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Using Emergence to Take Social Innovation to a Scale (PDF)
Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze, The Berkana Institute
Despite current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible.
This is good news for those of us intent on changing the world and creating a positive future. Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections. We don’t need to convince large numbers of people to change; instead, we need to connect with kindred spirits. Through these relationships, we will develop the new knowledge, practices, courage and commitment that lead to broad-based change.
But networks aren’t the whole story. As networks grow and transform into active, working communities of practice, we discover how life truly changes, which is through emergence. When separate, local efforts connect with each other as networks, then strengthen as communities of practice, suddenly and surprisingly a new system emerges at a greater level of scale. This system of influence possesses qualities and capacities that were unknown in the individuals.
… Why we need to understand networks
Researchers and social activists are beginning to discover the power of networks and networking.And there is a growing recognition that networks are the new form of organizing. Evidence of self-organized networks is everywhere: from social activists and web-based interest groups to terrorist groups and street gangs. While we now see these everywhere, it is not because they’re a new form of organizing. It’s because we’ve removed our old paradigm blinders that look for hierarchy and control mechanisms in the belief that organization only happens through human will and intervention.
… What is Emergence?
Emergence violates so many of our Western assumptions of how change happens that it often takes quite a while to understand it. In nature, change never happens as a result of top-down, pre-conceived strategic plans, or from the mandate of any single individual or boss. Change begins as local actions spring up simultaneously in many different areas. If these changes remain disconnected, nothing happens beyond each locale. However, when they become connected, local actions can emerge as a powerful system with influence at a more global or comprehensive level.
… Because emergence only happens through connections, Berkana has developed a four-stage model that catalyzes connections as the means to achieve large-scale change: Name, Connect, Nourish, Illuminate (see Appendix). We focus on discovering pioneering efforts and naming them as such. We then connect these efforts to other similar work globally. We nourish this network in many ways, but most essentially through creating opportunities for learning and sharing experiences and shifting into communities of practice. We aso illuminate these pioneering efforts so that many more people will learn from them. We are attempting to work intentionally with emergence so that small, local efforts can become a global force or change.
From the Berkana Institute. Recommended by Richard Heinberg and Pamela Gray who notes that it “provides a lot of support for the Transition model.”
I Just Dropped in to See What Condition My Transition Was In: Part I.
Kathy McMahon, Peak Oil Blues
… I’ve come to develop a great respect for the people who write to me at Peak Oil Blues. They have demonstrated that they can go into that “dark night of the soul,” and emerge as different people. Peak Oil has forced them to re-examine everything they once thought about their world, and about their future. I have learned that their capacity to stay with this examination, without defaulting into hopelessness, denial, or groundless optimism, has left them stronger, but fundamentally changed. They are grateful that I refuse to trivialize, pathologize, or mock their emotional reactions or the solutions they try on. I have endeavored always, to speak to the best part of them, the person they aspire to be, and to remind them that all of their reactions are vital in helping them to understand their unique situation and struggle. I haven’t sugar-coated the future, and they haven’t crumbled underneath these truths.
I call myself a “Doomer,” a term I affectionately use as a reaction to what I see is rampant Panglossia. A “Panglossian” view of life insists that we live in the best of all possible worlds. The term Doomer acknowledges that while we might all prefer to live in a world where we are freed from the “dreamblocker” emotions of fear, cynicism, anger and disbelief, we lose some of our humanity when we do. Only by facing into these emotions do we develop a depth of character. Only by accepting life in all of its complexities are we able to “hold our own reality lightly” or “play ball on running water.”
The Transition Initiative (TI) movement has focused a great deal on the emotional realities of Peak Oil and Climate Change. It has been inspiring to see the success they have had, to date.
Over the next few days, I would like to share with you some of my concerns, as this movement rapidly expands in the US and is digested by American popular culture. It is not my intention to be damning, or to insult any of the hard work that has gone into TI so far. It is my hope, instead, that my cautions will serve to strengthen the effectiveness of this movement, while helping it to deepen and to create even greater resilience.
(22 January 2009)
(The Peak Oil Blues site seems to be down at the moment.) UPDATE: the site is up again.
We are working on plans to post Parts II and III on Energy Bulletin. -BA
Traditions and trends in environmental Judaism
Eco Jews, Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
Farming the land, Torah in hand
New group seeks to reduce carbon footprints in Israel
Ecopreneurs see green in Green
Trash the trash, save the planet
In search of a Jewish environmentalism for the family
A cautionary tale: One family’s attempt at a green Bar Mitzvah
Part of the JTA website, an independent news organization with a 90-year history. (About JTA).