Course: Economics of Community Building (2022)
Lead Faculty: Jean Parker
by Bill Young
Bahá’í consultation can be utilized to promote economic justice in communities by demonstrating its effectiveness in resolving economic obstacles. The course Economics of Community Building provides a pathway for using this process.
If Bahá’í communities can hear and recognize obstacles that are adversely affecting economic progress by their neighbors and then mitigate those obstacles, or simply improve current operations by adding helpful factors as the result of consultation, economic justice will be viewed as a superior model. The superior economic model will be investigated as a result of both self interest and group interest, including the discussion that produced it.
To effectively demonstrate the power of the Bahá’í Consultative Process, a Bahá’í community could invite external observers to develop an understanding of the principles involved. Without this observation, the Bahá’í community risks its project’s relative success being attributed to the skill of a few individuals or other erroneous causes. The most advantageous presentation of the process could occur following a major community building project, which could create an initial interest in how a project was accomplished.
While initially it may sound risky, invitation to others to witness a higher-stakes consultation is recommended. If Bahá’ís can follow the consultative process during stressful situations, this can convey a high level of commitment to the careful observer, and also build trust in the process among the Bahá’í participants.
Several principles of the Bahá’í Consultative Process assume special importance when conducted in the presence of outside observers:
* Openness to all relevant information – Information from all interested parties should be considered; the use of specialists for insight and a disregard for outside status should be on display.
* Frankness of presentation without enmity – Especially in the current US culture, this principle needs to be strictly observed. This principle promotes clarity by encouraging the sharing of ideas and viewpoints without fear of reprisal, and also removes time-wasting competition for status of controlling ideas.
* Abandoning ownership of viewpoints – Once a viewpoint is presented, it becomes the property of the consultative group; even the name of the presenter should be discarded. This allows ideas to be considered on the basis of their problem-solving merits alone.
Here are a few suggestions for managing this exploration of the Bahá’í Consultative Process.
1. Select an issue identified by the community with whom you wish to work, or at least a similar target community.
2. Identify a project within the means of your Bahá’í group to, at a minimum, help address the issue.
3. Ask permission of the community to make a contribution to resolution and invite participation from the community in the project, integrating their members as much as feasible.
4. Assertively invite the community to observe and participate in discussing the ongoing effort or new project discussion, then adhere to discussion principles.