How the first Victoria Wisdom Council was organized

The other approach to better democracy emphasizes dialogue over mechanical voting. At the forefront of this effort in Canada is the Wise Democracy group in Victoria, B.C.. This group has successfully organized the first ever Wisdom Council in Canada in the very end of March 2007. You can read its statement here.

Everything started with the November 2006 forum. The following two e-mails sent out after that, provide some details of what had to be done:

March 10, 2007:

Victoria's Wisdom Council is no longer just an idea. Canada's first Wisdom Council will be held the last weekend in March at Fairfield New Horizons, 380 Cook Street in Cook Street Village.

We held the first Wisdom Council Selection meeting on Friday evening. The meeting was a great success, generating lots of laughter and a lively enthusiasm that was still energizing the conveners the next day.

A couple of weeks ago, we sent letters to approximately 500 Victoria residents, inviting them to make themselves eligible for the draw to become members of the first Wisdom Council. Names were chosen from the phone book, using a random number generator to select page numbers, column numbers, and location within the column. We followed the letter up with phone calls, and last night we selected the first 10 members of the council. A number of other people expressed interest but were unable to attend the selection meeting, and we expect to round out the full complement of 12 members plus 4 alternates within the next few days. This is a great response, compared to most cold mailings. We had at least as good a positive response rate as the initial mailing to potential members of the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform. Several people offered us strong encouragement although they had to decline because of prior engagements or ill health.

So the first Wisdom Council is a go, and you are invited to attend the Public Meeting Following the Very First Wisdom Council in Canada ....

January 28, 2007:

Preparations for a Wisdom Council are proceeding apace, with a somewhat fluid group of conveners numbering about 15 people.

We seem to have adopted the term "Deep Democracy" as the generic word for the large toolkit of deliberative democratic processes, of which the Wisdom Council is one powerful tool.

It has been decided after long discussion and many votes that the geographical pool from which we randomly select participants in the Wisdom Councils will be the City of Victoria.

There is a growing international demand for a Wisdom Council-like process that can address specific issues, and such a process may receive Jim Rough's blessing in the near future. I think it will look very much like a Wisdom Council except that an issue will be suggested to the council members - they must have final control over where their discussion goes - and that there may be some compromises with pure random selection in order to insure broad representation. The ongoing nature of Wisdom Councils means that they will certainly have broad inclusion over time, but this new process would probably be one-off and hence the need to insure broader representation. Rosa Zubizarreta has suggested that the new process might be called a “Creative Insight Council”, but the name is yet to be determined.