personal -- when what we need to address are often
hidden, longer-term, more powerful forces, tendencies and opportunities.
The more time, money and intelligence we, as a culture,
spend on relieving suffering, the less we have to give
to preventing suffering and creating social innovations that would
bring us a co-intelligent culture that would not generate such
vast suffering. So try targeting your caring energies on transformational
Note that some traditional forms of activism support co-intelligence
and some undermine it. A union fighting for a shorter work week
helps transform the culture more than one fighting for higher
wages, since it frees up people's time for community and citizenship.
Environmentalists promoting real dialogue and green taxes do more
to build a co-intelligent culture than environmentalists who do
nothing but sue corporations (although that may be necessary also
if the corporations refuse real dialogue). Community empowerment
is more co-intelligent than welfare handouts. Etc.
For more ideas about co-intelligent social change activism,
see Thoughts on Co-Intelligent
Social Change .
IF YOU ARE A PARENT, EDUCATOR OR STUDENT
You might help schools teach co-intelligence, whether or not
they call it that.
Many existing programs fit that category: co-operative education,
democratic classrooms, multi-modal learning, critical thinking,
values clarification, conflict resolution, multi-culturalism (if
it respects all cultures and includes the importance of having
a common culture grounded in respect), volunteerism, community
involvement, emotional intelligence, each one teach one, etc.
Systems thinking, ecological sensibilities and awareness of
the student's own role in larger systems is extremely important.
As early as possible, and as consistently throughout the years
of education, the skills and methods of real dialogue can be taught,
to enable citizens to creatively participate in a culture of dialogue.
You might support Open Space Conferences, Future Search and Wisdom
Councils in the school system, involving all stakeholders, including
the children and janitors. And nothing beats listening and feeling
Programs that strengthen self-esteem by addressing not only
the student's psychology but their family, social and community
context, can also be very helpful, as can peer counseling programs.
Both co-operative and competitive games can build self-esteem
and team skills, as long as respect for diversity is honored and
everyone has something they can excel at. We can all reflect on
the mixed blessings of both competition and cooperation.
IF YOU ARE AN ARTIST, WRITER OR MEDIA PROFESSIONAL
You could help generate co-intelligent stories and interactive,
participatory, co-creative media. Networks of storytellers and
visionaries could co-create entire utopian worlds to explore how
co-intelligence might play out in every aspect of life and society.
(See, for example, The story of Pat
and Pat, the view from the year 2020.)
Multi-media art and communications could be used in ways that
engage people's multi-modal intelligence (and, if we add multiple-user
interactivity, even collaborative and collective intelligence).
If you are a journalist, join the "civic journalism"
movement to use newspapers and magazines to actually engage people
in meaningful issues and dialogue. Move away from false objectivity
(e.g., reporting what authorities say as fact without comment,
even if they're lying or manipulating, simply because they did
say those things) and conflict-based reporting (including politics-as-sport
Move towards giving people a better sense of the broad range
of views (there are always more than two sides) and why various
parties feel and think those things (the underlying values, stories,
IF YOU ARE A POLITICIAN OR PUBLIC OFFICIAL
Explore thinking systemically, and with the Seventh Generation
(100-150 years after us) in mind. As you work on this, notice
the ways the political system makes it difficult, and share your
thoughts with your constituents. Invite their participation in
dealing with this problem.
In all solutions, see how far you can go in evoking and using
collaboration, community-based answerability, dialogue and well-designed
self-organization rather than domination, regulation and manipulation.
Publicly advocate changing official economic indicators from
production-consumption-monetary ones to quality of life ones.
Since real security is social, economic and environmental, support
the transfer of military funds to enhance these areas of life.
Advocate socially responsible investments that support public
and private entities that help and do not harm human and natural
communities and the capacity for co-intelligence.
Work with your colleagues to nurture a culture of dialogue.
Every problem constitutes an opportunity to transform the context
and to build community involvement and co-intelligence. Support
the use of citizen deliberative councils to provide guidance and
political impetus -- and to stimulate dialogue -- at all levels
of governance. (Again, see The story
of Pat and Pat, the view from the year 2020.)
Explore how there could be a care-ful shift of more governmental
functions from the public sector to the "social sector"
-- the world of nonprofits, volunteers, and community collaborations.
See what you can do to actually empower the social sector to do
these jobs well, rather than just transferring social services
to for-profit corporations.
Notice how volunteering for greater answerability builds respect.
Support changes that reduce the power of money over politics and
Talk to your constituents about the need for empowered, self-reliant,
self-organizing communities. Use your grassroots election efforts
to build community networks that outlast the election. Encourage
grassroots action of all kinds.
IF YOU ARE A BUSINESSPERSON, CONSULTANT OR INVESTOR
Seriously consider supporting community-based, ecological enterprises
and the social sector. Most socially responsible investing compares
favorably with other strategies.
Learn more about The
Natural Step which helps businesses figure out how they can
operate sustainably within natural systems. Learn about the impact
of your work on the long-term welfare of natural and human communities.
Support the participation of all stakeholders in plotting the
course of the businesses they're connected to, especially local
ones. Engage these stakeholders -- stockholders, managers, staff,
all departments, customers, suppliers, competitors, symbiotic
enterprises, government officials, community representatives,
and anyone else affected -- in generative dialogue formats like
Open Space Conferences.
Make your organization a learning organization (see the work
of Peter Senge and others).
All this would be much easier for you and everyone else like
you, if there are government policies and laws -- such as green
taxes and corporate answerability systems -- that level the ethical
playing field for everyone. It is easier for individual companies
to act ethically when everyone else has to, also. Push for these
laws and, in the meantime, push your company as far as it can
go in monitoring its own ethical behavior.
IF YOU ARE AN ACADEMIC, RESEARCHER OR PHILOSOPHER
Explore ways your work could build understanding of the field
Help weave all relevant disciplines, theories and approaches
into the fabric of co-intelligence-as-a-field. Find and build
synergies among all these disciplines, theories and approaches.
Help bridge between theory and practice.
Research ways to increase the wisdom of public behavior and
public policy. This includes experiments in generating community
wisdom (as with citizen deliberative
councils) and in the many other sources of wisdom and how
they can be enhanced and productively used.
Engage political, social and economic powerholders and the
public in this new way of thinking. Teach accessible seminars
and courses for all these audiences, as well as your usual students.
Encourage graduate students to help create balanced information
and dialogue on public issues that will enhance citizens' ability
to reflect and deliberate on these issues.
Offer your expertise to be "on tap" to duly convened
citizen deliberative councils,
rather than "on top" in the elite deliberations of powerholders.
Explore with colleagues how to best apply your knowledge in service
to human and natural communities.