The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Tuesday 31 July 2012

Quota or Demarchy?

Recently a British MP has called for a Working Class quota for Parliament by suggesting that there be a shortlist of candidates limited to those on or below the minimum wage.  Denis MacShane’s rationale for this radical proposal is that the background of Parliamentarians in the UK had become too narrow.  MacShane described the problem as being that “the intellectual reservoir from which we draw our political leaders has become a paddling pool, when what we actually need is a raging torrent to get the country going again,"

Fair enough.  The working class are under-represented in Parliaments throughout the Western nations.  So too are young people, indigenous peoples, those with disability and ethnic minorities.  A quota system may be a way to rectify such unrepresentativeness in our representative, electoral, democracy.  The mechanisms of implementing this though may mean increasing bureaucracy and red-tape.

MacShane’s analysis though is correct.  The diversity of politicians is becoming narrower and hence the representativeness of Parliaments are becoming less and less so.  About the only profession that is becoming more represented in Parliament is the profession of - politician.

If the diagnosis is correct, yet the recommended treatment may in the long-run only add to our democratic woes, is there an alternative therapy?  Within the health field many alternative therapies rely on their simplicity.

An Alternative Therapy

In making a choice what could be more simple, or fairer, than simply rolling a dice, flipping a coin or pulling names out of a hat?
In the context of politics that may sound trite, perhaps even flippant.  It’s not though.  I’m quite serious and what’s more, it’s been done, tried, tested and found to be a highly satisfactory means of choosing our decision-makers.  It even has a name: sortition.  When applied within a political situation it even takes on a specific political term.  Demarchy is the term adopted by John Burnheim to describe a political system based on sortition as the means of selecting the political decision-makers.

In his book “Is Democracy Possible?” Burnheim claimed that “Democracy is possible only if the decision-makers are a representative sample of the people concerned. I shall call a polity based on this principle a demarchy…”

But even Burnheim was not developing something new.  Sortition as a way of selecting decision-makers has been around since the dawn of democracy.  The ancient Greeks used sortition a lot more than any other method whilst they were going about creating the modern democratic tradition.

How does it work?  Quite simply: our decision-makers are chosen by lot from amongst the general population.  The randomness of the method means that anyone and everyone could become a decision-maker.  The randomness, for example, would mean that the working class are highly likely to be represented fairly without the need of a quota system.

Simplicity is but one of the benefits of sortition.  It has a number of others.  With everyone having an equal chance of selection there can be no favouritism, no buying of votes, no lobbying by those with money or prestige.  The career politician is done away with along with the aggrandisement that often accompanies such careers.

Political parties too, are cast aside.  Without political parties the adversarial nature of politics also must wither away.  How many of us are utterly sick and tired of the “I didn’t – you did” bickering and bantering between one political party and another?

If the adversarial approach withers away then we just may start down the a road of honest listening, true dialogue and real collaborative decision-making.  All of which are vitally needed in order that humankind face the complex issues of the 21st Century.

The very complexity of the issues facing us is a further incentive to use sortition as a means of selecting our decision-makers.  Complex issues are diverse, interrelated, involve numerous feed-back loops and are non-linear (i.e. the cause-effect concept does not apply).  To be able to deal with such issues we need our decision-makers to represent a diversity of background, experience, culture, skills and ideas.  Demarchy is one of the best ways of ensuring that.

Working Examples

Can it work?  Absolutely.  Sortition style selection of decision-makers  has been experimented with often throughout the world over the past 30 to 40 years.  Although the experiments have been mostly small-scale, the results have been far and away extremely encouraging. 

Citizen juries are one of the best examples of sortition in use in public policy and have been used in many settings, including health, as shown by a it’s use in providing the Minister with recommendations.  Occasionally sortition has been used in a national setting as it was when Iceland decided to re-write its Constitution.  Both these examples (and many others) have not only produced considered, practical and widely accepted decisions, but have also been highly valued and appreciated by the participants themselves. 

Thursday 26 July 2012

Working in the System (Pros and Cons Survey)

I'm interested to know what those of you who have been working for social justice think of working within or outside "the system".  What are the pros and cons of each?

If you are interested then please complete this survey within the next week or so.  I will then collate responses and write up the results in a future blogpost.

Just a word about terminology.  When I mention working "within the system" I'm thinking of governmental bureaucracies, local government, political parties etc.  I hope you get the drift.

Anyway, here's a link to the survey.  I hope that you enjoy the thinking that it may stimulate.

Postscript (added 25 September 2012).
The results of this short survey have now been written up as a 3-part posting.  Part 1 looks at the pros and cons of working inside the system.  Part 2 looks at the pros and cons of working outside the system.  Part 3 explores the effectiveness of working inside or outside thew system.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Community Development or developing communities?

Although I haven’t heard it said in so many words, I have been exposed to the idea that “community development is the same thing as developing communities”.  Most often I have noted this idea disseminated by politicians, departmental bureaucrats and especially managers of social service arms of local and national governments.  But are they one and the same?

My short answer is – no.  Don’t fret, I’m not about to launch into a lengthy long answer.  I do wish to give a medium answer though.

When I hear the idea being expounded that community development is the same as developing communities what I also detect in the sentiment is the belief that all and any community should be developed and hence there is no need to discriminate, or even prioritise.  All communities are equal in this understanding.

But, Community Development says NO – not all communities are equal.  Our societies are full of inequalities, injustices, disempowerment and inequity.  Therein is the rationale for community development.  Community development is not just a process, it is, importantly, an outcome.  Or, if not an outcome, at least a vision of a more just, more equitable society.

And so, community development unashamedly works in a way that helps to address injustice and hence works with people and communities suffering from those injustices.  To do so means that a community development professional must discriminate – positively, I hasten to add.

Most scholars and writers recognise community development as a professional practice emerging after World War II, firstly as a response by industrialised nations to assist Third World nations to develop.  Very quickly the ideas, methods and goals came to be practiced within industrialised nations also, fuelled in part by the feminist, indigenous and peace movements.

One of the earliest attempts to describe community development within academic circles was that of Sanders (1958) who noted four ways of viewing it: as process, method, programme and movement1.  All these views are apparent within community development.  The idea that community development is just about developing communities, however, recognises process and method only.  The vision of a just and equitable society is subsumed in the all-encompassing liberal view of equal opportunity.

It should by now be obvious that I subscribe to the community development profession not to the developing communities idea.  Furthermore, if we are truly to reach a just and equitable (I would even suggest sustainable) society then the idea that community development is nothing more than developing communities must be discarded.

1. Sanders, I. 1958. Theories of Community Development. Rural Sociology. Vol. 23 (Spring): 1-12.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

3 Essential Values of Community Development Work (Part 2: Integrity & Courage)

In my previous post I discussed compassion as one of three essential values in community development work.  In this post I will round out the values trinity by discussing the other two – integrity and courage.


When someone remarks “that person has integrity” what do they mean?  Do they mean that the person is reliable, honest, trustworthy, truthful?  Yes, all of the above.  Integrity also implies wholeness, completeness.  Think of the word integer, it has the same root.

For me then, integrity suggests a person who is consistent in the manner in which they deal with others.  People are not treated in a fragmentary way.  A person of integrity treats others with respect because they are also a person, not because of what the other owns or what status they have or how famous they are.

In this way, integrity and compassion are linked.  Everyone is deserving of compassion when one acts with integrity.

Isn’t this what a community wants from someone who works as a community development worker?  Community members must be able to rely on that worker acting consistently, to not come and go and to be open and honest in their dealings.


Courage would seem to be an odd choice as an essential value in community development work.  The reason that I include it is because community development work can lay bare our inner fears.

When I discussed compassion I suggested that someone gets involved in community development work often because they see an injustice and have a desire to put it right.  Inevitably that will involve acting against convention, thinking and speaking in opposition to prevailing opinion.  This can open us up to our fears of rejection, ridicule and even hatred.

Seeking social justice means that we must face these and other fears.  This is what distinguishes courage from bravery.  Bravery is the ability to face pain and danger.  Courage is the ability to face fear.  Courage comes from the heart.  Indeed, the word itself shares the same root as the word cardiac.

The Chinese character for courage is enlightening.  It is made up of two characters.  The top character is the character for grass, whilst the bottom character is that of an adult with arms spread.  The whole character then symbolises a person standing alone in wide open grassland, prepared to face the wilderness.

Courage too, is related to compassion as it allows us to do what we believe is right, even if it is difficult for us to do so.  For many, courage even meant suffering in order to do what they believed was right.  Think of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela or Aung San Suu Kyi.

Three values linked

There it is then, the three values that I think are essential to community development work.  They can be thought of as separate values, although if we analyse them closely we find that they are linked and combine to form a coherent wholeness.

It has been difficult to identify just three values as essential to community development work as there are so many values that could be mentioned.  However, I think that many of the other values flow from these three if we fully incorporate these three into our lives and our community development work.

Thursday 12 July 2012

3 Essential Values of Community Development (Part 1: Compassion)

Recently I suggested that the essential skills of community development work could be thought of by asking the questions: who, what, where, when and how?  I also suggested that the question why? could help derive the essential values of community development work.

Why is community development work undertaken?  Why does someone want to get involved in community development?  At its core, I believe, community development is undertaken because an injustice is perceived and we have a desire to put it right.  If that is why we begin working as community development workers, then what essential values do we need to bring with us to ensure that we do so in an effective and humane manner?

I’d like to suggest three essential values: compassion, integrity and courage.  In this post I shall focus on the first of these; compassion.

Passionate Beginnings

As a young man just beginning my involvement with social justice issues and community development I often acted with passion.  There were many injustices in the world and it was up to me and others to protest, mobilise and overthrow those injustices and the people who perpetrated them.  That passion led me to argue with those who thought differently, including my own mother.

One day my mother and I were talking about our hopes and dreams and it dawned on me that at our core she and I wanted the same thing: to be happy.  I thought about this a lot and came to realise that all of us probably want the same thing out of our time on this earth; to be happy.

The passion that I had as a young man allowed me to think that I was doing good in the world. But I also felt righteous and morally superior. It wasn’t until I reflected on the shared desires my mother and I had that I realised that passion was not enough. I had to include others.

However, this was still an intellectual understanding for me and didn’t immediately suggest any change to the manner in which I acted with passion.  Oh, there were challenges to that intellectualism all right.  Feminism challenged men to move from the head to the heart, from thinking to feeling.  The human potential movement got us to look inside and find our inner voice.

Combining Together

It wasn’t until years later when I became interested in Buddhist philosophy and psychology, however, that everything seemed clearer; that the head and the heart could function in harmony.

It didn’t come to me all in a flash although one particular quote did speak to me louder than others.  It came from the Dalai Lama:

"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion".

There, in less than 20 words, was the essential value that I was missing.  All I was missing from my passion was com – meaning together.

I now think that compassion is, indeed, the most important value that we can bring with us to community development work.  Passion is a necessary value in social justice and community development, but until we make it com-passion it is not sufficient.

What is compassion?  The dictionary defines it as “deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it”.  Very close to what I suggested earlier was the reason that we get involved in community development work at all. 

Furthermore, compassion is not pity.  I pity another human being when I view their pain and suffering as belonging entirely to them.  Its not me, I don’t feel that pain and suffering, I’m pain-free, I’m not suffering.  No, compassion views us all as interconnected where none of us are separate from others (Thich Nhat Hanh calls it inter-being1).   This is why the Dalai Lama can connect the practice of compassion with the happiness not only of others but also of ourselves.

As community development workers, if we stop to ask our heart what it is that we are really trying to achieve for others and ourselves then I think the answer is: to be happy.  As community development workers we are wishing to create the conditions in which all societies, communities and people can enjoy happiness.

For that, we need compassion.

1.  Thich Nhat Hanh is a highly respected Vietnamese Buddhist master and founder of the Engaged Buddhist movement.  He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday 9 July 2012

Beyond Today; 40 years Beyond Tomorrow

Forty years ago I was a second year University student in Dunedin (in the South Island of New Zealand).  What an awakening to the World those two years had been.  There had been marches down the city’s main street against the Vietnam War and rallies protesting the apartheid system in South Africa.  Germaine Greer had used the word “bullshit” during a national tour and arrested because of it.  Tim Shadbolt’s book “Bullshit and Jellybeans” was being read all over campus.  Sam Hunt merrily breezed through with his poetry and bohemian lifestyle.  “Imagine” topped the hit charts for 5 weeks in a row.

It was time for politics to take a different approach.

At the end of 1972 I was to vote in my first General Election.  1972 was also the year that the ground-breaking “Limits To Growth” was published.  Using computer modelling the authors showed that the earth was rapidly approaching its limits.  We could no longer continue on our wasteful, exploitative and destructive growth path.

It was time for politicians to take a different approach.  New values were needed.

A New Party Then…

On cue, six months before the Election, a new political party - the Values Party – was formed.  Its basic political platform was Zero Growth.  Zero economic growth, zero population growth.

Something about the Values Party rang true for me and I found myself voting values in my first election.  I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was then part of history.  I’d voted for the world’s first “green” political party.

Forty years later the Values Party has gone but the Green Party was established by a number of Values party members.  What did the Values Party give us?  Is there anything in its legacy worth holding onto?  Can the current membership of the Greens learn anything from Values?

… Now Beyond Today

In an attempt to tell the Values story Claire Browning has written “Beyond Today: A Values Story”.  The title is a deliberate nod to the title of the Values Party 1975 election manifesto: “Beyond Tomorrow”.  That manifesto remains as one of the most visionary documents on the New Zealand political scene.

Rather than just tell the Values story Browning is keen that “Beyond Today” also be a “think piece about the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, and green politics, policy and principles”.

Reading the book both these objectives are obvious, so too is another.  Browning seems keen to enter into an internal party debate about direction with members of the Greens and also with Paul Kingsnorth (an English environmentalist and former deputy editor of “The Ecologist” magazine).

Does “Beyond Today” meet these objectives?  From a reader’s viewpoint I think one is met, one not so well and the other maybe shouldn’t have been an objective at all.  I found it difficult to get a coherent sense of the Values history amongst the “think pieces”.  Similarly, I found it difficult to follow a line of argument through when interspersed with historical vignettes.

Perhaps this is just a lack of editorship as there are some very worthwhile comments within the text.  Browning notes for example (p 66) that “for happy people, Green policies need to show how, within the new economic framework, they are still capable of delivering wealth and health” yet also acknowledging that “a Green government…would put ecological sustainability first;… it would also have to think globally, because some of the economic obstacles to acting locally are global, and so are the worst environmental threats”. (pp. 78-79)

However, the book is not only a discourse on the path the Greens need to take, sometimes it is an exposition of Greens policy and principles, and it is here that Browning does an excellent job.  Her discussion of the four principles enshrined in the Greens Charter (Ecological Wisdom, Social Responsibility, Appropriate Decision-making, Non-violence) is clear and thoughtful.  She succinctly shows how each of the four principles are mutually enhancing.

As an exposition of Greens policies and principles this book is an useful work.  As a history of the Values Party it left me wanting much, much more.  As an organ for a debate within Green circles I would have preferred that left for a separate medium.

Having said that, congratulations to Claire Browning for attempting this.  It cannot be easy trying to pin down the thoughts, ideas and politics of those of Green persuasion – after all, Greens (and Values before them) are dreaming of the future, not pacing out current terrain.

Claire Browning is keen that the ideas in her book get read and discussed, so on the page where she asserts her authorship and copyright she quotes Sam Mahon:
“…if you want to quote it, read from it, hand it round, engage the public generally with any of the ideas expressed herein, or nail it to a country chapel door; then by all means go for it”.
Rather than searching country chapels for your copy you may find it easier to order it (at NZ$15) direct by email at

1.  Germaine Greer was an Australian feminist author of “The Female Eunuch”.  Tim Shadbolt was a radical student leader in the 1960s and 70s who went on to become a mayor of 2 New Zealand cities.  Sam Hunt was (and still is) one of New Zealand’s leading and most loved poets.  “Imagine”, of course, is the well-known song by John Lennon.