There is a saying that “some things can be taught and other things must be caught.” That is, you have to live and experience something before it becomes part of who you are. Deep Democracy is like that. You can learn the tools and tenets at workshops and trainings, but it doesn’t become fully realized until you practice the methods and incorporate the tools into your daily interactions.
Practitioners are busy doing this very thing - embodying Deep Democracy in practice in their lives. Most are too busy to write about it. One experienced practitioner and longtime Deep Democracy instructor, Aftab Erfan, decided to weave together the classroom aspect of reflection and writing with the practical nature of the method.
Aftab teaches a facilitation course to graduate students at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. As part of her hands-on teaching technique, she gave her 2015 class an assignment to explore the rich and varied field of deep democracy practitioners through a series of interviews.
The reason was twofold. First, to give newcomers to the field a rich taste of what living and embodying deep democracy looks like “in the real world.” Students would vicariously experience the world of practitioners through the process of doing an interview and writing a blog post, getting a chance to “catch” the method in practice.
Second, these posts on Deep Democracy in practice would fill a much needed gap. Busy practitioners could share their stories and inform others about their rich and varied work. The impact of the Deep Democracy method would be shared beyond the usual circles, and students’ reflections embedded in the posts would deepen understanding and contemplation of the practice.
The result is a series of blog posts profiling 27 Deep Democracy practitioners from around the world. The posts will be published once a week or so starting this summer and into the fall and winter. The blogs are more or less geographically synchronized with Deep Democracy events taking place around the globe in the next 6 months, including 8 Leadership Forums planned in 8 cities. The following is a preview of what to look forward to:
Over the remaining weeks of the summer we get introduced to stories that illustrate the breadth and depth of this work: We begin with Susan Kilgour and Karen Cieri (Darwin, Australia), their serendipitous and complicated introduction to DD, and their extensive experimentation with DD tools in the area of education. We hear from Deep Democracy co-founder Myrna Lewis next on how she has been simplifying DD tools to put them into the hands of anyone who wants them including the teachers, administrators, children and families that Susan and Karen work with. Myrna then tells us about the other end of the spectrum: a very sophisticated use of the DD tools in a new project in Sweden attempting to reintegrate people with mental illness into society. And we follow that by hearing the stories of Nakissa Khorramshahi and Johann Rehnberg who are the local champions behind the Swedish mental health project just mentioned.
In the fall we move to North America, where four Canadian practitioners are profiled: Fred Witteveen, who spends most of his time in Pakistan these days, talks about the use of DD tools in international development, Aftab Erfan talks about her work in the university setting, facilitating discussions between contentious views inside and outside the classroom, Georgina Veldhorst discusses her work in the complex healthcare scene in the Toronto area, and Sera Thompson elaborates on her community engagement work with local governments and citizen groups in Nova Scotia and beyond.
Across the Atlantic in Europe we encounter ten more practitioners. In Sweden, we find colleagues Martin Sande and Josefina Hinnerson working in contentious and diverse contexts and thinking through what to do with public institutions that are failing, Bernard Le Roux creating new spaces for dialogue and citizen engagement from within a large Swedish municipal government, and Maria Lundgren Dellgran engaging around youth and gang violence, .Just south, Marianne Munis explores education and new frontiers in politics in Denmark. Swinging down to the Netherlands, Yonathan Keren chats about art, relationship counselling and activism (including a recent journey to Israel), and Wanda Everts describes the relevance of DD tools in her work in mediation. In the UK, Pamela Venables is profiled integrating DD tools into everyday project management as an engineer. Bridging the European continent in Turkey, Payam Yuce Isik and Lara Toensmann are featured for their work in group facilitation and team coaching in companies, and for their involvement in the protests in Turkey following the Gezi Park incident in 2013.
In South Africa, the birthplace of the Lewis Method, we first meet Belamie Peddle who takes DD from the workplace with CoResolve into the home and out to Asia on her upcoming new adventures. We are then introduced to CoResolve enthusiasts: Leslie Westray talks about using the tools as a manager in a large multinational mining company, and Leigh Anne Albert reflects on their usefulness in her work as a management consultant.Debbie Donaldson then tells us about her mission to train young adults in DD as a way of making the teenage years and early adulthood less difficult.
Our final stop is the nation-continent of Australia, where we check in with our final four. Julie Whitmore considers the possibilities for confronting bullying and discrimination in the workplace with the aid of DD tools, Martin de le Rios discusses team dynamics particularly in the context of local governments and their stakeholders, and Pru Gell and Cath Elderton relate their learnings in their emerging work with Indigenous communities. And that brings us full circle to where we started with Susan and Karen’s stories in Darwin.
As this selection of practitioner stories illustrate, Deep Democracy in practice is adaptable and flexible enough to be useful in a wide range of areas, and practitioners are as diverse and varied as the many communities they inhabit across the globe. We invite you to join us in learning from their successes and failures, their hopes and their struggles that so many of them shared so generously with us.