Coda / March 2003

Sara RossSara Ross, “A Developmental Approach : Integral Public Practice For Complex Public Issues”

Sara Ross has been concerned with community development for a number of years. She has brought her integral perspective to this challenge in her work independently and with the Kettering Foundation. She states, “Public processes are integral when they aim public attention at the real breadth and depth of issues. They do this by working with people’s different motivations, worldviews, and behaviors, with cultural influences, and with related social, political, and economic systems. Integral processes help people examine the root causes of issues with attention to the history, the present, and the futures of individuals, entities, and other influences.”

Based in part on her experience with dialogue and working with communities Sara has designed a process community groups can use to bring about synergy despite differences and action, not just talk. In this article she lays out a five step methodology for doing this.

Sara also provides a theoretical explanation of the methodology. She writes, “In addition to my research done under contract with the Kettering Foundation, I have drawn from the fields of deliberative democracy, integral theory, human development, transformation theory, timely action inquiry, and consciousness studies. The core dynamics these fields inform are: 1) identifying the issue’s diverse causative factors; 2) framing the issue; 3) public deliberation; 4) critically reflective learning; and, 5) engaging diverse motivations and approaches for action.”

Her work is premised on “integral theory’s assertion that for any endeavor to be effective it must consider individual intentions and collective cultural norms along with the external behaviors of both individuals and social systems relevant to the matter.” Her work is also built on insights from Maslow, Spiral Dynamics, Kegan and other.

She has developed a taxonomy of public issues: “The issue types I have identified are: 1) social (and socio-economic) system issues, such as care of children and elderly, poverty, welfare; 2) human behavior issues, such as crime, violence, terrorism, substance abuse, teen pregnancy; 3) issues around imbalanced practices such as racial profiling, affirmative action, and inter-group tensions; and, 4) general decision-making for non-systemic issues and certain system-change questions around the environment, politics, and economics.”

Sara closes with: “My vision is that by the next century integral public practices will span from local to global levels, freeing and motivating individuals and collectives with the consciousness to engage the necessary solutions to arising and enduring issues alike. I envision new habits of proactive visioning and implementation for the well being of all life as humans further develop and take ownership of their unique capacities in communion with others, and begin to enfold this planet with their gentle breath of collective healing delivered by wiser, informed, situation-appropriate, and compassionate action.”

> Russ Volckmann