Not all activities, strategies, or groups seeking support offer
the same capacity for social change, transformation, and evolution.
The search for creating "more bang for the buck" is
the search for leverage. Here are thoughts on what constitutes
high and low transformational or evolutionary leverage.
that "leverage" is a linear, mechanical term. Some
say it is an inappropriate concept to apply to a nonlinear complex
living systems like a society. Perhaps a term like "transformational
sweet spot" or "butterfly acupuncture point"
might be better. The point is that there are some realms in
which a limited intervention is likely to have a bigger, more
desirable, or more elegant impact than in others. I use "leverage"
here because it is common parlance. Feel free to replace it
with whatever term communicates comparable meaning for you and
LEVERAGE: Increasing the capacity of the
society to function in positive ways and, especially, to
change itself (consciously evolve) in positive directions. This
involves shifts -- often systemic -- in
(awareness, assumptions, story, attitude);
and relationships (including power
relationships and social
intelligence, collective response, and collective initiative;
or patterns of activity (habits, institutions, structures, practices,
indicators, feedback loops; including infrastructure, subsidiarity,
decision-making systems, resource
allocation -- especially availability of resources for self-organization);
LEVERAGE: Making incremental changes in society's functionality.
This involves changing
policies, regulations, and programs (in ways that don't fundamentally
change the factors above)
and the behaviors related to those incentives
(elected officials, role models).
LEVERAGE: Dealing with the effects of society's obsolete and dysfunctional
activities. This involves changing
(e.g. poverty, suffering, disaster),
(e.g., moving problems from one time and place to another --
(e.g., stopping a war or clearcut).
individual or group suffering, threat or injustice
bad things from happening (war, pollution, cancer, discrimination,
pet solutions, projects, ideas, or issues in isolation from
LEVERAGE STRATEGIES (these overlap but have distinct "centers")
BUILD A WISER DEMOCRACY -- This tackles perhaps the core issue:
How (and how well) decisions are made on ALL issues. This includes
local, national and global power relationships; public dialogue
(including process and information access issues); and institutions
for wise decision-making, among other things.
TRANSFORM CULTURAL ASSUMPTIONS -- This is the paradigm shift,
the change of worldviews. This is the underlying structure of
how people think and respond. Change this and you've changed
everything else, all at once. We want to move this towards holistic,
collaborative, ecological, evolutionary, and living-systems
DEVELOP AND PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGIES -- Technology affects
how people do things and, by itself, creates social change.
Three archetypes of society-changing technologies (too often
in the "wrong" direction) are the car, TV and computer.
When the word "sustainable" is used, most people think
environmentally-friendly technologies. This leverage strategy
includes those, but also human technologies for collaboration,
collective learning and self-organization, all of which are
vital for a sustainable culture. And getting them all used is
at least as important as having them available. Related to this
HUMAN CAPACITY BUILDING -- both individual and collective. The
challenges humans face are immense. The human potential movement
did much to enhance our ability to embrace, process and address
all that, but primarily at an individual level. We need a comparable
program to increase collective capacity, particularly
among (a) groups, organization, networks and coalitions working
for positive social transformation/evolution, (b) communities
of place, practice, and purpose, and (c) the society as a whole.
IMPROVE RESOURCES FOR TRANSFORMATION -- Part of this is channeling
existing resources towards transformation. Part of it is getting
smarter about how to get more for less (e.g., through the intelligent
use of creativity, design for self-organization, synergy and
community). The transformation of philanthropy is a priority
because the overwhelming majority of financial resources are
held by the top 10% of people in most societies. Another aspect
is helping "movement" groups and organizations co-create
an evolving shared coherence -- networks, strategies, visions,
best practices, common ground, activist culture, evolutionary
USE DIVERSITY AND CRISES AS RESOURCES -- This includes and transcends
usual diversity work and conflict work. Differences and crises
are powerful medicine: They are an incredible resource or a
devastating obstacle, depending on how they are used. This leverage
strategy is focused on tapping into the power of diversity and
crises in ways that permanently transform people's awareness,
attitudes and skills, or change the field within which people
interact, so that human differences, conflicts, and crises are
recognized as shaking up the status quo, thereby offering opportunity,
insight, energy, and talents for transformation and evolution.
IMPEDE TOTALISTIC THREATS -- This is the only high-leverage
strategy that tries to stop something. What it stops is genocidal
activities (the destruction of species, cultures, languages)
and omnicidal technologies (such as certain biotech developments
that could destroy all life or human life) from which recovery
may be impossible. Bill
Joy's April 2000 WIRED article and the current terrorist
threat combine to wake us up to the fact that soon individuals
or small groups will be empowered to effectively "destroy
the world" accidentally or intentionally. Climate change
may also present such a threat. Preventing such disasters may
only be possible with real progress on the other strategies.
PRIMARY TOOL: COLLECTIVE LEARNING
one of the above strategies demands learning, not just by individuals,
but by everyone, and/or by collective living systems -- organizations,
communities, societies -- as living agents in their own right.
We need to be extremely clear about how to enhance that capacity
and use it with focused intent. Among the collective learning
tools we might improve or transform and use to further the transformational
strategies above are the following, each followed by at least
EDUCATION - education in systems thinking
MEDIA - expanding civic journalism; Journalism
SOCIETAL FEEDBACK LOOPS - citizen
deliberative councils which reflect back to the citizens
the wisdom they could discover if they all had the time and
quality dialogue to do so
STORY - women's movement having women share their stories; communities
creating a shared vision together; story
RESEARCH - experiments to demonstrate that (and how) people
with diverse values can work together cocreatively and effectively
on public issues
STATISTICS [a powerful form of collective/systemic perception]
- replace GDP with Quality
of Life Indicators
MARKETING - placing transformational messages in popular movies;
THE ARTS - broadcast performances
which embody the diverse perspectives on public issues or
BEST PRACTICES - establish websites for the sharing of what
works and doesn't in communities and activism
DIALOGUE [I believe this one is most important] - provide citizens
chosen for their diversity with excellent facilitation and information
to make recommendations on public issues (see C, above), and
have those recommendations circulated to study circles around
the country for discussion; also, strategic conversations convened
among specific stakeholders to realize targetted potential or
release targetted stuck energy
INNOVATION DIFFUSION: Recently there have been studies of how
innovations spread through a society, which is a form of societal
learning, e.g., The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.
Most of the above collective learning tools are applicable to
all of the 1-7 strategies, and are themselves targets for improvement.
And they interrelate.
PERSONAL OBSERVATION AND INQUIRY...
are changing fast, even as I write this and you read it. Changing
our own ways of dealing with our work, or relations with each
other, and the forms of support we need and give, is essential
if we are to be able to respond and initiate in timely, appropriate
fashions. This is a form of capacity-building.
none of us has enough time. I suspect if we handled that -- and
most social problems are tied to that "no time" dynamic,
one way or another -- we'd be half way home...
do we put our attention on?
Conscious Evolutionary Agentry
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