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United Religious Initiative: A Look into the Process of Developing a Chaordic Alliance (2001;URI and 2000; Cooperider)- edited by JulieEvansCaldwell

An excellent example of a chaordic alliance and a look at what�s involved to facilitate the development of such a structure is the United Religions Initiative (URI)(add website). Over a four-year period, engaging millions of participants, The URI Charter Alliance was forged using an inclusive process that ran through 4 global summits, 8 regional summits and countless smaller consultations around the world, countless hours of planning meetings, and hundreds of conversations that took place by phone, conference call, postal mail and email. Over 400 communities around the world came together as a Non-Governmental Organization affiliated with the Department of Public Information of the United Nations. All I all, 6000 men and women representing 78 faith traditions, not including denominations or sects within religions, signed the URI Charter in over 81 countries in June 2000.

The URI has a formal charter, guiding principles and membership rights. It�s purpose is to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings. The URI is a growing, global community of Cooperation Circles, involving thousands of people around the world (2001, United Religions Initiative Annual Report).

From this article David Cooperrider (2000), co-creator of the Appreciative Inquiry Process co-facilitated the United Religious Initiative with Bishop William Swing. David offers us a more pragmatic look at some �how to� lessons in lifting up a chaordic alliance.

For me there were many surprises. But one lesson is simple to state, and it should be repeated over and over: if we want new forms of human organization we need equally powerful means of self-organizing. Such a process is exhilarating, messy, relationally uplifting, wonderful and terrifying. It is clear to me that no chaordic organization, perhaps by definition, can be pre-fashioned. The creation of co-evolutionary forms requires some of the most intense dialogue and listening imaginable. Talk about trust. Everyone changes. And you see people become better human beings. I wish everyone alive could experience the thrill of it all.

In his article, Cooperrider shares his reflections on the bringing together of a chaordic alliance designed to expand the vision of the world�s cooperative capacity. Against unimaginable odds the global United Religions (URI) organization was born on June 26, 2000 and the charter was signed. In a span of four years since the first global summit meeting in 1996 thousands of people have shared their visions and worked together to create the URI. Several million dollars have been raised. Working on all continents and across nations, people from different religions, spiritual expressions and indigenous traditions have experienced unprecedented levels of cooperation vis-a-vis the creation of an organization that is inclusive, nonhierarchical and decentralized; a unique organization composed of self-organizing groups which operates locally and are connected globally.

Infinite organizational diversity like fractals At the time of the charter signing there are URI organizations��cooperation circles��in thirty different parts of the world. Within five years there could be a thousand others. Like the ineffable beauty of fractals which provide a glimpse of infinite diversity (no two fractals are the same) connected in patterns based on a few pieces of information (as few as three no-linear equations), URI will have pattern and coherence without mechanisms of command-and-control.

A few simple things make it work:

The result is evolution�a constant interweaving of processes�that leads to structure. But not a rigid structure. It is a dynamic connection of circles, which are resilient to unending change, responsive to context, and connected to the infinite capacities of the whole.

Practical Rule of Thumb to create such an �entity�

It requires, for example, a trusted design/conceptualization team of 10-20 people committed to at least three days of work together every forty-five days for two years.

Cooperrider sees no way of shortening the amount of time required. So much unlearning takes place. Command-and control re-asserts itself over and over, especially at the very end, right before the legal elements are signed and sealed. Just wait until discussion comes up about what to do with �fractals� that are poor performers or unethical in their practices�what does self-organizing mean now?

Note: The Michigan Alliance (insert website), Imagine Chicago(insert website), /IowaDepartmentOfHousing? all took at least 2 years of planning to work through the details required of those seeking to unite large systems around a common voice.

A vital interweaving of conversations in and through three modalities:

Referred to by Habitat for Humanity as Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation PME and by educational sectors as the continuous learning model. For more information on PME refer to the attachment Social Change at the Speed of Light; Evans; 2002).

THE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTION OF THE APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY SUMMIT The AI summit makes possible interactive task oriented conferences where groups of anywhere from one hundred to several thousand people can co-evolve a valued and possible future. Participation at an AI summit is, by design, diverse and inclusive of �everyone� that has a stake in seeing a better future for the system being created, re-conceived, or developed.

There was a turning point in URI when we suggested that participation in the charter writing go beyond the typical religious leaders. Many others have a stake in the establishment of an effective URI: people from the grassroots, our youth, leaders of NGO�s like Save the Children, business leaders, people at the World Bank, and so on. The human dynamic changes when people are connected to a whole.

The best in human beings somehow, for some reason, surfaces: bringing the whole system into the room calls us to higher levels of awareness, compassion, courage, and cooperative capacity.

Other success factors for an authentic arena for co-creation:

The hardest part for us with religious leaders was having no formal speeches, and working together as peers. Everyone who attends comes with opportunity for voice. One goal is to create a setting not in half but �full voice.� The summit does not work when there is a separate leadership group working primarily to get validation for a pre-written plan.

The 4Ds in a typical summit meeting (full details about the 4D process included in the attachment Creating Social Change at the Speed of Light) In a typical summit meeting people spend approximately one day on each of the �4-D�s�:

In lifting up URI there have been global summits annually since 1996 and regional summits have taken place in South Africa, East Africa, Brazil, Egypt, Argentina, Romania, India, and others. The results have often been dramatic. After one of the AI sessions at Stanford University one participant said: �I think everyone left Stanford a bit stunned by what a gift the experience had been�.

David conclude his article by sharing, For me personally being part of this creation-- of a chaordic organization with such moral purpose and positive vision-- has given me more hope about our world�s future that anything I�ve ever worked on in my life. And it has also left me with the gift. It is a bright, new image, of possibility.

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Last edited September 29, 2004 7:03 pm by Julie Evans Calwell (diff)
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