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Center for Visionary Leadership (CVL)
This California-based think tank - hence the American spelling of "Center" - was founded in 1996 as a non-denominational, non-partisan educational organisation. Its stated aim is "to help people develop the inner resources to be effective leaders and respond creatively to change". The Center, with its redoubtable Director, Corinne McLaughlin, represents the best of American optimism. It seeks to find common ground between people of varying political backgrounds and resolve some of the most polarising issues US politics, including cultural questions such as abortion and school prayer. On the latter issue, CVL initiatives have found agreement between religious advocates of prayer and secular opponents. When both "sides" agree to a moment of silent meditation, in which individual students choose to pray, contemplate or merely think, they cease to be "sides" and become allies. With the thornier issue of abortion, "pro-choice" and "pro-life" advocates, in some circumstances, can be persuaded to come together and campaign for better sex education and access to contraception.
These solutions are not intended to be perfect, but are assumed to evolve as new questions, and new sources of conflict, arise. This is where the CVL's approach is radical in the true sense. It does not seek to avoid conflict or create a bland consensus, in which contentious issues are avoided. Instead, it seeks to create "a new political synthesis", where opposing propositions merge to create something new. The influence of Hegel's dialectic can be felt here, where thesis and antithesis evolve into synthesis. However, California being a place of cultural synthesis itself, there are also influences from Eastern philosophy. The Yin and Yang of Taoism are complementary principles that creatively interact. The Buddhist, Hindu and Jain traditions encourage a more holistic approach than the linear, mechanistic thinking that have come to prevail in Western thought. Human problems, whether they are social, economic or spiritual, are better addressed in terms of "both/and" than "either/or". Importantly, the CVL stresses the importance of the spiritual dimension to political and economic thinking, whether expressed in Eastern or Western, religious or humanist forms. The spiritual dimension, precisely because it is impossible to quantify, promotes a more rounded view of the individual and human society.
The CVL is one of a number of organisations, mostly American-based, that is encouraging new approaches to political thinking, in particular the ability to "think around" issues rather than adopting dogmatic positions. One of its motifs is "beyond left and right", which matches the original green principle of "neither left nor right, but in front". In a world that is increasingly interconnected at one level, increasingly divided at another, this can only be valuable. In particular, the CVL's approach can give hope to an America that seems increasingly polarised on partisan and cultural issues, and where an adversarial approach stands in the way of clear, careful judgement. Visionary leadership is needed more than ever before.
In its layout, the Web site is refreshingly straightforward and easy to navigate. It contains a plethora of articles and information, and provides useful links.
The CVL is based in San Rafael, California, and has an office in Arlington Virginia, close to Washington, DC.