Guest blog by Steve Waddell
The global, multi-stakeholder issue change networks of the sort I deal with – Global Action Networks (GANs) – have particular assets and challenges in supporting the development of harmonic vibrancy. Their core asset is that they typically work towards an inspiring vision: Transparency International and a corruption-free world, the Global Compact and integration of the UN’s highest principles into the functioning of business, the Global Reporting Initiative and robust social-environmental-economic reporting. These visions are relatively easy to associate with high motivation.
Their core challenge is how they go about doing their work. They are not a tightly knit entity that is in intense contact, such as with a local business enterprise. They are inter-organizational global networks where people from participating organizations are very numerous and the amount of time spent on the networks’ work is a fraction of a work-week. Even for staff, who travel constantly, connecting is an on-going challenge.
Moreover, “the network” is a rather amorphous entity, with a very large number of shifting individuals who are participating as organizational representatives, as the individuals change employers or work responsibilities.
To be successful, GANs must embrace diversity, which poses an additional challenge. Culture is a big determinant of how people experience harmonic vibrancy and its core components such as fulfillment. This is even a greater challenge considering that diversity for GANs also means working as business – government – civil society collaborations.
All this suggests the importance of GANs developing routines that can ensure higher levels of harmonic vibrancy. Of course surveys are one good vehicle for assessing the presence of a higher degree of harmonic vibrancy, but routines are important to giving it lived meaning. These routines will legitimize and give both meaning and action to the on-going development and maintenance of the five dimensions of HV: self, other, group, nature and spirit. Routines are regularly undertaken activities that follow a pattern recognized by participants. They can be considered in terms of the five harmonic vibrancy dimensions themselves. Some illustrations by dimension:
1. The “self” or “me”: do you feel that you are fully participating and working to your potential?
Specific moments for this self-assessment can be created at the end of meetings. For GANs this includes a wide variety of events-as-meetings, such as staff meetings, work groups with network participants, and network-wide meetings such as regularly mandated global ones. The question here is: what can I do to enhance my quality of participation. What agreement with myself should I work on more, reassess, or redefine. Formal moments after meetings can be taken to provide time for people to reflect and write their thoughts with the suggestion that this is an important part of their own meeting diary.
2. The “other” or “you”: are others participating fully and expressing their potential?
From time-to-time at the beginning of meetings two participants could talk about their agreements with each other to deepen the understanding of each other’s particular needs, desires and situation. This would raise participants’ awareness of what at least one other person is experiencing and how their participation and the meeting activities could be better aligned to realize their full potential. This could be developed into a buddy system, to lead to discussion at the end of the meeting about how to redesign the meeting or the individual’s role in how it functions or in the way work is being done.
3. The “group” or “us” which can mean the network as a whole: are people fully experiencing the “we” as an energetic, empowering whole?
This could be incorporated into a collective self-assessment routine that could take place after meetings. This happens sometimes in informal “check-out” processes where people might form circles and give a word or comment about what they’ve experienced. However, these often occur with substantial pressure to focus on the positive. Another process around “deltas” (what changes could improve the meeting) allows more explicit support for identifying ways to improve. For very large meetings, this could be done through smaller group assessment break-outs.
4. Nature and the “environment”: is there a feeling of “support” and “appreciation” from the greater whole that supports manifesting the potential?
This dimension can be framed as being about feedback from the larger operating environment of the GAN; for GANs, this is about the “systems” that they seek to influence, such as the anti-corruption system for Transparency International and the corporate sustainability system of the Global Reporting Initiative. In one way, evolution of integrated (social-environment-economic with traditional finance) reporting could move to assess this situation. It is really about feedback and achievements in terms of broader value creation. Annual report routines could integrate this from a harmonic-vibrancy perspective more categorically.
5. Spirit and creativity: is there a flowing and development of ideas and innovation that generate a feeling that “anything is possible”?
This could be supported by a retreat-type routine of some parts of the network, where they can assess what they see as impediments to greater success and how to address them. Various processes could promote and aggregate the outcomes of such routines.
One of the core challenges for implementing such routines is to develop them as activities that do not unduly burden other activities. This means developing a pacing and interaction between the routines as a whole. Not every day, nor every meeting need explicitly incorporate the routine. However, the harmonic vibrancy questions must be common enough in network life to orient people who often work with the network as a small part of their lives, to build the network harmonic vibrancy culture.
Jim R-D Comments
Steve’s work with GANs highlights a major innovation emerging on the global scene, where people are consciously entering a new set of agreements on a massively global-local level – they are deciding for a different future and for learning together about how to achieve it.
We can look at Steve’s suggestions about “routines” from two different vantage points – scarcity and abundance. From a scarcity vantage point, adding these routines to the already very full agendas of exceedingly busy people is too much – while it might be “nice” to do, we don’t have the time: we are too busy fighting really big, serious issues.
From an abundance vantage point, we cannot afford to not put these routines into practice. The “cost” to the network of not engaging the full human being, of not bringing out and supporting the best of every participant is too high – to be able to address global issues on a local level, everyone has to be at their best, and these routines do that explicitly. These innovative routines are a very efficient (low time invested for high value experienced) way of being very effective (engaging people to change the world’s agreements) with a network of committed human beings.