This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.

It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.

It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Exploring with the Dialogue, Deliberation and Systemic Transformation Community to Discover New Possibilities Part 3 of 3

In addition to the World Cafe platforms participated within, as described in the last two blog posts, part 1 and part 2, I also participated in three of the fifteen Open Space conversations that were initiated by others, OS Topic 5: Super-ordinate Goals, How do we understand the system that is changing?, and A Supersaturated Theory of Change. Due to the complex nature of the questions being pursued, metaphors played an important role in getting ideas across. Complexity was itself a key issue and often necessitated metaphors to assist in making the concepts coherent.

The first interaction' on January 13, 2015, was OS Topic 5: Super-ordinate Goals.  The description for the goal was, "What  super-ordinate goal could replicate across the collective set of value systems, and act as a "guiding star" for systemic transformation?” It was presented by Ben L. as, "What everyone wants, but no one entity can do themselves." Ben was one of those who introduced me to Spiral Dynamics.

Heather T., back this time as we had both independently selected for this particular topic, spoke of "Healthy Human/Healthy Planet" as a possibility.  Heather sought out nature metaphors or analogies, as in acorns ‘become' oak trees. I suggested birds moving in a ‘flock' introducing the idea of complexity, which others saw as extending to living human/living earth allowing for seeing ‘both/and’ while moving away from ‘either/or’.

I again introduced an alternative concept, as a means rather than a goal, that I have been shaping for some time.

“Clayton Christiansen's idea of Disruptive Innovation might be applicable to social change. "From scarcity to abundance" (again, as asserted here and here) as another frame that might bring people into the fold. People are so scared of financial and environmental disasters, that they don't want to act.”

Another challenging perspective which with I could agree was developed by Stephanie Jo K based on Hans Rosling’s TED Talk, The Best Stats You've Ever Seen

As she said, he says, “The improvement of the world must be highly contextualized, and it's not relevant to have it on regional level. We must be much more detailed. We find that students get very excited when they can use this."  She then goes on,

“The point being twofold, (a) our misconceptions are probably thick, and (b) what will motivate people not only metaphorically but literally depends on their lived social reality. If one starts from above (the example Hans Rosling gives is wealth), no significant or automatic improvement in the baseline (in this case, health). You must invest in the ground, in the local, and-most importantly from within the local context in order to participate in processes leading to tangible change.”

Once again helped with scribing and editing while at the same time participating but this time there was a greater intermix between the iterations of what I wrote on behalf of what others had said, and what others wrote on what I had said, creating something new that I would not have come up with solely on my own. 

The conversation appealed to Complexity Theory as a means of expressing a complex view of what is changing, what fails. Metaphors were still an essential component of communicating complex ideas. 

One was a metaphor of being together in the boat, trusting people to be mutually dependent. Having others seeing what we cannot. A River metaphor, used in the session's introductory remarks by Mark Dubois, co-founder of Friends of the River and the International Rivers Network, was used for expressing the inclusion of, ‘various agents, obstacles, currents taking us in a direction, navigating by strength or dancing with the river. See different parts of the river depending upon where you are.

Taking a more empirical, data driven perspective, I pointed out that both the Economist Intelligence Unit and Harvard Business Review had also warned of the impact of complexity upon our societies.

This did not, however, result in any divergence. It was still apparent that our values are, “…being shaken and bruised our values are speaking to us.  Old, old of unstructured times transformed into, old, more recent of structured - Newton - reductionism - industrial - complicated to a new way trying to impose order on the emerging more complex world.  Today, what we Need is a new new way that embraces complexity and seeks coherence within complexity.

As has been previously asserted, complexity, as it relates to us, can come in two different forms, incoherent (where we feel powerless) and coherent (where we can see a dance path).

As Chris S pointed out, it is the synthesis of the different ways of understanding systems that can lead us to the elements of storytelling which can help to define complexity in a manner similar to what makes a great story. Stories can help make our complex world coherent.

In what ways is this problem complex?
1 Many interacting “agents”
2 Individuals and processes influence each other in feedback loops
3 Reactions may be affected by current and past circumstances
4 Influenced by the external environment
5 Events have multiple causes and multiple effects
6 Large events can have small effects and small events can have large effects
7 Events emerge in surprising ways, spontaneously in the absence of a “controller”
8 Events display a complicated mix of ordered and disordered behaviour
9 It is an emotional Issue

Returning to the metaphor of a river, it was recognized that there was a need for, "balance between structure and flow - creating just enough structure so that flow can happen." "Leadership/Direction and personal empowerment/self-discovery - Having just enough leadership so that others are not disempowered."

I pointed out though that flow can potentially change structure. Citing a recent and relevant point made by Gene Bellinger in a different forum, "The riverbanks govern the flow of the river until the next flood when the river redefines where it wants to flow."

"World also feels and appears more incoherent when pressures build up. On the river, instincts say lean away from the wave but truth is to lean into it to get through."

Being an apparently diverse group, another perspective raised was that of an Operational Risk Management insight: problems reveal connections usually hidden. The lesson, we miss connections that are needed. One can never dig into too deep into the systems.

The last set of interactions I had with the DDST Community was A Supersaturated Theory of Change lead by Ben Roberts, followed by a Live conversation with Ben, Brian and Jock as a follow-up to 1/25 Open Space Session.  The conversations were again based on a metaphor, this time one based on chemistry. This particular conversation demonstrated that the good thing about metaphors is that they are open and susceptible to interpretation, the bad thing about metaphors is that they are open and susceptible to interpretation.  I fluctuated in my affinity with this specific metaphor but regardless, Ben was able to generate a good deal of relevant resources suggested by it. 

Opportunities for supersaturating solutions now
  • Lessig's May Day campaign?
  • Bringing top Down and Bottom up leadership together
  • Business Alliance for the Future
  • Appreciative Inquiry opportunity
  • Participatory Budgeting
  • A trans-local opportunity
  • Climate Justice Alliance & Divest/Reinvest (out of fossil fuels and into the "new      economy")

The journey created traveling along these pathways doesn’t end here. This was only one pathway that happened to be transversed by me. There were dozens of different ones taken by others and even more possible. This search for possibility travelogue only touched upon the surface.  My own journey though, for now, will end with Harvesting Pad 11: Brian G. Dowling

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