By George Pór with Edith Friesen for Enlivening Edge Magazine
You can read the entire February 2018 EE Magazine Highlights here.
The Flow and Ebb of Evolutionary Epiphanies
It was one of those moments of carefree celebration. As we walked on the grounds of the Chinook Institute on majestic Whidbey Island, we felt the breeze of a future history touching our faces. Here we were, 75 evolutionaries, meeting for 5 days in 2005. From inspired conversations there emerged potent seeds of possibility, and we planted them as memories of the future.
“It was a remarkable gathering of scientists, social thinkers, activists, and artists seeking to better understand how to creatively engage with the evolutionary challenges of our times.” The air was buzzing with new-born projects and enticing titles of Open Space sessions were glowing on the walls, as the title of this Salon started coming alive among us: “Catalyzing Collective Intelligence and Social Creativity.”
This watershed event opened a new chapter in many of our lives. The teachings that flowed from the depth of our collective wisdom were exquisite.
“The epiphany is strongest when the individual’s attention is progressively widened to see and embrace more and more of the human actions and processes that are instantiations of the unfolding of the evolutionary process across the planet (including her own actions). This expanded, all-embracing attention comes to be experienced as love for all that is involved in the wider evolutionary process.”
Small groups of us continued to meet. Then, a common pattern emerged—a “retreat high” followed by the dissipation of energy. When the waves of energy ebbed, many of us felt disappointed, but not defeated. By following the ebbs and flows of transformational movements since the 60s, I had learned that evolutionary epiphanies don’t die; they just take their time to materialize.
The spherical map below holds the essence of the social epiphany we received at Chinook (now called the Whidbey Institute). It is still waiting to be unpacked.
The Exquisite Dance of Co-creation
That same year, Otto Scharmer invited me to a co-initiation meeting of what would become the Presencing Institute. As he had promised, Otto came over to our hotel in the morning, to take us a 10-minute walk along the Charles River to the offices of the Society for Organisational Learning, in Cambridge, near MIT, where we were meeting. Ten minutes stretched into half an hour, as we trudged through the heaviest blizzard I’ve ever experienced. I thought: Otto must have ordered this blizzard just to test how committed we are to presencing… 🙂 The story of that walk and the subsequent meeting is written up in the “Born in a Blizzard” section of Theory U’s Epilogue.
I still remember how Otto invited us to share that which life calls each of us to do. When it came to his turn, he stood up facing the circle and started talking about his dream. As he spoke, he doodled on a flipchart without looking. What emerged was a pattern of the u.school that echoed the pattern of Leonardo’s “Proportions of Man” drawing.
Here was an exquisite dance between the crystal clarity of his vision’s direction and the (intentionally?) fuzzy details. Coupled with a delicate dance between knowing the calling of his soul and giving space for each of us to discover ours. Witnessing all this was unforgettable.
In that moment, I realized that my work would have greater impact if I put my talents into the service of his. So, I convened a team, co-drafted a discussion paper on prototyping the virtual campus of the presencing movement in order to boost its collective intelligence, and shared it with Otto.
The Interdependence of Personal and Social Transformation
You will not hear the misleading cliché from my lips that if you transform yourself the world will transform. While the interdependence of personal and social transformation implies that we need to start the process wherever we are on our personal developmental journey, it does not imply that the process can stop there. The following excerpt from our “virtual campus” discussion paper points to this.
We view the Presencing site as a form of “sadhana”, an individual and collective ego-forgetting exercise. Its uniqueness is directing beyond “social-ego.” As if the website was Spirit staring at us from a laptop at Starbucks and reminding us to presence, become one with it, and partake in the playful theater of its manifestation.
Re-reading those words, I recognize an early articulation of Teal consciousness. Nowadays I describe it as sensing, thinking, and acting from beyond ego with increasing frequency. This happens each time we do so from a space larger than our narrow (individual or collective) self-interest.
The good news is that engaging in ego-transcending change-making is not the exclusive purview of those of us who are motivated by world service. It can start even in elementary school, as Ashoka-founder Bill Drayton points out:
“The central challenge of our time is to make everyone a changemaker. To do that you start young. Your kid is 12. She tells you about some problem—the other kids at school are systematically mean to special-needs students. This is a big moment. You pause what you are doing and ask her if there’s anything she thinks she can do to solve the problem, not just for this kid but for the next time it happens, too. Very few kids take action to solve the first problem they see, but eventually they come back having conceived and owning an idea. They organize their friends and do something.”
The girl in the story is not the focus of her classmates’ bullying. By standing up for children who are, she builds the inner strength and skills for movement building. By organizing and taking action, we become movement builders. These times, like none before, present us with opportunities to pass on these lessons to budding social movement builders like our children, our grandchildren, and the young people within our reach.
Now, a word about social movements. Tom Atlee in his A Movement for the Conscious Evolution of (increasingly conscious) Social Systemsblog wrote the following in 2005.
“The movement is here understood not as a traditional activist movement with demonstrators marching in the streets, but as the motions of the social body as it moves to wake up.”
It was these words (along with the spherical map shown above), which inspired me to use the “social body” metaphor for social movements.
Now fast forward to 2018.
The Luscious Movements of the Awakening Social Body
Have you ever watched the delicate, inviting movements of your beloved’s body in the morning, as she or he was slowly emerging from slumber? This is the kind of loving attention you need, if you want to make sense of the transformative social movements of our times. Such movements are transcending (and when needed, including) mere protests. They are the barely perceptible yet steady movements of the awakening social body. Our collective slumber is ending, as millions of individuals stand up for human rights, soulful workplaces, real democracy in our institutions, climate justice, and so on.
It is dawn in the rainforest of transformative initiatives. The first rays of sun kiss the upper foliage. Flying above the rainforest, we can take a birds-eye-view and discern the visible movements that already have a public presence. Less visible are the life-giving forces that animate them. Even so, we can sense them everywhere.
The Movement for Civilizational Renewal
Since its first, unassuming expression in the blizzard of 2005, the u.lab has done a lot of groundwork and built massive competencies in organizing and education. Last December, in a session of u.lab 1x, Otto gave an overview of where the movement stands, and what he sees for 2018. (The video of the session is here. You will find the overview at 1:17:33 – 1:19:00.)
It was a breathtaking view, considering the groundwork, the u.lab courses, and the movement of local groups, coaching circles, and online communities that have sprung up around it—reaching tens of thousands of people around the world.
Two things in Otto’s presentation stood out for me. First was an emergent and broad vision, expressed as: “movement for economic, democratic, and civilizational renewal.” The notion of civilizational renewal captures the edgy essence of the many streams of transformational movements. I see that scope of renewal in new, post-capitalist forms of ownership and in the early signs of the reinvention of our institutions for putting human freedom and social creativity in their center.
Second was Otto’s explanation of the term ecosystem catalyst: “Ecosystem catalysts are connecting people, creating the right kind of supportive environment, and activating the co-creative social field.”
While the work of such catalysts is pivotal to any social movement, including the movement called Teal/Next-stage Organizations, it is also pivotal to the maturation of the larger ecosystem comprised of all movements. When the time comes, the ability of ecosystem catalysts to seamlessly connect and learn from each other may call for a new kind of Evolutionary Salon. Such a salon might leapfrog over the kind we experienced on Whidbey Island, and take advantage of new developments in the electronic and social technologies of freedom. Then, as before, I expect to feel the breeze of a future history touching our faces.
The Movement Focus of EE’s January-February 2018 Magazine
While many movements for civilizational renewal are picking up steam, Enlivening Edge, in keeping with its modest means and evolutionary purpose, is quietly connecting the movements that are focused on the reinventions of organizations and social institutions. The last two months of our magazine cycle have been dedicated to those movements. Be sure to check out our Magazine Highlights here.
Otto asks: “What does it take to turn these manifold grassroots seeds into a vibrant eco-system that transforms capitalism towards social and environmental justice, towards well-being for all?” He answers his own question by calling for “new coalitions, new cross-sectional partnerships that pool our resources, networks, and capacities to serve this larger purpose…”
Then he goes on to announce the plan for an interactive multimedia hub to help the emerging global movement of renewal sense and see itself across sectors, systems, and cultures.
“The gift of Enlivening Edge to this growing phenomenon is supporting the whole ecosystem of people and organizations going through this epochal shift. We help the whole become more visible to its parts, and we serve as one of their collective sensing and meaning-making organs…”
Since then, Enlivening Edge became a movement hub, co-organizer of such gatherings of reinventors as the Teal Organizations track at the Integral European Conference, and the Next Stage World, surrounded by a 700+ strong global community of organizational professionals.
We would like to hear your stories of movement building, whether with small- or large-scale movements, whether with evolutionary luminaries or budding movement builders. Our readers would particularly appreciate short, first-person accounts of transformation from traditional to “next-stage” organizations and how life is in the latter. Let us be inspired by unsung stories and heroes, and see ourselves in them.
We also welcome every opportunity to partner with any like-hearted individual, organization, or movement. Let’s start, as Otto suggested, “pooling our resources, networks, and capacities to serve this larger purpose…”
George Pór is an evolutionary thinker and a strategic learning partner to visionary leaders in business, government, and civil society. He is the originator 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. More about George’s work on the enlivening edge of planetary transformation is here.
As a lifelong writer, Edith has worked in diverse organizations and coached writers. She enjoys helping people write in Teal-inspired ways that touch the body, heart, soul, and mind. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.