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, November 23, 2016

Evaluation through Logic Models versus Theory of Change with ABCDE

Now that a larger framework has been created in the last post for Wendy McCaig’s conversation concerning perspectives on evaluation, we can take a more direct look at Measuring Success in ABCD – Continued. We will be working with Kumu relational mapping again, so I will be explaining a few things along the way since it has been awhile and for some readers, this could be the first time. 

The  CDCD Asset Mapping Process graphic Wendy provided has been re-created, and displayed on the right-hand side, of the interactive Kumu map CDCD, Citizen-Driven Community Defined

Also available is an interactive Kumu version of the Approaches to Poverty Map that Wendy provided in her blog post, 3 Approaches to Poverty: Relief, Betterment, Development. Wendy's original maps are also available within the narrative section of the Kumu map by clicking on the underlined link. A lightbox will be revealed on top of the screen. As explained in the Kumu map narrative section, the lightbox is closed by clicking the X at the top right corner. Other maps will be provided separately in this post but are also included in the narrative section of the Kumu map CDCD, Citizen-Driven Community Defined or in other related maps. 

Within the narrative section of each Kumu map, if you mouse over dotted underlined text then that element will be highlighted in the related map. Click the underlined text and the narrative for that element to open up. Click the map's white area and the narrative and map will reset. In the Kumu environment, the maps stay in one window. 

There are differences with the interactive Kumu versions of the maps and Wendy’s graphics. The Kumu CDCD Asset Map includes the social concerns that the community initiatives are supposed to address. Wendy’s map displays multiple Resident Led Initiatives for each Action Team. The Kumu map only reflects a particular initiative for each neighborhood, each of which addresses a particular community concern related to kids’ safety.  

The Kumu Approaches to Poverty map has both the Poverty Alleviation component and the Wealth Creation component but are displayed as separate circles. The Spiritual Need element is placed between these two. 

The Social Problems and Community Focus of Wendy’s article is on kids’ safety within an environment besieged by gun violence, sexual predators and unsafe streets made all the more dangerous because the kids don’t have anywhere else to play. Each Neighborhood Initiative addresses one of these concerns.

The intention is to dynamically integrate the CDCD map and Approaches to Poverty map together to begin to answer the five community questions posed by Nurture Development.  

 1. What are the things that only residents/citizens can do in response to this issue?
 2. What are the things that residents/citizens can lead on and achieve with the support of institutions (governmental, nongovernmental, for profit) in response to this issue?
 3 What are the things that only institutions can do for us?
 4 What are the things that institutions can stop doing which would create space for resident action?
 5 What can institutions start offering beyond the services that they currently offer to support resident/citizen action?

In addition, there is the inclusion of three possible Paths of Influence found at the bottom of the Kumu Approaches to Poverty narrative. Again, mousing over each of the dotted underlined paths reveals that path within the map area to the right. Clicking on one of them will open the narrative and reveal the elements involved in that path while clicking on the map white space will take you back. 

The idea for the paths of influence is based on the ABCD theme of “From what's wrong to what's strong.” The Social Emotional Needs of one person could be seen as a deficit but addressed in the aggregate by connected others towards any one person's needs or a group's needs or everyone else’s needs, especially if combined with the communal addressing of Spiritual Needs becomes a strength. 

Under Influence Path 1, the journey is a politically oriented one in which the community attempts to influence the government institution.  Under Influence Path 3, the journey is more of one of partnership in which the community needs to work both with the government institution and on its own at the same time. It is still possible though for the community to take Influence Path 2 in which the community takes action on its own though as reflected in the actions of Better Block and its provision of open source placemaking, it can sometimes be a matter of asking for forgiveness rather than permission.

Two of the Neighborhood Initiatives are seen as primarily addressing Social Emotional Needs. Showing the kids that the community cares for them. At their current degree of interaction, though these community actions through specific members fit 1. What are the things that only residents/citizens can (or would) do in response to this issue? To what degree they address other needs are questions that would still need to be asked. 

Resident Led Initiative 3, takes place in Neighborhood C. In this case, it is very likely that the possible choices invoked are “(2) What are the things that residents/citizens can lead on and achieve with the support of institutions (governmental, nongovernmental, for profit) in response to this issue?”, or “(3) What are the things that only institutions can do for us?”, to resolve physical safety needs or fulfill environmental needs related to health and welfare such as parks. In such circumstances, the community needs to go beyond providing only social-emotional support. Circumstances will dictate which of the paths of influence or others the community decides to take. 

It might be possible to expand programs such as the Cocoa Station under skill 2 to environment 3 and others to help create a more pedestrian-friendly environment. Additional skills could be added to each neighborhood and more detailed understanding of each environment and applicable social concerns could be provided. 

None of this has, however, reached a point of evaluation. Not only evaluating the individual projects put out by the community but also evaluating the means by which the community puts out such projects and implements them. In the last post, Cormac Russell provided a number of different evaluation methods, Developmental Evaluation, Most Significant Change, Narrative Therapy and Marshall Ganz's work (pdf) on Public Narrative moving to a Theory of Change and on to a Theory of Practice, all  beyond the standard Logic Model’s limitations that concerned Wendy.  Part of the reason that they are more comprehensive is that they are initiated when the project or program is beginning or even prior, question assumptions and extent even beyond completion.

Marshall Ganz's work (pdf) could be especially relevant to the paths of influence getting people to tell their stories in a manner that creates community cohesion thereby focusing community resolve. This post and the related Kumu map will focus on a Theory of Change, specifically as envisioned by Acumen. The example provided is based on the Last Mile Food Truck project proposed in the Financial Modeling and Last Mile Homeless Food Truck blog post series. A second Acumen course was taken on social impact using the first course as a foundation. The Acumen Theory of Change involves considering one’s assumptions at each step of the process and acquiring evidence to support one’s conclusion. There are also other questions to be considered and a recognition of possible pitfalls.  

The example provided is specific but it needs to be remembered that it is also hypothetical. The blog series was on the Acumen Financial Modeling course involved far more than financial accounting considerations including the systemic difficulties inherent in implementing such projects. The financial models proposed were though fantasy finance or imaginary impact investing as is the concept of social impact here. The full extent of lessons learned has of yet to be determined and revealed, so further inquiries can be expected in the future.

The more relevant question is how this could be related to the three neighborhood initiatives and the particular paths of influence they might take. Were some of the solutions proposed low hanging fruit or could more ambitious projects be developed by the community with our without the assistance of government or non-profit institutions? Assistance would not necessarily have to be directly related to specific projects, it could be related to how the community approaches change through processes such as placemaking with the Project for Public Places or participatory budgeting through the Participatory Budgeting Project or other means of greater community. The relevance of the mapping process is not the completed maps but the process of the community expanding and enhancing its efforts at community empowerment.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

ABCD, Social Networks and the Commons connecting Associational Life

Cormac Russell had an interesting discussion with Wendy McCaig on Twitter a while ago during which I made a suggestion that the topic would be suitable for a blog post. Wendy took the suggestion to heart and wrote, Measuring Success in ABCD – Continued, the "Continued" being from a previous post,  3 Indicators of a Strong Community. Which as the first part looked at evaluating communities on an Asset Based Community Development basis, as a whole, in terms of social capital bonding (connecting neighborhood residents together) and bridging (connecting volunteers from outside the community with residents, or I would presume, the community with other communities within a common jurisdiction), while the second part, Measuring Success in ABCD – Continued, looked at evaluating programs, activities, and projects within a community, by the community and for the community but still needing to interact at some level with institutional entities be they government or nonprofit. These are different forms of social networking that need to be made to work together.

In a post from 2015, 3 Approaches to Poverty: Relief, Betterment, Development, Wendy differentiated between a Poverty Alleviation System which addresses surface issues, such as institutions providing individual relief or means of individual betterment and a Wealth Generation System which looks to underlying causes that impact overall community development. Institutions, however, can use control of the first system and surface issue level to restrict access to the second system and underlying cause level. The question is how the community can integrate the two systems together putting a causal understanding of the Wealth Creation system on top of a Poverty Alleviation System that works through community development to address individual betterment or relief as needed. In the meantime, there is still the need to face the numerous challenges found in all communities and sometimes that requires the assistance of institutions.

Institutions insist, for arguably good reasons, upon evaluations as criteria for receiving funding but this can put the community into a dependent role. A dilemma then facing Wendy is that most institutional funders of public services, whether government or non-profit philanthropy, including United Way, want agency defined outcomes, linear measurements of attendance or level of engagement found in the traditional Logic Model, not community led impact. Cormac suggested a number of alternative forms of evaluation and assessment including Developmental Evaluation, Most Significant Change, Narrative Therapy and Marshall Ganz's work (pdf) on Public Narrative moving to a Theory of Change and onto a Theory of Practice.  There is evidence based research for these approaches, the challenge is educating funders to the importance of this to community development.

This also raises the importance of a community answering five questions raised in the Nurture Development post, What We’ve Tried (in isolation) Hasn’t Worked: The Politics of Community so that the locus of the question and control is the community, not the institution.

1 What are the things that only residents/citizens can do in response to this issue?
2 What are the things that residents/citizens can lead on and achieve with the support of institutions (governmental, nongovernmental, for-profit) in response to this issue?
3 What are the things that only institutions can do for us?
4 What are the things that institutions can stop doing which would create space for resident action?
5 What can institutions start offering beyond the services that they currently offer to support resident/citizen action?

The last four questions raise related follow-up questions. What influence does the community have over the institution to induce it to do for the community what it can’t do for itself, or to support the community in doing what it can do for itself, or to create space for the community to grow in that capacity, or what the institution can do to go beyond its current level of community support? This is not only a question of capacity for both the community and the institution but of motivation as well, particularly if other communities are competing for institutional influence on a political basis. 

This raises the concerns put forward by what was deemed the Scottish Conflict Model in the last post whether it is feasible to bridge to an institution when the relationship between a particular community and the ruling institutions may be a confrontational one. In such cases, there is an even greater need for social networking through bonding and bridging. It needs, however, to be tied together in a manner that is collective and inclusive.

As reported in Asset Based Community Development Lessons for Systems Thinking, “A viable way to be collective and inclusive from the bottom up, according to Cormac and those with a similar mindset, is to work through the concept of the communal Commons to enable some type of Coalition of the Doing in determining the relationship between Capitalism and the Commons".  

It becomes a matter according to Cormac then of not reforming (institutional) systems but reclaiming the Commons. The Commons, according to Wikipedia, “…is the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately.

As cited in ABCD Conflict Consensus Debate and Systems Thinking 1 of 2, “In outlining ‘12 Domains of People Powered Change’ Russell provides paths for solving some of the most pressing social problems by restoring bonds among people.

"The challenge is not the reformation of institutions, it’s the reseeding of associational life. When our associations strengthen, they will not only put manners on our institutions but will also stop outsourcing citizen and community work onto those systems. Then we will begin to discover that the Good Life is ours for the creating.”

Cormac cites Ivan Illich in discussing the limits of institutions in advocating for a return to the commons. 

"In areas of childcare, healthcare, mental health, environmental and ecological sustainability, local prosperity and public safety, we desperately need to start a new conversation that takes a view from the bank of the river, a view that does not dismiss the river, but takes it in, alongside the rest of the ecosystems (our non-institutional capacities).”

According to Cormac, the average person has 51 other persons in their associational lives. He cites Dunbar to argue that we need 150 persons. So one measure is the other 99 relationships. The Dunbar, to whom he is referring is Robin Dunbar, the originator of Dunbar's Number, a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. Here is a ForaTV video RSA video of Dunbar explaining his theory. 

The number of 150, according to Dunbar "refers to those people with whom you have a personalized relationship, one that is reciprocal and based around general obligations of trust and reciprocity." According to Cormac, these are friends and neighbors not other service users, family or professionals, “It comes down to how many unforced and unpaid for relationships of acceptance we have in door knocking distance.

There is not, however, a single Dunbar Number but rather a scale of numbers, of ever-widening circles of connection.  According to Dunbar, there is a cognitive limit to the number of relations that any one primate (including humans) can maintain because "this limit is a direct function of neocortex size, and ... this in turn limits group size where stable interpersonal relationships can be maintained." It consists then of four layers, or "Circles of Acquaintanceship," which scale relative to each other by a factor of 3— 5 intimates, and then successive layers of 15, 50 and 150. The first group, of three to five, is our very closest friends. Then comes 12 (the size of a jury) to 15, those whose death would be devastating to us. The next circle is made up of 50 persons, or “the typical overnight camp size among traditional hunter-gatherers like the Australian Aboriginals or the San Bushmen of southern Africa.”  The number of people increases while the emotional connection decreases with each successive circle, so it is not just walking distance but emotional distance as well.  Beyond the 150 number, there are further rings, for example, fifteen hundred being the average tribe size in hunter-gatherer societies, the number of people who speak the same language or dialect. Even larger circles involve even greater levels of complexity.  

It is upon this basis, a system of associational relationships to develop community wealth that Asset Based Community Development seeks to help communities find solutions to community challenges. This requires not only connections but diversity as well according to Professor Scott E. Page. 

Within this framework, the Commons are both place-based with associational networks as a people based commons,  and the Social Network is also both people based with the commons as a place-based defined social system so that the smallest associational successes of ABCD can reverberate through the entire community (system).

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

ABCD Conflict Consensus Debate and Systems Thinking 2 of 2

The last post suggested that two community development approaches, what is being called a Scottish conflict model (SCM) and Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) (we will avoid the term model) are not in truth in direct conflict but out of sync and potentially constrained in their individual methodologies.

Both are dealing with the reality, as noted by the authors of the Scottish conflict model, that the UK is experiencing the most significant transformation of its welfare state since its founding after the Second World War with key social welfare services being eliminated, means-tested, dramatically curtailed or privatized to save money. As the state withdraws from different aspects of public life, governments are unilaterally arguing that individuals, families and community groups will be able to fill this vacuum through their local knowledge, assets and energy to rebuild local services, ostensibly or not on their own terms and in ways that meet their interests and needs but without the expenditure of resources by the government while still under the regulation of government.

It is also recognized, as stated by Prof. Jody Kretzmann, Co-founder of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute that, ‘ABCD is essential, but it is not sufficient’ in addressing this.

I think it is very important that we make this amendment, especially in the current climate where some institutions are now turning to communities to ‘step up’, and fill the space of services that are being cut.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                              Cormac Russell

Supporters of both SCM and ABCD recognize ‘systems’ can be used to both harm and protect liberty and rights. It is SCM though that asserts that the purpose of community development is to pursue an agenda that makes the local and national state work better for the most marginalized, focusing more on the structural level of the system.

As was said before, the SCM authors seemingly define community, more as a amorphous whole, basically in its relation to the state and the state to the community. They recognize that the [welfare] state can be a cumbersome, bureaucratic and self-serving institution that undermines individual liberty and innovation. Nevertheless, they still see it as the key guarantor and protector of equality and rights which makes individual liberty possible and meaningful, at least no other guarantor besides what is supposedly influenced or replaced by SCM is provided. 

Reforming the state then by transferring various state responsibilities to  communities and especially individuals is not seen by SCM as the best or even the most effective means of doing so, raising concern of an assets agenda possibly marginalizing needed discussions of significant structural and economic inequalities. All of which could be a fair point but if the welfare state system does not fulfill the needs of the marginalized, failing as a guarantor and SCM steps in attempting to appropriate the locus of control without establishing deep relationships with the individuals of the community is it then truly democratic or even have a chance at being successful? It could be argued, if it ever succeeded, to be a change in a form of  structural democracy but not a transformation to deep democracy.

Asset Based Community Development has a set of common features described by John McKnight. It is an approach that is relationship focused between the fundamental agents of the system or community members, capacity oriented /asset based and internally driven/place based. In terms of assets, five are the core of the work with the focus on relationships being largely internally networked.

1. Individual resident capacities
2. Local associations
3. Neighborhood institutions – business, not-for-profit and government
4. Physical assets – the land and everything on it and beneath it
5. Exchange between neighbors – giving, sharing, trading, bartering, exchanging, buying and selling

These assets have three critical aspects, simplicity, usability and universality. As with all complex systems, these can then be combined dynamically in a number of different ways. Things that only residents/citizens can do independently in response to an issue.  Things that residents/citizens can lead on and achieve in cooperation with the support of institutions (governmental, nongovernmental, for profit) in response to an issue. Both of these are premised on a substantial locus of control laying within the community and the individuals making it up

Next comes things that only institutions can do. The locus of control is now closer to the institution or entity that attempts to influence or appropriate the role of the institution. It can then be asked what is it that institutions can be made to stop doing which would create greater space for resident action, but perhaps more importantly what can be done to induce institutions to not only do so but also start offering services beyond that they might currently offer to support resident/citizen action? 

These questions are being asked in a Kettering Foundation oriented framework centering:

“..on understanding what are the irreplaceable functions of community, and only then to move on to reflecting on the functions of an enabling state, and how those unique and irreplaceable functions can become mutually reinforcing of the democratic experiment. This is classic Asset-Based Community Development applied to the wider political landscape.”
                                                                                                                 Cormac Russell 

Asset-Based Community Development practice seeks to save people from the system not to save the system money. Ethical ABCD practice is about having a life, growing free space and deepening democracy, it is not about service reform or redesign, it doesn't seek to create citizen-led alternatives to mainstream services.

Part of this discourse concerns the relative placements of the Scottish conflict approach and an ABCD approach in attempting to achieve this. ABCD emphasizes a proclivity to move away from individualistic consumer based definitions of a good life and any dependency on the nonexistent beneficence of institutions themselves (as opposed, I would say, to the humans working within them). ABCD also recognizes the importance of being honest about the issue of power. However, it is not as readily discernible what steps would be taken in unequal power negotiations.

“Actual work in and with neighborhood people has not been very common even though the “green book” was written primarily for them. In part this has been because institutions and policymakers have organizations that can find us and solicit relationships. On the other hand, local neighbors and their groups are not often organized to reach beyond their boundaries.”

                                                                                                         John McNight

ABCD seeks to attain maximum individual and associational freedom and total institutional neutrality in defining democracy while recognizing that community needs good government and a fair market willing and capable of providing a safety net when needed. Again, associational seems to focus on the internal relationships comprising the association and not the capacity of the association to negotiate effectively with agencies outside of the community. The issue for ABCD then is how to determine the proper proportionality and correct relations. It is desired that government form a dome of protection and do what the community cannot do for itself, as an extension of but not a replacement for community. 

ABCD even though it is not anti-state, still does not focus on the systemic structures of state.  ABCD approaches may be seen then to generate real dilemmas in the ability for some practitioners and community groups to articulate their views about structural problems and build solidarity at the grassroots. As a result, ABCD intervention, resulting in the shifting of state responsibilities for social problems onto individuals and communities without the requisite power to negotiate effectively with institutions of power can be seen as troublesome by some. The ability of ABCD to transform communities though can be emergent in nature if such a state can be attained but the path do to so is not evident, set or guaranteed.

We will finish by examining a potential limitation of systems thinking concerning this discourse. Agreement that ABCD while a system is not a model, has already been implied.

Asset-Based Community Development is not a model, it is a description of how people join together – at hyper local level – to use what they have, to get what they all agree they want. 
                                                                                                             Cormac Russell

Systems thinking is best suited to discerning relationships in aggregate and over time between elements or events and the systemic structures arising out of those relationships. For this, it depends primarily on data. It can also be useful in understanding how emerging mental models impact that system.

The connection though between mental models of a system and the fundamental individual elements, members of a community, who generate those mental models though is best discerned not by data but by stories. 

System thinking uses maps, a type of modeling which must be recognized regardless of how useful, and they are useful, wrong. Stories can bring understanding closer to the “territory” of those individuals who serve as guides even if only for their own individual  perspectives in addition to the broader perspectives discussed here, all of which can be brought together for a deeper, more complete understanding. 

ABCD Conflict Consensus Debate and Systems Thinking 1 of 2

This post is being written immediately after finishing and before publishing the last post, even though the last post is believed to have done an adequate job of delineating the issues of what is now seen as a core debate between what I will call the Scottish conflict model and, to use their designation, the ABCD consensus approach to community development. 

There is still a need to look into both sides more deeply to understand the differences. This post will focus a bit more on the ABCD perspective while still keeping in mind the concerns of the Scottish conflict model but to attain a sufficient enough level of understanding I will need to return to systems thinking. It has taken four posts to get to this point, it will take longer than one standard post, and a good deal will be contained within this space of exploration until reaching what is seen as possible limits and commonalities for the Scottish conflict model, for ABCD, and for systems thinking.

This though may present an issue with some, previously having written Asset Based Community Development Lessons for Systems Thinking to find some points of commonality between ABCD and systems thinking, this post will use systems thinking to understand aspects of ABCD but many in ABCD see systems as synonymous with institutions and tools of bureaucratic manipulation.

This negative connotation associated with systems and especially “The System” is understandable.'s definition of a System takes this top-down management perspective of systems and while there is some truth to this interpretation, it is also limited or constricting in my view.  Particularly when “the” of “The System” is being used as a marker of unconditional preeminence rather than a means for specifying or particularizing. 

According to a more general definition by Wikipedia, and Merriam Webster indirectly:

"A system is a set of interacting or interdependent component parts forming a complex/intricate whole. Every system is delineated by its spatial and temporal boundaries, surrounded and influenced by its environment, described by its structure and purpose and expressed in its functioning. 

The term system may also refer to a set of rules that governs structure or behavior. Alternatively, and usually in the context of complex social systems, the term is used to describe the set of rules that govern structure or behavior."

I lean toward, Donella Meadows, one of the authors of Limits to Growth, who has a similar definition, “A system is an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something…. a system must consist of three kinds of things: elements, interconnections and a function or purpose,” but her definition can be expanded upon from these simple foundational steps to Dancing with Systems. More importantly, in terms of endeavoring to bring about transformation, she identifies points of leverage within systems.

For myself then, the only thing that deserves to be called “The System” is “The Universe” and everything in it is parts of myriad instances of “a system”. Institutions are composed of multiple systems, sometimes espoused systems conflicting with actual in use systems, or systems of administration contrasted with systems of organizational culture. ABCD in my view fits the Donella Meadows’ definition of a system. It is a system, a complex, human based system, that must exist within, and by its purpose interact with the complicated, procedure based, institutional systems aforementioned.

Based on the premise that there is a difference between complicated and complex systems, what I see as the Wikipedia complex/intricate contrast could be replaced with intrinsic as a defining attribute of complexity and complicated as the manifestation of the intricate. For both, there has to be mutual iterative interactions between events. It does not necessarily have to be directly two way, it can be a one-way loop with numerous intervening events or elements in-between. 

Both types of systems, complicated or complex, are developed to influence or manipulate larger complex cultural or social systems. Their approaches to complexity are also different and these differences can be categorized according to Warren Weaver's Science and Complexity.

The rules for complicated systems are usually imposed from without even when those supposedly imposing are elected every four years or so or are placed by circumstances into leadership. An autonomous management entity usually comes into play even with oppositional or conflict models to lead the fight. Even fully human based cultural systems will involve some forms of complicated systems of control, the question is to the level this is true and how effective it works out to be.

The fundamental rules of complex systems arise from within the (particular) system itself. The rules of a complex system are defined by the interaction of the components of the system, intrinsically related to each other. It is this type of relationship which allows emergent properties to arise from a system, wetness attributed to a relationship between hydrogen and oxygen, life from the organic based relationship of carbon based chemicals as contrasted to inorganic chemicals, the emergence of consciousness from the holographically intrinsic relationship of neuron synapses within the human brain, the Arab Spring Uprising.

A conflict model often operates on intricate, complicated lines in opposition to an institutional system which also endeavors to operate imposed complicated systems of top-down control but through intricate lines that are often obscure or hidden. 

A complicated approach to a complex social system can be analogous to Warren’s disorganized form of complexity. As Daniel Bassill writes, after the 2009 Copenhagen accords, makers of a Collation of the Willing in 2013 proposed mobilizing people as a ‘swarm’ suggesting that with the Internet it is possible to create an online hub that could support the growth of the climate change movement. It had the laudable objective ”in order to address the climate crisis we have to first address inequalities”. These type of movements though, in my view, often seem to treat people as the molecules in a chamber of gas creating movement through heat or pressure thereby creating change through external sources of force. 

In outlining ‘12 Domains of People Powered Change’ Russell provides paths for solving some of the most pressing social problems by restoring bonds among people. Rather than finding creative ways to ‘reclaim the state’ ABCD instead seeks to reclaim the commons. This to my mind is more analogous to Warren's organized complexity, later adopted by Jane Jacobs

"All of these [referring to a long list] are certainly complex problems. But they are not problems of disorganized complexity, to which statistical methods hold the key. They are problems which involve dealing simultaneously with a sizable number of factors which are interrelated into an organic whole."

As a systems thinking proponent, one common means of understanding the world is through the Systems Thinking Iceberg Model which has been featured before in this blog. The Donella Meadows Institute has its own perspective on the Iceberg Model. I am not going to go into detail about the Iceberg model on these pages but understanding it is important to what follows.

In my view, the Scottish conflict model primarily operates at the Event level and especially at the Structure level. The Pattern level is not necessarily ignored but there is less attention paid to understanding the patterns than there is to identifying and opposing what is seen as components of the entrenched system structure responsible. Mental models are often replaced by imposed established ideology. Patterns, as far as they are seen to exist, are set in terms of a continuing conflict. The question is whether this creates a truly independent system capable of replacing an existing entrenched system or is it rather merely an oscillating system in different states of conflict that never truly transforms? 

ABCD focuses more on the Pattern level and the Mental Model level. It focuses especially on those community generated Patterns ignored by institutional government service providers by which communities focus on their own strengths rather than being defined by others according to their weaknesses. These are the events celebrated and repeated across communities until they become an integrated part of the community. 

More important though is the creation of new Mental Models adopted by those following new patterns. This is not merely positive thinking but taking actions which has community, as well as personal, impact and repeating those actions in a manner which feeds back into the community creating the conditions by which they can be sustained and become resilient.

Past Posts