Empowering Public Wisdom
A Practical Vision of Citizen-Led Politics
Author: Tom Atlee
Lifelong activist Tom Atlee proposes innovative ways to distill the wisdom of ordinary people in order to better guide public policy. In Empowering Public Wisdom, Atlee recognizes currently popular forms of progressive democracy advocates, such as citizen participation and voter education, but suggests that what is really needed is a re-thinking of the very concept of democracy; Atlee advocates the use of “public wisdom,” a collective intelligence that can be drawn upon to guide public policy and action. Reaching beyond partisan politics, Atlee explores how a diversity of views can be engaged around public issues in ways that generate a coherent, shared “voice of the people” that takes most or all of the population’s perspectives and needs into account. Atlee’s core approach is through “citizen deliberative councils,” in which a small group of people randomly selected creates a “mini-public” or a microcosm of the larger population. Citizen councils engage in the study of a public issue and make recommendations to public officials and the community, but disband afterward; when a new issue arises, a new council is formed. Ultimately, Atlee aims even higher, suggesting a possible fourth branch of government to better balance our current democratic system. Combining a radical vision with practical solutions, Empowering Public Wisdom provides a unique and refreshing voice in the political arena.
Empowering Public Wisdom is part of the EVOLVER EDITIONS Manifesto Series.
About the Author
“In this practical and visionary book, filled with concrete examples of what works, Tom Atlee shows us how we can harness our collective wisdom to discern the way forward in these complex and challenging times. Inspiring and highly recommended!”—William Ury, coauthor of Getting to Yes and author of The Third Side
“A wise and important development for the democracy movement.” —Hawaii state senator Les Ihara Jr., Senate majority policy leader
“At last someone has described the conditions under which ordinary people can generate real public wisdom. The implications for democracy—especially for democratic handling of our most troubling, complex, and urgent issues—are profound. I urge activists, academics, public officials, and every concerned citizen to heed the call in this book.”—Richard Sclove, author of Democracy and Technology
“Empowering Public Wisdom serves up a juicy antidote to today’s increasingly intractable issues, political gridlock, and public disengagement. Having used many of the practices Atlee outlines, I can attest to the viability and vitality of the vision he paints and the approaches he proposes on behalf of us all.”—Peggy Holman, consultant, author of Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity and coauthor of The Change Handbook
“In this book, Tom Atlee highlights the seldom-noted potential of dialogue and deliberation to generate true public wisdom. He explores how to increase that potential, how to embed it in our democracy, and how to empower it to make a real difference—an important contribution to our field and our political culture.”—Sandy Heierbacher, director, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation