We are starting a new set of Integral City learning (ad)ventures. We call them Learning Lhabitats.

Lhab Jungle

Learning Laboratories and Habitats are being designed for people who sense a new Integrator Role is emerging in cities. They know MUCH change is needed and MANY voices are clamouring for attention. Those concerns lead to key questions, city Integrator Alain Vol,z asked me when I was in the Netherlands in April. Here’s the conversation we had.

A. So where to start and get things going?

IC: We think the place to start is with your self. What is your passion? Why do you feel called to step into an Integrator Role? How can your passion be in service to the greatest needs of the Human Hive?

A: Why look at the city as a Human Hive? What value does it add?

IC: Looking at the city as a human hive re-frames it from a built environment into a living system full of dynamic relationships. Each person contributes soul and role as they interact to achieve goals. The goals can be located with family in the home; e.g. putting dinner on the table. With friends at play; e.g. enjoying sports and recreation. With colleagues at work; e.g. serving customers and earning profits. With neighbours in the community; e.g. sharing a community garden. With the civil society; e.g. feeding the homeless. With civic managers; e.g. deciding on new health policies.

The value of looking at the city as a human hive is that we gain an understanding of how interconnected we are with everyone else in the city and that it makes “common sense” to work to create and share a common vision and goals. That way we can align our energies without alienating our creativity. Thinking of ourselves as a human hive gives us the keys to resilience and adaptiveness.

A. How can we take first steps on a small-scale from the perspective of the Human Hive? Where is it being applied?

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.

A. What are the key conditions for success? What needs to be organized? How does one apply change/process management from the perspective of emergence?

IC: In all the examples of success, one key condition has been applied: Include all of the 4 Voices of the city  in the change process. The 4 Voices are the City-zen, Civic Manager, Civil Society and Business. That has enabled the Human Hive to naturally align and focus itself – like the living system it is.

Meshworking is a way of organizing the 4 Voices so that they can respect one another, learn together and work towards a common goal. Typically this starts with a simple set of dialogue circles where the 4 Voices meet; discover their roles and relationships; and learn how they all contribute to neighbourhood, community or city wellbeing. This opens the doors to addressing whatever issue they want to work on. It could be as simple as neighbours helping neighbours (as in an Amsterdam local health currency, sponsored by Rabobank) or as challenging as working towards climate action goals (as Colwood, BC, Canada.)

When this trust is established a network of the 4 voices emerges.  In later stages it may move into a community of practise (COP) to address the issue  and then it is possible to align individuals, networks, COP’s into networks of networks. Within a small community this can happen quickly if it is motivated to respond to change (e.g. after Hurricane Sandy in New York). Within larger communities this process can emerge over years – even decades.

Learning how to start the change/process management by attracting and strengthening the voice of City-zens will be the first course that Integral City Learning Lhabitats offers. You can find out more about what is planned for 2013 here.