Creating Space: Resilience and Healthy NetworksMay 31, 2016 4 Comments
Last week I attended another meeting of the Research Alliance for Regenerative Economics (RARE) and we deepened our conversation about a “regenerative framework” for guiding system change. Underlying our conversations is the premise that many living systems – ecological, economic, social – are reaching or have already reached a point of crisis where they can no longer respond to changing conditions in such a way that humanity, or significant portions thereof, can thrive. Another way of saying this is that these systems are losing their capability for resilience (to “bounce back” from perturbations) and regeneration (to self-organize and evolve). Our discussions are focused specifically on the dynamics of networks, human and otherwise, and what these can tell us about why we are where we are socially and ecologically and what can be done to alter current conditions and humanity’s long-term prospects.
Breeding disconnection, diminishing diversity and stemming resources flows is “irresponsible.”
In a related book by Brian Walker and David Salt called Resilience Thinking, the authors talk about the importance of “creating space” as a practice in opposition and balance to efforts to push for efficiency and extracting greater “profit” of various kinds. Currently many systems are dominated by an emphasis on efficiency and extraction, which can push these systems to a state of brittleness as “command and control” operators attempt to reduce the diversity and intricacy of network elements, connections and flows (viewed as inefficient and hampering predictable and growing returns). What the system and its underlying networks lose as a result are the raw material and capacity for intelligent responses to new phenomena and disruptions. In this sense breeding disconnection, diminishing diversity and stemming resource flows is “irresponsible,” – inhibiting the system’s ability to respond.
The more “responsible” alternative is to create space through the development of robust, intricate and functional social-ecological networks. In doing so, efforts must be made to:
A resilience and regeneration framework is about creating space.
- enhance systemic/network diversity and flow,
- invest in experimentation and prototyping,
- encourage ongoing reflection, learning and sharing.
This adds both gravity and nuance to the work of network development, suggesting that efforts focused on enhancing connectivity, building trust, probing boundaries and supporting social learning are not luxuries but fundamental to creating resilient communities of all kinds and should be the focus of serious investment.