Tom Atlee: New Developments in Co-Intelligence Work

Collective Intelligence, Cultural Intelligence
Tom Atlee

Dear friends,

This last six months most of the Co-Intelligence Institute's best work has been in behind-the-scenes exploratory conversations, research and development.  We expect the results of all that to become increasingly evident soon.

Here's a sky-view of what we've been up to.  I invite you to consider what impact this kind of work has and could have, and to support it generously.

Headings Here, Details Below the Line



*  In the last six months we sent out mailings, blog posts and tweets on the food crisis, diversity, social systems, powerful conversations, Japan's nuclear crisis, Wikileaks, democracy — including the hot question of who REALLY represents We the People, as well as offerings for Egypt's democratic revolution — and much more.  Perhaps most notably, we compiled, organized and shared a LOT of information about the budget crisis, income disparity, participatory budgeting, and ways of engaging the citizenry in tight times.  That attracted inquiries from some major players in California's hot budget debate.!/tomatlee

*  I became an official blogger of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation.  In my first posts I proposed innovations to make deliberation more creative, and urged professionals in the field to reach beyond their own projects to collaborate in building society's “conversational commons”.

*  KOSMOS journal published my article “Positive Possibilities for a World in Crisis”, a shorter version of “Crisis Fatigue and the Co-Creation of Positive Possibilities” which we sent you last November.

*  I've been working with professor Kenn Burrows on an in-progress Project Censored report about why positive news about citizen empowerment and collaboration gets so little mainstream coverage — and what to do about it.  You can find out more about Project Censored at

*  Filip Mráček translated and published a Czech version of one of my early good articles on co-intelligence.  You can read the original at


Two of the projects in which the Co-Intelligence Institute played significant roles had big successes this year.

*  Legislation establishing Oregon's Citizen Initiative Review process — in which panels of randomly selected citizens evaluate ballot measures — passed both houses of the Oregon state legislature and was just signed into law by the governor.  This is the FIRST TIME citizen deliberative councils have been made official in the United States.  Wow!

*  Peggy Holman's breakthrough book ENGAGING EMERGENCE: TURNING UPHEAVAL INTO OPPORTUNITY won a gold medal in the Nautilus Book Awards.  It was also passed on to some notable leaders, including President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton.  Wow #2 — and may this profoundly important book shape their thinking about governance…


*  We've had meaty conversations with the Coffee Party and Transpartisan leader Joseph McCormick about inclusive grassroots conversations, and the impact they could have on the larger democratic process.

*  Board member Heather Tischbein worked with the Living Room Conversations project to bring together Left and Right activists.  We've also supported a pioneering effort in southern Oregon catalyzing a coalition of green-left and libertarian-right locals to develop greater community resilience.  Some of them got to know each other in a “car cafe”– a carpool cafe-caravan — we organized to drive from Ashland, OR, to Seattle, WA for a conference two years ago!

*  Two CII board members, Lyn Bazzell and Adin Rogovin, provided extensive organizational support for the launch of Convergence, an ambitious stakeholder dialogue initiative based in Washington, D.C., led by experienced facilitators and conveners.

*  We're doing research preparing a Co-Intelligence Institute initiative to weave together diverse democracy and public participation resource websites, while creating our own resource site focusing on wise democracy and democratic innovation.  I'll say more about this initiative during the coming summer fundraiser.  It emerged from our recent work to update CII's Innovations in Democracy website:


John Abbe and I worked full time for many days with the team developing the pattern language for group process.  This project will greatly clarify what to attend to when you want enjoyable, productive conversations.  It will enable practitioners of very different conversational methods to explain their approaches to each other and to evaluate conversational events together.  It will also help novices do a good job convening and facilitating high quality conversations on their own — and to get more quickly and thoroughly trained when they're ready.  My main contribution this year was articulating connections between more than 80 “patterns” — a real brain stretcher!  The core team has done amazing work presenting all this on their pattern language wiki. They plan to have a set of beautifully illustrated pattern language cards available to all of us this fall — free for download and affordable for a printed set.  Stay tuned.  I honestly believe this will be a game changer in the field.


I believe our most important recent work has been in three areas, all currently in-process and in need of your support.  The Co-Intelligence Institute is committed to sparking breakthrough insights, inspiring visions, and productive action in all three areas.


We — humanity — have a lot of knowledge about how to generate public wisdom from various conversational processes and collective knowledge systems.  We also know a lot about how to empower people in the political process.  But those who have been empowered are usually either individual citizens or organized partisans.  In contrast, those involved in generating inclusive public wisdom — as in citizen deliberative councils — seldom have much power to influence policy, budgets, and public behaviors.  What would happen if we could set things up so that We-the-People public wisdom on public issues could be generated and then supported to have real impact on what happens in communities and countries?  The Co-Intelligence Institute has been pursuing this inquiry intensively in our board meetings and conversations.  This includes, of course, the question of what makes a decision wise.  I'll be sending you an article about that shortly.  Early in this project we envision developing videos and courses on “wise democracy” topics, which we'll make available to you.


I've been studying the elements of new economic systems that would help heal the Earth and nurture humanity's evolution into a wise, sustainable civilization.  How would that actually work?  For years many colleagues have been developing these ideas and possibilities, from complementary currencies and gift economies to sharing circles and new do-it-yourself technologies.  I've not previously gone deeply into these, focusing instead on deliberative wise democracy.  But as the wise democracy work has matured (as in 1, above), I have noticed a whole ecology of economic and technological innovations beginning to converge into some possibilities that blow my mind.  I'm seeing how they all fit together into more co-intelligent systems to organize and empower human activities in ways that serve both human and nature's needs.  I will be sharing some of these during this summer fundraiser.  I have tremendous hope for the emerging synergies between the new economics and our vision of empowered public wisdom.


I've been working on a book on wholeness.  I consider the concept of wholeness to underlie all my work on co-intelligence, dialogue and deliberation, wise democracy, conscious evolution, evolutionary activism, and all the rest.  I am pulling together over a hundred manifestations of wholeness, offering a number of models to illustrate more of its dynamics, and describing ways it offers us “freebies” for increasing our effectiveness and well-being with little or no added energy and resources — from synergy and whole-systems design to tapping into our whole selves and everyone's intrinsic passions.  I hope to offer a framework within which all the diverse work to create a just, wise, joyful, sustainable and meaningful world will make profound sense as a coherent whole and gain greater power for change.  (This is my main “legacy” project stimulated by the death of my partner Karen last year, which brought my own aging and mortality vividly to my attention.)

I hope you find all this inspiring and worthy of your support.  There is a lot of work to do.  The unfolding events of the world — earth changes of biblical proportions (many caused by human actions), startling social revolutions and devolutions, rampant technological developments — all these and more are shaking our collective foundations.  They seem to call to us to do our work soon and as well as we can, so that they — these amazing disturbances — can break us through to a successful evolutionary transition for all of humanity.

Thank you for YOUR work.  And blessings on the Journey we share.





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Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute, POB 493, Eugene, OR 97440 /
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