Reinventing Social Sectors & Systems

How not to numb our senses and conscience when the waves of the sea are swallowing up thousands of bodies of women, men, and children, who were looking for safety and a better life in our lands?

Can any of us be really free before all of us are? Being free not only from repressive regimes and anything that enslaves the human soul, but also free for experiencing the full range of creative opportunities that life presents… Think about it. The truth is that neither you, nor I can have a full sense of how that kind of freedom may look like before we live in a society, where it is the honored birthright of all.

No, I can’t give food and shelter to all in need of it, but I can ask myself, how do I contribute, day after day, to sustain a social system that created the refugee crisis, and the disengagement of the vast majority of workers from their work, two aspects of our intertwining global crises… ?

That question begets this: what insights gleaned from the principles and practices of reinvented organizations worth revisiting when we need to reinvent larger social systems? We, organization re-inventors need to ask that question from ourselves if we don’t try to create reinvented organizations, as happy islands in oceans of sorrow.

Tom Nixon wrote, “the next leap forward is to transcend organisational thinking as we currently know it, and consider all of humanity as one interconnected ecosystem. This may be the consciousness, beyond Laloux’s ‘Teal’ which will kick in when the over-simplification of seeing organisations as separate entities becomes insufficient to create human endeavors which can respond to an increasingly global, interconnected, and complex world.”

It seems that the author is talking about the “WholeView” perspective of Turquoise consciousness that is just one notch higher than Teal. It is a holistic perspective, from which we can perceive  patterns that connect the whole of life, and our embeddedness in them. At that altitude, it is possible to tune our senses for receiving epiphanies of the emergent future in need of our wise decisions and actions today. Learning how to do that may help discover our evolutionary purpose at a scale larger than the self or even the organization.

It is  the vista point that let us see how the reinvention of social systems, such as education, healthcare, or even economics, is a must if we are to increase the chance of  global breakthrough instead global breakdown.

What will it take for self-managed organizations, where we can work without bosses and masks, to reach a tipping point, where they become the new mainstream? The conditions worth a collaborative inquiry, but  we already know for sure is that  there’s a  lot of work before that in the domains of organizational and individual reinvention. Fortunately, they don’t move in a linear progression. Evolution doesn’t work by scaling up; it scales across:

“Taking things to scale doesn’t happen vertically through one-size-fits-all replication strategies, although this is today’s dominant approach. Change happens as local experiments move horizontally through networks of relationship, scaling across communities and nations. People become inspired by one another’s discoveries and create their own initiatives; they also support one another as pioneers.”

(Source: Five Things To Walk Out Of (and Five Things To Walk On To), by Meg Wheatley and Debbie Freeze.)

Scaling across happens when tens of thousands of people in different organizations, countries, sectors, and movements, start paying attention to similar possibilities for reinvention, connecting with a similar intention, and learning from each other’s experience. The social field that their shared attention engenders is like the tide: when it comes, it lifts all boats.

Can that “scaling across” emergence reach the scope needed for reinventing society? Probably not without reinventing the life of whole industries, social sectors, and systems. It sounds like a gargantuan task and if that reinvention were the solo mission of any one organization or stakeholder group, it would be an impossible one.

My news for “world-savers” is that they don’t have to save the world. New, more evolutionary forms of governance are already slowly emerging, or at least experimented with, in every area of social life. Just look at the example of the road transportation system.

Or, thinking of reinventing economics, consider such already emerging phenomena as platform economics, the gift economy of open source everthing, the rise of commons-based peer production, or the sharing economy, just to name a few.

We cannot only zoom in from the organizational scale reinvention to the individual scale, but also zoom out to the societal scale. That’s because  think what Laloux discovered is a foundational pattern of social evolution, not only of organizational evolution. Those scales have a cross-impact following the dynamics of nested hierarchies, where reinventing any of the self-organizations-society triplet in itself will have limited chance and impact without the two others. Correspondingly, we, at Enlivening Edge, put our magazine in service of learning and mutual support in and across all scales of reinvention, with a special emphasis on organizations as the linchpin of the process.

Wherever your emphasis is, I want to hear how Enlivening Edge can support it better. Please comment below, or write to me at george(at)enliveningedge(dot)org.

George in Greenwhich George Pór is an evolutionary thinker and a strategic learning partner to visionary leaders in business, government, and civil society. He is the founder of Enlivening Edge, and has been publishing the Blog of Collective Intelligence since 2003. A select list of his articles and book chapters on the fields of collective intelligence, organizational and social renewal can be found here.  

  1. Beautifully written!
    and this begs the question how you/we can engage with so many examples out of the P2P world and commoning; many try outs there that scale across…
    With love,

    1. Ria, thank you for your feedback.

      I think the Peer-to-Peer/Commoning world also needs a magazine, as a collaborative sensing and meaning making organ, and trust that it will emerge in due time…

  2. Thank you for this George! Personally, I’ve shrunk away recently when I hear about “scaling social change,” which is still assumed to be an integral step in the process, even in more progressive spaces (like ‘design thinking’ or ‘social enterprise/innovation’). We are so caught in our modern/capitalistic paradigm that it’s hard to shift out of some of its core assumptions (like growth being the ultimate goal).

    And I love this line: “My news for “world-savers” is that they don’t have to save the world.”

    I am looking for a community of people who see it as we do, and yet also struggling with my ego taking a backdoor entrance through the feeling of isolation that is caused by feeling that the so-called change-makers all around me just don’t get it. How funny!

    I’m searching for a grad school program. I want to think about and formulate how to be a part of reinventing organizations and social systems to overturn embedded power structures in international development and allow people to be the leaders of their communities development and the lifeways they choose. We need new models that are not built on ideologies, but promoting life. And I don’t want it all just to stay in my head–I want thought partners, but also playmates to forge the future with.

    I’d deeply appreciate any advice or thoughts you would share.

    All my best,

  3. Dear Danielle,

    > We need new models that are not built on ideologies, but promoting life

    What a beautiful, inspiring statement! Grounded in it, we can discover more depth to our understanding the three breakthroughs in next-stage organizations: wholeness / evolutionary purpose / self-management.

    > I am looking for a community of people who see it as we do… I don’t want it all just to stay in my head–I want thought partners, but also playmates to forge the future with.

    I wanted to reply to that when I had something to suggest you to check out. Now, I do. Please visit the EE Community, read the group’s description on the right side of the page, and if speaks to you, click on “Join the group.”

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