The Big Picture and Tools for Action
[A]ctive liberty, the principle of participatory self government, was a primary force shaping the system of government that…[our Constitution] creates.
—Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer
Today’s problems are too deep and interconnected to be solved from the top-down. Solutions require the ingenuity, experience and values of all of us. That’s the insight shared by more and more regular citizens across the planet. They’re letting go of the failing notion that democracy is merely a set system of government, something done to us or for us—what we call Thin Democracy. They are saying by their action that democracy is what we do!
The transition is underway. Democracy is becoming a way of life in our communities, schools, workplaces and more. It is an enlivening culture in which the values of inclusion, fairness, and mutual accountability show up in a wide range of human relationships. So—and here’s the vital part—its values apply just as much in economic life or in cultural life as in political life. And that means we don’t have to leave the best of us at home — our values, our creativity, our voice — when, for instance, we enter the workplace.
We call it Living Democracy because it is about the way we live together: In essence it means infusing the power of citizens’ voices and values throughout our public lives and removing the power of money from governance. Rest assured, Living Democracy isn’t a new fixed “ism,” blueprint, or utopian end-state. It continually evolves, incorporating new experience.
Formed as a response to the right-wing Tea Party Movement, the Coffee Party is a grassroots organization that defines government not as the enemy of the people, but instead as the collective will of its citizens and subsequently, we must participate in the democratic process in order to address the challenges we face as Americans. Since its founding in 2010, they have attracted more than 300,000 followers in nearly every state in the Union.
The Center for Deliberative Democracy, housed in the Department of Communication at Stanford University, is devoted to research about democracy and public opinion obtained through Deliberative Polling®. This process polls a representative sample and invites the participants to a weekend discussion with trained moderators, offering carefully balanced briefing materials. At the end of the experiment, a new poll is conducted, showing how highly informed and engaging discussions affect the conclusions people make on public issues.
An international training and consulting group offering an approach to communication that enables people to “peacefully and effectively resolve conflicts in personal, organizational, and political settings.” Active in over 65 countries, the Center seeks to develop more sustainable, compassionate human interactions, both personally and professionally. The Women’s Project in Nagpur, India offers counseling and reflective meditation to victims of domestic abuse and challenges both men and women’s attitudes on violence within society.
A consulting group that “puts participatory values into practice.” The organization facilitates group decision-making and studies the dynamics involved in reaching sustainable agreements. It then creates workable models and methods to solve our world’s toughest issues through a combination of social activism, business, and social sciences. The organization’s Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making and its training helped those creating the student-led sustainability course at University of California—Santa Cruz succeed, mentioned in Thought 4.
Here you can learn about a proven, practical method of inclusive, democratic decision-making in complex organizations. Created in the Netherlands in the 1970s, DG is now proving effective not only in businesses, but also in human development organizations, co-housing communities, and families. Governance Alliance has worked with non-profit organizations to balance financial needs with public responsibility.
Project for Public Spaces (PPS) is a nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities. Their pioneering Placemaking approach helps citizens transform their public spaces into vital places that highlight local assets, spur rejuvenation and serve common needs.
What is “Living Democracy”? What is “Thin Democracy”? This handout clearly defines each.
A guide designed for educators, group leaders, or any citizen who wants to become more powerful. These practices contribute to our enhanced decision-making, mutual regard, group learning and staying-power.
"Five Sessions" is a reading guide for groups and classes broken down into several group sessions. It provides chapter by chapter prompts to help readers fully engage with and further develop the ideas found in Getting a Grip 2.
A graphic from Getting a Grip 2 summarizing Frances Moore Lappé’s understanding of the assumptions that impede solutions and those that enable effective problem solving.
These handouts explain the eight main ideas that can help us to probe deeply, identify causal forces, and choose entry points to shift existing patterns. It includes graphics pulled directly from Getting a Grip 2, accompanied by text from the book that allows readers to engage more deeply with these concepts.
“To search for solutions to hunger means to act within the principle that the status of a citizen surpasses that of a mere consumer.” —City of Belo Horizonte, Brazil