What’s Next for Democracy? (By Michelle Strutzenberger)

More than 2,000 years of democracy have brought many changes to our world. More change is on the way. In the 21st century, democracy movements have been seen across the world. The cry for deliberative democracy is being heard around the world, and is being enacted from Nepal to Bhutan, and from Syria to Somalia.  It’s met with some success.

But the work isn’t done.That same strength of respecting the voice of the people “as the voice of God” that has brought about change in the past must be reconsidered to find a new way forward yet again.

Deliberative democracy may be part of the answer. E-democracy is a likely part of the ecology. Local communities are one of the core strengths to be turned to in creating new paradigms of freedom.

The political sphere is filled with the dialogue of gridlock. Communities are crying foul. Jigging voter systems is an increasing trend.

Given these realities, David Cooperrider, Case Western Reserve University’s internationally renowned organizational behaviour professor and founding thought leader of the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) movement, suggests we need new imaginations around the next phase of democracy.

He proposes the strengths-based, AI approach might offer some clues to a way forward.

“From our small experiments with whole cities, what have we learned that might help give birth to something beyond deliberative democracy or dialogical democracy?”

What about what might be called “design democracy?”

“Our experience with AI and strengths based approaches is that the very best in human experiences doesn’t come out in the discovery stage of dialogue but in the stage of collective making or designing,” David tells Axiom News.

“As people build artifacts, as they build the new conception of the city, re-design building structures, that’s when the very best comes out.”

Look at when the greatest in our communities emerged in the U.S. in the early days, not in conversations, but in the community barn-buildings, in the designing and building of artifacts.

“Can you imagine our politicians designing the next smart grid systems together with citizens, collectively designing?” says David.

There was a recent U.K. case where an attacked politician was responding to the disgruntled community with the defense, “but I held dialogue for six months before we put in the new highway, I followed all the protocol, I ticked in the bureaucratic checklist.”

Imagine if he, and the community, had sat at the design table together, creating a new transportation system together.

David is currently exploring further the generativity that comes out in this design phase of AI, and the implications of this for the broader political sphere.

He chuckles a little as he shares what would be a definite overstatement of the opportunities, a bumper sticker that reads, “Down with dialogue, up with design.”

Feel free to comment below, or e-mail michelle(at)axiomnews.ca

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