Statement of Principles ~~ Collective Intelligence for the Common Good Community / Network

Collective Intelligence for the Common Good Community / NetworkStatement of Principles, May 23, 2014


This statement is a statement of broad directions, principles and aims, not an oath that demands full compliance.

In light of this theme, a need for a statement of this kind seems obvious.

The statement is intended to help focus and reinforce research and action that is directed primarily at the conscious, cooperative efforts of people in this diffuse community to explore, understand, develop, and promote collective intelligence for the common good. In this statement we use the expression “common good” to mean something that approximates a universal benefit, something that everybody — in theory — would want. Admittedly imprecise — like many of the words we commonly use, such as democracy or community — the pursuit of the common good will generally mean finding peaceful ways to resolve conflict, building a more equitable society, securing a healthy and diverse environment for ourselves and future generations, and respecting cultural diversity.

Here, the means align with the ends. We believe that this focus is likely to require a redesign of our some of our own approaches, including what we construe to be our own sphere of influence. Further we believe that modeling the world we’d like to see can provide invaluable insights that won’t arrive in time any other way.

With the challenges and opportunities afforded by the Internet and other information and communication technologies at this historical juncture, the development of a broader community or network becomes more-or-less necessary if civic society is to establish and hold any influence over the establishment and governance of information and communication systems, resources, and policies that are open, allow unhindered access to information, and encourage civic problem solving. Our goals include advancing research and more action-oriented approaches in a number of relevant directions at the same time.

As members of civil society who are not coordinated directly through government or business dictates, indirectly through the market, or through coercion, we recognize that informal associations, sharing, and responsibility, will be necessary if we are to organize effectively in the face of challenges to the health of the planet and the people that inhabit it.

Beyond conducting research and developing tools, services, policy, and the like, we are hoping to build the circumstances that help promote this work and the orientation in the world. For one thing, this perspective compels us to think about the inclusive community that this work requires, one that will necessarily be more focused and integrated and organized than currently exists.

Our hope is to consciously and organically nurture this community / network. One approach would be to proceed largely through the actions of members inviting potential members. (One research issue introduced here for our own edification is whether this approach could help instill and reinforce the norms and values that hopefully propel this project.) The intent of this conscious community development is of course not to build a gated community, but to help focus attention on relevant issues including how best to engage the “outside” world and maintain porous borders.

In a general way, a member of the community would agree to:

        • Emphasize work that is explicitly and conscientiously intended to advance the common good;
        • Think about how their work complements other work of the community — and consciously work to integrate or complement that work and extend its effectiveness in the real world (some examples are listed in the next paragraph);
        • Engage in online and other conversations with the rest of the community on a regular basis;
        • Focus on the organization and processes of the community in addition to the specific areas in which you specialize; and
        • Endeavor to use the tools and systems developed by people in the community both as part of our community obligations and and as a way to help improve the functionality and effectiveness of the tools and systems, and hence our potential effectiveness.

We envision the work that falls into the heading of “Collective Intelligence for the Common Good” in an extremely broad way: it includes research and action and products such as deliberative systems, research enterprises and case studies, think tanks, model policy documents, curricula, ruminations and epistles, thought experiments, art works, and many others. While this in no way abandons the idea of rigorous research, it consciously seeks to integrate and build upon other perspectives. We hope to transcend the limits (constraints? Inertia?) of many dominant habits, institutions, norms, and folkways that we routinely face, especially when their strict obedience compels us to work in ways that are likely to be ineffective in addressing the common good of the planet and its inhabitants.

Finally, without being unduly legalistic we’d like also to ultimately “franchise” this work, enabling a multiplicity of systems, resources, events, experiments, etc, etc. — but, still, with the intent of integrating the work into the whole.

Original Signatories

Fiorella De Cindio, University of Milan, Italy
Mark Klein, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US
Anna De Liddo, Open University, UK
Douglas Schuler, The Evergreen State College, US
Simon Buckingham Shum, University of Technology Sydney, Australia