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 27 August 2013

Theory and Practice of Dialogical Community Development (A Review)

If one word sums up Peter Westoby and Gerard Dowling’s1 approach to Community development it is “hospitality.”  Theirs is a hospitality in which opportunities for dialogue and collective decision-making are enabled.

Theory and Practice of Dialogical Community Development2 is a thorough exposition of Community Development by two long-time community workers (between them they have 50 years of experience).  Although sometimes one must read their text with precision and alertness, taken as a whole the book is a delight to read.

A word of caution: this is not a “how to” book, it is not a text of techniques and skills for the aspiring Community Development worker.  It transcends such an approach and encourages the reader to  seriously think about their engagement with Community Development and with communities.  You will not find easy answers in this book.  Indeed, it is possible to put the book down having more questions in mind than when first opening it.  I suspect that if that is the case then the authors will have thought that they have done a good job of authorship.

Questions, say the authors, are of more importance than answers.  As if to prove the point, early on the authors pose a disturbing question: has Community development “lost something in its depth and potential soul (by) increasingly being co-opted by a hegemonic, Euro-centrist, modernist approach to philosophy and life which leads to a technical orientation to practice.”?  For Community Development workers the question is one which should be foremost in their thought and self- appraisals.

Westoby and Dowling propose transcending technical fixes by encouraging readers to “remain open to complexity” – to become hospitable and open to honest dialogue.

Hospitality implies being welcoming and open to, not only differing people and cultures, but also to “shifting” ideas and even to “shifting” identity.  It also means being welcoming of “the stranger.”  “The stranger” is meant not just in its literal sense; it is also meant in a metaphorical sense so that “the stranger” suggests “the unknown.”  Community Development involves, for the authors, a practice of “not knowing.”  Thus, a Community Development worker is a continual seeker and should never assume that they have arrived at a point where they have the answer, or have obtained what is “sought.”  This is far from the technocratic track that Westoby and Dowling worry that Community Development may currently be travelling along.

Hospitality involves conversation and dialogue, hence the title of the book.  Much of the book explores various aspects of true dialogue: participation, sense of place, love, analysis, conflict and caring.  Dialogue is a transformative process that…
“unlocks the possibility of story, and story unlocks the possibility of genuine exchange of ideas and perspectives, leading to potential change of all parties to the dialogue.” (p 66)
Theory and Practice of Dialogical Community Development is one of the best books traversing the complexity of Community Development that I have read.  Thoroughly recommended.

Note (added 24 April 2015):  This book is now published as a paperback making it a lot cheaper for those on a limited budget.

1. Peter Westoby is a lecturer in Community Development at Queensland University, Australia as well as being a Research Fellow with the Centre for Development Support at the University of Free State, South Africa.  Gerard Dowling has 20 years experience working with Community Development roles in Brisbane, Australia and currently manages a strategy unit organising youth projects for Brisbane City Council.
2. Westoby, Peter and Dowling, Gerard. Theory and Practice of Dialogical Community Development, Routledge, New York, 2013.

Friday 23 August 2013

Grey Owl (A film review)

During the 1930s an Englishman, Archibald Belaney, masquerading as a Native American, mesmerised audiences numbering in their hundreds with stories of life in the Canadian wilderness and a plea for the beaver amongst other environmental messages.

Over sixty years later (in 1999) Richard Attenborough directed a film based on Grey Owl’s life.  Attenborough was perhaps destined to have directed this film (“Grey Owl”), as he had queued with his brother (the noted naturalist David Attenborough) for hours outside the De Montford Hall in Leicester in 1936 to see and listen to Grey Owl.

The movie is a well-paced and easily accessible glimpse of the life of an intriguing man.  The film depicts Grey Owl’s (played by Pierce Brosnan of James Bond fame) life from his latter days as a trapper through to his hugely successful lecture tours in England and America.  He meets a woman with Iroquois ancestry, Anahareo or “Pony”, with whom he, reluctantly at first, cohabits.  Pony encourages Grey Owl to leave his trapping and to take on a greater environmental vision.  It is this environmental vision that Grey Owl speaks of in his public lectures, dressed in Native American costume complete with full war bonnet of eagle feathers.

Attenborough describes Grey Owl as a “major charismatic figure” and Brosnan declares that the “film is very timely.”  Indeed, it is.  The message that Grey Owl brought to the world’s attention in the 1930s is as much needed today as it was then.

Towards the end of the movie Grey Owl strips away his outward trappings and lays bare the essence of his message:
“We’re not the Lords of the Earth – we are it’s children… If we can say that there are some things that are not for sale, that there are some things that belong to all of us and to future generations, then maybe other people will hear us and they will begin to say it too.  Some day there will be enough of us and we’ll believe that it can be done, that we can begin to change the world.”
Grey Owl is finally unmasked by a journalist who asks him to tell his story.  Archie Belaney replies that he was “just a kid with a dream of living in the wilderness.”  The journalist responds: “that's a fine dream.”  So it is!  Archie Belaney (aka Grey Owl) went and lived it.

Find a copy of “Grey Owl” in your local video parlour, rent it, watch it, dream it, live it.

Wednesday 14 August 2013


Numbers transcend the world, or so it’s said.  Whether that is true or not, numbers occur in all aspects of life; social, community, environment, cultural.  Here are just five such numbers that have significance in social justice, peace and environmental matters.


Off the coast of South Africa lies Robben Island, the site of one of the world’s most notorious prisons.  For many years it was where South Africa’s apartheid government sent it’s “political prisoners.” 

The 466th prisoner to be incarcerated there in 1964 was Nelson Mandela who was to spend the next 18 years there, mostly confined to an 8 ft. by 7 ft. cell.  On 12 June 1964 Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment.  In April 1982 he was transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town.  Then, with the apartheid system crumbling he was released in 1990 and all the formerly banned political parties were legalised.

Thirty years after his first imprisonment, as prisoner number 466/64, Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s President, being inaugurated on 10 May 1994.


For 236 months the Greenham Common Womyns Peace Camp remained encamped outside the site in Berkshire, England, where US cruise missiles were based.  Each of the 96 cruise missiles housed at Greenham Common contained a nuclear warhead equivalent to 16 Hiroshima bombs.

On 5 September 1981 women arrived at Greenham Common after marching from Cardiff, Wales.  They came with the intention to debate the siting of cruise missiles at the base.  With the rejection of a debate they promptly set up camp out side the base.  The first blockade of the base occurred with 250 women present.  By December that year the site was being encircled by 30,000 women holding hands around the almost 10km perimeter of the base.

The women's’ camp that remained at the site became a symbol of hope to many in the peace movement throughout the world.  Hundreds of women from other parts of the world visited and camped at Greenham Common in a show of support.

Although the cruise missiles were removed in 1991 the camp remained until January 2000 when the last of the women left.  Today, seven standing stones from Wales and a “flame” sculpture (symbolising a campfire) commemorate the women, their camp and what they achieved.


The Indigenous Peoples Earth Charter contains 109 clauses.  Over 700 indigenous leaders from all over the world met at Kari-Oca, Brazil from 25 – 30 May 1992 in the days leading up to the United nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

On the final day of their meeting the Indigenous Peoples Earth Charter was unanimously signed with the preamble beginning:
“We, the Indigenous Peoples walk to the future in the footprints of our ancestors.”

In order to sustain human life at it’s present level of consumption we need 1.5 Earth-sized planets.  In other words, based on the amount of resources we consume in one year it takes the Earth one year and six months to recover from the waste generated from that year’s worth of consumption.  We are creating waste from resources at a rate quicker than the Earth can create resources from the waste.

Another way of measuring our impact on the Earth is to work out how many hectares of land per capita (ha/p) we use.  The average number of ha/p for the whole World is currently 2.7.  However, this figure does not show the disparity in consumption between various parts of the World.  As can be expected, the rich nations are well over consuming.  In the US and Canada 7.9 hectares are required for every person.  In Europe the figure is 4.7 ha/p and in Oceania (mostly Australia and New Zealand) the figure is 5.4 ha/p.

For the poorer nations in Africa (1.4 ha/p) and Asia (1.8 ha/p) the amount of land per person is much less.  Even these figures do not show the full picture as some countries live way beyond their planetary means and others have a footprint less than one planet

The Global Footprint Network has calculated the footprint for all the nations of the world and also allows individuals to calculate their own global footprint and find ways in which they may reduce that footprint.


The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) when it published this number in it’s Human Development Report 2010 called it “startling.”  Indeed it is.  0.71 is the 2010 Gini Coefficient for the entire world.

What is a Gini Coefficient?  Also known as Gini Ratio or Gini Index, the Gini Coefficient is a statistical measure of inequality.  Developed by the Italian Corrado Gini in 1912 it is commonly used to measure wealth and income inequality.  The coefficient is a number between 0 and 1 with zero representing a state of perfect equality and 1 a state where there is maximum inequality.  Thus, the higher the number, the greater the inequality.

The “startling” aspect of the number 0.71 was that this showed a huge jump in recent years from what had appeared to be a flattening out of the curve of inequality.  In the mid 1980s the Gini Coefficient had been around 0.47, but then came globalisation and a rapid rise in the coefficient and what it measured – inequality.

What is particularly disturbing about a rise in the Gini Coefficient is that as inequality rises so too do social ills.  Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett1 have shown that with high rates of inequality come increased drug use, lower life expectancy, greater obesity, higher levels of violence, lessening educational performance and poorer mental and physical health.

1. Wilkinson, Richard and Pickett, Kate, The Spirit Level: Why Equality is better for Everyone, Penguin, London. 2010.

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Seven Sortition Stories

Source: David Eccles (Flickr)
My last posting suggested that democracy was facing a crisis of losing credibility in the face of sortition (random selection) may be one means by which democracy can be re-imagined and can shed the corruption charge.  This post briefly tells of seven examples of sortition in practice, ranging from 2,500 years ago through to the present day and from all over the globe.

1. Korea

The Korean Green Party held their first congress in March 2013.  All of the 134 delegates to that congress were chosen by random selection.  The International Secretary for the Green Party of Korea, June Gyeon Lee, reported that the congress was a “successful example for the idea of sortition democracy.”

2. Athens

Where it (democracy) all began.  During the 5th and 4th centuries BC the most important decisions in Athens were made by the Assembly, to which all citizens1 were eligible to attend and participate.  These Assemblies had their business prepared by the Council of 500.  The 500 were chosen from amongst the 10 tribes of Athens, each tribe selecting 50 Council members by lot.  Furthermore, the person presiding over the Council and the Assembly was chosen by random selection on the day of the meeting.

Much of the day-to-day running2 of Athens was overseen by various committees, again with all members of the committees chosen by random selection.  Each of the committees usually consisted of 10 members who each sat on the committee for one year.

3. Switzerland

From 1640 until 1837 mayors in many parts of Switzerland were chosen via sortition.  Because the mayoralty of Swiss cities involved financial gain it was considered fair that everyone should have an equal chance at this.

4. Italy

Sortition was used between the 14th and 16th centuries in many Italian city-states to select the 6 – 1 2 members of the city’s governing body, often with very short terms of office.  Sortition was also used during the same period to select the city’s chief magistrate (the doge).  The process in Venice was particularly elaborate so as to ensure that it was impossible to rig the outcome.  This system of selecting the doge in Venice lasted until 1797.

5.  U.S.A.

In 1974 Ned Crosby founded the Jefferson Center which used random selection to choose people to be part of Citizen Juries.3  Citizen Juries are brought together to help public institutions make decisions on complex and/or controversial issues.  The Juries have been used in issues as diverse as water quality, organ transplants, teenage pregnancy and AIDS.

6. Germany

At the same time that Ned Crosby was creating Citizen Juries, Peter Dienel was independently developing Planning Cells (Planungszelle) in Germany.  Planning Cells were experimented with in order to improve public decision-making.  Each cell involved about 25 randomly selected people working together for two to five days on issues of planning, assessment or control.  Dienel’s motivation was to “find ways in which virtually anyone could play the function of decision-maker if his or her life was affected by the decisions.”4

7. Iceland

Following the collapse of Iceland’s economy in 2008, the people of Iceland became disenchanted with not only their financial sector but also their government.  Thousands gathered outside the Althing (national parliament) banging pots and pans in what became known as the “kitchenware revolution”, eventually toppling the government.  Deciding that it was time to do away with the constitution that had been introduce by Denmark, a new Constitutional Bill was proposed.  A National Assembly of 950 randomly selected citizens met to draft that Bill.  By using sortition the Icelanders ensured that every Icelander over the age of eighteen had an equal chance of participating in the Assembly.

It’s Fair

These are just seven examples of sortition.  There have been dozens of examples over the years, some small involving a local area and a few participants, others much bigger involving nation-sates and many hundreds of people.  Most often the reason given for using sortition is that it is fair and gives everyone an equal chance in participating in the decision-making processes of their community or nation.

1. A “citizen” in Athens at that time did not include women, slaves, foreigners or children.  Notions of equity were to come later.
2. Such as: treasury, mining, law, jails, road building, law suits, auditing and festival organisation.
3. Citizen Jury is a trademarked term by the Jefferson Center.
4. Carson, Lyn and Martin, Brian. Random Selection in Politics, Praeger Publishers, Westport, CT. 1999.

Thursday 1 August 2013

The Corruption of Democracy

The outlook for Western democracy is grim.  The latest set of figures for Transparency International show an increase in our perception of corruption in political institutions.  In the five large, Western, English-speaking nations1 the proportion of people responding that their parliament or legislature was “corrupt” or “extremely corrupt” ranged from 1 in 3 in New Zealand to almost 2 in 3 in the U.S.2

Political parties fared even worse.  46% of respondents in New Zealand felt that political parties were “corrupt” or “extremely corrupt.”  The other five nations ranged from Australia (58%), Canada (62%), the U.K. (66%) and the champion of democracy, the U.S. at (76%).  Those should be worrying statistics to any advocate of democracy.

When a political institution is seen as corrupt we perceive that those within it are acting in their own self-interest and not in the interests of the common good.  Transparency International also asked a question about self-interest.  It asked whether we felt that our governments were run by a few big entities in their own interest.  Again, the responses showed a great deal of distrust in our governments.3

Source: watchingfrogsboil (Flickr)
This finding is hardly surprising when we think of the amount of money poured into election campaigns.  In the 2010 U.K. election around $50 million was spent by the political parties; just under $2 per voter.  But even that pales against the amount spent by Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in the 2012 Presidential election – $1.1 billion, approximately $8 per voter!

Corruption in politics attacks our sense of fairness.  So, how do we re-imagine our democracies so that we perceive politics as fair?

At present our democracies involve the election of a group of citizens who are then charged with making decisions on behalf of all of us.  Inevitably, those elected “representatives” are drawn from within the ranks of political parties, although there are those who claim to be “independent.”  But, if you poke an “independent” sufficiently we will usually find an individual on a personal crusade or with an already fixed agenda.

No matter whether corruption is real or only perceived as such,4 it is clear that Western democracy is in trouble.  How can politicians and political parties be trusted when there is a perception of corruption of significant proportion?

The stock response seems often to be a variant on the theme of “vote them out” and elect some more worthy candidate.  Unfortunately, this does not change the underlying issue.  As some wag has put it: “voting only encourages them.”

Re-Imagining Democracy

So, what’s the alternative?  Throw away democracy?  Au-contraire.  We must re-imagine democracy, re-think what fairness in a democracy would be like.  For, isn’t that what we would like our public decision-making to be?  Fair, unbiased and made in the collective good.

In some, small situations, our collective decision-making could be totally participatory.  All members of the community would be entitled to speak and take part in the decision-making.

However, most of our public decision-making needs to be made on behalf of larger communities, societies, nations and inter-nationally.  In these situations we need a representative system that is fair.

Now, here’s the leap.  What could be fairer than random selection?  A flip of a coin, a roll of a dice, a card cut from a deck, a name pulled from a hat?  “Ludicrous” I can hear from some, “unworkable” from others.  Yet, it has been done.  Not only has it been done, but random selection (otherwise known as sortition) was the means used in the birthplace of democracy (ancient Athens) to select political representatives.  Unfortunately, this was conveniently forgotten by the modern constructors of democracy.

The Athenians used sortition to select all their public decision-makers, reserving voting as a means of selecting their military leaders.

Sortition is fair, transparent, cost effective and overcomes self-interest.  Let’s give it a shot.

My next posting will provide some examples of sortition, including some very recent.

1. Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States of America.
2. The percentages are: Australia (36%), Canada (47%), NZ (33%), UK (55%), US (61%)
3. Australia (53%), Canada (54%), NZ (44%), UK (59%), US (64%).
4. Just the day before posting this item the Australian media released the findings of the ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) into corruption charges against two state politicians.  ICAC found both to have undertaken corrupt dealings in their roles.