Global Sensemaking

Tools for Dialogue and Deliberation on Wicked Problems

In the build up to Obama’s inauguration on 20th January 2009 and across the new administration's first 100 days, Debategraph has teamed up with The Independent newsapaper in the UK to give the world a chance to map and think through what Obama should do next. Click here to see the map.

Peter and I will be working with the Independent's readers—and anyone who would like to join us in the process—to develop a series of interrelated debate maps exploring the key public policy and political questions facing Obama as he prepares for office.

We will also be drawing on Obama's published policy agenda and public statements.

To begin to seed the series, we have mapped Philip Bobbitt’s article The flag-waving is over. This is how the president can change the w... (examining some of the international policy options open to Obama), and Leonard Doyle’s Obama Starts to Build a ‘Team of Rivals’ (considering whether Obama should appoint Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State).

You can see the opening map on The Independent's website here.

All feedback and thoughts arising from GSm group members will be very welcome (either here or on the maps).

Views: 142

Comment by Ben Tremblay on November 18, 2008 at 1:31
Ah, they've posted!
The only sign of life on following the election was that every stitch of Agenda was disappeared. (I have my own copies cached locally.) A good number of web activists were wondering. What I commented most often was that the web sites weren't even keeping up with public statements being released through interviews with the press.

I thought that a golden opportunity for bi-directional activity, and (with what I'd heard about his web team) anticipated just that.

Alas, I've suspended the work I'd taken up. I'm not alone there. The true-believers will continue to paint the top-down dynamics in the best light. (I was astonished to find that none of the many, many mail lists have online archives ... shocking to see how even Web1.0 isn't being implemented, or worse, implemented very selectively.)

p.s. who's the "we"? I've exchanged with a number of activists on the original BarackObama site who were wondering why things had gone so silent.
Comment by Twain on November 18, 2008 at 1:42

This is a fantastic way to present visual data for the Independent readers online!

To my mind there are 5 main agenda items which President-elect Obama needs to focus on and I wonder whether the map can designate prioritization (e.g., each subsidiary electron is numbered)? The items are:

(1.) Cabinet Appointments:

--- Secretary of State (Bill Richardson cf. Hillary Clinton --- which represents real change? International diplomatic experience vs international recognition. Dove versus hawk. Who has endorsed each potential candidate and what are the implications? Henry Kissinger has publicly come out in favor of Clinton)

--- Treasury Secretary (potential candidates being speculated upon range from Larry Summers, formerly Principal of Harvard and Treasury Secretary during the Clinton Administration, to Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve)

--- Secretary of Defense (speculation is between present incumbent Bob Gates or Gen. Wesley Clarke)

(2.) Global financial crisis

--- US$700 billion bailout (structure + implementation timetable)
--- US specific regulatory reforms
--- executive compensation oversight
--- plans to acquire (or otherwise) toxic assets
--- support for non-financial sector businesses affected
--- support for homeowners
--- international frameworks for financial stability

(3.) International policy, principally focused on:

--- Iraq + Afghanistan issues
--- Middle East Peace Roadmap
--- Russian hegemony
--- China + trade relations
--- EU ties compared with "special relationship" with the UK

(4.) Domestic policy:

--- Healthcare
--- Education
--- Green economy that can be exported as a business model in replacement of Wall St model

(5.) US reputation abroad:

--- Guantanamo Bay
--- Flights of rendition
--- 'Walk the Talk" and lead the way in a GREEN future

In addition to referring to direct source material from Obama's campaign and the Independent's digital assets, it may be worthwhile to cross-refer to these sites:



Professor Roubini of Stern University is widely credited in the US for predicting the current financial travails.



* (Brookings Institute)

I hope this helps. Good luck!
Comment by Ben Tremblay on November 18, 2008 at 2:51
*D'uh* I blew right past "has teamed up with" ...
... congrats!

BTW, David, that's truly a wonderful map.

p.s. FWIW is what I had been working from
Comment by Giorgio Bertini on November 18, 2008 at 2:57
Congratulations David,

This is a very important iniciative. There are so many structural breakdowns, variables, uncertainties, crisis, expectatives, and urgencies, that is hard to find another point in history where so many people and countries were looking and waiting for policy proposals and outcomes as now with Pres Elect Obama, and his Transition Team.

I am afraid we are in a very complex situation, with a complexity system, where no simple proposal could linearly gives you a desire outcome. Not only so many problems, but so many stakeholders on the game. The US is not able to dance alone and resolve everything. For this reason I find hard to say what have to do, whithout watching the network vibrations and impulses of every action. Pushing here to have results over there. The butterfly policy effect.

Is going to be fascinating to follow your exercise and intervene on it. We have several weeks to simulate with different set of environments, policies and outcomes.

Comment by Mark Szpakowski on November 18, 2008 at 5:01
I think in this kind of highly complex global system, where every node arises in co-dependent origination with its neighbors, it is impossible to pre-determine or pre-dict policy. What is possible is to take an initial position, not so much for its rightness or wrongness, but as an initial definite (collapsing indeterminacy) step, which invites response (it creates karma). If the leader is responsive, listening, and empathetic, then that leader's intention can (ultimately) be not separate from a force of nature. At that point he or she can be seen to command coincidence (and inspire, which is us getting the contagion of that). (That's kind of a theory of leadership.)

From such a point of view issue and argument nodes are useful not so much because they convince algorithmically, but because, if they are complete and rich enough, they present a juicy enough stew of all the truthinesses and possibilities in a systemic situation. Then truer questions / framings can emerge.

I was struck that the Mideast Israel/Palestine knot was not present in at least the initial presentation of international policy options. That's one that cries out for expanding limited mindsets and framings, to start with by pouring into it all the options and fully representing the stakeholders. Insufficient representation can lead to seemingly correct policies which don't really address the underlying forces.

Similarly with "current financial crisis". There's opportunity here for a "benign" version of The Shock Doctrine. If the "ideas lying around" are rich and deep and representative enough, the energy and demand of the shock can help organize those. For instance, many have been noting that recapitalization can synergize with green. Likewise, if complementary currencies can help with surviving recession/depression (can they? how?), they could also help provide counter-cyclical, de-bubbling steady-state normalization of national currencies. Etc.
Comment by Ben Tremblay on November 18, 2008 at 5:19
"If the "ideas lying around" are rich and deep and representative enough, the energy and demand of the shock can help organize those."
Shrine-keepers know someone has to scrape up the candle-drippings ...
... stuff doesn't just happen.
'Cept entropy.
Which heh is another con-verse-ation.
Comment by Twain on November 18, 2008 at 13:37
Following on from what Giorgio and Mark wrote, I'd like to pick up on three points:

(1.) Green employment policy
(2.) Complexity of interconnectedness
(3.) Future modeling and tech tools

On the first point, previously I shared with Mark a report from the PERI Institute which covers in some detail how, potentially, 2 million new jobs in the green sector could be created within 2 years with a change in economic and labor policy:


My contention has always been that the green movement needs to move upstream from campaigning about recycling marketing materials and packaging to these areas:

* significant job creation in the sector, particularly in the MANUFACTURE of green technologies;

* consumer influence at the product design stage as a form of green quality control; and

* more appropriate inventory systems to meet GENUINE demand with supply and thereby reduce the surplus (that wastes electricity to produce, resources to refrigerate and / or house, etc.)

On the second point, I agree with Giorgio and Mark that the global system is much more complexly connected than current technology tools will actually allow us to model. The closest I've seen of any technology which offers us more insight into what can potentially be done is Quantum4D:

* Gallery of RDF and 4D nodal perspectives

* Banking sector stability

* The MetaBase

Nonetheless, even with Quantum4D there are limitations and I'll cover this in my final point.

As an associated sub-strand to (2.), Mark's insight on the STYLE of leadership (responsive, listening, and empathetic) is an important and --- to my mind --- a critical one. No one of a rational and democratic intelligence likes or wants a dictator, bully, megalomaniac or tyrant as a Head of State. We reject these types in our daily lives and they command almost negligible trust or respect as leaders of men.

In corporate life, this is also true. The narcissists and the egomaniacs (aka the hubris oriented) have proven to be the cause of long-term value destruction rather than value nurturing. By comparison, leaders who can combine strong technical skills (i.e., work their ways around a balance sheet and understand the appropriate drivers and levers to exercise in order to foster sustainable growth and profit generation) with nuanced EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE are often successful in both innovating and implementing 360-2020 win-win sustainable solutions.

I make the distinction between value nurturing as opposed to value creation because it would be relatively easy for President-elect Obama to seemingly create value but if it's not nurtured, it won't develop or become self-sustaining and strategic --- merely tactical point-scoring.

On the final point, what technology should we be looking to build? Well, personally, I believe Alan Kay has absolutely led the way in this with the Squeak and Tweak languages (current iterations of smalltalk-80). In his writings, Alan often refers to how this OOP is an attempt to more closely proxy in computer language how the biochemical world works.

Why and how is it relevant to politics and policy-making?

Well, both are complex organic systems which are not bound by linear cause and effect impetus alone. In an ideal scenario, the technology tools would allow us to map a policy in the same way that we can map the pharmacology of a drug at a particular point and its subsequent effects throughout the body.

In the same way, we would then be able to track all the moving parts of a policy and how it permeates domestically and internationally --- as well as how it interacts with other countries' policies and changes form and shape as a result.

When we can model policy like biochemical reactions is when we'll be able to capture the full complexity of international connectedness.
Comment by David Price on November 18, 2008 at 14:18
A huge thank you to everyone for the enthusiastic feedback, insightful commentary and excellent suggestions so far.

I plan to start weaving the observations above (and other issues, positions and arguments) into the map shortly, and apologise, in the meantime, for not responding directly to each comment here first.'s a marvellous and inspiring conversation emerging here though; so keep the dialogue flowing!

Thanks again,

Comment by David Price on November 19, 2008 at 2:21
...lots more issues, positions and arguments woven into the map now; with branches starting on the Middle East, the environment, Iran, and economic policy.
Comment by Twain on November 19, 2008 at 11:23
The Climate Change and Response to Financial Crisis spheres are shaping up really well.

If I may, a few minor edits and adds?

* Typo --- there are two L's in HiLLary Clinton.

* The 4th person in the cornerstone being considered for Sec. of State is Chuck Hagel.

* Another person being considered for Treasury Secretary is Robert Rubin.

* Under Response tFC:

(i.) Identify and ring-fence off problem financial institutions.

(ii.) Compile and communicate information on companies not affected by the toxic assets --- this is a more immediate measure that can help restore confidence. At the moment, people are selling "blind" otherwise solid stock due to lack of information from authorities.

(iii.) implement timely bans on short-selling

(iv.) it's capital injection in exchange for stock rather than stock injection plan. Stock injection has a result of diluting earnings per share (EPS) which would cause further loss of confidence in the company.

(v.) wrt Resolution Trust Corp, I think "apply the more effective measures learnt from the RTC" is better than wholesale re-creation of it. As far as I can recall from articles it wasn't profitable and if US govt. is going to use US$700 billion of taxpayers' money it needs to have a respectable ROI.

(vi.) Increase transparency of hedge funds and bring them under closer SEC/FSA etc regulation

(vii.) Re-work Basel II and international GAAP (accounting frameworks)

* Under Policy Measures on Climate Change:

(i.) Severe fines and other punishments for companies which violate green principles --- ordinarily, I wouldn't advocate the stick, but in the case of Climate Change and the urgency of the challenge it may be necessary.

(ii.) Develop an independent kitemark standard to award green companies --- just like the Blue flag in the UK indicates which beach is clean, so there should be a universal Green Kite.


This should also be added as a key sphere of President-elect Obama's agenda. He is the first President to be elected by the deployment of Internet campaigning (his eponymous website, YouTube, facebook and myspace).

Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, has been discussing the role the Internet played in this election:


There's also material in the blogosphere and business technology sites on what an Obama presidency may mean.

I'm looking forward to the next iteration of the graph!

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