The Future of Collective Decision-Making
What does the future of collective decision-making look like?
If you’re like me, you’ve noticed yourself being drawn to exploring the process of sensemaking and collective decision-making. In recent years my foray into the topic of sensemaking led me to Daniel Schmachtenberger’s series the War on Sensemaking, where he explores how our individual sensemaking is increasingly influenced by the systems and technological developments around us.
Sensemaking from a systems approach can be dense and elusive at times, but it arranges scaffolding for cognitive pathways of how the systems play a key role in our perspective. Therefore, it has great bearing on how we live our lives. A systems vantage point of sensemaking can shine a spotlight on some of the harsh realities of corrupted systems and how they are currently failing us.
Juxtapose this framework with our understanding for collective decision-making, and a future course begins to take shape. First, ask yourself, do you have desire for collective decision-making? You may not initially think you do or that collective decision-making is needed. Until you think of the alternatives: totalitarian control or lawlessness of chaos. Rather than delve into either of those dire paths, let’s set our focus on a middle path. A path that will likely contain the emergence of a new form of collective decision-making.
When considering what the future may hold, we can conjure the essence of The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible, as termed by Charles Eisenstein (author or The Coronation, which I reflected on here). In a recent episode of the Emerge podcast with Daniel Thorson, his guest David Sauvage made references to both Daniel Schmachtenberger’s perspectives and Charles Eisenstein’s perspectives. Their discussion felt much aligned to what I’ve been synthesizing over the years. I thought I’d further extrapolate key points brought up by David and Daniel on this podcast episode.
Limitations of Consensus Decision-Making
About 20 minutes into their discussion, David and Daniel reach a crux regarding what they gleaned from their experience at Occupy Wall St. They speak about the conceptual framings of consensus decision-making and participatory democracy. A pivotal moment for me was when they shared about what they saw as the undoing of the Occupy Wall St. movement. Daniel referred to this as, “the tensions that ended up vibrating Occupy out of existence.”
David stated, “My analysis right now is that there was something rigid around consensus decision-making, and there was something rigid around the inclusivity. If your intention is to get to a decision that everyone consenses upon, you are oriented around what people say, you are oriented around external forms of communication, and you are stuck with the will of whoever happens to show up. And you’re also stuck biding by rules that inevitably will be undermined by people who intend to undermine things.”
Daniel agreed with this analysis. Daniel, as a facilitator, was very aware that there could be agents who weren’t on the side of the Occupy. There could be agents who had bad intentions or were “bad faith” actors who could use blocks to disable the movement. David added, “I think it was a fatal flaw. And there was no winning. There was no way to come up with a solution to people exploiting the rules that had already been agreed upon, to undermine the movement.”
Collective Decision-Making as Resonance
It’s magnificent that both David and Daniel have integrated their experiences with Occupy Wall St within a broader context of “best practices” moving forward with possibilities for future efforts for emergent collective decision-making processes. At the time of Occupy Wall St, I wasn’t drawn to that movement, even though I felt something was needed in response to known system’s corruption.
Perhaps on some level I knew Occupy Wall St. would fail, but I appreciate that Daniel and David, and all those involved with genuine intentions, created those lived experiences to inform us. Even if that particular movement was deemed a failure, it seems like a necessary part of the process moving toward the broader goal of collective decision-making.
David summarizes, “what I’m learning from that right now is that: consensus is not the right goal. And I want to posit what is the right goal. The right goal is not consensus, the right goal is resonance. The right goal is a collective experience of the truth.” In the discussion, Daniel gave a sign of recognition to what David shared here, as did I. I believe others who hear this message will also have a clear response to the idea of resonance being the goal.
David continues, “I am of the belief now that there are enough of us who are committing to embodying — well at least first, allowing, listening to, and then embodying the truth of what wants to emerge through a group that we can hold the proper the resonance that allows for the right decision.” As David shares this, I feel aligned to what he’s saying. I can recall instances I’ve had when lack of resonance was apparent in a group, and how consensus was not enough for collective cohesion.
Sacred Containers for Emergence
David comes around to addressing the question: What is the future of collective decision-making? He says, with authority, “the future of collective decision-making is the creation of sacred containers for emergence with clear and clean intentions.” He refers to emergence as, What happens without force. What arises without force. What arises naturally. So, what is arising throughout the group naturally without force.”
David adds that what he means by “sacred” is: “a conscious attitude of attuning to a higher intelligence. We’re not just pretending that what you think, and what you think, and what you think… are all equal. That is an old dead and boring paradigm that causes a lot of frustration and confusion in left-leaning circles. We’re also not gonna privilege people based on money, power, status and race — that’s an even older and dumber paradigm.”
I found it interesting to hear him describe what he means by sacred in this equation. I believe he makes a necessary assertion. It may very well be an old paradigm to believe that collective decisions can be made by consensus and pretending what everyone thinks is equal. Even for those who are proponents of equality, there must be true consideration as to whether or not that kind of consensus really works. David follows this with “some of us are more equipped to listen and to tune-in to what wants to emerge through the collective, than others of us.”
What he means by “clear” intention is: “that when you gather a group together, if you don’t have a clear intention of what you need to understand or decide, then whatever ambiguity is in there, will corrupt the container.” And what he means by “clean” is: “that you are genuinely trying to bring down or allow to bubble up the collective intelligence. The facilitator does not have some hidden other agenda.”
Finishing up about the idea of sacred containers, David says, “once we get good at explaining this and good at showing it, I think it will be clear enough to more and more people that this is how decisions must be made. This is decision-making itself.” He suggests that people will now be faced with the option of: “whether they want to move toward healthy and wholesome and authentic and spiritually-alive decision-making processes. Or if they want to stay in the delusion of representative democracy, or in the toxicity of pure power-based politics.”
A Need for a New Coherence Process
In response, Daniel says that he feels a sense of cleat alignment to what David has shared. I feel alignment with it too. Daniel affirms “my work is preparing people to be appropriate instruments for that kind of truth seeking, or truth resonating. That kind of collective harmonizing that I sense is possible and that I’ve had experiences of in these sorts of spaces at the edge of our culture.” I think many who have taken the role of facilitator can relate to what Daniel is saying here.
David elaborates more about resonance, saying: “The question that resonance is the answer to is: How do we know what the right thing is? How do we know what the best decision is? Unless you have resonance as the guide, you’re left with a bunch of really crappy answers, like voting, or even like consensus. Resonance transcends consensus.”
“The problem with resonance is that a lot of people are liable to confuse resonance with something like satisfaction, or pleasure, or “it feels right to me.” But there is, for those of us who’ve done sufficient work on ourselves, a relatively easy distinction to make between “this is what I want” and “this is what feels genuinely true.” And if you’re not ready to make a distinction between “this is what I want” and “this is what feels genuinely true” — you are not yet in a position to contribute in a meaningful way to collective decision-making.”
Framing the Bigger Idea
David and Daniel share about how they both recently attended the Emerge Gathering. From the gathering the learned about the concept of a Third Attractor, as described by Daniel Schmachtenberger. I’ve listened to Daniel S’s talk about this, and he gives a much more elongated explanation about this. Here’s the link to his video if you’d like to check it out. David gives his interpretation of the premise of a third attractor.
David says, “there was this premise that there are three possible futures. One is a totalitarian one. Maybe a techo-totalitarian one where control is used to keep the world running. And we see the world trending in that direction in some ways. And then another possible future is chaos. Not in the sense that the anarchist in me would appreciate, but in the ugly, “Mad Max” sense of the term. Think bands of dangerous folks raping and pillaging. And we can imagine the world heading in that direction in the near future too.”
“Then there’s this third possibility. Which was called at the Emerge Gathering, the third attractor. The third attractor is another kind of world. The best language I know for that world is from our friend Charles Eisenstein who calls it “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible,” David continues, “That is where I want to live. I want to live in the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.”
I’m very familiar with Charles’ work and I like how David adds this element to the framing of the third attractor. My understanding of the third attractor is finding the essence of a middle path. This may sound simple, but seems more increasingly difficult to do in an increasingly polarized and divisive world. Rather that getting pulled into vortices of extreme control or total chaos, put attention toward the resonance of the formation of the middle path.
The More Beautiful World as a Third Attractor
This brings David to mentioning a question that he feels is always present: “How do we create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible?” This is also something I reflect upon. In my reflections, I see “the more beautiful world” as a process, not a destination. I see it stemming from a state of being, rather than a matter of doing. Sure, actions and behavior will take place, from an informed state of being rather than from an impetus for doing.
David describes it this way: “We cannot force The More Beautiful World Out Hears Know Is Possible. If we force it, then it is a function of force. And the force will be there, and that is not the world my heart longs for. My heart longs for deep freedom and genuine community, and natural harmony with earth and with the cosmos. And even as I use those words, you can feel the absence of force.”
He goes on to say that if it doesn’t come from force, then where does it come from. It emerges. It’s emerging, From love, from our soul, and into our voices. He recalls again being at the Emerge Gathering with others and how for some of them the message was coming in loud and clear. David notes, “one thing we can do, very powerfully, for it to emerge is to gather people who are genuinely committed to emergence itself.”
Tending the Sacred Fire
Bringing clarity as to what is meant by emergence, David says, “Emergence as a process, not just an idea, not a concept. Emergence as a process — people who are capable of holding space for emergence. To gather such people together with the intention of holding a shared field for the emergence of The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible.”
David continues, “So there is a sacred fire that I sense is burning at the center of The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible. That is, as of now, not yet being consciously tended to by the appropriate folks who need to collaborate together to hold it sacred. And who will use resonance and coherence as their guide. Hold that frequency, rotating in and out per their capacity and then inviting more and more people who can also hold that frequency with them or with us. Until that frequency becomes the norm.”
I appreciate David’s articulation of this, and how the discussion between him and Daniel transpires. There’s so much to let settle here. So, I’ll do that. Such settling already feel like embers to the sacred fire David speaks of here.
Do you feel that sacred fire as well? Who’s ready to tend the sacred fire with me?