“Community exists when people who are interdependent struggle with the traditions that bind them and the interests that separate them so they can realize a future that is an equitable improvement on the past.”
-Carl Moore (quoted by Dr. Ceasar McDowell)
A couple of weeks ago I attended a gathering of network thinkers and doers pulled together by Steve Waddell and Diane J. Johnson, on behalf of the Emerging Network Governance Initiative. Our time together was designed for us to (1) get to know one another better and our respective work (because that’s what network weavers do) and (2) explore possibilities for collaboration to bring different network processes and forms of governance to bear at various scales in the face of the struggle/failure of traditional government to hold and do justice to demographic complexity and address a variety of social and environmental issues.
We spent some time early on unpacking the words “emergent,” “network” and “governance.” While we did not come to final agreement on set definitions, here is some of what I took from those conversations.
Emergent and emergence refer to the dynamic in networks and in life in general through which novelty arises in seemingly unexpected ways.
What is emergent is not planned per se, but rather surfaces through complex interactions between parts of or participants in systems.
About 20 years ago I was introduced to the field of ecological design called permaculture, not in any great depth mind you, but from what I learned at the time, I was struck by how refreshing, sensible, and vital the practitioners’ perspective and approach were. Since then, and especially in recent years, interest in permaculture seems to have significantly grown (including my own) and its principles stretched beyond sustainable agriculture to human communities. Looby MacNamara is one of the teachers and practitioners who is helping with the more widespread application of permaculture principles. I just finished reading her short book, 7 Ways to Think Differently, which I recommend. In it she unites different ways of thinking (such as systems thinking and solutions thinking) with the underlying philosophical and methodological elements of “regenerative design.”
For me, one particularly fertile area is “abundance thinking.” I have to offer a bit of a pre-qualification that the word “abundance” can be used in certain contexts that I find off-putting, especially when there is little demonstrated understanding of existing structural inequities in society. That said, I think that “leading with abundance” as a mental exercise can provide valuable insights and approaches to social change. Here are a few thoughts, and I invite additions, reactions and push back: Read More
At this point a couple of networks with which I am working have reached or are reaching the three year mark in their formalized existence. By many accounts, this is a milestone and inflection point worth noting, as these initiatives have built significant connectivity (depth and breadth) and alignment (shared sense of common identity and direction) among key and diverse actors. Furthermore, there has been a real proven capacity of these networks to meet individual self/ organizational interests in terms of learning, new partnerships, and a broader community/marketplace of support. And there is a growing appetite for and interest in how this all adds up to significant system change. Another way of framing this is people are wondering how they can activate the next level of the system to bring all of their interactions to a place where there is greater abundance, opportunity, and impact. Read More
University of California researcher, Paul Piff, and his colleagues have been studying privilege.
In one study, they set up a rigged game of monopoly. The players who had been randomly assigned to get more money and other advantages began to demonstrate some disturbing differences from the other players. They began to move their pieces around the board more loudly, displayed “signs of dominance and nonverbal displays of power and celebration,” ate more pretzels, and came “ruder, less and less sensitive to the plight of the poor players, and more likely to showcase how well they were doing.” After the game, the rich players attributed their success to their skills and strategy, not the systematic advantages they had over the other player, even though they knew the advantages were real and were randomly assigned.
In a rigged game of Monopoly, denial of unearned privilege has few consequences, but what about in the rigged game called life?
|Photo by Paul Downey|http://www.flickr.com/photos/psd/3003392453|
In the past few weeks, I have heard some interesting and divergent comments about networks as they relate to social change. In one case, someone in philanthropy declared that the “network experiment” was over and it was “back to funding individual organizations.” In another case, I heard tremendous enthusiasm expressed relating to the “paramount importance of building trust and relationships” for change to happen. To the first – “No!” To the second – “Yes, and . . .”. We are still in the midst to waking up to the reality and potential of networks in our lives, present company very much included. Here is some of what we are seeing and hearing with respect to where network approaches and tools, at their best and very much with our intention, can take us. Read More
|Photo by lydiashiningbrightly|http://www.flickr.com/photos/lydiashiningbrightly/3016016887|
One principle of living systems is that one person’s waste is someone else’s food. This is how nature works, which is wonderful, and . . . unfortunately many of us are eating our own unhealthy waste in the form of industrial chemicals and other toxins, precisely because we seem to lack an overview of the cyclical nature of things. On the upside, there are many ways that we could be much more efficient and even generate better health and greater wealth if we could think and act upon this notion of recycling and reusing waste.
This can include looking at how what is generally cast off as by-product might be used for creating additional value. Read More
I am honored to be part of a listserv called “The Gamechangers Salon,” there is brilliance and passion in it. There is also a lot of anger these days, particularly given recent events in Washington. Following is my recent contribution to the conversation, coincidentally, my colleague Cynthia Silva Parker, just wrapped up her blog series on Power & Privilege with a post on Pursuing – something in the air at IISC! Here is my post:
One of the benefits I’ve experienced in our social change work as process experts and professional facilitators, is the exposure we get to have in various fields of social change work. Since last October, my colleague Andrea and I have had the pleasure of consulting with an amazing collaborative of stakeholders, the Springfield Health Equity Initiative, who have determined to build a plan to reduce the incidence of diabetes in the black and brown neighborhoods in the city of Springfield, MA. Even more boldly, these dedicated and thoughtful leaders have also chosen to take up an analysis for their work that incorporates how systemic, government sanctioned, racial discrimination has played a direct role in creating the egregious disparities in health outcomes we see today among black and brown folk in the U.S., and regardless of class.