Worth a Look: Communications, Communities, & Modalities

About the Idea, Advanced Cyber/IO, Collaboration Zones, Communities of Practice, Ethics, IO Sense-Making, Methods & Process, Policies, Threats
Tom Atlee at Phi Beta Iota

Seven years ago Tom Atlee, our mentor on collective intelligence and community self-organization for resilience and sustainability, began focusing on “ways of communicating.”  Responding to a recent query from us about alternatives to partisan politics or dictatorships, he offered up the below links, each of which has many other links, as food for reflection.

1.  Designing Multi-Process Public Participation Programs

2. A map of Community Intelligence and some of its important constituents

3.  Approaches to Community Engagement and the Generation of Community Wisdom

The latter offers a 1-paragraph description of each of almost 50 processes).

And, of course, there is Tree Bressen et al

4. A Pattern Language for Group Process

Below is a general commentary he offered on “modalities” as a mixed bag.

I’m seeing some apples and oranges (and bolts and clouds!) in the list of sample “modalities” you sent me:

*  World Cafe and Open Space are group conversational methodologies.

*  Appreciative Inquiry is a form of strategic questioning sometimes used in groups, but also often in organizational development interventions.

*  Wisdom Council is a democratic process that uses Dynamic Facilitation as its group conversational methodology.

*  NCDD is an organization — a professional association and coalition that promotes dialogue and deliberation (which are generic categories of group conversational methodology, but not specific group processes in and of themselves [although some methodologists have sought to co-opt these terms as their own]).

*  Co-intelligence is a capacity that can be served by various conversational methodologies and democratic processes (and many other things, like information/feedback systems; holistic, collaborative paradigms; non-dual psycho-spiritual practices like meditation; etc.), but is not reducible to any of them or even to any of its own dimensions (i.e., collective intelligence, collaborative intelligence, multi-modal intelligence, resonant intelligence, universal intelligence, and wisdom).

Among the possibilities for exposing interested minds to these options:

a.  more group conversational methodologies like Conversation Cafe, Thirty-Five, Circle, Brainstorming, Fishbowl, Consensus Process, Dynamic Facilitation, etc.

b.  more forms of questioning (see http://co-intelligence.org/P-Questions.html)

c.  more democratic innovations like Citizens Juries, Consensus Conferences, Creative Insight Councils, Interactive Voter Choice System, Study Circles, Asset Based Community Development, etc.

d.  more D&D organizations like International Association for Public Participation, Public Agenda, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, etc.

e.  more forms of or approaches to co-intelligence (positive deviance, permaculture, collective wisdom, transition towns, green economics, polarity management, pattern languages, etc.)

f.  (There may even be other things, such as WiserEarth or crowd-sourced philanthropy or World Game or…)

I am also not sure whether you are talking about giving conference attendees an EXPERIENCE of these “modalities” or simply KNOWLEDGE of their existence and a bit of understanding about what they are, what they are good for and (perhaps) where they fit in a larger picture.  (The “where things fit” part is an inquiry I’m on the leading edge of, but being a leading edge, it is still very much in development.)

ALL these things can be EXPLAINED, giving attendees some awareness and understanding of the various options and dimensions involved in all this.  But if you want to give people an actual EXPERIENCE, you need to focus on processes that are amenable to brief demonstrations — like Circle, Appreciative Inquiry, Conversation Cafe, Thirty-Five, Brainstorming, Fishbowl, Consensus, etc. — while keeping in mind that many of these processes don’t do much without an extended period of time to generate their impact.  For example, more often than not, demonstrations of DF (and related things like Wisdom Councils) flop when they are given 20-120 minutes to show their stuff, simply because the start of the process is often messy and confusing and only opens up into breakthroughs after hours or even days of intense conversational work.  Others, like World Cafe and Open Space, provide a very different experience if demonstrated for a couple of hours vs several days (and are FAR more transformative when given sufficient time).  On the other hand, most of (c) and (e) are not demonstrable in this way at all.  And (d) involves organizations, not “something to experience”.  One can learn about them or join them, but not “experience” them as part of a conference put on by someone else.

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