Co-Laboratories of Democracy

A Co-Laboratory of Democracy is a refinement of the Interactive Management methodology created by Christakis and his associates. It is a further refinement of the CogniScope and sometimes goes under different names, as the Indigenous Leadership Interactive System, for example, in adapting it to different circumstances. In these co-laboratories, people of diverse cultures, ideologies, and agendas engage in structured dialogue; focus on common concerns, decide on practical priorities; and craft consensual actions plans. [For a more extended explanation go to and choose Co-Laboratories on the menu.]

The following press release(s) describe a Wisdom of the People Forum (co-laboratory) involving a transnational collection of indigenous people. It explains what we mean by a "Co-Laboratory of Democracy" by offering an exemplary applicaition of the concept. This is somtimes referred to as "definition by extension."


For Immediate Release: September 4, 2002

Contact: Laura Harris, AIO Executive Director
(505) 867-0278
Alexander N. Christakis, Ph.D, Institute for 21st Century Agoras
(215) 322-0886

(Santa Ana Pueblo, NM; Te Awamutu, New Zealand; Los Angeles, CA) - Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO) in collaboration with the Advancement of Maori Opportunity (AMO) and the Institute for 21st Century Agoras will convene an international group of leaders this month in a Wisdom of the People Forum in Washington, D.C. The topic is "Designing a Transnational Indigenous Leaders Interaction in the Context of Globalization". Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the forum will be held September 16 -18, 2002 at the Hotel Monaco (700 F Street, NW).

"Rapid and unchecked globalization is beginning to change our lives dramatically," says AIO Executive Director Laura Harris (Comanche). "It is imperative that Indigenous communities create strategies to be active participants in the globalization process and help prevent a new form of colonization."

Americans for Indian Opportunity, Advancement of Maori Opportunity and the Institute for 21st Century Agoras are offering a new model of international Indigenous exchange, based on empowering young Indigenous leaders to be pro-active change agents within a cultural context. The resulting project will not represent a "band-aid" solution to fix the immediate needs of the Indigenous communities, but rather is aimed at empowering leadership and building community capacity to withstand the forces of globalization by maintaining cultural identity. The long-term impact of this leadership development will enhance and share best practices that will foster the development of sustainable and healthy societies. It is a model of value-based community building that can be adopted by Indigenous communities worldwide.

LaDonna Harris (Comanche) the Founder and President of AIO for the past thirty-two years adds, "We must strengthen our cultural identity so that we can contribute our Indigeniety (Indigenous wisdom, values and worldview) to the new world order. This gathering will enable us to rekindle the philosophy and wisdom of our ancestors, as well as engage in a contemporary dialogue that will draw upon the collective knowledge of everyone involved."

The forum will employ the unique Indigenous Leadership Interactive System (ILIS)TM that affirms the value of diverse opinions, clarifies a group vision, and fosters ownership in the collective outcome. Before European contact, Native Americans utilized traditional democratic processes, orders of protocols, social structures, and value systems that were very effective in consensus oriented decision-making. AIO has recaptured those processes and has successfully incorporated those traditions into the ILIS TM decision-making methodology. Using ILIS TM, the forum will engage in a visioning and strategic planning session that will focus on the question: "How can we work together across national barriers?"

The assembled group will include representatives from AIO, Advancement of Maori Opportunity, and the philanthropic community who bring with them expertise in a wide range of areas including community development, children and youth issues, education, economic development, Indigenous cultural revitalization, and tribal spirituality. Of particular note are the advisors, designers and alumni of the AIO American Indian Ambassadors Program. Also involved are government officials, representatives of non-governmental organizations, and individuals involved in other forms of international exchange. The design group will be culturally diverse, consisting of Indigenous peoples, foreign nationals, and non-Indigenous people from the United States, New Zealand, and Latin America.

AMO representatives Bentham Ohia and Kate Cherrington say, "As Indigenous people we must validate our values, culture and social structures in order to fully participate in and contribute to the globalization process. From this basis we can create strategies that advance, educate and empower communities without compromising the very fabric of community identity. Advancement of Maori Opportunity is thankful for the opportunity to share in this exciting forum and looks forward to nurturing relationships that support and validate identity, celebrate culture and promote peace."

AMERICANS FOR INDIAN OPPORTUNITY Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO) is a national non-profit advocacy organization headquartered on the Santa Ana Pueblo reservation in New Mexico. The organization draws upon traditional tribal values in its efforts to promote innovative problem solving, develop leadership, and create contemporary institutions that can face the challenges of the 21st century. For further information, please visit the website at


ADVANCEMENT OF MAORI OPPORTUNITY Advancement of Maori Opportunity (AMO) is a non profit advocacy organization that promotes the following: to take an active stand for Universal Peace, Harmony and Empowerment through influencing the world by sharing our fundamental values and practices as Maori together with all Indigenous peoples of the world; to promote and develop educational cultural exchanges with other Indigenous cultures nationally and internationally; to promote and build leadership amongst Mäori people by the establishment of an "Maori Ambassadors Programme;" to advance Te Reo (the language) and tikanga Mäori (Mäori customs); to initiate projects deemed by AMO to benefit the practice and objectives of the movement including leadership, culture, sports, education, health, environment, economic development and other related areas.


The agoras were the vital centers of the Greek city-states, their outdoor markets and convention halls where gossip mixed with politics. The agora of Athens was the birthplace of democracy. Here the town's citizens discussed pressing issues and made decisions on the basis of popular vote. The Institute for 21st Century Agoras is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to vigorous democracy on the model that was practiced in the agoras of ancient Greece. It employs Co-Laboratories of Democracy that enable civil dialogue in complex situations. Visit the website at to learn more.


The W.K. Kellogg Foundation ( was established in 1930 "to help people help themselves through the practical application of knowledge and resources to improve their quality of life and that of future generations." Its programming activities center around the common vision of a world in which each person has a sense of worth; accepts responsibility for self, family, community, and societal well-being; and has the capacity to be productive and to help create nurturing families, responsive institutions, and healthy communities.


Thirty-four residents of the Bryn Gweled intentional community in Bucks County, PA, applied the Co-Laboratory of Democracy process offered by the Institute for 21st Century Agoras to define intentions for the future of their community. Community-Based Co-Laboratory.pdf