One institution after another has disappointed us with scandal, corruption, and incompetence. Government, churches, schools, courts, corporations, care agencies, sports teams. That’s why I started “Building A New Reality.” Not to complain, but to focus on possibilities: actions, prototypes, demonstration projects, experiments—that can make things better.
“A theory of everyone” asserts that we get better results if authorities, in every setting, engage stakeholders with more voice and choice, in exchange for taking more responsibility. The theory is based on a fundamental premise that “human beings are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes in their behavior when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them.”
In his award-winning book, The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki explains that the many are smarter than the few—but only under the right conditions. Political scientist James Fishkin’s deliberative democracy experiments persuasively prove that ordinary citizens can deal with complex problems and make thoughtful decisions. “The public is very smart if you give it a chance…If people think their voice actually matters, they’ll do the hard work.”
Lee Atwater, dying of cancer, apologized for attack ads and political warfare that pressure good people to abandon public service to those with thicker skins and harder hearts. Sadly, voters around the world have come to believe that political party warfare is a necessary evil in selecting public officials—a method that might best be called “selection by combat.
West Philadelphia High School was the worst. Suspensions and expulsions didn’t stop the frequent fights and fire setting. The good news is that “restorative practices” came to West Philadelphia. “Circles have changed our class because we’ve had to talk to one another. It’s not just the teachers. It’s all of us together. So we’ve kind of had to come together as a team and talk.”
Ken Danford, founder of North Star Self-Directed Learning Center, has demonstrated that teens can learn and succeed without high school and its mandatory attendance, tests and grades. North Star now serves as the model for “Liberated Learners,” a network that helps new programs replicate North Star’s successful efforts to support learning beyond the schoolhouse.
Wayne Wheeler, leader of the National Anti Saloon League, got America to give up its booze by exploiting the flaw at the center of the election process: the gap between winning and losing. He perfected a strategy that allows a small group of single-issue voters to impose its will on the rest of the nation. That’s how the National Rifle Association wields disproportionate power in opposing gun control.
A frequently mentioned innovation to improve government is to select public officials randomly by lottery from among the citizens—called sortition. Athens, the original democracy, selected 90 percent of its public officials by sortition, not election, thereby ensuring true representation of its citizens. American and British courts have sustained the Athenian tradition by selecting jury members randomly from the tax rolls.
The Green Bay Packer football team will never leave town, because it’s the only professional team in America owned by its fans—a prototype for a new reality in major league sports and a kinder, gentler capitalism.
Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, the world’s fourth largest producer, pioneered “caring capitalism,” an inspiration for B corps, the global movement that encourages “business as a force for good.”