Guest post — An Abundance-based Approach to Fostering LOcal Wellbeing (FLOW)

Guest post by Anna Cowen, Meshfield co-founder, architect, urbanist, facilitator, and Vibrancy South Africa steward and John Ziniades, Meshfield co-founder, internet entrepreneur, engineer, facilitator, and Vibrancy South Africa steward

FLOW

What is the light touch needed to awaken a place into its’ full expression of “grounded possibility”? How can we foster the kind of growing conditions that will support human beings’ capacity to thrive in the face of mounting inequality and poverty, devastating climate change, peak energy and water, widespread resource depletion and eco-system destruction?

These are the key guiding questions that inspire the FLOW project, a new initiative with deep, old roots that is currently unfolding in two South African locales simultaneously.

A sense of “what is possible”: imagine interconnected networks of self-governing, self-regulating, agile communities that are intimately connected to and protective of their locales, each living within the carrying capacity of their place. Communities that know the contours of their landscapes, in their physicality, and communities that are peopled with individuals who know and are known through their relationships with one another. Places where the idea of “work” is fundamentally reframed into something that is enjoyed, not endured, where “work” is expressing the fullness of being human, in all our abundant creativity, in service of both our selves and our communities. Communities that are rooted in the local, yet connected globally, part of planetary networks of iterative learning and rapid feedback, where knowledge is a common good and the enclosure of the knowledge commons a distant memory. Places where everyone has enough – where most basic needs are met through hyper-localized production of food, energy, water, shelter and clothing supported by systems of globally networked, distributed manufacturing using open methods of production. And where trade and learning between bioregions and countries and continents ensure access to the goods and services that can’t be made locally. These are communities where the elderly are honored as the keepers of wisdom, are included and taken care of, and where preventative health care and life long education are knitted into the very fabric of daily life.

The FLOW Project proposes that the ‘growing conditions’ needed to both ground this imagining and to support the kind of innovation, creativity and adaptive capacity that will ensure that sentient life can still thrive on earth require three interpenetrating, foundational dimensions. Each dimension is expressed in both individuals as well as in communities as a whole. The first is a thorough and embodied awareness, understanding and knowledge of the systems that support life, both the natural and human made systems. The second is a grounded sense of self-worth, autonomy and agency. The third – robust community bonds and strong social ties – a sense of communion and belonging. FLOW suggests that if these three cornerstones are strong, and are nourished and replenished on an ongoing basis, then a thick and fecund mesh of ‘grounded possibility’ will develop, enabling the kind of bold new thinking, doing and being that is needed if life is going to flourish on earth again.

The FLOW project goes about building and enhancing these three cornerstones in any given community through three interconnected activities. The first is through developing the leadership skills and capacities of groups of local youth – the FLOW Ambassadors. The second is through making visible, by mapping and storytelling using appreciative enquiry lenses resource flows, natural and human made systems, skills, goods and services, local heroes and heroines. The third is through bolstering localized economic exchange through the introduction of a local currency, a mutual credit system entirely backed by the goods and services of local businesses.

The intention is to create, within FLOW’s first year in any given community:

  • A cohort of trained, empowered local youth in each locale – the FLOW Ambassadors – that will play an awareness raising role in their local communities around the use of the local currencies, general environmental and social awareness and the identification and catalysing of new green and social entrepreneurial opportunities.
  • A first iteration of a functional, context responsive, locally appropriate community currency in place in each town, backed by the goods and services of the FLOW Business Network in each place respectively.
  • A series of FLOW Ambassador generated and community-owned maps (both digital and physical) that include representation of the economic activity in each locale, the resource flows, the unique assets and dependencies of each place, and locally appropriate social and green entrepreneurial opportunities.
  • A series of short movies made on mobile phones by the FLOW Ambassadors that include 30-second “marketing” videos promoting the FLOW Business Network members (also linked to the digital map), a series of 2-minute movies called “Loving Local” that showcase local heroes and assets, 2-minute documentary movies that describe the local resource flows and dependencies, as well as the “Seeds of Transition” movie series – local “positive deviants” that are already demonstrating green and social entrepreneurial activity that can both inspire others, and be enhanced and amplified in their own right.

FLOW has been on the ground since October 2014. See www.flowafrica.org for ongoing updates and more information.

A Transformational Journey within a Corporate Ecosystem

Membrillo Jimenez, A. and A.C. Gonçalves, Transformational Journey within a Corporate “Ecosystem”. 2014, Institute for Strategic Clarity: Amherst, MA.

In this case study, Annabel and Ana Claudia describe the experience of taking a group in a global financial services company on a transformational journey to the experience of a higher level of harmonic vibrancy, through the development of new, more collaborative practices.  These practices led to demonstrable improvements in performance and outcomes.  As Annabel shares, “I am very grateful to have had a living lab that, despite the scarcity agreements and rules in its organizational structure, implemented initiatives that I had not seen in all my years of working with organizations. This was possible because the company incorporated the transformation process into the day-to-day activities of the corporate world.”

The Dynamics of Our Relationship with Money

Past-cast Series — Seeing relevance in earlier publications

Ritchie-Dunham, James L., and Ned Hulbert. 2009. The Dynamics of Our Relationship with Money, White Paper, Belchertown, MA: Institute for Strategic Clarity, March.

We have been studying newly emerging agreements about money that are shifting human behavior in fundamental ways at a societal level. Based on our study of a number of authors on the topic of money, this paper seeks to synthesize their perspectives and to explore the dynamics of newly emerging systems of societal relationships at economic, political and cultural levels. By mapping these new relationships and behaviors, we hope to integrate and present them as helpful social insights.

The new ways of understanding and working with money have not yet been presented in a whole system picture. The presentation of a larger societal systems picture, along with analysis of the archetypal patterns behind it, can further dialogue among those concerned to understand and support a shift to a healthier social order.

Strings of Agreements with Money

Past-cast Series — Seeing relevance in earlier publications

Ritchie-Dunham, James L., and Ned Hulbert. 2009. Strings of Agreements with Money, White Paper, Belchertown, MA: Institute for Strategic Clarity, February.

The breakdown in September 2008 of the world’s financial and money systems has created a crisis that endangers the stability and vitality of societies world-wide. We must reshape our now broken systems with new, healthy agreements for working with money and one another. We can restore a social balance and enable the basic needs of individuals and society to be met. Organizations and the larger systems within which they function can benefit from articulating and working with the new agreements. The financial crisis shows us very clearly what is unhealthy.

Vibrancy Activity in Mexico

I just spent the last week in Queretaro, Mexico, where there is lots of activity around the work of Harmonic Vibrancy and Ecosynomics, and there is much to share. As I tell you briefly about what is happening in Mexico, I invite you to see if there is a way that you would like to engage with the work there or something similar in your geography or language. Basically, you can think of four realms of work: “content” where you learn to do the work on your own; “process” where others do the work with you; “sharing” where you meet others like you who are doing the work; and “insights” where you learn about the underlying research and insights we are finding.

CONTENT
Starting with an introductory course I gave in March this year, the group in Mexico has advanced quickly, with ISC Fellow Annabel Membrillo now offering a 2-day Introduction to Harmonic Vibrancy and Ecosynomics course. With this new foundation, I was able to offer two intermediate Intensives this past week on “Ecosynomic Tools and Applications” and “Ecosynomic Indicators and Measurement Systems.”

As the group now takes up these introductory and intermediate courses, I will be back in Mexico in the early Spring to offer more advanced, specialized Intensives on Money Agreements, What Is Homo lumens, Collaborating with Process Groups around the World, An Integral-AQAL View of HV and Ecosynomics, Introduction to Ecosynomics research seminar, Linking Ecosynomics, Harmonic Vibrancy and Strategy, and The Ecosynomic Foundations and Practices of Agreements. With these solid foundations in the team in Mexico, we can now explore the deeper roots and practical applications of Ecosynomics.

Through its long-term work with Ecosynomics, the community in Mexico continues to be one of the top 3 countries in purchases of the Ecosynomics book-course.

SHARING
We shared the story with like-minded leaders and colleagues through two public talks and dialogs. One for 42 leaders was hosted by the SC Group and the JFK American School of Queretaro, with co-hosting by Annabel’s team. The other public talk for a dozen local leaders was hosted by the SC group at the Esquina Gaucha restaurant. These sharing activities continue to grow the local community working with Ecosynomics in the Queretaro area.

PROCESS
Through ISC Fellow Annabel Membrillo and SC Group Mexico co-founder Conrado Garcia, there are now two large on-going projects in Queretaro, Mexico based in Ecosynomics at the school JFK and the bank ISBAN, integrating the Harmonic Vibrancy survey, the Agreements Maps, and Managing from Clarity systems mapping in the strategy process.

INSIGHTS
Led by ISC Fellow Annabel Membrillo, our research continues full-steam in Mexico, with hundreds of groups responding to the Harmonic Vibrancy survey, many beginning to apply Agreements Maps, and many engaging in deeper descriptions and explorations of their emerging agreements through “Agreements Evidence Dialogs.”

CONTACT
If you are interested in engaging in any of these areas of Content, Process, Sharing, or Insights in Mexico, contact the SC Group.

All in all, a great week!

Strategic Clarity: Actions for Identifying and Correcting Gaps in Mental Models

Past-cast Series — Seeing relevance in earlier publications

Ritchie-Dunham, James L. and Luz María Puente. 2008. Strategic Clarity: Actions for Identifying and Correcting Gaps in Mental Models, Long Range Planning, 41(5) 509-52.

Whether you are making quick resource-allocation decisions alone or collaborating with your executive team to set organizational strategy, what you see, what you advocate, and what you ultimately decide are influenced by the map of the world you carry around inside your head. In some ways, this map or mental model is unique to you, as it was formed through your specific experiences and ways of engaging with the world. This article is based on a decade of research and fieldwork and is illustrated with multiple references to both large and small European and American organizations in the for-profit, non-profit, and governmental sectors. It presents five guiding questions that can help identify and correct gaps in managers’ mental models of their organizations. This approach enables managers to be clear about how to move their organizations in the desired direction, in order to achieve their goals. While useful for professional managers of complex systems, these questions are particularly applicable for leaders of civil society, governmental, and entrepreneurial for-profit organizations. The main contribution of this article is a framework of exercises based on the five questions that integrates traditional strategic dimensions and allows leaders to identify gaps in their mental models, resulting in more effective leadership and improved performance.

Money — The Agreements We Seldom See — A New Movie

A movie that will change your perception of money, @moneylifemovie, available for anyone to view or to host a screening. http://bit.ly/ZYoQhk