We are immersed in polarization. It is drowning our democracy because it is a powerful antithesis of democracy. It is grounded in blame and shame, the antithesis of love. 

Yet, we are the ones who polarize and the ones who stand by befuddled as to what to do about it. And being s enmeshed in the problem, how do we see what to do about it? This is a core puzzle of our predicament. 

Blaming drives polarization. Feeling overwhelmed by the threat of danger, imagined or real, identifying a cause, and being historically ignorant provide the ground for polarization. 

Then, blaming drives it forward into the vicious circles spinning in and throughout our lives. This dynamic has been with us from the beginning of our species. At the moment we are in an epidemic of ignorance, blame, fear, selfishness, and righteousness.

The sources of these negative feelings and actions are biocultural. They are embedded in us and embodied by us as part of becoming a viable member of our society. At the same time, respect, mutuality, self-interest, cooperation, compassion, and love are embedded and embodied. 

So: how do we learn how to develop the latter and suppress our negativity? How can we learn to do this personally and on a large scale?

The Growing Democracy Project sees the emerging tradition of Transformative Learning (TL) as providing power processes and methods of development at the personal level. Maybe we can take this kind of learning to scale we need by building—step-by-step—a Transformative Civic Educational System.


Why TL? What does it offer?

The ultimate purpose of democracy and the GDProject is to enable everyday citizens to become more deeply habituated in their hearing, thinking, and loving. TL has emerged over the past few decades to enable this kind of change. It goes beyond the usual cognitive learning. 

The variety of TL approaches, methods, and practices are designed to address the biocultural obstruction to human development and democracy we discussed above. 

The driving force of TL is the conviction that humans have the lifelong capacity to make deep changes in how they think, feel, and act. That is, we can modify deep, if not the deepest, layers of our personal ways of living and relating as well as how we act collectively in their world. 

This innate human capacity draws on more powerful forms of agency than just adapting to environmental changes or developing skills. Since TL taps into this capacity, the GDProject believes everyday people can use it to become more deeply democratic.

TL is not individualized learning. Learning how to make personal change of this kind requires a small community of practice that can develop its own peer-to-peer culture of learning, connecting, doing, and loving. 

However, these Transformative Communities of Democratic Practice (TCs) cannot survive much less thrive standing alone. They will need to be strongly connected with sister communities in networks of mutual support, sharing, and research. This will be the role of a Growing Democracy Network (GDN).

Further: as the TCs and the GDN evolve, a Transformative Civic Educational System can come into being.

(In the Structure section of the Project Vision we discuss their roles more fully.)


Major components