Deep Democracy: Uncovering the Wisdom that Lies Beyond the Polarities

Surfacing and working with diversity is an important aspect of our practice at I-P-K – we believe that diversity is a force that should be made visible and thereby amplified rather than oppressed in the hope of enforcing a streamlined collective identity. Hand in hand with this also comes the realization that searching for common ground will bring us further in the long term, than merely searching for that all around unsatisfactory compromise solution, that is often times too short lived in any case.

We often apply methodologies such as socio-metric line-ups and intra-group conversations to surface diverse views, whilst at the same time allowing for differentiating and integrating views to emerge. When it comes to decision-making time, we assist the group in establishing its common ground from which to move forward. There are occasions though, on which agreement on some issues that are crucial to progress cannot be reached. So, what to do with those issues within a group process about which there is no natural consensus and that cannot simply not be agreed upon? Or those issues around which there is a lot of (potential for) conflict?

I recently participated in the Deep Democracy Foundation Course under the impressive guidance and mentorship of Myrna Lewis, one of the founding developers of Deep Democracy and author of “Inside the No: Five Steps to Decisions that Last”. It has taken more than fifteen years of intensive work to hone Deep Democracy into the straightforward, five-step methodology used in all sectors of society and in over 20 countries worldwide. This transformative facilitation methodology is designed for anybody who works with groups and relationships. Rooted in insights from process-oriented psychology, it offers tools to improve the ways in which people work together in complex and sometimes turbulent situations.

Deep Democracy goes beyond more conventional group decision making processes such as compromising or majority rule. Instead it recognizes and effectively integrates minority voices, thus creating wiser, more sustainable agreements, with full participant buy-in. Applying the Deep Democracy model allows us to do justice to and accommodate the minority voices, i.e. those in a group or system, who are usually defeated in a majority process (either by numbers or weight of other votes). Finding the so-called “wisdom of the No” and including it in the “Yes” allows us to get the best of both worlds and avoid the so-called “terrorist line” that so often obstructs change processes, to gain strength.

In addition to Collaborative Decision Making, Deep Democracy is also enables us to work with interpersonal and group dynamics in that it enables effective interpretation of what is actually at play in groups and relationships. It allows for seeing through what is being said, recognizing unspoken emotional issues that block progress, and suggesting ways to work with them. Lastly, Deep Democracy recognizes and works with the creative tension that is present in every conflict. It offers a safe way to engage with strong views and emotions, leading to innovative solutions and strengthened relationships, and thereby becoming a powerful conflict resolution tool.

I got much more than what I bargained for initially by taking part in the Foundation Course, in that I also learned a great deal about my own “role anatomy” and how it impacts on others. I feel inspired and challenged by the power of Deep Democracy as a facilitation methodology that allows for the wisdom of the minority voices to not only be surfaced, but also integrated in the majority decisions. The Deep Democracy tools are surprisingly simple, but their sheer power may blast you away if you come unprepared to acknowledge your own polarity…

Visit to find out more about Deep Democracy.


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