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.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Map for a Pathway to New Community Paradigms

The last four blog posts dealt with the month and a half that I spent interacting online with the Dialogue, Deliberation, and Systemic Transformation community or DD&ST, revealing my own journey with them.  

The four blog posts that had steered me towards the DD&ST, before those four had dealt in part with the concepts of dialogue and deliberation,  indirectly involving the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD), examining how systems thinking could scaffold efforts at direct democracy

Despite the time spent on and the number of posts written, things still did not seem sufficiently settled or satisfactory. It was obvious that only the surface of possible interactions and explorations opened up by the DD&ST had been touched upon but that which had been covered still needed to be put into a better perspective. Particularly in light of the original question of systems thinking and direct democracy that drove the inquiry in this direction.  

So in order to get my bearings, I created another Kumu map. After finishing and traveling through it a few times, the realization arose that it was in a general fashion depicting a Pathway to New Community Paradigms. It is by no means anywhere near a final map, it does though bring together concepts that have become important components of New Community Paradigms. It is necessary though to first take a number of steps back.

It has always been recognized that the interactions, defined by the Direct Democracy and Systems Thinking map as a basis for this line of inquiry, would be done by groups of diverse, independent agents, not single entities, and in accordance with Michael Jackson’s System of Systems Methodologies would be pluralist, possibly conflictual and very likely often complex.  Jackson used this to differentiate hard and dynamic system thinking methodologies from soft systems thinking methodologies. This duality was to be brought together in a generative manner with the R1 Deliberative  Democratic Dialogue and R2 Working with  Systems Thinking loops of the Direct Democracy and Systems Thinking map

A follow-up self-critique blog post, which is still applicable, on that original related blog post brought out calls from LinkedIn discussion groups covering both ends of the continuum or sides for greater incorporation of resources or approaches related to their particular perspective. For the participatory, soft systems side, it was for the inclusion of Appreciative Inquiry methodologies, and for the harder, dynamic, goal-oriented side it was the inclusion of the insights from the Knowing-Doing Gap article by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton.

The opportunity then came to interact with real people asking real questions regarding dialogue and deliberation and how it could be used as a “…positive transformational impact in the face of emerging global crises” through participation with the Dialogue, Deliberation, and Systemic Transformation community. The guiding beacon for the DD& ST 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?"

The searching for insights in these matters, especially with the DD& ST and subsequent interactions with others making up the dialogue and deliberation community strengthened an appreciation that, in accordance with the systems thinking iceberg model, we are not only speaking in terms of different methodologies or perspectives but more importantly in terms of different mindsets.

The realization arose quickly that one was dealing with significantly different mindsets than were more usually familiar, resulting in a Stranger in a Strange Land vibe but the DD& ST community was truly welcoming and I pressed forward learning as much as I could. There was, far, far too much available in the journey’s short duration for gathering all but a few ideas on the first visit, though subsequent explorations are still possible. 

A good part of any limitations was no doubt mine. The general approach taken so far to systems thinking based on personal inclination and applied through certification has, by way of causal loop diagramming, leaned towards a harder or more dynamic approach as compared to softer or more participative approaches. It was recognized though that the later would be essential to systems of direct democracy. The question was how to integrate the two approaches together? 

The Pathway to New Community Paradigms map (Advisory, the actual Kumu map is designed to be more self-contained than is this external narrative.) reflects the unification of both of these perspectives but this was not merely a given. Instead, both approaches, hard, dynamic, goal-oriented system and participatory, inclusive soft system, labeled Creating the Future and Transforming the Future respectively, were explored separately through unfolding storylines from a bird's eye vantage point, revealing what were seen as potential inherent weaknesses in each. 

The two were then laid out together from a space shuttle vantage point to find some means of bridging the two. The common juncture of Complexity was seen as being the point at which bridging the two approaches were either successful or failed. This then provided the components needed to build a bridge across the complexity by the double loop interaction of ‘Opening Up to What is Possible’ and ‘Attaining What is Achievable' revealed to be at the heart of the New Community Paradigms map.

The challenge of complexity has been an important consideration for New Community Paradigms since near its inception and specific positions have been taken regarding the right way and a wrong way of addressing it. It has been contrasted with the concept of ‘complicatedness’ involving processes exhibited by many institutions, particularly by those of the local public sector, causing unresolved dissatisfaction resulting in disengagement in many communities. Complicatedness is seen as while being recognized as often being applicable, top-down command and control management processes but on steroids, providing a needed fix to entrenched political centers of local power.

Even if not pushed to the extreme limits of complicatedness, there is an important difference between complicated challenges and complex challenges. One perspective on the basic differences between Complex and Complicated systems based generally on Csikeszenmihalyi's "The Evolving Self" is illustrated by an InsightMaker model with additional discussion in Knowledge Management: Emerging Perspectives.

Wicked problems can become so complex, incoherently complex, that they can be broken down and erroneously perceived as complicated (and therefore seemingly addressable solely by complicated as opposed to complex means) by not only the general public but also by those tasked with addressing them with top-down complicated and reductionistic based management systems which may tend to reach high levels of bureaucratic complicatedness.

There had also already been an evolving perspective on goal-oriented approaches to resolving wicked challenges before having any interactions with the DD& ST, in particular questioning the relation and limits to those endeavors to achieve so-called 'concrete' results within the complex realities that give rise to those wicked challenges. These models or system shortcomings were still being seen from a dynamic systems perspective though.  The time spent with the DD& ST exposed me to a variety of other expanded possibilities and, while I did not convert, the mapping leading up to the convinced me even more that both perspectives, even both mindsets were needed. 

From a newcomer and relatively still outsider vantage point, the dialogue and deliberation community has in general been having, if not a crisis of faith with dialogue and deliberation, has at least been raising serious questions about it and its proper role today.  Personally, I don't have many answers and certainly not the answer. I am still working on constructing the right questions. The insights offered here may seem obvious to some but I would argue that the differences are deeper and more systemic than might be appreciated and some may choose to stay entirely on their own vantage point but I believe we lose far too much and the endeavors of both the DD& ST and New Community Paradigms becomes all the more difficult when each side fails to or only gives meager recognition and respect to the other.

Past Posts