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emergent by design
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    I’ve been tracking emerging trends for a while now, exploring the co-evolution of humanity and our technologies, and building visions of the kinds of futures I’d like to see. Lately, I’ve found myself a bit restless, wondering “what’s next?”

    The conferences and gatherings I’m attending are beginning to feel stale, the conversations needing new framings and lenses through which to look at our world and ourselves.

    I’ve been on the hunt for a word or phrase that can encompass the essence of what feels important and resonates with me right now.

    The search has been prompted by my decision to start a new project — writing my first book. (yay!)

    I’ve spent the past few weeks reviewing everything I’ve written so far on the blog, reflecting upon what I’ve observed, what I’ve learned, and identifying the deep values I’ve chosen to serve as a compass and foundation for what is meaningful and significant.

    At the same time, I’ve been surveying the landscape to get a sense of what’s being constructed out in the global mind, and see where the two intersect.

    The general narrative is that we‘re facing increasing complexity and uncertainty in the world, information overload, distraction, shallowness of critical thought, and a lack of foresight. On the silver lining side, we have an overstock of creativity and imagination, sufficient to level up humanity and change the world and our crumbling systems, if we could only figure out how to unlock and unleash it from our billions of minds.

    While some will posit that the ‘solution’ is technological (better algorithms! quantifying trust and reputation! big data! innovation!), I lean to the side that our breakthroughs will occur when we acknowledge and confront our most raw and human issues.

    I’m finding that the barriers to our ingenuity are not stemming from a lack of desire, but from a range of cognitive and emotional barriers that have been set in place by most of the systems that surround us and condition us - the media, family and societal expectations, cultural standards, fear in trusting our own intuition, and the ingrained beliefs that any other way of thinking or being could be possible. (to name a few)

    These barriers create a rigidity and calcification to how we perceive reality and ourselves, vastly limiting the potential for our inherent genius and heroism to manifest itself.

    As I travel across the blogosphere, I notice these sentiments being echoed, in their own language:

    In a recent post in HBR, there was a rallying call to the startup community to build companies infused with *purpose* that will bring lasting value to society. A skim of the Management Innovation eXchange reveals posts about embracing one’s inner artist, restoring values at work, and how to mobilize and motivate people. The Innovation Excellence blog categories include 'build capacity' and 'culture & values.' The most popular talks on TED this month are about happiness, vulnerability, courage and shame, inspirational leadership, and cultivating creativity capacity. Other hot themes out there include storytelling, passion, empathy, play, and design.

    After brainstorming a few concepts that might weave together this emerging pattern, I’ve decided to frame it as the rise of culture tech.

    :: Culture ::

    I found it interesting to discover that the English word “culture” is based upon a term used by Cicero, “cultura animi,” referring to the cultivation of the mind or soul.

    In reviewing other origins and definitions, I resonated strongly with the ideas of culture as a pursuit for the highest ideal of human development, the liberation of the mind, and the attainment of freedom through the fullest expression of the unique and authentic self.

    The other side of culture, beyond its internal cultivation, is the degree to which it can be communicated and propagated to others.

    The American anthropological definition of culture “most commonly refers to the universal human capacity to classify and encode experiences symbolically, and communicate symbolically encoded experiences socially.”

    It might then follow that a conscious effort towards cultivating the self, towards independent and critical thinking, towards direct experience, and hence towards wisdom, would then contribute towards the cultivation of human capacity at larger and larger scales.

    Neat. So we need to know what we know, embody it, and then pass it on. How?

    Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme” as a description for a “self-replicating unit with potential significance in explaining human behavior and cultural evolution.” They’re transmitted from mind to mind through writing, speech, gesture, ritual, or other means which can be imitated, replicated, mutated and implemented.

    So how do we build new memes - new units for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices - and transmit them through society, at scale?

    This is where technology comes in for an assist.

    :: Technology ::

    “The word technology comes from Greek τεχνολογία (technología); from τέχνη (téchnē), meaning "art, skill, craft", and -λογία (-logía), meaning "study of-".”

    From fire to the wheel to the internet, technology refers to the tools, processes and systems humans discover and develop to get things done.

    Its definitions range from “the practical application of knowledge” to “an activity that forms or changes culture.”

    This is where I begin to see a gap.

    :: The Need for Technologies of Culture ::

    We are awash in data, information, and knowledge.

    We can search and find just about anything, and now complain about being ‘overloaded’ with it all.

    We want machines that can help us sift through the noise and find exactly what we want, or a predictive set of results that are probably what we want, or a serendipitous series of results that might lead to something we didn’t even know we wanted.

    This may be fine for parsing and delivering some types of information, but I question what informs the word “practical” in the above definition of “the practical application of knowledge.”

    As an era of machine intelligence approaches, I wonder what ‘practical’ decisions they will be making. For instance, what might we do when a global supercomputer does an analysis of our resource allocation, climate, and global population, and sees an unpleasant trajectory for the human species based on current trends. It then decides that the most ‘practical’ thing to do is to manufacture a biological weapon, targeted to a specific race or haplogroup, and remove 5 or so billion people from the planet. (this being the most efficient way to create conditions to restore us to a sustainable situation, in this scenario).

    Perhaps an extreme example, but the point is that the power of our technologies are accelerating at a rate faster than the rate at which we’re developing our capacities for the discernment to use them appropriately or to contemplate their longer-term implications.

    In this case, the practical application of knowledge would come via wisdom.

    Wisdom is defined as “the comprehension of what is true coupled with optimum judgment as to action” — the coordination of “knowledge and experience” and “its deliberate use to improve well being.”

    Many quotes about wisdom, whether they be from spiritual texts, philosophers, or public intellectuals, refer to wisdom as coming first and foremost from self-knowledge.

    Knowing others is intelligence;
    knowing yourself is true wisdom.
    Mastering others is strength;
    mastering yourself is true power.
    ~ Tao Te Ching

    But how many of us are connected with our authentic selves and know who we really are, know what we fundamentally believe to be true, and why we think so?

    How many of us have an experience-based reference point that links our theory to practice, before making a decision?

    In trying to ‘save the world,’ how many of us live the example of the external thing we think we are trying to ‘fix?’

    My ponderings come from a place of self-inquiry and reflection first. Engaging in the cultivation of my mind, combined with the experiments and testing of evidence-based reality against my ideas, have been my most useful pursuits in my process of seeking more expansive consciousness and sapience.

    These practices generally still seem to be siloed in the domains of philosophy, self-help or mental therapy, or when discussed in the context of indigenous wisdom or spirituality, are often discredited or referred to as “woo.”

    I, on the other hand, see a convergence of science and spirit. As I track the “discoveries” in neuroscience and brain-mind research, I see information that’s been known by ancient wisdom traditions for thousands of years now being ‘validated’ by science.

    I think there is an evolutionary impulse to learn and grow, to express and transform ourselves through creativity and love, and to become multidimensional in our ability to perceive ourselves, the world and existence. I think we can become both more intelligent, and wise. We do have the capacity for greater health and well-being, happiness and compassion.

    And I think we can fully participate in this process of bootstrapping ourselves.

    Hence, I suggest we look to technologies of culture to help us liberate ourselves from old patterns, and become fully conscious agents and participants in our individual and collective evolutionary development.

    :: Culture Tech examples & working definition ::

    I started thinking about all this more intensely over the past few months, as I’ve been experimenting with a group of people in building an open enterprise.

    We’ve talked about building a skills/resources/superpowers database, as both a shared commons, and as a guide for arranging ourselves into co-creation teams around projects.

    We’ve come together face-to-face for small gatherings, workshops, and to collaborate on short-term projects.

    Everyone wants to be autonomous and sovereign, yet to also be strongly bonded and committed around a shared vision.

    It’s a bit tricky.

    Again, it’s not really a technological issue. It’s about learning how to become extraordinarily clear internally on what each of us wants, identifying our core values, being able to articulate our intentions to each other, being capable of setting boundaries around our time and attention, and then being about to build a shared vision together that enables us each to provide and receive value towards getting what we want, while also serving the greater purpose. It’s about continuous feedback, iteration, and mutual support.

    I’ve found several people who are building these processes at the team level into a kind of art, which they refer to as “culture hacking.”

    The premise is that culture can be treated like software — having a viewpoint, an architecture, an internal structure, and some familiar characteristics:

    - ease of use
    - reliability
    - interoperability
    - extensibility
    - compatibility
    - portability
    - adaptability
    - scalability

    Reprogram your techniques, practices, commitments and viewpoints, and you reprogram yourself and your culture.

    Jim & Michele McCarthy, authors of Software for your Head & the Core Protocols, have engaged me in some great dialogue (and hands on experience!) around the processes they’ve been developing for this kind of cultural design.

    Dan Mezick, author of The Culture Game, has also been teaching me a lot about tribal leadership, agile, scrum, and group facilitation. As he put it, “We’re in the business of culture.”

    Social scientist Sebastien Paquet has a nice 5 minute Ignite talk back from 2010 about How to Become a Culture Hacker. His blog, Emergent Cities, casts a wide net around networked co-creation, intentions, and birthing new worlds and social movements.

    Other colleagues are working on lexicons and shared language for the new economy, on gift circles and share networks, and on frameworks built on foundations of coherence, alignment, resonance, amplification and manifestation.

    I’m seeing a leveling up as we move beyond mapping “social graphs,” and move consciously towards mapping intentions, emotions, capacities, worldviews, desires, value creation, gratitude, and energy.

    All of this has essentially been leading me to the same place:

    There is an urge to redesign human culture, to construct life and work in a way that enables everyone to ‘follow their bliss’ and show up fully in their gifts and experience. We want to experience higher intelligence and capacities, and to choose what represents meaning and significance in life. We want to do it with style, grace, ease, beauty, and simplicity — as art.

    But before we can establish our new collective values, and lay down the groundwork for new societies or paradigms, there is a personal healing and self-awareness process as a critical intermediary (or parallel) step.

    While this is still a work in process, I’m defining culture tech as follows:

    ‘the systems, tools, processes and etiquettes designed to cultivate the full expression of the authentic self, liberate collective creativity and imagination, and foster the expansion of universal human capacity’

    I’m looking forward to exploring this sweet spot at the intersection of technology, consciousness and culture!

    The next few months will be spent in domestic and international travel, doing interviews, and finding inspiring examples of those on the leading edge of culture tech.

    As always, feedback is welcome, and thanks for joining me on the journey. :)

    Thanks to the many friends and colleagues for hundreds (if not thousands!) of hours of musings and critical dialogue that informed this post.  I don’t claim any ideas here as original or as my own, simply a synthesis of my own reflections and those mirrored in the bubblings of the global mind.


    Culture on Wikipedia
    Social Technology on Wikipedia
    Technology on Wikipedia
    Wisdom on Wikipedia
    Meme on Wikipedia

    image via Christina McAllister, Heart of Wisdom Mandala
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    musings on Adorno & Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment.; crossposted from Emergent by Design

    When I review these passages, my mind speaks back - "the machine is using us".The goal of the enlightenment was to free our minds, by favoring 'rationality' over myth and mysticism. Nature became something that was to be controlled by us, quantified, compartmentalized, labeled, manipulated.

    But, this new scientific way of looking at things changed the way we THINK... or perhaps limited our ability to think at all. Instead of looking for greater 'Truth' or deeper meaning in things, identifying the essence of a thing, giving it 'value', it becomes a mere definition. The framework of thoughts are based in a soul-deadening logic and mechanicality. Everything that can be named and described and explained away can be somehow controlled, and there's a power in that, but at the same time, something sacred is lost.

    The belief in positivism seems as irrational to me as mythology must have been for those that started the enlightenment movement. To place utmost value in what the senses can perceive, and call it Truth, is ridiculous. I think we're finally coming around full circle, not to a return to mysticism, but at least allowing ourselves to say that there's more to life than meets the eye. In some ways, science itself has pointed out its fallibility. The more we dive into quantum mechanics, the more incongruities and incompatibilities we find with what we think we know and what is. Perhaps there really is an unknowable universal. Is it really such a horrible thing to have a sense of awe of the world around us??

    We become like slaves in invisible chains, our minds shaped into the pattern of a machine: efficient, mechanical, repetitive, causal, our thoughts on the conveyor belt of an assembly line - there are no alternative paths for them to take.

    This machine-like way of thinking is tied directly to the division of labor - the mechanized process of thinking is merely a function of material production and the "all-encompassing economic apparatus". By abandoning the cumbersomeness of formulating actual thoughts in favor of following a predetermined reified path, the greater machine/system of society can operate smoothly. At the same time, the smooth operation leads to a distillation of society, a loss of culture.

    By treating nature as something outside of oneself, something that needs to be manipulated and controlled verse something with which to be in harmony, humans become isolated and estranged. Both the lowly worker and the ones in charge are victims - the dominated are resigned sheep, and the dominators are equally immobilized by their distance from the experience, the self imposed detachment and repression of novelty in favor of utility in order to 'better' perform their role of power.

    (from the archives; friday february 6, 2009; media studies graduate paper)

    image via wisdom quarterly
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    As we're building out human-centered next-gen profiles for the Collaboratory, we wanted an intimate and creative way for people to get to know each other.

    Enter: the Heartsong Project.

    (thanks lauren higgins for bringing up the term "heartsong" on our brainstorm call.)

    The idea is pretty simple and straightforward:

    Record a 1-3 minute video of you describing your heartsong.

    What's a Heartsong?

    This is your personal "tune."

    Who are you?

    What passion drives your actions?

    What makes your heart sing?

    Everyone has beautiful visions inside of themselves, and as we bring those to the surface and share them with each other, the likelihood of them becoming real amplifies.

    Let's manifest!

    The above is a sample I made this morning. It took me a few hours total. I'm on an iMac. I recorded in photobooth and edited in iMovie.

    I also purchased the domain ""

    I'd like this to be the 2nd project of Open Foresight.

    (Open Foresight is a series of models and methodologies we're developing for co-creative visions of the future. It combines techniques from futures studies together with design and media production. The first prototype was the Future of Facebook video series. The Heartsong Project is about developing personal foresight - understanding your own deep desires and aims and clarifying them. This is the first step to developing plans of action towards achieving them.)

    I don't have the bandwidth to develop out the website at the moment, but would be happy to do a wireframe or mockup with ideas for anyone who would like to run with it. (we can co-create it in the Collaboratory!)

    We're already creating our Heartsongs and uploading them to youtube.

    All content we create for Open Foresight projects is being licensed Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 (cc by-SA 3.0), meaning we’re making it available to be reused, remixed, and built upon by others.

    Can't wait to hear your heartsongs!!!
    Sat, Jan 21, 2012  Permanent link

    Sent to project: Polytopia
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    I've been having a lot of fun the past few weeks fleshing out our next-gen profiles for the Collaboratory.

    One of the things I think is critical for any sufficiently advanced social network is a way for us to actually express who we are as human beings - emotion, passion, intent, inherent gifts, and the like.

    The problem with Facebook and LinkedIn is they predefine the scope of what it means to be human.

    Either you're this or that. This religious affiliation, this political view, this relationship status, this sex, and so forth.

    And that's all fine for those who find comfort in the rigidity of those labels.

    But for those who wish to be untethered from that way of thinking, so that we can expand ourselves into expressing fuller human capacity, it's a bit constraining.

    So we're working on allowing people to show who they are and what they're about from a deeper, more meaningful level.

    To that end, I've been playing with the new hive to do mockups (disclaimer - the new hive is for generally for you to "express yourself," not do wireframes, so it's no Illustrator - but for a dead simple tool that a child could start using within minutes, it's perfect.). The above image is just v1 of what I've come up with, but I think I'm leaning towards everyone being able to make their profile however they want. We'll provide a few fields (tribe dynamics, superpowers, strengths, projects, etc), and everyone makes it visually look however they want.

    Profiles & Self-Discovery

    I've spent a lot of time over the years experimenting with various self assessments (8 Tools for Self-Analysis), and thinking about how these assist in the process of self-discovery, clarity, and personal development. We want to provide as many options as we can to engage in this way. We've partnered with The Gabriel Institute to provide Role assessments (which we're calling "tribe dynamics"). Also looking to partner with Gallup for the Strengthsfinder2.0.

    Profiles & The Future of Work

    And beyond the feel-good reasons of self-discovery, this is about the future of work and value creation too.

    As we transition to a society and world of work where people are actually doing things that resonate with their core deeply, I think we need to go through a process of surfacing what we actually care about to help us discern what we'd like to be doing. For many people (at least that I've encountered), those deeper desires have been so suppressed over time that the individual isn't even aware of the connection anymore. <desires for autonomy, mastery, and purpose, as Dan Pink would say>

    Learning how to align around projects and opportunities based on our core resonance and values feels a lot more meaningful than chasing the biggest paycheck.

    Profiles & Mutual Improvement

    And beyond self-discovery and value creation, it comes down to the tie that binds - culture and community.

    We're fostering a community of continuous learning and mutual improvement, and revealing ourselves to each other in this way helps us know how we might assist each other to learn something new (contextual and relevant, or serendipitous) or develop in some meaningful way (help overcome cognitive biases, help heal emotional wounds).

    We're real people. We have these issues, and we're not embarrassed to acknowledge them, address them, and grow beyond them. It's' a step in the direction of cultivating our latent superpowers so that our work teams operate at a level of joy and efficiency that can't be purchased with any amount of 'corporate training programs' or HR ju-ju.

    Profiles Part 2

    The second part of the user profiles will go more deeply into specific passion projects that are being worked on, whether that's software development to change the world, or a resilience project to support the local or regional economy.

    We're working on the database that'll make these projects all searchable so collaborative and co-creative opportunities easily bubble to the surface.

    Stay tuned, we'll be posting updates as they develop!
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    Q: How do the Amish raise a barn without money?

    A: Community, and the social capital that weaves it together.

    In my husband’s Latvian community, they have a concept similar to barnraising called “talka,” which describes collective volunteer work for the good of society and environment.

    Several times a year we come together at our camp in the Catskill Mountains, and everybody chips in to maintain the property - clearing branches, building bridges, fixing roofs, painting, and whatever else needs to get done. No one gets paid for it (unless you count food, beer, and bonfires as payment), yet everyone helps.


    Because we’re invested in ourselves and each other and are stakeholders in our community and believe that preserving and cultivating our culture matters.

    So. How does that ethic translate to online community, and can we show that we have one?

    **Let’s intentcast to bootstrap Creative Economy 3.0**

    What is intentcasting?

    I came across this concept on Seb Paquet’s blog, Emergent Cities. He describes it as follows:

    Interest brings groups together, but intent is what brings teams together to actually get things done.

    Intentcasting is deceptively simple to describe. It consists in broadcasting your intent to make something happen. That something could be anything:

    - "I want to have a party at my house!"

    - "We want to raise $1,000 for Japan!"

    - "I want this piece of software to exist!"

    - "We want this work of art to exist!"

    In order for intent to catch on, it has to meet a few conditions:

    It must describe a promise - a future state of affairs that could conceivably happen, explained in a way that people understand.

    It must open participation in one or more well-defined ways.

    It must be expressed in a way that enables it to travel and spread over the communications infrastructure.

    There must be other people or groups out there who resonate with the intent and can get excited enough to connect.

    I really liked this framing, because it demonstrates a desired outcome and a commitment to achieve it. It’s not wishing, it’s goal setting. By making it visible and public, it’s like sending out a sonar signal and having alignments bounce back to you. The better we get at clarifying our intentions, the faster the feedback loops will accelerate.


    :::   So, here we go. :::


    An EdgeNetwork business model to bootstrap the creative economy


    I've wanted to do a "blog upgrade" for a while now, and of course am envisioning something deeper than adding a retweet button or SEO optimization. I believe we can create a holistic living system that activates people’s potential. I want Emergent by Design to serve as an evolutionary stepping stone towards this vision. . So here's a breakdown of all the moving parts.

    The site will feature sections that act as portals into the various facets of the EdgeNetwork. They are:

    home - our story - junto - the next edge - emergence collective - collaboratory - memefusion - projects - ebd tv - emergent press - patronage

    1. home

    2. our story

    3. junto

    4. the next edge

    5. emergence collective

    6. collaboratory

    7. memefusion

    8. projects

    9. ebd tv

    10. emergent press

    11. patronage



    1. Home:


    From 'emergent by design' to EBD


    'unfolding a 21st century renaissance'
    *** intentcast: logo design

    This could be just be a custom font of the 3 letters 'EBD', or could be accompanied by a logo image. I like stuff that conveys evolutionary development, universal patterns, emergence, complex systems, awakening, enlightenment, liberation. Also want to retain some personal association with brand that would embody words like vulnerable, strong, feminine, sexy, playful, serious, wise, paradox.

    Resource: Here's my preliminary EBD logo inspiration imagery. (I'm finding pinterest to be a cool tool for creating vision boards!)

    Current wordpress theme choice: magazine by organic themes


    *** intentcast: migration from to, and all associated customizations


    2. Our Story - culture and practice



    Enlighten, Empower, Support



    Connective intelligence. Follow your bliss. Creative Economy 3.0.

    — or more specifically —

    Building culture and communities of practice in service of collaboration, continuous learning, and mutual improvement. Connecting unmet needs with unused resources. Providing creative entrepreneurs the tools and ongoing support to bootstrap their ventures from inception to maturity, so they can have a sustainable impact on systems and culture.


    Who is our community?

    A global network of systems innovators, cultural bootstrappers, reality hackers, and builders of the commons. We realize our goals through self-organization, and working with innovative and generative models of learning, governance, enterprise, ownership, investment, collaboration, leadership and change.


    How the community formed?

    Born of the yearning to grow together as people and build our culture through doing while learning.


    Shifts we're observing:

    - scarcity to abundance

    - transactional to relational

    - finite to infinite value

    - possession to stewardship


    Culture we cultivate (via k kelly):

    •  Mutual appreciation — Risky moves are applauded by the group, subtlety is appreciated, and friendly competition goads the shy. Scenius can be thought of as the best of peer pressure.

    •  Rapid exchange of tools and techniques — As soon as something is invented, it is flaunted and then shared. Ideas flow quickly because they are flowing inside a common language and sensibility.

    •  Network effects of success — When a record is broken, a hit happens, or breakthrough erupts, the success is claimed by the entire scene. This empowers the scene to further success.

     Local tolerance for the novelties — The local "outside" does not push back too hard against the transgressions of the scene. The renegades and mavericks are protected by this buffer zone.


    Some principles and values:

    We are intelligent and empathic humans of high integrity, equipped with an action and growth oriented mindset.

    Together we determine problems we wish to solve and form flexible organizational patterns to achieve desired solutions.

    We value independent thinking, radical openness, and diverse perspectives.

    We pursue our initiatives with enlightened self-interest, aware that by acting to further the interests of others, we ultimately serve ourselves.

    We embody practices for continuous learning, mutual improvement and social transformation.

    We seek solutions that exude simplicity, beauty, and elegance, by design.

    We strive to live in harmony and balance with the physical environment that nurtures us.

    We are Wave Riders.

    We are Lightworkers.

    We are Spirit Lovers.

    We are cultural creatives.
    We are Polytopians and Knowmads in hyperconnectivity.

    We are Players of Infinite Games.


    Our practice:
    We come together in a spirit of appreciative inquiry, and rather than focusing on problems and challenges we need to fix, we instead build a shared vision for a future we can rally around, identify the strengths we currently have that can serve that vision, and implement strategies and take actions that pull us towards it, now.

    3. Junto

    “a club for mutual improvement”

    This is how Ben Franklin described junto. I wrote a lot about this in ‘10, and didn’t follow through with implementing the practice I was describing. I’ve now committed to at least a once a month public online Junto as part of my 2012 goals and aspirations.

    This practice stimulates my learning experience by having me engage with a curated group of people in generative dialogue, and hopefully entertains and educates the public by livestreaming the process.

    Once we get the hang of this, if it proves to be valued and desired by the public, we can charge for tiered levels of engagement. Attendees can pay more to have the ability to ask questions during the session, less to just observe the conversation.

    Revenue share: revenues are split among the 4 participants. (juntos will have 4 people. me as curator, and 3 diverse perspectives on a topic area)

    ***intentcast: participants and desired topic ideas
    Add yourself or your requests on the junto piratepad

    We’ll use google hangouts and buzzumi, both free.

    ***intentcast: calendar/programming schedule

    Need to show when upcoming juntos are happening, and on what topic area. There are a bunch of people in our community already engaging in this practice, so it would be excellent to have a shared database/programming schedule where everyone can submit their juntos.
    Like gphangouts, but for this specific community of practice.


    4. The Next Edge

    “a virtual think tank of forward-focused terrestrials monitoring the horizon and visioning beyond it”

    This is an invitation-only group David Hodgson and I started early last year on Facebook to gather the change agents. Now there’s over 1,500 members! I just wanna give props to this bubbling cauldron of activity by displaying a page with links to all the distributed places where Next Edgers are curating content on the web.


    ***intentcast: a custom community platform.

    We’re using Atlassian Confluence for the Collaboratory. Here’s an article about Confluence as an enterprise Facebook, for a shorter term solution.


    5. Emergence Collective

    “a community of collaborators: individuals, businesses, organizations in ethical alignment and coherence”

    ***intentcast: mentorship program

    We’re creating a mentorship program where we can assist each other through a learning process around writing, research, community development, and tribal leadership.
    We’ve been discussing this with the metaphor of Apprentice / Journeyman / Master

    Apprentices are budding community leaders who need to learn how to communicate clearly, build effective teams, and provide ongoing guidance and vision. They’ll work with me and others in the community, co-writing posts and receiving peer mentorship and support.

    Journeymen have made it through apprenticeship and are now working on fleshing out a project in the idea incubator. When they’re ready, they’ll present it to a Master, who will help them form a development team and launch their project.

    Masters are master craftsmen in their fields - hackers, scientists, philosophers, artists, makers, designers, writers, filmmakers, storytellers.

    We create a scaffolded learning system based on a cascading series of mentor-protégé relationships.

    (I think this is the future of education, btw)

    If you’d like to be either a mentor or protégé, email me your intention and I’ll get back to you when we put together an application form. emergentbydesign at gmail dot com

    ***intentcast: community blog + project area + crowdfunding mechanism + intentcast + next-gen profile

    I’d like a community blog for the Emergence Collective, with a curated area to showcase projects in development. I’d like to display the projects on cards, and have non-time-based donation buttons on them. The cards will also display “next-gen” superhero profiles, which show people’s heartsongs, vision boards, playlists, roles & personas, strengths, and intents for accelerating their projects.

    Problem this solves:

    Most projects I love have unattractive websites with poor navigation and interface, because the people behind them are busy doing the WORK, not on promoting themselves. And budgets are always an issue. This proposal would alleviate that issue. They still have their own websites of course, but the way it’s presented on this site will hopefully inspire people to support them in some capacity. This is also a learning opportunity in self-discovery, and understanding how to clarify goals and intentions and asking for what you need.

    We could just use buddypress, but I am more inspired to see if folkert gorter, who designed spacecollective, would create a similar looking site with the functionality I specified. The domain would point to

    (I think spacecollective is the most aesthetically pleasing site currently on the web. I always imagined to be the action-oriented branch of the philosophical-oriented

    ***intentcast: editorial team. Apprentices, Journeymen, Masters

    6. Collaboratory
    “systems intelligence & innovation design lab + global foresight commons (a Wikipedia for Getting *Shift* Done)”

    This is our backroom playspace. Think of it like the artisan’s workshop. If you become a patron of the creative process, you get access to the inner workings. Blog posts still being baked in co-creation, book drafts you can offer feedback to, and access to a weekly newsletter (“Thought Architecture”) which is essentially personal musings by me about the creative economy, leadership, innovation, and the joys and struggles of my existence.

    Fascinating, i know. ;)

    This is also where the private community (the Emergence Collective) works on stuff together. You can check out the status of projects, see new projects/business ventures forming in the incubator, and see the bleeding edge tech and innovation research we’re conducting. Check out sketches and UI mockups that the design team are working on. Peruse the code projects by the Hackademy, our hacker guild.

    The Global Foresight Commons is a wiki library of tools, techniques, methodologies, and practices for accelerating The Big Shift. I’ve been building this out with a group for about a month now and plan to open it to the public when it’s ready so all can benefit from the resource.

    Also building out an API & IP Commons with the hacker teams in our community. They’ll be able to share code and give visibility to each others’ projects so they can accelerate their initiatives. We favor open source, but all are welcome.

    The Collaboratory is essentially an engine of co-creation combined with a Commons. You bring in your community of practice, set up shop in your own ‘global space’ area, and set permissions for what is visible, shareable, or private.

    The metaphor we’ve been using to conceptualize it is Storefront / Cafe / Backroom.

    This is like the Macy’s window from the street. It’s your showcase of the “best of” what’s inside. Public-facing view of your projects and ventures.


    This is your shop. Just like stores have rules to enter (“no shirt, no shoes, no service), there are permissions to be granted to enter the shop. (ie - referral via trust network, sign NDA, whatever terms you set. it’s your space.)


    This is the creator’s workshop. Deepest level of access permissions. Maybe it’s just your core team and your workflow management. Maybe it’s where you invite potential collaborators or investors to check out your big picture vision. It might be a bit chaotic, but it’s where the magic happens.

    ***intentcast: participants who want to play. we have 25 so far.

    ***intentcast: someone who can install SQL and Confluence when we go self-hosted.

    ***intentcast: WikiGardeners & Curators for the GetShiftDoneipedia.

    ***intentcast: Sherpas and Guides to be welcoming party give orientation for n00bs in the Collaboratory.

    Also looking for co-creators for white papers & research about organizational transition that we can offer to companies to help them ride the edge.

    We have one community member, Bernd Nurnberger, who is currently paying monthly for our hosted license for 25 user accounts. If we each just pitch in $5/month, the cost is distributed, and we essentially “co-own” our collaboration infrastructure. with scale, the price drops.

    ***intentcast: free Atlassian license. Much of what we’re doing qualifies as an open source project

    Another thing we’re experimenting with is dynamic team formation and developing methods to evaluate and strengthen human infrastructure. This emerged from my thoughts about a strengths-based society. To that end, we’ve created a partnership with The Gabriel Institute and they are providing us with role-based assessments, which provide measures of Coherent Human Infrastructure indicators. Learn more about the roles in an innovation team.

    Taking the assessment and sharing your role is a prerequisite to participating in the Collaboratory.

    If you’d like to join the ‘tory, you can request access here :)


    7. MemeFusion
    “invitation-only in person fusion events

    These are gatherings of change agents to mindmeld. We look for aligned “wise money” corporate patrons to sponsor our events. In exchange, they join us not as attendees, but as participants in this multi-day “unpacking” process. We let down our guards, go through a facilitated process of healing, personal growth, and group intelligence building, then watch ideas have sex. Our community demonstrates creativity and innovation and we infuse ourselves with new inspiration, corporate goes home with new ideas for organizational transformation with an eye on the horizon, and all learn and grow together. win-win.

    ***intentcast: idyllic locations where we can host these events

    ***intentcast: facilitators and corporate shamans who can help guide these events

    **intentcast: corporate patrons

    8. Projects
    Stuff I’m personally working on.

    Probably local initiatives here in Beacon, NY, or regionally in the eastern corridor from NY to Montreal.

    **intentcast: project based, but would be great to have a few local Beaconites to team with on things.

    9. EBD TV

    Weekly video show about cool stuff happening on the edge

    I had this concept for “Metathink Mondays” a while back, a regularly scheduled Junto type event/show where we collectively chew on whatever is interesting at the beginning of that week. Could also evolve to include user-submitted videos, or simply be an events calendar / programming schedule of others within the network who are doing regularly scheduled content creation. (ie - Jerry Michalski with his weekly Yi Tan: Conversations About Change call he’s been doing for the past decade or so like clockwork.)

    ***intentcast: participants and topic suggestions
    Add yourself or your requests on the junto piratepad

    ***intentcast: production team. Apprentices, Journeymen and Masters.

    10. Emergent Press
    Boutique publishing house

    And what’s the fun of all this if we’re not publishing!? For $99 you can get an ISBN number, and boom, you’re a press. We can co-create ebooks, merch, card decks, reports, new methodologies, and so forth. Revenue sharing for those that want to play.

    ***intentcast: logo design, proposed book projects to co-create (i have a few already in the hopper)

    ***intentcast: communications team. Apprentices, Journeymen, Masters


    11. Patronage

    At the end of the day, I’m a free agent and a creative entrepreneur. This historically does not pay well.

    Hence the “unfolding of a 21st century renaissance.”

    Patronage supports the creative process in 2 ways:

    1. Fueling the Infrastructure

    It’s relatively lightweight in terms of not needing extra overhead in meatspace, but there are costs associated with making this all work. Internet connection, cell phone, hosting, site maintenance and support, licenses, storage accounts, paying designers/illustrators/filmmakers/editors/apprentices, travel, accounting, administration, legal and advisory.

    ***intentcast: patrons

    ***intentcast: administrative team. operational help with bookkeeping, mailing lists, newsletters, site maintenance.

    Also, self-care is needed. Doing The Work is an intense and exhausting process, however rewarding it may be. For me that means healthy food, yoga, meditation retreats, massage, convening with nature, and whatever else I feel I need to keep the muse with me.

    2. Pay it Forward Fund

    Another idea I thought about back in ‘10. Basically choosing people we want to support in their own personal evolutionary development process and gifting them a portion of revenues so they can bootstrap and empower themselves. Maybe this means helping a writer friend afford that poetry workshop she’s been wanting to do, or helping a craftsman friend afford that piece of equipment he needs to launch his custom-built furniture from reclaimed wood business, or helping the new Korean restaurant in town develop a decent logo and web presence to help them gain visibility and not go out of business. (all real use cases).

    Bring it all together, and we have an integrated, holistic living systems organization that generates and distributes value for all.

    So that’s the big picture.


    An EdgeNetwork business model to bootstrap a co-creative economy.

    There are lots of us out there who are community hubs. We have overlapping edges, but also independent networks. For instance:

    - Jerry Michalski has a REXpedition EdgeNetwork

    - Jean Russell has a Thrivable EdgeNetwork

    - David Hodgson has a We are Connective EdgeNetwork

    - Flemming Funch has a Ming EdgeNetwork

    - Seb Paquet has an Emergent Cities EdgeNetwork

    - John Hagel has an Edge Perspectives EdgeNetwork

    - Andrea Kuszewski has A Rougue Neuron EdgeNetwork

    - Stowe Boyd’s got a Liquid City EdgeNetwork

    - David Hood has a Doing Something Good EdgeNetwork

    - Drew Little has a Producia EdgeNetwork

    - Alex Bogusky has a COMMON EdgeNetwork

    - Seth Godin has a Triiibes EdgeNetwork

    And so on.

    I think this model can work for many of us, allowing us to nurture our communities, while also sharing resources and collaborating on things when in alignment and coherence.

    If we all build out functional living systems organizations, then overlay them with a connective intelligence communications and awareness infrastructure, we can be a force for positive good and transform the world.

    What do we have to lose?


    After all....


    We’re all in this together.





    Blueprints for Networked CoCreation: 1. Intentcasting

    Intention Broadcasting

    How to open up personal future horizon?
    inspirational manifestos & visions:

    A Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web
    Holstee Manifesto
    The Done Manifesto
    Social Architecture (a manifesto)
    Dreamfish Humanifesto
    Chaordic Commons
    The Evolutionary Manifesto
    Internet Values Drive Org Design
    Manifesto for Agile Software Development
    A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace
    Manifesto Prospectus Omniscious Commodum
    The Manifesto of the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn
    Principles of Cumbre Yah
    Occupy’s Vision Statement
    The Balsamiq Mockups Manifesto
    The Earth Charter Initiative
    The Multitude Manifesto
    A Life Manifesto
    Rules of a Creator’s Life

    other references:

    we are connective
    Polytopia Project
    Everything is a service - DachisGroup
    Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design
    A Proposal for a New Internet-Drive, Free-Enterprise System
    How the Next Generation Diaspora* Should Be Built to Help High-Risk Activists
    We’re Hiring - Here’s How We Do It
    Ecosystems Collaborate using Shared Language - NSTIC
    The Colleague Letter of Understanding: Replacing Jobs with Commitments
    The Blueprint of We
    iDea Framework, a practical guide to revolute Innovation
    Getting There from Here: A Flight to Simplicity (slideshare)
    How the Founder Institute has Launched 415 #Startups in just 2.5 Years [#Infographic] The maker movement's potential for education, jobs and innovation is growing
    Presencing Institute
    solidarity economy (image)
    From social intranets to collaboration ecosystems
    Bullshit and the Art of Crap-Detection
    Designing a Culture of Collaboration
    Mastering Organizational Knowledge Flow
    The strategy of Constant Change
    The Pattern Language
    Institute for Collective Intelligence
    enlightened structure
    Free Network Foundation
    Shell Gamechangers
    Darwin’s Marketing Evolution

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    Yesterday Stowe Boyd wrote a commentary (Getting to Trust: Better Swift than Deep) in response to my post about trust and collaboration, saying that the way of the future is connectives, not collectives; cooperation, not collaboration.

    He goes on to recommend assembling ourselves with swift trust, align professionally around a common goal/vision/alignment, get short-term projects done, and then disband and move on, verse trying to establish deep trust, which is a much stickier, longer and more political process.

    I just want to clarify what it is we’re experimenting with, as Stowe hasn’t been the only person lately who misinterpreted it as attempting to form some kind of unified hivemind.

    What it’s not:

    A cult.

    A sacrifice of self-interest.

    A borg.

    What it is:

    A collaboratory. (a “center without walls”)

    A choice.

    A surrender of attachment to ego. (healthy ego = good. being full of yourself = not so productive)

    A scenius.

    (I brought this Brian Eno quote up a few posts ago, but I'll reiterate):
    Scenius stands for the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene. It is the communal form of the concept of the genius.

    Individuals immersed in a productive scenes will blossom and produce their best work. When buoyed by scenes, you act like genius. Your like-minded peers, and the entire environment inspire you.

    The geography of a scenes is nurtured by several factors:

    • Mutual appreciation — Risky moves are applauded by the group, subtlety is appreciated, and friendly competition goads the shy. Scenius can be thought of as the best of peer pressure.

    • Rapid exchange of tools and techniques — As soon as something is invented, it is flaunted and then shared. Ideas flow quickly because they are flowing inside a common language and sensibility.

    • Network effects of success — When a record is broken, a hit happens, or breakthrough erupts, the success is claimed by the entire scene. This empowers the scene to further success. (Collective Epic Wins!)

    • Local tolerance for the novelties — The local "outside" does not push back too hard against the transgressions of the scene. The renegades and mavericks are protected by this buffer zone.

    So, this is really about culture building.

    Just like on this blog, where I attempt to host a creative learning environment, where it's 'safe' to be vulnerable and express your opinion and engage in generative dialogue, the idea of the collaboratory is a creative learn/make/do environment as well. (I want to make this happen in an online environment, which we’re doing now using enterprise collaboration software, Confluence Atlassian.)

    Its mission statement might be something like:

    To provide creative entrepreneurs and business owners the tools and ongoing support to bootstrap their ventures from inception to maturity, so they can have a continuous positive impact on systems and culture.

    I also want to make this happen in my local physical environment, via the Beacon Collaboratory.)

    And there are two principles I think are really important to put out there that so that the environment continues to be flexible, fluid, and adaptive, instead of rigid, homogenized, or prone to 'groupthink,' and these are human agency & enlightened self-interest.

    Human Agency

    Somehow I never came across the word "agency" until grad school a few years ago, but I think it's a critical concept for contextualizing growth, empowerment and manifesting your intentions.
    "Agency is the capacity of an agent (a person or other entity) to act in a world. Human agency is the capacity for human beings to make choices and to impose those choices on the world."

    My interpretation is simply that human beings each have the capacity to make choices and decisions. I'm tempted to go so far as to say we have a responsibility to do so, but then my spiritual training would tell me that we are each on our own path and it's not my place to determine the moral obligations of others.

    A lot of what I discovered in my social theory education enlightened me about the degree to which we are programmed by our environments, culture, and institutions, and especially by the media. I believe we are generally trained to do what we're told and to not do too much thinking for ourselves. That would be the suppression of agency. I find it dangerous to mindlessly take actions without deeply questioning one’s internal navigation system, and asking oneself if it makes sense or contributes to happiness or well-being.

    So becoming consciously aware of oneself and one’s deep values and beliefs help to provide an internal compass towards agency, verse following an externally mandated one. Having the capacity to make your own decisions and choices.

    Enlightened Self-Interest

    Whereas agency frames the capacity to act, enlightened self-interest frames the rationale of its implementation.
    Enlightened self-interest is a philosophy in ethics which states that persons who act to further the interests of others (or the interests of the group or groups to which they belong), ultimately serve their own self-interest.

    Another way to say this is “do well by doing good.”

    Another way to say it is “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

    And yet another way to say it could be “helping each other help ourselves.”

    My interpretation of this phrase is that we still retain our individual expression, we still build our own “brands” and communities, we still create our own customized versions of products and services.

    BUT, we do so in a way that is mindful and pie-expanding, not exploitative or creating false scarcity.  The idea is that we can create value and wealth for the world, which ultimately serves ourselves, because we live in the world.

    If a business is created that links a local food supply chain from farm to table, everybody wins - the farms, the food co-ops and grocery stores, and the people who are able to purchase locally grown organic food.

    If a business incubation and mentorship project is launched, everybody wins - the businesses owners who are sharing their wisdom, the budding entrepreneurs who are going to grow the economy, the community/customers that are going to have new ways of being served, and the city that can be proud of the ways they are demonstrating resilience.

    The examples can go on and on, but this is essentially the vision I am actively working towards.

    I believe in a social and economic future that is convivial, vibrant, thriving, and life-enhancing for all. We live with passion, manifest our dreams, and don’t cause suffering to others in the process. We engage in a process of continuous learning and mutual improvement. We have fun playing infinite games while still getting shit done. We are alive.

    The future is now.

    So giddyup.

    Wed, Jan 11, 2012  Permanent link
    Categories: economy philosophy being
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    This is part 6 in a 12 part series. The first five skills were Pattern Recognition, Environmental Scanning, Network Weaving, Foresight, and Conscious Awareness.

    :: storytelling ::

    The following video by Jonah Sachs, creative director at Free Range Studios has prompted me to get back to completing the next installment in this Essential Skills series. He does a beautiful job revealing the secrets of effective and high-impact storytelling.

    Jonah Sachs at Compostmodern '11 from AIGA San Francisco on Vimeo.

    One of the concepts Jonah presents is that of a “myth gap.” He defines ‘myth’ as the combination of Explanation + Meaning + Story. Historically, myths are the vehicles of culture. They provide a context and framework for the world, hopefully imparting wisdom, insight and guidance as to how we should live our lives. (ie - myth of Genesis). But sometimes, society falls in a myth gap.

    Like now.

    Another way of saying this is that the cultural narrative is broken.

    Most of us are acutely aware of this current state of affairs, especially in the broader context of systemic change. We see that our institutions (education, finance, politics, economy) are not equipped to serve us any longer, and we’re clawing around for a story (or stories) to describe the “new way of doing things” that can be agreed upon by society so we can move forward.

    As Jonah notes in the video, it’s marketers and designers who are closing this myth gap and infusing our culture with the new stories we can choose about how to live our lives and exist in the world. It’s a powerful message, and one that seems pretty accurate to me.

    People are disillusioned and lacking trust, and a new story infused with simplicity, aesthetics, beauty and grace will go far. I think many of us are looking for something resonant to believe in and stand behind, something that is in alignment with our deep desires, passions, values and principles.

    So what are some stories shaping culture today?

    Well here’s a few that I’ve been listening to and weaving into the architecture of my own mind:

    • Makers, hackers, prosumers, and cultural creatives are the driving force of the new economy.

    • It makes practical sense to support local economies, buy food that's grown regionally when possible, and build resilience by creating infrastructures designed to weather uncertainty.

    • The "future of money" is about cooperation over competition. We’re llearning how to intelligently share resources, build value together, and display integrity in thought, word and action - which is then reflected in a boost of social currencies like reputation, influence, trust, authority, and access to opportunities.

    • Mindless consumption is uninspiring, and ultimately a distraction from engaging in the types of behavior that actually lead to sustained happiness. These include: spending time with people we love, having goals and actively working towards accomplishing them, and cultivating gratitude daily for having the opportunity to experience Life.

    These are just a few narratives that keep me inspired and motivated these days.

    What stories are guiding you towards a more meaningful future?

    In today’s polarized and fractured narrative landscape, the winners are those who can get above the noise and weave new mythologies that act as a beacon of light for the path ahead. As a wise man once said:
    Those who tell the stories rule society. ~ Plato

    Below are a few resources to help you on your journey to becoming better storytellers and mythmakers.

    Stay tuned for the next installment. In the meantime, you can follow my musings on twitter @venessamiemis.
    “A concept is a brick. It can be used to build the courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window.”

    Brian Massumi - Introduction to A Thousand Plateaus

    some storytellers i like:

    - Notthisbody
    - KS12
    - Compathos
    - Coalition of the Willing
    - Cowbird
    - Epipheo Studios
    - Workbood Project
    - Motherlode

    a few storytelling curators on twitter worth checking out:

    @AStoriedCareer -


    The Hero with a Thousand Faces - Joseph Campbell on comparative mythology
    slide:ology - the art and science of creating great presentations
    Resonate - present visual stories that transform audiences

    further resources:

    Center for Digital Storytelling
    7 Tips for Storytelling
    Digital Storytelling: A Tutorial in 10 Easy Steps
    The 17 Stages of Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth - infographic
    Storytelling for Knowledge Management in Projects - slideshare
    Influence through Storytelling - slideshare
    The Social Life of Visualization: Part 1
    Transmedia Storytelling - wikipedia
    Story-Based Communication Skills - on scribd by makingstories
    With Clarity and Beauty, the Weight of Authority - NYTimes
    The Pull of Narrative - In Search of Persistent Context - john hagel
    Lost in Translation - language profoundly influences the way people see the world
    The Future of Social Networks is Storytelling
    The Hero’s Journey - video on big think

    header image via

    jonah sachs video via @mgusek555

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    This is part 5 in a 12 part series.

    :: conscious awareness ::

    A recent article in the New York Times, Building One Big Brain,  prompted me to write up the next skill in this 12 part series. The piece quotes Nicholas Carr’s opinions about how the Internet is reducing the “capacity for concentration and contemplation,” scattering our attention and reducing our ability to focus.

    It goes on to posit that “technology is weaving humans into electronic webs that resemble big brains.” (It’s nice to see this concept going mainstream... we talked about that idea here last November in the ‘Twitter’s Intelligent, Welcome to Web 3.0" post ). The next stage in the line of thinking is that this process is part of our species evolution:

    Could it be that, in some sense, the point of evolution - both the biological evolution that created an intelligent species and the technological evolution that a sufficiently intelligent species is bound to unleash - has been to create these social brains, and maybe even to weave them into a giant, loosely organized planetary brain? Kind of in the way that the point of the maturation of an organism is to create an adult organism?

    The article didn’t treat the evolution of technology as something that was going to happen outside of us, such as a machine intelligence that will outpace us, as the technological singularity implies. (which may also happen, though). Rather, it suggests something more akin to a process of evolutionary development, in which interconnectivity and cooperation will indicate a move towards higher intelligence. The ideas reminded me of the work being done by John Stewart and the Evolution, Complexity and Cognition Research Group on intentional evolution. Check his Evolutionary Manifesto.

    As someone who spends much of my time online, both of the premises of the article - decreased focused attention and increased potential for a distributed consciousness - do resonate. But, I do wonder if an intelligent planetary brain is going to emerge without some intention and conscious awareness on our part.

    Call it Presence, the Buddhist concept of Mindfulness, or a version of meditation, but I see this increase in hyperconnectivity forcing us to adopt some type of mental practices in order to be highly functioning and effective humans. While the Web is a tool that does allow us to extend our minds, our identities, and our worldviews, it can also be a trap that sucks us in to compulsive behaviors that can be practically incapacitating. I experience it myself - trying to read every semi-interesting thing that is emailed to me, scouring Twitter for that must-read article that’s going to really matter, or chatting and ideating with friends nonstop. At some point you step back and realize you’re operating in a reactionary state most of the time, attempting the impossible task of “keeping up” with the information flow or chasing after every tangent.

    Where is our practice that reminds us to reassess the situation, recontextualize, and be present and aware of our thoughts and actions?

    A globally interconnected network of scattered thoughts doesn’t sound intelligent - it sounds chaotic. Both on and off the web, if we allow ourselves to be pulled around by every distracting force around us, do we really think we’re going to magically evolve? And what do we mean by evolution? Just being connected doesn’t guarantee growth. If we aspire to move up the ladder of consciousness to higher ideals like self-reflectivity, cooperation, compassion, and empathy, will it not require some intentional awareness?

    We’ve seen the studies that meditation/mindfulness boosts attention span as well as mood and mental toughness. But it also makes us think a little bit about the role of the self and how that relates to the other - about what we are, why we think what we think, how our thoughts and behaviors are influenced by our minds and our environments, how to tap into deeper intuition and clarity, how to filter through the noise to get to what matters, and how to even decide what matters when our consciousness is expanded to be inclusive of the whole of humanity.

    Sure, the world is fast and complex, but it seems that much of what distracts us is due to our own inability to ground ourselves and choose to turn our attention to what we truly value. The system is set up so that it’s all too easy to be on auto-pilot, going through motions without needing to be consciously aware. But we may not have that luxury for much longer. It’s interesting that was once considered an exclusively Eastern practice or a New Age fad may very well prove to be an essential skill for survival and sanity, thanks to the strain imposed by our technological advancements.
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    [This is part 4 in a 12 part series. The topics covered so far are Pattern Recognition, Environmental Scanning, and Network Weaving.]


    The ability to develop foresight is a cornerstone for forward thinking individuals and change agents. I can say that on the personal level in my own life, when I did not have a clearly defined goal or vision of what I wanted or where I was going, I floundered. My ability to "see" potential opportunities or pitfalls was clouded, and I fell into a rut or holding pattern in life. Then, when those wild cards and "black swan events" did occur, I was completely blindsided and unprepared to handle them. I think this applies at the individual as well as the organizational level.

    So what exactly is foresight? Here are a few definitions from the wikipedia page on Foresight (Futures Studies):

    - critical thinking concerning long term development
    - debate and effort to create wider participatory democracy
    - shaping the future, especially by influencing public policy

    These components can also be restated as follows:

    - futures (forecasting, forward thinking, perspectives)
    - planning (strategic analysis, priority setting
    - networking (participatory, dialogic) tools and orientations

    Essentially, foresight the ability to see "the long view;" to look at information from the past and present, extract the patterns and lessons, and use them to inform decision-making in order to impact the direction things go into the future. There are a range of tools for foresight, the most common being: environmental scanning, trend analysis, brainstorming, modeling, gaming, visioning, and scenario development. Scanning was already covered earlier in this series, so here is a brief overview of the others.

    Trend Analysis

    In order to have an idea of what the future may hold, it helps to be aware of the current driving forces underway. Though there are several ways to categorize overarching trends, a useful reminder is the acronym "STEEP" - Social, Technological, Environmental, Economic, and Political. These categories can then be broken down into subcategories. (i.e. "Social" could be viewed at the levels of culture, organization, and personal). Once the trend is identified, we can look at both their causes and impacts. Also, since events and ideas do not exist in isolation, it is useful to think about the implications of trends across several or all of these areas. For instance, a rise in life expectancy might be caused by rising living standards, better medical treatments, and healthier environments. The corresponding impacts of this trend may be that a longer portion of a person's life is spent in retirement, and so there will be an increasing demand in goods and services for the elderly, and perhaps a bigger financial strain on families to care for aging parents or grandparents.


    This is a favorite of mine, and I spend a portion of every day thinking of new ways to think about things. One of the features of building intelligence, some would say, is about being able to expand your context, see things through multiple lenses, and switch perspectives quickly and with fluidity. Being able to wear these different "hats" when thinking about problems is helpful for me to generate new ideas. Mapping out ideas and people also helps me to see "the big picture," and think of new ways of combining information or aligning people. For instance, mindmapping software like Mindmeister or Compendium are useful online tools for creating a visual aid in problem solving. (paper or a whiteboard also work).

    To show a personal example, I started putting together a map of my twitter connections a while back so that I could be more effective at network weaving. It made it easier for me to build bridges between people, and get exposed to interesting ideas that I could integrate and build upon. Map here.  The next major map we're working on is a visual description of the components of the platform/environment that are necessary so Junto can exist and evolve.


    Designers and architects are familiar with the use of physical models to help people visualize future structures or products. As thinkers and philosophers envisioning our cooperative, technological future, we also create mental models to represent what this "thing" that we're all talking about might look like. Call it fantasizing, engaging in a thought experiment, or running a simulation, we are able to think about potentials once we have constructed a model within which we can apply our theories.


    Called serious games or serious play when used in this way, gaming is a powerful way to simulate potential realities. The military uses them for training, and there are many projects going on to encourage people to take action and change the world, like Urgent Evoke. Players are able to role-play and simulate how they would respond in situations, interact with others, and create positive solutions in a group environment. The idea is to create cohesion and acceptable decisions that best serve the community. And then actually make it happen.


    From what I've experienced, clarifying a vision is one of the most powerful mechanisms for engaging an organization or community and getting them excited to unite. Each of the posts on this blog in some way is clarifying my own vision for the future, both my personal future and a greater future I would like to see for humanity. Creating a clear vision is a precursor to goal setting and planning, and as I see it, a key to mobilizing people. There is a nice guideline in the book Futuring that breaks down the process of "Preferred Futuring" into these eight tasks:

    1. Review the organization's common history to create a shared appreciation.
    2. Identify what's working and what's not. Brainstorm and list "prouds" and "sorries."
    3. Identify underlying values and beliefs, and discuss which ones to keep and which to abandon.
    4. Identify relevant events, developments, and trends that may have an impact on moving to a preferred future.
    5. Create a preferred future vision that is clear, detailed, and commonly understood. All participants, or at least a critical mass, should feel a sense of investment or ownership in the vision.
    6. Translate future visions into action goals.
    7. Plan for action: Build in specific planned steps with accountabilities identified.
    8. Create a structure for implementing the plan, with midcourse corrections, celebrations, and publicizing of successes.

    And of course, it's not about creating MY vision, but about creating a SHARED vision. So many of us are talking about creating a better future. But what does it look like? Have we defined it? Have we described it? Who are we within it? What does society look like? What does currency look like? What does interaction look like? I see so many people working on aspects of it, but how do we link these ideas together to create a clearer picture of this shared vision?

    If we can see it, we can build it.

    Scenario Development

    This is where the power of the narrative comes in. Throughout human history, we are defined by the stories we tell each other and ourselves. We create meaning and understanding by the way we remember our stories, like personal cargo that we carry in our minds. When thinking about the future, whether it's the future of society, the organization, or the self, developing a series of scenarios allows you to objectively deal with uncertainty and imagine plausible costs and benefits to various actions and their consequences. It is often suggested to create at least three scenarios when considering future events or situations involving decision-making, by identifying futures that are possible, probable, and preferable. Again from the Futuring book, here five sample scenarios are suggested:

    1. A Surprise-Free Scenario: Things will continue much as they are now. They won't become substantially better or worse.
    2. An Optimistic Scenario: Things will go considerably better than in the recent past.
    3. A Pessimistic Scenario: Something will go considerably worse than in the past.
    4. A Disaster Scenario: Things will go terribly wrong, and our situation will be far worse than anything we have previously experienced.
    5. A Transformation Scenario: Something spectacularly marvelous happens - something we never dared to expect.

    So once the story has been written that describes what each of these scenarios looks like, the conversation can begin. What is the likelihood of each of these? What is the desirability? What are the correlating values of the people? What actions can be taken today to steer the ship and influence the events that will create or avoid these various scenarios?

    Other elements of scenario development include forecasting and backcasting. While forecasting starts in the present and projects forward into the future, backcasting starts with a future goal or event and works it's way back to the present. In this method, the sequence of events or steps that led to that goal are imagined and defined, so that a roadmap to that desirable future is created.

    Become a Fearless Futurist

    So this is a brief overview of foresight and "futures thinking." There are many many resources to learn more about these thinking tools, and I hope your interest is piqued and you keep exploring!

    Here's a few places to start:

    Foresight Education and Research Network
    Acceleration Studies Foundation
    World Future Society
    World Future Studies Federation
    Global Foresight
    Future-focused blogs


    image designed by gavin keech

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    I put a short post up a few days ago in an online group I’m in, with the above image and this brief description:
    superhero school. center for disruptive innovation. continuous learning zone. collective intelligence. live/work startup incubator. community center. hackerspace. makerlab. autonomous zone. permaculture and sustainable food production. cooperatively owned communications infrastructure. resilience. r&d lab. a place for creative troublemakers. hudson valley. i want this to exist.

    It blew up to over 100 comments in less than 48 hours, with many people sharing their own thoughts and plans and existing initiatives to create similar things in their areas. I was inspired! Is this an idea whose time has come?

    If you take a look around the world right now, you will see that this is already happening. Everywhere. You can see it in the themes of the ‘sharing economy’ ‘collaborative consumption,’ and the maker movement; in physical locations like hackerspaces, fab labs, and co-creation spaces. We see it in chaordinated events, in barcamps, innovation camps, unconferences, workshops, and maker faires.

    It is happening in a new blendings of continuous learning/education/entrepreneurship - check out the KaosPilots in Denmark, the Unreasonable Institute in Colorado, Maison Notman in Montreal, Blackbox in Silicon Valley, General Assembly in New York City, the Knowmads in the Netherlands, West Lexham in London, Team Academy in Finland, and the Hubs across 5 continents and 26 cities.

    For strategies in environmental sustainability, local resilience, and self-reliant living, look to the Mycelium School, Friends of Gaviotas in South America, Gaia University, the Center for Alternative Technology in Wales, the Eden Project in Cornwall, and Schumacher College in South Devon.

    For full-on experiments in intentional living, look to Damanhur in Italy, Findhorn Foundation in Scotland, Twin Oaks in Virginia, Tamera in Portugal, the kibbutzim in Isreal, or live/work artists’ spaces like AS220 in Rhode Island. Current ideas to launch such initiatives are floating in the noosphere as well - look to Lion Kimbro’s “The Plan,” or the “House of Rethinking” by Until We See New Land.

    All of these examples inspire me to believe that we are reaching the tipping point, where we’ll accelerate the construction and deployment of these epicenters for disruptive innovation, creativity, imagination, healing, and Becoming. Gathering together and creating the world we want to live in.  Getting linked. Now.

    The particular location pictured above which has captured my imagination is right here in Beacon, NY, an estate vacant for 12 years now, sitting on 63 lovely acres of property. It is less than an hour and a half train ride from NYC, and surrounded by nature, the Hudson Highlands, the Hudson River. It’s not isolated out in the desert somewhere, not a rejection of civilization, but embedded within it.

    It brought into focus for me all the conversations and theories I’ve been having in the clouds of the future, and grounded them down into something that could be a reality.

    And this is simply a location near me... but couldn’t it be in any number of places? There are a nearly limitless amount of charming, historic buildings everywhere.. sitting vacant and aching to be retrofitted for something useful.

    And there seems to be no shortage of passionate people eager to roll up their sleeves and implement these ideas on the ground, share their successes and failure, and spend time being human together.

    Could aspects of the above initiatives be rolled into a bold experiment in social evolution?

    A live/work campus with elements of a university, Plato’s Academy, an ashram and a monastery. A place to feed your mind, body and soul.

    Where people express what their humanity means to them through art, technology, music, experiential learning, sustainable practices, aesthetics, and togetherness.

    An action-orientation of prototyping, experimenting, risk-taking, rapidly iterating, and propagating what works. Incubating startups and projects. A collaboratory to bootstrap local and regional solutions to our most pressing ‘wicked problems.’

    I can see something magical forming just over the horizon, and it makes me ask:

    What will happen when these types of locations begin to integrate into a global network?

    What happens when we have real trust networks that transcend boundaries, and share the information and resources to aid us all in a higher function civilization?

    How will these globally networked creative economies interoperate and build wealth together?

    Can we open source the models so they can spread and morph as quickly as possible?

    What is the role of complementary and local currencies within these networks?

    What does it look like when we engage in commons-based peer production and build towards shared infrastructures?

    What does a balanced model look like where both individual and group interests are being served?

    How will this improve the quality of our lives and our communities?

    The world is only becoming more tumultuous and complex, and there is no one to “save us.”

    We need to cultivate superheroes and create the world we want!

    Can we build it now?

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