Please use this discussion to offer your suggestions for Core Conversations to be hosted here on the Cafe website and on our Cafe Calls.  We suggest you consider framing a topic in terms of a "powerful question."  This monograph by Eric Vogt, David Isaacs and Juanita Brown, courtesy of The World Cafe, provides some excellent guidelines.

NOTE!!! This discussion is intended to be about the range of topics we might want to focus on ONLY.

It is NOT intended to be the place where we actually HAVE those discussions.  If something that is proposed here grabs you, by all means start a thread about it in Member-Initiated Discussions.  Or, if it's a really big and juicy subject, perhaps you might even want to start a group to discuss it--each group has its own forum, as well as "pages" that can be created and edited together.

Thanks for helping us keep our discussions organized.  And thanks for all the great energy and ideas that you have been posting here so far!


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There's a lot of information & discussions about 'how to build the New Economy.' YES Magazine comes to mind.  What I'd like to see is a pilot project. Or a set of tools/instructions to play with in OWS groups on the ground.  Rather than a top down summit which might generate a single solution, I'd like to see development of a tool-kit that could be used in various ways, depending on local conditions.  There is no one size fits all solution that works in every locale. Experimentation and play are important, too!

I think there is a LOT of juice for this conversation.  Thanks, Karen!

Wow, yes, it would be great if the Summit could result in a toolkit of options that people can support in their own communities and countries, along with beginning to develop a proactive campaign in support of some of the more promising and essential programs and policies that are needed to shift to a new sustainably based and equitable economy for all. 



Yes, I agree that "public frustration" is the primary element that fueled the rise of the "Occupy Wall Street" and the "Tea Party" movements.  Judging from a recent poll (wish I had the link), a significant portion of American sympathize with both movements (apparently disregarding the "left-right" labels that some people insist on attaching to everything).

Maybe it's not just me, but I think that the frustration, in large part, stems from my expectations being raised that the quality of Democracy would improve through a better educated America and by better information technology (i.e., the Internet).  But the last few years seem to show that, contrary to to Obama's talk of public engagement (e.g., "Yes, WE can" and "open government"), the trend is going away from greater inclusiveness towards MORE "inside-the-beltway" wheeling and dealing" (e.g., as was done by White House to get the votes to pass Healthcare reform).

So perhaps we can lessen the frustration if we can open up the decision-making process so that the interested public can participate.  And that means more than just the legislation that is passed.  It should be easier for the public to participate in the many decisions that government agencies make (i.e., the when, where and how) after the legislation is passed.  Congress almost always leaves the details of implementation to the bureaucrats. (BTW, I worked for five federal agencies in D.C.) 

--  Stephen B.


 Craig Paterson said:

'Occupy Wall Street’ has been characterized as a ‘mob’ by some…while others find themselves wondering what took so long. In our democracy, people get to express themselves, and they get to gather with others as they see fit. Whether you like what they are saying or not…these are our neighbors who are voicing their dissatisfaction with some economic trends and some political ideologies. I disagreed with those who just wanted to dismiss the opinions of Tea Party followers and leaders…and I believe the free expression of public frustrations and needs by ‘Occupy’ followers is essential at this time…in our country and around the world.

No doubt a hot topic is the parallel and the nature of the "relationship" that might emerge between #Occupy and the Tea Party.  How to put it into "generative question" form?  Hmmm...

How about: "What does the story of the Tea Party teach us about #Occupy?"  and "What might the connection (realtionship?  dynamic?)  between #Occupy and the Tea Party also be?"

Thanks, Stephen...and Ben

My suspicion is that there is a deeply-felt, foundational public frustration that has perked to the surface in the election of President Obama...then in the Tea Party...and now in the Occupy movement. And...this is just a short list in the American frustration was evident as well in several of our conversations when we visited Europe last month.

Lots of different styles of conversations on lots of topics can bring many voices into the same space...but only careful listening will be able to discern a general course of action that everyone can life with. Right now, I'm most interested in framing and conducting some public conversations that might tap into non-ideological, visceral frustration about what I see as a growing trend toward greater and greater wealth disparity. Let's approach this topic from many different perspectives...and then see what falls out as common themes.

I believe it's a natural tendancy to want to jump to solutions when faced with a sticky problem. It always reminds me of the famous line from the movie, 'Casablanca': "Round up the usual suspects!" I do believe some of these conversations can be inspiring and helpful as we envision a sustainable future, but I also believe they are less inclusive than more open-ended, question-centered conversation starters.

So, Ben...I guess I wouldn't start with questions directly about either the Occupy movement or the Tea Party...or about their relationship. I'd step back another step to simply ask: "What frustrates you most about the trends you see in our economic, political and social experiences so far in the 21st century?"


You said:

"My suspicion is that there is a deeply-felt, foundational public frustration that has perked to the surface in the election of President Obama...then in the Tea Party...and now in the Occupy movement."

I agree that the public's frustration has been building, as evidenced by the emergence of the Tea Party and, now, the Occupy movement.  Lawrence Lessig talked about seeing that same pattern when he spoke at Occupy DC on October 18th.

Here's a linked article by NPR summarizing Lessig's remarks: 

"The Occupy D.C. movement on K Street is getting itself educated. NPR's Peter Overby checked in this week as they held a teach-in with Harvard Law School's Lawrence Lessig, who said protesters can take their government back from the influence of big donors by forging an alliance with the Tea Party grassroots.

And here's a link to a complete video (with some parts inaudible).  If you don't have time to listen to the whole thing, then at least watch the first 4:00 minutes, and then secondarily, the four minutes from 10:00 - 14:00 (where he proposes a "platform" to discuss common ground):

As you can see from that last webpage, Lessig will be a keynote speaker this weekend at an event by CoffeePartyUSA called "Citizens' Intervention".  Unfortunately, CoffeeParty's leadership has taken partisan positions on different issues, so they can not (credibly) cast themselves as impartial hosts of a neutral platform for discussing common ground with members of Tea Party, etc.

Ben:  Do you see OccupyCafe as that type of discussion place?  Do you think (with "Occupy" in its name) that others can be convinced that it can be neutral (i.e., safe) place for discussion?

vr, Steve Buckley

Thanks so much, Steve...Lessig is certainly one of the most credible and eloquent voices in the moment...loved his naming the moment as the 'American Spring.' Yes...he's clearly indicating that we need bridge-building between various points of frustration. While it might seem to be most effective on the surface to build a comprehensive, large bridge immediately, my intuition and experience tells me we need to start our local build bridges that then can be inter-connected.

RE: CoffeeParty and 'Occupy' as discussion places...we'll never find the perfect venue...I feel we simply need to use whatever networking opportunities may be available...more the better. I'm associated with a non-partisan, neutral research organization...Kettering Foundation...and will be encouraging them to add their trusted networks in deliberative work to add some depth to these efforts as well.

Good question re OC's "neutrality," Steve. We definitely exist to support and serve this movement, so we are not neutral in that sense. AND... we welcome those who do not share our enthusiasm to this conversation. What, if anything, can we do to make them feel safe given our core sympathies, which I believe it would be foolish and futile to deny?
Craig: is "what frustrates" people the most generative framing? I prefer to avoid conversations that focus on complain and blame and I see a danger there. Maybe "what systemic challenges do you see in..." is better?

Re the tea party, I see a lot of interest in this and my "open space" instincts tell me to go where the energy is. At the same time I totally agree that leaping into "answers" is likely to produce more of what we already know.

I understand your point, Ben...but if frustration is actually the common denominator, that's what needs to be explored and further defined. Let's think of the early civil rights movement for a moment...frustration was the common experience that then took shape in numerous individual applications...until one day a 'Dream' could be expressed to inspire the path toward greater and greater equality. I think there's a lot of power in being brutally frank about our feelings..."I'm frustrated, and it appears that you're can we talk about it, so we can both be less frustrated?"

I take your point, Craig. How about if the inquiry focusses on people's personal stories of frustration, rather than their more abstract indictments of the system, of which we have plenty already?


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