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THE RESULTS OF GROUP WORK
Root Cause Map From Dec 13
Root Cause Map From Jan 31
Anticipating the Challenges to the Vision of a Bottom-Up Democracy
Here is the Summary Report discussing the Root Cause Map constructed by the international team of experts during their synchronous work on December 13:
To see the interpretive discussion among the members of the team following the construction of the Map please go to:
Below is a narrative on the challenges, as presented in the Root Cause Map, facing "governance via the Web" as proposed by the Obama vision of bottom-up democracy. This narrative was produced by Dr. Tom Flanagan. It captures the essence of the Root Cause Map constructed as a result of the inquiry conducted by the international panel of experts employing the Structure Dialogic Design (SDD) process science.
It is perhaps no great surprise that when a panel of systems scientists from across the globe pull their heads together around challenges that President Elect Obama is likely to face in efforts to implement a vision of technologically enabled grass roots democracy, the most influential factor underlying the success of such an outcome was judged to be the commitment that government leaders and agencies actually hold in supporting a grassroots effort. The global design team phrased this as "insufficient attention given to facilitator capacitation."
Enabling pathways for many, many voices with many, many ideas to flow in an orderly fashion toward the highest summits of national thinking is not going to be an easy process.
When we elect representatives to carry our sentiments to the nation's capital, we know that many of our sentiments are left behind. In fact, we are rarely sure if any of our sentiments move forward. Representatives, like workers in any corporation, tend to do what happens to be watched and measured, and the way that they make tradeoffs to capture power for greater leverage (on our collective behalves) is an entirely non-transparent process. In truth, lack of transparency in the way that elected representatives do their work is the foundation of the necessity for President Elect Obama to consider opportunities for doing something differently. The "something differently" is, in this instance, a parallel path that comingles ideas with existing legislative processes, and we might well wonder if this itself isn't a formula for failure. Still, to redesign a system for managing information, there are few instances where one system would suddenly replace another. With two competing processes in place, there is ample opportunity for an incumbent process to passively starve or actively sabotage an emerging new practice. Building the political will among high ranking political officers and intuitional administrations is a daunting challenge, and for this reason it lies at the foundation of the work that lies ahead for President Elect Obama.
If the political will is found to assure "capacitation" of a process that facilitates grassroots contribution to national policy, then this "capacitation" can lead to an evolution within which the overwhelming variety of individual concerns across the nation are brought to the planning table are managed and within which democratic process facilitation shills and resources become progressively more available to serve the peoples of the nation.
Corporate interests can show themselves through the suprahuman power of the corporate voice. Corporations can control the means of practicing democracy through both their messages and also for their economic control over the media which carry both their messages as wells as government and public sector messages. Fundamental changes in the nature of the power of corporations may need to be considered to loosen this strangle hold which will otherwise exert the interests of corporations over the interests of people. The contest between the owners of the means of production and the workers of the world is an ancient context, and the advance of automation in its many forms have marginalized the power for workers who no longer can force their voices into the face of power through impacts on production operations. Workers today are citizens who must work through the political process to curtail harmful corporate practice perhaps from only a few large, and very powerful bad actors, and in this contest of values and goals, corporate war chests of legal funds can be used to stage unconscionable siege to the rights of a people to govern themselves. If this problem is managed, then some longstanding antagonisms might become open discussions in genuine search of resolution. Without a leveled playing field, antagonisms will linger and continue to fester, risking reactions that will harm both the good as well as the evil that is part of the corporate sector. Reduced corporate control also will open the ears of the "deaf spectator" citizen who otherwise would see the contest for outcomes too heavily tilted to the corporate sector. This could herald a new era of citizen will toward participatory democracy. The will to practice democracy without the capacity to do so is tragic, yet the capacity to practice democracy without the will to do so is an anathema. The very capacity to practice democracy online itself lies under the shadow of corporate interests, so reducing corporate control can enable both the will and the capacity in concert - and as the capacity becomes more accessible, the risk of leaving disadvantaged individuals and groups out of the democratic process is reduced.
The global team felt that the ability of individuals to act upon a democratically framed action was limited due to the variety of individual concerns, and for this reason, actions which improved the management of the variety of concerns could open up opportunities for individuals to commit to actions in collaboration with their neighbors across the nation. Without relief from excessive commitment of individual efforts, without relief from the influence of corporate interests, and without skilled and appropriate provisioned facilitators, the global team felt that citizens would find themselves rushing into action. At some point, urgency for action would overwhelm the call for richer reasoning, and the nation would charge into some potentially misguided course of action with damaging consequence.
Full participation is an essential goal, even if this goal can be achieved only in degrees. To maximize full participation, the notion that argument and minority views are "bad" for our society needs to be replaced with a commitment to respect differences and find solutions. Without resolution at this level, some individuals will always risk being labeled as dissidents, and their participation in democratic planning will always expose them to tracking. Disadvantaged citizens will need help that will come from a commitment to provide fair and ready access to new channels for sharing ideas. And citizens who have taken the position as "deaf spectators" will need to have their hope and their hearing restored by convincing displays of the reduction of the power of the corporate voice over the human voice.
It is particularly interesting that while the global team did nominate the idea of "scalability of discussion technology" as being a central concern, the global team did not map this factor in the system of factors that constitute the essential challenge that the president elect faces in implementing ObamaVision. This is perhaps due to the fact that there are additional "missing links" which will define the system in a way that will include scalability of discussion technology. Speculation is hazardous, however, at moments when once considers an outlier event, some manor of speculation is warranted if only to raise a hypothesis against which the outlying event might be tested. There is at this time a practice within the sociotechnology arena that is called Study Circles (www.studycircles.org) and there is a practice within the participatory dialogue arena that is called Deliberative Dialogue (www.kettering.org). In both of these cases, scale is achieved by multiple reenactments of smaller group practices. The scalar phenomenon is related to practicing the same approach, albeit not at the same time and in the same place. The experiential impact is that participants develop some trust for certain types of processes, and if the process does enable authentic democracy, then by experiencing and by recognizing that the practice is strongly protected wherever it is used, citizens might have confidence that reasonable groups who pull together diverse perspectives such as they themselves have done, are likely to draw similar if not identical conclusions. It is a huge leap to take in accepting this as a hypothesis: we do not have many highly codified processes for assuring complex problem solving through participatory democracy. And even where we do have powerful sociotechnologies for assuring participatory democracy at a grassroots level, we do not have any valid reason to believe that such processes are used in the highest halls of government.
In conclusion, then, the system of factors that related to grassroots participation in democratic process ultimately reflect back on demonstrated acceptance, use of, and support for democratic process at the highest levels of government. President Elect Obama needs to make a national demonstration of effective democratic process in the hall of congress before it will be believed that the practice of democratic process on the streets of our communities will have authentic impact on our governance.
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