The PURPOSE of the Wise Democracy Pattern Language is

This set of patterns (design elements) help those concerned about the state of democracy to envision and work together for a deeply participatory culture capable of dependably generating collective activities that serve the long-term quality of all life.


design element or principle that promotes vitality and wholesomeness in a specific realm of human activity and that can show up in many different forms.

interrelated set of such patterns created to help people working in its specific domain to contribute in life-serving ways.

form of participatory self-governance that routinely creates and implements wise guidance in its public affairs.

ongoing collective responsiveness to shared challenges and opportunities that takes into account…

integrated set of design elements that support the formation and functioning of collectively wise groups, organizations, communities, societies and civilizations.

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Who This Project Will Serve

  • Democracy visionaries, activists, authors, and reformers.
  • Democratically inclined change agents of all kinds.

emocraically inclined change agents of all kinds.

  • Public officials and general citizens frustrated with existing politics, government, and quasi-participatory regimes.
  • Political science scholars, students, educators, and researchers.
  • Communities and networks struggling with shared challenges and/or a desire for more public participation.
  • Dialogue, deliberation, and public participation practitioners and academics who may find in these patterns a new and useful perspective on their work

Online-Introductions and Workshops will be scheduled for 2017.

On the Nature, Limitations and Design of This Pattern Language


Pattern languages by definition help us discern patterns that show up repeatedly in high quality examples of already existing phenomena – e.g., communities, curricula, software programs, conversations, etc.  A pattern language identifies and integrates patterns that contribute to the high quality and desirability of a specific aspect of human life.

Pattern languages are therefore intrinsically both visionary and grounded in reality.  They are visionary because they focus our attention on factors that can contribute to a better life.  They are grounded in reality because they look for those design factors in exemplars that are already wholesome, enlivening, regenerative, sustainable, and so on.

Some pattern languages are more essentially visionary than others.  A pattern language is especially visionary to the extent that we find few if any cases where the vast majority of its patterns can be seen present and operating together.  To be a pattern language, it must still be grounded in reality in the sense that there are multiple real examples where each pattern can be seen operating.  But they are visionary because they haven’t been put together before.  The synergies between the patterns have not been fully realized.

This wise democracy pattern language is at this point a visionary pattern language.  Every pattern in it is observable in the real world, but nowhere has a whole collection of patterns on this subject been woven together into a living whole.  In fact, we know of nowhere else where someone has explicitly undertaken a comprehensive inquiry into what would make a democracy truly functionally wise.

Especially for this last reason, this wise democracy pattern language is being launched by a single individual, Tom Atlee, who has been studying collective intelligence and wisdom and developing a vision of wise democracy for three decades.  And, because of its single source, we are assuming that this pattern language is radically incomplete and limited.  And because of that limitation, we are designing the wise democracy pattern language to be a co-evolutionary project so that it will no longer be dependent on or limited to Atlee’s knowledge and perspective but engages hundreds of people inspired by his original vision to take it beyond what he knew.  We are also making the project open source to encourage anyone who finds Atlee’s vision too limiting, to take anything in this original wise democracy pattern language and launch their own inquiry into what would make a wise democracy.

Our goal is, after all, wise democracy.  The more minds, hearts, and spirits engaged in bringing it to fruition, the more likely the possibility of wise democracy will someday be realized in the many forms it can potentially take.

The Card Set

Using the DOWNLOAD button below you can download the complete card deck with all 70 patterns of the Wise Democracy Pattern Language.


Pages 1-3: Categories 1-9

Pages 4-21: Patterns 1-70

Pages 21: Empty Cards



Tom Atlee offers a fresh, and penetrating perspective — connecting our understanding of evolution, consciousness, and activism into a new and compelling synthesis for making a difference in today’s challenged world.
Juanita Brown and David Isaacs, The World Cafe
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