Systems of Participation and Involvement
THE CURRENT SITUATION:
Even among the most participative cities, those with the highest civic involvement (Pasadena and Santa Barbara, CA: Little Rock, AR; Portland and Gresham, OR; Minneapolis, MI; Williamstown, MA; Everytown, USA); isolation, waste, fragmentation and turf battles still persist. No overall structure of communication keeps continuity or provides linkage for unfettered collaboration across all the boundary and turf lines.
As our competitive position in the Global Marketplace is changing, the same isolation and fragmentation is having significant impact on businesses. Much of the public and private sectors do not have consistent, effective communication and teamwork; an absolute requirement in today’s unforgiving environment.
Decisions makers often don’t use all the available wisdom. Viable options are often not examined. Communication efficiency is low. Meeting and communication process undermines safety and dampens or extinguishes initiative. Many proven examples of group process technology do exist that can guarantee stronger, more collaborative outcomes by building group trust, efficiency, creativity and commitment, however use is rare and most often for crisis intervention without regard to ongoing continuity.
How can we build durable policy and decision bodies that link and facilitate the productive interchange of all citizens and employees who need or want to collaborate with each other?
How much duplication of effort could be avoided if all the stakeholders were bought into, tapped into, and using their shared resources, insights and connections?
Design and test self-replicating participative processes which allow whole neighborhoods, communities and institutions to begin learning together. With a foundation of ethical communication and transferable collaborative meeting skills, any neighborhood, community, or organization can bring its splinters and factions together into a cohesive and pro-active whole.
HOW CAN IT BE IMPLEMENTED?
Reach a genuine consensus with a minimum critical mass of citizens, employees, leaders and teenagers on draft language for a New Covenant of Communication and Cooperation. Take the draft to all households, workgroups and leaders (both formal and informal) for approval and input. By co-inventing a foundation of ethics and values we will enable people to build and link together information and communication structures that will facilitate unfettered collaboration and commerce.
WHERE CAN WE FIND PRECEDENT?
The New Covenant Process should honor innovative principles , methods and skills that enhance human interaction and leadership, fostering the optimal development of America’s human resources." Stephan A. Schwartz, ‘The New Covenant Process’, from Blueprint for the Presidential Transition, Nov., 1992
The following handful of examples is probably the tip of an iceberg of phenomenal ingenuity across the planet being brought to bear on this challenge.
In ‘BLACK BELT’ CITY and COUNTY ASSEMBLIES:
Following Jefferson’s dictum, " . . adopt the subdivision of our counties into wards"; Don Anderson of the National Association of the Southern Poor has developed dozens’ of self-generating and self-sustaining parliamentary bodies among the poorest of the poor, The Surrey County Assembly in Virginia is over 25 years old. 90+% have been registered voters 20+ years. Self-Help policy making and action planning are a reality for tens of thousands of the poor in Virginia, Georgia, North and South Carolina.
In CHICAGO’S 5TH CITY and ACROSS THE GLOBE:
Developing and applying the Technology of Participation (ToP) to local communities and global boardrooms, The Institute of Cultural Affairs, a.k.a. the ICA, has perfected a few eminently simple and transferable collaborative decision-making methods. With experience over decades in every time zone, with many cultures, the ICA have demonstrated how people can be helped to help themselves. See Winning Through Participation by Laura Spencer,
Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa.
In NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCILS in PORTLAND and MINNEAPOLIS:
Local citizens have invented and operated ongoing policy bodies. The city of Portland has an Office of Neighborhood Associations that provides staff support and government interface services to 90 neighborhoods. Neighborhood Councils are forming in pockets across the country.
At U.S. WEST, G.E., KODAK, and BUSINESSES ALL OVER THE U.S.:
With shared financial language and insight, budgeting is fun, profitability is increasing, cash flow is better and more predictable. Having an understandable ‘Financial Scoreboard’ and a shared navigation chart is revolutionizing the collaboration across departmental and functional lines.
At SPRINGFIELD RE-MANUFACTURING, Springfield, Mo.; at the CITY OF SUNNYVALE, CA: Organizational cultures with tremendous profitability and effectiveness due to shared respect and full information, therefore shared intelligence. Not just rewarding people materially, but also engaging their minds, challenging their spirits and continually affirming that they belong.
At the CHARETTES of ARCHITECTS DUANY/PLATER-ZYBERK, and MOULLE/POLIZOIDES:
Citizens develop a "Community Bill of Rights", which is used as a reference point and framework for the planning decisions that follow. The practices they are using in developing healthy commun-ities are described in Towns and Town-making by Alex Kreiger.
At the LARGE SCALE MEDIATIONS of SUSAN CARPENTER, BILL LINCOLN and ALANA KNASTOR:
All the stakeholders participate in peace technology that works by developing a process that they all can trust over their competing interests. Durable settlements are reached because of proper communication, effective education of all parties, and facilitation of the responsible use of power.
At SEARCH CONFERENCES all over THE EARTH:
Consensus planning events with diverse interests are resulting in social, technical, and economic breakthroughs in applied to both public and private sector; from Discovering Common Ground by Marvin Weisbord and thirty international co-authors.
In 1,000’s of COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP & VISIONING PROGRAMS:
Tremendous outpouring of initiative and caring for the future, with some continuity mechanism to keep people connected together and growing.
In the STRATEGIC PLANNING SESSIONS of LEADERSHIP 2OOO:
Entire organizations are involved in the visioning, problem-solving and planning process with a resulting transformation in profitability, growth and organizational cohesion that is setting new precedents for what is possible.
See Breakpoint and Beyond by Beth Jarman and George Land.
At JORDAN HIGH SCHOOL in WATTS in LOS ANGELES:
Colors United/Living Literature has all but stopped schoolyard violence by involving kids in musical and dance activities like"Watts Side Story".
Most of the innovators of these methods, and of many other solutions in our society, have never met and don’t know anything about each other’s work.
Master social and business innovators focus their collective genius together on the great management and societal challenges. Among them;
- to find our common ground and accept it
- find our true diversity and protect it
- find solutions that address the good of the whole and all its parts,
- and with that, the collective will to implement them.