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Transforming a top-down political culture to one of dialog and inclusion

Bernard LeRoux

Editorial note:

Bernard Le Roux was the presenter in our Online Colloquium n° 20, in which he shared experience from his dialog and mediation work with Swedish municipalities. As a Kick-off question, Bernard invited participants to explore the following question:

How do we understand the resistance of powerful people to participation processes, and to an honest, open conversation that actually addresses the issue? 

Here is Bernard's reflection of the Colloquium:

I was very happy to explore the question of resistance of people in power to more intimate dialogue with participants who work in different countries with different groups. It showed me that – however sure I might be of my own hypothesis – a diverse group, well facilitated, is more intelligent than one individual. 

So, my hypothesis was that people who are in positions of power (official or social) that rely on hierarchical structures for their authority become uncertain when the game changes. Often functionaries derive their identity from the position they have been elected to. If “new democratic forms” create the possibility for more people to participate on an equal basis, uncertainty arises. 

This is, I admit a rather limited or simplistic view. Participants contributed with their own experiences and views. A number focused on the reluctance to own up to one’s own part in the problem, asking the question: how have I been complicit in this? This relates to the reluctance of showing one’s true self. The strategies then used are to back into maintaining the status quo, meeting opposition with counter-attack. 

There are in other words challenges in the way the world is changing, challenges to the old order. Part of this may well be the traditional sense retreating into rationality for fear of moving into the sphere of not-knowing. 

What do the new leaders require in order to cope with the shifts in society? What do we need to be teaching our children in schools and our young people in universities? Perhaps it is to become comfortable with not-knowing, to trust that from a sense of chaos, a new order will emerge and a sense that we need to face the fact that complex living systems cannot be controlled. 

I am grateful for having had this brief conversation and am hopeful that we shall be able to continue talking about collective intelligence and democracy – knowing that intelligence is multi-faceted and comprises all aspects of being human.