Ongoing Emergence Press
February 25, 2012
From the Foreword: LaDonna Harris (Chair of the Board)
Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO)
Albuquerque, New Mexico
When we at Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO) first encountered Professor Alexander Christakis and the Structured Dialogic Design (SDD) process in the mid-1980s we were in the process of trying to find a discussion space in which Native American leaders could participate effectively along with mainstream national, state and local leaders – a special space in which everyone’s perceptions of an issue could be shared and understood with respect and wisdom. At that time, these meetings were run according to mainstream conventions in which the mainstream participants dominated the discussion space. And they usually declared the meeting over before the Native American side had even begun to participate. What was missing was the means of linking wisdom across Western and Indigenous cultures.
Before connecting with Christakis and his colleagues, we at AIO had been finishing up an in-depth examination of traditional indigenous decision-making practices, all of which were consensus-based. As part of our study of indigenous consensus I building we don’t for the meeting protocols, the social rules, for the way people behaved in these Indigenous meetings that enabled consensus to emerge. There were five rules:
1. Everyone affected by the problem could participate in the meeting.
2. There was an order of speaking.
3.There were no interruptions when someone was speaking.
4. There was no argumentation or debate. The point was to understand what each person was saying.
5. The discussion went on until no one had anything else to say.
To our astonishment, the same protocols have been chosen by the Systems Scientists who assembled the SDD Process. We thought it was hugely significant that the ancient social rules for consensus-building among Indigenous hunter-gathers and early agriculturalists were now being embraced as the social rules for consensus-building of post-modern Systems Scientists! This correspondence was surely the sign of a reemergence of a very powerful “social technology” which when combined with efficient computer assistance held great promise for addressing complex contemporary problems!
The Institute for 21st Century Agoras (AGORAS), an international nonprofit education enterprise incorporated in the State of California in June 2002, is a membership organization composed of university-affiliated, independent, and corporate social system dialogue managers who promote participatory democracy through the practice of authentic, large group, collaborative design. By corporate charter, and the AGORAS will:
- Promote the idea of human connectedness and interdependence (the “global village”)
- Promote democratic processes for addressing the problems and opportunities associated with global economic and political integration
- Promote the establishment of co-laboratories of democracy
The AGORAS maintains archives of field applications contributed from individuals who use structured dialogic design for democratic social system services.