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.

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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.

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Guest post — Ecosynomic Forum on Large System Change and Sustainability

Guest post by Prof. Dr. Martin Welp, Chair of Socioeconomics and Communication, University for Sustainable Development Eberswalde, Head of the International Master Study Programme Global Change Management, and Christoph Hinske is Vibrancy European Lead Steward and Contributing Fellow at the Institute for Strategic Clarity.

The 1st Eberswalde Ecosynomics Forum on April 2, 2015 focused on large system change. Exploring collective efforts for a transformation towards sustainability was the overarching theme of the one-day event. It provided a collaborative space to think together about necessary conditions for change and the systemic embedders of such changes. Furthermore the event was a hub to develop ideas for shared action, research and consultancy.

Participants were researchers, practitioners, business owners, activists and students, with great diversity in terms of educational background and work experience. Their reflections on the topic and the keynote speeches by Steve Waddell (NetworkingAction) and Petra Kuenkel (Collective Leadership Institute) are available on video 

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The event was hosted by the Eberswalde Universcreenshot-15sity for Sustainable Development (University of Applied Sciences) and the International Master Study Programme “Global Change Management”. The study programme focuses on how to speed up learning processes regarding global change in different kinds of organisations and the society at large. The event was a great source of inspiration both for the education of change agents in Eberswalde and for research on a sustainability transition.

The idea for the event in Eberswalde grew out of a five-year cooperation between the university and the Institute for Strategic Clarity. The ecosynomic perspective on the kind of agreements that shape our organisations, our working together and even our economies has been part of teaching in the Global change Management study programme since then. Starting in the fall 2015, a new curriculum integrates ecosynomics more directly.

Martin: In my personal view, as the head of the study programme, the Forum showed how people who share the same passion for change and a sustainability transition can quickly team up and have fruitful dialogue, which is intended to be continued in the 2nd Ecosynomics Forum. With the help of video documentation, we can build on the outcomes and findings of the 1st Forum. I am looking forward to seeing the forum grow into a series of inspirational events on ecosynomics, change management and sustainability.

Christoph: Being a European lead steward for implementing ecosynomic research insights, my main inspiration to approach Prof. Dr. Martin Welp with the idea to co-host the 2015 Ecosynomic Forum is rooted in the excitement about the innovative study program Global Change Management. To me, a study program that focuses on training systemically thinking and holistically acting Agents of Change is a perfect place to start the series of global events, highlighting groups and approaches that successfully transcend the agreements of scarcity/economics.

As Martin already mentioned, the group of around 40 people was very diverse. We had people from all sectors in the roomscreenshot-12. To me it was interesting that, despite the very different perspectives, everyone agreed that abundance-driven collaboration is key to a healthy and successful transition towards more regenerative societies and economies that are rooted in the understanding of planet earth as a living being.

Direct outcomes of the event are major action research possibilities, new consulting contracts, and thesis topics for the participating students.

As with the 1st Forum, the next forum will be hosted by nominated organisations around the globe and supported by the hosts of the 1st Forum. The topics and content areas, connected to the interests of the next host, may differ widely.

While nominations for the 2016 Ecosynomics Forum open soon, we welcome unofficial requests referencing this blog post.

Guest post — Short Research Reflection on the Vibrancy Survey Data of Participants in The Synergy Forum Europe in Berlin 2014

Guest post by Adrian Wagner

The Synergy Forum Europe met December 12-14, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.  This was a first prototype to support a global movement of activism and entrepreneurship grounded in source awakening, unique emanation and collective synergy. Over the last yeaAW post 1r, several initiatives and ideas have let to the foundation of the Synergy Forum, with a great focus on how we can come as activists within a world in crises not from a place of scarcity but from a place of abundance, within all the struggles and difficulties experienced by global change makers, entrepreneurs, and activists.

Within this post, I highlight the level of vibrancy experienced by the people that are attracted to the Synergy Forum and how support for this level of perceived reality is reflected in the Synergy Forum’s value proposition.  We started by asking each participant to take the Vibrancy Survey.  Because they came from different backgrounds, each participant was asked to rate his own personal work experience at the moment.

The graphic below summarizes the group’s results for their experienced relationship to group wellbeing, leadership quality, self, other, group, process of innovation, and source of creativity.

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The significant variance experienced in the five primary relationships (self, other group, innovation, creativity) clearly reflects the diverse background of the group, since none work in the same company or project.  Even with this great diversity of experiences, the participants all shared the experience of high vibrancy in their relationship to the other and to the quality of leadership — this seems to me to be due to their high level of maturity.

The group results also showed a relatively low level of vibrancy experienced in their relationship to the source of creativity and process of innovation, suggesting they seem to be disconnected to these two relationships. Since the Synergy Forum’s goal is to reach out to an audience that is already engaged in the world and has certain experience with self-development, the rating within the areas of group well being and relation to self could be a first sign and indicator that we are reaching our imagined target market.

The lower level of creativity and innovation on the other hand might show what people are expecting from the Synergy Forum event. In fact the three-step process of “Source Awakening,” “Unique Emanation,” and “Collective Synergy” within the Synergy Forum events is designed to support people in recognizing the underlying source of creativity as well as how to use this source and give it a unique, innovative expression. The last step relates to how participants can work and build synergies when our source of creativity and each participant’s unique, innovative expression is discovered and owned. Therefore using the Vibrancy Survey helped to clarify, in a first step, the needs and qualities of our participants, which might help us for the next training to communicate the advantage and learnings within a Synergy Forum with greater precision.

Guest post — The Experience of Ecosynomics in Our Farm-Community in Großhöchberg

Guest post – Johannes Enssle, farmer at Großhöchberg CSA

Together with Eyal Drimmer and Christoph Hinske, we just started to work with the ecosynomics framework in our farm-community in Großhöchberg, a little village in the south of Germany.

We grow biodynamic demeter vegetables and started this year with building up a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm cooperative. We are two core farmer families joined with other families and individuals who support us.

I find it striking how well the ecosynomics approach helps us in understanding our situation as farmers and as a community better, and how it helps us in overcoming obstacles in our way. In fact, for me, ecosynomics is not only a science or a method, it is somehow a path that guides us.

We started, together with Eyal Drimmer, to make the first steps in our own Harmonic Vibrancy Move.  Working with Eyal Drimmer, the plan is now to expand the process, by applying for funds for a larger, 2-3 year project. The project would take a closer ecosynomic look at the performance of other CSA-farms in Germany and identify the agreements and mechanisms for CSA-farm success. We want to implement and validate this knowledge then in our own farm-community and share it within the German CSA-network, so that this knowledge can be multiplied.

At this stage, we are still looking for funding and are quite optimistic that we can find a foundation or donor for this soon. If you have an idea where we could or should apply, we are thankful for suggestions.  Please send them to us at gaertnerei[at]grosshoechberg[dot]de.

If you want to see more about our farm and community, visit www.grosshoechberg.de.

Guest post — Finding Ways to Invite Others into the Vibrancy Work

Guest blog by Christoph Hinske, ISC Senior Fellow

Just today, while accompanying my daughter in her first day in kindergarten, I had an experience of how to invite others into our work. I met another parent, and we had a 10-minute conversation. He asked me what I do for work. I reflected right away on a conversation I had the day before in one of our “global vibrancy network circles” on how to best frame our “work” for specific target groups.

The father I was talking to works as a state-certified assessor and instructor for future teachers in German schools. Thus, I told him that I am working as a freelancing assessor of organizations, currently focusing on finding abundant educational forms. His eyes lightened up.

When explaining what I do, I did not use the term abundant, but used my hands, and asked him if he knows schools that, when he enters the building, he feels either “yuck“ or “yeah.” I reinforced these words by rising my left or right hand and doing a body gesture (scarce/ abundant). He was very convinced that he had had both experiences, giving me several examples of each. I went on, mentioning that we are working globally to identify the “yeah-schools.” I also shared that we have started to find them in many didactical traditions, cultures, and countries. I actually did not say much more nor did I use any specific wording or knowledge. He was thrilled.

As he was leaving the kindergarten a little later, he passed by and asked me to contact him if we want to search for schools in Germany, as he would be happy to be part of this project. I told him I would love to do so, and that we are currently setting up the structures to invite people like him to participate. He smiled.

I gained four key insights from this brief experience today:

  1. We are on the edge of redefining what “good education” looks like, independent from educational approaches.
  2. The importance of the reflective space that I have with the global vibrancy network.
  3. The importance of searching for the possibility to “give target-group-specific elevator speeches“ and share our work. People are thrilled to contribute to our work.
  4. The power of our work since we are addressing a pain that nobody else is having a “pain killer’ for… we might have one.

Note from Jim:  Please share stories with me about experiences you have had with sharing the work of Vibrancy and how you engaged others in it.

German Magazine Interviews ISC Senior Fellow Christoph Hinske

Christoph Hinske, ISC Senior Fellow, was interviewed recently for an article in the magazine Tattva Vivecka on “The paradigm of abundance.”

You can access the original article in German by clicking here.  You can read an English translation of the article by clicking here.