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.

Friday, December 30, 2016

NCP - Looking for Coherent Context in Complexity

The last blog post introduced the new Kumu map of the New Community Paradigms (NCP) Wiki. This has been a long-term project and this was not the first attempt. A complex undertaking, resulting in an admittedly complex display so an introductory tour was also provided on the first page of the Kumu project map. Complex, because the multiple topics can influence each other through multiple connections and pathways in ways not usually seen in standard top-down pyramid configurations of local government. 

The resources collected within the NCP wiki pages are not typically found in institutional settings but they are established and viable. They are even less likely to be configured into an overall system. New Community Paradigms, as an overall set of concepts, are somewhere between “Crazy Ideas” and Erasmus Darwin on a continuum of paradigm development.  

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 a monkey’s uncle ideas today could be an important aspect of creating, what I am calling, new community paradigms in the future. 

He was also cited in Using Deliberation and Systems Thinking to Address Healthcare Costs, along with George Box, whose declaration "All models (or maps) are wrong, Some models are useful” has become a foundational principle for NCP. These efforts through explorations and experiments are seen as small steps in small spaces, slowly building relationships and bridges between different conceptual arenas. I have little faith in grandiose global transformations.

What they all have in common is that they are limited, not only in terms of George Box’s principle, "All models are wrong, Some models are useful” but also in terms of applicability. They are narrowly focused experiments in applying systems thinking to questions of direct community governance. An analogy might be to see them as attempts to match the work of Erasmus Darwin, and others, in the natural sciences prior to his famous grandson’s theory of evolution. They are opportunities for trial and learning.

Also in the last post, Sailing Complex and Wicked Seas with Icebergs (Systems Thinking) was cited for the insight into combining both longitude and latitude in thinking about something. 

Both are needed, like using both longitude and latitude to keep a ship on course. Both are part of the same global grid but each is determined differently, together requiring new means of navigation. The danger is not in getting lost east and west or north and south but being either marooned by one's own limited perspective or being lost in a complex sea of interactions. 

An idea that came from one of my favorite PBS shows, How We Got To Now with Steven Johnson / Time (Emmy Winner). Changing the direction of one’s perspective to one based on a different set of premises can open an until then unthought of a world of possibilities. With the blog, one is able to build upon the foundation created through past discoveries. With the system's thinking models, one is able to explore and test concepts and with Kumu mapping, one can begin to think laterally putting different ideas together.

Though, admittedly, this navigation metaphor is not being applied exactly in the same manner in the two instances. It is more of a meta idea, using Kumu or any mapping to expand one’s perspective and find unrevealed connections, as discussed in Dancing through the Complexities of Thinking Systematically about Systems Thinking  

In addition to thinking about the particular specific issues, when looking at a system and establishing our boundaries of what we consider the system to be, we also begin thinking about meta-issues, the meta is the thing to focus on as higher level of abstractness or about (its own category). 

Sailing Complex and Wicked Seas with Icebergs (Systems Thinking) also considered the concepts behind the Systems Thinking Iceberg Model, which has been referenced a number of times in this blog and utilized in a variety of different ways. The Kumu project map of the NCP Wiki conveying the Structural level of the Iceberg upon which the Event level plays out over time through the Patterns level. As mentioned in the last post, these blog posts are seen being part of the Mental Model level, though recognized as being only a very small part of a community mental model. 

"Taken a further step, the organizing principles of the Systems Thinking Iceberg model can help us to better understand and utilize or leverage the feedback loops making up systems. It has been used by this blog in attempting to explain abstract principles of how external causal loops could influence a specific system to the extent that it becomes, in reality, part of a larger system needing to be addressed as with Complexity Assailing Our Communities, to develop deliberative systems to understand multiple, intertwined issues across multiple sectors as with Healthcare Costs, and to organize diverse entities to take action across different sectors to address common concerns through Collective Impact efforts."

The effective use of modeling, especially through Kumu relationship mapping based on systems thinking has become an integral part of New Community Paradigms. Moving over a year between beginning to see Systems Thinking as a disciplined process for Community Governance, as a means of scaffolding direct deliberative democracy, to Getting Deep into ST - Systems Thinking Certification, which asked:

" to shift your perspective of the world from how it is usually presented as a machine subject to being broken down into smaller pieces and therefore controllable with the right levers. It asks you to look at your world as an interrelated system or a series of systems. The emphasis, at this point, is not on whether the world is a single system or multiple systems, rather it is how we approach the nature of such a system."

The greatest shortcoming of the New Community Paradigms Wiki Kumu Map project is that I built it myself and it would be far better for others if they built it or their own version of it for themselves as explained in Enabling a Better Tomorrow through New Community Paradigms via Systems Thinking

An experiential truth, one that you have to go through yourself, is that these different perspectives between the different systems being examined and system thinking itself, and between the various types of systems thinking and the different levels at which they operate are not as separate and distinct as they seem.  

They may appear so when presented on the pages of this blog but in their consistent utilization, there is a tipping point at which the complexity begins to become more coherent. The uncertainty may remain because that is always a factor within the complexity and some may prefer to ignore both the complexity and the uncertainty. Unfortunately, this is usually unsustainable and leads to unintended and invariably bad consequences. 

The ‘Moonshot’ challenge then is getting the members of your organization or community willing to work past the hurdles to reach beyond that point.

This assessment does not consider my own shortcomings but even in that case, Kumu mapping allows one to not only return and correct mistakes resulting from too quickly moving on with new explorations and experiments but also reevaluating based on new insights. At this point in the journey, establishing the pathways is more important than establishing the destinations which are seen as better being left to individual communities to determine. 

The desire is that if New Community Paradigms ever achieved its intended potential that it would then be as useful to a tea-party based community as it would be to a progressive green community. The two communities would use different resources in different manners but there could still be an underlying set of principles developed. The real challenge is when the two communities and versions in-between are conjoined together into an even more complex whole. 

NCP endeavors to search for new ways of Connecting Complexity with Community using Systems Thinking as scaffolding for a Bridge between Democratic Issues and Democratic Principles. The latest exploration is learning more about Asset Based Community Development, Social Networks and the Commons connecting Associational Life as another possible replacement for top-down political control by the invariably privileged few.

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, an assertion that has a mathematical basis

The community working instead on developing its own new community paradigms. 

Past Posts