Deep Democracy

The Deep Democracy strand comprises an intention to move:

Away from concentration of power amongst the rich and privileged;
Towards more equalisation of power that honours diversity, draws out consensus and creativity, and empowers all.


Democracy: Beyond the Superficial

Deep democracy aims to draw out the diverse voices and tap into the wisdom each brings. The protests of various social movements around the world are indicative of the failure of superficial forms of democracy; the phrase “we are the 99 percent” is a voice representing the masses of people whose lives are exploited at the hands of the 1 percent.

The concentration of power in the hands of a few leads to marginalization of voices that undermines the wholeness of individuals, communities, and ultimately, our world. Greater wisdom emerges when people actively listen to each other. Putting the time into processes conducive to deeper dialogue often also saves time in the long run that may otherwise have to be spent on resolving conflicts and undoing damage to people and ecosystems.


Can Process be Sacred?

The Qur’ an states:

“Far better and more lasting is what God will give to those who believe and trust in their Lord; who shun great sins and gross indecencies…; conduct their affairs by mutual consultation.” (Qur’ an: 42:36-38)

“And take counsel with them in all matters of public concern; then, when thou hast decided upon a course of action, place thy trust in God: for, verily, God loves those who place their trust in Him.” (Qur’ an: 3:159)

In its deepest sense, consultation refers to the process of people sharing their voices and perspectives on any matter that they have a stake in or will be affected by. It means carrying out a process not in a superficial way, but from the perspective that comes with taqwa, or consciousness of the Divine. This requires consciousness of our egos, as well as attentiveness to differences in rank and privilege that may stem from age, race, gender, class, experience, etc.


Beyond Corporations: Inclusivity in Diverse Contexts

While a major area of focus within this strand is necessarily the unbridled influence of large corporations in local, national, and international governance, deep democracy is also about ensuring voices are heard in all contexts – families, workplaces, places of worship, and community organizations, nongovernmental organizations/charities. Thus, deep democracy includes a movement toward the equalization of power in everyday interactions in the spaces people frequent regularly, that are often neglected as sites of disempowering social relations.


An Approach Within WIN

Our approach involves actively bringing awareness of process into our work. One way in which we do this is to begin and end gatherings with a short chapter from the Qur’an (Surah Fatiha) followed by a period of silence. Although a simple act, this helps to ground those present, and cultivates a quality of reflection that can create a space for dialogue rather than debate.

Another example of our emphasis on process is the attention given to facilitation, a practice that helps to draw out voices and ensure that they are heard. Good facilitation can create an energy that invites people to share, and enables constructive feedback. It is a skill that we encourage one another to develop. Ultimately, when done well, facilitation is a key factor in cultivating the spirit of deep listening.

A third example is the use of consensus to make key decisions within WIN. At the same time, in many activist circles, consensus decision-making is reduced to simply using specialized hand signals, and little else. This could be called pseudo -consensus. While we do draw on hand signals which can support the flow of discussion, our practice of consensus decision-making also involves simple exercises to help develop a group mind – a mind that transcends the individuals comprising it, but at the same time, draws on the wisdom that comes from each.

The group mind usually does not exist at the very beginning of a meeting. However, after some reflective exercises, the group mind emerges and is associated with an experience of unity that supports the group to move towards inclusive decisions with greater ease.

As well as working with these principles within, WIN also offers training on core facilitation skills for groups.

Further Resources

Beyond You and Me:  We’ve found this book an excellent resource; explores group and eco-community initiatives, for example, with an open and authentic quality, while also drawing on spiritual concepts. Includes interviews with experienced and wise practitioners.

Rhizome: A collective that provides resources and training on facilitation and consensus, and also blogs on relevant issues.

Seeds for Change: Another collective that provides training and resources to groups.

Turning the Tide: Provides courses on nonviolence.