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

In this 4th 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.

SCALING IMPACT

In BUILD UPON, we are working regionally, as Europe, across 28 member states, and within each member state.  We have spent the last two years working with thousands of stakeholder groups who influence the building renovation, renewable energy, and energy efficiency industries, across geographic, economic, political, cultural, and social diversities.  To scale the impact of all of this local, national, and regional work, we saw that six steps were necessary.  

“What it means to renovate the entire building stock. It means comfort.  It means better housing, more energy security. It means engagement.  We need to get industry stakeholders, policy makers, finance, all together, and that needs to be sustained over time.”

Celine Carre, Saint-Gobain

First, we need to identify the one, unifying deeper shared purpose that would bring us together to collaborate across all of these diversities.  We achieved a next step towards this with our Common Vision, developed with 100+ stakeholder representatives in Madrid, described in the earlier blogpost “Realizing the Deeper Shared Purpose.”

BUILD UPON social network analysis, EU member states

Second, we need to gather the people together, around this deeper shared purpose.  People who are committed to shifting the economic, environmental, health, and social impacts of energy and buildings in Europe.  We have a critical mass of those people engaged in BUILD UPON, ready to move forward together.

Third, thousands of positive deviants are figuring out many of the parts of this, within their own specific cultures.  We need to identify them, study them, and showcase them, so that others at the local, national, and regional levels can learn from and with them about their technical and social innovations.

Fourth, we need to gather with each other and learn from each other, taking advantage of the many platforms for learning with and from each other that already exist, are gaining broad support, and are evolving and maturing.

Fifth, we are now clear that through collaboration, we can achieve far more together than we can alone or through simple cooperation—more, in the same places, at the same time, regionally, nationally, and locally.

Sixth, we have already begun to experience the very tangible impacts and greater resilience of co-hosting this collaboration together.

So, now we are focusing simultaneously on regional, national, and local-level efforts, highlighting what we are learning about (1) our best efforts everywhere, (2) local positive deviants, (3) how to share insights across professional, industrial, geographic, and linguistic cultures, and (4) coming across with a simple and effective measurement system that allows us to focus on the impacts we want to generate and to track the collective effort at the same time we capture feedback to improve local and national initiatives.  We have to, because we agree that it is important to achieve our social impacts, and to achieve them we see clearly that we must collaborate.

We thank our colleagues at the European Climate Foundation (ECF), the BUILD UPON team, the co-hosts (link to previous blog in series on “co-hosting collaboration), the Madrid participants, the Institute for Strategic Clarity, and Vibrancy—all co-investors in this process together.

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.

MEASURING IMPACT RESILIENCE

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.

Realizing the Deeper Shared Purpose — What We Are Learning from BUILD UPON Cambridge, Madrid, and Brussels

In this 2nd 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.

REALIZING THE DEEPER SHARED PURPOSE

The potential we saw. To achieve its goal of “cutting Europe’s energy use, reducing the impacts of climate change, and creating buildings that deliver a high quality of life for everyone,” BUILD UPON believes that, “changing the way we work together will lead to strong, well implemented renovation strategies over time. Success is therefore about establishing and maintaining innovative platforms for cross-sector collaboration and partnership.  Europe’s renovation revolution can only be achieved if governments, businesses, NGOs and householders come together: individually, our resources are insufficient to meet this challenge, but collectively we can achieve the impact needed to make our buildings the best they can be.”

“The process gave me the tools to progress in a direction that I intuitively felt was needed to build widespread support beyond the energy efficiency community. We need to engage with stakeholders that don’t yet see a direct benefit to their respective causes or objectives. This will happen most effectively by finding common ground, which starts with understanding their values and perspectives. We have seen good examples of such leadership in the campaigns and coalitions we have been supporting, demonstrating that successful engagement and alignment with a wide variety of stakeholders increases the overall impact of our advocacy efforts.”

— Patty Fong, Programme Director of the Energy Efficiency Programme, European Climate Foundation

To collaborate at this level, the BUILD UPON leadership believed it was critical to invite in a broad set of stakeholders, representing many different facets of the built environment and energy systems across Europe to see what the deeper shared purpose that could unite them might be.  To facilitate this broad set of stakeholders, 32 leaders from the BUILD UPON and European Climate Foundation communities went through a advanced leadership capacity-building process  together 3 weeks before, in Cambridge UK (link to previous blogpost in this series), to build capacity in how to co-host collaboration.

What we did.  At the BUILD UPON Madrid Leaders Summit, the co-hosts, two to a table, co-hosted ten other leaders representing other stakeholder perspectives throughout the energy efficiency, renewable energy, and building renovation communities across Europe.  The co-hosted conversation inquired into the deeper purpose they all shared that brought them together.  This far-ranging conversation covered very different topics at each table, depending on the stakeholder perspectives at that table, and they all converged on the importance of a set of four social impacts they all shared (increasing economic development, decreasing the environmental and health impacts of energy and buildings, and increasing affordable housing), supported by a coherent set of strategic impacts in regulations, financial risk sharing, social capital, and technical innovation.

“Stakeholders are important for the process, but if they are not involved and do not feel that they are taking part in the process, they will not grasp the importance of their role and their added value. This is what co-hosting brings to the table: a chance for everyone to be involved and take part in the process of exchanging ideas and thoughts.  No matter which function someone held (minister or junior project manager), people took the time to listen to each other (with the help of co-hosts).”

— Alan Perl, BUILD UPON Project Manager, Croatia GBC

A table conversation in the BUILD UPON Madrid Leaders Summit

What came out of that process.  Out of that process in Madrid, we synthesized the input from the 16 tables, including 150 stakeholder perspectives, into one “Common Vision” statement.   

The following systems map captures the core elements of this synthesized statement and how the elements fit together as a coherent set.

How to read the systems map.  In essence, the variables in green represent the social impacts that the group of many stakeholders identified in their deeper shared purpose, through the co-hosted session in Madrid.  To be determined a success, the work must have an economic impact of generating more projects for companies and more jobs for individuals.  It also must lead to an environmental impact of dramatically lowering greenhouse gas emissions.  And it must have a positive impact on the health of its citizens and make housing more affordable.  All four social impacts must be achieved.

The variables in black represent the strategic impacts of the BUILD UPON work, all of which are needed together to renovate the building stock, in a way that generates the four required social impacts.  The economic impact depends on the activity of renovating buildings.  The environmental and health impacts depend on the resulting stock of renovated buildings. As described by the groups in Madrid, the activity of renovating buildings depends on supply and demand.  Increasing supply strategically is primarily a function of lowering financial risk and increasing demand, the combination of which will lead to more companies providing renovation services and building sufficient capacity to meet any demand.  Decreasing financial risk depends on sharing risk across multiple stakeholders, not just the investors, and on stabilizing demand by generating regulations that require renovation.  Both of these factors are strengthened by the generation of policies and regulations requiring renovation. Increasing demand strategically requires the people knowing that they have to renovate because of regulations requiring renovation, that people see that everyone else they know is renovating–it becomes a social norm–, it make more sense to renovate because technical innovation provides cheaper, smarter solutions, and because renovation is a good thing to do, since evidence shows the proven social benefits of renovation.

The variables in blue represent the process impacts that leverage each local renovation effort across member states and across Europe by working on (1) cross-sector, cross-member state collaboration, (2) showcasing the thousands of cases of positive deviants in technical and social innovations they find locally, (3) the creation of a clear, generalizable and at the same time specific message of how renovation is becoming a social norm, and (4) the creation of a social-engagement movement that supports the deeper shared purpose.

“While applying the ‘O Process’ methodology, we enhanced our collective capacity to read and approach systems, as such, to support the systemic change projects that we deem essential to ignite a renovation revolution. Energy efficiency, though, is a means to an end. Better, to a set of interconnected ends. Systemic change affects where a system goes, what it does, who influence it and, crucially, how it works. With respect to this, we learned to outline shared purposes (Why), to identify together possibilities and probabilities (at an early stage, What), and to upgrade effectiveness through collaboration (How). The corresponding distinctions and relationships between social, strategic and process goals and metrics become clearer, thanks to the overall process we’ve been experiencing, led by the ISC team.

The systemic nature of the challenges we’re facing requires us all to establish collaborative multi-sectoral platforms on local, national and international levels, consistent with the very nature of the Green Building Councils and of their networks. Moreover, those platforms should be connected towards a collective effort, local to national and national to international. That appears to be the biggest process innovation, broadly considering many diverse countries.”

— Sebastiano Cristoforetti, International and Certification Manager, GBC Italia

What we came to call the “Common Vision,” while still in process, now integrates in one shared, deeper purpose, many different stakeholders, who have come together to achieve a coherent set of social impacts, through a process in the built environment, that meets many strategic impacts.  This depth and breadth was achieved in one morning, because of the skill and process of co-hosting collaboration.

We tend to believe that if we are in the same space or work together, we are collaborating–the assumption that networks equal collaboration is not true.

We thank our colleagues at the European Climate Foundation (ECF), the BUILD UPON team, the co-hosts (link to previous blog in series on “co-hosting collaboration), the Madrid participants, the Institute for Strategic Clarity, and Vibrancy—all co-investors in this process together.

Co-hosting Collaboration — What We Are Learning from BUILD UPON Cambridge, Madrid, and Brussels

In this 1st 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.

CO-HOSTING COLLABORATION

The potential we saw.  In the spring of 2016, in dialog with BUILD UPON and European Climate Foundation (ECF) leadership, we saw the potential for both communities to benefit from greater collaboration amongst their many members, within each community and across them.  Together, we thought that introduction to a proven collaboration-building process, like the “O Process,” (see figure below) could facilitate much greater collaboration, across the networks, by clarifying a deeper shared purpose, the need for diverse positions, and the ability to integrate the unique perspectives these diverse positions bring to the possibilities that can be seen and the commitment to actions that could be taken, together.

To foster this greater collaboration, we decided (BUILD UPON, ECF, Vibrancy) to co-invest in an advanced leadership capacity-building process with leaders from each community, building up their capacity to “co-host collaboration,” through the O Process, and then having them apply the newly acquired skills together at the BUILD UPON Leaders Summit and on their own in their own local organizations.

What we did.  In April 2016, we met with ECF grantees, inviting them into the process. Over the late spring and summer, individuals from the ECF and BUILD UPON communities were invited to participate in the co-hosting collaboration process.  In late August, 32 leaders from ECF and BUILD UPON met in Cambridge, UK for a 3-day advanced leadership capacity-building session.  Three weeks later, we all met in Madrid to apply what we had learned together in a long, morning session during the BUILD UPON Madrid Leaders Summit.  In mid-January 2017, we met in an on-line lab to share experiences and to provide peer-to-peer learning by discussing what we had learned from our work together and in our own settings, in co-hosting collaboration.

 

Cambridge Advanced Leadership Capacity-Building on Co-Hosting Collaboration and the O-Process, 29-31 August 2016

BUILD UPON Madrid Leaders Summit, 20-21 September 2016

Online Lab on Sharing and Peer-to-Peer Learning, 12 January 2017

The evidence we saw.  The 32 leaders who self-selected into the Cambridge advanced leadership capacity building  were able to connect and understand the fundamental skills of inquiry and co-hosting within one day, which allowed them to begin to co-host on day two a difficult exploration of challenging topics with stakeholders holding sometimes-conflicting positions, such as whether there is a deeper, shared purpose for why we all work in the space of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and building renovation, and why each perspective in that greater mix matters.  This showed the speed with which high-impact resilience leaders can learn to co-host collaboration.

“When I went through this process, I began to see the intense value that comes from understanding voices from other actors within our field. I began to understand the value that they can bring to what I want to achieve, and the O Process itself, with the way it is structured, allows guided conversations, which certainly, before I took the training, I would not have been able to do at a roundtable discussion or with a group of stakeholders whose values are not the same as mine.”

— Adrian Joyce, Director, Renovate Europe Campaign (0:35 – 1:08 – https://youtu.be/wIpZU73wEiQ)

One of the key difficulties in co-hosting collaboration is the passion and process for including the wide diversity of stakeholder perspectives necessary to achieve the identified deeper shared purpose.  It is far easier to work with the same, friendly colleagues as usual.  It is far more challenging to actually want to and to be able to honestly make a space of trust for the voices that are necessary and usually not included.  This is a process of deeply valuing “the other.”  These 32 leaders showed that they were able to take up this process, both in repeated practice in Cambridge and in a live situation together in Madrid.

We thought it would be best for the many stakeholders coming together in Madrid to be co-hosted by their peers.  This proved to be much more powerful than having the session facilitated by a group of experts external to their community.  The long tenure within the community, the credibility from many successful, large-scale projects, the passion for the aggressive goals of dramatically reducing the adverse impacts of buildings in Europe, and the respectful attention to co-hosting diverse perspectives led to a wide-ranging, efficient process for eliciting and integrating a deeper shared purpose, as expressed in the BUILD UPON “Common Vision.”

It was critical to develop these co-hosting collaboration skills in the context of a direct application together to a topic and community that directly influenced all participants.  The immediacy of the application, coupled with the capacity-building process, made the feedback from co-hosting peers ever more critical.  Approaching the whole process through the principles of transformative learning, we repeatedly hypothesized what we would do, tried it, reflected on what happened, gave ourselves and each other the feedback, adjusted, and tried again, learning and evolving along the way, together.

“Immersed as we all are in our very particular lives, we usually are not aware of how much collaboration, true collaboration, can transform our lives.  In fact we don’t even know what collaboration means to start with, so most of our work in BUILD UPON has been to try and give a sense, and a meaning, to it just by doing it and involving others in it, probably not knowing much at the beginning, but believing in it.  Through the process we have seen how powerfully this idea has opened new dimensions in all our minds: it is not only that work with–instead of work against–each other could be much better, in a linear way, so to say, what happened was that new, unforeseen possibilities would unfold right before our eyes.

Thanks to the help provided by the Institute for Strategic Clarity, through the Cambridge-Madrid-Brussels experience we’ve come a long way, from our initial rudimentary way of listening or, rather, thinking we were listening, to a much more profound listening attitude, which is the base of true collaboration.  I believe we are only at the beginning, but fully motivated to go on progressing, learning from others and from ourselves, learning from all ‘nos-otros’. Thanks”.

— Emilio Miguel Mitre, GBCe, BUILD UPON Coordinator

Finally, to continue to develop in their capacity to co-host collaboration, bringing people from across Europe together to collaborate, requires more than one workshop (Cambridge) and one application (Madrid). It needs continuous reflection and conversations in leadership-tangibilization circles (online/in-person).  We experimented with one such online experience, in a webinar in January, and an in-person experience together in February in Brussels.

“The ‘co-hosting collaboration experience’ gave me a new framework and skills for problem-solving. Some recommendations provided by our guides and other members of the team sounded a bit obvious at the beginning of our joint collaboration, but over the time became a ‘check list’ of all discussions I run. It helped me a lot especially in debates on sensitive topics such as ‘organisational values’.”

— Antoni Bielewicz, European Climate Foundation, Poland

We thank our colleagues at the European Climate Foundation (ECF), the ECF grantees network, the BUILD UPON team and network members, 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.

2 Reasons Why We Tend to Choose Separation and Outcomes Now, When We Prefer Uniting and Greater Overall Value

We tend to choose to be with people who think and look like us.  We also tend to choose outcomes that benefit us now.  These tendencies lead us to focus on activities that separate us and provide short-term outcomes.

When we reflect on what we really want, we say that we want healthy relationships, greater social harmony, learning and innovation, and greater overall wellbeing.  We know that these desires mean that we benefit from being with people who think and look different from us–they bring something to the game that we don’t.  We know that we also benefit from working on things together that provide the largest benefit to us over time.  A good education or a good highway take time to build and require many people.  We know this.  So why don’t we always do it?

Research on cognitive biases finds that people tend to think in ways that vary from what they rationally would do.  Social identity research shows that people tend towards groups where they identify as a member (the in-group, such as family and close friends) and not towards groups where they do not identify as a member (the out-group).  Hyperbolic discounting research shows that people tend to disproportionately prefer immediate rewards to future rewards.  These theories argue that, in human evolution, in-group and right-now preferences probably were very important when we were hunter gatherers.  As societies began to gather in large cities that are globally connected, dealing with large-scale, highly complex issues such as nuclear warfare, poverty, water, climate change, terrorism, and health, these previously healthy, innate preferences might be getting in the way of what people actually prefer.

Choosing the in-group and outcomes-now leads to separation, a form of human interaction that I suggest leads to lots of people working on what seem to be similar issues, on different elements in different places at different times.  While these separate actions might have some positive local impacts, they cannot achieve sustained, large-scale impact on complex, multi-dimensional issues that require a multi-pronged, same-place-and-time approach.  These more complex issues require identifying with people who are similar and different, each bringing their own unique contributions, and focusing on short and long-term outcomes, a uniting form of human interaction.

While our human cognitive biases tend to carry us toward separation, we prefer and need to be able to also unite, to collaborate on many of the more difficult challenges and opportunities facing us.  We can choose to interact in a more united way.  It is a choice, an agreement we can make, for ourselves, with each other, for our present and for our future, which is what we prefer.

Realizing the Best Conversation Available in the Group — Recommended Reading

Ritchie-Dunham, James L., and Maureen Metcalf.  2016.  “Co-hosting: Creating Optimal Experience for Team Interactions,” Integral Leadership Review, (http://integralleadershipreview.com/15209-co-hosting-creating-optimal-experience-for-team-interactions/).

What level of conversation is available, where all participants can engage and contribute their unique perspectives?  One way of understanding this is what Terri O’Fallon calls the “roaming space.”  Extending that concept, my colleagues and I have found that there are two roaming spaces a conversation can play in: one where we find the least common denominator of shared awareness, perspectives, and language; and another where we find the highest available awareness, perspectives, and language we can share.  In the first, we find the overlap in the  awareness, perspectives, and language we share.  In the second, we access the unique awareness, perspectives, and language each person brings to the conversation.

This article highlights the five dimensions of the co-hosting roaming space and the co-hosting process for putting it in practice.

How Do You Organize for Collaborative Action?

How does one organize for collaborative action?  It seems that only a small percentage of lots of attempts at collaboration are being successful.

Sometimes people naturally segregate, with each one basically doing his or her own thing, singing their own song.  Sometimes people flock, flowing as individuals somewhat together, singing the same song.  And, sometimes people become a whole that brings out their individual best, creating a harmonic through a specific synthesis of their unique voices.  Three very different ways in which people interact: (1) segregating; (2) flocking; (3) uniting.

Does the difference matter?  As people we tend to organize our interactions to increase our ability to achieve greater impact, resilience, and creativity with a more engaging experience.  People seem to find these characteristics critical to being able to work together, and to being able to achieve movement on large-scale social issues.

What drives this difference in how people come together?  Whether they segregate, flock, or unite?  Current theories suggest this is driven by an endowment effect, leadership, or luck.  The endowment effect suggests that the difference is because of something special the people have—they are smarter, wealthier, better educated, more experienced.  The leadership effect suggests that an individual or group was able to envision and engage people in a specific form of interaction.  The luck effect suggests it just happened somehow.  Each of these three is hard to replicate.

Is there another, simpler explanation of why people tend to segregate, flock, or unite?  Maybe complexity theory can show us something.  Complexity theory looks for the simplest explanation: what is the simplest set of rules that guide the behavior of an individual can explain the observed social behavior when many individuals interact?  Can a high variety of behaviors be better explained by (1) complexity in the way 3-4 simple principles intermingle or by (2) the complicated number of ways in which a wide breadth of number of variables with a depth of details interact?  Complexity theory has shown that bird flocking can be explained by 3 principles: keep in the same general direction of the others; keep some separation from the others; and do not run into anything.  Ant trails can be explained by 4 principles: take a couple of small steps and turn; smell for pheromones; follow pheromone trail to food (where pheromones get weaker); drop pheromones on way home (where pheromones get stronger).

Likewise, maybe complex human behavior can be explained by 4 simple principles—how people consciously or unconsciously answer four big questions:

  1. How much is there (Economic)
  2. Who decides and enforces (Political)
  3. What criteria (Cultural)
  4. What rules (Social)

Can we explain the 3 observed behaviors with specific kinds of responses to these four questions?

  1. Segregating. Assume scarcity of resources—there is not enough—with one primary relationship deciding and enforcing (like the boss for the whole group), focusing on the outcomes to be achieved with the scarce resources in a way that satisfies the primary relationship (in this case, the boss).  Designed to separate, interactions are transactional, to improve one’s own health and growth.  Get people to do the jobs required to achieve the outcomes through their own specific tasks.  Each replaceable person is made to focus on doing only their own part.  These tend to be the principles when you find dozens to hundreds of small groups each working on their own part of what seems to be a higher principle, like how to reform education or health care.
  2. Flocking. While assuming sufficiency of resources – there can be enough for me and for you – primarily for your own self or your own group, pay attention to your relationship with others, moving generally in the same direction, toward a similar outcome, focusing on how being aware of others can help move you towards the desired outcomes.  Designed to flock, interactions are relational, working on one’s own together.  Everyone focuses on doing their part, as it relates to others.
  3. Uniting. Assume abundance of resources – in relationship to the potential and dynamics of systems of resources, there is enough for all – with vibrant relationships for self, other, group, nature, and spirit.  Designed to collaborate, focus on the interaction of the unique contributions each person makes to their own development and to the whole, as it tangibilizes the available potential.

What outcomes are we seeing?  With segregation-based principles, paying attention only to one’s own outcomes, individual efforts are able to achieve moderate levels of impact, usually with low resilience to the ever-changing environment.  Seeming success comes in spite of the huge costs of scarcity of not paying attention to others, creativity, and potential.

Many people are well aware of this experience, and experiment with flocking-based principles, where they share information with others, and attempt to work generally in the same direction.  We find through cooperative coordination these efforts are able to achieve more significant impacts with a bit more resilience, as long as each of the involved groups is also successful.

We are also finding groups working with uniting-based principles, who are able to continuously bring out the best in each other, constantly exploring each other’s individual and collective potential, resilient in shifting with the ever-changing environment, often generating those changes.

We are trying these principles ourselves.  Most of our work at Vibrancy focuses on taking on collaborative efforts based on uniting principles, whether large-scale social change, such as regional food systems, complementary currencies, toxic-free economies, retrofitting regions, or small-scale, community-based efforts, such as schools, companies, government agencies, or local communities.  We are learning about how to apply these principles in a wide variety of settings.

We synthesize what we are finding about co-hosting collaboration in the O Process, where highest impact resilience starts with the “we” available in a shared deeper purpose, then clarifies what specific voices are needed to make unique contributions to achieve the deeper purpose.  We can then understand together where to dedicate our individual and collective efforts to achieve the outcomes we desire collectively and individually within the resilient dynamics of the system of our interactions.  It turns out to be much easier than most of us think, once we shift the principles guiding our interactions.  From separating principles, we can only move alone, never together.  That would be impossible, blue-sky thinking.  From flocking principles, we can only move with others, never united.  That would be impossible, soft and fuzzy process.  From uniting, we can achieve our own health and growth, in relationship with others who are also contributing with us to what we want.

Vibrancy Is A Choice Checklists — Re-membering Abundance-based Agreements

You invite some colleagues to work together with you on something you feel is really important. Knowing you, your passion, and what they can contribute, they enthusiastically say yes. You come together for the first time.  For the first 2 hours, the vibe is electric and the pulse is quickening. Then something shifts, and some people seem unclear about the process, they quickly start to disengage. Trying to re-engage the group, someone has an idea and proposes a different, “more engaging” process. A couple of the others agree, and feeling a little lost you agree. After all, you trust everyone in the room. A few minutes later, you notice a few others starting to check out. One of them calls for a brief point of clarification. The enthusiasm starts to breakdown quickly, accelerating into a collapse. You decide to stop the freefall, and call for a break. What happened? Great intentions, trusted colleagues, a great start, then rapid collapse. Have you ever experienced something like this? I have, frequently.

While some people I know are extraordinarily gifted at seeing what to do in these breakdowns, converting them into breakthroughs, I wonder if many times it is possible to not collapse in the first place. A book I just finished reading by a well-known surgeon who studied surgery units, airline pilots, and large-scale construction projects, proposes a simple, elegant solution–the checklist.

To align what we perceive in the world with what our best mental models suggest, I have long been a proponent of CRISP frameworks and processes. CRISP means that the frameworks and processes are designed to be obvious and how they are comprehensive, rigorous, integrative, simple, and purposeful. From this thinking emerged the GRASP, 5 primary relationships, 3 levels of perceived reality, 4 lenses, the O Process, and the Harmonic Vibrancy Move 4-step process. And yet, I continue to experience the kind of collapse I described at the beginning of this post. Enter the Vibrancy is a choice checklist.

In The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande shows how the checklist helps highly trained experts in complex situations prevent the avoidable failures that still haunt the activities we humans organize. What would this look like for abundance-based agreements, where we still experience frequent collapse?

Gawande finds that people who have successfully used checklists with experts in complex situations often have checklists for process and for communication–what to do in what order, and who needs to talk about what and when. The point is to remember to do all of the critical steps, some of which are often forgotten in the heat of the moment. According to what Gawande found, the checklist should be designed for a specific situation. It should be short, with 5 to 9 items. The language should be simple, precise, and familiar to the professionals. And then, most importantly, it needs to be tested in a real situation. All checklists always need to be refined.

Returning to the initial situation, before we start the meeting, we can create two checklists: one for the proposed process; and one for how we want to communicate when something else emerges. While the first might initially look like an agenda for the conversation, thinking of it as a checklist gets us thinking about the most critical elements to be addressed, some of which are often forgotten, and the different perspectives on what needs to come together.  In addition to the basic process, what other assumptions do we need to be sure are clear to all and not missed, especially the ones we have experienced as being missed in the past? What roles need to be taken up, and who will take them? What are the most frequent avoidable failures that we experience? We want to make sure we address them consistently.

In processes where we are working out of abundance-based agreements, we are engaging with high complexity–high vibrancy in self, other, group, nature, and spirit, with clarity about how much we see, who decides and enforces, with what values, and how we interact, in a highly engaged, interactive group. Lots of potential, with lots of emergence, ripe for checklists.

In the next weeks, I will be sharing high-vibrancy checklists we are finding. If you have checklists for these situations, please share them with me. Vibrancy is a choice, and a checklist can help us remember how to invite, see, and honor that choice, especially when we forget.

How Likely Is It that You Are Creative?

How many times a day do you think of something new, see a different way of doing something, choose an alternate path to your destination?  That is a real question.  Think of your own experience.  Once every 7 days?  Once a day?  Twice a day?  Every hour?  All day long?

My colleagues and I observe that most people seem to be “thinking up” new ideas, new questions, new observations, new possibilities, new answers all day long.  In actuality, everyone does all of the time.  It is in our nature as human beings, whether we consciously see it or our unconscious mind automatically does it–we are constantly otherwise-attracted (what others call distracted) by a constant stream of new inputs, some of which we share, and some of which we work through.  This is what we observe, as do our colleagues who focus on creativity.

Yet, it seems that most of the organizing forms prominent today assume the exact opposite.  The recent studies on the vast majority of people who are disengaged at work suggest that people are generally not seen as fountains of creativity, rather as meat suits of employable capacities.  From this perspective, it is very unlikely that you are creative, as only very few, very special people are.  The rest are here to implement what the gifted see.  “Do as I say.”

And, as I have shared throughout this blog, we have found thousands of groups that see that it is absolutely definite that you are creative, since everyone is, all of the time.  We find that in these groups, nobody tries to motivate and nobody worries about engaging people, because people come hardwired for creativity, engagement, and motivation.

I was reminded recently of a very technical field of statistics with a very deep insight into human observation, initially developed by the Rev. Thomas Bayes in the 1700s.  Essentially, he suggested that we should see what our individual, initial beliefs are about how probable something is (our priors) and then update those beliefs with the likelihoods of confirming or disconfirming evidence.  As described by Cal Tech physicist Sean Carroll,

“When we are trying to understand what is true about the world, everyone enters the game with some initial feeling about what propositions are plausible, and what ones seem relatively unlikely.  This isn’t an annoying mistake that we should work to correct; it’s an absolutely necessary part of researching in conditions of incomplete information.  And when it comes to understanding the fundamental architecture of reality, none of us has complete information.  Prior credences are a starting point for further analysis, and it’s hard to say that any particular priors are ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’ (Carroll, 2016. The Big Picture, p.79).”

“To every proposition that may or may not be true about the world, we assign a prior credence.  Each such proposition also comes with a collection of likelihoods: the chances that various other things would be true if that proposition were true.  Every time we observe new information, we update our degrees of belief (Carroll, 2016. The Big Picture, p.78).”

Applying this Bayesian insight to whether you are creative or not, you can start with your prior beliefs.  From one end of the spectrum, you can start with the belief that you are not creative, and most people are not–only a very few, special people are.  Then look for the evidence.  If you are not creative, what else would also likely be true.  What evidence do you find, with which to update your belief?  Do you find that, indeed, people around you do not have ideas and are not creative, updating your prior beliefs that people are not creative?  Or do you find that people are having ideas all of the time, whether or not they share them, thus updating your beliefs more towards the belief that people are creative?  How would you know? [Hint. You might have to ask.] From the other end of the spectrum, you can start with the prior belief that people are creative.  You can then look for evidence of the likelihood that they are indeed creative, updating your beliefs.

What do you see, from your own prior beliefs, from your own experience?

Guest post — What Does It Mean to Be a High-Vibrancy School?

Guest post by Annabel Membrillo Jimenez and Jennifer Berman, members of the emerging global Vibrancy community

Do you know a school where something special happening is happening?  Do you feel inspired and fully engaged in the interactions you have with teachers, staff, and students?  Are students fully seen for who they are?  Is their inner potential unleashed?  Does the school re-define what it means to be an outstanding school in service to students and the future?  If you have answered yes to these questions, then you most likely know a high-vibrancy school.

So how do you know if your school or any other school really is a high-vibrancy school? After working with several high-vibrancy schools, we have noticed a few common characteristics.  The schools we have worked with are a mix of public, private, urban, and rural schools with socioeconomic and racial diversity, but in each school you can feel and see a set of core agreements that drive decision making, structures and behavior.

INNOVATIVE LEADERSHIP STRUCTURES IN ALL LEVELS

  • School leaders explore and implement innovative leadership structures and engage in transformation from a place of abundance and possibility.
  • School leaders feel ownership of and responsibility for student and whole-community development.  Department/group leadership supports evolving practices.  There is a culture of respect and support for leaders at all levels (principals, teachers, staff, and parents).
  • Leadership can come from anyone. Actions, ideas and proposals flow from every conversation, including those with students.

A DEEP SHARED PURPOSE WITH CLEAR STRATEGIES

  • Schools are centered on student development.  The whole community (internal and external) supports each child in realizing his/her full potential and development.
  • Schools are mission-driven, with a vision that evolves over time as needed– i.e., explicitly supporting children to be active, engaged human beings with supportive programming and structures.
  • Clear pathways exist to achieve that vision, including structures to help assess what is working, what is not, and what new solutions exist.
  • There is evidence of extraordinary results (success indicators coming from tangible results in the school and larger community).
  • There is a strong emphasis on stakeholder development and a deep shared purpose embraced by the wider community. 

 PERMANENT EVOLVING CULTURES/COMMUNITY

  • There is a strong culture of learning, collaboration, trust, respect, and transparency among students, parents, faculty and staff.
  • High value is placed on community engagement in the life and structures of the school. The school community is engaged in transformation at all levels (personal, group, school, external community).
  • Leadership and others have a high level of awareness of what is happening within the community.

INNOVATIVE EDUCATION MODELS AND EVOLVING CURRICULUM

  • There are continuously evolving education models that meet the needs of students and creatively support students to achieve their highest potential.
  • Stakeholders think systemically about what factors influence children’s growth and education.
  • Alliances with groups outside the school leverage whole child development.
  • Every event with the students is clearly related to the curricula and there is a shared understanding of its educational value (class, festivals, community and parent engagement)

Are you one of these schools or do you know one of these schools? If so, share your story with us. Most likely, you are already looking for other like-minded colleagues with whom you can share and explore.  We would love to help you find each other, so that together we can help co-design the next generation of schools that this world needs.