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Will we be smart enough soon enough - putting civic intelligence into practice.key
Will We Be Smart Enough
Putting Civic Intelligence into Practice
Public Sphere Project / Seattle
The Evergreen State College / Olympia
Research for Action:
Networking University and Community for Social Responsibility
A workshop in conjunction with Making Links 2010
Monday, 15 Nov 2010, Perth, Western Australia
What kind of world
are we living in?
One that needs our help.
• Our global problems are vast and potentially catastrophic.
• Our local ones aren’t exactly trivial.
• The people in power won’t solve these problems by
• Nor will the free market or other approaches that rely
on “side-effects” do it all.
Problems seem to be growing
a lot faster than solutions.
We might not be smart enough soon enough
I needed a concept to
help me (and others)
answer the question
(It didn’t have to be new but it did
have to be useful)
I wanted to identify a
• recognized actually existing phenomena
• asserted social goals — at least indirectly;
promoted and integrated theory and practice
• incorporated and acknowledged social norms
• could be used a common frame for motivating and
coordinating (consciously and unconsciously) a
large number of projects
The concept I
came up with was
Informally, civic intelligence refers to how smart
collectivities are in relation to their problems.
Civic intelligence is a form of collective
intelligence that focuses on shared problems. It
addresses civic ends through civic means.
Although we know that civic intelligence exists, this
fact is not explicitly acknowledged and hence
not something that we can readily examine or
Today more than ever, civic intelligence is needed to address
the problems we now face.
Civic intelligence is distributed throughout society — not just
among those with money and power
Although we know that civic intelligence exists, the capacity
that exists may not be adequate for our pressing needs.
Civic intelligence — its understanding and development —
could serve as a paradigm for activists and researchers.
Civic intelligence is necessary — but not sufﬁcient.
Civic Intelligence is not a Brand New Topic
Social Intelligence, Community Inquiry (John Dewey)
Social Learning (many authors)
Civic Community (Jane Addams)
Civic Capacity (Harry Boyte, Xavier Briggs)
Public Work Politics (Center for Democracy & Citizenship)
Civic Innovation (Carmen Sirianni & Lew Friedman)
Open Source Intelligence (Robert Steele)
World Brain (H.G. Wells)
Civilizational Competence (Piotr Sztompka)
+ Social Enterprise / Entrepreneurism / Innovation, etc.
The Sustainable Prisons Project is a partnership of the Washington State Department of Corrections and The
Evergreen State College. Our mission is to reduce the environmental, economic and human costs of prisons by
training offenders and correctional staff in sustainable practices. Equally important, we bring science into prisons by
helping scientists conduct ecological research and conserve biodiversity through projects with offenders, college
students and community partners.
Bee Hive Collective
focusing on their “True Cost
of Coal” project
Interviewing: 1 year (my estimate)
Mural design: 6 months
Mural drawing: 1 1/2 years
• They pollinate! They travel around working with activists, students,
• They combine popular education, art, social action, social analysis and
critique — and, even, folklore.
• They lead by example and help empower people
• They demonstrate that other paradigms are possible. They are
“traditional” and “slow” and their work is handmade and anonymous
• They don’t use human ﬁgures in their work...
The purpose of
Voices project is
to promote and
The patterns are intended to
help build civic capacity and
Everybody is an Activist
• The people in power won’t solve these problems by themselves. (Nor
will the free market or other approaches that rely on “side-effects” do it
• The activists we need to do this work come in many varieties and there
are a million ways for people to make positive contributions.
• We need more people to support — and to lead — efforts to address
our shared problems. (Note that this includes “ordinary people”)
• Keeping “ordinary” people out is not only unfair, it deprives the rest of
us of a vast, largely untapped resource
• Unfortunately civil society is unorganized and spread out (although
willing to help)
Patterns are not recipes
Patterns don’t provide precise instructions...
Patterns are more like seeds that have different results
when planted in different soil.
Different people, in different situations, will use the patterns
differently. They are really tools for thought.
The use of a pattern is intended to change the ﬂow of
what would have happened in its absence.
Each pattern is intended to promote
positive social intervention from a
Each pattern contains ﬁve main parts: title, problem,
context, discussion, and solution.
A pattern language is an ordered collection of
patterns. (The concepts are from Christopher
Alexander et al, A Pattern Language, 1977)
Online (Facebook) game currently in work:
What type of activist are you? Presents three patterns that best
match your interests and personality.
Pattern Language Projects
Using Patterns to Orient Projects
from Conception to Implementation
• Many possibilities have been discussed including
sustainable design, ICT for development, and urban
• This is an important — and logical — next step
• It’s (partially) uncharted territory
• Begin constructing an evolving pattern language in your
• Use / modify / improve the methodology in the book
• Keep us in the loop!
Science 29 October 2010:
Vol. 330. no. 6004, pp. 686 - 688
Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of
Anita Williams Woolley,1,* Christopher F. Chabris,2,3 Alex Pentland,3,4 Nada Hashmi,3,5 Thomas W.
Psychologists have repeatedly shown that a single statistical factor—often called "general
intelligence"—emerges from the correlations among people’s performance on a wide variety of
cognitive tasks. But no one has systematically examined whether a similar kind of "collective
intelligence" exists for groups of people. In two studies with 699 people, working in groups of two to
ﬁve, we ﬁnd converging evidence of a general collective intelligence factor that explains a group’s
performance on a wide variety of tasks. This "c factor" is not strongly correlated with the average or
maximum individual intelligence of group members but is correlated with the average social
sensitivity of group members, the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking, and the
proportion of females in the group.
Some aspects of civic intelligence
Presumably useful for comparing, measuring?
• Building civic intelligence in others; knowledge, motivation, imagination, and appreciation of
• Inclusive and participatory; diffuses into society — extends civic intelligence as an orientation.
• Cross-disciplinary approaches are central; for one thing they don't just solve a portion of the
problem or, even, make matters worse in other areas.
• Efﬁciency and creativity (developing novel solutions) are key (as with individual intelligence)
• Meta-cognition and better collaboration (and better / faster information on what's working) and
forecasting. (Meta-cognition implies and requires evaluation)
• Addresses several problems at once
• Addresses fundamental problems (usually environmental degradation or social exploitation)
• Better frameworks for understanding intelligence — and ignorance. Includes characterization of
problems and appreciation of the unknown
• Better monitoring
• Mechanisms for problematizing
• Make activism cool (again)
Some Common Useless Approaches
How do we get to the moon?
Build a bigger ladder
What if we're going in the wrong direction?
What if our problems are too complicated?
(1) ignore their existence
(2) crucify people who mention them
(3) take refuge in our powerlessness
building success or failure?
At present our society persists in designing a great many technical artifacts in ways
that make people feel passive, superﬂuous, stupid, and incapable of initiating action.
Such systems bear the cultural embryos of tomorrow's citizenry. For as we invent
new technical systems, we also invent the kinds of people who will use them and be
affected by them. The structures and textures of future social and political life can
be seen in the blueprints of technologies now on the drawing board. Langdon
Networks of civic engagement embody past success at collaboration which can
serve as a cultural template for future collaboration. Robert Putnam (2000)
People can be intelligent. They can also
be compassionate, creative, enthusiastic,
Perhaps societies can too.