Diversity and Empathy as Generators of Creative Wholeness for Participatory Public Policy

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* Article: Participatory Public Policy Microcosms: Diversity and Empathy as Generators of Creative Wholeness. by Rosa Zubizarreta. Spanda Journal, 2015, VI:2

URL = https://dk-media.s3.amazonaws.com/AA/AL/diapraxis/downloads/308857/Participatory_Public_Policy_Microcosms.pdf

pre-publication version of article published in Spanda Journal, 2015, VI:2 ; full issue available through spanda.org


"One limitation of the "majority wins" approach to democracy is its "argument-as-battle" mode of discourse, based on the underlying epistemological assumption that finding truth is best served by playing "king-of-the-hill". This dominator mode of discourse is embedded in our larger culture, yet alternatives are beginning to emerge. Within the realm of politics, the evolutionary impulse to work creatively with differences is currently manifesting significant democratic experiments whose underlying dynamics could be described metaphorically with the following equations: (microcosm of larger society) • (supportive facilitation) = holotropic outcome; (holotropic outcome) • (widespread storysharing) = societal learning. Two instances are explored briefly, MacLean's "Canadian experiment" and South Africa's Mont Fleur scenarios. A third is explored more fully: Vorarlberg, an Austrian state, has hosted more than 35 ad-hoc Civic Councils for generating high-quality participatory public policy inputs. These randomlyselected microcosms have repeatedly evoked collective wisdom, systemic insights, and powerful convergences. This work is coordinated by Vorarlberg's State Office for FutureRelated Issues using Dynamic Facilitation, a non-linear, empathy-based methodology for the Civic Councils, and World Café for the subsequent public Civic Cafés. Given the role of local municipalities and regions in sponsoring these Councils, institutional good faith / responsiveness has been found as key for positive outcomes, modifying slightly the above equations. The wide-spread societal learning from these various collective experiments can be understood as generating shifts in our shared appreciative systems, as delineated by Vickers; also as steps toward high-leverage shifts in our shared paradigms, as described by Meadows."