To All Interested Persons:
The following are the teams that have been proposed for the 2003 Follett Conversation on Creative Democracy in Boise, Idaho this October. I hope that you can make it this year. For the original Call for Participants and Themes, visit
Matthew Shapiro
Follett Conversation Coordinator

The Second International

Mary Parker Follett Conversation on Creative Democracy

Research Conversation Teams 2003

The following teams have been proposed and are open for participation. If you are interested in joining one of these teams, please contact the appropriate team coordinator as soon as possible.

It is highly recommended that you join one of these teams and participate in the preparatory phase if you plan to attend the Follett Conversation. However, attendees who have not chosen a team may find openings at the Conversation event, depending on the policy of the teams.

Important: The registration deposit of $50 is due by July 1, with the balance due August 1. Travel and accommodations are the responsibility of the attendee. We have hotel recommendations listed in the Call for Participants and Themes, which can be downloaded in PDF format from the home page of the Follett Foundation web site,

Team A: Metropolitan Democracy through Neighborhood Organization

Team B: Developing a Community-Wide Curriculum for Civil Awareness and Reciprocity

Team C: Empowering Citizens through the Social Planetarium

Team D: Envisioning an Iraqi Model of Democracy

Team E: No Future Left Behind: Promoting the Participatory Redesign of Public Education


Team A:

Metropolitan Democracy through Neighborhood Organization

Moshe ben Asher

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This team will explore the development of a practical strategy for Follettian democracy in metropolitan areas through the acquisition of limited public powers by a lower tier of directly democratic neighborhood organizations.

Initial Triggering Question: What are the costs and benefits of a lower tier of metropolitan government in which directly democratic neighborhood organizations have limited grants of public powers?

Preparation: Possible areas of preparatory work by participants include the following:

1. Identifying political and economic costs and benefits of massive constituencies of contemporary urban governance.

2. Identifying social and cultural costs and benefits of massive constituencies of contemporary urban governance.

3. Exploring economic costs and benefits of two-tier metropolitan governance.

4. Exploring contemporary momentum for secession of significant districts from within major urban municipalities (e.g., Los Angeles).

5. Exploring feasible models of directly democratic governance for the lower tier of two-tier metropolitan governance.

6. Exploring feasible models of economic enterprise and service for the lower tier of two-tier metropolitan governance.

7. Exploring related chronological imperatives of building community, building organization, building mobilization, and building institution.


Team B: Developing a Community-Wide Curriculum for Civil Awareness and Reciprocity

Carole and Dave Schwinn and John Kesler

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This team will build on the work of a "community of practice" that was convened for the first Mary Parker Follett Foundation Conversation on Creative Democracy, held in Boise, Idaho from October 17-20, 2002. The triggering question for the 2002 team was, "How can a learning system be designed that will evoke the individual and collective capacities required for a new, vibrant, democratic way of life in the places we live?" Issues considered by the team included:

What is going on in the world that makes learning democracy the most urgent social project of our times? How can the places we live become powerful practice fields for learning democracy? What new social enterprises might be needed to increase civic agency? What would an ideal learning system for evoking vibrant democracies at the local level look like? What new civic competencies would it elicit? (excerpted from the 2002 "Team B" proposal to the Foundation)

The product of the community’s work at the Boise conference was the first iteration of a design of a "learning system" for an imaginary community called Follettville. The design included a set of design principles and guidelines, along with the system’s purpose and an explicit structure. The structure centered on the concept of a Learning Democracy Center, a legitimate social form intended to provide the resources, processes, practices and tools to help form, support and sustain a constellation of purposeful, inclusive, deliberative bodies in the community, including neighborhood councils, citizen deliberative councils, communities of practice, design councils, sectoral councils, and a wisdom council.

For the 2003 Conversation on Creative Democracy, we are extending an invitation to others to help generate ever deeper and more explicit design iterations of Follettville and its Learning Democracy Center. In particular, our intention is to explore the development of a community-wide curriculum based on a model for the evolution of civil awareness and reciprocity.

Triggering Question: How can we develop a community-wide curriculum – one that can be sponsored by a social structure such as a Learning Democracy Center – that supports the learning required in order for a community to function as an ‘embedding culture or context’ for the evolution of individual and collective capacities for civility and reciprocity?"


Team C: Empowering Citizens through the Social Planetarium

Robert Oldham

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An educated populace, abundantly and freely available information, and techniques for using that information to affect and effect decisions are critical to any democracy. Recognizing this more than three decades ago, Harold Lasswell advanced the concept of the "urban planetarium" or "social planetarium" as a means of helping citizens understand the past, present, and potential futures of the places in which they live. Like an astronomical planetarium used to view the heavens, the social planetarium provides the viewer with contextual data on our collective situation, empowering citizens and policy-makers to understand and act on their environments, their communities, the issues that they face, their interrelationships and possible futures, and creative solutions for preferable futures. Unlike a historical museum, a social planetarium would project the future in the context of the present and past values and present and future expectations and focus on all factors—social, historical, scientific, economic, artistic, public, and private—that affect the social process, its outcomes, and their long-term consequences.

Participants in this team will:

a. familiarize themselves with, and continue the development of, the concept of the social planetarium through shared readings and e-mail discussion;

b. explore opportunities and barriers to the creation of such facilities in local communities; and

c. develop a vision for demonstration- and full-scale versions of the social planetarium that the Follett Foundation and/or others could seek to implement.

Triggering Questions:

(Broadly) How can fully participatory democracy be revitalized so as to both provide all citizens with the opportunity to fully understand the complex issues facing a society and provide the means by which such citizens can fully participate in developing policies to deal with the needs of the society?

(Specifically) How could the Social Planetarium – an institutionalized structured process of interactive deliberation for studying and analyzing the elements of society and the social process, and freely available to all citizens – enhance and enrich citizen understanding, citizen participation in governance, and the policy decision processes? How could such a mechanism be implemented?


Team D: Envisioning an Iraqi Model of Democracy

Matthew Shapiro (Initial Team Coordinator)

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The war in Iraq has now created what some consider to be a "clean slate" for political reform in a recently totalitarian nation. But is there such a thing as a "clean slate" for a complex society with ancient roots? There is an intention to see established a secular, Western-style democracy succeed in Iraq. Can such a model succeed there? A competing alternative may be found in Islamist participatory concepts such as consultative leadership, consensus, and reinterpretation of traditional ideals. While an Islamist model of democracy might be more readily accepted, it may not be any easier to realize than a Western secular model, because democracy in any form is a way of life that needs to be learned generation by generation.

Triggering Question: How could a model of creative democracy be developed that is authentically Iraqi, draws from the diversity of Iraqi society, and sets an example for other nations (particularly Islamic nations) undergoing political transition?

Preparation: In our preparation phase, we will consider the cultural, social, political, and historical context of Iraq through both common and individual readings. Participants might divide the task of researching various aspects and then reporting their findings to the group. Due respect will be given to the principle that we cannot design a democracy for the Iraqi people; only they can do that. But we may be able to offer scaffolding that has added value during this time of opportunity.


Team E: No Future Left Behind: Promoting the Participatory Redesign of Public Education

Matthew Shapiro (Initial Team Coordinator)

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The Mary Parker Follett Foundation has helped to advance a model of educational change that goes beyond the incremental improvement, reform, and restructuring that have failed to take individual and community learning into the 21st century. It is based on three principles:

    1. If a community today had to design a system of learning and human development (public education system) completely from scratch, it would not look like what we have today.

    2. The only way to know if a present system is the best possible is to design the ideal and then look at the present system in light of that ideal.

    3. Only the users of a system have the right to design that system.

Participatory Educational Design invites communities to leap out of incremental and reactive approaches to changing education and to instead transform education by design. This design process is proactively based on the aspirations of stakeholders for their own futures and that of their communities and their society. The Follett Foundation has developed a suggested plan for communities to undertake this journey of design by integrating the basic model of Bela H. Banathy with cutting edge facilitation and decision-support processes.

The Foundation is also developing a support system that is intended to provide "user-designers" – laypersons who are engaged in the design of the education system for their community – with information about human learning that they may wish to combine with their aspirations and values as they design.

Team E will focus on developing near-term and long-term strategies for implementing this approach to educational transformation on a broad scale. We will consider a broad range of means for promoting the participatory redesign approach: conference venues, publishing of support materials, grant funding prospects, and demonstration projects in charter school districts and large metropolitan school districts are among the possibilities participants might explore.

Triggering Question: What near-term and long-term strategies can help to advance the participatory design of education systems in communities across the United States, and beyond?

Preparation: Participants will familiarize themselves with the Foundation’s documents about this program (materials in development will be made available), and with Banathy’s 1991 work Systems Design of Education. Related books, articles and papers introduced by the participants will be discussed via e-mail. Short input papers prior to the Conversation are an option.