This interview (in 2 parts) with Marilyn Hamilton, Founder of Integral City Meshworks took place in August 2018 after the Integral Europe Conference. Interviewer Alain Gauthier has recently moved to Portland Oregon and is curious about how Integral City frameworks might inform the ways he wishes to serve the city.  Alain has a most interesting background in both Europe and America as: Executive Director, Core Leadership Development – Co-founder of the Society for Organizational Learning – Member of Bay Area Integral – Author: Actualizing Evolutionary Co-Leadership – To Evolve a Creative and Responsible Society.

Part 1 of the Interview follows.

  • AG: When was the work first initiated — and how has it unfolded over time?

MH: I was “called” to look at the city about 2000 – after I had finished my dissertation on Learning & Leadership in Self-Organizing Community Systems (using Meg Wheatley et al’s Berkana Community of Conversations as a case study – see the link to website/pdf).

Over time looking at the city has meant firstly that I understood the city was an evolutionary, living, human system at a scale that was more complex than, but embraced all of the smaller scales of human systems from individuals to leaders to teams, to organizations to sectors to communities. I understood the city to be a social holon embedded with holons and social holons.

I have come to appreciate that the city is the most complex system yet created by humans.

When I enter a city I “follow the energy” and look to include the 4 Voices of the City.

  • AG: How has the city’s ‘work of capacity development’ shifted as a consequence? 

MH: Capacity development in the city means understanding that all the scales of human systems can and will undergo development of their capacities under the appropriate conditions. In general, capacity development emerges when a human system (at any scale) encounters dissonance that must be resolved not just for survival and sustainability at any given set of life conditions, but for emergence and resilience into new, more complex life conditions. Interestingly, when human systems are stable with little turbulence in their life conditions they are not likely to change or develop capacity. It is when life “upsets the apple cart” that human systems respond and/or shift their ways of dealing with the challenges.

In the city, with all the smaller scales of human systems alive and well and co-existing, it makes for a very dynamic, interactive meta-system where sub-systems experience change within a living ecology where each system is constantly being influenced by the other.

That is one of the reasons why an Integral perspective is so valuable – it reveals the 4 realities that co-arise in the city (bio/psycho/cultural/structural-infrastructural) and enables fractal views of every scale of human system. It also embraces levels of development (ego/ethno/world/kosmic) and states of change. This framework allows the city to be viewed with requisite complexity but also to be appreciated through fractal simplicity.

Two of the best examples where capacity has developed are in Durant Oklahoma where we developed leaders as we engaged them in dialogue over 4 years; and in Edmonton Alberta where Beth Sanders (Meshworker of the Year 2013) has been working on practical projects like creating strategies for mature neighbourhood redevelopment in the city.

Interview continued in Part 2.