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.”

For the January  25th, the Open Space conversation, I participated in “How do we understand the system that is changing?”, led by Chris S.  
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 (which no longer links to the correct map)

Exploring with the Dialogue, Deliberation and Systemic Transformation Community to Discover New Possibilities Part 2 of 3

Continuing the tour of the engagement with the Dialogue, Deliberation, and Systemic Transformation Community from the last blog post, December 15, 2014, DDST Community World Cafe had 6 spaces for the second round of conversations. I was assigned to Round 2 to Room 27 to continue by addressing the question, "What would keep you coming back?” 

The initial and guiding thought came from Ben K, “I would have to see action and progress - one of the Achilles heels of this kind of thing is a lot of talk - when talk is detached from action, it's detached from reality”, to which I wrote and came to believe that we needed, "More insights - we need action, but sometimes we need spaces that give us a sense of connectedness and foundation - the change we're going for is so large, that we'll need that connectedness to help us reach the tipping point." 

Also agreed with others who called for the need to, "Transcend the duality - Iteration and integration between talk and action. What of our actions have worked, and what have not worked? Blue sky thinking valuable, risk of getting stuck in it, thus the need for integration.”  Also, the need to, "Be in ‘dialogue' with the world/reality."

For myself, the primary inspiration was the possibility of collective thinking bringing people together to face wicked challenges through both our technology and our deeper understanding of community and change. Crucial to that success though was learning how to govern our communities without being entrenched in our current systems of government institutions and political power.

The next World Cafe session on January 6, 2015, increased to a total 20 separate spaces for conversations and went for three rounds. Round One Room 14 for World Cafe discussed the assigned topic, "What is alive in you that could pay a role in what we need to discover and do?" which was a bit touchy-feely for my taste. In the conversation, I admitted to being, “More comfortable with ‘hard’ system practices such as visual diagrams...using Causal Loop Diagram and other relational  maps and finding ways to bring hard and soft practices together in community governance venues/practices.

The touchy-feely aspect came forward more so with, "The energetic vibration of love. Curiosity...engaged in a research project on ‘love'--finding the language of love--seems like ‘love' is following me." , put forward by fellow DDST community member Heather T., who called herself and seemed a definite INFP, and who was interested in creating a thriving, resilient local food system. 

Heather, although coming from a  noticeably different psychological perspective zeroed in on what I also saw as one of the primary challenges facing us. She raised the issue, “How do we speak to the differences we are (e.g., Meyer-Briggs, etc.) or other ‘groups’ (e.g., Tea Partiers)?” and later “Am sensing something biased by personal choices--seeing opportunities that are showing up and the ‘larger’ crises; seeing my connections and where I have traction. How to invite/relate to those who are ‘different’; see who shows up in front of me as ‘different'...don't go looking for them—“

From my own vantage point, I contributed that, “Empirical evidence shows that attempting to convince people that they are wrong in their views only makes them hold on to them all the more firmly. Our current systems, especially in political governance is competitive, winner take all.  As Linda says, (in prior introductory comments) many feel unable to contribute because they don't see themselves as experts, a perspective often encouraged by institutions. “  

For Round Two Room 20 for World Cafe on Jan 6, 2015, the topic was: 
Imagine collaborating on some thrilling initiative that is making the difference we most need...  

As each round of a World Cafe brings new people together, I mentioned again being a retired redevelopment project manager, this time though to assert some credibility in stating that many practices by governments were detrimental to community governance and that I was instead looking for more participative community paradigms. 

The conversation turned to the concept of WE space. Heinz  P., a German living in Canada asserted, “The WE space will tell us what to do”. To which Rachel E. asked, “Can you unpack WE space?” 

It involved, we were told, inviting higher consciousness to see from where the calling was based on an (EVOLUTIONARY COLLECTIVE) that we are going into as a whole system, space which wants to evolve. New ways of doing things have to come from that space, not individual space.

This raised some others of my ongoing perspectives.

“We try to create new systems but entrenched systems must be addressed at the same time. Find systems of disruptive innovation to move from scarcity to abundance (as asserted here and here). Clayton Christensen at Harvard has a theory with commonalities. Systems of control and power that have a pretense of democracy need to come up with new ways to break the stranglehold. Not just disruptive but also innovative to give people power they need to make changes.”

Heinz raised the possibility of, “Working nonlinearly? Unexpected possibility not normally available to us?

My response, “Yes, entrenched manipulative power keeping things from changing can be overcome by means which creativity is opened up ... creation and destruction seem to go together…"

Heinz, “Creating, which I'm excited about. Shiva is creative and destructive at same time. by dancing!”  Which the group seemed to agree was a "Great metaphor for complexity."

Jeff A. introduced us to the, "Two Loops model by Meg Wheatley and Deborah Freize and friends has great value for people understanding the systems change that they are in, and how to be allies with others who are working in different aspects of the old system dying and a new system emerging." It is explained more fully here by this Two Loops: How Systems Change video and is based on the Berkana Institute Our Theory of Change arising from the article Lifecycle of Emergence - Using Emergence to Take Social Innovations to Scale, by Margaret Wheatley & Deborah Frieze, 2006.

Round Three Room 31 for World Cafe on Jan 6th, 2015 asked, ”Sensing into everything you've said and heard, what's taking shape here?"  

Neither I nor Heather T., who ended up again with me in this round, were as of yet not seeing what's taking shape as it was so big and complex and would we felt take a few days of reflection. I am still reflecting.  

Unfortunately, I  had to miss the January 29, World Cafe for DandDTrans. There were two conceptual bridges used to begin to tie together the diverse variety of ideas presented so far. The graph below taken from The World Cafe by Juanita Brown and David Isaacs, and Fungi as a metaphor for DandDTrans, created by Ben Roberts, who was the primary force behind the DDST Community.  Metaphor played an essential part throughout the engagement.

Exploring with the Dialogue, Deliberation and Systemic Transformation Community to Discover New Possibilities Part 1 of 3

About a month and a half, was spent during the end of last year and the beginning of this, engaging, initially with a set of Hackpads (now replaced with Dropbox Paper), with the Dialogue, Deliberation, and Systemic Transformation Community, portrayed as a  "community of inquiry and action" regarding the role that dialogue and deliberation can play in addressing the mega-crises of our time.

The last blog post chronicled certain aspects the journey and Dialogue, Deliberation, and Systemic Transformation Community, an associated Kumu project's relational maps, mapped out some of the primary realizations coming out of the engagement.

There is still a matter of the chronicling and mapping of the actual process of engagement itself, which can be mapped out with one of those Kumu maps, the DDST Hackpads Map. The primary purpose was to study a forum of extended, online group interactions, closer to soft system thinking methodologies, as an active participant though it meant the writing would be more self-focused than usually desired. This post and subsequent ones will go through a guided tour and endeavor to tie it all together with previously presented new community paradigm concepts. 

The entire experience was new having had neither direct experience in the associated fields nor any real, established academic background of many other participants. Everyone involved, particularly in the interactions in which I participated, was unknown prior to becoming a member of the DDST Community. Not only were their backgrounds different, personality types were far more varied. I lean towards being introverted, thinking, intuitive and judging type. All 15 other Myer-Briggs classifications were likely involved and I know I met at least a few IFSP types.

Discussing ideas on LinkedIn means working with particular groups and having people, often like-minded, connecting with your ideas and you with theirs. A good deal of cross-fertilization is achieved posting across different groups but the interaction with very different types is likely limited to some degree. 

My full formal written introduction to the group can be accessed through the Kumu DDST Hackpads Map A-H Intros for the DandDTrans Inquiry. Clicking on the link provided in the narrative section of the map opens the specific hackpad page with introductions of the appropriate letters A-H starting their last name though not in order. Mine is the third one down.  

My online social media background was used to answer the question, “What would you like to share about your work?”  More recent, ongoing efforts were included in a written response to, "What motivates you to be a part of this inquiry? “ providing the rationale for participating.

It was the word systemic in the title that attracted me. One of my new pathways of inquiry is systems thinking. I have been experimenting with the integration of systems thinking with direct democracy (by which I mean the effective combination of participatory democracy and deliberative democracy). That led me to a recently ongoing NCDD Codigital project to use as a proxy for a thought experiment in democratic collaboration. I want to find ways of getting past what Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton named the Knowing-Doing Gap. I am also just starting to learn about the work of Christopher Alexander and am in the very early stages of exploring ways to integrate his work into my explorations, particularly how patterns thinking could better fit in with systems thinking (not my map).

For the most part, Kumu maps were provided as examples of past work.
Christopher Alexander was mentioned because it seemed that Patterns Language would play a role. 

The essential, defining question being asked of the entire DDST Community was:

What do we, as members of the dialogue and deliberation community of practice, have to be and do to enable our most positive transformational impact in the face of emerging global crises which fundamentally challenge our business-as-usual habits and systems? 

This was focused on more personally and deeply with the questions of What's Possible?, and became a focus of the last blog post and Dialogue, Deliberation, and Systemic Transformation Community Kumu map.

What is the crossroads where you find yourself at this stage of your work in service to systemic transformation?” and “What declaration of possibility can you make that has the power to transform the community and inspire you?”.  

I mentioned having completed the Systems Thinking Certification course.  Adding my current hypothesis that:

“I believe that to be truly effective and sustainable that direct democracy involving both participatory democracy and deliberative democracy could greatly benefit from both soft system approaches such as Appreciative Inquiry and World Cafe, and hard or dynamic systems approaches such as Systems Dynamics.” 

Concerning my personal perspective on the question of possibility:

Right now my view is that we have to create the conditions for possibility. The NCDD's recent convention also had four basic questions for the organization that could also apply to the creation of possibility, two seem particularly relevant. How might we eliminate structural barriers that inhibit conditions for fully realizing possibility? A big part of the problem in my view is that much of the existing system(s) that are not working for people is nonetheless what I call 'entrenched' and we keep merely whacking at the leaves and not the roots systemically speaking. How might we overcome the lack of trust in our Democracy, leaders and one another? Without trust, the possibility seems exceedingly limited but possibility opens up the channel for trust if we can demonstrate that possibility can be realized. 

This was different from the actual person-to-person interactions with other members of the community. There were three modes of group dialogic interaction in which I participated in two, World Cafe and Open Space Technology, all of which took place online through MaestroConference or other means. I did not participate in the Bohm Dialogues

The first opportunity, based on a World Cafe format came on December 15, 2014. I have had little direct experience with World Cafe. I had recently participated in another online World Cafe Community event, "World Cafe As Method, Metaphor, and Movement, w/Juanita Brown” so I had a basic idea of the process. The last time that I had mentioned World Cafe was December 28, 2011, in the blog post, Governance through Community, as one of the organizations featured in the Governance through Community wiki-page. One of the main focuses of the World Cafe approach through the DDST Community was the extension of the "What’s Possible" question. In that setting, in one of seven spaces, I initially introduced myself, in a more informal fashion, as retired and exploring what is next.

Despite having a personal agenda, I never explicitly pushed it, wanting to be more of an observer on my initial exploration. Even though I did not push my own agenda, when an opportunity presented itself, I did insert certain of my own ideas if they seemed applicable to the conversation. I endeavored to do more listening than talking but to be truthful if any silences lingered too long I would pop in either with an observation or asked someone for theirs. 

I should mention here before getting too far that being a scribe or recorder at one of these online interactions, which I did attempt a few times, was challenging, especially when also actively participating.  This did create a challenge in fully expressing ideas within the allotted time. The person expressing the ideas was not always the person writing them down. Not everything that was said was written down, that which didn't always come out right the first time, grammar and spelling sometimes lapsed trying to keep up. So it was often necessary to go in to make changes and that was not always done.

One, presented more fully here, is that we are not likely at this point in time to find one overarching answer to all of our challenges or a grand theory of community engagement as Charles Darwin did with evolution. Instead, we are in the period preceding in which work was being done by numerous persons mostly remaining unknown by history. One exception though as he seems to have been instrumental in Charles Darwin's development is Erasmus Darwin, his grandfather, for noting the importance of the evolutionary-intergenerational perspective. Erasmus Darwin is the one who is made to look like a monkey in the drawings from that time. The analogy being that what may appear to be crazy, or monkey’s uncle ideas today could be an important aspect of creating what I am calling new community paradigms in the future. 

We begin exploring that myriad of different ideas in the next round.

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