Steps to an Ecology of Change

May 4, 2011 Leave a comment
ecology

|Photo by chucklepix (Steve)|http://www.flickr.com/photos/42507736@N02/5094175658/in/photostream|

I love great writing, and for that reason always look forward to reading the newest issue of the Whole Thinking Journal from the Center for Whole Communities. The most recent issue can be found here, and features beautiful and thought-provoking pieces from my Whole Measures co-trainer Mistinguette Smith, former Ruckus Society Executive Director Adrienne Maree Brown, and CWC board member Tom Wessels, among many others.

I wanted to spend some time here reflecting on the Wessels article in particular, “Resilient Communities: An Ecological Perspective.”  Tom Wessels is a natural historian, a professor at Antioch University, and a keen observer and student of the landscape of New England.  He is also a proponent of understanding the dynamics of various kinds of complex systems, from eco-systems to organizations, as a pathway to knowing what constitutes more sustainable behavior.  In his article, Wessels highlights the self-organizing tendency of complex systems, through which individual elements become more highly specialized and simultaneously more tightly integrated.  Self-organization and co-evolution are keys to systems becoming more stable and resilient over time.  This includes human systems.

For groups, communities, and organizations to successfully adapt, it is vital that they pay attention to the self-organizing capacity within themselves, and the degree to which they are co-evolving within larger contexts (sectors, regions, etc.).  The tendency towards homogenization and ignoring/eroding one’s host environment is a recipe for disaster.  The components are better served by focusing on the particular niche they each fill, while also having a shared mind (leadership) for the whole as manifested in and across nested systems.  This is an invitation that is both challenging and exciting, a call to our collective awareness and next steps of evolution!  And while the answers are not obvious, the teachers are everywhere in the form of the many complex systems of which we are a part and comprised.

So why not take a leisurely walk in the woods or your neighborhood, sit on a bench and observe your local ecosystems and communities in action, pick up a copy of the Whole Thinking Journal, attend a Whole Thinking retreat, join IISC and CWC for one of our upcoming Whole Measures workshops, and please share with us here your stories of how you are bringing the wisdom of living systems to realizing social change for a thriving future.

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