The State of Art of Collaborative Networks: Recommended Readings

With almost 2 decades of experience in funding and deeply engaging in collaborative networks for systems change, our colleagues are sharing their observations.

Our colleague Jennie Curtis at the Garfield Foundation shares her insights from 16 years of leading foundation support for #collaborativenetworks of #systemschangeDigging Out of Philanthropy’s Entrenched Practices

Institute for Strategic Clarity CHOICE Fellow Ruth Rominger, who serves as the Collaborative Networks Program Director with the Garfield Foundation, reflects on why Garfield invests in the development and evolution of #systemsinformed #collaborativenetworksHow Living into our Questions Led us to Fund Networks

Saying YES! with Christian Ray Flores — Podcast Interview

Yes! Saying Yes!, a Big YES! to your life, to your work, to your contribution to a future you care about, makes all the difference. I am grateful to Christian Ray Flores and his team at Third Drive for hosting me on their podcast in this fun exploration of why saying Yes! to human creativity drives success, what we are learning in 100s of groups and in our research.

The Science of Abundance: 4 90-min talks (3 in Spanish and 1 in English)

Together we can take on huge challenges. I am grateful to my colleague Adrian Joyce for joining me in this 88-minute session with the Centro de Liderazgo y Tecnología UPM in Madrid. With our co-host Isabel Ortiz, we shared what we are learning at the Institute for Strategic Clarity ( about the “science of abundance” and cohosting societal collaboration. We specifically explored Adrian’s work with the Renovate Europe Campaign.

You can see the recording of this session and 3 others, exploring this “ciencia de la abundancia,” on the Centro de Liderazgo y Tecnología UPM YouTube channel [].

The Public K-12 Education System We Choose

An awesome, state-wide, systemic approach to strategically shifting public K-12 education towards truly equity-based flourishing as regenerative communities

#strategic-systems-change #ooma

Is It Winter? That Depends. Really?

When working with groups, I challenge them to think of anything that is fixed, unchanging, always the same. While people pop up with some possibilities–my sister is my sister, that building is there, time is time–we quickly discover that all of these understandings have shifted dramatically in recent years. Family relations can be defined biologically and socially. The building used to be materials, which were minerals before, and will be materials then minerals again in the distant future. Time was constant and universal, until Einstein’s theory of relativity. Everything changes and depends on other things. While this is leading-edge thinking in organizational strategy, it is a very old teaching.

I just found out another one this week. Is it winter? Surely that is fixed. Winter is winter. Isn’t it? Nope. It turns out that there are different definitions of the seasons and when they start. Two basic definitions of seasons are meteorological and astronomical.

Meterological seasons are based on average temperatures. Winter is the coldest average temperature for three months. Since there is a lag in the cooling down or heating up of the lithosphere and hydrosphere, winter officially starts, in the USA, on December 21. This is the winter solstice. In this way of thinking, the solstices and equinoxes mark the beginning of the season. In other countries, winter starts officially on December 1. And, that is for the northern hemisphere, with the southern hemisphere being in summer at that time.

Astronomical seasons are based on the tilt of the axis of the Earth. Winter is when the nights are shortest, with the winter solstice marking the middle of the season.

Well, at least we humans agree that there are four seasons. Right? Nope. In some cultures, there are two seasons, others have three, six, or twenty-four seasons in a year. Even though I thought I was thinking about everything as being dynamic and systemically interconnected, I had never even questioned whether I knew when winter started. Well, it depends on how you define it, the culture you come from, and the distance you live from the equator. Once again, life is even more interesting than I had thought.

Economics for Life: Recommended Reading

Sandra Waddock proposes a set of 6 core precepts that could greatly help us address the many huge challenges humanity faces, when we integrate them into our economic framing of human agreements — A New Economic Orthodoxy Economics for Life

#StewardshipoftheWhole #CocreatingCollectiveValue #GovernancethroughCosmopolitanLocalism #RegenerationReciprocityandCircularity #RelationshipandConnectedness #EquitableMarketsandTrade #economicsforlife #economicorthodoxy #agreements

What Are We? Recommended Podcast

Even in the most difficult of contexts, humans are full of potential, which we can choose to engage — this podcast, The 100 Types of Humans, with barrister Dexter Dias QC and broadcaster Nihal Arthanayake explores the depths of what is real now and what can also be real now, in very difficult situations — it is a choice.

Getting The Universe To Conspire With You

Does the universe seem to conspire with you?  Everything seems to work.  Or does the universe seem to conspire against you?  Nothing seems to work.

Building on our global work of the past twenty years at the Institute for Strategic Clarity, my colleagues and I have been building an understanding of the underlying ecology of consciousness and nature, the reality that humanity is and in which it swims.  The practical application of this ecology is the agreements field.  An agreements field is the energetic field that you experience of a set of agreements, of the reality you experience with a group, in a specific space.  This agreements field–what you unconsciously accept or consciously choose about how you will interact with reality, with each other–includes 10 dimensions of reality.

These dimensions describe the reality of the ecology of consciousness and nature.  That means that they are dimensions of your reality.  By seeing them as dimensions of your reality, dimensions that you can directly experience, this gives you the tools, the choices to change the agreements field, to adjust to the reality you want.  The reality you need to have the experiences you want and to achieve the outcomes that are yours to achieve.  They are all there, for you to choose.  This is getting the universe to conspire with you, because the universe asks this of you.  Decide how you want to agree to enter and relate with each of these dimensions.  Set your intention.

The ten dimensions are relatively straightforward, building on thousands of years of observation across all human cultures, as well as string theory in physics.  In essence, the universe is made up of purposeful energy, energy that transforms to and must serve a purpose.  It is in the very nature of energy.  So here is the first choice–what is the purpose towards which the energy is invited to engage.  A tool for this is the Deeper Shared Purpose.

Then you have to connect to the energy.  This is the choice of how to connect you and others to a purpose that engages them.  This is connection to the source of the energy.  Does your purpose and your process for connecting to it engage?  We call this cohosting.  That’s the second choice.

This purposeful energy comes with many different ways of understanding it, of relating to it.  You can think of this as another multidimensional energy that requires many different lenses for engaging it.  Like an 8-part harmony in a jazz ensemble or the 3 parts of deciding whether you can make money building and selling something (can we make it, can we sell it, can we profit from making it and selling it?).  You need all of the requisite perspectives of that specific purpose to perceive it and engage it.  You cannot do an 8-part harmony with 3 voices.  You cannot decide whether you can make a profit by just knowing how much it will cost to make.  You need all of the required perspectives.  What perspectives are required depends on your purpose.  The choice here is in how you bring in and work with those perspectives.  One tool for this is the O Process.  This is the third dimension of choice.

The degree to which those perspectives engage and share what they are perceiving depends on their experience of trust.  This is reflected in the level of vibrancy experienced in five primary relationships: the relationship to one’s own self, to the other, to the group, to nature’s creative process, and to spirit’s creative source.  When you have generated a space of low vibrancy where the experience is of a weak relationship to these five primary relationships, almost nothing of what the people perceived is shared.  When you have generated a space of high vibrancy, people experience very strong relationships to these five primary relationships, and they share all of what they are perceiving and build on it together synergistically.  From very low energy throughput to very high energy throughout.  This is the fourth choice.  A tool for assessing the level of vibrancy experienced is the Agreements Health Check survey, available free online.

These first dimensions describe whether you were able to engage the purposeful energy.  The next set of dimensions describe your choices in transforming that purposeful energy.

Do the agreements in your group work with the energy engaged?  The engaged energy comes in three forms: in knowledge of what already is, in developing new capacities and relationships, and in seeing new possibilities, accessing new potentials.  Do your organizational agreements, structures, and processes work with all three forms or focus mostly on one?  If you tend to focus explicitly on outcomes, existing capacities, and what is already known, you might capture the energy engaged around the knowledge shared of what already is, but you will lose all of the energy engaged around learning and seeing of new possibilities.  You have to be structured consciously to work with these three forms and not lose them to entropy.  This fifth dimension of choice can be assessed with the Agreements Evidence Mapping tool.

Once you have the engaged energy flowing into your organization, do you know how to transform it efficiently and effectively into something that others want?  This means taking the inputs of raw resources and creative energy and putting them together in unique ways that drive value for others.  This is the crux of the resource-based view of the strategy of the organization.  This transformation works at three levels of leverage: direct, dynamic, and structural.  Direct leverage is working directly with the resources in the most efficient way: knowing what you are doing to transform these enabling resources into value-driving resources.  Dynamic leverage is knowing how to work with the system dynamics of feedback loops that either stabilize towards homeostasis, balancing the local system or grow the system exponentially–balancing or reinforcing feedback.  This requires knowing how to work with the feedback dynamics of functional areas.  Structural leverage is coordinating multiple balancing and reinforcing feedback loops–the organizational system–to achieve the overall desired goal.  Maximize output from minimal inputs, across interacting feedback loops.  This requires knowing how to bring together interacting feedback loops of balancing and reinforcing forces to achieve desired outcomes.  This strategic systems work is the sixth dimension of choice.  The Systemic Leverage Index tool describes the level of direct, dynamic, and structural leverage in your system and how to increase them.

For you to be resilient in your ability to continue to transform the engaged purposeful energy, you need to be able to access the resources you need.  This resilience is a function of inflows and outflows.  To be resilient, your resource inflows must match your outflows.  Your resource outflows are the resources you need to transform the energy inputs into the product or service you are offering.  Think of these as the costs of bringing in people and resources and having facilities.  The inflows are the resources you need to provide the outflows.  Think of these as the money, products, and services required to provide for the people, enabling resources, and facilities.  When your inflows match your outflows, you are resilient.  When your outflows exceed your inflows, you are not.  When your inflows exceed your outflows, you are wasting resources.  A tool for measuring your resilience is the Resilience Dynamics map.  This is the seventh dimension.

These are the dimensions of transforming the purposeful energy engaged.  The third set of dimensions key in on transferring that transformed energy.

Do the people you are intending to offer the transformed energy want it?  Are they ready to receive it in the form offered?  Shockingly, most groups will expend great amounts of resources to know how much money they have (accounting information systems and processes) and how much inventory they have (enterprise management systems), and they will then survey their consumers every couple of years, meaning they spend almost nothing in knowing whether people actually want and are able to receive what is being offered.  When I ask, many, many groups tell me that they don’t really want what is being offered.  This shows in the marketplace, and is harder to see in civil society and government offerings.  And, when they do want what is being offered, it is often offered in ways they cannot work with.  It is too much or too little, or in a form they don’t want.  I don’t need soup, I need clothes.  We want water access, but not through the policies you implemented.  We want to educate our kids, but not your way. But you don’t ask, so you don’t know.  Anther possibility is for the intended recipients of the transference of the transformed energy to be deeply involved in the process, co-creating the forms they most need and are ready to accept of the transformed energy.  This is the highest value they can put on that energy.  The Memetics and Epimemetics tools describe the ability to transfer the transformed energy, your eighth dimension of choice.

Who in the system are you actually serving?  What percentage of the time?  Many groups declare they are serving the entirety of a specific population, when their outcomes show they are not.  Public K-12 education for all citizens.  Serving all sports fans in our area.  Yet, they only reach half the intended population, and the half they don’t reach is predictable, often by zip code.  And, they reach most people in the system some of the time.  The eCubed tool measures the degree to which a system serves everyone in the system (E1), everywhere in the system (E2), everyday in the system (E3).  A system says it is designed for the people it is serving.  This is eCubed (E1 * E2 * E3) equals 100%.  Most systems have an eCubed far less than 100%: they are not serving the system they say they are.  They are not transferring all of that transformed energy to the explicitly intended community, rather a subset of it.  This reflects the quality of the overall system design.  This is the ninth choice.

The 10th dimension of choice is the people you engage.  When you invite people into your purpose, you are asking them to exchange their calorie burning for lumens generating.  They need money, food, housing, etc to take care of their needs.  These are all calorie-equivalents.  Things to provide and protect more calories into their bodies for existence.  When these are covered, these calorie burners become lumens generators.  Lumens are the creative expression of human energy, as people connect to a purpose and the creative energy begins to flow.  This is what you are doing with your organization: bringing in calorie burners to generate lumens.  These lumens generated bind with the inputs of enabling resources to transform into value-driving resources.

You have all of these choices.  Choices that you make every day, whether you do it consciously or unconsciously.  The agreements field of these ten dimensions that you generate directly influences how much of this purposeful energy you access, engage, transform, and transfer and how much you lose to entropy.  In all probability, you are currently losing most of it to entropy, because you have accepted an agreements field and not consciously designed it.  You are expecting the universe to work in a specific way, which sometimes works for you and sometimes doesn’t.  Another way of understanding this is to see that these are all dimensions in a set of choices, an agreements field that you can generate.  They are all there for you to work with. This is how you get the universe to conspire with you.  You tell it to.  That is the choice that the universe expects from you, to know how to breath with you, to conspire with you.

Is There One Underlying Platform/Substrate to Reality or an Infinite Variety?

You assume there is only one set of agreements, one reality.  This is the way it is.  If I like it, I like how it is.  If I don’t like it, I don’t like how it is.  And, that’s how it is.  That’s reality, and I cannot change reality.  I can like the experience or not.  I can like the outcomes or not.  But, that is reality.  That is how it is.

That’s what you think. Yet, you also know that it is not true.  If it were true, if that is the way it is, then it would have to be always true.  True in all circumstances, in all situations.  If it is sometimes true, and other times not, then it isn’t always true.  Then, it depends.  Sometimes that’s the way it is, and sometimes it is another way. What does it depend on?

You have two very different experiences of reality–one of scarcity and being disengaged and one of abundance and being engaged.  You know the difference, in your own experience, in your own knowing.  You have a preference.  I have directly asked thousands of people from 39 countries, and I have surveyed people from 125 countries, asking if they know the difference and if they have a preference.  So far, everyone says they do.  They know when they are experiencing scarcity or abundance, being disengaged or engaged.  And, they prefer to be engaged; they prefer abundance.

For you to experience scarcity to abundance, low to high engagement, there are different rules of the game, different rules of interaction, different agreements.  Some of the rules of the game, the agreements, lead to the experience of scarcity and low engagement.  In the exact same setting, some rules of the game lead to the experience of abundance and high engagement.  It is a choice.

You may believe that it just is that way, because you believe there is only one substrate, one underlying substance to all agreements.  One underlying reality.  One underlying structure for how we humans agree to interact.  That’s just the way it is.  It turns out there isn’t only one possible substrate, rather there is an infinite number of underlying sets of assumptions that lay the foundation for the set of agreements that you experience in every group, in every system.  An infinite number of substrates, which you can pick.  It’s like going to the paint store.  There isn’t just beige, rather an infinite number of possible colors to use.

Ecosynomics refers to these sets of assumptions about reality as the underlying agreements field, the foundational agreements structures.  They include assumptions about what you think is real, what resources are available.  About who decides how those resources are accessed, and who enforces those decisions.  About the values that permeate the system, providing the criteria used to decide.  About the rules of the game for how we interact with the resources and with each other.  These are a set of agreements.  A set of coherent agreements that describe the interactions that determine the experience you are having.  One tool for mapping out, understanding, and changing these underlying agreements is called the agreements evidence map, which has been used in thousands of settings by groups across the world.

So, you assume the substrate is the same.  It is just being used differently  There is one set of agreements, which are used differently.  That is what you assume, consciously or unconsciously.  The last 20 years have conclusively shown that there is not just one substrate, rather there are an infinite variety of substrates.  An infinite variety of ways that you can agree to interact.  The substrate, the platform, the set of agreements used matters.  What you are able to do within and with your agreements, your experience and your outcomes, depends on this substrate, on this set of agreements.

There is one experience.  There are many ways to perceive that experience and what is real in it.  This makes for many different realities that can be perceived in the same experience.  You know what you experience.  And, with reflection, you can know even more about what you experience, in all of its rich dimensions.  The deeper vibrancy you experience to be real.  You are the chooser of the experiences and outcomes in your life.  You can take the path to choosing your substrate.

You Actually Experience the “Vibrancy” of Things–What Recent Mainstream Science Shows

You can tell if you are enjoying an experience.  If you are in the flow.  People the world over, in many different languages, describe this knowing as the vibe, the vibrancy, the energy of the experience or the group.

While people in 1,000s of groups my colleagues and I have worked with, in 125 countries across the globe, describe their experience with similar terms, many “serious” people suggest that this experiential description is subjective and new agey.   Rigorous science that is accepted in the mainstream does not talk like this.  Until now.

A recent study published in Science Advances (Shao, Hayward, and Visell, 2020) from the Centre for the Study of the Senses and UCSB finds that the human sense of touch is far more than the specific spot of the touch.  As Prof Visell, one of the coauthors, describes to the Science podcast host Sarah Crespi,”Our sense of touch, which we also call the haptic system, comprises our skin, muscles, brain and nervous system that allow us to touch and interact with the world via our sense of touch. An important part of that is the skin itself, and it’s not just properties for sensing, but also the mechanical elasticity and transmission of vibrations as waves throughout the skin, including kind of our whole hands.”  We literally are wired to process the vibrancy we experience through our senses.

Leading business-school professors talk this way now.  London Business School professor of management practice Lynda Gratton describes “hot spots” and “glow.”  “You always know when you are in a Hot Spot. You feel energised and vibrantly alive. Your brain is buzzing with ideas, and the people around you share your joy and excitement. The energy is palpable, bright, shining.”  The Harvard Business Review published Fully Charged: How Great Leaders Boost Their Organization’s Energy and Ignite High Performance (Bruch and Vogel, 2011), describing how, “Most leaders have experienced the ebb and flow of different states of energy in their own organizations (p 1).”

To assess your experience of the vibrancy of a group or a relationship, the Institute for Strategic Clarity developed the Agreements Health Check survey.  It is a free, online survey you can take periodically to check the health of the agreements in that group, the vibrancy you experience when with the group.