‘Deep Democracy’ Conversations for Occupy

Anyone involved in the Occupy movement can identify with the slogan “We are the 99%.” But what would it feel like if we stepped into the shoes of the 1%, albeit for a brief while. What would the world look like from that perspective? How would we carry ourselves? How would we feel about all these activists camping out in financial districts and protesting about social injustice and excessive wealth?

This is the kind of insight we get to glimpse in a Deep democracy conversation. Such conversations are facilitated workshops where a group can discuss a particular issue from multiple viewpoints. The process was developed by the American psychologist and social activist Arnold Mindell. Whereas a general assembly is based on the notion of putting forward one’s own personal point of view, a Deep Democracy conversation enables each participant to speak from a whole spectrum of voices from diverse sections of society. This kind of group work can have numerous levels of beneficial outcomes for any group or organisation.

So what possible benefit could there be for an activist to speak from the perspective of say Boris Johnson or Mayor Bloomberg? This may sound like a sure fire way of undermining one’s own convictions by over empathising with the enemy! However it can be surprising to find that a more direct and intimate glimpse of how others see the world brings forth new kinds of awareness and action. One starts to see how being entrenched in any kind of identity or position actually creates the limiting and oppressive structures we experience from the status quo, but also within communities of activism.

Collectively we are faced with seemingly insurmountable social, economic and environmental crises, yet our present systems of governance do nothing but reinforce them. The Occupy movement actively seeks to respond to this situation by “thinking outside of the box” via autonomous flowerings of participatory democracy and direct action. So far Occupy has proven it has a capacity to hold a diversity of world views. Yet conflicting pressures from within and particularly from without indicate that it is still in a stage of fragile infancy. The movement has already surpassed so many expectations but in order for it to survive and adapt to increasing challenges it needs to show an ever increasing level of creativity.

The Deep Democracy conversation is a tool that can help with these issues. It draws on the insights of quantum physics, eastern philosophy and Jungian psychology. The latter informs us that every type of personality we find ‘out there’ in the world is also present as an aspect of our own inner psyche. So we might be surprised to find we have an array of inner bankers, capitalists, politicians and policeman waiting to express themselves! As with any true form of democracy the process seeks to make every voice heard, from the most extreme to the mainstream. Indeed a Deep democracy conversation is a rare space in which the myriad of voices, emotions and feelings – peaceful, angry, militant, conservative, skilful or awkward – are all welcome. All voices and experiences are valued as potentially useful and the method embraces conflict and diversity as a means of transformation and creating community. By taking the time to ‘feel into’, voice and embody the different worldviews in frank and direct discussions we discover larger and more all-embracing perspectives in how we view ourselves and others. This in turn can bring more flexibility and understanding into the ways we strive to achieve our aims of social and economic justice. For these reasons it has the potential of offering a greater depth of clarity and awareness for the movement and its participants.

This radical method of group facilitation is held in a safe space by trained facilitators. See this link for further information: http://deep-democracy.net/

An engaging Deep Democracy conversation took place at Occupy London, UK at the Bank of Ideas on 7th December 2011. Read about it here.


Tags: ,

Categories: Inner Work, Social Innovation, Thinking Together


Subscribe to our Social Profiles


  1. London, Dec 7, 2011 | Radical Conversations - December 9, 2011

    […] (about the London Riots) we’d been introduced to people active in the Occupy London and the Future of Occupy and they wanted us to come to have a conversation at the Bank of […]

  2. Dealing with Internal Conflict | The Future of Occupy - December 28, 2011

    […] ways to increase awareness within individuals and groups. Other methods such as shadow work and deep democracy can reveal how the things we can’t stand in society or in others are also carried within […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: