What doesn't work is our current democratic system, the way we make collective choices. It is a partisan battle dominated by money with ordinary citizens increasingly checking out (or freaking out!). Described here is a way to fix it. But many people feel so hopeless about the prospects for change, they don't want their hopes raised. Here are some of their "Yes, but" reactions … with some answers.
"We do this already and it doesn't work!… How is this different or better than convening a bi-partisan task force like the Simpson-Bowles commission, who studied the financial issue for months and presented a plan to Congress… which was then ignored?"
- The Wisdom Council does not express a bi-partisan voice of experts or Washington insiders, or some negotiated settlement, or pie-in-the-sky view. It's not a final answer but the start of a new conversation. Composed of random folk, the Wisdom Council expresses a unanimous win/win perspective, which generates resonance in the larger population.
- Key to this working is the type of conversation the Wisdom Council stimulates, choice-creating. The twelve ordinary people address a seemingly impossible issue, yet they experience empowering shifts of understanding and insight. From two days of choice-creating they emerge with a unified perspective that is exciting to each of them and resonant with those who hear.
- The Wisdom Council speaks primarily to the people, not to Congress.
- In the presentation the Wisdom Council presents more than just their final result. First individuals share briefly about their experience on the Wisdom Council. Then the group presents its joint story, identifying the shifts along the way. These aspects help transfer the choice-creating quality of thinking to the audience.
- Although the primary aim is not to influence Congress toward changed policy, the results automatically come with the legitimacy of "We the People" and the support of most everyone who hears the presentation.
- This process continues for three or more cycles. The emphasis is not so much on the power of each randomly selected Wisdom Council to enact change, but on the power of the process to elevate the conversation, and how these Wisdom Councils evolve and articulate the will of the people. So, to the extent that the Simpson-Bowles plan really meets the needs of the situation, here's a way to have it receive the attention it deserves.
"How can the Wisdom Council change Congress when they are pledged to stick to a given position?"
- The main point of the Wisdom Council is to begin a new public conversation outside of the partisan battleground. This new conversation is like taking "time out" from politics, where we stop and think about what we really want. And to the extent we all reach unity this voice is "We the People," ultimate authority in society. If "We the People" get clear about some piece of legislation being needed or unnecessary, then no set of elected officials Congress can stand in the way. "We the People" is quite different than a survey of all the people that discovers 90% of people are behind some change. "We the People" is most all of us, speaking thoughtfully with one voice. We the People can establish a new Constitution if We want.
"How can just 12 people affect the stuck ego's and low level of consciousness of a whole society."
- Key to remember about the Wisdom Council is that it is facilitative. In a meeting, for example, it just takes one facilitator to raise the level of thinking of everyone in the room. The same principle operates on a larger scale. The Wisdom Council is the facilitator for the whole system.
- The level of thinking in the Wisdom Council, that it evokes in society is choice-creating, which is consciousness raising. It's where people face the difficult problems yet remain creative and collaborative. As participants in this conversation we all help co-create empowering shifts and breakthroughs … and raise the level of consciousness of ourselves and the system.
"If this is so easy and safe and powerful why haven't we been doing it for decades?"
- This process is new. One key new part is the quality of thinking, choice-creating and the ability reliably evoke it via Dynamic Facilitation. Also, of course, modern internet technology also offers the possibility of involving very large numbers of people, where everyone can hear the presentation, meet with others, and see live survey results.
Until now, we've been stuck in an 18th century thinking process, aimed at the "rational debate" of representatives, voting and determining policy. But this process has deteriorated into arguing and "power struggle." Over the years many have sought to improve this low-level conversation by adding elements of dialogue, deliberation, trust-building, brainstorming, problem-solving, negotiation and compromise. But these happen within the old system. The Wisdom Council takes a different path. It doesn't seek to influence legislators as much as it seeks to establish a new conversation among the people, where all come together as We the People. This new whole-system choice-creating conversation, where we all stop and think about what we are doing and what we want, is how We the People can take responsibility for our system and our collective actions. With adequate resources, it's possible for a small group of us to facilitate this new conversation into being.
"Nothing is going to change until we reach bottom as a society!"
- When things get worse and worse and there is a crisis, it often happens that people drop their resistance and become open to fundamental change. They might start working together creatively and accomplish miracles. … But, waiting is very dangerous and can lead to the dissolution of society. Is this the only way to generate this shift of mind and heart? Can't we facilitate this shift of thinking before we reach bottom?
Yes we can shift our thinking now!! … This Wise Democracy strategy helps people face crises that are already unfolding, but which we hold in denial. It helps us achieve the spirit of choice-creating by assuring a creative collaborative process in facing these issues.