I am in the process of creating a project that develops what Peter Cock in his interview in The Zone in The Age of Tuesday 1st March 2011 and it’s online site calls “the answer to society’s ills … greater community spirit”.

In this same article Peter talks about the same things that I have in my first post, that is, that for many citizens their only interaction with democracy is to vote once a year. He says that “citizens are locked out” and that “by directly participating we deepen our understanding of citizenship.”

What is though the nature of “direct participation”? he suggests that people should be given “real power” and that this should be done at the local street level. I agree that this is necessary but it is not sufficient as we need other interventions as well that take into account the complexities and dynamism of the now global interconnectedness of our world. 

Our systems, networks, processes and organisations, all developed with a causal logic, have become deeply enmeshed in a veritable ‘cats-cradle of interconnections’, with behaviour ‘driven by interactions between optimising, but confused, agents’ (quotes from a paper by Haldane, the Executive Director of Financial Stability for the Bank of England). This though is embedded in a deeply connected natural ecology. These effects are both what may be called beneficial in that there is a trend for people to live longer, healthier lives over the long term though in some countries this is turning around to shorten lives with the efects of lifestyle diseases such as obesity and diabetes, at the same time there are effects that are straining the capacity of our natural systems. Humanity is now having a deep and broad impact on the natural systems of the world and we are seeing this in more and more intense natural events occuring in our world. (Kolbert, 2006) 

It seems to me that those people and institutions that we have normally relied on to deal with the types of concerns that are normally considered to be beyond us as individuals, that is, governments, businesses, and other organisations (e.g. Not-for-profit), are not able to effectively respond.

We now need to consider how can we, individually and collectively, respond?

How do we create sustainable and sustaining innovations in this world so deeply affected by man-made systems?  

What is it that we want to sustain?

The project that I envisage has  a number of layers:

  • the first (only as it came to mind when writing, not necessarily the most important) is an attempt to develop an ongoing conversation with groups of people. It will thus combine the use of face-to-face communications with the tools of the internet. The face-to-face communications will not be just once-off events though, there will be a series of sessions. Collaborative communication tools will be used to ‘connect’ across and between in the intervals between these sessions. The face-to-face sessions will be in the form of a ‘structured conversation’.
  • This ‘structured conversation’ will probably be around the notion of Managing the Home: this phrase comes from the roots of the word ‘economy’.  My expectation is that the conversation may at its beginnings draw on very local and personal responses then developing more connectedness with other levels (e.g. system, network, process, institution, organisation and global) of responses. (though this is never a very linear process).
  • This process must take into account the ‘cats-cradle’ of interconnections described above, as well as the dynamics or turbulence of the context which we are embedded within, but without leaving people ‘weighed down’, there must also be a process for envisaging desirable and feasible futures, so that people are not overwhelmed or see themselves as alone and unprepared.
  • I can see this process being run at various different ‘places’ i.e. urban, suburban, periurban, regional centres, remote (and more), as the people in these various places would have very different concerns and perspectives, with varying lived experiences that would influence their responses.
  • the intention is to build people’s capability to respond to their lived context. This capability building is for both individuals and groups. Through doing it together there is the possibility of individuals being able to ‘see’ that others are able to respond, reducing the sense of that ‘I am on my own’.
  • further the intention is to have these participants determine what they would sustain, and recognise that this is a generative concept. That like Heraclitus’ notion that you can’t step in the same stream twice any notion that you have of intention will shift and develop as you actually engage with it as you will change as will the ‘stream’, especially if lots of people are ‘working on it’.

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