New Article in Spanda Journal

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I’m writing this blog post to celebrate the publication of my recent article on”Participatory Public Policy Microcosms: Diversity and Empathy as Generators of Creative Wholeness.” It was published in a  recent issue of Spanda Journal, and the image above is from the cover of that issue.

One cool thing is getting to have my article sitting right next to one by Charles Tart, where he revisits his concept of “state-specific sciences”. I do think this is more than just a happy coincidence: the connection I see is that “how we arrive at knowledge” within a non-defensive shared space, is quite different from how we co-create within a shared field shaped by defensiveness.

At any rate, while I was writing the article, one of the things I particularly enjoyed was quoting extensively from Rita Tratnigg and Thomas Haderlapp’s article on “Dynamic Facilitation — A Method for Culture Change.” It feels delightful to be quoting someone else, rather than just talking and writing about my own experiences with this powerful approach!

Here’s some of their writing that I included in the article:

“A significant characteristic of Dynamic Facilitation is that we use a structured moderation process to break through entrenched discussion patterns. In this work, participants usually perceive it as beneficial that we foreground a joint, co-creative development process, instead of a battle of wills between one set of arguments against another set of arguments. Dynamic Facilitation thus stands in stark contrast to standard patterns of discussion which are often about winning or losing. By means of active and appreciative listening, along with the invitation to repeatedly empathize with other points of view, we are able to initiate a solution-oriented culture of conversation.”

“Innovation-hampering phrases such as ‘That will never work,’ or ‘we’ve never done it that way before,’ are welcome in the Dynamic Facilitation process as concerns, yet they are never allowed to stand alone without a follow-up prompt (‘can you say more about what it is that you are fearing?’) along with a further question (such as, ‘great! So in that case, what would your solution be?’) The dynamics of a Dynamic Facilitation process could be described using the metaphor of a ping-pong game as follows: in this way of playing, the goal is not to force your opponent to make a mistake, by returning the ball with as tricky a spin as possible; instead, the goal is to work together to keep the ball in play.”

“Verbal messages are not simply left standing, but are instead either reflected back or summarized, as literally as possible. In response to abstract statements, facilitators offer follow-up questions (e.g. ‘what do you mean by … ?’) The additional clarification of rationales or further concretization of what has already been spoken, usually leads to a better mutual understanding among all participants, and thus to a reduction of the kind of resistance that can quickly arise whenever allegations are allowed to stand without further explanation. By means of invitations to expand one’s reasoning and the genuineness of the follow-up questions, it soon becomes evident to all that we are shifting away from a conversational pattern of mere assertions or demands, to a more innovative and constructive dimension of conversation.”


Cool stuff, huh? If you’d like to see some of the other German-language material on Dynamic Facilitation that I’ve translated (with lots of help from Google Translate!), check out this page on my website.

I’ll close with the bulk of the abstract I wrote for the Spanda article, describing the larger context of this work:

“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 randomly-selected microcosms have repeatedly evoked collective wisdom, systemic insights, and powerful convergences…”

If you are drawn to read the article, I would be grateful for any feedback you might offer below. Here is a direct link to the full article…


4 thoughts on “New Article in Spanda Journal

  1. Love what you share. Would like to help make a difference this way. So scared of the way things are going in the democratic and especially republican parties.

  2. Thank You Rosa! I’m heartily glad that Tom Atlee brought you ‘kicking and screaming’ to DF!! Reading your article is rich. scintillating, breathtaking, full of the ‘flavors’ like moving through an organic cherry orchard, savoring different varieties, rolling whole concepts around on my tongue. Right-on! Having trained in Restorative Justice and Conflict Resolution in years past, I am now super-focused on how we might possibly shape nationwide political discourse toward true Democracy. I LOVE what they’ve done/ are doing in Austria with Wisdom Councils and Dynamic Facilitation

    • thank you so much for the enthusiastic feedback… sounds like we have a shared passion, with regard to the Wisdom Councils in Austria!

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