Energizing Elections in the Human Hive

When was the last time you got really involved in an election? What role did you play? Voter or Election Candidate or Supporter?


If you want to navigate the outcomes of elections, the usual injunctions include:

  • Follow the money
  • Vote with your feet
  • Mark an X on the ballot.

But if you are running for election in a city-centric office,  how can you develop an election platform for the  Human Hive based on city wellbeing and sustainability? How can you create the conditions for an interactive conversation about new ways of designing, supporting and fulfilling election platforms that make a difference to the health and wealth of our cities?

These are some of the questions I asked early this month, in a circle, called by a community think tank, encouraging women to become electoral candidates.

After a lively introduction from one of my former RRU graduate students, I asked people to introduce themselves and tell me what Voice they represented in the city. When all 20 had checked in we found that everyone brought the voice of the Cityzen – and we had about the 7-9 voices from each of Civil Society, City Managers and Business.

We then ventured into the realm of storytelling – and I related the story of the Honey Bee – with its energizing focus on:

  • Goal – produce 40 pounds of honey per year in order for the hive to survive
  • Role – act as a symbiotic team, where five key Roles contribute to achieving the Goal:
    • Producers – (voice of the Cityzen) gather the nectar and pollen and produce the honey
    • Entrepreneurs – (voice of the business/innovators) source new resources and keep the Producers advised of all options
    • Administrators – (voice of the City Managers) allocate resources to reward effective performance
    • Integrators – (voice of the Civil Society/Integrators) integrate all the other Roles for the achievement of the Hive Goal and survival
    • Competitors – (voice of the other Hives in the same eco-region) ensure that the best survival strategies emerge and sustain the species
  • Soul – respond to what is really important. What do we value as individuals and as a Hive?

As the dialogue started to unfold we were able to ask ourselves some interesting questions:

  • In the Human Hive – what is the equivalent goal of the 4o pounds of honey that we must produce in a year? How do we honour the power of human consciousness and culture in setting goals for City wellbeing and survival?

How do the Roles in the Hive relate to the Voices in the city? (We marked them above in brackets.)

Just as we seemed to be on a “radically optimistic roll”,  a strain of criticism and negativity started to creep into the conversation. I interjected a state-shifting question: “Would you like to try an experiment?”  Yes, they agreed!!  Turning to the person beside them, I asked them to each tell this story:

Tell me about a time when you were really involved or excited about an election? Who was there? Why were you excited? Where was it? When?

The room burst into noisy and positive exchange. I could hardly call them back above the din.  But when I did, I asked each conversation dyad to identify three values they saw in their stories. Quickly again the room exploded … and we were subsequently able to fill a flip chart with the values that had engaged them:

Listening, Caring, Sharing, Giving back, Recognition, Community, Supporting, Growing, Genuine Curiosity, Multiple Generations, Linking Across Cultures, Working for Something they Believed in, Imagining the Future

In a flash we saw that these values revealed the Souls of the election process. We had easily jumped from the depressing consideration of no new candidates or no positive slates for future elections, to recognizing that Cityzens (just like the bees) are always casting their ballots before, during and after elections – somehow trying to survive even without clear Goals, Roles or Souls.

The Think Tank realized they had discovered how framing elections in the context of Goals, Roles and Souls Changes “Business as Usual”!

And their lively exploration of Goals, Roles and Souls also revealed the reality of the Master Code:

  • Take care of ourselves
  • so we can … Take care of each other
  • so we can …Take care of this place
  • so we can … Take care of this planet.

And before we could enjoy our cup of tea and cookies, the circle insisted that we identify the topic of their next dialogue. That was easy … everyone wanted to know:

How can we imagine the future of our City?

Thanks to the invitation from the Women’s Think Tank, Mission BC, for the opportunity to explore this topic in dialogue with a circle of all the 4 Voices of the city.

About the Author:

HI I am the Founder of Integral City Meshworks Inc. and Chief Blogger. Working with cities and eco-regions, I ‘meshwork’ or weave people, purpose, priorities, profits, programs and processes to align contexts, grow capacity and develop strategies for sustainability and resilience in the Integral City. You can read more details about me here http://integralcity.com/about/about-the-founder/


  1. Anonymous March 14, 2013 at 1:23 pm - Reply

    Thank you Marilyn for your guidance in our conversation.
    You inspired me, and from that conversation I made new connections with like minded people.

  2. […] IC: The first steps are to start to think in terms of the city-scale. We need to see that the city is a human system in the living system that is Gaia. Human hives are Gaia’s “reflective organs“. As individuals we are cells in Gaia’s reflective organ. We can start first with ourselves and get in touch with our Passions and Purpose. We can understand the cycles of Prosperity that natural flow through the city like the natural stages of a human life cycle. I have seen this applied with people who have created a Vision for their city. Others have created learning habitats for youth entrepreneurship. Yet others have created circle dialogues for encouraging women to enter politics. […]

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