Recreating Democracy

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9780967229201: Recreating Democracy

This book describes a process for recreating democracy in local communities and suggests ways to augment our largely hierarchical democratic system. It shows how to apply democratic principles and methods, some traditional and others innovative, to create a "government by the people." It focuses on what ordinary citizens can do to achieve their own civic visions, values and goals.

A basic premise of the book is the need to introduce collaborative decision making methods, and to do this in small communities where all citizens can effectively be involved if they consent to do so. Out of this experience, we believe, changes can evolve in the way we pursue the still-relevant ideals of a national democractic society. The purpose of these new decision making methods is to help citizens of all political opinions accommodate their interests, thus rendering majority rule, and minority resentments, unnecessary.

We refer to this national system of government as "sovereign democracy" because its authority is derived from the supreme power of the state. Our subject, by contrast, is a grassroots, citizen-initiated method of governing the civic sector of local communities. We refer to this approach as Consensual Democracy because its authority is based on the freely given consent of ordinary citizens to work together for their common good as they define it.

The locus of Consensual Democracy is consensual government - government by the people - which encompasses both the infrastructure that enables people to govern themselves effectively and the civic policies through which civic renewal can be achieved.

Recreating Democracy addresses both the structure and the process of grassroots democracy. Some sections show how the citizens of the fictional community of Everytown acquire the vision, goals and governance structure that can support their civic renewal efforts. By focusing on these materials, readers will see how ordinary people can create a civic infrastructure in a community where none exists.

Other parts of the book illustrate the process of Consensual Democracy, by dramatizing how Everytown citizens respond to the compelling issues involved in creating a government by the people. By focusing on these materials, readers can see how the positive, life-changing process of Consensual Democracy unfolds in a community perhaps not unlike their own.

Throughout the book, the underlying challenge faced by Everytown citizens is how to govern their community's nheglected civic sector. By applying Consensual Democracy principles and methods, Everytown citizens begin to create a vision of their community's future, identify its civic needs, design solutions, collect and allocate civic resources, and administer civic policies and programs. These governmental functions are carried out, not in the official chambers of sovereign government, but in civic forums of public discussion, debate and decision making. As the Consensual Democracy story unfolds, the conflicts between the values and methods of the two forms of democracy are played out in the minds and hearts of the people of Everytown.

Consensual Democracy is introduced into local communities by people who are attracted to its methods and inspired by the results it has achieved. Implementing this approach does not require complex bureaucracies, vast sums of money, or the approval of sovereign government, but only the capacity of local citizens to identify and address their shared interests openly, cooperatively and democratically.

Some may be surprised that we offer such detailed guidelines for implementing Consensual Democracy. Those who have experienced this approach first-hand say that governance by the people requires perseverance and principle-oriented leadership in order to achieve sustainable results. Consensual Democracy challenges people to be more cooperative than competitive, more committed to reaching alignment than to winning votes, more focused on acting in accordance with shared civic visions and values than on achieving short-term results through authoritarian methods.

With inclusiveness and mutuality as its primary values, Consensual Democracy continually invites, welcomes and involves citizens who have historically be under-represented in local government: women, children, elders, adolescents, parents with young children, ethnic minorities, the very rich and the very poor, and the otherwise unremarkable citizens who hold unusual or unpopular opinions.

Whenever possible, Consensual Democracy replaces Robert's Rules of Order with methods that limit the ability of elite groups or charismatic individuals to control civic agendas and outcomes. Consensual Democracy does not exclude elites; rather, it provides methods that make elitism obsolete and unnecessary.

Finally, Recreating Democracy illustrates new concepts of democratic citizenship and leadership. The essence of this citizenship is the capacity to work with others to identify and achieve the common good openly, cooperatively and democratically, Our experience confirms that ordinary citizens, supported by a democratic civic infrastructure, can develop this capacity and assume the responsibilities of democratic citizenship.

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From the Inside Flap:

Recreating Democracy is two books in one: a practical guide to the process of reviving local communities and a source book of methods that enable ordinary citizens to work together openly, cooperatively and democratically. Based on fifty years of practical experience in local communities, Recreating Democracy defines Consensual Democracy's grassroots approach to civic renewal based on the visions, values and goals of ordinary citizens.

About the Author:

Lloyd P. Wells is a community organizer and the principal architect of the Chestnut Hill Community Association, birthplace of Consensual Democracy.

Larry Lemmel is the Chairman of the Center for Consensual Democracy, which develops and fosters this vision- and values-based approach to reviving local communities.

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Lloyd P. Wells; Larry Lemmel
Published by Center for Consensual Democracy (2000)
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