The most common exercise uses the cards to help a group explore the relative democratic wisdom of an existing (or hypothetical) group, activity, method, approach, community, system, etc.
For this exercise you deal out the deck more or less evenly to everyone in your group, so that each person has a “hand” of several cards. Then if, for example, you want to explore a public engagement exercise the group has just witnessed or facilitated, you could say to the group: “Look at the cards in your hand and pick a pattern that you think was handled fairly well.” When they’ve done that, say “Let’s go around the circle and each of us show our choice and read its name and description from the card, and then say why we think this pattern qualifies.” Depending on the time available, you could also say, “And then after each person presents their pattern, we can discuss it for a bit before going on to the next person’s pattern.”
The group would then go around the circle. Some people may ask to present 2 or 3 cards, and that can be permitted or not, depending on the time available. When the circle is complete, you would do another round, this time with an instruction like this: “Now look at your cards and identify a pattern you think could and should be given more attention, something that definitely needs more work, and explain to us why you chose it.” The group could then discuss each of those patterns, if there is sufficient time. The result? Participants will gain useful insights about the public engagement activity they were exploring through the lens of the wise democracy patterns and – if they will be involved with it in the future – be able to help it evolve in wise democratic directions.
Variations: The basic process described above can be adopted to analyze a country’s political or economic system, to envision a better public engagement culture for a community, to plan a stakeholder gathering, or for any other systems or activities that could, if consciously designed well, generate empowered participatory wisdom. Such exercises can be used purely for their educational value or as an approach to action learning to guide specific transformational change by a group who aspires to promote wise democracy.
Now here are examples of workshop activities intended to engage people who have at least some familiarity with the wise democracy patterns in a shared dive into deeper understanding.
This exercise is a dive into the relationships between patterns. You distribute the cards as above. You tell everyone to choose a card in their hand and then pick a “related pattern” on that card. You then chose a participant at random and have them stand up and ask who has the card about their chosen related pattern. That person then joins them and, in turn, asks the group who has their chosen related pattern. This process continues until there are 4-6 people in their group. Then the process starts again with another randomly selected person, until the class is sorted into groups of 4-6 people. Then you instruct each group to put their heads together to explore as many connections between the cards in their hands as they can and to discuss why they think those patterns are related. This will involve both exploring connections explicitly indicated by the “related patterns” lists, but also any connections they can think of that aren’t explicitly indicated on their cards. This exercise can continue for anywhere between 15 minutes and more than an hour. You’ll need to provide longer times if you encourage them to explore on the wd-pl.com website for related patterns not included in their hands.
Now here’s an exercise intended to stimulate mutual learning. You tell participants to pick a pattern (from cards in their hand or from the whole list). You then invite them to ask a question or share a story related to that pattern from their own knowledge or experience. Given the way the patterns are grounded in the real work of thousands of people, we usually find participants have much to teach each other. They can often answer each other’s questions and/or they can research a pattern online together to see what the answer might be. Also, if you as facilitator of the process are experienced with the pattern language, you may be able to answer participants’ questions or guide them toward deeper understanding. You can use every question, story or example as an opportunity for deeper exploration by the group, especially looking at other patterns that may be relevant to that question or example. Any given inquiry can expand and deepen as long as participants wish. At the leading edge of such explorations is the possibility that participants may feel that (a) online descriptions or resource lists associated with a pattern are inadequate or (b) that a new pattern is needed to cover some dynamic they are noticing. In those cases you can encourage them to submit their thoughts on the site’s comment sections or other forums set up for the community of practice.
Feel free to vary these exercises in any ways you wish. If you want even more variety, explore the other activities on this page. And if you stumble on a great new exercise of your own creation, please describe it in the comment section at the bottom of this page so that others can try it out.