Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Asheville Wisdom Council Declares: Our Social Contract is Broken

This is the harvest of our collaborative blog session. There is more information at the bottom of the blog post. Each section was written by a different person, but we hope it is cohesive enough for you, my special reader. We start the blog out with Susan and Ruth telling the story of Asheville Wisdom Councils. Please keep reading, at the bottom Jean explains how Wisdom Councils work and Jim (founder of Wisdom Councils and Dynamic Facilitation) has 2 stories from the Wisdom Council that happened in Asheville recently.
In the Summer of 2013, Ruth Backstrom and Susan Michael were discussing how the political situation in NC had changed dramatically in just a few months time, making it much less representative of ‘we the people.’ They had discovered Jim Rough’s book, “Society’s Breakthrough! Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People” and realized this might work in here. So they called Jim to see about bringing his work to Durham where they lived. Jim suggested that they start by organizing the first seminar on Dynamic Facilitation - the powerful method used in Community Wisdom Councils to bring unity within virtually any group - including a very diverse and polarized one. Thus in Sept. 2013 the first Dynamic Facilitation workshop happened in Durham and two attendees - employees of the city government there, were so taken by the process that they organized a second seminar for their staff to learn Dynamic Facilitation. In that seminar, in March of 2014, 6 people from the Neighborhood Services Department attended. Out of that they created Community Listening Circles within neighborhoods to solicit feedback for budgeting priorities. Amazing!

Others who attended this seminar, particularly Susan Michael and Kerry Lindsey, decided that Asheville would be a great place to have a Wisdom Council, the core process presented in Jim’s book to change local politics from the grassroots up via citizens (rather than government officials) that are randomly selected from the county voter registration roll. They saw how the Wisdom Council could bring in a voice of “we the people” of NC on the important issues of today, rather than leaving it up to special interests or government officials.

The complex issues of today need the diversity of perspectives, values, backgrounds, experience etc. of randomly chosen citizen groups for more relevant action plans! We need Wisdom Councils to have a more participatory democracy! Please come tonight - and tomorrow night, to see how we might collectively create a world that works for all!

-------------- Contributed by Susan Michael and Ruth Backstrom

What is involved in holding a Wisdom Council?
First there needs to be a group of people who share interest in bringing a Wisdom Council to their community. As a group, their first task is to define the members of the community. “Members” could be the citizens of a town or county or state or even a nation. It could also be the students in a high school or members of an organization. However they define the “community,” they must also have a way to identify each member.

Usually the list of members is provided digitally which makes it easy to use a computer for the random selection. The first 12 names on the list will be the participants of the Wisdom Council. If someone can not be reached or chooses not to attend, then continue the list until you have 12.

The Wisdom Council participants meet with a facilitator skilled in Dynamic Facilitation on a Friday evening and all day Saturday. At the end of their time, the participants will form their Statements of Unity to be shared with a large community gathering. All are invited.

These 12 participants have now completed their participation. After a few months, 12 more people will be randomly selected for the next Wisdom Council.

Key in this process is the kind of conversation that the Wisdom Council encourages … one that is heartfelt, creative and collaborative where everyone seeks what’s best for all. This kind of conversation generates resonance.

-------------- Contributed by Jean Rough

Two stories ....

Here are two stories from the first-ever Asheville Wisdom Council. Both come from the “practice presentation” that was held right after the Wisdom Council when Wisdom Council members prepared for the presentation this Tuesday night. About 20 people were in the audience. They had spent the last two days gathered in an adjacent room watching the Wisdom Council on a TV feed.

The Wisdom Council introduced themselves, told the story of their progress, and their results. Then the audience spoke.

  1. Dana Roberts, head of the Mid-Atlantic Facilitators Network, excitedly spoke to the Wisdom Council saying, “I think …  in some future day … you eight people may be looked upon in much the same way that we now look upon Neil Armstrong, the first person on the moon!”
  2. One of the women who had earlier bemoaned the prejudice she receives as an obese young black woman was asked by Dan Ferstenberg, a facilitator and democracy enthusiast, “Did you ever feel frustrated in this process that you couldn’t speak and be heard?” After a pregnant pause she replied, “Actually, it was the opposite. This was probably the first time in a political conversation that I was ever listened to. It was maybe the best conversation I’ve ever had!”
-------------- Contributed by Jim Rough

This blog post was conjured in a collaborative blog session at Lotus Lodge. Authors include Jim Rough and Jean Rough, Ruth Backstrom, Susan Michael, edited by Gaya Erlandson and co- facilitated by Ty Hallock (me thank you very much) and Ruth Backstrom. I will write a blog about the process we used in the collaborative blog session in the near future. Leave a comment below if you'd like to be updated about it specially.

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