Guest post — Consciously Choosing Abundance-driven Agreements

by Christoph Hinske, ISC Contributing Fellow, and Eyal Drimmer, Certified Vibrancy Guide

You can download a PDF of this blogpost here.

 

Abundance and Scarcity-Driven Agreements

The problem with most agreements is that we don’t see them.  They just are.  Most often we are not aware that what is happening around us is based on an agreement that one could potentially change.  It seems that life is “just that way.” In our day-to-day interactions, either at work or at home, we are engaging in a set of agreements and relationships, whether we realize it or not.  Sometimes the agreements work, resulting in vibrant experiences and great outcomes, and sometimes they do not, leaving us feeling depleted, fatigued and disappointed about the lousy outcomes.

In addition to shifting agreements in everyday experiences, many of us work to shift agreements in large-scale social change issues, such as renewable energy, food systems, poverty, climate change, and social justice.  Decades of attempts to address these big and small challenges with approaches rooted in scarcity have proven insufficient to the task.

Research at the Institute for Strategic Clarity (ISC) has identified many groups that are finding success in addressing these issues, starting from a very different perspective, one of abundance in human potential.  Ecosynomics, the social science of abundance, offers robust frameworks that take what we have learned in scarcity-based agreements framed by economics and puts it within the much broader, much healthier context of abundance-based agreements.

But how can agreements be made consciously so that people can choose self-determined higher vibrancy in their agreements?  We present a case study from Europe where we are in the process of guiding a group to abundance-based agreements. In doing so, we follow the Vibrancy Living Lab approach, which combines a guiding process with scientific research and social-impact creation to enable a positive contribution to the group and the community where it is embedded.

Starting from a Collapsed State

The example concerns a Community Supported Business (CSB) in a village in Germany; nine people comprising two families and many associates. While the main focus of their work resides on their CSB, they are also engaged in local education and regional politics.

Despite a great vision, the group found itself over the last years in a critical state: the financial situation was getting precarious, the group underwent some hard and energy-depleting times and some were on the edge of burning out. Furthermore, they had already started to lose belief in the meaning behind their venture and to unconsciously accept their scarce reality as given and unchangeable. With those agreements, practices and mindsets they were not able to ensure their private and professional successes.

Based on initial conversations about ecosynomic research, in early 2014, the founders of the community invited us to support them in overcoming their scarcity-driven practices by working out their own abundance-based agreements. 

Raising Awareness for Agreements and Interdependencies

Our first step was to empower them and bring back the feeling of self-determination. We chose two different approaches for this. The first was to stop “just doing” and to start observing. The second was the kind of relationship we entered. In this we decided to step into an unusual role. In addition to being external coaches and consultants, we also agreed to become full members of the group. This gave us more possibility to deeply resonate with them by still being able to mirror them in their dynamics.

The goal of both approaches was to raise the awareness of whether they would rather act out of scarcity or abundance-based agreements and to assess the benefit-cost of devoting resources into the development of abundance-based agreements. The first step into this direction was done through a collaborative Agreement Mapping. This exercise allowed them to understand their unconsciously accepted agreement system and (unintentional) practices leading to perceived scarcity. They were able to do so by tapping into the wisdom of four seemingly very distant fields that humans have used for millennia to understand their interactions, experiences, and produced results:

  1. Resource or economic lens: “How much do we have, of what, to achieve our goals?”
  2. Allocation or political lens: ”Who or what is in power, and who or what decides and enforces?”
  3. Value or cultural lens: “What criteria do they use, and what is important to them?”
  4. Organizing or social interaction lens: “What rules do they apply and how do they organize?”

These currently very distant fields have been integrated by ecosynomic research, allowing a group to understand if it is “stuck in scarcity” or “boosted by abundance.” Why did we do this, and why is this relevant? ISC research conducted in 95 countries proves abundance to be a desired state for any social system. While this seems obvious, direct measurement of this abundance is not. Without measurement, the group could neither take strategic decisions nor convince possible capital providers and shareholders of the importance of “all this fluffy abundance stuff.”

Mapping out the quality of their agreement structure allowed them to create a first understanding of how their embedded and interwoven assumptions shaped their interactions and how those interactions created the basis for the quality of their experiences and results. Understanding that, they started to see that their unpleasant experiences and poor results were a direct effect of the agreements they made on a daily basis in the four fields by (unconsciously) answering the related questions in completely opposite directions. They also started to see that by changing their embedded and interwoven assumptions and agreements they would directly change the experiences they have and the results they produce.

SIDEBAR
Measuring the benefits of and capacity for abundance gets its inspiration from the quality movement. Initially nobody knew how to assess the benefits of quality programs; this made investment decisions difficult. The innovation was to assess the cost of “no quality.” The insight was that the benefit of quality had to be at least as big as the cost of no quality. Likewise, the benefits of abundance are at least as big as the costs of scarcity, which is straightforward to measure.

 

After having this higher-level awareness of themselves and their context, we employed embodiment and systemic practices to open up concrete pathways for change.

Consciously Choosing Abundance-Based Agreements

Let’s have a closer look at the groups’ interrelated agreements and practices, as we saw them the day we started to be engaged with them.

guestpost_aemapcase_111416b

After raising awareness of the current situation, the group collectively agreed to allocate resources into the development of abundance-based agreements and to explore practices that would allow them to intentionally start from abundance and collaboration rather than being unintentionally stuck in scarcity and antagonism.

Outcomes and Summary

Through raising awareness, we managed to close the gap between their wishful thinking and currently shared reality–that is, the difference between the espoused agreements and practices in contrast to the ones in use.  Some concrete outcomes are:

  1. They entered a mindset of “we do have more than enough of anything, we just have to find ways of how to manifest the potential we see into results benefiting our business and community.” They are now successfully innovating on their business model by exploring new markets, management, and leadership behaviors.
  2. They have a high-level AND in-depth understanding of their structures and how each individual drives them. Building on that, they realized the interdependencies between the different parts of their “system” and the importance of alignment within it. Both aspects are essential preconditions to relate in an effective, efficient, and abundant way.
  3. They have the awareness that with their scarcity-driven agreements they would by definition neither be able to have the kind of “healthy experiences” nor produce the kind of outcomes they envision.
  4. They are much more conscious and mindful in their daily patterns, leading to more thoughtful interactions. “We now know that we are not yet able to have everything we would like to have, but we also know now what the ground is we are standing on.”
  5. “I learned to respect my own needs and to share them with everybody in our community.”

Engaging with them, you can now a) see and feel the higher-level awareness of “why do I experience what I experience and how I can change it” and b) see and feel the positive energy and motivation to grow into the possibilities they see, which is completely different than the original drive to simply escape scarcity. They are able to do so since they experienced what it is like to work with abundance-driven agreements. Yes, they are now able to work out of this understanding and feeling, rather than just pushing away from something they do not like.

Furthermore, they not only regained trust in their own abilities and goals, but also started to reframe their shared purpose, as well as each individual’s unique contribution to the group.

We think the key learning of this case study is to take time to understand the agreements that (un)consciously drive the behavior of your business. Understanding your agreements builds the basis for lasting success and vibrant interactions, thus, having great experiences and producing above-average outcomes. Awareness, collaboration, and alignment seem to take a lot of time and energy, but there is a massive return for every minute of this investment. During our process the Japanese proverb “If hurried, go around” evolved as our guiding principle, because the fastest way is often not the straightest.

4 Truths of Clarity

Understanding the complexity of our organizations, what they want to achieve, and how to go about achieving what they want isn’t hard because people don’t have the tools; it is hard because people haven’t been shown how to use them. What I refer to as “the Four Truths of Clarity” show that we do have the tools, and that to use them we simply need to overcome the barriers to using them.

  1. Not understanding the system clearly, as it really is, both in what it wants to achieve and in how it works, leads to very ineffective and inefficient systems. We experience this state of confusion when we lack clarity: on a personal level whenever we make an obvious mistake and say to ourselves, “I knew better than that”; on a group level whenever someone states after a group blunder, “I could have told you that, if you would have asked”; and on an organizational level whenever we see intelligent, passionate people with years of experience make seemingly stupid decisions.
  2. Not understanding the system clearly is caused by barriers to what we experience and by our ability to experience the system. The first barrier is that we are not able to process the infinite number of details available to us at all moments. And, with the inputs we are able to process, we don’t. The second barrier exists because we are usually mindless in a distracted state, paying attention to our own thoughts and not to the system.
  3. By understanding what influences these barriers to systems experiencing, we can overcome these barriers. The first barrier of cognitive ability can be overcome somewhat by recognizing its existence. Knowing that we are not capable of knowing everything puts us in the position of asking rather than assuming. The second barrier of mindful attention can be overcome by increasing our ability to be mindful to what we can process about the system.
  4. Since we experience systems through our body, heart, and head, overcoming the barriers requires that we build our capacity to experience systems through our body, heart, and head with greater clarity. Very simple exercises have been found to be useful and motivating in being mindful to information we receive from our body, heart, and head. It has also been shown that it is quite possible to develop one’s ability to act in a mindful, clear way continuously.

I previously published this observation, with a hat tip to the Buddha, as Ritchie-Dunham, James. 2005. The Four Truths of Clarity, Reflections; The SoL Journal of Knowledge, Learning and Change, 6(6/7), vi-vii.

Radio Interview — Creating Vibrant Organizations to Drive Performance Through Ecosynomics

Past-cast Series — Seeing relevance in earlier publications

ISC President Jim Ritchie-Dunham, ISC Contributing Fellow Christoph Hinske, and World GBC senior advisor James Drinkwater were interviewed on the radio today about how to drive performance through vibrant agreements by Maureen Metcalf. You can access the 1-hour interview from Maureen’s Internet-radio talk show “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” at (http://www.voiceamerica.com/episode/86848/creating-vibrant-organizations-to-drive-performance-ecosynomics#.VcPBswmazIM.facebook).

New Monitor Study — How Funders Can Support and Leverage Networks for Social Impact

I was interviewed recently as part of a Monitor Institute study for the Rockefeller Foundation on “How Funders Can Support and Leverage Networks for Social Impact.” The final report is out, in the form of an interactive toolkit (ow.ly/QxgqG) — please feel free to share it.

My contribution is based on my research into deviant groups — what makes some sustainably amazing and others sustainably awful. Through our Ecosynomics research at the instituteforstrategicclarity.org in 93 countries, we have identified 1000s of groups who have off-the-chart, amazing experiences and outcomes everyday. The Monitor study incorporates some of what we have learned about the collaborative nature of their work.

If you know of any such groups, I would love to hear about them.

Guest post — Agreements Mapping of High Vibrancy Zapatista Communities

Guest post by Annabel Membrillo Jimenez, Vibrancy Mexico Lead Steward

Zapatista mural

Annabel set off on a journey this past spring to observe indigenous Zapatista communities, asking: What are the characteristics that allow the Zapatistas to move at a steady pace towards the third circle of vibrancy, despite the ongoing repression they receive from a part of their environment? What are the agreements that make them unique?

Annabel shares what she observed in the Zapatistas agreements in a white paper you can download here in English (aquí en español).

 

Free for 1 day — Celebrating 8th Birthday of Ecosynomics

BannerToday, June 8, 2015, marks 8 years since the naming of Ecosynomics: the emerging science of abundance!

For all of today, to celebrate, you can listen, read, and watch Ecosynomics: The Science of Abundance — we gift you the audiobook, ebook, and ecourse all for free.

Click here (vibrancyisachoice.com) to order it, today only.

Free for 1 day — on June 8 2015 — Ecosynomics ebook, audiobook, and ecourse

BannerJune 8, 2015 marks 8 years since the naming of Ecosynomics: the emerging science of abundance!

To celebrate, we will offer the Ecosynomics ebook, audiobook, and ecourse all for FREE for 1 day — Monday, June 8, 2015.

Biting Back at Dengue — Another Way to Break the Cycle

In an earlier post, I looked at how Dengue is still here, and what our earlier work on dengue epidemiology might still contribute.  Researchers in Australia have developed a new way to intervene in the re-enforcing cycle of mosquitoes getting infected with dengue and spreading it by biting other people.  They inject a common natural bacterium called Wolbachia into the mosquito population, and this bacterium keeps the mosquitoes from spreading dengue.  You can see a cool 3-minute video of how this works.

From our systems-modeling perspective of the dengue epidemiology, work we did at the Mexican Secretariat of Health in 1995, this Wolbachia intervention breaks the link between the “Contagious Mosquito” biting the “Susceptible Person.”  This stops the “Epidemic Spread” feedback loop, without having to deal with the other “Vector Control Intervention Loops.” For details of how to read the following systems map of the dengue epidemiology, click here.

Dengue Systems Map

Radio interview with Orland Bishop on “Highlighting Peace”

Our colleague Orland Bishop was interviewed on March 16, 2015 on the radio station UBNRadio of the Universal Broadcasting Network, by Dr. Marissa Pei.  The topic was “Highlighting Peace with Season for Non-Violence award winner Orland Bishop.”

Find it at (http://ubnradio.com/highlighting-peace-with-season-for-non-violence-award-winner-orland-bishop/).  Share your reflections on Orland’s interview here.

The abstract for the show says, “Is violence part of human nature? Why do we continue to be at war in the name of bringing about Peace? Why don’t our prison systems rehabilitate? What belief systems keep us perpetrating the cycle of lack and limitation? Orland Bishop, founder of ShadeTree Multicultural Foundation uses principles of oneness and globalization to mentor youth to stay out of the juvenile system. When each individual knows that there’s one person out there who cares, and that there is an alternative to getting our needs met without taking from another, when we stop seeing the world in terms of what’s mine versus what’s ours…then we will be able to live in full freedom on the planet.”

Mindful Leadership

Ritchie-Dunham, James L. 2014. Mindful Leadership. In Amanda Ie, Christelle T. Ngnoumen, and Ellen J. Langer (Eds.), The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Mindfulness, Volume I, First Edition. John Wiley & Sons: Chichester.

Leaders face great uncertainty in addressing social change.  Langer’s approach to mindfulness suggests three leverage points leaders can use to embrace this uncertainty.  We use the case study method to show how these mindfulness insights were applied in four case studies of leadership.   We use the mindfulness lens to diagnose each leadership situation and suggest a mindfulness solution.  We translate the mindfulness solution into organization practices, which we use to resolve the four cases.  These include the importance of new perspectives in an electric company, new categories in a school board, new information in a textile company, and the use of all three in a statewide project.  Click on the article title or here to access the article.