'Public wisdom' results when the public - as a whole or in randomly selected 'mini-publics' - engages in learning about, reflecting on and discussing public affairs in ways that take into account what needs to be taken into account to decide what will produce long term, inclusive benefits.
We are more able than ever to subscribe to such a randomly selected mini-public - and its various forms of temporary, well-informed 'citizen deliberative councils'. We are aware of the hundreds of these councils that have been held around the world and how they have been used. They tell us about new forms of councils that could be developed and new ways they could be used - including organizing them at grassroots levels and through using the Internet.
These councils provide a way to readily and affordably generate a legitimate, authentic, coherent and wise voice of 'we, the people' - a voice for the general welfare that is not currently present in our political discourse. It moves us beyond partisanship to a place of collective responsibility for our shared destiny. It reclaims the idea of 'we, the people' as a coherent political force that integrates the diversity of the whole citizenry, rather than a catchphrase used by one more special-interest group that attempts to speak for the people; but doesn't really embrace our full range of perspectives and needs.
It comes down to: (a) the role of power - especially how to balance power in a democracy and move from 'power-over' to 'power-with'; (b) the need to rein in corporate and financial domination of elections and government; (c) the strengths and limitations of both representative and direct democracy; (d) the polarization of our current political life and strategies to creatively move beyond it without dishonorable compromises and deals; (e) dozens of high quality conversational processes for mass public participation; and (f) how the power of public wisdom might actually be institutionalized in our governments.
This is a radically new way to think about democracy. It embraces diversity, engages participation and addresses conflicts and ignorance in profoundly different ways than we are used to hearing socially, on talk shows, in public hearings and within the halls of government. This is not a kind of direct democracy, where everyone votes on everything. Its bottom line is not just participation or winning, but collective wisdom.
This approach engenders a quality of conversation Jim Rough calls choice-creating. Although Rough doesn't consider choice-creating to be deliberation, it provides a far more dynamic way than institutionalized forms of deliberation. This process is deeply creative and non-linear, following the group's energy rather than any pre-determined course or agenda - and it is extremely powerful.