latest material from Matrix book…Ch 4


Richard Moore


Work has been continuing apace on the new book.  I've been
ignoring other things, such as straightening up the house or
sending out news items. Sorry about that. I know LOTS is going
on in the world. One of these days I'll DELUGE newslog and
send a summary to cj & rn, with the reports I've found most

About two weeks ago I sent out the first 'complete' version of
the book. It was not in the most accessible of formats, but I
did get lots of very useful feedback. My estimate now is that
that version was about 80% of the way to the final
product. It was just good enough to be worth making a lot
better, if you know what I mean.

Some of the people reviewing the material are activists in the
field, and in some cases the material has been influencing the
activism!  That's great, since that's actually the purpose of
the book.

Below is the latest version of Chapter 4. The first two
sections are basically unchanged, but have been moved to the
front. The remainder of the chapter is largely new and I
believe more effective.

Partly I'm asking for feedback, and partly I just want to keep
you up to date on progress.

all the best,

Chapter 4

Harmonization in groups

* Meeting dynamics: collaborative & adversarial

Consider for a moment the many kinds of meetings that occur in
our society. In business meetings are held regularly to make
plans and coordinate people's activities. If parents feel that
their children need a crossing guard on the way to school,
then they organize a neighborhood meeting. When a country
decides to go to war, that decision is made in some meeting
among high-level officials. In government one wonders if they
do anything but go to meetings, whether they be official
government sessions, or meetings with staff, colleagues,
lobbyists, backers, or constituents. If people want to start a
political movement, they begin by organizing meetings. The
American Revolution was born in New England pubs, where the
rebellious minded held meetings and plotted against the King,
inspired by the local brew.

Although many of us have negative feelings about meetings, and
about their effectiveness, the fact is that meetings are the
place where people generally make joint plans and reach group
decisions. Some of these meetings are collaborative, and some
are adversarial. We are all familiar with both kinds.

A typical example of a collaborative meeting would be the
neighborhood gathering mentioned above, where the parents
would like to see a crossing guard assigned to a dangerous
local intersection. The people have a common goal, and they
work together cooperatively to achieve it. People offer
suggestions for actions that can be taken, the suggestions are
discussed, and people volunteer to help with the actions that
are agreed to. If the meeting is successful, everyone comes
away better off-the concept of winners and losers is
irrelevant to a collaborative meeting.

A typical example of an adversarial meeting would be a city
council session where a controversial development project is
being discussed. The developers and business community are
showing slides of beautiful landscaped buildings and talking
of new jobs, while neighborhood protesters are complaining
about increased traffic and the loss of a children's
playground. The typical outcome of such a meeting is that one
side wins and the other loses. Either the development project
goes ahead, and the neighborhood suffers, or else the project
is rejected and the investors may suffer considerable losses.

It is very unusual for anything creative to happen at an
adversarial meeting. People, or factions, come in with agendas
to promote-agendas that were created somewhere else. If the
meeting is unable to resolve an issue, it is typically
deferred-and people are expected to go off somewhere else and
create revised proposals. The somewhere else-where the
creative activity of planning occurs-is generally a meeting of
the collaborative variety.

In our city council example, the developers and promoters have
been meeting collaboratively for months preparing their
project plans and their city-council presentation. Similarly,
the neighborhood protestors have held collaborative meetings
to assess their feelings and to decide how best to express
their concerns to the city council. The adversarial
meeting-the official decision making meeting-is not a
discussion session, but is rather a battle of strength between
the two opposing sides: Which side can muster the most support
among the city council members? Which side can spout the most
convincing rhetoric, painting its own proposals in the colors
of the common good?

Parliamentary sessions in liberal "democracies" are based on
the adversarial meeting model. A chairman governs the
proceedings, proposals can be introduced, time is allowed for
debate, and a majority vote decides each question. The
"debate" is typically rhetorical, for public consumption, and
seldom affects the outcome of the vote. This is not a system
designed to solve problems or to encourage useful
discussion-it is a system designed to efficiently measure the
relative power of opposing factions, and to promptly assign
the rewards to the strongest. Just as the floor of the stock
market is designed to efficiently manage the investment
transactions of the wealthy elite, so is the floor of the
parliament designed to efficiently referee power transactions
among elite factions.

A collaborative meeting operates according to collaborative
dynamics, and an adversarial meeting operates according to
adversarial dynamics. Collaborative dynamics are about people
gathering around and agreed objectives, identifying means to
achieve them, and planning how to pursue that agenda. Within
collaborative dynamics people have an incentive to listen to
one another's suggestions, and in the planning process the
group typically converges toward a consensus perspective on
the task at hand.

Adversarial dynamics are about people debating from their
fixed perspectives in an attempt to prevail over the other
side. There is little incentive to listen to the other side,
apart from looking for weaknesses that can be exploited. Each
side may attempt to shift the perspective of the other side,
but neither side has any intention of shifting its own
perspective. Whereas people learn useful things about their
shared problems within collaborative dynamics, the only thing
learned within adversarial dynamics is how to better combat
the other side. Collaborative dynamics tend to avoid internal
divisiveness when it arises, while adversarial dynamics tend
to reinforce and encourage divisiveness among factions.

* A gap in our cultural repertoire 

These two meeting models are very common in our society, and
indeed they are more or less the extent of our general
cultural repertoire. We know how to get together with our
allies and make plans to promote our shared interests, and we
know how to fight for our side in an adversarial gathering,
according to whatever rules are in play. What we don't know
much about, and don't have many cultural models for, is how to
resolve differences within a group of people. We don't know
how to engage in productive dialog within a group of people
who express conflicting interests.

In an adversarial meeting the differences are accepted as a
given, as a fixed quantity, and the business of the meeting is
to enable the different factions to battle it out until a
winner can be chosen. There is no attempt to resolve the
differences: people go away with their perspectives unchanged,
and the same factions retire to prepare for their next

When people come into a collaborative meeting, they come in
with the knowledge that they are bound by common interests to
the other participants. Indeed, the people come together in
order to collaborate in advancing those common interests. In
order to get on with it and make progress, participants tend
to avoid bringing up internal differences in such meetings. At
such a meeting a good leader will be skillful at defusing
differences, articulating compromises, and keeping the meeting
on track. Minority factions within the group are encouraged to
stifle their divisive concerns, and join the majority in a
consensus that will advance the identified common interests of
the group. And in the competition between different factions,
success tends to go to those which are best able to submerge
their internal differences, focus on their primary interests,
and adopt decisive action plans.

Under neither dynamics is there an attempt to engage in
constructive dialog regarding the differences in the group.
Under adversarial dynamics there is dialog over
differences-but it is the dialog of power, expressed in the
language of influence and votes. Under collaborative dynamics,
discussion of differences is avoided, so that the group can
focus on their identified common interests and get on with
their primary business. In the one case difference are
expressed competitively and are reinforced, and in the other
case differences are suppressed. In neither case are
differences resolved.

This gap in our cultural repertoire creates a problem for
popular initiatives, particularly in a society which is
already split by factionalism. Indeed, the gap can lead to
difficulties whenever people attempt to work together. Here's
an example I observed on a recent visit to the San Francisco
Bay Area. The population there is relatively progressive, and
there is widespread support for an increased focus on public
transport. But instead of people getting together and coming
up with a common proposal, people soon divided themselves into
two camps. One camp wanted to expand the conventional rail
network, while another wanted to expand the rapid-transit
system. Most of the available activist energy was then devoted
to a struggle between these two camps.

As I read over the positions of the two camps, as an outside
observer, it seemed obvious to me that the best of the ideas
could be usefully combined into a cost-effective hybrid
proposal. The real solution, it seemed, would be to make
strategic interconnecting links and upgrades, and coordinate
schedules-across all available transport systems-rather than
promoting one kind of transport to the exclusion of another.
Of course my own arm-chair proposal probably didn't take
everything into account, but the main point remains: the two
camps were struggling over their differences rather than
trying to resolve them-and missed any opportunity to find
synergy in some creative middle ground. The collaborative
meeting model could not serve the two camps, because neither
side was willing to stifle its ideas-so the activists adopted
the only other available cultural model: adversarial
engagement. As a consequence of this split in popular
activism, the transport planning decisions will most likely be
made by speculative developers and their politician cronies,
and whatever they decide they will be able to claim their
decision has "public support."

Most of us consider public meetings to be a waste of time,
particularly when they attempt to deal with issues that are
complex or controversial. This is because we have prior
experience with the dynamics that are likely to occur. First
there will be an attempt to reach a rapid consensus, most
likely proposed by those calling the meeting. Then someone in
the back stands up and disagrees, voicing some objection. That
sparks other suggestions and objections. The meeting threatens
to get out of control-to revert to adversarial dynamics. The
organizers attempt to bring the dynamics back into
collaboration. If they succeed, then some of the participants
go away feeling their interests have been betrayed; if they
fail, then everyone goes away with the feeling that yet
another meeting has been a waste of time.

            Did you exchange a walk-on part in a war for a leading role in
            a cage? -Roger Waters, Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here

Because of these circumstances, anyone with a motivation to
pursue political activism soon learns to flock with birds of
the same feather. Environmentalists flock under a green
banner, animal rights activists follow their drummer, other
groups rally around their opposition to corporate power, or
their stance in favor of or against abortion rights, etc. In
order to get anything done, collaborative dynamics are
required, and gathering together in interest groups seems to
be the natural thing to do. Those gathering together already
agree on what's important, and they are thus able-depending on
their organizational ability-to get on with a program, rather
than wasting time debating the priority of different issues.
In this way the energy of popular initiatives gets sucked into
the game of adversarial factionalism-a game whose rules are
set down by elites for their own advantage. Just as in Las
Vegas or Wall Street, this is a game where the house always
wins in the end.

If we want to overcome factionalism in the macrocosm, at the
level of society, we must first learn how to overcome
differences at the microcosm, down in the grassroots where
people meet face to face. We need to extend our cultural
repertoire to include gatherings of a third kind, where people
neither compete to win or lose, nor submerge their differences
in order to reach a shallow consensus. We need a third
dynamics, a dynamics of harmonization, a dynamics that
encourages us to express our concerns fully, and which enables
us to work creatively with that information-to find ways
forward that benefit everyone involved. If our cultural
repertoire can be extended in this way, in the microcosm, then
we may find that there are new ways of working together on a
larger scale as well-ways that avoid the quicksand of
adversarial politics.

* Some remarkable meetings

In June, 2004, twenty four diverse "opinion leaders" were
invited to a conference in Michigan which had the following
stated purpose:

      The purpose of this gathering is to [initiate] a new kind of
      public conversation that moves us beyond polarization so we
      [can] effectively address the issues we care most about. . .

The participants were from all across the political spectrum,
including a former FBI agent, the National Field Director of
the Christian Coalition, a founding member of the National
Congress of Black Women, a board member of the National Rifle
Association, the president of a left-leaning legal-issues
organization, former Weather Underground supporters, and
former speakers at white racist gatherings.

Is this gathering intended as a joke? From such a radically
diverse conference one might expect fistfights and shouting
matches to emerge, rather than any kind of agreement or
consensus. Tom Atlee, a participant, expressed his misgivings
prior to the gathering this way:

      Using Google, I researched the people who were coming to the
      conversation. I read articles by the conservatives and
      listened to their radio talk shows-and I got triggered by what
      they said. I reacted with anger, frustration and rejection of
      who they were. I thought silent counter arguments and felt the
      rise of adrenaline. Friends warned me to be careful-or
      couldn't even imagine going to talk with such people.*

But somehow, at the conference in Michigan, the outcome
transcended these negative expectations. It turned out to be a
very productive meeting. Another of the participants, Mark
Satin, wrote an article* about the experience; he describes
the first evening's activities this way:

      On Friday night, we broke into three groups (of eight
      participants and one facilitator each) to discuss such
      questions as, What did you understand about being an American
      when you were 12 years old? How have you experienced political
      differences and how did that affect you personally?
      It was impossible to participate in that exercise without
      coming to see (and feel and know) that every participant,
      whatever their politics, was a complex and caring human being.
      Reporting on an afternoon's conversation later in the
      conference, Mark says:
      Someone tried to classify participants' approaches as "left"
      or "right." Someone on the right took umbrage with that,
      feeling that the qualities cited as "right" were insulting
      stereotypes; and that pressed many people's buttons; and round
      and round and round we went, and the afternoon shadows grew
      But the end result of that conversation is we all realized-I
      mean, we all really "got"-how misleading and even
      infantilizing the old political spectrum had become.

Mark's comments on a later session:

      In another exercise, the participants were asked to tell about
      each of the key decisions they'd made in their political
      Everyone stared, some of us open-mouthed, as various
      "left"-wingers and "right-" wingers, former Weather
      Underground supporters and former speakers at white racist
      gatherings, shared the incidents that shaped their lives.
      And revealed without even trying that every caring person is a
      brother or sister under the skin.
      And that our values are at some deep level fundamentally the
      ...for the first time in many years, I feel enthusiastic
      enough about an incipient political movement to want to put my
      shoulder to the wheel.
At the end of the conference the group came up with a remarkable declaration:

      Before leaving, we all signed our names to a document titled
      "We the People." Many of us signed with flourishes, as if we
      were signing something akin to the Declaration of
      Independence. Here are the key passages:
      "We respect our differences and recognize America needs every
      one of our viewpoints, ideas, and passions-even those we don't
      agree with-to keep our democracy vital and alive;
      "We recognize that meeting here and across our land for
      dialogues across differences builds trust, understanding,
      respect, and empowerment-the conditions necessary for freedom
      and democracy to live in us and around us;
      "And, therefore, each still grounded in our own considered
      views (conscience and convictions), we commit ourselves and
      our communities of interest to foster dialogue across the many
      divides in America, in large and small groups, to build trust,
      insight, and inspired action toward the more perfect union we
      all desire."

We can find considerable encouragement in these results.
Factionalism keeps us divided as a society, and yet these
diverse and dedicated factionalists were somehow able to
appreciate one another's perspectives-and even discover an
explicit common identity as "We the People." They even felt
motivated to publish their shared sentiments as a declaration,
and went on to make plans to follow-up in an enthusiastic and
newfound spirit of collaboration.

            Consensus does not mean agreement. It means we create a forum
            where all voices can be heard and we can think creatively
            rather than dualistically about how to reconcile our different
            needs and visions.
            -Starhawk, Lessons from Seattle and Washington D.C., from
            Democratizing the Global Economy, Kevin Danaher, ed., Common
            Courage Press, Monroe, Maine, 2001.

In this microcosm, we have seen that it is possible to break
through the barriers of factional divisiveness, even in cases
where the divisions run very deep. The breakthrough did not
come by resolving ideological differences-no one changed their
political allegiances-but rather by dissolving the feeling of
separateness that usually exists at a personal level between
members of different factions. Instead of seeing their
dialogical relationship as being dominated by their differing
beliefs, they came to experience that relationship in terms of
their deeper shared identity-as fellow citizens and caring
human beings.

The structure of the conference and the influence of the
facilitators both contributed significantly to the success of
this event. The sessions were designed to give people an
opportunity to share their relevant life experiences, and the
facilitator helped maintain an environment of respectful
listening. Apart from these process contributions, neither the
organizers nor the facilitators tried to push the discussion
in any particular direction. The content of the
discussions-and the outcomes of the conference-were entirely
the spontaneous expression of the participants themselves.

In this conference a certain kind of listening was going on, a
kind found in neither collaborative nor adversarial meetings.
In collaborative meetings the objective is to adopt a common
agenda, and there is little reason to listen seriously to
comments that that are off that topic. In adversarial meetings
the objective is to struggle for dominance, and there is
little reason to listen seriously to comments that are
irrelevant to the debate. In the Michigan conference, the
participants were listening to understand, rather than to
advance some program. Because of the gap in our cultural
repertoire, we seldom experience this kind of listening when
we dialog in groups.

In our search for a dynamics of harmonization, we can identify
this kind of deep listening-listening to understand-as being
one of the elements contributing to such dynamics. When that
kind of listening occurs, we have seen that it can help
dissolve factionalism, enable common concerns to be
identified, and even lead to a sense of shared identity and

Because most of us have grown up in adversarial cultures, a
facilitator is usually necessary if a group hopes to achieve
this kind of deep listening. This is particularly true if the
group is diverse or if it is likely to be dealing with
divisive issues. Appropriate, non-directive facilitation is
another element that can contribute substantially to achieving
a dynamics of harmonization in a group setting.

Let us move on and consider another example of a facilitated
conference that has produced promising results in terms of
harmonization. Here's how the event is described on the
website of Tom Atlee's Co-Intelligence Institute, 

      One weekend in June, 1991, a dozen Canadians met at a resort
      north of Toronto, under the auspices of Maclean's , Canada's
      leading newsweekly. They'd been scientifically chosen so that,
      together, they represented all the major sectors of public
      opinion in their deeply divided country. But despite their
      firmly held beliefs, each of them was interested in dialogue
      with people whose views differed from theirs. That dialogue
      was facilitated by "the guru of conflict resolution," Harvard
      University law professor Roger Fisher -- co-author of the
      classic Getting to Yes -- and two colleagues. Despite the fact
      that they'd never really listened to the viewpoints and
      experiences of others so unlike themselves and the tremendous
      time pressure (they had three days to develop a consensus
      vision for Canada), and despite being continuously watched by
      a camera crew from CTV television (who recorded the event for
      a special public-affairs program), these ordinary citizens
      succeeded in their mission. Their vision was published in four
      pages of fine print -- part of the 39 pages Maclean's devoted
      to describing their efforts (July 1, 1991 issue)

This conference differs from the Michigan event in three
significant ways: ordinary citizens were selected rather than
"opinion leaders"; the specific topic to be discussed at the
conference was pre-defined; the facilitators directly guided
the problem-solving process of the group. This conference was
more rigidly constrained, the scope of discussion was
limited-and it did not generate the same deep spirit of We the
People enthusiasm that arose in the Michigan conference.
Nonetheless the participants did listen deeply to each other's
concerns on the issues under discussion, they did get beyond
their differences regarding those issues, and they did reach a
consensus which took into account their various concerns.
Furthermore, their written recommendations reveal a
perspective that embraces harmonizing concerns as a way of
resolving social issues. Here are two brief excerpts:

      Rather than trying to make binding decisions now on the
      precise shape of Canada's future, we work together to clarify
      the vision of a Canada in which all Canadians would feel fully
      accepted, at home and fairly treated, and with an appropriate
      balance between national concerns and local autonomy
      A vision of Canadians working together is not simply a matter
      of constitutional language. We suggest that Canadians devote
      substantial effort to the human dimension-to understanding one
      another empathetically, to caring and sharing their concerns
      and ideas. And that they also work together to make the
      Canadian economy as prosperous and promising for the future as
      they can. On a base of human understanding and economic
      co-operation, constitutional questions will be far easier to
      resolve. We suggest that all three activities be pursued

Again we see that deep listening and appropriate facilitation
can contribute to achieving harmonization in a group. In this
case we also see that ordinary people from all walks of life
are capable of developing thoughtful visions regarding matters
of state. We see too that any constraints put on a group
discussion can lessen the depth of sharing and mutual
understanding that emerges. Nonetheless, even under such
constraints, harmonization can enable people to overcome their
relevant differences and together develop mutually agreeable
solutions to difficult problems.

Let us next consider a harmonization session in a community
setting, where the concerns raised involve the participants
directly in their daily lives. The community involved is the
Rogue Valley area of Oregon, and the facilitation technique
involved is called Dynamic Facilitation-one of the most
effective forms of facilitation for achieving harmonization in
a diverse group of people. Held in January 2004, the event was
billed as The Rogue Valley Wisdom Council. Wisdom Council is a
concept developed by Jim Rough, the inventor of Dynamic

The Wisdom Council is Jim's proposal for how the We the People
experience might be translated into the political domain. The
basic idea behind a Wisdom Council is to bring together a
group of randomly selected citizens, as a kind of
representative microcosm of a larger constituency-a community,
a region, or even a whole nation. Ideally, a Wisdom Council
would be officially chartered in some way, so that the outcome
of its harmonization process would have a claim to democratic
legitimacy. The ideas and proposals generated in a Council
session are to be shared with the larger population, leading
perhaps to a wider dialog, and hopefully influencing public
policy. If the general concerns of the larger constituency
find expression within the microcosm, and if in the microcosm
those concerns have been harmonized, then it is likely that
the consensus reached in the Wisdom Council will enjoy wide
appeal in the constituency generally.

In order to achieve a reasonably random selection of
participants, hundreds of names were picked randomly from the
phone books for the Rogue Valley area. These people were
contacted by phone, and eventually a small group agreed to
participate in the event. Jim Rough personally facilitated the
two-day session, and the group did indeed achieve a strong
sense of We the People. The event was recorded on video, and
one can readily see the transformation in the participants. At
the beginning they seemed rather shy and didn't feel they had
much to say. But by the end, they were overflowing with
enthusiasm about the possibility of some more direct kind of
participation in the democratic process.

As a follow-up, a public meeting was held in the week
following the session, and this was also recorded on video.
The meeting started off with a report by the participants on
their experience, and their highly articulate expressions were
in stark contrast to their original shyness. The meeting then
broke up into several roundtable discussions, each including
one of the Council participants. There was no attempt to
facilitate these discussions, and remarkably the enthusiasm of
the Council participants turned out to be highly contagious.
The people at the meeting were able to somehow pick up the We
the People spirit without actually going through the
harmonization experience themselves. Everyone came away from
the public meeting with a great deal of enthusiasm for greater
public involvement in policy making-and for the kind of dialog
that harmonizing processes enable.

Out of this enthusiasm, local citizens formed  citizen's
panels to discuss various issues, leading to a kind of
citizens-panel movement in the area. One of the panels
submitted its own alternative proposal for a development
project, indicating that the panels are seeking creative
solutions to problems rather than just making demands. Their
proposal was rejected without due consideration, and that led
the movement to get involved in the electoral process. They
have subsequently  succeeded in electing some favorable
representatives to local government.

Joseph McCormick, one of the organizers of the initial Wisdom
Council, describes the pivotal moment when one of these panels
was born, as he talks about a scene in a film he made of a
neighborhood meeting:

      It shows the crucial moment in the neighborhood meeting when
      the power shifts from the city official in the front of the
      room telling the people about the "construction that will
      begin next month" in their neighborhood (and they will pay
      for), to the people (about 75 angry citizens) when the
      suggestion is made to form a "citizens panel" and the whole
      room in the span of a minute or so "gets it" that they, if
      they unify/harmonize, have power to influence the outcome (and
      the city official is no longer "in charge" for the rest of the

With these developments in the Rogue Valley, we are seeing
something more than harmonization within the context of a
meeting or conference. We are seeing an empowered spirit of We
the People emerging more generally among the citizens of a
community, and we see them  finding ways to come together and
collaborate effectively in achieving their common objectives.

The participants in the initial Wisdom Council, which used
Dynamic Facilitation, were able to experience the full
deep-listening that characterizes harmonization sessions. The
subsequent   citizen's panels are managing to get along
without formal facilitation. Nonetheless they are apparently
able to achieve some degree of harmonization in their
meetings. Unlike many grassroots activist initiatives, these
panels are not oriented around a single issue, nor do they
only involve people who already agree on a basic agenda.
Rather, they represent the emergence of a desire on the part
of diverse citizens to participate generally and directly in
the democratic process. The fact that these panels are able to
develop common agendas-despite their diversity and lack of
pre-defined focus-shows that the participants have found ways
to listen to one another, identify common concerns, and work
effectively together for their common benefit.

* The dynamics of harmonization

Although harmonizing dynamics are not part of our mainstream
culture, they are a well-known in the management-consultant
and meeting-facilitation communities. In that community
harmonization (under various names) is a rapidly expanding
domain of knowledge and practice*. In the pursuit of greater
efficiency and competitiveness, corporations want their
internal teams to work more effectively together-and this has
spawned a whole industry of consultants and facilitators. As a
consequence the state-of-the-art of facilitation has
progressed along many lines, and some of those lines have
produced very promising results as regards harmonization.
Indeed, there are several proven facilitation methodologies
that focus on overcoming group differences at a deep level,
thereby unlocking creative synergy that was previously blocked
by divisiveness or misunderstanding. Not all of these
methodologies were developed in the industrial context, but
corporate support has overall provided a boost to this field
of practice-and success in the domain of corporate teamwork
provides hard evidence for the effectiveness and value of
these techniques.

These facilitation techniques have proven to be successful in
socially oriented contexts as well, as we've seen in the
previous section. An extensive listing of initiatives and
methodologies relevant to harmonization dynamics can be found
on Tom's website,, and Jim
Rough's website, These techniques are
proven and reliable. They enable groups to transcend their
differences, discover their underlying common ground, and come
up with creative, breakthrough solutions to difficult problems
and seemingly intractable conflicts. Furthermore, people who
participate in one of these sessions frequently report that
they find the experience to be personally transforming.

As a harmonization session proceeds, using these kinds
techniques in a sensitive way, two very important shifts
typically occur that empower the group and bring out the
inherent synergy that can be found deep within any group of
people. The first shift has to do with divisiveness. When a
group first gets together with an intention to engage in
dialog, people typically identify others as being "on their
side" or "on the other side," as regards various issues. One
might imagine an atheist liberal and a religious
fundamentalist eyeing one another across the table when a
topic like abortion is introduced. What shifts, when people
listen to understand, is that people begin to see that
everyone else-like themselves-have sincere, deep-felt
concerns. Participants begin to respect one another as fellow
complex humans, and tend to stop thinking of others in terms
of being "on my side" or not, or being of a type.

This shift, away from feelings of divisiveness, awakens a
cooperative spirit in the group. Rather than feeling in
confrontation with the other side-which happens all-to-often
in conversations and gatherings-participants begin to see
themselves as being in a collaborative endeavor with people I
respect. This reflects a shift at an emotional level, in the
participant's feelings about his relationship to the group. As
this overall shift in the group's energy is occurring, each
participant's feelings tend to shift away from negative spaces
like shy, threatened, unable, or misunderstood, over to the
neighborhood of belonging and being OK. When people feel they
belong as-they-are in a group, then they are empowered to
contribute with their full energy from their unique insights
and experiences.

The second shift that typically occurs in group energy has to
do with synergy. This shift too is enabled by the practice of
listening to understand. However this shift happens more in
the thinking domain than the emotional. At the beginning of a
session, participant's tend to judge suggestions by others as
being "for my side" or "against my side." In an atmosphere of
deep listening, and particularly when people learn to respect
the other people in the group, it becomes possible for people
to accept other's suggestions as expressions of legitimate
concerns, rather than as arguments for or against "my side".
When this shift happens, people begin thinking in terms of
taking all concerns into account; they stop dismissing
"contrary" thinking. Ideas which were earlier rejected can now
be re-perceived as positive suggestions- from this broader
perspective of taking all concerns into account. This shift
enables the discovery of powerful hidden synergies in the
thinking of the group.

Let's consider a simple example. Suppose the topic under
discussion is "improving public education", and suppose that
early in the session someone suggests, "What we need to do is
reduce class sizes.". To this another replies, "No, that's a
bad idea, what we need to do is focus on improving the quality
of our teachers." At this point the facilitator would probably
write both suggestions down a flip chart, but she would  state
both as positive suggestions:

      Smaller class sizes would help.
      Better-trained teachers would help.

At this early stage in the session, the discussion would move
on, both speakers would feel heard, but their different
concerns would continue to be perceived as being in conflict.
Later however, when the shift toward taking every concern into
account occurs, someone might reflect back over the flip
charts and come up with a synergistic breakthrough: If we put
more student teachers into the classroom-with proper
supervision-we might cut class sizes , train better teachers,
and reduce training costs-all at the same time.

Experiences with different kinds of groups, in different
circumstances, indicate that groups generally, of ordinary
people of all flavors, are capable of coming up with very
creative solutions-breakthrough solutions in many cases-to
problems that might at first seem intractable. The problems in
question might be of a material nature-How is it possible to
accomplish such and such?-or they might be of a social
nature-How can we satisfy both of our concerns? Tom Atlee
refers to this remarkable phenomenon of all-pervasive group
creativity as co-intelligence, and Jim Rough talks of a
choice-creating space. I tend to use the term, collective
wisdom. We're referring to aspects of the same phenomenon, and
we're all enthusiastic about its potential benefits to

Enabled by the practice of listening to understand, energized
by the comfort of belonging, and awakened to the possibilities
of mutual synergy, a group is able to function as more than
the sum of its parts. I'm sure we've all experienced cases of
two-person synergy, where we've come to understand why 'two
heads are better than one'. A frustrating problem can be easier
to deal with if you have someone to bounce ideas around with,
and if they look at the problem themselves as well.
Unfortunately, by the ways we normally interact in groups, the
synergy level does not typically increase when we have three
heads or many heads trying to solve our problem. By then we
may be thinking in terms of 'too many cooks spoil the broth'.

But when a group of people is enabled to collaborate
creatively, finding synergy in their concerns and ideas, and
listening respectfully to one another-we see the two heads are
better than one dynamic happening on a multiplicative scale.
As a given aspect of a problem is being considered, there is
often some one person with a related experience, or a base of
knowledge, than enables her to make a uniquely valuable
contribution to the dialog at that particular moment. That may
be followed by a contribution or question by someone else,
based on a quite different domain of understanding, and that
might be just what's needed to move the dialog yet another
step forward. We have all had so many life experiences, and so
many learning experiences-when those can be pooled in an
effective way, within the context of a shared exploration, any
group of real people will find that it has a wealth of many
lifetimes of experience and insights available to apply to its
collective thinking process. In this wealth can be found
collective wisdom.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this section, participants
in these kind of sessions frequently report experiencing some
kind of personal transformation as a result of going through
the process. This is a theme that we will return to now and
again in various chapters. At this point in our inquiry, let
me suggest that the kind of experiences described above would
be very likely to produce certain kinds of transformations in
typical participants.

Suppose, for example, someone comes into a session who is
strongly prejudiced against certain kinds of people, or
against people who hold certain beliefs. Suppose as well that
some of those areas of prejudice come up in the session,
either because some of "those people" are present, or because 
related topics come up for discussion. If the session does
indeed go through the shifts, into cooperation, respect, and
synergy, then our prejudiced participant is very likely to
break through the constraint of those prejudices, and that
would certainly represent a personal transformation of a
non-trivial magnitude,

Consider as well someone who comes in full of determined
apathy about social problems: there is nothing I can do,
everything is too complicated, nobody can ever agree on
anything. This may apply to many of us. In a harmonization
session, such an apathetic attitude can be dissolved at a
rather deep level by the experience of effective creative
problem solving in an atmosphere of open participation. This
is where the feeling of We the People comes in, and the
understanding that We the People can be competent. In terms of
ones understanding of oneself as a citizen, a transformation
from apathy to We the People consciousness would be very

We could consider other examples, but I think it would be more
useful to characterize this phenomenon in a more general way.
The fundamental transaction that is occurring, in terms of
personal transformation, is that that the participant finds
himself eventually in the presence of wisdom-and it is a
wisdom which he is part of, and a wisdom which listens to him
and takes his concerns into account. The wisdom happens to be
of the collective variety, rather than appearing in the form
of a wise old sage, but wisdom nonetheless, of its own unique
variety. There is something about the harmonization process,
based on the frequent reports of participants, that seems to
enable deep personal learning to occur out of this interaction
between the individual participant and the awakened wisdom of
the group. Some who are wise cannot teach, but the wisdom made
available in this particular way seems to be somehow
accessible or digestible to many participants. And deep
learning leads quite naturally to deep personal

The dynamics of harmonization are quite different than
adversarial and collaborative dynamics. Harmonization begins
by expanding the space to include everyone's diverse concerns
and interests. Adversarial and collaborative dynamics both
begin by limiting the space to narrowly defined issues and
interests. Participating in the space of harmonization
involves being open and present as a complex human being.
Participating in an adversarial or collaborative space
involves only playing the role of advocate or opponent of some
issue or proposal. The experience of harmonization often leads
to personal growth and transformation, while adversarial and
collaborative experiences tend to reinforce pre-existing
positions and attitudes. Harmonization breaks down barriers
between people and enables them listen to one another and to
find common ground at a deep level. Adversarial and
collaborative dynamics reinforce factionalism and regard
deeper issues as being irrelevant or divisive.

Collaborative meetings provide a space in which factions can
rally together and plan their strategies. Adversarial meetings
provide a space in which factions can play out those
strategies. Harmonization-based meetings provide a space which
may enable us to do away with factional divisiveness

In the microcosm of a facilitated gathering, we know it is
possible for the empowered spirit of We the People to be
kindled. We know that in that space of harmonization it is
possible for this empowered microcosm to work together
effectively and creatively as a group. At the level of a
face-to-face group, we can see a way to overcome factionalism
and bring We the People into being.

In the Maclean's experiment and in a Wisdom Council we can see
how a diverse group can act as a microcosm of a larger
constituency-and by its own harmonization process point the
way to solutions that can be harmonizing for the constituency
generally. In the Rogue Valley citizen's panel movement we can
begin to see a development that goes beyond what can happen in
a face-to-face group-there we see the embryonic emergence of
We the People in a larger macrocosm-that of a community.

The dynamics of harmonization in a community are parallel to
the dynamics in the microcosm of a meeting. Just as people
learn how to listen to one another in a group setting, so the
people in the Rogue Valley are beginning to listen to one
another in their community. Similarly, people there are
beginning to feel they belong as participants in community
affairs, and that their concerns matter, as do the concerns of
their fellow citizens. And just as people in a group session
find they can work together with synergistic creativity, so
the people of the Rogue Valley are finding they can work
together in that way through the vehicle of their panels.

In an isolated session, the spirit of We the People that
emerges is energizing but it can be transitory. When the
session is over participants go back to their everyday lives,
the session experience might seem a bit like a dream-of how
things might work in a better world. But when a community
begins to adopt the principles of harmonization more
generally, as seems to be happening in the Rogue Valley, the
spirit of We the People can take root and become persistent.
In fact, what we are seeing in such a community is a gradual
cultural transformation-away from relationships based on
factional competition and toward relationships based on
respect and cooperation, away from dependency on leaders and
toward grassroots empowerment.

In the context of a group, I described certain significant
shifts that occur in the group energy, shifts toward
cooperation and synergy. In the context of a community, these
energy shifts are expressed as cultural shifts. In such
developments I suggest that we are seeing the glimmerings of a
path that can lead to global social transformation.

If you find this material useful, you might want to check out our website
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Richard Moore (rkm)
Wexford, Ireland
Now available for review:

       Global Transformation: Why We Need It, and How We Can Get It   

TOC with URLs of chapters:

Entire draft as one web page:

Previous version, with more American history:

    "...the Patriot Act followed 9-11 as smoothly as the
      suspension of the Weimar constitution followed the
      Reichstag fire."  
      - Srdja Trifkovic

    There is not a problem with the system.
    The system is the problem.

    Faith in ourselves - not gods, ideologies, leaders, or programs.
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