We are delighted to feature Aerin Dunford as a special guest conversation starter on 11/14.  She has been an active participant in our conversations both online and on our Cafe calls, and brings a wonderful depth of group process/conversation hosting experience to our gatherings.

Please use this discussion thread to share anything that struck you about Aerin's talk and/or the conversations it inspired.  Everyone's voice matters: please share yours!  

Here is background info and some initial reflections from Aerin:

Aerin Dunford an U.S.-born upcycler, artist, urban farmer and yoga instructor. Since 2005 Aerin has been involved with the work of The Berkana Institute. Her work has been focused on engaging communities of people using participative processes and leadership, and fostering the conditions for deep connection and relationship. She is currently the Sharing Our Learning Director at Berkana. Aerin has a master’s degree in Organizational Management with a focus on leadership and change from SIT Graduate Institute. She lives in Oaxaca de Juárez, Mexico.

From 2006 to 2008 Aerin was a co-steward of the trans-local learning community, the Berkana Exchange. During this time she helped host an international gathering of more than 30 people in Oaxaca, Mexico around themes of community resilience and a movement called the Now Activism. At the same time, in the spring of 2006, the roots of a people´s movement were beginning to take hold in the city of Oaxaca. Shortly after the meeting there was a brutal repression of a group of unionized teachers by the state government. As a result of this violent action, the people (teachers, farmers, merchants, people from all walks of life) "took" the city for a period of almost 6 months, demanding the resignation of the governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. During this time nearly all government offices and services were shut down. There was no garbage collection, no police, no health care services in the entire historical center of the town. At one point during the movement there were over 2000 barricades that were put up nightly by residents of neighborhoods and barrios. Aerin carefully followed the events of the APPO (Asemblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca) movement from the States after her return. When the movement was violently crushed by federal police forces on November 25, 2006 it slowly dissipated, the APPO became fractionalized and lost focus. Aerin returned to Oaxaca in early 2007 and 2008 to see how the movement had affected the society and its people. 

So, as an American now living in Mexico, after having been close to the movement here in 2006 here's what Aerin has to say about what she's seeing with the Occupy movement(s): 

"It has been interesting to watch this movement unfolding on my computer screen, far away from the plazas and sidewalks of Boston and New York (both places I've lived for a time). In the beginning, I didn't really understand. I was waiting for those involved in the protest to explain what alternative they were calling for. At an Art of Hosting training in NYC in late September organizers were working with participants to give people a chance to engage in participative, horizontal processes, and practice hosting these processes in real time together. On the last day of the gathering, in the midst of increasing media coverage about OWS, a few participants interrupted the scheduled agenda to propose a visit to Liberty Plaza as part of the gathering - to see participatory leadership in action. Many of the participants did chose to go on this learning journey and the hosts figured out how to adapt the experience into the larger framework of the gathering. 

After this happened, I was suddenly very interested in what was happen in the Occupy movement. People were beginning to notice that how they do things might just be as, if not more, important than the what. As I have watched this unfold it has brought to me many questions about what creates the conditions for a movement to be successful? How is success defined? What I saw in Oaxaca in 2006 was many, many people organized around a single demand: get the governor out of office. Period. Though the movement was strong in numbers, and the rallying call was clear and easy to identify with, I ultimately think that having just this one demand might have been the movement's downfall.

Protesting and marching are a very, very popular form of "resistance' here in Oaxaca. But after a while, when suddenly every organization, party and person is marching and striking, these actions lose all their potency. So, I have lots and lots of questions about what's next for the Occupy movement. Here are some of my  burning questions:

How do those involved in the Occupy movement find a dynamic balance between open, inclusive participatory processes and wise, clear action? 

How will the movement move from its divergent stage (where I'd say it is now) through the "groan zone" and into a convergent stage in which decisions are made and actions taken? How do we converge and still remain open and inclusive?

How much is this about protesting the old? How much is it about building the new? Are both needed?

Here's a great quote by Buckminster Fuller to get you thinking  ... "




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Thanks Frauke ... Happy to know you were there. Hope the Art of Hosting is going GREAT! Thinking of you all!

I will check out your blog right now ...



What I'm sensing from what's being created at the Occupy sites is that people are yearning for a new model of being and co-habitating in the world that's based on community, where people work together for the common good.  They can be considered like mini-laboratories where they are experimenting on a new social structure,they are true examples of what's possible when people start self-organizing and begin living with values of love, unity, freedom and abundance.  What I would like to see is to see Occupy Cafe's where we facilitate a conversation about what is possible in a new world, to begin visioning together on a new system, a new way of living and being in the world. You can call them "Awakening the Dreamer" sessions to collectively begin co-creating a future of a society where everyone can thrive.

During today's call, Aerin indicated (and correct me if I am wrong) that the current system allows for undue influence by special interests, instead of the general interest.

But she said she was "stumped" as what she (and other people) can do, specifically,  to change the current system/bureaucracy.

The truth is that the general public is invited, hundreds of times very week, to participate in the decision-making of almost every aspect of U.S. (federal) government operations. (I'm not even counting opportunities for public input to state and local government decision-making.)  In fact, this is a requirement of federal law.

The problem is that the general public is virtually unaware of those opportunities because the federal agencies of the U.S. government do a very poor job of informing the public (even with the Internet) of those invitations to influence the ways that their democratic government operates.

If anyone is interested in finding out more about how the legal requirements for involving the public in government decision-making, please reply here, so that I can let you know where I'll create a separate space to do that, here on OccupyCafe.


Stephen Buckley




Stephen ... thank you so very much for these comments. As I said on the call, I am really heartened to hear that there are so many ways to influence the federal governments (and probably at the state and local levels as well).

I actually do believe that it is necessary to both begin living in a way that will increase everyone's quality of life (and the planet's quality of life too) and to do everything possible to effectively influence the current systems. I guess part of the reason that I feel "stumped" is that I am just more passionate about the building of the new than I am about the other fundamental role of influencing the status quo.

But there are many people who ARE passionate about this kind of work and probably one of the most important things that all of us can do is just what you've done here, Stephen, clearly communicate to more and more people about these kinds of opportunites. One challenge is information overload - how do we share these opportunities in a way that helps it stand out amidst the constant influx of quite useless info that we (or at least I) am mired in?

As a U.S. American living abroad I also need to reflect a bit what kind of role I might want to play in this work. I will be following you on twitter, Stephen, and would love to know more about these different avenues and vehicles ... even if my role is just to spread the word!

Thanks again,


Thanks Aerin for your thoughts and ideas!!  The Occupy movement certainly represents a platform within which the seeds of transformative change have the potential to cause significant change.  But I am wary of two things - one is the prime time media coverage appears to be limited to the challenges that municipal police forces have in managing the various situations and therefore the purpose and intention of the movement in the public's mind is somewhat fuzzy despite the fact that a large percentage of the public relate to many of the statements issued by the movement and second is that unlike the Tea Party movement which manifested quickly into a significant political entity which had an impact on the 2010 elections and as a result now impacts and has created a Congress that is somewhat incapable of making the needed decisions to correct the economic dilemma we are immersed in.  I don't know where the Occupy movement will be in 6 months or a year but if this movement is not capable of having a political impact the end results will be somewhat questionable.  Although it may influence the thinking of the general public in terms of what we each personally have to do to survive (help each other and help ourselves) I think that presumed impact would have happened anyway independent of the Occupy movement simply because it is human nature to share and to survive!!  Look forward to additional comments and discussions in this forum.  

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Hi Richard,


Sorry for the late reply and I know that so much has happened in the short time since our call on Monday. I just wanted to comment that I also am not sure about the ability of the Occupy movement to have a real political impact (on the federal or more local levels). I am actually not sure about any group lacking financial resources and political sway having a significant impact on this system. But I am VERY heartened, as I mentioned above, by what Stephen Buckley mentioned in his post about the number of ways that there are to actually be involved. Before moving to Mexico I lived in the state of Vermont on and off for about 10 years and truly believe that the Town Meeting system can work to have an influence (at least on the state and local levels).

But the other thing that I want to mention is that I agree that many of these occurrences of the past month may have happened independent of the Occupy movement. I simply think that this was a catalyst in many ways, an accelerator, even for what might have taken much longer to see or unfold.

thanks again ... desperately trying to stay caught up on these conversations despite a heavy workload right now!



Hi Aerin,

 Missed your call but have been harvesting  from your posts here at the Cafe and also at the Berkana Institute Site in many many ways..Your name, reference and links  to your Berkana site, quotes from your wonderful essay Hablamos De La Communalidad are seeded all through our member discussion here at the Cafe on the Heart of Sustainable Economy..also at various TED Conversations visiting these issues. 

You inspired my invention of the word "conviviocracy"  when through dialog here at the cafe and also at TED we realized that democacry in all hisory has never addressed itself to income inequality or the the "common ground" you point to in the ancient ways. "Conviviocracy" envisions democracy that does address itself to stewardship for one another; stewardship for the planet, now and in the future ; commits itself to that.

A poster here reported that you wondered how to actually take back control from the 1%.  I think we have very  powerful opportunities at our disposal..starting from our neighborhoods, our tiny villages.  See for example my posts on little Shapleigh Maine who fended off powerful MNC Nestle..kept them out of the town's water supply ( or any private water access in Shapleigh) through a beautiful little ordinance any village could pass and apply to resources other than water..including oil, silver, gold, precious minerals etc..

Also at the individual level we can just stop "feeding the tapeworm" en masse..reduce debt, avoid bottled water, avoid plastics, by local, organic and fair trade only, refuse to indluge in consumerism etc. etc.  In a post earlier replying to David we talked about having a "Personal Energy Plan"

We don't need to wait for Federal Law to change; we don't need to wait forthe whole 99% to catch on all at once, to get behind any one idea.The power is ours.  Itis immediately available.

 Village by village, growing from discussions at dining room tables and pot luck suppers at grange halls and church basements we can give rise to change emulating litte Shapleigh Maine..one by one taking our towns and villages out from under the" obnoxico"  ( Buckie Fuller's word) ecnomy of the 1% into the "whoslitca" ( Davids( here at Occupy word) economy of the 99%.

Another great example, also from Maine, the Island of Vinal Haven voted to collectively buy and install a wind generator..they have already reduced costs per household for electricity by 30%-40% ( I have to check exact number)  Any town in America can do that or similar..we don't need to wait for a national energy plan,,we can have local energy plans...Co-heaetedly, collectively, any town or village can work to go as much off the grid as possible.

 Hablamos De LaCommunalidad!!!

That is where our power begins.

Thanks Aerin you are an inspiration.

Hi Lindsay,

Thank you so much for these thoughts. I love your new word, conviviocracy. Convivir is a term that we use a lot here in Oaxaca. There isn't much of a direct translation to English unfortunately. It would seem that it might mean "live together" or simply "co-exist" but really it is much more than that. It means to share something (a meal, a physical space, an emotion, a significant conversation) with a sense of harmony with each and every person and with an eye to the whole of the system, as well.

I do have a lot of questions about how to engage with the institutions that play such prominant roles in the status quo. I'm not sure that these institutions are the 1% (I have less hope that we will easily engage with or shift the perspective of this group of people unfortunately). But again, super inspired by what Stephen wrote above.

Many of you have probably read this already since it is quite dated now, but I think that Charles Eisenstein really expresses well some of my thoughts on this 99% - 1% divide in his blog Open Letter to the Occupy Movement

All of the examples you share here, Lindsay, of places that are already (as we say at Berkana) living the future now, are really great. My work is to amplify, illuminate and connect these efforts.

With much gratitude ...



Thanks for that further background of the root word "convivir".  As you decsribe this root meaning it does make "conviviocracy": a better word for what we are trying to name and pount t than "democrcay"..Democracy inludes freedoms, but not equalities, not stewardship for one another or the Earth, not mutual regard, not well being for all.  I referred my freind Jaime Lubin to you and to your site..he is a theologian and scholar working and living in Gudalajara and who brought me the root word "convivir" ( at a TED Conversation I am hosting "Occupying Language: A new Vocabukary for the 99% ( or something like that).

Did you notive the thoughts on "the commons" Alanna has brought to the discussion.  I encouraged her to start a conversation on this important ancient concept and pointed her to your work at Berkana and in particular your essay  "Hablamos de la Communalidad"

We don't need to convince the 1% of anything, persuade them of enything, ask anything of them..  We the 99% can frame what we want and they have known that always.





I am responding to the question that Aerin Dunford asked me on today's call re how we can take back our institutions and make the primary changes that are needed in our lives and to reorient society. I actually have a number of answers. For starters we need to realize that each of us has different types of things that we are personally interested in doing or contributing and that is fine. All of these things are probably needed. However all of these things can also be woven together to support one another in making the emerging societal shifts in a more effective manner; and if we can each include a focus on consciously supporting this collaborative effort and the inter-weaving as we increasingly recognize that we are all an important part of this emerging whole, so much the better. 


So, first we need to realize that there are already many people within our institutions that do get it and do want to do what is needed to support the good of the whole. For example, many large and multi-national corporations are already showing leadership in adopting more sustainable practices. And within each of these businesses there are also people that would like to take this as far as possible. 


Similarly, in almost every sector we have friends and allies; and even the United Nations is engaging with millions of people around the world in supporting transformative change. So, we can work with and within these institutional processes to create change. 


However a more direct response to institutional change is to Reclaim our electoral and political systems. We all know that money currently has an undue influence within our political system, particularly in the US, and that this thus must be changed. We also know that we must find ways to get behind the partisan divides that are blocking both societal and institutional change. 


This thus calls us to focus on developing three things: A) a unified Educational Advocacy and Action Campaign that includes and embraces the primary institutional changes that are needed across all sectors of society, B) electoral and political reforms that return the power to the people as a whole, C) processes that bring people together across political divides such as are being explored in the Occupy Cafe "Occupy Your Neighborhood" group. 


In addition, we may have to create a new money and economic system if we wish the make the changes that are needed, especially given that 95% of the land and natural resources (in pretty much every country) are owned and controlled by 5% of the people. And these very resources are thus used to continue to consolidate and maintain their power, rather than to serve the well-being of the people and planet as a whole.  There are many things that could be done to deal more responsibly and effectively with this situation. One of the most important would be to change our taxes - thus taking taxes off of labor and putting them instead on the ownership of land and natural resources - thus returning a much larger share of the profits to the people who create this wealth in the first place. This will also provide an excellent incentive for shifting to more sustainable practices and society. 


Similarly, we could create a new alternative monetary system that initially sits alongside our current system. There is a wonderful proposal for doing this making use of Gradidos and VitaMoney. It is a global scheme with thousands of people already registered to support the transition. You can see how the VitaMoney system could be structured and works by going to: http://gradido.net/en/Academy. This scheme is designed and set up so as to be able to return our economic and money systems to the people and to fund the transition to a sustainable economy and society.


Finally, if we wish to take back the power and reform our primary societal institutions, we need to develop the means to participate more effectively in governmental and intergovernmental decision making processes. I would thus suggest that the  Occupy General Assembly processes offer a good model for how we could create a much more participatory model of governance at the local to global levels and at the very least begin to give more effective input into governmental and intergovernmental decision making processes along with developing consensual based common position statements and proposals for solving our common local to global problems, etc. 


Indeed I drafted a paper a couple of years ago that describes how this could work based upon local assemblies, linking with regional and global assemblies, linking with substantive sectorially based working group processes. I would be happy to send this paper to anyone that is interested. (Actually I was able to post it in the next file below along with the ParMun proposal)


I am also the Chairperson of the World Alliance to Transform the UN, which supports the establishment of a UN Parliamentary Assembly or Peoples House at the UN thus directly representing and including the people in intergovernmental decision making processes. We have even developed a proposal called ParMun which could easily begin to institute such a Peoples World Parliament based on a model quite similar to the Occupy General Assemblies process that is emerging. Again I can provide more information about ParMun (Parlemento Mundial) to anyone that is interested. 




Rob Wheeler

Chair, World Alliance to Transform the UN

UN Representative, Global Ecovillage Network, Commons Action for the UN, & CCC-UN


www.watun.org, www.ecovillage.org, www.cccun.net

Skype: robineagle333

robwheeler22   @  gmail.com



 Agree with your analysis ..

But there are much easier routes for the 99% to take it back.


Did you see the discussion on sovereign wealth funds.(eg the Alaskan fund that pays every citizen a dividend on oil revenues).

the post on Shapleigh Maine. whose local ordinace kept MNC Nestlee out of their water supply which could be used as model to prevnt/control extraction of other natural resources ( including on private land..as Shapleigh's law did)

The post on "wW the People"an already exsiting national organization with an office in every state teaching people how to take control of the government back, how to become effecitively engaged, how to stay engaged. 

 There are all kinds of strategeies that have worked are working and more like that we can effect so easily starting at the local level.

 And there are tons of good initiatives underway ..like Tammy Baldwins resolution to not grant baks immunity from their crimes; Bernie Sanders 28th ammendment  to the constiution that corporations are not persons, Chellie Pingree's upcoming legislation on local organic farming ( a beginning to disaggregation of the big food giants.; Dodd -Frank as originally enacted by the legsilature and dismantled by politics.

We would do well to notice, get behind and hold up all the stuff that is in the works right now.

Where was Occupy on the Trans Canada Pipeline? 

We have the tools and resources to take back big chunks of what has been held back and taken away.  We have that right now.  We need to get on board with every single major initave alrady in the works to check and dismantle the plutonomy. 

We could start new ones..why aren't we behind a mjor camapign to not buy any bottled water of any kind ever?

None of the changes in MNC's were voluntary and most are PR.social resposnbility doesn't just emanate..it comes about by how buyers make choices in the market place..

Look forward to reading your paper and admire your long term good faith work on behalf of humanity, on behalf of the Earth.


Bright Blessings



Here is my paper on Instituting a Participatory Means of Local to Global Governance and another on the ParMun Resolution for establishing a People's World Parliament. 


Rob Wheeler



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