As the world cycles in and out of lockdowns, pandemic levels and recovery stimuli, new webs are emerging through building, rebuilding, reconnecting and weaving systemic connections that seem to indicate a distinguishing impact of the global pandemic involves recalibrating worldwide interconnections.
How does Gaia respond when fundamental boundaries are crossed that result in ill health? (e.g., humans invading wild zones where microbiotic transfers like Covid19 can move from one species to another.)
Early on, in my education about systems thinking I learned (from Meg Wheatley) if you want to improve the health of a system connect it to more of itself. This is a fundamental principle of the Meshworking Intelligence (that restructures our brains as well as our organizations). The self-organizing operating system that is always in play has been forced to find many new solutions to connecting city systems to other parts of itself, while at the same time the parallel operating system that builds hierarchical structures has been challenged to reinvent itself many times over.
So, perhaps we should not be too surprised that all the formal and informal impulses for humans to discover the roots of the pandemic have resulted in the greatest change to health care systems in the last 2 decades (The Economist, Dec. 2020). Wherever we are on the planet, responses to the disrupting virus have demanded that health care systems re-invent themselves through data analysis on local, regional, national and global scales; creating supply chains for personal protective equipment across nations that never existed before at national, transnational or global scales; and demanding that the 4 Voices of the City work together to communicate government decisions, vaccine distribution and transdisciplinary social justice impacts.
Moreover, for extended periods of time, the labour forces in the nations of the global north have pressed the “pause” button and rediverted operational networks from city-centre workplaces to home-based operations in ways that have not existed since before the industrial revolution. This too has demanded the reconnections between individual, team, organizational and sectoral relationships on such a massive scale, that it is not clear that work locations will ever return to their city-centre hubs.
At the same time, education of our next generations has moved from institutional delivery to largely home-based online modes that has demanded constant, reiterative response to change from students (from K to PhD), families, faculty, administrators and community stakeholders.
If ever we imagined how to create a global scenario that would demand unimaginable ways to increase the connections of every level of human systems in every place of the globe, we could not have imagined greater turbulence, disruption and recalibration than what we have faced in the last year.
But (as many systems supporting innovation in “normal” times propose) disruptive or even destructive innovations that change systems may not be appreciated as they are experienced in real time; rather, in retrospect they can turn out to be the triggers that challenged assumptions, unblocked the status quo and opened new possibilities for quantum change.
With this (June 2021) issue of our newsletter, those are patterns that we are noticing have spawned the emergence and/or acceleration of connections, interconnections and transformations between single organizations and/or sectors. Here are some examples:
CAN’s are Community Action Networks that we see being experimented with at individual place level, like Plymouth, Birmingham, Stoke, Nottingham in the UK; with Food Cooperatives in Cape Town South Africa; and Tijuana Mexico. Prior community networks like Transition Towns, Ecovillages and Participatory Communities continue – sometimes competitively, sometimes cooperatively.
Competitive Ecosystems are emerging in various sectors such as the economy, in attempts to move beyond the ineffective economic practices of capitalism, communism and socialism. We see Economic Systems from Doughnut Economics, to Circular Economy, to Wisdom Economy, to Regenerative Economy all vying for head space, heart space and technological dashboards. These different expressions of whole system-based economies are still at the stage where branding, differentiation and competition seem more energizing and attractive than cooperation. (An initiative by Bounce Beyond seeks to discover the connective space that could enable shifting out of competition amongst differences to cooperation amongst symmetries.)
Coalitions have begun around issues and sectors. In the post-graduate education sector, Ubiquity University, University of International Cooperation and GPM have formed a coalition to attract over 60 experts as course developers, faculty and funders for a Master of Regenerative Action. Spinoffs appear to invite a whole new trans-global accreditation system based on universal and transferable competencies and action projects. The coalition is explicitly community/urban, bioregional and global, based on living systems with an outreach to supporting younger generations.
Collaborations are being woven at the speed of social media and grounded in local action through transdisciplinary learning in the Weaving Lab, U-Theory Labs, Doughnut Economics Action Lab, VocalEyes Participatory Community Technology and World Unity Week interfaith spiritual and ritual practices. Many of these collaborations have Ambassadors who further amplify collaborations and cross-connect with other coalitions, ecosystems and CAN’s.
Thus, what appears to be happening, across the globe, is that human systems are connecting in novel ways at new scales in faster time. More than one ecology of human connectability at ever greater levels of complexity are finding expression in emergent human systems around the world. As a result, we may be witnessing not just the frustrations that arise from such massive change, but the early stages of improvements in the health of our human systems.
Through the multi-layered multiplicity of new connections from CAN’s, Competitive Ecosystems, Coalitions and Collaborations, self-organizing operating systems we are building new capacities in the structuring operating systems of our cities. We anticipate the intricate dance between self-organizing and structuring will evolve regionally (sooner rather than later?) into elegant meshworked ecologies of individual and regionally connected Integral Cities (as the next natural evolutionary stage of a planet of Integral Cities).