Pattern #11


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Communal Intelligence Card - version 1


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Communal Intelligence

Credits: Vibe Images – 360b – Shutterstock /  Jon S – Flickr / Smartphone – Activpost

Intelligence is both information and its use in learning, problem-solving, decision-making, and action—all of which can be shared. The high democratic purpose of journalism—both citizen-based and professional—should be supporting wise collective intelligence. So help the whole community engage in big-picture explorations of the realities and possibilities of life.

Related: 15 Critical Thinking, 16 Crowdsourcing, 27 Full Spectrum Information, 31 Healthy Polarity Dynamics, 43 Possibility Thinking, 57 Story Sharing, 64 Using Diversity and Disturbance Creatively

Going deeper …

This is an edited version of the video on this page.

When the word “intelligence” is used in the sense of “intelligence services”- like the CIA or business intelligence – it refers to information that is gathered, digested and presented to a decision-maker. That’s one definition of intelligence.

And also, “intelligence” is the use of information in learning, problem-solving, decision-making and action. So most people think of intelligence in terms a capacity that people have to figure things out.  Actually, groups and societies have that capacity, too, in the form of collective intelligence.

So you can share information or you can share the learning process, the problem-solving process, the decision-making process or the action, all these things can be shared. So there’s a communal dimension to intelligence that’s being highlighted by this pattern. I say “communal” here instead of “collective”, because I am specifically talking about the community level of intelligence in this pattern, rather than the group level, the whole society level or any of the other levels of collective intelligence.

Journalism plays a big role in this.  It has this particular information perspective – i.e., gathering information, perhaps making some sense of it, and then providing it to citizens. The purpose of journalism is often said to be supporting citizens with good information to make their decisions as active decision-makers in a democracy.

So in this pattern I’m saying that the high democratic purpose of journalism is to support wise collective intelligence.  I’m taking its traditional democratic purpose of supporting citizenship and upshifting it, saying, “You’re not only supporting individuals and getting the information they need to be informed citizens, informed decision-makers in society. You also want to support the ability of the whole community, the whole collective, to be intelligent and wise.“

The community needs to get the big picture about what’s going on. It needs to engage all the different parts of the system, all the different interests in a situation. We could call that “big picture engagement”. The community also needs to engage with the big picture realities, not some narrow view that is going to prove to be inadequate when they finally make their decision. They need to get big picture involvement and big picture understandings of what’s going on – AND they need to understand the big picture possibilities. You want them to see what’s really possible here, not being tied to a constrained narrow view, but a good sense of both the good and the bad possibilities, all of them – the big picture of what’s needed and what could happen if they do or don’t do that.

This role of providing and supporting communal intelligence can come both from professional journalists and from citizen journalists like bloggers and social media users, and from community-based journalism that uses community sources and resources to find out and share what’s going on in the community. Citizens can support professionals, and professionals can support citizens. These do not have to be competitive operations. With citizens all running around with their smartphones, we’re beginning to see synergies. Citizens on their smartphones and citizens tweeting: they are gathering information which can be extracted and woven into larger picture reports by professionals, who can paint a bigger picture story because they have the training and skills to do that. A lot of professional media is being critiqued by citizens because they don’t do that like they’re supposed to.

There is a sense of potential synergies here that allow a whole community to be more collectively intelligent together and – if it is done right – to be more collectively wise.

Video Introduction (7 min)

Examples and Resources

Thinking in terms of examples, Maclean’s “The People’s Verdict” project from 1991 is a clear example of “journalism that matters.” Peggy Holman has been a major player in an organized network by that name, Journalism That Matters. They are looking at how to totally redo journalism, which has been in crisis from the impact of the Internet. One of their main threads is at the community level, helping communities understand themselves, see themselves, and to make decisions together.

Asset mapping and Asset-Based Community Development are two of the original forms of this pattern.  There are lots of variants of asset mapping at the community level. There’s community resource and problem mapping, with smartphones and GPS. You can report a pothole using your cell phone and it goes on a map of the city, that displays all the potholes that need fixing.

I know that people have mapped the harvestable “urban forest”, where the apple trees and pear trees are that you can pick. Usually the fruit just falls on the ground and rots. You can actually harvest such fruit all over a city. So that’s an example of resources of which we actually have maps. One person or a small group can create, for example, a map of places where there is public Wi-Fi in their town.

So all that is community intelligence – information being pulled together and offered to the community as a resource for thinking and action.