Open Space is a process designed around partnership. If you stand up and say what you’re passionate about and other people are passionate about that same thing, they join you in a discussion or working group to further what you’re all passionate about. That can have lasting effects. It’s about getting people together who want to merge their life energy into a shared interest.
Future Search is a way of bringing together stakeholders, people who are involved in a situation or conflict. Once we get them together, they look at what they would all like to see happen and then they create teams to work on different parts of it, usually ones where they can use their particular skills and/or passions. Each person can promote their particular piece of the future they all want to build together.
Coalition building is a traditional community organizing and social change organizing approach. You find other organizations and people who are aligned with your goals even though they may be different from you in many other ways. In this one project or issue you see and treat them as partners. For example, you can get people who are far left and far right working together to resist the surveillance state. The libertarian right and the progressive left don’t like the surveillance system. Similarly, when my wife and I homeschooled our daughter for a year and a half, we were surprised to discover that the homeschooling movement was made up primarily of hippies and Christian fundamentalists. It was an interesting coalition to fight together for the legal space within which to do homeschooling.
Anarchism – For many years I thought anarchists advocated no control of anything, just “throw bombs and sow chaos!” Then when I was on the Great Peace March in 1986 across the US I was surprised to discover that the anarchist contingent on the march was the most organized group. They were experienced and sophisticated in cooperation. They knew how to work together. I learned that what they’re against is enforcement and systems that dominate. They are not against people working together and they don’t like destructive chaos any more than the rest of us do. They want to generate a workable living system. Mutual aid is one of their fundamental principles. So that was an eye-opening experience for me 30 years ago.
Recently I’ve learned more about the gift economy and about people working together by experiencing gift circles. You have 10 or 20 people in a circle and you go around and each person says, “Here are things I need” and then in another round they say, “Here are things I can offer.” Suddenly all these connections show up. I had a housemate who turned out to be a cartoonist. Although I’d known her for almost two years, I had no idea she had that capacity. So we worked together on a cartoon series about wise democracy. We didn’t end up succeeding, but it is a great example of a sudden match where there wasn’t anything before. Through experiences like that I realized there is an abundance of stuff and capacity waiting for us below the boxes we put people into and the assumptions we have about them. They’re much bigger than that!
The sharing economy – It’s obvious that we don’t all need to have our own lawnmower. All the lawnmowers just sit around. When we are able to share what we have, suddenly there are resources, and we can work together to discover the resources that are sitting around unused, in isolation, and not cared for. As with the gift economy, we suddenly become more abundant and more wealthy. We discover our true “commonwealth”.
And then there’s the networking software sites. They are less about going around with business cards, and more about finding each other for shared action and shared benefit. The more we create a society which is filled with that kind of activity, the more we are capable of finding futures that work together. That benefits us all over and over again, and that’s what this wise democracy is all about.