Information Age Publishing
February 1, 2006
Today, participative democracy is limited to small select situations. Governments and academia are ruled by experts in power politics. Surprising, perhaps, is the emergence of participative democracy in capitalist enterprises, which are striving to re-invent themselves. This emergence is led by what can be loosely termed “soft systems” facilitators and theoreticians who deal with the human side of social organization.
People all over the world aspire to participative democracy. Unfortunately today, due to the escalating complexity of the Information Age, the participative planning and design of any social system, from cities to national healthcare programs, is too often not feasible. All of us as observers have experienced information overload and our incapacity to understand and embrace all the aspects of multidimensional social, economic, environmental, political, and technological issues. This phenomenon, when coupled to the increasing lack of the ability to engage stakeholders in meaningful and productive dialogue for defining and resolving complex issues, makes participative democracy and ideal that cannot be realized now and in the future, unless we adopt a new approach.
We want to engage in dialogue in order to gain understanding and build consensus among stakeholders with diverse interests and perspectives. This effort requires the use of a new approach for resolving the complex issues challenging us in the Information Age. Over 30 years ago, a group of researchers began developing and testing a dialogue model for meeting this challenge. Learning about the theory, methodology, and practice of this form of dialogue is the main objective of this book.