Tom Atlee Proposes distributed-intelligence, crowd-sourcing participatory think tank for popular common-sense policies, unhindered by party affiliations and ideology

Collaboration Zones, Collective Intelligence, Communities of Practice, IO Sense-Making, Mobile, Policies, Threats
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Phi Beta Iota: There is no other person we hold in higher esteem than Tom Atlee.  For America the Beautiful, at least, he is this generation's Wise Man.  Below in his own words.  We urge one and all to contribute to his sustenance.

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Dear friends,

I have been talking a lot lately with strategists in the Coffee Party movement (CPM).  If you don't know much about the Coffee Party, I urge you to check out their website and Wikipedia's well-referenced short article on them.

While the Coffee Party has definite progressive roots, it also features bright transpartisan energies.  Most Coffee Party members — and co-founder Annabel Park — promote civil dialogue about public issues.  They also promote democracy-building policies, especially ones to address the democracy-degrading influence of money in politics.

I much prefer the Coffee Party's brand of transpartisanship to the more recent No Labels movement whose goal is “to encourage politicians to come together to develop pragmatic and workable solutions.”  Politicians?  What about We, the People? What about citizen deliberations and stakeholder dialogues?  I can't help but wonder what informed citizen deliberative councils would have to say about the issues the No Labels site addresses…

Although I'm still open to evidence to the contrary, it seems to me that No Labels is trying to co-opt the very real frustration most Americans feel for the political polarization and legislative logjam they see every day.  I fear No Labels is cleverly reframing the meme of transpartisanship to rally growing populist energies around a hidden special interest agenda — perhaps building a movement to support a Bloomberg presidential bid in 2012.

Check out “No Labels: What’s Behind “Forward?” Pro-Corporate Economic Policy.”  While I don't agree with everything Jim Cook writes or implies there, I think it is significant that all three No Labels co-founders are professionally involved in promoting corporate interests, and that they advocate tapping Social Security to reduce the debt — when SS is not actually a part of the federal budget, per se, but is a collective retirement account into which workers have paid for decades which has lately been ripped off for budgetary expenditures.  Their budget concerns do not highlight the gigantic portion of the actual budget that goes to military expenditures — to say nothing of the non-budgeted expenditures for the wars in Iraq and Iran which constitute a gigantic part of the federal debt — military expenditures that are greater than all other military budgets in the world combined.  Nor do they feature the many forms of corporate welfare and the option of raising taxes on the hyper-wealthy to the 1950s levels.  Notably, they depend heavily on the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a very partisan source, as their favorite budgetary reference.

The whole thing doesn't smell right to me. But I do see it as another indicator of how powerful the emerging transpartisan populist trend is, that so much elite attention is being dedicated to co-opting it.

I see the Coffee Party — and many other initiatives, such as the Transpartisan Alliance — as more legitimate manifestations of the emerging transpartisan trend, because they are grounded in the voices of diverse citizens who aren't just supporting transpartisan politicians but co-creating transpartisan deliberations and solutions among themselves.  At last.

Last night, after weeks of communications in Coffee Party forums, a new idea came to me that I shared with them and want to share with you.  I don't know if the Coffee Party movement (CPM) will adopt it, but just imagine if someone did….

Let me know what you think.



Imagine a CPM that doesn't advocate policies to government.  It does no lobbying of policy-makers.  Instead, it brings forth transpartisan policies and creates the conditions where support for such policies becomes the thing to do.

Specifically, it would develop transpartisan or post-partisan policies and then promote them to organizations and thought leaders across the political spectrum.

In other words, WE would collectively identify, gather, attract, and create policy options that potentially have very broad support and then, for each one, we would solicit and publicize a full-spectrum list of endorsers for that policy.  We would work hard to recruit at least a good number of well-known Left, Right, Independent, Green, and Libertarian endorsements, and clearly state their partisan ID/label beside each endorser's name (to demonstrate the breadth of the political spectrum of endorsers).  Then we would publicize the fact that there is broad agreement for this policy (“Just look at that list!!!”) and try to get the endorsers and others to also publicize that fact.  Voters would hear about this through their networks and/or news sources and/or our searchable website and/or our public promotional efforts.

If someone developed a policy on a subject for which we already had a policy, and it was able to garner more endorsements, we'd just add it to the list, inviting competition to see which policy can get the most and widest spread of endorsements.

We would become known as a distributed-intelligence, crowd-sourcing participatory think tank for popular common-sense policies, unhindered by party affiliations and ideology.  We would encourage politicians to add the policies in our database to their platforms, and to promote the fact that those policies came from (or through) CPM.  (Sort of like a political Underwriters Laboratory that says this policy is a well-designed product.)

We could hold contests for such policies, and recruit rich people to sponsor the search for such policies on the issues that concern them.  We could do major annual prizes (like Nobel or Pulitzer or something complex like the Academy Awards) awarded to individuals or groups who succeeded in bringing forth the most powerful transpartisan solutions to the most difficult issues, or with the greatest public participation, or….  We could encourage the creation of video games through which gamers generate policies (see the TED talk along those lines by Jane McGonigal). We could do PR (well researched with focus groups) and viral videos that position our beyond-partisan policies as “political magic” and “breakthrough” and “state of the art politics”.

The goal:  To ultimately make CPD's work so popular and indispensable that it would be embarrassing for politicians to not advocate the policies we bring to the table.

A fascinating advantage of this approach:  It doesn't actually matter HOW such a policy is developed.  Which means we don't have to do all the heavy lifting of developing the policies.  A policy could come from existing CPD online debates.  It could be recommended by a randomly selected Citizens Jury or Wisdom Council, or by some organization that organizes mass-participation civic dialogues or deliberations.  It could come from survey research or from some political think tank.  It could even come from a partisan group that thinks its solution qualifies. Whatever!!!  IT DOESN'T MATTER.  The ONLY thing that matters is that the policy's endorsers come from across the political spectrum and that there are enough of them.  Any policy that does not qualify by these standards doesn't get our seal of approval.  As simple as that.

And CPM becomes the gold standard for transpartisanship, because we have a demonstrably valuable, useful product AND we engage people across all political spectrums and classes and sectors and every other kind of diversity you can imagine…

This approach creates a space in which practically any of the strategies advocated in these discussions so far could be pursued by those who wish to pursue them.  My “public wisdom” ideas would fit.  The idea of hashing out transpartisan solutions within CPM would fit.  The idea of CPM convening local dialogues on public issues would fit.  And any CPer who wants the CPM to advocate a particular policy can focus on doing the leg-work of getting full-spectrum endorsers for their idea.  AND, if it were done right, we'd have thousands of non-CPers doing work on this for us!

And we could be a nonprofit 501c(3) if we wanted, because we aren't actually lobbying!

One way to let a thousand flowers bloom…


Winter 2010-2011  Co-Intelligence Institute fundraiser  progress report:

Funds raised so far:  $745  //  Target:  $15,000
Percentage of needed funds raised so far:  5.0%
People on List:  2047  //   Days left in fundraiser:  41

Thank you to the 19 people who have responded so far!


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