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Time for a new paradigm of government


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Our democratic system is out of sync with the needs of our time. We need to look critically at its basic assumptions and capacities and rethink the kind of governance we'll need to move us successfully into the next phase of social evolution.

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Time for a new paradigm of government

  1. 1. Time for a New Paradigm of Government: The Elements of Needed Change Prepared for 9th International Conference on Knowledge, Culture and Change in Organizations, 21-22 February,Vancouver BC Christopher Wilson
  2. 2. Governments are Failing Us • As the basic tool for social coordination in order to minimize social conflict & encourage social innovation governments are ineffective • Governments no longer have the full knowledge, resources or power they need to produce the results desired by their citizens. “Democracy, as we know it, is failing …The real question ultimately is, will we be able to change the system?“ --Yaneer Bar-Yam, Pres., New EnglandComplex Systems Institute, MIT.
  3. 3. Democracy in Retreat Source: Freedom in theWorld 2019, Freedom House, Washington, DC Democracy continues to decline globally - for the 13th consecutive year
  4. 4. Why? • Not because of the failures of individual leaders even when these are legion • Not because of the failures of specific parties or ideologies • Not because people don’t care Governments are failing us: • Because they have for over a century positively transformed our society - They have created the most well educated, healthiest, most prosperous, safest, most connected, and most innovative society in the history of mankind; - Our systems of social coordination and governance were designed for the slow moving reality of society in the mid 1800s, but they successfully changed that reality • Because our governing institutions weren’t designed for today’s realities, they’ve fallen out of sync with society itself
  5. 5. Old Assumptions aren’t valid Old assumptions: • Citizens aren't knowledgeable or sufficiently educated about issues; • B/c populations were widely distributed, citizens can’t reach collective decisions except by using representative agents; • Citizens cannot effectively share their knowledge or resources or collaborate; • Governing institutions must be centralized and run by leaders; • Governments can acquire all necessary expertise to make good decisions; • Through taxation, governments have all the necessary resources; • Governments have all the necessary power to do what’s necessary.
  6. 6. A Way Forward “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” - Buckminster Fuller … …
  7. 7. AVision of Future Possibility • Human beings see their identity as diverse members of a common group, with similar desires for their children, for their families, for prosperity and for fulfillment. • People are willing to overlook the natural differences of their ethnic, linguistic, geographic, religious or class backgrounds when this results in greater social innovation and well being. • Instead of looking back, people are willing to look forward together and share the load of continually making their communities and the world better places. • In conversations that span the globe, they tell a common human story of a vision for a future that everyone wants to live into.
  8. 8. Six Key Mind Shifts • No one’s in charge nor can they be on many complex files; • Shift from organizations of leadership and control to systems of shared ownership and stewardship; • Shifting to a focus on scalable learning and experimentation over scalable efficiency and standardization; • Shifting to more participatory democracy as citizens increasingly want in; • Re-designing government as a platform for citizen collaboration; and • Shifting from partisan politics focusing on individual leaders to generating stewardship based on process design rather than personalities.
  9. 9. A New Model of Governance • Governance is based on the shared ownership of all citizens in both problems and solutions.The result is participatory, co-governance. • Governance activities utilize the knowledge and practices of collaboration more than the activities of control and domination. • Governance is facilitated by fostering stewardship over leadership. • Rather than representative democracy, governance is based on direct citizen involvement and collaboration, ie participatory democracy. • Governance is designed principally for effective, collective learning. • Technology is used to deliver, routine and standardized public service tasks, while stakeholders and citizens focus on collective learning and long term guidance. • The practices of global governance are facilitated by an independent, internet enabled platform for citizens from around the world to interact, collaborate and resolve issues on their own in open partnerships with others. • Global governance operates outside the limitations of individual governments.
  10. 10. New Assumptions About Citizens • We live in a complex, evolving, interdependent, quantum world where relationships and learning are paramount; • Knowledge is widely distributed with no one having all knowledge, or controlling access to all knowledge. B/c of the Internet & telecommunications, citizens have the tools to effectively share knowledge and resources, learn together and collaborate w/o the need for representative agents; • Citizens are generally well educated & often with more issue specific knowledge than government experts, and therefore are a resource that needs to be strategically tapped necessitating that governments design processes of engagement that can inspire willing cooperation of citizens; • Citizens increasingly see themselves as co-owners of their communities, empowering them to make collective decisions and collaborate together in an open, stigmergic & emergent process; • Human society is becoming an ever more heterogeneous mix of values, beliefs, assumptions, perspectives, & culturally generated attitudes. However, b/c of humanity’s culture of collaboration, diversity is cherished as a source of great social innovation and shared implementation capacity.Collaboration and conflict will be seen as two sides of the same evolutionary coin.
  11. 11. New Assumptions About Government • Cooperation will be driven by stewardship rather than leadership; • Stewardship will be defined by good process rather than personality; • Good government will be shaped by the stewardship notion of “how can I help?”; • Citizen collaborators will be more dedicated to altering the status quo than fighting competing stakeholders requiring a key capacity of government to be its ability to facilitate citizen cooperation.Those so skilled will become the elected agents of citizens; • Citizens working openly & cooperatively will generate the nature & priorities of public goods and services, but governments will employ the tools of artificial intelligence and other technologies to create and disseminate those goods and services; • Despite its power of taxation, governments do not have all the necessary resources to fulfill their intents, therefore requiring them to cooperatively draw on other resources held by citizens and private sector; and • Governing institutions will not require centralized decision making.The broad distribution of citizens, resources and knowledge will be managed by online technologies such as the block chain
  12. 12. New Mechanisms • Open communities of practice are created at every level of human society so citizens can learn and work together to resolve issues of importance to themselves; • These communities of practice operate with full participatory democracy; employ the processes of ‘learning while doing’; and apply consensus-based decision-making – i.e. agreement by most & acquiescence by the rest; • We elect stewards to ‘facilitate’ rather than ‘represent’ conversations among stakeholders to foster their mutual cooperation; • The practices of citizen-based co-governance generate collective actions that reduce social frictions, increases social equity, resolve complex shared problems & take advantage of new opportunities; • Tax resources are no longer collected centrally but remain under the control of each individual citizen who releases them according to collectively determined priorities, which they themselves have helped to shape. Additional tangible and intangible resources, only available to citizens, are released through local regional and national collaboration; • Numerous global, national and community organizations provide social & technical tools to support effective collaboration and assessment capacities, while citizens realize their potential as shared owners of their community; and • Mutual accountability among all stakeholders drives, not only their commitments and cooperation on an issue, but ensures ongoing social learning and improvement through processes of ‘learning while doing”.
  13. 13. New Practices • Parliaments, legislatures and councils are celebrated as places where collective learning and co-governance thrive; • Members of these bodies are chosen based on their previously established records at facilitating effective community conversations and collaboration; • Technology and artificial intelligence will take over the routine activities of governing, significantly reducing the size of public services; • Those remaining in government become experts at fostering community conversations, scaling learning to larger and larger audiences, and facilitating wider access to society’s collective knowledge, resources and power; • Governments operate on the principle of subsidiarity, with local communities of practice organizing to resolve the least complex issues, but having the possibility of engaging a broader & broader range of knowledge and experience on an ‘as needed’ basis from higher order institutions of government. • Open access to global information allows local groups to gauge their success against those of other communities worldwide.
  14. 14. New Capacities • A new governance regime must generate a sense of shared purpose • A new governance model would encourage a public culture to accept experimentation and the possibility of early mistakes, by adopting an experimental fail fast: fail often approach • A new governance system would exhibit ‘learning while doing’ utilizing inquiring systems that allow them to constantly probe and question the actions of stakeholders and the changing environments around them as they develop responses. • Co-ownership and inclusion will be a key governance principle, with collective decision-making including people who can contribute different knowledge and experience to innovation, and different perspectives so governments know sooner when they’ve not fully succeeded.
  15. 15. New Capacities (cont’d) • Creating a generation of full citizens who are willing to assume ownership of their lives and contribute to making a collective difference by sharing with others; • A decreasing emphasis on leaders and an increasing prominence of multi- stakeholder, shared governance regimes that favour effective stewardship; • An increasing number and frequency of self-organizing groups that operate at scales from local to regional to national and global, and where the participants are committed to resolving their issues; • Emphasizing the direct participation of citizens in: the formation of local, regional, national and international policies; in service delivery; in monitoring and accountability; and in ways that are ongoing; and • A new model of governance that focuses on a future that all of humanity is prepared to live into, & not just trying to address past grievances or current wrongdoings
  16. 16. Intelligent Governance • Intelligent governance = a collective process used when governance is widely distributed & coordination is not linear. It requires a significant tacit knowledge, judgement, sometimes guesswork, trial and error, and social learning – often across multiple organizations and stakeholder groups. Striking the ‘right fit’ between the best use of resources and outcomes is a coordination exercise where multiple groups contribute towards joint outcomes. • Intelligent governance begins with a reflection on prior assumptions or biases. Each situation is contextually determined; its complexity and circumstances fully appreciated; the plurality of stakeholders and their worldviews taken into account; and its various issue dynamics probed.The way forward results from experimentation and continuous inquiry and social learning. • Collaboration is a crucial component of inquiring systems, including collaboration on: problem definition; solution design; implementation; performance assessment and learning. Collaboration is based on a recognition that if a change cannot be achieved alone, one must be willing to imagine possibilities that attainable only in concert with others. • While the Internet is a basic global platform for citizen collaboration, it also necessitates a variety of offline conventions: some explicit and rational, others tacit and relational. As collaboration broadens the problem definition and widens potential responses, it frequently ends in unique innovative solutions. • The typical ecology of activities within an inquiring system entails a cycle of collective learning comprised of four phases, including: an observation phase (I), an investigative phase (II), a design-cum-moral contracting phase (III), and an evaluative and social learning phase (IV).
  17. 17. Fostering Intelligent Governance I Does the situation need changing? II What is the problem? III How will you work together? IV How will you learn together & evaluate your progress? 1. Are there any detectable anomalies? 6.What is the task at hand? a. DESIGN 12. What feedback and informational loops do you have to enable social learning 2. What are the salient features of the issue domain? 7. What are the non-negotiable constraints within the mega- community? 10. What practices of collaboration & social learning can you use to produce short-term success & long-term commitment? 13. What collective learning processes do you have in place? 3. What are the causal mechanisms at play? 8. Who are the stakeholders that must be included and how will you involve them? b. CONVENTIONS 14. How will you objectively assess ongoing performance? 4. Can this be resolved by a single actor? 9. What are the risks & potential rewards, & how will these be aligned among the partners? 11. What conventions and moral contracts need to be negotiated to maintain a culture of collaboration? 15. How will you gauge changes in attitudes and behaviours among partners? 5. Who are the key stakeholders? 16. How will you resolve conflicts? 17. What fail-safe mechanisms will you put in place? 18. At what point would you dissolve the collaboration?
  18. 18. A Collaboration Checklist Issues Strategies Can't do it alone Recognize that the issue(s) crosses the boundaries of several organizations/ communities / regions / nations Accept a distributed solution Engage potential partners and stakeholders & invite them to table Build & Maintain Trust Secure an initial basis of trust (shared purpose & operating principles) Regularly re-affirm relationships of trust Satisfy everyone’s contingent cooperation Create a co-governance structure Collective Learning Establish a common knowledge base Engage in meaning making Establish data relevance and priorities Collective Decision Making Establish how collective decisions will be made among partners Address the existence of multiple accountabilities Identify and mitigate power imbalances CollectiveAction Address free-rider tendencies Establish partner commitments Monitoring & Evaluation Identify assessment and evaluation mechanisms Assess progress and celebrate success Moving from inquiry to collaboration entails moving through six basic issues and sixteen cooperative strategies that involve a variety of skills, mechanisms and heuristics. Repeated exposure to these practices develops a collaborative connoisseurship that fosters effective stewardship
  19. 19. Where to Start? • Assemble a group of people – both online and in person – who have experience and knowledge of effective collaboration, in addition to key champions of the issue under scrutiny. Self selection is an important feature as it implies passion and motivation. • Bring people together to validate the need for a new collaborative process and what they might be willing to contribute to the process. • Invite them to participate in reimagining a new alternative future. • Can they paint a picture of a future most people would want to live into? • Get them to think who to involve, how to engage them, how people should be when they come together, and what collective processes should be followed. What do they need in exchange for their participation? • Then let them determine the next step. • Such a process will help shift governance back into the hands of citizens and create a supportive infrastructure that will allow them to learn and collaborate together to address the complex problems that they face, that face their communities and that face all of humanity, by releasing the knowledge, resources and power they alone hold.
  20. 20. ThankYou Contact Christopher Wilson, Principal, ChristopherWilson & Assoc. 1935 Jeffree Rd., Saanichton, BCV8M1K1 Tel: 613-355-6505