How to SCALE 1.0 — Strategic Clarity to Accelerate Large-system Evolution

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY.  The challenge is always there.  Our experience tells us that our current reality is not working.  It is not achieving the outcomes our deeper values tell us it should.  While we know that, in some way or another, we have agreed to the system that we have today, it is hard to see what will fundamentally change it.  This is true for our experience of health care, education, work, money, environment–many of the large systems that we live in and that directly influence our lives every day.  We therefore live with the questions of how can these systems evolve, how can we accelerate and scale that evolution?

Fortunately, many people are trying to figure this out.  And they have come up with many frameworks and processes that seem to work.  To find one that works for you, I suggest two guiding principles: SCALE and CRISP.  One principle for the what and one for the how.

  1. SCALE. The SCALE principle shows what the process needs to help you do.
  2. CRISP.  The CRISP principle shows how it needs to do it.

 

NOW, A LITTLE DETAIL

THE WHAT — What does the process you use to change large systems need to enable you to do?  Scale.  SCALE stands for strategic clarity to accelerate large-system evolution.

Strategic Clarity — To have strategic clarity is to understand what the system is and how to move it, and how to communicate that understanding.

What is.  You need to understand what system you actually have.  Approaches to describing the system follow 4 basic steps.

First, they start by defining the system of interest, which is bounded by the dynamics generating the experience you are having.

Second, they then take a macro-systems look to understand how the dynamics of the relevant parts generate the experience.  The method guides you to see which experience, behavior over time, parts, and dynamics are relevant.

Third, the approach then takes a micro-systems perspective to understand how each relevant stakeholder in the system makes sense out of the world, from their own perspective.

Fourth, the approach then provides a mesa-systems perspective to show how the micro perspectives interact to generate the macro perspective, and how changes in the micro-level perspectives or mesa-level interactions can generate a different macro-level behavior.

These four basic steps describe the system you actually have–what is.  It might also help you to think of the system as an agreements field, a field of agreements we have consciously chosen and unconsciously accepted that determines our interactions, and the subsequent experiences and outcomes.

Barriers to understanding what is.  Exhaustive research over the past 70 years has proven that we humans are strong in knowing what outcomes we want and what we experience, and we are weak in understanding the systems and dynamics that generate those experiences and outcomes.  Popularized in the past decade through behavioral economics, cognitive psychology, and the decision sciences, this scientific research shows that people tend to be quite poor processors of the types of complexity required for understanding systems.  This research has also found stellar examples of where people are able to overcome these barriers.  Three basic barriers to understand how to SCALE and methods for overcoming them include finding a deeper share purpose, seeing each perspective and its contribution, and holding it all together.

Defining a deeper shared purpose–people come together to achieve a deeper purpose that they cannot achieve on their own. While many say they have a shred purpose, they are not.  The approach should clarify what this is for the group, usually through inquiry, asking people why they care about the experience and outcomes in the first place.

Seeing each perspective–most people think two things.  (1) They know what everyone else is thinking, or should be thinking, about any given topic, and (2) nobody else understands the richness of what they are thinking.  And, if I don’t know what I think myself, until I ask myself, until I think about it, how can anyone else know what I think?  Since most people do this, we all have mistaken pictures in our heads of other people’s’ realities.  The amazing technological breakthrough to crush this ubiquitous phenomenon?  The question.  Ask.  Inquiry-based approaches ask each perspective to describe their reality and then provide some form for validating it–confirming that the picture describes their reality, as they perceive it.

Holding it all together–most people are not able to hold more than a couple of moving thoughts in their head at a time.  Many graphically oriented processes, as described by the Strategic Clarity steps above, support people in building up a systemic understanding piece by piece, putting all of the pieces together graphically, so that they can all be held in the same space together.

Strategic decision making.  Once you overcome the barriers to strategic clarity, you have an understanding of what the system is.  The approach now guides to decide (1) where to support what exists, and (2) where to start what does not exist.  Most of the existing parts of the system need to continue doing what they are doing–they are the basic infrastructure of the whole system–and some things new need to start, to shift the behavior of the whole system.  Support for on-going activities and initiation of new activities both require a process for all of the relevant stakeholders to decide how they will take on their respective roles.

Accelerating large-system evolution.  With this strategic clarity, the approaches now focus on how to accelerate the evolution of the large system.  Leading approaches draw from rigorous methodologies for collaborative tangibilization.

Collaboration.  To achieve the outcomes and experiences we all want, the approach is designed to unite us in going through a process to see what is, overcome the barriers, and achieve what we want for each of us and the whole.  Supported by the technical rigor of the strategic clarity steps described above, people are able to ask of each other, in these approaches, what do we know?  This is where human experience, intuition, and reflection excel.  Collaborative approaches interweave processes for accessing the individual and collective wisdom and the knowledge gained from the strategic clarity synthesis.

Tangibilization.  To tangibilize is to make tangible, to see a possibility, to see a pathway to manifest that possibility, to see an outcome along that pathway, and to adjust once one has witnessed what tangibilizes in the process.  This is evolution–learning along the way.  It  is about how to see what we want, a pathway to that outcome, while learning and adjusting as we evolve towards that outcome.  Tangibilization approaches build in evolutionary learning into the process, witnessing at each step along the way, what is being seen in possibilities, pathways, and outcomes, evolving as those in the system learn.  This is what we thought might happen, this is how we chose to test it, and this is what we learned, so now we will adjust what we think might happen.  Over and over again, by design.

The approach you take on should guide you to greater (1) strategic clarity and (2) accelerating large-system evolution.  For an example of a strategic systems-decision synthesis process my colleagues and I have developed in over a hundred change efforts over the past two dozen years, see Strategic Clarity 2.0.

THE HOW — How do the framework and process help you get SCALE?  CRISP stands for comprehensive, rigorous, integrative, simple, and purposeful.  As I did elsewhere, here I present the five CRISP criteria in a slightly different order.

Purposeful — The purposeful criterion of CRISP requires that the strategic process be clear why we are doing this process – the organizing essence of what we are trying to realize together. This is also known as the essential property of the system – the reason for which it exists, for which it self-organizes.

Comprehensive — The comprehensive criterion of CRISP requires that the strategic process provide a clear understanding of the boundaries of what is included as relevant and what is not included.

Integrative — The integrative criterion of CRISP requires that the strategic process make explicit the relationships among the different dimensions, perspectives, elements, and processes.

Rigorous — The rigorous criterion of CRISP requires that the strategic process be observable in reality, and reproducible.

Simple — The simple criterion of CRISP requires that the strategic process be simple enough to be understood.  This means that it must align with the rich complexity the human being is capable of understanding, not under or overwhelming them by dumbing down, oversimplifying, or overcomplicating the strategic process.

The CRISP criteria assess the degree to which a strategic framework and process support you, the strategist, in understanding what the system intends to achieve and how it works.

As you face daunting challenges, the SCALE and CRISP principles can guide your search for practitioners who provide large-scale-change frameworks and processes that can work with you to achieve the experiences and outcomes you believe are possible.

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Low-Value Traps

Recent reports on global disengagement and lack of wellness suggest that people across the globe have persistent “low-value” experiences–they spend all day gaining little value from their efforts, feeling like they contribute little value to their organizations and communities, and experience little sustainable value in the material things they purchase.

If this is such a widespread and common phenomenon, why have people not figured this out?  It seems like the sufferers of this include the poor and the rich, those with little formal education and those with lots, and those in the global south and the global north.  It seems that they are caught in a “low-value trap.”  A low-value trap is when the experience of low value in a specific social system persists over time, where people feel “trapped” in long-term experiences of low value, of not getting much or contributing much for a lot of time and resource spent.

The authors of a recent book on the science and practice of resilient social-environmental systems  suggest a nice metaphor for this trap.  “Imagine a crater at the top of [a] mountain…The ‘trap’ would be water stuck in the crater, unable to get over its walls and thereby take advantage of the multiple development paths represented by the descending valleys” (Pursuing Sustainability, 2016, Princeton Univ Press, p 66).  For a more mathematical treatment of these crater traps, see “local minima.”  The point is that, within the crater, it is very hard to get out, because in the crater you tend not to have access to the very resources that you need to climb the walls, so most efforts to climb the walls only result in falling back to the bottom of the crater.

The very resources one needs to experience high value, in what one gives to and receives from human interactions, do not seem to be available in the low-value trap.  We need support, recognition, and the ability to make a unique contribution, yet these resources are usually not available in the low-value trap.  Are we stuck, then, or is there a way out?  The emerging science of agreements fields suggests there is a way out.  A way that is both simple and hard.  We simply need to see the agreements that we have unconsciously accepted, making them conscious and choosing whether and how we enter them.  This is hard, because we human beings seem to be designed to continuously and consistently fall asleep to these socially embedded agreements.  Over the past decade, in our work with organizations, networks, and leaders in over a dozen countries, we have developed a prototype, a 4-step process for seeing, choosing, and enacting these agreements, getting out of the “low-value trap.”  While hard to see at first, especially when you have spent years experiencing the low-value trap, you do have the resources needed to get out of the trap.  It is a choice.

You Are The CEO: The Chooser of Experiences and Outcomes in Your Life

Who determines the experiences you have and the outcomes you achieve?  Can we humans choose these?  What does the “terrain” of human choice look like?  Is it in our nature to be able to choose?

For thousands of years philosophers have explored the frontiers of the nature of the human being.  What they found was determined in great part by the features they were looking for.  This is like the mappers of geography who found different features underwater, underland, overland, in the air, and in outer space. Or the mappers of the biology of the planet, who found different creatures and features when they looked in the oceans, in the air, or on land.  Likewise the early mappers of human nature found different features.  For example, while Hobbes and Locke focused on the rights and behavior of individuals, Marx and Hegel focused more on the influence of the group over individuals (Leys, 1952. Ethics for Policy Decisions, p135).  These mappers described different features of the human experience, of how we as humans relate to our experience, which can be synthesized into five primary relationships, to self, other, group, nature (the creative process), and spirit (the creative source).  When I look at humanity today, with what we are aware of as humans, and with the challenges we are taking on, I see a new feature emerging in the nature of humankind, that of choice.  Choice in what we experience and the outcomes we achieve through our interactions.

What does this mean to you? As an individual, as a member of many groups, such as your family, your friends, your work, your community, your country, your planet, your universe, what does this mean to you?  It means that you choose.  You choose the experience in and outcomes of your interactions.  Whether these choices are conscious or unconscious, they are choices, and they are yours.

This means you are a chooser of experiences and outcomes in your life.  You are the CEO, the Chooser of Experiences and Outcomes.  As the CEO, of your life, you choose.  With ecosynomics we explore what that choice looks like.  What others are learning about how to choose.  What choices lead to the energizing, abundant experiences and outcomes few experience and we all want, and which lead to de-energizing disengagement, fatigue, and scarcity in experience and outcomes most experience and nobody wants.  You are the CEO, so you choose.

Guest Post — Co-hosting a National Conference on Healthy Community

Guest post by Annabel Membrillo JimenezGlobal Steward Vibrancy Ins

A group of colleagues and I recently co-hosted a national gathering of Anthroposophical initiatives in Mexico, working directly with the choosing of human agreements, for the individual and the community, deeply informed from the ecosynomic view of social three-folding. This is part of a larger Global Initiative supported by the Institute for Strategic Clarity and its co-investors in universities, communities, and organizations in 12 countries. The gathering was a continuum of the 2016 gathering exploring social three-folding. In the attached 7-page briefing of the gathering (click here), I explore:

  • the story behind the manifestation
  • the inspiration for the design
  • why it was ecosynomics
  • how it was anthroposophical
  • the flow of the experience
  • the organizing team nurturing the experience

 

iCo–The Power of Co-hosting

Colleagues in the global Vibrancy community have been working for many years on the concept of co-hosting.  We have found it to be a very powerful way of inviting and leading much greater impact resilience.

First of all, what do we mean by co-hosting?  We started with the analogy of a party.  Are we holding a party, like a meeting, where we are trying to lift the whole thing by ourselves?  It’s heavy, because in the holding gesture we are trying to manage the whole and each of the interactions of the part.  Surely you have been to a party or a committee meeting where you were micromanaged.  How was it?  We realized that we liked parties that were hosted more than parties that were held by someone.  The host tended to create an environment for a fun party, guide us periodically with food, music, or occasional introductions, generally leaving us to our own devices.  By looking for great hosting, we began to notice experiences that were even better than being hosted, where we were invited to be co-responsible for the experience and the outcomes.  We were invited to be co-hosts, hosting tougher, with all of us being responsible.  That is when we started to play with co-hosting.

When we look at co-hosting through the four lenses of the agreements evidence map–the economic, political, cultural, and social lenses–we begin to see a coherent set of practices that we have observed in very vibrant groups that achieve very high levels of impact resilience.

Co-investing.  Through the economic lens, we see co-investing.  What are the light, verb, noun resources we each bring to our interactions with each other?  When we bring all of who we are and all that we can see to the game, we bring potential, development, and outcomes.  We each bring something.  I do not contract you to bring only the capacities you already have, rather I invite you into investing with me, co-investing, everything you bring and everything I bring.  We have found the co-investing gesture to dramatically change our agreements with each other and with the organizations and communities we engage with in our work.  We have begun to measure the outcomes co-investing by assessing the return on impact-resilience co-investment–the increased return on our investment, in terms of greater impact and resilience from lower costs of scarcity achieved through more powerful agreements.

Integrated conversations.  Through the political lens, we see integrated conversations.  Our colleagues at THORLO call them ICCs, for integrated collaborative conversations.  With decision making and enforcement based on all five primary relationships, who decides and enforces–the political lens–depends completely on the specific relationship-context.  Is it a decision for the self, for the other, for the group, for the creative, tangibilization process, or for the source of creativity?  They each co-exist within an integrated conversation, each with their own principles and responsibilities.  In highly vibrant integrated conversations, we find people contribute freely, interact freely and with mutual responsibility, with the responsibility to participate fully, respecting, witnessing, and learning in the creative process, looking for the sources of creativity everywhere.  Doing this turns out to be easy, very practical, and highly engaging.

Deeper shared purpose.  Through the cultural lens, we see that people are united by a deeper shared purpose.  This deeper shared purpose is what brings us all together, in any specific circumstance, whether we are aware of it or not.  Being clear on what that deeper shared purpose is turns out to be very powerful, as it taps into the deeper values that guide our interactions and invite our greater commitment and contributions.  We have found that by being explicit about the outcomes and experience we expect from our interactions, we are able to consciously choose agreements that align with these deeper value and the ethical principles that guide our interactions.

Collaboration.  Through the social lens, we see that people design their interactions for segregation, for flocking, or for collaboration.  In collaboration we are united, each necessary for our unique contributions to achieving the whole that we all want and need each other to achieve.   While many people say they are collaborating, we find they actually mean something very different.  We have found processes for inviting in and presencing collaboration, which we have synthesized with the O Process. In collaboration, we have found that people are able to continuously evolve their agreements by witnessing what is happening at every step of the creative tangibilization process, from seeing potential, and seeing pathways to manifest that potential, to seeing the outcomes from those pathways.  All an experiment in multiple levels of perceived reality, learning and evolving along the way, a process we now call tangibilization.

In looking at our experience of co-hosting, we now see through the 4 lenses that successful co-hosting requires a coherent set of practices that integrate co-investing, integrated conversations, deeper shared purpose, and collaboration, as four different ways of seeing one experience, that of co-hosting.  When the evidence in the agreements evidence map shows that one of these is at a lower level of agreements, then the co-hosting set is not coherent.  A high level of co-hosting requires coherence of all 4 at the same level of agreements.  While this seems complex at first, in practice it is not.  It is a matter of holding oneself to these principles, leading to a much more vibrant experience and much better outcomes.  Greater impact resilience.

A colleague told me the other day that she thought of herself as a “co” person, because she found herself constantly working in collaboration and co-investment as a co-host.  A very powerful way to invite each of us to be at our best, making our best contributions in our interactions.  Maybe that makes her an iCo.

Guest Post — Prototyping an Abundance-based, Virtual, Learning Environment

Guest post by Annabel Membrillo JimenezGlobal Steward Vibrancy Ins

Inspired to design a prototype of an abundance-based, virtual, learning environment, a question came to me.  How could I expand the opportunities to nourish and grow the potential of the Vibrancy community through building capacity and understanding?  The exploration went from an inventory of knowledge to a pre-design of what would be inside multiple levels of understanding.  But, that did not seem like it was enough.  More questions emerged about how to design similar environments for other abundance-based.

The exploration went from a possibility to a probability when the UMA (Universidad del Medio Ambiente in Valle de Bravo, Mexico) opened the door to hold this program within the university’s virtual platform. So, in that moment the support of a university that had both a very well designed virtual platform and a beautiful campus that could support this prototype came into the picture.

So, what happened? The next question arose: How to build a virtual learning environment that could nourish the space for building deep understanding of what it means to co-host transformations?  And, to be more ambitious, how could that be scaled in a relatively easy way in a second iteration? We did not really know if this would interest people, although an attractive feature for the potential participants was that at the end they would receive a diploma from the UMA and the certification from the Vibrancy community.

The design is a journey of six months with a deep focus on experience and application to real cases. Half of the 110 hours required the participants to make applications, reflections, exercises and integration of learnings in documents. Six months seems to be a fair amount of time to build up maturity of knowledge, and give the opportunity to implement and apply tools and exercises in real case studies with real communities. Seeing this as a possibility for scaling globally, I decided to launch it in a mostly virtual format.

And then more and more questions arose; questions around how to build understanding about the what, how and when of the application of the tools and methodologies. But that was a dispassionate purpose for me, and I felt that there was not real aligned with the intention of the first question I was asking. So, I kept on asking myself what was the specific purpose for this prototype. And then, it came to me: the purpose was “to be at the service of each participant to become more of who they really are.” That purpose holds the first intention, for me, unleashing the potential of the Vibrancy community in its ability to unleash the potential of humanity, unleashing each person’s potential for holding the abundance framework every time they choose. In that moment, I knew everything was ready and in place for this to happen because I saw something I could dearly commit to.

So far I can see two very different sets of learnings: one about the design phase to manifest the program; and the second about the first two months of the journey.

For the design phase, I want to share two things I learned:

  1. Sit in the question to clarify the different levels of the purpose. I went from the purpose of how to expand the capacity of the Vibrancy community to the purpose of being at the service of each participant’s potential. Each purpose is perfectly fine for the level they were thought of, one was at the level of a global question and the other was at the level of the specific design of the prototype. Both are important and both are relevant for the conversations that are already happening and the ones that will be happening for the exploration of the next expression of this prototype.
  2. Be conscious of the endless journey through the O Process. Going from the purpose to possibilities and probabilities felt different when I was moving more and more into the concrete expression for a specific prototype. I knew that the more detailed levels of the purpose are invoking a bigger gesture for the bigger question and that made me hold the purpose with a different awareness.

In the first two months of the journey, here is what I have learned so far:

  1. Be very clear about the invitation. This was an invitation to explore this journey together.  All participants in the journey know that it is the first one in this format and completely in Spanish.  They also know that the invitation requires several hours of self-study, application and reflection besides the virtual and face to face session.
  2. Be conscious of what you are invoking and invite each participant to do the same. Do not be afraid to share the deeper purpose!
  3. Use the sense of harmony, intensively. The design of each session calls for a very active listening from me, with all my senses, and being able to design each session with what is emerging. Do not misunderstand me. I have a lot of clarity about the purpose and about what they need to learn, but I have discovered and learned how to flow with the rhythm of the group to introduce concepts, exercises and challenges at the pace they can take on, depending on what they are sharing in their individual assignments.
  4. Hold us all as Homo lumens. I can see each one of them as Homo lumens with enormous potential. I am amazed with the group and who they are.  And, I see myself as someone who can hold the space for them to explore their own potential.
  5. Live it as a constant prototype. The space is co-designed, co-built, and co-hosted together. This has happened in two levels: 1) with others that want to be in the conversation of how to explore environments for building understanding; and 2) using the sense of harmony I shared before.
  6. Design the assignments as a key for the virtual space. I have spent a lot of time imagining the kind of experience I would like them to have between sessions and what kind of assignment would be just enough to stretch them a little bit each time. I am the vehicle designing the underlying structure, the participants are taking up the heavy lifting, through their will, into the doing. One of the participants shared that they needed to do an exercise of honesty with themselves to really get into the assignments, and that is not easy sometimes.

So far, the journey has been delightful. We have been together for 14 hours in virtual sessions, and I am impressed with the pace of the group. Some of them are getting to very deep reflections that we never saw before in such a short time. Some of them are already venturing into actively working with specific tools and methods in different groups.  We are all already looking forward to being together in person at the end of the six months. There is already a feeling of being close to each other. At the end, they will write up case studies and they will synthetize what they have learned in their applications, and I am curious to see how this will happen.

You can enter into a little piece of the concrete prototype design through the PDF presentation, where you can find the timeline and the sharing of some of the reflections the participants are having together. I will be sharing more reflections about the journey along the way, so stay tuned.

What Happens When We “Go It Alone” In Complex Systems?

While the need to collaborate seems obvious to many of us who play in the multi-stakeholder, complex-systems space, most people still do not–even many of the “systems thinkers” I have met.  Some say that collaboration is just too hard, while others say that they collaborate, when they don’t.  What they say might sound like collaboration, but when you look at the underlying agreements, you see that they are not.

So what?  Is collaboration just a “nice” thing to do?  Or is there a real “cost” to not collaborating?   Does collaboration bring possible benefits or does the lack of collaboration directly decrease the impact and resilience of large-scale efforts?  In 2016 professors from Stanford, Harvard, and UC Boulder published their study of the state of the science and practice of sustainable social-environmental systems in their book Pursuing Sustainability (2016 Princeton Univ Press).  They provide such an eloquent and brief survey of examples of the unintended consequences of not having a systemic understanding across space (multiple stakeholders) and time (multiple generation), that I quote it in full.

“The new ‘water closets’ of early nineteenth century London achieved their purpose of ridding houses and their adjoining alleys of foul-smelling human wastes.  But by conveying these untreated wastes into Thames River, they inadvertently poisoned the city’s principal source for drinking water.  The innovation of CFCs greatly enhanced society’s ability to provide safe refrigeration of food, but through a perversely complex chain of unforeseen connections it also put the world at risk by causing depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer.  With the introduction of modern technology into the headworks of Nepal’s irrigation system, it indeed worked better at controlling water.  However, because the system was under the control of new technology and nonlocal managers, the local farmers lost their incentive to cooperate with one another, which led to a decay of overall system productivity.  Numerous additional cases can be drawn from today’s headlines–for example, the unintended effects on food prices of government subsidies to promote biofuels over fossil fuels” (pp 63-64).

While we humans are not yet capable of perfectly modeling and predicting the behavior of complex systems or how to intervene in them, a practice of collaborative study, reflection, and purposeful experimentation is far superior to going it alone, and assuming that you know how everyone else will respond or that it does not matter.

How Co-hosting Influenced My Leadership Approach — 14 European Leaders Share Their Experiences

My colleagues Ana Claudia, Christoph, and I recently shared, in a series of 4 blogposts, what we at Vibrancy and the Institute for Strategic Clarity learned, as co-investors with BUILD UPON and the European Climate Foundation, about: (1) co-hosting collaboration; (2) realizing the deeper shared purpose; (3) measuring impact resilience; and (4) scaling impact.

In this blogpost we want to share what leaders of the BUILD UPON team, from across Europe, learned on how to effectively ‘co-host’ large-scale cross-sector collaboration,  In the following set of video interviews, we explored how their application of the co-hosting principles over six months in their own specific contexts had changed their leadership approaches.

Watch the 3 – 4 minute videos here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqKLcbOXltc&list=UUba8q8uz9c3e1r7Fm5eXc7A

Agreements of Transformation — Research with 22 Leaders Across 18 Countries

This blog highlights insights from research into the agreements of transformation.  This research with 22 people across 18 countries on 3 continents was supported by the Institute for Strategic Clarity and the UBA, the German Environmental Protection Agency.

CONTEXT

Individuals and groups in different cultures face situations of change in fundamental agreements on a daily basis, addressing complex and large-scale social issues, as well as daily dysfunctional interactions.  We wanted to understand and describe why people respond to these issues by taking on societal-scale transformations, and how they do it.

THE RESEARCH

A team of interviewers at the Institute for Strategic Clarity invited 22 professionals from around the globe who met a diverse set of criteria to be interviewed for and engage in this research project.

•We asked them to “Reflect on a situation, of which you have been part, where you experienced a change at a fundamental level and basic assumptions in a group (e.g. institution, organization, network) or your area of impact (field, industry, sector, region etc.)?“

•Transformation is defined as: “Involving structural changes and shifts in systemic as well as underlying assumptions in order to change how the components in a system relate to one another, thus achieving fundamental change in relationships, systems boundaries, governing variables, actions and strategies as well as outcomes and consequences.“

METHOD

The team, led by Christoph Hinske, engaged 22 practitioners in a 60-minute, semi-structured, dialog-based, expert interview.  The interviews were then analyzed with narrative-based agreements evidence map to find agreements in a simple but robust way in the practices, structures and processes described during the interviews.

PRELIMINARY RESULTS

The interviewees indicated that they achieved transformation by starting with an assumption of abundance of resources, creating experiences of higher vibrancy, and organizing in a way that they achieved greater harmony in their interactions with others.

  • “Conversation partners shared that money and other resources were often perceived to be limited, but never as scarce.“
  • “Decisions and enforcements (un)consciously strengthen the primary relationships.“
  • “People are in such processes because they want to exponentially increase what they value most.“
  • “Societal scale transformation is a journey into the unknown, framed by a ‘psychologically safe’ support structure, in which members enable each other to find ways to walk into the future they see together.”

You can find out more about the research and its findings in the following sources: 

We Don’t Collaborate Because It Is A “Nice” Thing To Do, Rather Because We Have To–What Science Tells Us

“The most important implication[s] of the complexity of social-environmental systems is that you can’t do just one thing (p 63) […and] fitting the pieces together..requires an ability to understand how changes in one..asset..are likely to interact with the other assets…Doing this perfectly is not within our reach.  But the revolutionary advances of the last decades understanding the dynamics of social-environmental systems provide a solid foundation on which to do it better” (p 51), according to Stanford’s Professor Matson, Harvard’s Clark, and UC Boulder’s Andersson in their recent framing of the emerging science and practices of social-environmental system resilience, in their book Pursuing Sustainability: A Guide to the Science and Practice (2016 Princeton Univ Press).

To do more than “merely one thing” is to realize that everything is connected to something else, and that each of those “something elses” belongs to someone, someone who makes decisions about it.  This level of understanding of how parts of the system interact, and how local decision structures influence them focuses on systemic decision structures.

While the complexity of dealing with many moving parts, which are each influenced by multiple, different stakeholders, can seem overwhelming at first glance, many of us in the fields of decision and systems sciences have spent many years finding efficient ways to integrate the best of human understanding and wisdom with robust technologies, increasing the strategic clarity a group of individuals can achieve together.  You can find many examples of strategic systems mappings of large-scale, complex systemic decision structures (here), as well as examples of groups mapping the underlying systemic agreement structures that influence the decisions made in the system (here).

“Without an integrated appreciation and understanding of the social-environmental systems in which decisions are being made, unintended and negative consequences will too often result” (p 53).