Measuring Impact Resilience — What We Are Learning from BUILD UPON Cambridge, Madrid, and Brussels

In this 3rd of a series of 4 blogposts, we share what we are learning, 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.


The potential we see.  With a shared deeper purpose that brings many diverse stakeholders together, across many countries and industries, the BUILD UPON effort is now ready to ground this abstract purpose, making it a daily reality for all of these stakeholders, showing how they can work together, from their own worlds, in achieving something bigger, locally, nationally, and regionally.  Measurement can support that grounding process, by clarifying:

  1. what we mean by our shared purpose, in very specific terms
  2. how we plan to achieve our purpose, with the unique contribution of each of our efforts
  3. how we can identify and highlight what we are each learning in the development of technical and social innovations

In many organizations, we measure because we are expected to measure, and we manage to the measures.  The reason to measure and manage to the measures is given, by someone else.  While the apparent simplicity of some measures might make them seem straightforward, they rarely are.  For example, profits are revenues minus costs.  For more profits, increase the revenues and decrease the costs.  Simple, until the methods for increasing revenues increase costs faster, or the ways to decrease costs also decrease revenues, such as lower product or service quality.  Or, to decrease the environmental impact of buildings, increase the number of renovated buildings, by increasing demand.  You can do this by making people do it through regulations or by making it cheaper to do through subsidies.  Simple, until the regulations make the technologies much more expensive or the subsidies outpace the supply.

From an impact resilience perspective, we are looking for a more systemic understanding that integrates the multiple stakeholder perspectives on the impacts we are trying to achieve.  With this integrated perspective, we can measure a systemic set of indicators that let us know how resilient we are in achieving our systemic set of impacts.  

To compensate for a lack of clarity of what we are trying to achieve amongst many stakeholder perspectives, we tend to believe that lots of measurement — lots of variable and lots of data — shows that we are very serious.  We measure dozens to hundreds of key performance indicators (KPIs).  To measure lots of variables, we tend to focus on easier to measure variables that are often means to an unspecified, higher-order purpose of the whole effort.  We also leave measures of creativity and collaboration out of the equation, since they seem hard to measure, yet they are critical to the generative processes of creative collaboration.

In the development of a scorecard for impact resilience, we look for a small set of measures that cover the higher-order impacts we want, the strategic areas we want to impact, and the processes that leverage our impact.  While this small set of 10-15 measures can be supported by more detailed reports, specifying how they were achieved in more detail, we want to focus on the most strategic variables and our narrative—our theory of impact resilience—of how they all fit together.  We want to use proxies that directly let us know how we are doing on the strategic variables.  In the impact resilience scorecard, we attempt to do this.

“Committing to measuring process, strategic, social impacts on local, national, international levels would allow the stakeholders joining multilevel collaborative platforms to see the whole and the meaning of their (and others) contribution, but also to improve the way those platforms can work together and, so, achieve greater impact. Sharing simple, meaningful proxies, would allow necessary flexibility, and to get a clear sense of the final purposes all over a complex group of groups. Moreover, and crucially, learnings from best practices could grow geometrically with the network’s dimensions, increasing the ability to be effective, and resilient over time.”

— Sebastiano Cristoforetti, International and Certification Manager, GBC Italia

What we might do.  To assess social, strategic, and process impacts across Europe, at the local, national, and regional levels simultaneously, we can develop a coherent set of a few measures that we can track to identify the common impacts and the specific innovations happening at each level.  As we saw in an earlier blog in this series [link to blogpost “Realizing the Deeper Shared Purpose,”] we developed a draft “Common Vision” with a wide-ranging group of stakeholders across the energy efficiency, renewable energies, and building renovation communities.  The following systems map captures the key elements of that Common Vision, showing how they all fit together (see the blogpost “Realizing the Deeper Shared Purpose” for a description of the systems map).

As these collaborative-process efforts drive the strategic areas and subsequently the social impacts, the growing demand and supply for renovation drives a scaling factor that accelerates social and technical innovation.  Having the clarity of the purpose we share and the dynamics of our system, we can focus the measurement scorecard on the critical variables that express the impacts we want to achieve together.

To measure these social, strategic, and process impacts, we can simplify the work of BUILD UPON into 12 high-level metrics, which can then be supported with detailed metrics, showing systemically how they influence each of the high-level impacts.

The metrics in an Impact Resilience Scorecard, exemplified in the figure above, highlight the social, strategic, and process impacts of a system that leads to greater resilience of the renovation system, at the local, member state, and European levels.  Proxies for each impact measure are provided, which could also include current levels and agreed-upon target levels.

After being exposed to this systemic and high-impact approach to measuring individual and collective success, the participants were asked to reflect on, “What would I need to know and share to fully step up and invest in the future we started to see together?”  The participants shared the need for more knowledge on positively deviating behavior of other members, to be able to increase their own success. Furthermore, they highlighted the importance of continuing the conversation on a strategic level to support their ability to increase their impact and strengthen their resilience. See movie footage here of what they shared.

What could happen.  Much greater collaboration is possible, and it means that the many stakeholders involved in energy efficiency, renewable energies, and building renovation have to see the value in it.  It has to become more than a nice exercise; it has to be interwoven into their ability to succeed individually and together. Collaborative impact is a simple choice, not a complicated option.  A choice we can make every day.  Like the groups we are finding around the world, members of BUILD UPON too can choose their experience and the outcomes they  achieve.
We thank our colleagues at the European Climate Foundation (ECF), the BUILD UPON team, the World Green Building Council, the co-hosts, the Madrid and Brussels participants, the Institute for Strategic Clarity, and Vibrancy—all co-investors in this process together.

Local Peaks of Wisdom Everywhere

We tend to look to the “great ones” for wisdom about how to face particularly challenging situations.  From changing diapers to favorite recipes to schooling systems to health care.  We usually don’t know what to do when the world requires us to think afresh about what we want.  The world shifts, the old system doesn’t work as well, and we go to the “great ones,” who we usually look for in the “great places,” large mountain peaks in a very small group of places.  Global destinations.

What if the wisdom you needed was already in your own back yard?  What if you didn’t need to travel great distances to get advice that you then would have to customize to your own context?  For example, what worked for an educational system in Europe 100 years ago, or in a political system in Greece 2,400 years ago, or in an agricultural system in Egypt 5,100 years ago, or in an existing banking system in Bangladesh, or in a family down the street, will not work in the exact same way for you, here, with me.

My colleagues and I are finding that people everywhere are figuring out new ways to do things, within a very similar context to our own, every day.  They have figured it out.  They are local “great ones.”  They are everywhere.

UCLA professor Jared Diamond has observed a similar phenomenon across the globe, which he describes in his 2012 book The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?  “Traditional societies are far more diverse in many of their cultural practices than are modern industrial societies…Yet psychologists base most of their generalizations about human nature on studies of our own narrow and atypical slice of human diversity…Traditional societies in effect represent thousands of natural experiments in how to construct a human society.  They have come up with thousands of solutions to human problems, solutions different from those adopted by our own..socities…Perhaps we could benefit by selectively adopting some of those traditional practices…[While] we should also not go to the opposite extreme of romaniticizing..traditional practices..we can consider ourselves blessed to have discarded…[they] may not only suggest to use some better living practices, but may also help us appreciate some advantages of our own society that we take for granted” (8-9).

There is much to learn from the wisdom all around us, if only we could find it, understand it, and integrate it.  That is what the Global Initiative to map the social topography of human agreements is attempting to do: to help you see where the wisdom is in your own community, the local peaks.

Is Your Awful Day Better Than My Okay Day? — The Hills and Valleys of Human Agreements — Seemingly Similar Terrain, Different Map

plSometimes we have great days, sometimes okay days, and sometimes downright awful days.  Most of us seem to experience all three.  Some experience more great days, others more okay days, and others more awful days.  When we experience great, okay, or awful days, we experience similar realities, right?  Our emerging picture of the social topography of human agreements suggests that maybe we are not all having the same experience at each of these levels: maybe these are very different experiences.

We have started to map the terrain of human agreements, along with the experience, impact, and resilience achievable at each level of this terrain, from valleys to hills.  We can simplify this terrain with 4 levels: the top of the hill, the middle of the hill, the bottom of the hill or on the plain, and the valley.  These four levels correlate with the four levels of vibrancy.

  1. At the top of the hill, people describe a very engaging, energizing experience of high vibrancy in all five primary relationships (self, other, group, nature, spirit), usually achieving very resilient and high impact.
  2. In the middle of the hill, people describe an engaging, often energizing experience of vibrancy in most of the primary relationships, usually achieving quite resilient and effective impact.
  3. At the bottom of the hill or on the plain, people describe experiencing oscillating between somewhat engaging and somewhat disengaging, with some vibrancy in a couple of the primary relationships, achieving some impact for their effort.
  4. In the valley, people describe a very disengaging experience of quite low vibrancy in all five primary relationships, usually achieving some impact only with extra effort.

Same experience?  Four levels, all experienced in the same way?  From most of what we read these days and the from the descriptions of most people we meet, it would seem that the description of these four levels of engagement, experience, resilience, and impact is the same; different degrees of overcoming scarcity and being able to engage people, towards greater impact and resilience.  We have found, however, two completely different descriptions of what is happening at these four levels.  It seems to depend on your starting point: scarcity or abundance.  It turns out that the world looks very different at each of these four levels depending on the map you are using–a map based in scarcity or a map based in abundance.  Let’s see what the two different maps show us about these four levels of the topography of human agreements.

Starting from scarcity, we tend to find three levels described.

  1. The first is the “normal” state of affairs, disengaged, highly ineffective people who lack motivation and need to be managed so that they can be more efficient in their contribution to the group effort.  This would correspond with the valley experience.  From this perceptive, there is not much there.  No motivation, no special capacities, and the need for a high degree of management of interchangeable people.
  2. An improvement on this typical level comes when one moves up out of the valley onto the plain or the bottom of the hill.  Here people tend to bring some basic capacities, are able to work side by side amicably, sometimes being more engaged and achieving higher efficiencies.  From this perspective, people bring more capacities to the game and are able to make better contributions.  Some motivation, strong capacities, and the need for coordination among efforts.
  3. The top of this game comes when one moves up to the middle of the hill, where people tend to cooperate much more, working together to achieve more together than they can apart.  Here people tend to bring great skills and experience with a thirst for learning and cooperation, energized and engaged, working hard to achieve much greater impact and often quite a bit more resilient to the changes life throws at the group.  From this rather-rare perspective, there is a lot there, ready to contribute dynamically to the task at hand.

Starting from abundance, we also find three levels described.

  1. The first is the “normal” state of affairs, highly committed people coming together in service of a deeper shared purpose, bringing their best, unique contributions every day.  This is their normal day, just showing up as they are, creative, committed human beings wanting to make their contribution to something beautiful that they care about deeply.  From this level, which corresponds with the top of the hill, leadership focuses on co-hosting, supporting everyone in bringing their best every day together.  The abundant potential available through each person and through their interactions is evident to all.
  2. And sometimes life throws a curveball and people forget to be at their best, and they forget or fall asleep to their own unique gifts and those of others.  In the middle of the hill, these people describe how they are usually aware of the group’s deeper purpose and of each other’s gifts, and they often tend to focus more on what is happening in the moment than on the possibilities each other is seeing in the moment.  Less on how to collaboratively realize a common potential and more on the process for achieving what was seen.  Still lots of possibility, with more focus on how to manifest it.
  3. Then there are the times when everything seems to fall apart.  It is hard to say connected to the potential and to the shared inquiry.  This bottom-of-the-hill experience might focus more on just getting the job done, on just moving forward.  It is often difficult, because while still aware of the others, their needs, and the group’s deeper shared purpose, the experience oscillates between somewhat vibrant and somewhat not vibrant.  Here it is hard to see the potential and unique contributions the people know are there.  Still lots of potential available, it is just harder to see and harder to connect to.

Two different maps, each with three different “typical” levels.  And completely different realities. Whether the human-agreements map you carry is scarcity or abundance-based seems to completely change the reality you experience.

  • For the scarcity map, normal starts in the valley and great effort is expended to get up the hill.  When energy to push up the hill fails, the resting position is back in the valley.  It also seems that push as hard as you want, when starting from scarcity in the valley, you can only get up to the middle of the hill.
  • For the abundance map, normal starts at the top of the hill.  As life happens and people “fall asleep, they can slip down to the middle or bottom of the hill, but life from this perspective, when someone wakes back up, will pull them back to the resting point at the top of the hill.  From this perspective, it seems that the lowest position normally experienced is the bottom of the hill, not the valley.

So, it seems that we all can have great days, okay days, and awful days.  And, it seems, we can mean completely different things by them, because we are experiencing completely different geographies of what is “normal” and of what is available at each level of the topography.

Agreements Field Mapping

You interact to have experiences and to get results. That is why you do what you do. The agreements you consciously choose or unconsciously accept define how you interact. Those agreements are based on embedded, interwoven assumptions.

Our experiences, outcomes, agreements, and assumptions form an “agreements field.”  A field is the environment in which individuals or groups interact.  This concept is widely applied in physics, and less so in the social sciences.  By an agreements field, I suggest that in looking at our experiences, outcomes, agreements, and assumptions, we are describing one entity, from multiple perspectives–one field where we can perceive the outcomes and the experience of people interacting based on conscious or unconscious agreements founded on underlying assumptions.  One field.  One agreements field.

To describe the different perspectives within the agreements field, to map the social topography of agreements fields, we have developed and globally tested a set of mapping tools.

Together these four mapping tools describe four key perspectives of an agreements field.

Our work at the Institute for Strategic Clarity now focuses on further developing and applying agreements field mapping to map the global social topography of human agreements, through the Global Initiative to Map Ecosynomic Deviance and Impact Resilience (MEDIR).  With our colleagues around the world, we are beginning to see that the social topography of human agreements is as varied as our earths’s geological topography. Peaks and valleys in many forms. Treasures abound. Things we have never imagined around every corner. The flatearthers of human agreements are missing out–there is a lot of treasure out there, ready for all of us to discover, marvel at, and learn from. It only takes the quest(ion) to find it.  If you are interested in contributing to this global initiative, please contact us.

7 Years Later — Questions Guiding This Exploration

Seven years ago, I outlined a few questions guiding the early ecosynomic exploration of human agreements.

Through the agreements that guide human interaction, we manifest our dreams of prosperity for ourselves, our families, and our communities. The choices we make in these agreements consider the prosperity of both the part (ourselves) and the whole of which we are a part (our families and communities). Ecosynomics describes how these choices influence our individual and collective prosperity, as we live them.

This exploration was born out of three questions. What makes healthy collectives? Why three sectors/gestures? What axioms underlie these two questions?

In the past seven years, my colleagues and I across the globe have made quite a bit of progress on these questions, as I have documented in this blog over the years.  We are now setting out to map the social topography of human agreements across the globe through the Global Initiative to Map Ecosynomic Deviance and Impact Resilience.

From your own observations and from what you see through the perspective of ecosynomics, what questions guide your exploration?  What questions do you want to contribute to this work?

The Global Initiative — The Social Topography of Human Agreements

To map the next frontier, the social topography of human agreements, the Institute for Strategic Clarity and the global Vibrancy network have initiated the Global Initiative to Map Ecosynomic Deviance and Impact Resilience.

The Global Initiative

Leaders across all sectors have to address complex and large-scale social issues, as well as daily dysfunctional interactions. They find themselves severely constrained by the existing model of value capture and expression. Some leaders have a dramatically different and more successful perception of the value experienced and exchanged in human interactions. We are describing and framing how thousands of these innovative leaders, across the globe, are achieving much greater impact resilience and sustainable interactions. The Global Initiative will map, over the next five years, the social topography of the human agreements underlying the success of 5,000 positive ecosynomic deviants in 11 countries.

Where we are mapping

The selected field sites maximize social-cultural-political diversity across the globe, where we have the support of local alliance members with ongoing projects.

where we are mapping


What we are mapping

  • What local-level agreement structures enable: greater engagement and choice; massive shifts in local-level agreements with multiple stakeholders; and greater impact resilience?
  • What generalizable and culture-specific factors differentiate positive and negative Ecosynomic deviance?
  • How do we scale the breadth and depth of the transformation of human agreements, within and across social systems?

Toolkit we are using

The mappers bring the following discipline-perspectives: architecture, behavioral economics, business strategy, cultural anthropology, decision sciences, ecosynomics, environment, history, human geography, political science, psychology, public health, sociology, statistics, system dynamics.

Who is mapping

  • Fieldwork fellows (30%) — project leads in 11 countries from the Vibrancy network
  • Researchers (40%) — faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students
  • Executive practitioners (20%) — from the 3 sectors and networks
  • Funders (10%) — foundations and organisations that fund projects within a specific country

Thematic areas already included

  • San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (Governor of Guanajuato)
  • Ghana, Germany, Romania, South Africa (Meshfield), USA (Vibrancy, Kalliopeia), Ghana
  • Food Solutions New England (Kendall)
  • Build Upon Europe (WGBC)
  • Cancer Free Economy USA (Garfield)
  • Health USA (SIE foundations)
  • Complementary currencies South Africa (National Treasury, Meshfield)
  • Early childhood development USA (SIE foundations)

The invitation to you

Do you know positive ecosynomic deviants?  Would you like to share the excitement of what those deviants have learned about how to live more fully and achieve much greater impact resilience?  You can use the free online “relational vibrancy” survey (available in many languages) to assess the level of vibrancy of the group.  I invite you to share your cases with us, through the comments section here or by contacting me.

Mapping the Next Frontier — the Social Topography of Human Agreements

The great unknown.  Hundreds of years of expeditions, crossing the perilous oceans and mountains, often for years at a time, in extreme conditions to consciously map the geological topography of the planet.  What do other places look like?  What’s at the bottom of the ocean, south of Africa, at the South Pole, in the middle of the Guatemalan jungle, on top of Everest?  Curiosity drove people to find out.  What resources are out there?   Spices, precious metals, foods, animals, peoples?  What new opportunities are there?

When these explorers set out, many of the people at home told them the world was flat, everywhere else looked just like it did at home, and if you traveled far enough you would fall off the edge.  The explorers went anyway.  They discovered a wide variety of landscapes, seascapes, foods, natural resources, beautiful scenes, extreme environments, animals, plants, cultures, languages, and sports.

Now that we have mapped much of the earth and the solar system, what is next?  The new explorers are mapping the social topography of human agreements.

Like the earlier observers, many of the people at home suggest that the topography of human agreements is also flat, with everywhere being a better or worse version of what home looks like, and if you try to go far from that version you will fall off the edge of the earth, into the underdeveloped void.

With our colleagues around the world, we are beginning to see that the social topography of human agreements is as varied as our earths’s geological topography.  Peaks and valleys in many forms.  Treasures abound.  Things we have never imagined around every corner.  The flatearthers of human agreements are missing out–there is a lot of treasure out there, ready for all of us to discover, marvel at, and learn from.  It only takes the quest(ion) to find it.

In the next post, I will share what we are doing to map this new frontier, the social topography of human agreements.