Barbara L. Valocore
Tom Atlee’s recent book, The Tao of Democracy, is a coherent and compelling look at the undeniable fact of humanity’s interdependence, diversity and innate desire for connection, mutual respect and inclusive governance. He has made a deep and thorough study of what wise self governance can really look like, how any group of citizens can create a new and more effective democratic process and how humanity can build a system based on “what intelligence would look like if we took wholeness, interconnectedness, and co-creativity seriously”.
Atlee’s favorite definition of co-intelligence is, “the ability to generate or evoke creative responses and initiatives that integrate the diverse gifts of all for the benefit of all.” This might sound complicated, until one examines his thesis which rests on the idea that diversity within a group generates a tension which can be harnessed into a creative force to be used to everyone’s advantage. He describes many types of tools and techniques in practice for many years, such as citizen juries, stakeholder dialogues, dynamic facilitation, citizen deliberative councils, open space technology, listening and study circles and more.
He encourages us to harness our collective wisdom to solve the social and environmental problems of our own making and argues that there are multiple ways of knowing that translate into collective rather than collected intelligence. The reader soon becomes painfully aware that the current system of democracy in the United States excludes many voices and polarizes the issues thereby disenfranchising many valuable opinions.
Utilizing a comprehensive bibliography, Atlee draws from years of global community experimentation and process-oriented approaches, and includes steps highlighting how we can move from “power politics” to co-operative and holistic politics.
Readable and accessible, The Tao of Democracy is full of meaningful and informative stories and anecdotes demonstrating the magic of this newer approach to public debate and dialogue. Organized as a research tool, it is rich with helpful and relevant websites and resources for expanding our knowledge and understanding of this issue. Whatever your political affiliation, the book demonstrates how a deeper interconnectedness can transform our polarized political systems into more inclusive and participatory approaches. [Back to top...]
Co-intelligence, the ability to generate or evoke creative responses and initiatives that integrate the diverse gifts of all for the benefit of all, is the path to building a world that will work. Intelligence of this sort operates on many different levels, and in this easy to understand and very important book Atlee shows us how to apply it to building a holistic politics that has striking similarities with the Emancipatory Spirituality that we’ve advocated in Tikkun. A useful guidebook for world-transformers. [Back to top...]
Tom Atlee's The Tao of Democracy is a concise and well-written guide to a new form of participatory democracy based on his experience of the "collective intelligence," or higher wisdom, that can arise through group dialogue. Atlee, a political activist since the sixties, first discovered the practical potential of collective intelligence during the Great Peace March for Nuclear Disarmament in 1986. He and a large group of marchers were struggling with conflict in their ranks and they experienced, through a simple conversation, the emergence of unexpected unity and surprisingly creative solutions to problems that had plagued them for months. This miraculous alignment behind a common purpose left a lasting impression on Atlee, sparking more than a decade of research into the phenomenon of collective intelligence -- research he compiles here for the first time.
Though I was initially put off by The Tao of Democracy's textbook format, Atlee includes many narrative examples throughout, and his visionary storytelling not only won me over, but was also deeply inspiring. The book is an excellent primer on a wide variety of methods for developing collective intelligence, including the technique of Dynamic Facilitation and the World Café system for large groups. Its extensive bibliography and wealth of references alone make it an ideal handbook for anyone interested in learning more about this exciting new field.
Atlee's greatest emphasis, however, is on the potential of collective intelligence to enrich society and strengthen democracy, specifically through what he calls "citizen deliberative councils." These civic assemblies, which have been successfully convened in over sixteen countries, typically bring twelve average citizens with a diversity of viewpoints together for a period of several days in order to examine a particular community issue. Tackling such problems as the separatist movement in Quebec, agricultural reform in India, and environmental protection in Denmark, citizen deliberative councils have produced remarkably innovative solutions that transcend partisan politics. But even more fascinating than the practical resolutions these councils have developed is the shared humanity that participants discover as they move beyond opposing and often charged views on the issues. This is participatory democracy at its finest, where concrete results emerge hand-in-hand with increased human intimacy and solidarity. Atlee's clear synthesis of this promising new paradigm makes The Tao of Democracy an important resource for twenty-first century transformation. [Back to top...]
William L. Seavey
56 years on the planet has taught Tom Atlee a thing or two, and The Tao of Democracy is his seminal opus, a book to empower activists locally or internationally…. a book to suggest that a “co-intelligent” approach to creating democratic decision-making in communities and nations can and will result in far simpler and sustainable solutions.
Atlee has assembled many examples of co-intelligence/citizen deliberation which have been able to effect hugely positive changes throughout the world – in a prison population in Maine, a corporation in Brazil, a sustainability group in Seattle, a dying village in India, and a separatist province in Canada.
This is as much a manual for positive change as it as a philosophical treatise on democratic principles. I certainly hope it doesn’t get lost on the shelves somewhere, because it has the essential wisdom to make a huge difference. [Back to top...]
FIVE STARS: Utterly Sensational -- Basic Book for Humanity, 11/30/2003
I see so many things starting to come together around the world and through books. The Internet has opened the door for a cross-fertilization of knowledge and emotion and concern across all boundaries such as the world has never seen before, and it has made possible a new form of structured collective intelligence such as H.G. Wells (World Brain), Howard Bloom (Global Brain), Pierre Levy (Collective Intelligence), Willis Harman (Global Mind Change), and I (New Craft of Intelligence--Personal, Public, & Political), could never have imagined.
This book is better than all of ours, for the simple reason that it speaks directly to the possibilities of deliberative democracy through citizen study circles and wisdom councils.
The book is also helpful as a pointer to a number of web sites, all of them very immature at this point, but also emergent in a most constructive way--web sites focused on public issues, public agendas, new forms of democratic organization, and so on.
Still lacking--and I plan to encourage special organizations such as the Center for American Progress to implement something like this--is a central hub where a citizen can go, type in their zip code, and immediately be in touch with the following (as illustrated on page 133 of New Craft):
I cannot say enough good things about this book. If the authors cited above have been coming at the same challenge from a "top down" perspective, then Tom Atlee, the author of this book, gets credit for defining a "bottom up" approach that is sensible and implementable. This book focuses on what comes next, after everyone gets tired of just "meeting up" or "just blogging." This book is about collective intelligence for the common good, and it is a very fine book. [Back to top...]
FIVE STARS: A thoughtful and philosophical work,
Tom Atlee's The Tao Of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence To Create A World That Works For All offers the reader a positive viewpoint on and for creating a democracy founded upon wisdom, citizen participation, a culture of dialogue, and in an harmonious balance that encourages the best in people. A thoughtful and philosophical work written specifically to stave off the impending self-destructive side of current civilization, The Tao Of Democracy is recommended reading for students of Political Science and Philosophy. [Back to top...]
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