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Sender: "Bruce Schuman"
Subject: Two Types of Transpartisan Work
Date: Mon, Mar 24, 2014
Msg: 100805

from: List for transpartisan leaders and innovators [mailto:TRANSPARTISAN@LISTS.THATAWAY.ORG] On Behalf Of Tom Atlee Sent: Friday, March 07, 2014 6:17 PM To: TRANSPARTISAN@LISTS.THATAWAY.ORG Subject: [TRANSPARTISAN] Two Types of Transpartisan Work

Dear all,

I'm happy to be part of this list. My transpartisan perspective arises out of my past work in collective intelligence and collective wisdom and the democratic manifestation of these phenomena as "public wisdom" or "the wise voice of We the People".

My ideal world would have institutionalized - and/or culturally understood, valued, and used - processes for invoking and empowering an inclusive, coherent, legitimate, and wise voice of the whole populace on all of society's issues, aspirations, and ongoing allocation of collective resources. This is the political application of my sense of co-intelligence as "accessing the wisdom of the whole on behalf of the whole."

I like to recall that the words "party" and "partisan" are rooted in the word "part". A party or a partisan embodies one aspect or part of a larger whole. That larger whole may be an ecosystem of diverse beliefs, or a whole community or country, or a big picture that embraces "the whole situation" or "the whole system", or some other whole. This holistic insight about the derivation of "party" can help us turn partisanship from a problem into a resource. We just need to keep our eyes on the whole we are trying to recognize, to access, and/or to create together.


Most transpartisan efforts I see are focused on bridging the gap between "left" and "right" and finding policy solutions satisfactory to "both sides". Sometimes this includes "all parties" - which in the U.S. embraces Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, Independents, etc. Such efforts are very useful. They demonstrate to the public - and to public officials - that partisan folks can, in fact, talk constructively with each other. Different transpartisan initiatives of this sort seek common ground in a number of ways, among them these:

(a) getting to know one another so we can ground ourselves in our common humanity;

(b) compromising some of what's important to us to achieve other things that are important to us;

(c) setting aside seemingly intractable differences to focus on what we *can* readily agree to; and

(d) getting creative together to discover or develop solutions that fit the shared values and needs that underlie our diverse ideologies and positions.

In such cases where the participants are explicitly identified and associated with their respective parties, ideologies, or positions, the "trans" in transpartisan refers to activities that reach *across* party and ideological lines.


I also know of other approaches to transpartisanship in which the "trans" means going "beyond or transcending" parties and ideologies altogether. In these initiatives, participants are explicitly identified as citizens, residents, or members of their community or country. They are not explicitly identified with any particular parties or ideologies they may be associated with in their regular lives.

Such a non-partisan transpartisan effort may involve choosing participants such that they collectively embody a cross-section of their community or country - creating what some call a "microcosm" or "minipublic". Organizers may pick participants at random, or by using demographic criteria, or by a combination of both approaches (e.g., using "stratified sampling").

On the other hand, organizers may want a diverse body of participants but not necessarily a rigorous cross-section. In this case they may intentionally recruit a wide variety of people or just design an open invitation that makes diverse people feel comfortable voluntarily showing up.

People chosen by either method think of themselves not as partisans - as liberals or conservatives or representatives of some other political perspective - but more as individuals possessing whatever personal opinions, perspectives, needs, or aspirations they happen to have.


I see the second approach - the "beyond partisan" citizen-based approach - as especially capable of generating collective wisdom about the affairs of a community or country. The "beyond partisan" approach reduces the role that partisan perspectives play in both the conversation and in the consciousness of the participants, freeing them from ideological boxes to see more of each other's humanity and reasonableness and making them more able to work together as an open-ended problem-solving team on behalf of their community or country or even world.

I see the first approach - the bridging or "reaching across partisan polarities" approach - as primarily serving to undermine the common assumption that partisan people - such as liberals and conservatives - cannot talk respectfully and productively together about public affairs "across the divide". This effect is enhanced when their conversation uses common-ground generating processes associated with (a) and (d) above - discovering our common humanity and our capacity to co-create breakthrough possibilities which our partisan blinders may have previously hidden from us. The power to demonstrably overcome partisan polarization makes the first approach ideal as a transitional process preparing society to move beyond partisanship entirely.

And so I see the transpartisan movement including all conversations and collaborations which (1) ameliorate polarization by enhancing the public's capacity to reach across the ideological and partisan divides and (2) enhance collective wisdom by increasing the public's capacity to think and work creatively together to address the challenges and opportunities facing all of us in the 21st century.

Blessings on our Journey.




Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute, POB 493, Eugene, OR 97440 site: / blog: Read EMPOWERING PUBLIC WISDOM -


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