Introduction 3 2017-06-13T11:00:58+00:00


Venn diagrams use overlapping circles that illustrate relationships between various elements or factors being considered. In this project we use a 3-part Venn diagram to make sense of the dynamics of wise democracy and of the diversity of patterns offered on this site to help us develop such a democracy.  

The Venn diagram linked on this page depicts overlapping circles representing power, participation, and wisdom.  These factors – which we think of as the three dimensions of wise democracy – don’t overlap much today:  Power is seldom very participatory or wise. Participative activities are seldom empowered and are not always wise.  And what wisdom we have is seldom participatory or powerful.  

The wise democracy vision calls on us to develop approaches that help all three of these dimensions be present at the same time – that is, to develop their areas of overlap in the Venn diagram.  Ultimately we can envision a time when most power is participatory and wise, most participation is wise and powerful, and we flourish in an abundance of participatory wisdom generating powerful, long-term, broad benefits in the world.

So this Venn diagram has a visionary function, inviting us to imagine how power, participation and wisdom evolve to become manifestations of the same thing.  A concise presentation of that process can be found in “The Wise Democracy Model – a Brief Portrayal” available below this introductory essay.  A more detailed description can be found HERE.  And you can watch a 30-second animated visualization of this idea in the video also below this introductory description.  (To read more about the nature of power, participation, and wisdom in a wise democracy, see the essays HERE.)

The Venn diagram also provides a framework within which to place the wise democracy patterns (described on this website HERE) in relation to each other and to power, participation, and wisdom.  That map is represented in the “Patterns in the Venn Diagram” graphic immediately below this and more fully detailed in its pdf download HERE.

Note that we have distributed the main 70 patterns in this site in areas of the Venn diagram that seem appropriate to us.  However, these placements are intended to be provocative and evocative, not conclusive. There are usually valid arguments for placing a given pattern in a different spot. We hope their current arrangement will feed our collective inquiry and perhaps inspire new patterns that will fill out some of the less populated areas of the diagram.

Image-Credit: Iaroslav Neliubov– Shutterstock

Patterns in the Venn Diagram
Click image to enlarge & download – the international version
For the US-Letter version – here

The Wise Democracy Model – a Brief Portrayal
Click image to enlarge & download – the international version
For the US-Letter version – here

The Evolution of a Wise Democracy –
the integration of power, participation and wisdom


Wise democracy is more a vision to be pursued than a goal to be achieved.  We can work towards a vision of a “wise” democracy just as we can work towards a vision of a “just” society. We may never arrive at absolute wisdom or total justice, but striving towards such inspiring visions helps us build progressively “wiser” democracies and “more just” societies.

Here are four overall guidelines to help us envision and pursue a wise democracy.  Every pattern in this pattern language is intended to help us follow one or more of these guidelines.

We believe it is obvious that our activities and societies can be more collectively and effectively wise to the extent we…

  1. Avoid doing things that would naturally tend to generate collective stupidity and folly over the long haul (such as bias, conformity, and corruption).
  2. Use everything that could help us generate potent collective intelligence, wisdom and broad benefit over the long haul (such as quality information, consideration of diverse perspectives, and systems thinking).
  3. Take collective action guided by what we learn as we seek to apply these principles.
  4. Learn from reality about the wisdom of our actions (such as by being open to feedback, studying results, and periodically deliberating newly on the same topics). Reality will reveal any important overlooked factors and offer new insights and possibilities.

These may seem obvious and overly general, but there’s much we can and need to know about how to do each one of them.  That’s what this pattern language is about – learning how to do the four things above, as groups, communities, and whole societies and civilizations.

Image-Credit: Maria Savenko – Shutterstocka


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