What is ‘Socratic’ Integration?
It is a method of creating (or enhancing) synergistic systemic collaboration, hence impact, based on finding answers to this simple (yet difficult) open-ended diversity-enhancing movement-building “Socratic” question:
While I and (or) my group (i.e., the "civility actors" who are engaged in various peace, justice, environment, interfaith dialogue, etc. struggles) remain who we are and continue to do what we do, HOW can we do our specific and focused work in such a way that would ALSO build bridges of collaboration with other civil society persons or groups in our area? (Eventually resulting in a sustained and integrated movement of movements across our various nonviolent causes.)
Here is the same Socratic inquiry (i.e., open-ended question) in other, more defined words:
How can we, regardless of cause, begin (or continue/grow) the process of INTEGRATING the results of the actions and efforts of the civil society of our area (i.e., our Circle/Collaborative's "area of integration focus") toward producing CUMULATIVE (i.e., mutually strengthening and synergistic) systemic impact, in this "we are all in the same boat" struggle?
In still other words, while remaining faithful and committed to our own organizational and personal missions, how can we begin having "integra-cumulative" effectiveness (hence synergy-causing impact—creating critical mass) through mutually beneficial systemic collaboration across our various nonviolent civil society causes?
Specific Movement-Building Collaborative Procedures
a) From among the participants of the Circle/Collaborative of the area, at least two persons who are interested in undertaking a specific nonviolent project or action (which can be a new one or supporting an on-going project or action that already exists in the civil society of the area) would seek the supportive endorsement of the Community Collaborative, by submitting a brief proposal (verbal or written) either in one of Circle/Collaborative meetings or by writing to the person(s) tasked with receiving such written proposals.
b) Then, as soon as it is possible, the participants in the Circle/Collaborative would consider and possibly decide (using consensus-based decision-making; and preferably in the same or in the next meeting of the area's Circle/Collaborative) to endorse supportively (i.e., adopt) the project or action, as appropriate and possible.
c) Upon such adoption, other individual participants in the Circle/Collaborative (besides the proposing two--who may concurrently be members or supporters of other civil society formations in the community) would have the option of joining the adopted undertaking, as free-agent volunteers, possibly beginning to collaborate immediately in a "working group" that would be formed for that particular project, campaign, or action.
Thus, given our initiative's foundationally collaborative and integrational grassroots nature, the projects, campaigns, or actions that result from this movement-building “post-modern” process reflect (unavoidably and organically) the authentic and unique needs of the communities in which these Circles/Collaboratives (which are and should remain independent organizationally) are formed.
Because "UN-fragmentation" of the civil society is the central goal of the Circles Movement of Movements, our Circles/Collaboratives would ultimately and systemically coordinate their activities locally and (as appropriate and possible) regionally, nationally, and eventually globally--through this initiative's integration-of-results collaboration system.
Thus, such a "Socratic" integration--i.e., un-fragmenting collaboration--among local Circles/Collaboratives (which are autonomously functioning horizontally structured non-hierarchical genuinely democratic "gathering" groups of civility actors) would eventually result in the coming-to-be of "regional integration committees" and eventually a "central integration council," all focusing (locally, regionally, and nationally--initially in the U.S.) on the theoretical and practical integration of the currently fragmented American civil society, as described above.
These "regional integration committees" will be composed of the representatives of all the local circles/collaboratives that the area of each regional committee covers; while the decision-making persons (versus advisory and honorary members) of the initiative's to-be-formed "central integration council" will be comprised of the authorized representatives of all such regional committees.
Going back to the local level, in the areas (initially of the U.S.) where civil society struggles (or awareness) either does not exist or is present minimally, the role of the volunteer participants that gather in such local circles/collaboratives would be to stimulate creation or development of "civility" formations (such as peace groups, environmental action projects, etc.) without getting the Circles/Collaboratives involved in them organizationally--due to the critically important agenda-free principle outlined above.
As mentioned above, the Community Collaborative of a given area is formed by its Circle of Nonviolence--as its action-capable "twin." Here is how such a Circle would form:
A. One person learns about the Circles initiative (and in consultation with Moji Agha--the initiative's founder and at-large advocate for all Circles/Collaboratives) plans a meeting at a public place (if possible) inviting potentially interested persons in the area to attend.
B. Given that our initiative's foundation is built on collaboration, the minimum number to form a Circle of Nonviolence is two persons. So in this initial meeting as long as one person joins the convener, the area's Circle of Nonviolence can be formed. And the very first dual-task of the (at least two) participants is:
- To define and come to consensus about the Circle's "area of integration focus" (AIF), i.e., a reasonably sized (not too small or large) area with clearly defined geographic boundaries; and then
- To decide on a name for the Circle/Collaborative.