The word “pattern” – in the sense used here – was innovated by Christopher Alexander in his book A Pattern Language. A pattern can be understood as a feature or design principle that shows up repeatedly in various forms in the design of something that is wholesome and whole, something that has aliveness and beauty and spirit (what Alexander called “the quality that has no name”) and that brings out those qualities in people who engage with it. A pattern is something to keep in mind if you wish to design such a vital, healthy activity, system, or reality.
For the purposes of this project, a pattern is a feature or design principle that we believe would show up repeatedly in a democracy characterized by collective wisdom, as manifested in collective decisions and behaviors that generate long term broad benefits and healthy living systems, both human and natural.
While no democracy today fully fits that definition, many democratic practices exist which manifest patterns that, in thoughtful combinations, can add up to far wiser democratic systems. These interdependent design elements together provide a conceptual framework, a guidance system, and a shared basis for conversation that leads us to call it “a pattern LANGUAGE”.
We also have a working definition of “democracy” for this project: A democracy is any system of collective decision-making and action grounded in the power of those impacted by such decisions and actions, or in the power of the whole population generally. This definition is an extension of the root of the word “democracy” itself, which is “rule by the common people”, a.k.a., self-governance.
To this traditional definition, we have added the concept of “wisdom” to explore the actual outcomes of such decisions and actions, and how “we the people” can generate decisions and actions that are deeply and broadly beneficial over extended periods of time.