Pattern #21


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E Pluribus Unum Card - version 1


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E Pluribus Unum

That’s Latin for “Out of many, one.” Properly respected, engaged, and interacting, the diverse many together are a resource for deeper, broader, wiser insight and action. So nurture “we the people” consciousness and agency rooted in diversity and learning, not conformity and authority.

Related: 7 Checks on Extreme Inequality, 28 Generating Shared Orientation, 30 Grounding in Fundamental Needs, 36 Microcosms, 41 Nurturing Social Capital, 55 Sortition, 64 Using Diversity and Disturbance Creatively

Going deeper …

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

“Out of many, one” is America’s national motto which you can find on American money. I only know about it because it is printed on US dollar bills.

Since we are talking about wise democracy, we do want a “we the people” consciousness. We do want a sense that we have a common nature, direction, purpose, and values. But we want that rooted in our diversity and learning. We are many and that “many” is valuable. Using that diversity – that “manyness” – we can learn new things and generate smarter ways to do things. We don’t want a oneness that is conformity or just following authority. That’s not what democracy is about.  A particularly wise democracy doesn’t waste the diversity and its potential. If we make things uniform, we waste the diversity that is there. But diversity can waste itself just by fighting amongst itself.

So wise democracy is looking at how we can get a “we the people” consciousness that comes from deepening into greater insight, greater relationship, greater possibilities together. Properly respected, respecting the “other” all the time, properly engaging and interacting, the diverse many become a resource for deeper, broader – wiser – insight and action because everybody’s got a different piece of the puzzle, a different perspective, a different contribution, different resources that they could put into acting together. Somebody has this skill or that skill, and you put the skills together in the right way and you end up being able to get good products and outcomes.

So this is a general stance, it is related to many other of these principles and these patterns. But that framing – “Out of many, one” is very useful and handy thing to carry this idea.

Video Introduction (6 min)

Examples and Resources

Human brain cells have a networked nature to them, but out of their networked functioning comes our particular kind of consciousness. They are many and they’re all doing their own thing and they’re doing it in ways that are not all the same:  There are diverse brain cells and diverse parts of the brain. There is a sense in which “E pluribus unum” is manifested in our brains in a way that has a collective intelligence sort of connotation. There is a collective intelligence going on inside our heads all the time.

Dynamic Facilitation is particularly good at generating “out of many, one” dynamics in a group.

Two processes – 35 and CoDigital – are prioritization systems.  The first is face-to-face and the other is online. Both use our collective diversity to come up with a shared list of prioritized items.  Both involve evaluating match pairs of items and deciding which is more important or better than the other – and doing that over and over with different pairs. They can be used to prioritize whatever kind of thing we are working on.

Of course Consensus Process helps make one view out of many views. That’s its whole purpose.

And Synanim is a really interesting process. It has people independently share their answer to a question like “How do we deal with the homelessness problem?” Each person in a group of 10 will write a little one page essay about how they think the problem should be solved. They don’t do this face-to-face. It is all done online anonymously. Then they read each other’s essays, after which they pick one of the essays to revise – either their own or somebody else’s. But they have now been exposed to what each other has said, and they revise or create a new essay based on their new understanding. And then they upload their new essays and everybody reads each other’s essays again – and then again they pick one and revise it. I’ve never participated in this process, but apparently they usually end up coming to agreement without ever having talked to each other per se. There is no dialogue and they usually end up coming to a common document anyway, although sometimes they end up with two or at most three versions. Through the process their diverse views cluster into a common statement. One of the interesting things is that an algorithm is tracking which essays get picked and which essays each person picked. If yours get picked, you get points in the system. And if you pick ones that most other people pick, you get points in the system. And if the project that you’re doing is involving thousands of people in groups of 10, the next layer up picks one person from each group, and collects them in groups of 10 again. And the person who gets picked is the one who has the most points. Their actions in that group suggested that for whatever reason they are more in tune with consciousness for that group than the other people are. So what happens in the group – and what happens after the group, if there is a next stage – are both fascinating examples of “out of many, one.”