June 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Last week we started to take a look at Kevin Kelly’s take on the benefits of swarm systems.  We are wondering what are the implications for movement builders.  We looked at how important it is for us to be adaptable.

Kelly also says that swarm systems are evolvable.  He says that these are:

 Systems that can shift the locus of adaptation over time from one part of the system to another (from the body to the genes or from one individual to a population) must be swarm based. Non-collective systems cannot evolve (in the biological sense).

I have long been persuaded that we must apply an evolutionary lens to our work for social transformation.  But Kelly offers and important nuance, the idea that an evolvable system in one that can shift the locus of adaptation from one part of the system to another.

Certainly this is true for social movement work.  Sometimes we need to focus on the development of individuals and the work of raising consciousness, sometimes we have to think about global action, other times local policy.  Sometimes we need to focus on building community at other times we need the sort of mass mobilization that can shake up the power structure.  Yes.  We need to work on all of all of it at the same time.  But our focus, the locus of adaptation must shift in accordance with what is needed.

Oh.  And don’t try to evolve on your own!  It can’t be done.

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  • Cynthia Silva Parker says:

    Having read this after Curtis’ post on 6/7, it makes me think about the pursuit of incremental change (adaptation) and transformational change. And, that adaptation doesn’t always work in our favor. I’m longing for a deeper understanding and practice of ways to guide people in living systems toward changes that transform systems of oppression. Otherwise, the momentary successes get swallowed up and a system like racism takes on a new shape that produces the old oppressive dynamics through new mechanisms–a la mass incarceration as the latest form of racialized social control.

  • chad says:

    no, one [person, organization] cannot do it alone. that is a call for interdependence between individuals and institutions. i appreciate how simply you state the shifting locus between individuals, local policy and global action.

    i now know the name of Kevin Kelly, when i had not known it before.

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