Outgrowing delegative democracy

In the last chapter of Acting in an Uncertain World, the authors playfully explore the challenges of outgrowing delegative democracy. They make it clear there are vested interests in preserving what they call the "double delegation" to politicians and scientists by the constituencies of concerned citizens. It's very similar to the defenders of closed systems who see no value in switching to open systems for publishing, research, technical design or education. The authors suggest that commercial interests are equally anxious to lock down the thorny issues in order to produce some profitable products and services ASAP. Dialogic processes slowly open up a "can of worms" while involving a larger number of diverse voices, interests and perspectives. To those invested in convergent processes of diagnosis, decision making and execution, opening up several hybrid forums appears to make these messy problems impossible to solve.

As I read this, I realized I take exception to several facets of their argument about the challenges involved with outgrowing delegative democracy. My take on commercial interests is very different from theirs. My familiarity with interactive processes suggests different possibilities for getting dialogic democracy adopted. My research into advances in P2P models of collaboration, production and communities tells me that dialogic democracies is already working at small scales.

Incumbent enterprises can only come up with sustaining innovations. They cannot disrupt their business model without scaring everybody on the inside into a panic. These businesses provide evidence of the books characterization of commercial interests being very convergent. However, the global economy is brimming with disruptive innovators. They are anxious to better know the unmet needs of under-served customers. They rely on dialogic processes to get untapped market niches to reveal their contexts, problems, issues and aspirations. They do lots of listening after inquiring and inspiring so called "non-consumers" of incumbent offerings.

Dialogic processes are already in heavy use in contexts where the attendees are paid to attend. The four books pictured on the right reveal much of the terrain of these practices. Perhaps the attendees to these workshops, meetings and conferences are willing to participate openly because it's an enjoyable time away from the daily routine. It may be a very different story when participants are volunteering their own time away from their jobs and families to move worrisome issues forward that politicians and scientists are downplaying. But rather than connect the difficulties of outgrowing delegative democracy with the nature of dialogic democratic processes, the difficulties may be better explained by the circumstances of the participants.

Collaborative endeavors are usually in no shape to divide up the work at the start. There are dozens of unresolved issues that require considerable conversation, debate and further exploration to resolve. Working with others is inevitably dialogic and democratic, even if there is someone with final say or a gate keeping role. Experiences with P2P models of collaboration, production and communities are getting documented in videos, blogs and books. A Google search will find an amazing number of explorers of these new ways of working.

In short, we're already outgrowing delegative democracy and migrating into dialogic models as if it's a perfectly natural thing to do.

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