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Sender: Lawrence Chickering
Subject: Fwd: Defintions of transpartisan
Date: Fri, Apr 11, 2014
Msg: 100913

I wrote the following email to John Steiner, who asked for my thoughts on definitions of transpartisan, and I am also including a response (below) from Joan Blades.


Begin forwarded message:

> From: Lawrence Chickering > Subject: Defintions of transpartisan > Date: April 9, 2014 at 04:01:00 PDT > To: John Steiner > Cc: Jim Turner , Joan Blades , michael ostrolenk > > Dear John, > > I am writing to share some thoughts of definitions of transpartisan in > preparation for the phone call we have scheduled for Thursday (time still > TBD). > > I see two quite different definitions currently in play. First is the instrumental > definition that I believe animates most transpartisans. It is focused on civility, > respectful listening, and -- ultimately -- compromise. Mark's descriptions of > the leadership institute are mostly in this spirit. Important ideas underlying this > approach include the idea that most important things are visible and known to > people in political debate, and that there is no avoiding the fact that peoples' > values and views on issues conflict; there is no avoiding that. The best, therefore, > that can be hoped is that people can listen, respect, and engage, etc. Since > there is no avoiding conflict, there is no point in focusing debate on particular > issues. The transpartisan movement should focus on a wide variety of issues > and -- in terms of the Four-quadrant Matrix -- often will have to be content to > see how the freedom and order quadrants often agree across left and right. > > The second vision of transpartisan is the one I introduced in Beyond Left and > Right and that Jim and I carried forward in Voice of the People. It is substantive > rather than instrumental, believing that everyone, both personally and politically, > is looking for ways of integrating the four quadrants, integrating freedom and > order. Since the concepts for accomplishing this do not exist in the current > political debate, it follows that some important concepts are invisible and > waiting to be discovered by reframing the debate; and when they are reframed, > people on all parts of the Matrix will come together: their deepest values do > not conflict. The purpose of transpartisan dialogue, therefore, needs to be > about more than merely the instrumental virtues of listening, respecting, and > engaging; it needs to be to search for that reframing that will highlight peoples' > four-quadrant values and bring them together. > > The difference between the instrumental and substantive definitions of > transpartisan implies different roles for facilitators in the two perspectives. > In the instrumental vision, facilitators do have a substantive role, but it will > tend to be limited to searching for agreements between the order quadrants > and the freedom quadrants. And this can often result in important, new > alliances supporting particular positions. However, the instrumental vision is > ultimately limited by the belief that people do not have the same values, and > important conflicts will always remain. In the substantive vision, facilitators will > always be searching for mechanisms of reframing that will bring all four quadrants > together. Since this may be easier to do on some issues than on others, they > will tend to believe the transpartisan demonstration should initially focus on > those issues, build trust as new, four-quadrant coalitions appear, and then move > on to more difficult issues. This facilitation role also often implies significant > preparatory work with each side separately, searching for new terms of reframing, > before bringing the two, principal contestants together. It also implies coaching > each side on how to bring out in the other an understanding of the reframing > that will accomplish full agreement. Jim's and my book -- and my earlier book, > though often more abstractly -- are filled with examples of how to do this. > > These two approaches are rooted, I believe, in some important, different substantive > beliefs. The instrumental view is rooted in a strong commitment to hierarchy > and to a weak concept of citizenship. This view believes that 'public policy' is > mostly about the government, about representative democracy, and about a > belief that elections are the most important events opening opportunities for > transpartisan engagement. The substantive view proceeds from a strong concept > of citizenship, a belief that 'public policy' is in part about governments, but that > in its highest and best formulation it is about citizens engaging each other, working > to solve problems. Although some issues must be made by governments alone, > most can include important roles for citizens; and where citizens have important > roles, then government officials need to engage them as citizens, themselves, not > as people who can accomplish the highest purposes of policy through commands. > > Focusing on elections, the instrumental view tends to believe that transpartisan > engagement is most important in addressing conflicts and (again) mostly in the > debate about policy. The substantive view, in Joan Blades' lovely formulation, > tends to be more aspirational, inspiring people to engage each other to high > purpose. An extraordinary effect this can have on combatants may be found in > the jacket blurb of David Keene, a conservative activist, in Voice. While many > people believe that 'transpartisan' tends to attract many more 'progressives' than > 'conservatives', I believe that is only true for the instrumental definition of > transpartisan; it is not at all true when engagement is aspirational and seeking > four-quadrant, transformative integration, which is the terrain of the substantive > definition. > > The greatest philosophical and operational challenge for the substantive view is > integrating the formal, mechanistic operations of policymaking with the informal, > often organic mechanisms of citizen engagement. It is difficult to exaggerate the > importance of this point. These two perspectives are rooted, epistemologically, in > very different visions of human experience and possibility. The point is not that one > is 'better than the other'; it is that both are important and even necessary both > to bring people together and to solve real problems. > > A full response to your request for definitions would give real world examples > to illustrate these points, made abstractly. For live examples, again, I would > suggest someone read almost any randomly selected page of Voice. > > Hope this is useful. Look forward to talking. -L > A. Lawrence Chickering Founder and President, Educate Girls Globally (EGG) 1485 Main St., Ste 103c St. Helena, CA 94574 415.235.6628 email:


Thanks for sharing your definitions Lawry!

I'd like to articulate a piece that I think is key- I believe we are suggesting a move from a zero sum outcome expectations- which is what is commonly assumed happens when people disagree- to positive sum outcome ambitions. Reminding people that this is possible and that we may even create solutions that are better than one mind set or the other can create on their own is a key aspiration. I believe Parker Palmer has expressed an orientation that leads to this kind of engagement beautifully- Being able to hold the tension of our differences and engage with an open heart is a goal that resonates for many.

Lovely to be part of this conversation.


P.S. Last week I went to a gathering trying to decide how to take the pro-voice movement out into the world. It has been used successfully to talk about abortion (not pro-choice, not pro-life -pro-voice) - can it be of benefit used more broadly in the world? Judging from the big definition LRCs are Pro-voice as is the transpartisan movement.


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