Waddock and McIntosh reframe the competition OR collaboration debate, showing how in smarter, more sustainable capitalism organizations integrate the interests of multiple stakeholders in the social and economic value they catalyze in multi-sector networks, celebrating and connecting human creativity in efficient, effective, and innovative ways that enhance the planet – being competitive THROUGH being collaborative. Read SEE Change for the framing of “how” and examples of the many groups paving the way.
Need for much better outcomes
The bells are ringing for greater efficiency, effectiveness, and innovation around how humanity begins to address seemingly insurmountable issues at the global and local levels. The bells are ringing everywhere, calling for new responses, and some people are starting to respond to the calling. These people are responding to issues of corruption, water quality, renewable energy, financial reform, pollution, armed conflict, poverty, slavery, and the list goes on. Some of these responses are getting far more done with much less resource (efficiency), moving the dial in a positive direction on really difficult issues (effectiveness), in very creative, previously untried ways (innovation). The bells are ringing because many people now realize the urgency of these challenges, and that a different response is needed to address them.
One of the most successful responses to emerge in the past twenty years is networked action. A network, as I use the term here, is a social structure of reciprocal ties of communication and exchange among the individuals and organizations in the network.[i] Many very successful efforts to deal with these complex issues have taken on this network form, such as many networks my colleague Steve Waddell and I have worked with directly, like Transparency International, Forest Stewardship Council, International Bridges to Justice, Global Reporting Initiative, Youth Employment and Sustainability, and the Marine Stewardship Council. These networks have learned how to take action on global issues on a “glocal” basis: global policy setting and local action, on a massive basis. Through this form, these networks are impacting the policies, structures, and behaviors of millions of people in over one hundred countries, on the ground every day, in very efficient, effective, and innovative ways.[ii]
Many of us in the large-scale, social-change arena want to learn and apply what these groups are learning from them and with them. This ability to learn and apply is also called “intelligence,” which is defined as the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. A vast amount of research in the past one hundred years has shown that intelligence correlates with results. This intelligence research has shown that there are multiple forms of intelligence, including linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, spiritual, emotional, and social.[iii] This research has also shown that these intelligences are both individual and collective. An individual has cognitive and emotional intelligences, for example, and so does the group.
To be an intelligence, multiple-intelligences expert Howard Gardner suggests a few useful criteria: evolutionary history and plausibility; identifiable core set of operations; susceptibility to encoding in a symbol system; a distinct developmental history with a set of expert “end-state; the existence of exceptionally examples; and demonstrable results.[iv] To further our learning from and with those who are particularly gifted at the networking action that is transforming our ability to deal with complex social issue, “Is it possible to develop the criteria for an intelligence around networking action?”
Networking action intelligence
Combining intelligence and networking action, I define “Networking Action Intelligence” (NAI) as the ability to acquire and adapt knowledge and skills about acting in networks. Over the past two decades, my colleague Steve Waddell has worked closely with over 80 of these global action networks to identify their successful innovations and foster their own learning about how to improve within and across these networks. In over one hundred case studies, commissioned reports, journal articles, book chapters, and two books, Steve has identified and validated eight core competencies that distinguish exceptional networking action, as well as a pathway for developing them. These competencies are the components of Networking Action Intelligence: (1) leadership; (2) network development; (3) measuring impact; (4) conflict and change; (5) communications; (6) learning systems; (7) policy and advocacy; and (8) resource mobilization.[v]
These components of NAI describe the individual and collective capacity to: realize coherent entrepreneurial capacity at all levels of the network (leadership); align effective strategies, patterns, and structures (network development); provide continuous feedback to improve effectiveness and support (measuring impact); develop complex change skillfully (conflict and change); create robust glocal conversations and connections (communications); transform data to wisdom-in-action network-wide (learning systems); generate tight connections between policy and action (policy and advocacy); and grow commitment to global public goods (resource mobilization). With higher levels of these competencies (higher NAI) comes the increased ability to address globally complex issues at the massively local level through networking action.
What NAI gives us
NAI focuses attention on the development of the core competencies needed to achieve exceptional results on complex glocal issues. More NAI is better, for learning how to use networking action glocally. NAI also shows us where the exceptional examples of NAI reside, so that we can learn from and with them. NAI also delineates what core competencies to develop to increase individual and collective NAI. Finally, NAI lets us test whether higher NAI actually leads to more desirable outcomes. Fortunately, much has this work has already been done. Now it is time to increase the Networking Action Intelligence in leaders around the world.
[i] See Powell, Walter W. (1990). Neither Market Nor Hierarchy: Network Forms of Organization. Research in Organizational Behavior, 12, 295-336.
[ii] For over twenty years, Steve has documented the networking action innovations emerging around the world in dozens of academic and practitioner journal articles, book chapters, reports, and two books: Waddell, S. (2005). Societal Learning and Change: How Governments, Business and Civil Society Are Creating Solutions to Complex Multi-Stakeholder Problems Sheffield, UK: Greenleaf Publishing, and Waddell, S. (2011). Global Action Networks: Creating Our Future Together. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. To access the studies, visit networkingaction.net.
[iii] For rigorous research on multiple intelligences, see Gardner, H. (1993). Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (Tenth-Anniversary ed.). New York: BasicBooks; Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century. New York: BasicBooks; and Gardner, H. (2006). Five Minds for the Future. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. Authors like Daniel Goleman have popularized specific intelligences, such as emotional and ecological intelligence Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam; Goleman, D. (1998). What Makes a Leader? Harvard Business Review, 76(6), 93-102; and Goleman, D. (2010). Ecological Intelligence. New York: Broadway Books.
[iv] Gardner explains how he developed these criteria and others, and what they mean in Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century. New York: BasicBooks, pp. 35-41.
[v] Steve develops the criteria for and provides ample examples of each competence in Waddell, S. (2011). Global Action Networks: Creating Our Future Together. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Guest blog by Steve Waddell
The global, multi-stakeholder issue change networks of the sort I deal with – Global Action Networks (GANs) – have particular assets and challenges in supporting the development of harmonic vibrancy. Their core asset is that they typically work towards an inspiring vision: Transparency International and a corruption-free world, the Global Compact and integration of the UN’s highest principles into the functioning of business, the Global Reporting Initiative and robust social-environmental-economic reporting. These visions are relatively easy to associate with high motivation.
Their core challenge is how they go about doing their work. They are not a tightly knit entity that is in intense contact, such as with a local business enterprise. They are inter-organizational global networks where people from participating organizations are very numerous and the amount of time spent on the networks’ work is a fraction of a work-week. Even for staff, who travel constantly, connecting is an on-going challenge.
Moreover, “the network” is a rather amorphous entity, with a very large number of shifting individuals who are participating as organizational representatives, as the individuals change employers or work responsibilities.
To be successful, GANs must embrace diversity, which poses an additional challenge. Culture is a big determinant of how people experience harmonic vibrancy and its core components such as fulfillment. This is even a greater challenge considering that diversity for GANs also means working as business – government – civil society collaborations.
All this suggests the importance of GANs developing routines that can ensure higher levels of harmonic vibrancy. Of course surveys are one good vehicle for assessing the presence of a higher degree of harmonic vibrancy, but routines are important to giving it lived meaning. These routines will legitimize and give both meaning and action to the on-going development and maintenance of the five dimensions of HV: self, other, group, nature and spirit. Routines are regularly undertaken activities that follow a pattern recognized by participants. They can be considered in terms of the five harmonic vibrancy dimensions themselves. Some illustrations by dimension:
1. The “self” or “me”: do you feel that you are fully participating and working to your potential?
Specific moments for this self-assessment can be created at the end of meetings. For GANs this includes a wide variety of events-as-meetings, such as staff meetings, work groups with network participants, and network-wide meetings such as regularly mandated global ones. The question here is: what can I do to enhance my quality of participation. What agreement with myself should I work on more, reassess, or redefine. Formal moments after meetings can be taken to provide time for people to reflect and write their thoughts with the suggestion that this is an important part of their own meeting diary.
2. The “other” or “you”: are others participating fully and expressing their potential?
From time-to-time at the beginning of meetings two participants could talk about their agreements with each other to deepen the understanding of each other’s particular needs, desires and situation. This would raise participants’ awareness of what at least one other person is experiencing and how their participation and the meeting activities could be better aligned to realize their full potential. This could be developed into a buddy system, to lead to discussion at the end of the meeting about how to redesign the meeting or the individual’s role in how it functions or in the way work is being done.
3. The “group” or “us” which can mean the network as a whole: are people fully experiencing the “we” as an energetic, empowering whole?
This could be incorporated into a collective self-assessment routine that could take place after meetings. This happens sometimes in informal “check-out” processes where people might form circles and give a word or comment about what they’ve experienced. However, these often occur with substantial pressure to focus on the positive. Another process around “deltas” (what changes could improve the meeting) allows more explicit support for identifying ways to improve. For very large meetings, this could be done through smaller group assessment break-outs.
4. Nature and the “environment”: is there a feeling of “support” and “appreciation” from the greater whole that supports manifesting the potential?
This dimension can be framed as being about feedback from the larger operating environment of the GAN; for GANs, this is about the “systems” that they seek to influence, such as the anti-corruption system for Transparency International and the corporate sustainability system of the Global Reporting Initiative. In one way, evolution of integrated (social-environment-economic with traditional finance) reporting could move to assess this situation. It is really about feedback and achievements in terms of broader value creation. Annual report routines could integrate this from a harmonic-vibrancy perspective more categorically.
5. Spirit and creativity: is there a flowing and development of ideas and innovation that generate a feeling that “anything is possible”?
This could be supported by a retreat-type routine of some parts of the network, where they can assess what they see as impediments to greater success and how to address them. Various processes could promote and aggregate the outcomes of such routines.
One of the core challenges for implementing such routines is to develop them as activities that do not unduly burden other activities. This means developing a pacing and interaction between the routines as a whole. Not every day, nor every meeting need explicitly incorporate the routine. However, the harmonic vibrancy questions must be common enough in network life to orient people who often work with the network as a small part of their lives, to build the network harmonic vibrancy culture.
Jim R-D Comments
Steve’s work with GANs highlights a major innovation emerging on the global scene, where people are consciously entering a new set of agreements on a massively global-local level – they are deciding for a different future and for learning together about how to achieve it.
We can look at Steve’s suggestions about “routines” from two different vantage points – scarcity and abundance. From a scarcity vantage point, adding these routines to the already very full agendas of exceedingly busy people is too much – while it might be “nice” to do, we don’t have the time: we are too busy fighting really big, serious issues.
From an abundance vantage point, we cannot afford to not put these routines into practice. The “cost” to the network of not engaging the full human being, of not bringing out and supporting the best of every participant is too high – to be able to address global issues on a local level, everyone has to be at their best, and these routines do that explicitly. These innovative routines are a very efficient (low time invested for high value experienced) way of being very effective (engaging people to change the world’s agreements) with a network of committed human beings.
My colleague Steve Waddell introduced me a few years ago to an emerging phenomenon, which he identified and named Global Action Networks (GANs). These GANs are pursuing an alternative to traditional, not very effective, approaches to dealing with large-scale problems that exist across national boundaries and affect people both locally and globally, such as poverty, corruption, climate change, disease and the disappearance of natural resources.
The traditional approaches rely on national governments and inter-governmental organizations like the United Nations. This approach tends to isolate groups or sectors, driving them to act alone, competing with other agencies for the limited resources available for global concerns (see figure below).
In contrast, GANs focus on global and local collaboration, bringing together people and organizations from different sectors – business, government, and civil society – to tackle big challenges at local and global levels simultaneously. The GANs do this by focusing simultaneously on the three levels of perceived reality. The GAN keeps the global advocacy, its deep vision for the change that is possible, front and center. This possibility-light level focus drives the work of the whole network. Within its possibility-light vision, it chooses the highest-leverage, development-verb level processes that bring that possibility into development in settings over the whole planet. At the same time, these GANs, showing up in local action at the things-noun level. They define this three-level approach as glocal (global and local) behavior.
The founders of these GANs all seem to see the same thing when looking through lens #1 of “how much,” no matter what global issue they take on – they see abundance. They see this abundance at all three levels of reality – in the future that is possible, in the capacities and relationships to develop over time, and in the worldwide actions that people can take on to bring about that change.
Through lens #2 of “who decides,” the GANs hold all five primary relationships to be necessary to work with the abundant possibilities they envision. In the self, they believe they need the best each individual can bring. In the other, they know that their work requires collaborative processes of mutuality among the different members and stakeholders engaged in the work. In the group, they see that each person and perspective needs to be clear in the contribution its work makes to the higher aspiration. In nature, they have to be able to take an audacious possibility, develop high-leverage capacities to achieve it, and deliver very real outcomes, all over the globe. In spirit, this audacious goal can only be achieved if all of the creativity available, everywhere in everyone is brought to the work. This means that they are clear that they cannot achieve what they want without the explicit inclusion of all five primary relationships from the beginning. Thus, when they look through lens #3 of “what criteria,” they have developed global-local, multi-sector, multi-stakeholder approaches for identifying the criteria everyone holds in common, and the criteria unique to each stakeholder. Through lens #4 of “how the relationships interact,” the GANs s experiment with continuous learning systems to share globally what is being learned locally, interwoven with periodic global face-to-face convenings that support all five primary relationships.
To give you a sense of what a GAN looks like and how it works, let’s look at the example of Transparency International (TI). TI came into being in 1993 with a mission to take a stance against corruptions. In 2010 it had a global headquarters staff of 138, based in Geneva, Switzerland, and total revenues of 18,027,000 Euros – a small headquarters budget for coordinating the worldwide fight against corruption. Outside of Geneva, TI consists of a network of more than ninety national chapters, each of which works in its own country to engage key people in government, civil society, business and the media to promote transparency in elections, in public administration, in procurement and in business. The global network of chapters and their contacts also mounts advocacy campaigns to raise international awareness and publicly lobby governments to implement anti- corruption reforms. These efforts have made some significant inroads against the problem of corruption. For example, they have provided a common language for corruption and how to measure it, helped raise corruption to a national-level conversation within countries, and enabled a number of global and national anti-corruption reforms.
As a GAN, TI is able to make global changes one nation at a time with very limited resources. For example, at the national level, TI works to raise corruption to national discourse and action. Transparency Ethiopia convened prominent reporters in a journalist roundtable initiative in cooperation with the Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission. They discussed barriers to reporting on corruption and the need to conduct ongoing anti- corruption sessions. Partnering with two federal agencies, TI El Salvador launched an initiative to enhance fiscal transparency by subjecting the country’s budget process to more citizen access and input, suggesting that greater citizen engagement might increase budget transparency, while boosting economic development and reducing inequality.
The third application of the four-step harmonic vibrancy move is to how people exchange value in networks of human interaction.
The harmonic vibrancy aspiration for value exchange is the daily experience of prosperity through the exchanging and sustaining of value – everyone experiences abundance of what she values, a value-full life. The harmonic vibrancy reality is that people report that they do not, in general, experience abundance in everything they value, and they do experience abundance in some things they value. While what is of value to people is a question as old as humanity, industrial-based economics has defined a narrower set of values, suggesting that money is a value-neutral mode of wealth assessment. While highly contested, within economics, as the key metric for value, money is a strong driver of value-driving behavior today. Money stores value as a medium of exchange. Currently money is scarce, because it is defined as scarce, with specific banks chartered with creating a limited supply of money, at their discretion.
From an ecosynomic axioms perspective, on the X-axis, the current monetary system gives people a greater freedom, independent of their heritage or relationships – anyone can have unit of currency: however, it is left to the individual to step into her own potential. On the Y-axis, mutuality makes currency available to anyone, but bares no witness to the other’s gifts or potential. On the Z-axis, money promotes movement within the collective, but it does not take, pay attention to, or care for the collective or the individuals. On the A-axis, money removed the direct relationship to the divine. There is no relationship with money and nature.
Another understanding of value exchange is emerging, where money is the symbol of the flow of vibrancy through humanity, as it manifests in our agreements. The word money comes from the Latin word monére for warning or reminder – a reminder that money is not a noun, rather a verb, the flowing vibrancy. Money reminds us, in each interaction, that we are presencing the flow of vibrancy through one person towards another, whether through what they produce or the service they provide. This presencing is an agreement, a human agreement.
Ecosynomics proposes that the human experience of harmonic vibrancy is described by a rich set of values, greatly reflected in human relationships to one’s self, another, collective, spirit, and nature. Ecosynomics suggests that value exchange facilitates the flow of resources that sustain and generate these dimensions of human experience that people value. There are certain values that the individual or collective can readily nurture and sustain, while other values depend more on the gifts of others. For those gifts, there is the reminder, money.
Ecosynomics also shows that intention matters. In a string of agreements, how the value exchange enters the agreement influences what is done with it and what is possible to do with it. Tens of thousands of collectives across the globe are experimenting with different definitions of what they value and how they exchange value. Asset-based community development is identifying the assets the community values, those they have, and those they can develop further without sacrificing those they have. Complementary currencies are experimenting with: (1) the agreements about how money works (i.e., whether it is interest-bearing, scarce, and has an asset basis); and (2) the culture within which the money works. Sarkozy, the President of France, commissioned leading economists to develop metrics that move beyond GDP to include well-being.
A collective’s ability to work with and shift its agreements around what is valued and how to exchange value depends to a great part on their level of harmonic vibrancy, as reflected in the different axes. Some agreements function well in low levels of vibrancy, on any axis, such as bartering. A need is exchanged for an offer. Higher levels of vibrancy work best with subtler forms of value exchange, supporting each other to take on more significant contributions to one’s own development as well as that of the collective. A collective’s capacity to see and step into value-exchange agreements that nurture prosperity is influenced by its current position in the harmonic vibrancy zone and its capacity to move towards greater vibrancy.
Clearly there are many implications of this shift from value exchange as a scarce monetary system to value exchange as a reminder of the infinite capacity residing within the emergent system. The industrially developed world is based primarily on an assumption of value exchange as scarce. If value is in fact abundant, and not scarce, then how people exchange value would change in significant ways.
The first observation is that even within existing agreements, different possibilities show up in conversations that are based on scarcity than those based on assumptions of abundance. For example, in a small textile US-based company, a conversation about value exchange for an employee can focus solely on the perceived scarcity around financial compensation, leading necessarily to a request for greater pay to alleviate the scarcity. Leadership has also experimented with a broader conversation encompassing a rich set of values generated for the person by being in relationship with the community of the company.
A second observation, from the perspective of value exchange in harmonic vibrancy moves, is that the individual or the collective cannot be satisfied by a partial value set. For example, people do not make most decisions based only on how much they make. They also decide whether the work is satisfying, the people they work with are nice or not. Now, some jobs are so awful that wage is the only determinant, but this is not so for most ways that people engage with others to create value.
Finally, seeing money as a reminder of flow opens people to seeing what manifests for them externally as a reflection of an infinite potential of an internal flow of creativity. A counter view is that one’s inner sense of wealth is a reflection of the amount of scarce, finite money to which a person has access (see Figure 1).