What do you mean by “pattern” and “pattern language” and “wise democracy” (and other special terms on this site)?

The most important terms (like those you specified) are defined here.  That page also includes a link to our Glossary which defines dozens of other terms we use.

How can I get started and engage with this project?

You have many options!  Here are some to consider:

  • You can explore and study the patterns using the several portals provided on the Patterns Overview page https://www.wd-pl.com/patterns/, starting perhaps with Starter List of six basic patterns… or the Category Questions (and their associated patterns)… or the alphabetical list displaying (and linking to) the whole set…
  • You can subscribe to the Wise Democracy Project Newsletter here, where you can also read previous issues. In the newsletters you’ll find project news, interesting articles, and announcements of upcoming events, including occasional videoconference dialogues and webinars with Tom Atlee and other wise democracy experts and change agents. You can also look for events on the Events page here.
  • You can get one or more wise democracy card decks for your own use, either by freely downloading (and perhaps printing) the PDFs or ordering the beautiful printed and boxed card decks for yourself and/or to share with friends and associates. https://www.wd-pl.com/get-your-deck/.  You can then do individual and group exercises with the cards – to learn or apply the patterns – using the approaches described in the next FAQ.
  • You can financially support this ongoing project and/or our nonprofit The Co-Intelligence Institute here.
  • You can use social media to spread the word about wise democracy and this pattern language and card deck and to participate in dialogues on the project’s Facebook page http://facebook.com/Wise DemocracyPL/ or Twitter https://twitter.com/WiseDemocracy.
  • You can offer your thoughts, suggestions and resources as comments on Wise Democracy Project webpages, including the pages of specific patterns (where we’d love to see your suggestions for more “Resources and Examples”!  If you would like to offer suggestions about improving our boxed card deck, send them to cii@igc.org.

Through all these means, you can connect with others in the informal wise democracy pattern language “community of practice” here among whom you can share ideas, applications, and learning experiences for mutual benefit and enhanced impact.

What activities can I do with these cards?

If you want an introduction to the structure and resources on each card, check out Key to the Cards here.

You’ll find an extensive list of possible exercises on the “Activities and Exercises” page here. Most of the exercises involve dealing the cards of a deck out to your group members and then asking them a question (like “What should we focus on in designing our upcoming conference/initiative/action?”) and having group members read out cards that they feel answer the question, followed perhaps by group discussion.  Some exercises involve exploring the “related patterns”.  Many variations of this approach are suggested and possible, as well as possible follow-up activities.  The cards can be used for educational, strategic, analytic, review, and organizing purposes.

We also provide several levels of questions to guide your pattern explorations:

  • General “Questions for Individual and Small Group Exploration” listed under that title on the activity page here.
  • Seven overall wise democracy Category Questions here accompanied by the patterns that address them.  You can also explore how certain patterns address more than one of these questions.
  • Individual pattern questions.  On each individual pattern’s page, there is a drop-down menu under its related patterns list that opens into several questions you can use to explore that pattern – or that may inspire you to think of other questions regarding that pattern.

Have the patterns been categorized or presented in any other ways?

In addition to the categorical questions in version 2.0 here, version 1.0 patterns are available laid out…

  • … in general categories here,
  • … as responses to specific dysfunctions and challenges presented by mainstream social dynamics here (expanded with v2),
  • … in their relative positions on the Venn Diagram (power, participation, wisdom) here, and
  • … in an interactive map depicting their relatedness to each other here.

For the sake of simplicity, we have not developed 2.0 versions of these, but anyone who wished to could do that work. 🙂

What are some examples of how the patterns have been used to analyze democratic practices or innovations?

Version 1.0 patterns are used here to analyze the gifts and limitations of two very different forms of public engagement – Vorarlberg Austria’s Civic Councils and common US public hearings.

Instructions on how to do such analysis with an existing practice, innovation, system or project that interests you can be found on here in the Practical Applications section entitled “Analytic Approach”.

Is there more theory on wise democracy that I could learn from?

There is extensive theory given in the materials linked on the 3D Democracy Overview page here – mostly categorized under the three dimensions of democracy visualized in the Venn Diagram, exploring the nature of power, the nature of participation and the nature of wisdom through the wise democracy lens.

At the bottom of the main Venn Diagram page here, you’ll find a short essay “4 Guidelines for a 3D Wise Democracy” which provides essential companion theory to the Venn Diagram, exploring dynamics of the ongoing practice of collective wisdom in the real world.

Details about wise democracy’s most fundamental principle – its prime directive – can be found here.

An extensive Glossary is located here.  Quite in addition to its use as a reference, you can garner considerable theoretical understanding by browsing and reflecting on the many definitions there.

If you are interested in the theory of pattern languages, per se, and in some others that relate to wise democracy, check out the materials provided on the “Background” menu here.

What standards guided the creation and articulation of these patterns?

When considering a new wise democracy pattern, we always ask:  Does it articulate a design principle we need to keep in mind when seeking to further collective wisdom in groups, communities, and societies?  Does it enable many different possible manifestations and applications?  Does it further wise democracy’s prime directive and reflect the project’s holistic approach?  Does it help develop people’s understanding and skills, particularly if they are engaged in transformational change efforts?  For more on our approach, visit here.

Are there limitations to keep in mind when using this pattern language?

The main limitation involves the limitations of our WDPL’s originator, Tom Atlee, an older white American intellectual whose life mission has been focused on (but not totally limited to) group processes and their applications to large populations.  His perspective informs the choice of – and his descriptions of – the patterns in this set.  Recognizing this inevitable bias, he has called for the formation of a “community of practice” here to delve into the patterns and their relationship to the prime directive (which largely defines the logic of wise democracy) and, once grounded in that, to co-create the many other patterns that could contribute needed aspects of wise democracy about which Tom has had little knowledge, experience or awareness.

Also the leading edge nature of this wise democracy pattern language can be seen as a limitation, to the extent that it stretches into possibilities that may not be as readily understood or applied as more established sense-making frameworks here.