I recently experienced my first Deep Democracy workshop as a participant and it was a real eye-opener. It is simple yet powerful, and has the potential to create real transformation, not just routine actions for improvement. It was born out of South Africa’s transformation from apartheid to democracy, and is used by leaders and facilitators from all walks of life. The process enables voices to be heard that are often left unheard, and mines the inherent wisdom hidden within the system by resolving tension and conflict. (see Deep Democracy).
The process invites people to step into different perspectives or roles, some of which they may not be in agreement with. The conversations that emerge from these different perspectives are illuminating. New information is surfaced, new possibilities emerge and collective wisdom that has been buried within the system is given an opportunity to reveal itself.
At a time when people all around the world are questioning what is real, what is true and what is fake news, the very meaning of democracy is under challenge. Who runs things? Is it the politicians? What is the role of the media? And what about the technology giants, such as Facebook, Google and Amazon? Where do we go to seek our answers and who can we rely on to reveal the truth about what is most important for us?
Deep democracy provides at least part of the answer. It provides a forum where voices that are often silenced can be heard. Indeed every voice has equal merit. Loudest does not win out. And, at the core of the approach, people are encouraged to adopt different perspectives. To see the world through a different lens. To walk in another’s shoes. To feel another’s pain. Psychologists point to these as necessary for developing self-control, delay of gratification, and establishing empathy (see Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature).
We need to be wary of the illusion that “if its democratic” then it must be fine. After all, who can argue with “what the people want”? Democracy, like all other human inventions, can be easily appropriated, abused and manipulated for malevolent means. Political state-run democracy comes in many different forms, all of which leave many people dis-empowered, disengaged or disillusioned.
Deep democracy offers an exciting approach to a truer representation of what is really needed, what the system is crying out for, and a platform for all voices and feelings to be heard and felt. Deep Democracy at its deepest manifestation refers to an openness towards not only the views of other people and groups, but also embraces an openness to emotions and personal experiences, which tend to get excluded from conflict and rational public discourse (Mindell, 1992, iapop.com).
If you would like to find out more about how deep democracy could work for your organisation or your team then do get in touch. Simply submit your contact details on the Contact Us page and I will be delighted to get in touch with you.