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The ToBe Project—Description of the model
by Jim Rough

2. Description of the Model (no more than 5500 words)
The document must be divided into subsections with clear and descriptive headings. The Participant must clearly define the functions of the various components, their areas of responsibility and the extent of their decision-making mandate. Also, describe how the model is meant to manage both current and emerging challenges and risks.

Illustration 1 -- Three shapes of governanceThree systems of governance
Briefly reviewing the three forms of governance: 1) The Triangle is based on a hierarchy, where a “Great Leader,” king, or authoritarian presence is in charge; 2) The Box is based on a social contract, like a constitution, which lays out the decision-making process; and, 3) The Circle is based on an all-inclusive conversation where We the People come together to solve problems and restructure things.
The Triangle is driven by loyalty,
where people at each level know their place, limit their questioning and thinking, suppress diversity, and glorify the leader. To most people, there seems only one alternative ... the Box.
In the Box people are loyal to a social contract instead of a person. This contract essentially sets up the “rules of the game” and sparks a competitive dynamic. Ideally this competition is a system of merit in both politics and economics, where the best rises to the top, so the public interest is served. But in practice, people’s awareness of the public interest becomes lost in this structure, while the views of special interests predominate.
The Box is better than the Triangle but it’s been difficult to establish at the global level. No nation wants to give up its sovereignty or identity. Plus, some nations are republics, some authoritarian, and some are failed states. So it is hard to create unity among nations for one global Box design.
And on top of this, the Box approach is inadequate to manage the global commons anyway. It sets up the wrong motivation, where people and organizations compete rather than cooperate. It undermines the public interest and destroys the commons—adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, polluting fresh water, undermining the effectiveness of antibiotics, depleting ocean fisheries, etc. Powerful special interests use campaign donations, fake news, hate radio, and lobbying to obfuscate the public interest and win the competition.
To be viable as a species, we must transition to the Circle system, where we stop periodically and think and talk together respectfully about what is going on, what we want, and what to do; where we come to shared understandings and cooperate to bring our solutions into being. To understand how we (a few of us) can facilitate this We the People conversation, there are four social innovations to examine:

Four social innovations make Circle governance possible

    The Wisdom Council Process evokes We the People
    The basic design is that we randomly select just 12 to 24 people from the world’s population. They are brought together and given an issue that seems impossible to solve, like climate change, and they are Dynamically Facilitated into the spirit of choice-creating, where they reach unity in just a couple days.
    Then there’s a global
    ceremony where the Wisdom Council presents its shared perspective, plus its story of how they overcame difficult moments. Then the Wisdom Council disbands. But the audience is invited to talk in small groups about what they’ve heard and express their reactions.
    Usually the audience response to the Wisdom Council is something like, “Yes! … I think so too.” And people start realizing “We’re pretty much together on this!” ... So, it’s a way that a huge population can vicariously and creatively face big issues and come together. These audience gatherings can happen in multiple locations, at different times, in different languages, and through different venues. But the result is that people start listening to one another and build a sense of unity. Then in a few months a new random group is selected and brought together so the We the People conversation continues another step forward.
    Wisdom Councils have no official power. Everything about them is voluntary. They do not replace anything in the existing system. Each Wisdom Council meets, presents, and goes away. But this process facilitates into existence the missing
    link in our quest for effective global governance: We the People. Plus the process is also educational, so that people gain new information and see new systemic connections. They develop new attitudes about others and life in general. People who are normally marginalized find themselves being heard and valued. The inclusive, creative tone builds an overarching spirit of trust and community.
    The Wisdom Council Process was first conceived in 1993. Since then there have been many experiments with it in different systems ... e.g. among members of organizations, employees of corporations, participants in conferences, and citizens of communities, cities, and states. Government leaders in the state of Vorarlberg, Austria, for example, used the Wisdom Council Process to address the refugee issue. After 24 citizens were randomly selected, symbolically We the People of Vorarlberg said to their government, “Yes, we need to protect our culture from taking in too many refugees and from the dangers of extremists. But our primary attitude should be one of helping these people.” The Wisdom Council also articulated ways to do this. Afterwards, one elected official enthusiastically responded, “The Wisdom Council is like wind at my back.” Until the Wisdom Council spoke it was politically unacceptable for this or any politician to express this position.

    The magic sauce to achieving global governance is choice-creating
    In our experiments with the Wisdom Council Process we have learned that its system-changing potential occurs primarily because of the kind of thinking it evokes both within the Wisdom Council and in the larger audience. We call this kind of thinking choice-creating.
    often happens during a crisis, when people face an impossible-seeming issue or event, and rise to the occasion to overcome the challenge. We saw this during the 9-11 terrorist attack for instance, when people selflessly worked together to save others, or when the air traffic controllers managed to miraculously and safely bring all airplanes to the ground in a brief time. In such emergencies we can’t “follow the book” because the book doesn’t work. So we shift to being creative and non-judgmental. Progress happens through shifts of heart and mind more than through agree/disagree discussions, negotiations, deliberations, brainstorming, dialogue, or problem-solving.
    Choice-creating is like decision-making in that, at the end we all know what we are going to do. But it is also the opposite of decision-making because we arrive at this conclusion through creativity rather than judgment.
    A story that continues to have meaning to my family illustrates this distinction between decision-making and choice-creating. Many years ago, we took a drive in the mountains to have a cookout with our young son and his friend. We were going to a campground that on the map appeared to be two or three miles off the main highway. We arrived at the turnoff, a narrow dirt road, and began a winding drive.
    Time passed, and after five or six miles, driving became more intense. We had not seen another car in either direction and there were no road signs. I rounded the curves more tightly, and everyone became impatient to find the camp. Finally, a car approached from the opposite direction. We flagged it down and asked the driver how much farther it was to the campground. The answer was a shock—we had to go another 18 miles of slow dusty mountain road!
    I started driving again, but then we did something we later realized was transformational. We stopped the car. We sat for a moment by the side of the road and each of us shared what we wanted, how hungry we were, and so on. After mulling the situation and examining our feelings, it was clear that we all wanted to press forward.
    A little farther on, we came to a beautiful valley and got out to take a picture. Still farther, we discovered a field, an abandoned house, and an apple tree. The impatience we had been feeling changed to enjoyment as we sat admiring the scene and eating ripe apples. Eventually, we arrived at the campground, surprised the time had gone so fast.
    Prior to stopping the car, we had been
    deciding between two options: 1) keep going or 2) turn around. Neither seemed acceptable. But in stopping the car, we unknowingly shifted our thinking from decision-making to choice-creating. We co-created our ultimate choice: to enjoy a beautiful country drive.
    Later, we talked about how the ToBe of stopping the car sparked a different kind of thinking. Now, we just need to help society “stop the car” and take time out for everyone to talk together on the side of the road.
    Today unfortunately, the English words
    decision and choice are used interchangeably. Many would describe what we did on the side of the road as “making the decision” to go ahead, rather than “creating the choice.” But if we want to spark a new democratic form of global governance we must learn to distinguish between a decision, which is a cognitive act of judgment, and a choice, which is the outcome of heartfelt creativity.
    Ideally, a decision results from a deliberative process of weighing available options, selecting the best, and discarding the rest. It entails casting away unwanted options, feelings, perspectives, and ultimately—people. Voting, for instance, can be thought of as a “tyranny of the majority,” where minority views can be safely ignored. Choice-creating, on the other hand, is a process of inclusion, where we hold all thoughts, options, feelings, and people, allowing a new clarity to emerge. Often this new clarity arrives in a
    shift, where we just—almost instinctively—know what to do. This shift is accompanied by new feelings, motivations, energy and connections that were previously unavailable.
    Since judgment and creativity cannot co-exist,
    decision-making and choice-creating are mutually exclusive. When we conflate the words “choice” and “decision,” we are in danger of losing our chance to quickly build democratic global governance.

    How Dynamic Facilitation evokes choice-creating
    The Wisdom Council facilitator is trained in Dynamic Facilitation. For many years we didn’t know this was important and just referred to need for the Wisdom Council to reach “consensus.” But over time it became apparent that choice-creating is the magic sauce in empowering We the People and shifting the system from Box to Circle.
    In this article we refer to the dynamic facilitator as the “DF’er” and describe a little about what they do and how it’s different. Rather than using an agenda or a set of guidelines to keep control of a meeting, for instance, the DF’er is guided by the energy of the twelve to twenty-four randomly selected Wisdom Council participants. At first this energy might originate as fear or anxiety about the problem at hand, or as a concern that nothing can be done about it. Some participants might simply be nervous at having been selected to join the Wisdom Council or anxious about not fitting in.

    The DF’er
    arranges the room into a half-circle of chairs facing four charts:
      This arrangement and these blank charts provide for people to talk freely, yet for every comment to count. The DF’er uses the charts to capture each comment in a way that the group accepts it as part of the puzzle they are solving. The DF’er does not direct people to define the problem first or even to stay on the topic. People just talk naturally and upon reflection they co-discover a shared perspective that is thoughtful and wise.
      For example, if one man starts to share his idea for how society should be changed, the DF’er writes it down on the chart of SOLUTIONS. And then if someone starts to question or disagree with him, the DF’er, a woman, asks that person to talk to her. She will then record that comment on the list of CONCERNS, and ask, “What would be your solution?” She adds that response to the list of SOLUTIONS. Then she goes back to the first person, to help him finish his answer.
      Using this approach, no one is judged. There is no agreeing or disagreeing. People can just bubble up with comments. Each comment is valued and added to its corresponding chart. In this way the DF’er helps each person share from the heart, while keeping everyone safe from judgment. This allows people to let down their guard, drop their roles, become authentic, and grow in creativity, trying to solve the puzzle at hand. Ultimately, a perspective will arise that everyone supports.
      After the terrorist attack of 9-11, for example, I was teaching a seminar on Dynamic Facilitation. People gathered in small groups to practice their DF’ing skills. Each group was asked to choose an impossible-to-solve issue they cared about. One group chose the issue of
      Unlike most meetings participants didn’t have a ready-made solution in mind. On the heels of 9-11, they were still taking in and processing what had happened. For a while, all they could do was share information, which was captured on the list of DATA. The DF’er then asked someone what he would do to counter terrorism if he were “Tsar of the world.” The man started to express his solution: he would encourage education and diplomacy. But a woman interrupted, starting to judge and say, "That won't work because ….” The DF’er helped her express her critical remark as a concern, and added it to the list of CONCERNS.
      The woman was then asked to express what her solution would be. She started to say something similar to what others had been saying, then became quiet. Her energy of criticism and frustration disappeared, and tears rolled down her face. Haltingly, she said, "I don't know. I'm just terribly afraid.”

      That shift to authenticity was a sea change for the group. Everyone came into their feelings. After a period of shared silence, someone said, “I’m realizing that when I feel like a terrorist, I just want someone to listen to me." The DF’er added this to the list of SOLUTIONS: “Listen to the terrorists.” And this sparked a burst of energy as people started thinking of ways this might happen.
      As the session continued, people became more creative and empowered about what they could do, and in the end, the group developed their PROBLEM STATEMENT: "How can we create a global listening capability toward the voices of marginalized people and those at-risk for becoming radicalized?" From this new framing of reference they started imagining different solution possibilities, how the United Nations, citizen groups, churches, schools, and so on ... could really do this.

      Participants in this small group exercise experienced a number of shifts on their path from fear to empowerment to excitement about generating a new vision for the world. After the exercise was over, these participants looked back in appreciation to the woman who originally started sniping at the group. Her feelings of frustration and fear, held by the process, were key to sparking the spirit of choice-creating. In most run-of-the-mill, non-Wisdom Council style meetings, such expressions of frustration and opposition are avoided because they potentially ruin group progress. In fact, most “well run” groups will agree ahead of time upon a set of guidelines ... to not interrupt or criticize, for instance. But with an experienced DF’er these same spontaneous outbursts become contributions that open the door to new opportunities.

      How the Wisdom Council Process evokes choice-creating in large systems
      Dynamic Facilitation can be used to evoke choice-creating in small groups. Beyond that, the Wisdom Council Process extends the range of Dynamic Facilitation, so that we can facilitate more of the spirit of choice-creating into large systems of people (even the global system).
      So how does choice-creating in the small group of the Wisdom Council get transmitted to global society? Obviously, we don’t expect this transmission normally. But we do expect it here because ... first, the randomly selected Wisdom Council is a symbol of all of the people. So symbolically, their journey is our journey. We too care about this impossible-seeming issue and need a solution. Secondly, because they make progress in shifts that bring group unity, their conversation is a heroic journey. So when the Wisdom Council tells it’s story of how they confronted issues, achieved miraculous shifts, and came to unity we all resonate.
      For example, when you read my description of the group meeting after 9-11 you may have been feeling this resonance in yourself ... shifting from “stuckness” to empowerment. Rather than reacting to the story by disagreeing with their result or finding fault, maybe you felt open to this new direction, starting to think of even better ways this new global listening capability might come into being. It is normal for people in the larger audience to feel a spirit of resonance with the Wisdom Council and to engage by building on their progress.
      The Wisdom Council Process is designed to help us all engage these crisis issues together and make headway, not in the sense of making recommendations to decision-makers. It’s more like we become the “decision-makers,” only actually we’re becoming the “choice-creators.”
      As the Wisdom Council progresses in addressing issues like climate change they recognize the need for some form of global governance and start designing it, inviting national leaders, experts and others to help develop the specifics. Subsequent Wisdom Councils can build on these early ideas and the response of others. Before we talk about the specifics of our plan of action, I’d like to note that although I was just an observer for the conversation on terrorism, it affected me deeply, in a way that lasted beyond the seminar. For instance, now I’m writing to tell that story to you and to describe how we can establish this global listening capability... as just one benefit of our plan of action:
      The ToBe Project.

      The ToBe Project: A plan of action

      Below I’ve described The ToBe Project in eight steps. There is nothing impossible about setting up this transformation strategy. Notice each step is something we can do that, by itself, brings benefit to society. And that has no identifiable risk. So even if one doubts that all eight steps together will establish a Circle form of global governance and establish a global constitution ... we need to do this anyway.

      First, a core group of people who are interested in this approach will come together. This group will learn experientially about the social innovations and the underlying theory, and meet in a DF’ed setting to set up The ToBe Project. The eight steps are:
      Step 1) Choose the issues—Each Wisdom Council can determine its own issue. But better, it can be given an issue selected by national leaders, or by the United Nations, or by a survey of global citizens. It should be an important ill-defined impossible-seeming issue like global warming, wars, poverty, racism, refugees, etc.
      Step 2) Randomly select global citizens for the Wisdom Council — We only need 12-24 people from throughout the world but the random selection process needs to be as mathematically correct as possible. The task of gathering these people can be turned over to an internationally respected polling firm. And we’ll help each randomly selected person to attend.
      Step 3) Provide what’s needed so the Wisdom Council can address a hot issue and reach unity — Each global Wisdom Council may need to hear short presentations on the issue, amounting to less than half a day in total. Then, they will need the help of someone skilled in Dynamic Facilitation. The meeting should last three to five days, less than one week. Possibly each Wisdom Council will gather in a different city.
      Step 4) Assure a live face-to-face “global community meeting” — As the Wisdom Council finishes its meeting, there should be a large live media event, where the Wisdom Council presents its unity and the story of how this unity was determined. They report to a live audience in the building, various community gatherings, on TV and through the internet. After the presentation ends the Wisdom Council disbands but audience members are invited to talk in small groups and report their level of resonance. We can “look around” the virtual room and notice the extent to which “the people” share this perspective.
      Step 5) Provide for many remote gatherings — Help community organizers, NGO’s and governments convene local events where people gather, hear the Wisdom Council presentation, visit in face-to-face conversations, and take these ideas forward.
      Step 6) Provide for an ongoing whole-system global conversation — Between Wisdom Council presentations there should be a way each person can continue talking with others, as much as possible in the spirit of choice-creating. Using social media and web-based technology we can set up safe, anonymous small group gatherings for people to speak with others they don’t already know.
      Step 7) Provide for Responder Meetings — Also, between Wisdom Council meetings we encourage governmental agencies, NGO’s, stakeholders and experts who are especially concerned about these issues to come together. These meetings can be in “Open Space” format where attendees coordinate their responses.
      Step 8) Support the chartering of the Wisdom Council Process—Along with other results Wisdom Councils often say something like, “we need this process to continue.” In time it becomes apparent that ”the people” generally support, for instance, the Wisdom Council Process as an element of the resulting global constitution.

      Considering three kinds of benefit
      1) Solving problems; 2) Establishing a new global constitution and 3) Facilitating a Circle system of governance.

      Benefit 1— Solving problems ... Some of the many ways The ToBe Project will help solve global problems are by:
      a) Creating new symbols ... First, just picking one issue and drawing attention to it can help people and organizations coordinate their efforts. And then randomly selecting people and bringing them together helps as well. Just taking their picture can be like the first picture of earth from space, providing a transformational meme ... all the world’s people cooperating.
      b) Removing blocks to action … Powerful special interests encourage people to stay in denial, like the oil and gas industry minimizing the scientific consensus on climate change. But when the Wisdom Council addresses this or other issues and speaks with unity, the strategy of denial falls apart. It’s a clear voice of “the public interest” breaking apart the partisan logjam.
      c) Creating new options ... A Wisdom Council of the world’s people can open new doors of possibility on tough issues. So to address the nuclear threat of North Korea, for example, the ToBe Project creates a voice of We the People, by which We can co-develop new possibilities beyond the limited range that world leaders are currently weighing.
      d) Establishing new leadership … The new perspective of We the People is co-developed with the support of many people, nations, and organizations. The process itself is healing to regional conflicts, past traumas, and the currently burgeoning spirit of hopelessness.
      e) Facilitating a new public conversation … The Wisdom Council conversation is the antidote to “fake news,” “rage radio” and the advertising and political domination of special interests. It merely adds the part we’re missing ... where we listen to one another, find out what’s true and seek what’s best for all.
      f) Educating people … Through this process people grow in their awareness and understanding of issues, like climate change, antibiotic resistance, vaccines, and women’s education.

      Benefit 2— Establishing a new global constitution

      The founding moment of the United States is a model for how a global constitution can be created. It was Circle-like in its approach.

      In 1787 a small group of delegates from each of 12 states met for three and a half months. They were supposed to stay on topic, to just improve the existing system. But like in choice-creating they redefined the issue to be much broader, to create a new system. This small group of 55 had a facilitator of sorts in George Washington. He was unanimously elected President of the convention but he didn’t lead it, or participate in the discussions. Instead, he “held space” for everyone to talk. And even though Parliamentary Procedure and voting were ostensibly used, the group was not interested in majority rule. They sought unity. And when the convention finally presented its results ... like a Wisdom Council, they presented to the people rather than to state governments. And, just like a Wisdom Council, the convention made its presentation and then disbanded.

      In the subsequent public conversation, the people basically said, “Yes, we want this new constitution but we also need a Bill of Rights.” And when that was added in 1789, pretty much “everyone” was on board. Of course, there was still a lot of work to do because non-property holding people, slaves, Native Americans, and women were still not included. But surprisingly, the opening words of the new document almost became true ... “We the People ... do ordain and establish this Constitution.” The process did establish an approximation of We the People (minus the non-enfranchised people) and did achieve near unity in designing and establishing the new Constitution.

      The ToBe Project provides a similar path for We the People. Only now we know more about (1) how to include everyone into We the People and (2) how to keep the new We the People conversation going in perpetuity.

      Benefit 3— Facilitating a Circle system of governance
      When starting a conversation on some pressing issue like climate change, almost immediately you are likely to hear these three words: “We need to ...”. For example, they might say, “We need to reduce our carbon footprint.” Or “We need to get money out of politics.” Or, “We need to enact global governance.” Or, “We need to enact a carbon tax.” Or, “We need to transform our economic system.” … Who is the We that is capable of taking these actions? … Is it a majority? ... the United Nations? ... the rich and powerful elite? ... a group of national representatives? … No ... Most often the “We” that is implied is all of us acting together as We the People. If this We existed as an ongoing entity, then We could implement these solutions. We would just figure out what’s needed and choose to do it. And We would design institutions to support these conclusions. ... Not to mention of course, these problems would not be there in the first place.
      Fortunately, lots of work is being put into developing a multitude of “solutions,” or the “We need to’s ....” But the missing ingredient ... the “meta-solution” that allows us to enact all the “solutions” ... is We. If we (just us) can facilitate the missing We the People into existence, that would change everything. It would create an ongoing Circle system ... affecting governance, economics and culture.
      The phrase We the People does not refer to a big gathering of people in the streets demanding change. Nor is it an overwhelming vote in favor or against some candidate or policy. It isn’t something that happens within our existing system. We the People happen when all the people come together outside of the existing structures, get clear about what We want and work together to make it happen.
      Many people are relying on the coming crises our system faces to ... hopefully ... spark coming together as We. In the face of these crises they imagine that we’ll all pull together, recognize that our system needs changing, elevate our thinking to something approximating choice-creating and overcome the challenge. And they imagine we’ll build on models currently used in local communities and organizations to build what’s needed. For instance, there are state and city banks, land trusts, nonprofit credit unions, business co-ops, and investment circles, which have proven themselves to work at local levels. So perhaps in the ultimate crisis, we’ll “scale up” these models to replace our current economics. ... I wouldn’t bet on it. It’s more likely that things will fall apart. But I would bet on us being able to facilitate We the People into existence now.
      The ToBe Project is a reliable way to facilitate this global We the People. It also uses the inherent power of crises to spark Real Change. But it does so safely. Each Wisdom Council addresses some impossible-seeming issue, a crisis, to evoke the spirit of choice-creating as an inherent part of our system.
      So this new Circle system is not just about politics but economics as well. It’s a new kind of economics, not socialism, capitalism, feudalism or the usual list, but something new. The ToBe Project promises to bring consciousness to economics. It doesn’t directly change any laws or organizations or institutions. It still looks like the capitalism, or feudalism, that we have today. But it provides a way that we can collectively notice what’s going on and take responsibility. And it shifts our motivations. In Circle economics we are more driven by shared vision and collective understandings, than by unbridled self-interest. This added collective consciousness changes everything.

      In summary ... As human society reaches and overreaches the carrying capacity of the global commons, the Box system of economics takes us on a path of self-destruction. So even if the best possible constitution were designed and implemented, which seems unlikely, this won’t allow us to adequately manage the global commons. The “rules of the game” approach sets up the wrong motivation, competition and the pursuit of self-interest, instead of seeking the public interest. And it sets up “decision-making” as primary, a process of “select the best and discard the rest,” whereby we systematically undervalue minority populations and viewpoints.
      This essay describes a new-paradigm way to remedy this deep systemic problem. It’s a facilitative approach outlined in the ToBe Project. For those unfamiliar with the four social innovations, this project can seem outrageously idealistic and optimistic, like it won’t work. But actually, the component parts are all tested. They work. But even with successful large-scale demonstrations, most people can’t imagine how this process generates a clear expression of the “public will.” Or how it would spark the creation of We the People, the Circle form of governance, and a global constitution. Hopefully, this essay has been helpful in overcoming the natural skepticism.

      Please help take this plan forward in any way you can.