The Challenges of Changing the World

ANP-5605840112Visions of what needs to happen on this planet to make it more of a home to the ever growing human population while at the same time taking care that all the other species can flourish as well abound. The United Nations have identified the 8 most pressing ones and on one of them, “Environmental Sustainability”, the political world is going to decide in Copenhagen what it will do, or wants to do.

There is a lot of leadership on climate issues, and if the information I get on what happens in the USA and Canada as a European residing in Berlin is correct, the competition between this leadership is amazing – everybody struggling for the best pole-position in the race to what is seen by many to be the new gold-mine: Green (Social) Economy. In Europe the competition is not as fierce but the call for leadership is strong. And I must confess that I don’t know much about what happens in South-America. Africa, Asia and Australia. I do know, though, there are at least 1.000.000 (1 Mio) NGO’s and other social responsibility organizations world-wide trying to lead the way. There doesn’t seem to be a lack of leadership…

Moreover there are countless experts and innumerable plans and [full disclosure here] I’m working with wonderful and brilliant people at creating “meshworks” that will help align people, plans and resources. We are well on our way in this endeavor, as soon as we’re ready to open up to the general public you’ll be hearing more from me here, and I expect it to raise our collective intelligence a few notches.

OLY-2008-CHINA-SAILING-ENVIRONMENT-POLLUTION-ALGAEAnd yet, when working on my recent blogs on Resonance & the Living Field, Leadership, Community and Transforming the Whole and How to be? What to do? and this last weekend on a mindmap (a work in progress) The Community as a Whole is More than the Sum of its Parts an insight keeps nagging me that I could maybe sum up like this, “While visions, plans, meshworks and a highly committed leadership are absolutely essential, no clearly stated or compelling vision, no plan, as brilliant as it may be, no sophisticated meshwork aligning everyone and everything and no committed group of leaders are going to make the much needed brighter future a reality unless it is embodied by highly coherent communities that involve innumerable engaged citizens of all color and creed.”

In Leadership, Community and Transforming the Whole I’ve made a strong case, I think, why recruiting or aggregating large numbers of people to world change-movements doesn’t work, no matter how wonderful, powerful, idealistic and committed these people may be. No matter how many people we can recruit for “the cause”, the transformation will not result from ever growing sums of individuals working for change because “A whole is more than the sum of its part(icipant)s.”

a-root-rtt-01-keyThe world is not made up of individuals, as we might be tempted to think, but it’s made up of groups, organizations, parties etc., in short: the world is a community of communities. These are the “wholes” that can foster, embed and realize the transformation that we wish for Earth.
According to Wikipedia, for community there “were ninety-four discrete definitions of the term by the mid-1950s” (here), so it might help to discern between what we will in this blog call “real communities” and “conventional communities.” Conventional communities, even if their goals are aligned with the world change we seek to implement, can at best be fertile ground for highly coherent “real communities”. And because transformative action is always local, customized and unfolding (emergent) and needs to be embodied by those that act the real community already lives the future it wishes to realize for all.

The following is just a preliminary list, that – with your help – will be updated continually to more accurately reflect what we’re learning.

Real communities Conventional communities
Look for possibilities and how to implement them Work on solving problems, cater to needs of its members
Stimulate generosity and hospitality Try to eliminate the causes of what we fear
Continually look to deepen connections and relations, value belonging Need to grow, scale fast; value numbers
Empower and invest in its participants/members and their growth Invests in (and sets out to improve) leadership
Participants/members find areas which they want to be accountable for Set clear(er) goals by using clear processes with measurable milestones
Create space for regenerative conversations Create more controls, measures of effectiveness
Love questions and what they generate Seek the right answers and try to implement them
Thrive through ‘mutual apprenticeship’, trust in self-organization, coordinate action ‘chaordically Hierarchical organisation; depend on leaders, authorities, experts, specialists to “make the plan and show the way”
Encourages authority and responsibility of every participant/member by honoring everyone’s contribution Celebrates it’s leaders and icons, encourages competition
Brings people from the margin to the center to learn, connect more deeply and
regenerate communal strength
Marginalizes people who are not in line with the community’s culture/rules

(With this list I do not in any way wish to show that conventional communities are not needed or at fault, not so! It simply points out that they are not adequate to foster, create or embody the transformation that so many of us feel is absolutely needed if we are to survive in any meaningful way both as human species and as ecologically rich planet.
And what is listed under real community doesn’t make this kind of community right, perfect or “the best.” These are simply some of the characteristics that a resilient, vibrant and deeply meaningful community has, and I believe they’re indispensable for any transformation that deserves to be called such.)


The world I wantProbably the most important characteristics of all communities are its conversations and “vibrancy.”
In a conventional community I cannot reveal much of who I am, and it can therefor not be very coherent, simply because feeling alignment between people depends very much on how much they feel safe to show of themselves and their ‘brokenness’. If ever you were in a group of people where someone opened up and showed some of what keeps her or him awake at night – and others were mature enough to allow that without immediately comforting or fixing or giving good advise etc. – then you know that the depth of a community is directly related to its openness to self-disclosure.

There is much more to say about real community, and I’m sure we will come to that in the next weeks and months, but for now I think we’re looking for a strategy to build the kind of communities that can carry and contain the world change that we all know is at hand – and it’s not clear if we’re going to come out wiser, healthier and thriving or not. My guess is, if we build real communities, we have better chances to come through wonderfully transformed.

Part of this strategy is certainly:

  • Build regenerative social fabric with hospitality, generosity, deep conversations, felt alignment
  • Reframe the crisis as breakdown of community and its restoration/healing
  • Co-creation and enrichment of the “common good”
  • Create time to simply be together and celebrate
  • Understand that community is never a means to an end (even if that is transformation or world change); community is always its own end.

It is my deep conviction that not only do some of these communities already exist but that with just a little nudge many more will spring into being everywhere. So, for now, I’ll leave with this question, How can we/I serve those communities that interconnect and seed “real communities”?

Challenges of Community and Collaboration

challenge

Being an aficionado for collaboration, so much so that I’ve created a job for me being a Collaboration Ecologist, recently more often than not I’ve come to inquire into the question, “If, as seems to be the case, many if not most people and organisations in the world seek collaboration and want to become communities of mutually aided flourishing, how come it is not the greatest hit on Earth?”

Or as my friend Doug who’s profession is coaching CEO’s, among other things,  tells me, “In the US now all companies want to collaborate. They just don’t know how.”

Remember New Year’s resolutions? Remember, what you wanted to change in your life this year? To be honest, I never make any resolutions on New Year anymore, since remembering them later on is such a pain. The reason is most likely the same that keeps all the good willing people on this planet, including the businesses and organisations, from collaborating to change the course of the planetary commons – we don’t like to face the deeper challenges that need overcoming. Actually I think the are the stuff out of which our advances are made.

So here are the challenges as they show up on my radar:

  • Challenge # 1: Probably the mother of all challenges to collaboration and community – Trust, patience, ‘deep’ listening and heartfelt connection.
    Looking at my experience in life, business and relationships, and of course at many, many theories of what community and collaboration is really based upon, these 4 ‘values’ seem to be the most persistent ones.
  • Challenge # 2: If #1 is the mother of all challenges, # 2 is the father – walking in somebody else’s shoes.
    People do not only have different characters and views, convictions, beliefs, theories and opinions, they are also on different levels of evolving towards what we could call “wisdom”, something that doesn’t come with age (as any acute observer of world- and human affairs has already noticed) but with developing all kinds of skills, lenses, and intelligences (heart, mind, gut, social, relational etc.). On the way to some wisdom, for a long time, people live in a land where they wouldn’t know what it means to “walk in somebody else’s shoes”, leave alone that they would actually be able to do so. Yet, it is prerequisite to anything that resembles true collaboration.
  • Challenge # 3: This one is centered around the question of leadership.
    Community and collaboration are situated far beyond democracy – which is based on quantity, counting the number of voices, and not quality, what these voices are saying. The challenge is to find ways and means to govern ourselves so that the good, right and beautiful things are accomplished.
  • Challenge #4: In the famous words of the Clinton Presidential Campaign in the USA, “It’s the economy, stupid!
    Collaborations and communities, on top of being simply a good and soul-nourishing thing to participate in by and of themselves, often also produce goods and services, and a commons that is recreational, inspiring, relaxing etc. (a source of aliveness; something like that, and also something that can be marketed). Who gets to share what of the communally created revenues is the fourth major challenge that needs facing, if communities and collaborations are to be more than a hype.

If you thought that I have the answers and that I’m going to give them here, I have to disappoint you. Not that I don’t have a number of very good ideas, processes and experiences around them (as many of my readers do as well), but if I were to tell them here, at maximum we would have a very interesting exchange of ideas and stories, and maybe even beliefs and convictions.And, so sorry, but I’m not really interested – mostly, because doing that will most likely lead to trying to make technical change out of the needed adaptive change.

There is a world of difference between technical change and adaptive change. A technical change you can manage using the given instruments and procedures. Often these revolve around a more effective use of the given instruments. You get long and wonderful To Do lists, that basically you need to check one after the other. Adaptive change asks you, on the contrary, to leave behind the old instruments and develop new ones. It requires you to adapt to a situation or process that you cannot yet analyse, and as such adaptive change is an “emergent phenomenon”… simply put, “Something is happening, but you don’t know what it is – and you cannot control it either.”

Sure, regarding myself as a Collaboration Ecologist I’ve got quite a number of processes and interventions up my sleeve that I can use in situations where people want to collaborate, and want some help. Often, I cannot do without them, yet these are not the secret of creating great ecologies in which collaboration and community flourishes. The real secret is this, “Find whatever helps the people present face the above challenges co-creatively, and go with what emerges in this group.” If you’ve got compassion, experiential knowledge, a working intuition and some intelligence you will, most likely, empower the people to squarely face these challenges. Then, and so far I can speak for 100% success, what comes out of that process you will advance into the Fields of the Future where Collaboration is Natural again.

What is possible cannot be determined by opinions, but only by attempt. And we were determined to make the attempt. � Dee Hock

1. Everybody is a leader

Leading by being
Community Development professionals (CDPs) are the change they wish to see.

CDPs provide relational and situational information and knowledge to members, who are seen as quite capable to judge for themselves what, given their values, purposes and principles, they should do in the best interests of the community as a whole.

Collective Intelligence
The intelligence and intuition of the whole community by far exceeds any partial intelligence by individuals and manifests in many � sometimes unprecedented � ways.

CDPs trust the collective intelligence of the whole and are constantly on the look-out for ways and means to capture its patterns and processes so that community members can more easily know of it and participate in it.

Permission Granted
Accountability and authority are regarded as a natural part of everybody�s character.

CDPs provide and live principles (not rules) to foster the free expression of the community�s members. All members of the community are regarded as being fully accountable for their words and deeds.
If conflicts arise they act like �people whisperers� and/or mediators to help turn possible mistakes into lessons that the whole community profits from. They do have the authority to mandatory refer members who disrupt the community�s functioning to a mediating �Council of Community Elders�.

2. Promote connectivity and collaboration between the community�s members

Connectivity & collaboration
Provide tools and occasions for maximum connectivity between members.

CDPs seek close connection with their community and are therefore most of all available to be contacted with any issue at any time � within reason; they might delegate this obligation at certain times to CDPs of other communities.
CDPs are always on the look-out to improve tools, procedures and situations that foster deeper and wider connectivity and are very keen of bringing opportunities to collaborate to member�s attention.

Synergy
Treat members of aligned external communities as fully trusted community members.

CDPs � with the aid of Gaiaspace�s Alignment Process and their colleague CDPs � are actively seeking out synergies, and having found them they carefully create connections and suggest collaborations. Once connections and collaborations have been committed to by these partners they are regarded as fully trusted community members.

Cluster
Nurture the community�s internal and external networks and connections

CDPs pay attention to the networks within the community and networks with which the community is connected and even embedded in. They know how systems become systems of influence by being well connected in larger networks and networks of networks.
They also ensure that the information coming in through �weak ties� from the world in which their communities are situated is fed into the community�s collective intelligence.

3. Experiment, collaborate and support mutual apprenticeship

Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk. � The Dalai Lama

Purpose, principles & people
People guided by robust purpose, having developed principles that guide the realization of that purpose create strongly aligned behavior that gets things done in fast and often unprecedented ways.

CDPs understand that guiding principles derived from overarching purposes that align the community unite people and they therefore support members of their community to find and/or express their very personal purpose first. They secondly support finding and/or expressing the principles of communication, connection and action that foster and support this. Then they continually support the alignment of personal with universal purposes and the powerful collaboration, action, behavior that results from this alignment.

CDPs take a keen interest in anything which might foster the development of deeper, wider and more effective community whether it�s within anybody�s defined role or not. They therefore strengthen a culture of mutual apprenticeship in which everybody can learn from everybody else.

Transparency & Fair Share
Transparency about personal agendas and the fair sharing of � material and immaterial � outcomes fosters the necessary trust for real collaborations in community.

CDPs understand that �Win-Win-Win� is an outcome and not a strategy. If the community as a whole is to profit from its being and collaboration and knowledge-ecology a sophisticated behavior is needed: acting in trust, freedom and clarity, always also thinking about �how to fairly share the outcome with everybody who had an input?� Therefore at times CDPs also address the “what’s in it for me” question for each member of collaborating networks within the community.

Fluid Dynamics
Learn through experimentation, differentiation, mutation, mutual apprenticeship, trustful relationships, collaboration and appreciative inquiry and review.

CDPs understand that communities are held together by a sense of identity that results from shared purposes, principles and personal bonds between its members. The also understand that community is more akin to a fluid than a solid, and that to help it to continually and creatively reinvent itself invigorates it and keeps it alive. Therefore they see purposes and principles as processes in flux and encourage challenging questions, experiments and all kinds of creative proposals and behaviors � if necessary balancing it so that a dynamic equilibrium is maintained.

4. Support natural forms of organization

Autopoiesis (aka “Self-Organizing Networks”)
The vital communities of the 21st Century are self-organizing entities in a state of continual self-transformation in concert with an exponentially accelerating growth of diversity, complexity and rate of change of the cultural and natural environment

CDPs, understanding and accepting the exponentially accelerating rate of change in this century, support all tendencies toward self-organization and self-transformation of the community they serve. They therefore support servant-leadership on every level; they are always on the look-out for members with leadership potential and make it their priority to support and mentor them towards becoming a community development professional. CDPs understand their role to be temporary � they work towards the community�s self-organization whose servant-leaders grow from its own members; this being part of the self-transformative trend of every community.

Alignment
Self-organizing networks seek maximum alignment with other networks, communities and individuals that advances their purpose(s)

CDPs are always looking out for other communities, networks and individuals whose purpose might align with the community they serve. The wheel has been invented many times over; most likely humanity as a collective has or can easily develop all the know-how and procedures needed to cope with any and all challenges it faces on the micro-, midi- and macro-level. The open alignment of purposes, goals, intentions makes this much more apparent, and the culture of appreciative co-humanity makes it easier accessible. Therefore CDPs are an example of collaboration across all boundaries, and have a basically pluralistic view on values � looking for alignment instead of for differences (yet without ever diminishing diversity).

Emergence
All ecologies, be they natural or cultural, have natural cycles of growth and emergence.

CDPs are well aware of natural cycles of community growth, flourishing and transformation. They know that sustainable development is not to be managed or controlled because the resilience of such �artificial� growth is low and needs to be artificially supported continually. They therefore trust in the community�s own rhythm and cycles of development which the serve and support. Their ability to allow uncontrolled development and �being the change the want to see� creates space for novel and unforeseen flourishing.
� Mushin J. Schilling, Berlin, Dec. 2007

On being Audacious

Originally posted by White Rhino this is an inspiring story by Joe Laur from SoL, the Society for Organizational Learning, friend and systems thinker was recently at 7th Generation with the SoL Sustainability Consortium. SoL’s soul purpose is to build the capacity in organizations and society to achieve economic, ecological and social sustainability so that all life can thrive for all time. In the 2-day session the group of SoL companies discussed Climate Change and what companies need to do to make a difference. Here is one of Joe’s many stories. This one is about how to think about being as big as the challenge…

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPhw4IttnNU