Energy Innovation Ecosystems in Rural Mexico

Acuña, Francisco, Guillermo Cedeño, Ramon Sanchez, Leith Sharp, John Spengler, and James Ritchie-Dunham. “Energy Innovation Ecosystems in Rural Mexico.” ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America XVIII, no. 1 (2018): 108-09.

This recently published article describes a very vibrant initiative, bringing innovative energy ecosystems to rural Mexico.  To understand the wild success of the initiative, the Institute for Strategic Clarity was invited to use the Agreements Evidence Mapping tool to understand what happened.  In essence (see figure below), by connecting (1) the low perceived value and social impact rural universities with (2) the moderate perceived value and social impact of the rural communities, (3) the academic knowledge and global network of Harvard, with (4) financial capital, they were able to generate a high perceived value and social impact energy innovation ecosystem.

Initially the rural universities are resource poor, providing theoretical, technical education with low practical social impact because of underemployment of graduates, locally. Initially the indigenous communities are rich in social capital, and poor in the financial and intellectual capital to exploit their wealth in natural capital.  The Harvard Applied Leadership in Renewable Energies Program engaged rural universities and local indigenous communities throughout Mexico, where 286 university professors and researchers proposed innovation ecosystems for 93 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that were developed and funded (e.g., wind in Oaxaca and biodiesel in Sinaloa).

A documentary and casebook detail the whole project, and the subsequent social and economic potential impact of these projects, including 953.3 MW of wind energy, 512 MW of installed capacity of photovoltaic energy, 1.36 MW of biomass electricity, 40 million liters of ethanol/year, 7.2 million liters of biodiesel/year and 9 million liters of bio-jet fuel/year. This program proved that shifting away from centralized-only thinking with low ROIC, for high-impact, economically-resilient, national renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in Mexico, think massively local innovation ecosystems with a much higher, more resilient, and more equitable ROIC.  This model of social innovation is particularly relevant in the multitude of countries facing rapid rural-to-urban migration in part because of investment inequities.  The project leaders are meeting now with Mexico’s ministers of economy and social development to replicate this.

Acknowledgements.  This project includes dozens of rural, indigenous communities in Mexico, over 100 rural Mexican universities with 286 of their faculty, the Mexican Secretariat of Energy, global investors led by InTrust Global Investments LLC, and the Center for Health and the Global Environment in the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University.


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, (

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.

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.

Dissolving the Paradox of Scarcity

Is the world scarce?  Is it actually useful to conceive as the world as being scarce?  In the following video and audios, I suggest that thinking of the world as scarce creates a paradox, a paradox of scarcity.  Through conversations with Jackie and Orland, we begin to see a way through the paradox.


A 17-minute conversation between Jim and Jackie about the scarcity paradox (click on the MP3 file The Paradox of Scarcity).


A 45-minute conversation between Jim and Orland Bishop about scarcity, the paradox this concepts generate, and ways of seeing through the paradox (click on the MP3 file Orland Bishop and Jim Dialog on the Scarcity Paradox).

I invite you to share your comments here about what you see in your own experience of the paradox of scarcity.


Is Your Strategic Framework Useful?: CRISP Criteria

As originally defined, the CRISP model[1] establishes criteria that a strategic process must meet to provide the intended “strategists” with the clarity they require to make efficient, effective decisions in a complex, self-organizing system.  While the criteria are easiest to remember as CRISP, their logical order is purposeful, comprehensive, integrative, rigorous, and simple.

  • Purposeful. Why we do this
  • Comprehensive. What elements we include
  • Integrative. How we relate the elements
  • Rigorous. How we test this
  • Simple. How we understand this



The purposeful criterion of CRISP requires that the strategic process be clear why we are doing this process – the organizing essence of what we are trying to realize together. This is also known as the essential property of the system – the reason for which it exists, for which it self-organizes.


The comprehensive criterion of CRISP requires that the strategic process provide a clear understanding of the boundaries of what is included as relevant and what is not included.


The integrative criterion of CRISP requires that the strategic process make explicit the relationships among the different dimensions, perspectives, elements, and processes.


The rigorous criterion of CRISP requires that the strategic process be observable in reality, and reproducible.


The simple criterion of CRISP requires that the strategic process be simple enough to be understood.  This means that it must align with the rich complexity the human being is capable of understanding, not under or overwhelming them by dumbing down, oversimplifying, or overcomplicating the strategic process.

The CRISP criteria assess the degree to which a strategic framework supports the strategist in understanding what the system intends to achieve and how it works.


[1] Ritchie-Dunham, James L.  2008.  A Collaborative-Systemic Strategy Addressing the Dynamics of Poverty in Guatemala:  Converting Seeming Impossibilities into Strategic Probabilities. In Alleviating Poverty through Business Strategy, edited by C. Wankel. New York: Palgrave, 73-98. Macmillan.  Ritchie-Dunham, James L., and Luz Maria Puente. 2008.  Strategic Clarity: Actions for Identifying and Correcting Gaps in Mental Models, Long Range Planning 41(5), 509-529.

Step #4 — Ask What Agreements Shape Your Experience

You can choose the experience you want.  In the third blogpost in this series, you decided what experience you wanted.  In the 4th step, we ask what agreements shape that experience.

Underlying your experience is a set of agreements that determine, in great part, what experience you have.  These are the rules of the game.  In the following 2-minute video and 2 audios, we explore what agreements are and how you see them.


A 23-minute conversation between Jim and Jackie regarding agreements (click on the MP3 file Making an Agreement)


A 44-minute conversation between Jim and Orland Bishop about agreements, what they are, why they are important, and how people work with them (click on the MP3 file Orland Bishop and Jim Dialog on Agreements).

What agreements can you see that shape your experience?  Could you choose different agreements?  Could you talk about this choice with the other people in the group?

In the next series of blogposts, you and I will explore how to design agreements.

Step #2 in Choosing the Experience You Have, Every Day — Mapping Your Current Experience

You can choose the experience you have, every day.  In the first blogpost in this series, we made the distinction between low and high vibrancy experiences–the 1st step in choosing the experience you want.

In the 2nd step, we map your current experience.  We will use the 3 Circle diagram to capture the description of your experience, in a way that differentiates the qualities of the experience you have and want.  In the following 24-minute video, you and I take this second step.


When you map your experience onto the 3 Circle diagram in the video, what level of vibrancy do you see?

You can validate where you map this experience through the more in-depth, free, online, 12-minute survey we have used globally by clicking here.

4 Steps to Choosing the Experience You Have, Every Day — Step #1 of 4

You can choose the experience you have, every day.

Most of the experiences you have are formed by a set of rules to a game that you have accepted, consciously or unconsciously.  Many of these experiences are not the ones you would choose.  You can change that.

I will take you through a 4-step process that we have uncovered over the past 10 years.  The process brings together what my colleagues and I have learned in our own attempts at choosing agreements, and what we have learned from the one hundred groups we have met in over a dozen countries and from the thousands of people that have taken the vibrancy survey in 94 countries.  The process is simple and hard.  It is simple in that you only have to see the agreements you have and choose the ones you want.  It is hard in that you have to see what was previously invisible and you have to enact your choice.  We use the following 4 steps to make the hard simple.

  1. See what you already know about your experience
  2. Map your current experience
  3. Choose the experience you want
  4. Ask what agreements shape that experience

In this series of 4 blogposts, I will walk you through these 4 steps, after which you will be able to choose the experience you want and see the agreements that support that.  After that you can decide whether you want to learn more about the design of specific agreements, which I will share in the next series on designing agreements.


Step #1 — See what you already know about your experience

You are hardwired to know.  You know when you experience low vibrancy in a group or place, and you know when you experience high vibrancy.  This knowing can show you everything you need to choose a different set of agreements.  The first step is to understand what you are hardwired to know, the difference in your experience of low and high vibrancy groups.

In the following 7-minute video, you and I take this first step.


In the next blogpost, we see how to map your current experience.

Share the Abundance — Donate a Copy of Ecosynomics to Your Local Library

If our work with the emerging science of abundance, Ecosynomics, has helped you in any way, please share the abundance with others through your local library.

ecosynomicsbookcover100114finalj-rotate.pngOur vision is to shift the vibrancy that everyone everywhere experiences on a daily basis.  To enable that shift, we want to catalyze the movement from scarcity-based agreements to abundance-based agreements.

You can contribute to that shift by making the book Ecosynomics: The Science of Abundance available to readers in your own community through your local library.  You can get a printed copy from (click here), or an ebook or audiobook version at the Vibrancy store (click here).  You can find your local library by clicking here.


Win a Free eBook of Ecosynomics — Share a Story


Win a FREE copy of the Ecosynomics eBook!

Send me a short story on 1 of 3 topics described below, and I will send you a free eBook of Ecosynomics: The Science of Abundance.  Normally it is a US$14.99 value at

What you do.  Send me a short story (approximately 500-1000 words) about one of the following:

  • Abundance-based agreements that you have directly experienced (what were they and how did they impact you?)
  • How consciously choosing agreements (vs unconsciously accepting agreements) has affected you?
  • How Ecosynomics has impacted you

Send the story to me by email at info (at) or through my Contact page.  Let me know whether you would prefer your copy of the eBook as a PDF, ePub, or Kindle version.  I will then send you the discount code for getting your free copy of the Ecosynomics eBook at the Vibrancy store.

How this contributes to our research.  By sharing your confidential experiences, you are contributing to our research at the Institute for Strategic Clarity on the experience people have in groups, and how this experience is influenced by the underlying agreements in the group.  We will never share your specific stories with anyone.  It is confidential. You can learn more about our initial findings here.