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


This entry was posted in Academic Research in CI, Democracy and CI, Movement Cartography. Bookmark the permalink.

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

  1. Beautiful !!! Elegant !! And there is an exceptional degree of internal consistency/coherence, which is one of the most important elements in any proposal or project I look for, and which is foundational and essential for ultimate beneficial contribution to beneficial evolution! Thank you for the patterns I discern in your proposal which I am beginning to see recur in your work, George.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s