Introducing deep democracy by triggering the immediate interests

Introducing deep democracy in Flanders is a rather complex issue. Professionals in the area of social work and communitybuilding seem to be a little sceptic on new methods and commercial models. On the other hand the need for decisions to be supported by a whole team exists also here. In looking for more economic approaches of co-creation and cooperation, the need for trust and partnership arises in the same way as in business companies. Tribal groups have always found ways for it.

As I am passionately driven by translating abstract organisational theories into more practical tools, I’ll illustrate how I introduced Deep Democracy into a group of professionals.

The setting is a workshop in which the question of partnership is tackeled: “If you think about all the logistic support we need for our members, how do you think we could make a partnership work?” 20 people worked out some proposals in groups: administrative work, computers, ICT, sound-systems, desks and offices… we could probably all share it more? OK.

Next Question: “What do you need?” New post-its were filled: a good agreement, a commitment and TRUST. Everybody shared this opinion.

Now, where should we start? My turn, I thought: “Yes, trust is indeed an important matter. Everybody seems to agree about trust. Only, we probably all define trust in different ways. I want to trust Jamillah in this meeting, but outside on the street I need another kind of trust. So what are we talking about? I suggest we should agree upon how we build trust in this specific group. We agree that we will listen to one another and on how we will make decisions.

Moreover, there is one bottom line that would give me a lot of trust in a partnership. It is the certainty that every voice matters, especially the minority. Everybody in the partnership gets a vote in the decisionmaking process and the voice of the minority will be heard. What does the minority need to go along with the majority? How can the majority add the wisdom of the minority to the decision?

There were 20 professional educational workers in a room and you could hear a needle drop.

Suddenly, the elder in the room and life long social cultural worker gets enthusiastic and confirms this with emphasis: “Yes, that is exactly what we need! You can only create trust if you have a decisionmaking process everybody agrees upon.” I thank him for his support. “No need,” he says… “this is just genius”!

So, maybe the indirect way of triggering the interest of some group members with a fresh idea, without carrying a big flashy billboard, is not so bad for the introduction of Deep Democracy into a more skeptic group?

Marjan Blokland
Corporate anthropologist, social-cultural worker.