WHO WE ARE?
Experienced facilitators and long-time trainers of the Lewis Method of Deep Democracy, we are consultants, coaches, writers, thinkers, teachers and learners, who are making this approach available and accessible in North America.
We recognize the privilege of living in a part of the world that is relatively safe and comfortable, and yet we acknowledge the many difficulties that organizations, communities and societies face in our part of the world, ranging from sexism and racism, to poverty and fossil-fuel dependancy, to burn-outs and the inability to handle the complexity of our times. We bring our skills and abilities to address these challenges.
For many years we have been teaching the views and skills of Deep Democracy to facilitators like us – professionals who come into communities and organizations to design and run meetings, workshops and interventions. More recently we have begun to teach a variation of our tools to leaders and manager – people who are chairing meetings, coordinating a team, and addressing personnel issues on a day by day basis. The tools of Deep Democracy are providing what many leaders lack in their toolkit: a straight forward approach to balancing the need for collaboration and the need for efficient decision-making, preventing or addressing conflict before there is a need for an external facilitator to intervene.
Sera began studying with Myrna Lewis in South Africa in 2004 and was the first trainer in this lineage of Deep Democracy in North America. She is a master practitioner and coach, having successfully led change processes with dozens of organizations on four continents in the public, private, not-for-profit and academic sectors.
Aftab has been experimenting with the tools of Deep Democracy in challenging organizational and community settings since 2006. Her PhD research was the first comprehensive attempt at applying and studying the Lewis Method of Deep Democracy in North American. She has trained or coached over 200 people in these methodologies.
Sera Thompson is a social innovator and master facilitator whose work is focused on building capacity for participatory leadership and creating movement around complex issues. Her work creatively engages a diversity of players and stakeholders in finding shared clarity and timely actions. She began her career in the complex field of Environmental Consulting, juggling the needs of diverse stakeholders balancing economic, ecological and social sustainability. Since that time she has successfully led change with dozens of organizations on four continents in the Public Sector, Academia, Non-profit and Corporate sectors.
Aftab Erfan is a scholar-practitioner working in the areas of community development, strategic planning, diversity, and leadership development. She has a BSc in Environmental Sciences, a Masters and a PhD in Planning. Aftab started her career 10 years ago within the youth environmental movement, and has since been employed in a large corporation, local government and university settings as well. Her PhD dissertation examines the use of Deep Democracy in community planning with First Nations. She teaches at the School of Community and Regional Planning (UBC) and consults to private, public and non-profit organizations as the principal of Whole Picture Thinking.
Rooted in process oriented psychology and developed in the heat of post-apartheid South Africa, the Lewis Method of Deep Democracy is a powerful yet practical approach to working with groups of any size. It was first developed in a large South African utility company where people of different races, genders and ages were attempting to work together but were mired in the historical tensions that dominated apartheid society. The method was developed to work with these tensions.
Deep Democracy offers two sets of tools: the first for making timely decisions that incorporate the wisdom of dissent, and the second for productively engaging with conflict when differences erupt and issues become divisive. A central notion of Deep Democracy is that within conflict resides wisdom. Facilitators and leaders that use the tools of Deep Democracy become effective at unleashing this wisdom and channeling it to transform a situation, instead of letting it erode the group.
While personal and relationship development is not the main focus of Deep Democracy trainings and interventions, it is a frequent byproduct.