Issue paper for the workshop on Collective Intelligence for the Common Good (CI4CG)

“The notion of the common good is a denial that society is and should be composed of atomized individuals living in isolation from one another.” (Encyclopedia Britannica)

The workshop hosted by the Open University on September 29-30, 2014 is aimed at establishing an Open Research and Action Community Network to research CI4CG.

In support of the workshop’s objectives, I’m going to present the following issue paper:

Augmenting the Collective Intelligence of the Ecosystem of CI4CG Initiatives


The developmental stage of collective intelligence used by the ecosystem of the various CI4CG-type initiatives, and the vitality of that ecosystem, have an impact on their effectiveness.

That stage and that vitality will shape the initiatives’ capacity to assist decision-makers, communities, and social movements in defining, mapping, and addressing critical local and global problems. Their enhanced capacity will help identifying options for wise, collective action and anticipating it outcomes.

Boosting the CI of the ecosystem of CI4CG projects is a pivotal task that our conscious evolution may hinges on. Given its convening intention, and the caliber of researchers it attracted, the now-forming CI4CG Open Research and Action Community Network is well poised to prototype the augmentation of CI by collaborative efforts, using Generative Action Research.


Augmentation theories go back to a seminal essay of by Doug Engelbart, whom the author of this issue paper had the good fortune to have as his mentor. There, Doug laid the foundation for augmentation as “a way of life in an integrated domain where hunches, cut-and-try, intangibles, and the human ‘feel for a situation’ usefully coexist with powerful concepts, streamlined terminology and notation, sophisticated methods, and high-powered electronic aids.”[1]

Later, he went on describing CI not as a thing, but a process of “sharing among a community of humans the distributed nuclei of human resources represented by individuals with special knowledge, judgment, intuition, imagination, conceptual skills, etc. This human-resource sharing has explosive potential — I look to it with a biological metaphor as providing a new evolutionary stage for the nervous system of social organisms, from which much more highly developed institutional forms may evolve…”[2]

Those two quotes define the first two distinctions of the framework for the suggested participatory action research into augmenting the CI of the ecosystem of CI4CG projects. The third one is the concept of “innovation architecture”[3] comprised of the social, electronic, cognitive, and inner technologies and processes that we need to skillfully integrate for augmentation.

Potential research questions

The actual questions of the action research will need to be jointly defined by the researchers who feel called to this inquiry. The set of questions presented below serve only as conversation starter. Their exploration would kick in different phases of the research.

  • What are the mission-critical conditions for using our own medicine and enhancing the CI of our own community?
  • What role does CI play in enhancing collective wisdom, and vice versa?[4]
  • What are the implications of the “neurons who fire together, wire together” process of memory formation for the design of system features and functions that support communal memory formation?
  • What evidence do we see that today’s CI researchers and practitioners may be the tip of an evolutionary wave, of an idea movement that may significantly broaden in the coming years and decades? How can we accelerate that emergence and the learning of all who will be involved in it, including ourselves?
  • What uses by a social movement could benefit from any combination of such socio-technological systems as collective sensing organs and participatory sensory networks, pattern language, collective awareness platforms, web-enabled U Process, community asset mapping, Dynamic Knowledge Repositories, knowledge gardening, knowledge federation[5], global learning games, social learning? (This list can be narrowed down or expanded in function of the needs and aspirations of the research’s principal stakeholders.)
  • What progress did system biology make in explaining biological ecosystems, which is exploitable in designing IT platforms for CI augmentation?[6]
  • How may second-order cross-fertilization of cheap cloud storage, increasingly high bandwidth transmission, rapidly growing processing power in hand-held devices, and intelligent software agents, affect the evolution the augmentation of our collective intelligence at a massive scale? (This question can be explored using a Delphi Study method.)
  • What is the cutting edge of research in combining semantic and social networks with powerful visualizations tools, represented by the work of Simon Buckingham Shum and other researchers?


The suggested methodology is based on the integration of the U Process and Generative Action Research (GAR) that belongs to the family of participatory action research methods. GAR is built on the disciplines of generative learning, action research, and appreciative inquiry. It is designed to mobilize and augment the collective intelligence of teams, organisations, communities and social movements, in increasing and cumulative circles of involvement. Its key characteristics are:

  • Cyclic — Action and understanding go through cycles of deliberate and spiraling intervention and reflection. Cycle 1 starts with discovering the questions that are the most compelling to the main stakeholders of the research.
  • Emergent — The design is not detailed in advance to allow its cycles to respond to relevant knowledge emerging from the previous one. Thus, when specific outcomes cannot be predicted, the process remains flexible and is allowed to develop on its own.
  • Participative — Key stakeholders of the project are actively involved in advising the process, reviewing and commenting its purpose and design.

The suggested 3 cycles of the research could involve A. the research team (1/2 year); B. the Open Research and Action Community Network (1/2 year); and C. the knowledge commons of one of the Global Solutions Networks.

U Process combined with GAR







Schematic illustration of how the U Process combines with the Generative Action Research

[1] A Conceptual Framework for the Augmentation of Man’s Intellect, 1963, Douglas Engelbart

[2] Coordinated Information Services for a Discipline- Or Mission-Oriented Community, 1972, Douglas Engelbart

[3] Liberating the innovation value of communities of practice, 2005, George Pór

[4] Collective Intelligence and Collective Leadership: Twin Paths to Beyond Chaos, 2008, George Pór

[5] Towards a Federated Framework for Self-evolving Educational Experience Design on Massive Scale, 2010, George Pór

[6] Framework for Awakening Collective Intelligence in the Ecosystem of Commons Initiatives, 2011, George Pór


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From Right Mindfulness to Collective Intelligence to Collective Sentience

Abstracts of paper invited to Spanda Journal’s special issue on Collective Intelligence


Without an ethical foundation grounded in the common good and an integral, evolutionary worldview, the currently trending mindfulness practices and trainings risk to reduce a radical, ancient wisdom tradition of self-knowledge and self-transformation to a self-help technique or psychological state readily co-optable by the defenders of the institutional status quo.

“Mindfulness is not merely a compartmentalized tool for enhancing attention but is informed and influenced by many other factors—our view of reality; the nature of our thoughts, speech, and actions; our way of making a living; and our effort in avoiding unwholesome and unskillful states while developing those that are skillful and conducive to health and harmony.”[1]

Ethically grounded collective intelligence (CI) is built on right mindfulness. In this essay, we’ll use both the functional and evolutionary definition of CI.

That term “collective sentience” needs a bit more explanation. It’s neither the swarm intelligence of the murmuring starlings or the coordinated behavior of other social animals, nor the romantic notion of all humans getting enlightened at once. The collective sentience of a social organism, at any scale, implies the capacity to care for and foster the well-being of its parts and the whole, as well as of its larger, encompassing whole.

The aspiration to achieve collective sentience in small and large groups is an integral part of an evolutionary ethos, but given the dominance of today’s individualist culture, its realization is only one of the possible futures. In this essay, we intend to contribute to understanding the conditions for such realization, by noticing, observing and interpreting the signposts in the social field pointing to it.

[1] Purser, R. E.  & Milillo, J. (2014) Mindfulness Revisited: A Buddhist-Based Conceptualization. Journal of Management Inquiry, May 2014


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The Evidence Hub: Harnessing the Collective Intelligence of Communities to Build Evidence-Based Knowledge

Conventional document and discussion websites provide users with no help in assessing the quality or quantity of evidence behind any given idea. Besides, the very meaning of what evidence is may not be unequivocally defined within a community, and may require deep understanding, common ground and debate. An Evidence Hub is a tool to pool the community collective intelligence on what is evidence for an idea. It provides an infrastructure for debating and building evidence-based knowledge and practice. An Evidence Hub is best thought of as a filter onto other websites — a map that distills the most important issues, ideas and evidence from the noise by making clear why ideas and web resources may be worth further investigation. This paper describes the Evidence Hub concept and rationale, the breath of user engagement and the evolution of specific features, derived from our work with different community groups in the healthcare and educational sector.

The Evidence Hub is a contested collective intelligence tool for communities to gather and debate evidence for ideas and solutions to specific community issues. By aggregating and connecting single contributions theEvidence Hub provides a collective picture of what is the evidence for different ideas, which have been shared by an online community.”

Read the full paper here.

Posted in Academic Research in CI, Technologies That Support CI | 1 Comment

Mindful Together: shared mindfulness amplifies

Good night, good morning

Instead of talking about, can we try talking from and to mindfulness? From mine to yours, from yours to mine. Embodying it right here and now, as I’m writing these words, and you embodying it wherever you are, as you’re reading them. Even separated by time and space, and connected by a shared curiosity, we can be mindful together. But mindful of what?

I’m at the end of a long day and mindful of its wear on my body, the pull of the dreamworld. I am also mindful of your presence, without which I would not have a reason to write. I’m also aware of the social space that connects us, including HuffPost, and the broader field of mindfulness bourgeoning in the UK. How about you? What are you mindful of, right now?

I pause here… and before I welcome the blessed night, I enter one of my favourite meditation spaces, inspired by Thomas Hübl. It consists of focusing my attention on the exploration of the inner world of my body, my emotions, my thought, my consciousness, and the web of my beloved relations, in short sequences, staying on each stage long enough just to feel an authentic connection with it.

Whilst I’ll be in my sleeping break, why don’t you pause reading this blog and turn your attention inward, onto a similar journey, just for the fun of it…

Now, it’s morning, and the first thought of the day goes to you. Where did we leave it off, what would be good to share next?


Matryoshka mindfulness

1200px-Russian-Matryoshka2Imagine being inside a set of Russian dolls of decreasing size. Inside the innermost, smallest one of the nested, hollow matryoshkas there’s a baby that is you. These dolls are not the usual wooden ones; they are made of some kind of semi-translucent bubble material. The baby is sensing the presence of layers upon layers outside its immediate bubble, but can’t see clearly the patterns painted on them until it knocks on the dome above its head. It is that semi-translucent bubble we call “reality” is where we live, most of the time.

With proper training in the arts and sciences of mind-fitness, we can become aware of several layers of our reality, concurrently. For example, we will be able to hold in our awareness some of our body sensations, our emotions, our thoughts, all at once. With trained attention, we can add to the mix the broad segments of the geographic and social worlds that we’re embedded in. Why would we want to do that? The more we can listen, the more we can hear. The more we can hear, the wiser and more adequate our response will be to the challenges and opportunities that life presents to us, individually and collectively.


From me to we to all of us: growing the fruits of shared mindfulness

To meet critical challenges, as groups, communities and organisations in our VUCA times of increasing Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity, we must act from a higher level of individual and collective consciousness. Becoming more mindful as a person is an important first step but it is insufficient if not extended to cultivating shared mindfulness if we are to make a larger, positive impact in the world.

In my experience, when all of us in a conversation or collaborative action are practicing expanded attention or other mind-fitness disciplines, then a potent inter-subjective field comes into being that is much more than the sum of the individual mind states. The resulting “shared mindfulness” allows us to sense what is happening more accurately, think more clearly, act more coherently, and achieve greater results.

How are we going to scale the achievable, shared mindfulness of small groups to organisations, co-intelligent local and regional communities, and wiser social institutions that truly care for the whole and all parts of it? The first thing is to notice what is already moving in that direction, even if it is only a relatively small step. For example, did you know that a recent session of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wellbeing Economics meeting was focused on How Government Policy Can Improve Wellbeing: Mindfulness in Health and Education? Or, have you heard of the fledgling Mindful Together community on Facebook?

Another sign is a series of “wisdom at work” workshops coming to London in June, where mind-fitness, shared mindfulness, and their fertile relationship will be addressed.

How can we co-evolve practices for growing greater mindfulness at increasing scale? We can do that through such innovation mechanisms as cultivating mindfulness as a community art, and having a differentiated approach to develop various mind-fitness disciplines, then cross-train ourselves in them. The “how” is the subject of future blogs.

Meanwhile, those of us inspired by the possibility to realize a wider range of benefits from mindfulness beyond the individual, let’s connect with each other and learn from our experiences. If that appeals to you, come over and join us in the fledgling Mindful Together community on Facebook.

George Pór is an integral mindfulness mentor and learning partner to change makers in business and society.


Posted in CI Within, Shared Mindfulness, Thomas Hübl | Tagged | 2 Comments

An experiment to combine electronic and mindfulness amplification processes

To follow on what I started exploring in my note about the personal and transpersonal meaning of increased technical connectivity, I want to put some seeds in the ground about the possibility combine electronic and mindfulness processes that amplify  the connectivity in the emerging global brain and heart.

Couldn’t it be an interesting experiment to explore the difference between “natural” amplification using our the built-in social tools of our various electronic campfires, and conscious amplification adding intentionally enhanced discoverability.

Here’s what I mean by the latter. If the YouTube recommendation wouldn’t have gifted me with this video, I may have never learned about it. If it was tagged, indexed and made part of an evolving outline structure that attend, my chance to discover it could be much higher. Same is true if it its was captured by any of the video to text tools, and made searchable.

Another experiment that I’m even more interested in is the combination of electronic and mindfulness amplifications. Its purpose will be maximizing the electronic connectivity of this blog and meshing it with such tools and processes as Chaordic Chat and ContemplaTweet. Who else is interested?

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A note about the personal and transpersonal meaning of increased technical connectivity

I like to watch YouTube vids while working out on my exercise bike. Since YouTube’s algorithms are getting as good at suggesting vids for me as Amazon does with books, usually I graze its recommendations page before jumping on my bike. That’s how I discovered the “Data, Storytelling and Narratives” conversation between John Kellden and David Amerland.

At 5:43, David is talking about the connectivity factor as amplification factor. Doing so, he is brilliantly describing also one of the key insights that happens to drive my research on shared mindfulness. What is obvious is that the more connected a person, a thought, a video is, the broader its reach. What is less obvious is the transpersonal dimension of the  amplification factor.

In the very same act of one’s ideas reaching a wider audience, something else is happening, too, at the same time.Through the billions blogs, vids, tweets, likes, and comments that we post every minute, the neurons are forming in the nervous system of our global meta-being. These early-stage neurons are very crude and they will probably not get much smarter before the generalizations of semantic video, semantic search, and the radically disruptive social practices that will be associated with them.

What does all that have to do with shared mindfulness? A lot. First, it provides an analogy and a narrative to talk about the transpersonal dimension of transcending solo  mindfulness, as a need grounded in our tech-enabled, emerging planetary reality. A key feature of that reality is the “innervation” of the social hypercortex, which Teilhard de Chardin talked about half a century ago. More about that, another time, once I finished a new blog about the subject.

The  other way, in which shared mindfulness and increased connectivity relate to each other is this: The first can turn the second into a compelling opportunity to wise up our communities, organizations, and social institutions. That takes us closer to the Holy Grail of CI research: how to boost of collective wisdom at increasing scale? When we’ll have figured that out, then the “radically disruptive social practices” will kick in.

Thank you John and David for triggering this note.

p.s. A sequel to this note is here: An experiment to combine electronic and mindfulness amplification processes

Posted in Shared Attention, Shared Mindfulness, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Somewhere, on our way to humankind’s awakening…

Somewhere, on our way to humankind’s awakening to its collective wisdom, global heart, and sentience… self-organizing communities of co-creation and practice will master the combination of swarm intelligence ( see also starlings as teachers ) with wildfire learning (see chapter 7 in my Federated Framework for Self-evolving Educational Experience Design on Massive Scale).

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