In 2010 I was introduced to the Berkana Institutes’s Two Loop model, and I come back to it again and again. As I’ve moved across different projects and jobs, it’s still the best way I’ve found to place myself in the system and what kind of role I’m playing. At Government Digital Service and the Co-op I was working in the dominant system trying to do the transition work. At Tech for Good Global, our whole purpose was centred around illuminating the pioneers and trying to build community so that the field grew in coherence. And a lot of the Point People’s work has been about connecting, building and nourishing networks across both systems.
It’s worth watching their short video that I’ve linked to above but I’ve also tried to sketch it out below, as I understand it.
In essence it shows a dominant system that is dying, and an emergent system that has the potential to become the system of influence. As the dominant system reaches its peak, new pioneers emerge (1), recognising that the dominant system (however impossible and far away that might seem) is beginning to decline.
It’s important that this new, emergent system is named and that the pioneers, the people and organisations building alternatives are connected together (2), and the work they are doing, illuminated.
Through this illumination and nurturing they form communities of practice (3)and grow more coherence as a field. As they do, more people and organisations join.
Illumination is also necessary to show a path for transition from the dying system to the alternative, emergent system. I also marked on here those people that create an alternative system but remain on the edges or disconnected from the main influence of the system(4). These are the people that take themselves off to build new communities, living in alternative ways, but turn their back on any responsibility for anyone else.
Of course a lot of what goes on in the dominant system is trying to crush the alternatives that are appearing in the emergent system.
It helps when there are people in the dominant system who work to protect and enable those alternatives as they emerge, whether through funding, new policies, different kinds of commissioning etc — holding the space for pioneers to do their work.
There are people that help keep the dominant system stable as it dies — this is important because there is still a lot that is dependent on that system.
Others work to help people and organisations transition from the existing, dominant system — helping make tangible how to do things in a new way and showing them what is happening in the emergent system. I always picture these people as doing hand-holding work — walking alongside organisations to cross the “transition bridge.” Some make it, others don’t.
But it’s the last role that I’m particularly interested in at the moment. The Hospice Worker role. As the dominant system starts to decline, they provide care and compassion for those that are dying and alleviate the pain.
The need to close things down, dismantle them, end things, is a natural part of change, but I don’t think we do it very well. I don’t think there is a well designed practice around it. And that’s the start of a new enquiry for me — The Farewell Fund — introduced in my next post.
The phenomenon complexity manifests in many appearances. Complex spectacles invites you to interactively meet many of them throughout a five-day immersive experience. You will be challenged to investigate the many meanings in relation to your own situations and interests. This approach asks for a profound commitment and engagement of you as a participant. Throughout this joint endeavour you will learn to look through complexity spectacles. These are glasses that aspire to broaden and enrich the way you envisage the complexity of human organising in relation to the world around and aim to help you navigate complex dilemmas in the future.
The second part of this five-day session starts from you as a person, it aims to give you a new perspective on your personal key questions. You will explore how you want to relate to the complexity of life: how to deal with wicked personal problems and how you want to be meaningful in a complex world.
Main concepts that will be addressed
What makes it unique
Call for papers to the 19th International Social Theory Consortium conference ISTC 2019 on “Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy in the 21st Century: System as the future of modern society?”
Date: 5-7 June 2019
Venue:Inter-University Center Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Paper submission: Per email to the corresponding co-organizers (*). Deadline: 15 March 2019.
The theme of this year’s conference pertains to affinities and complementarities between systems theory and critical theory for purposes of analyzing modern societies in the twenty-first century as social systems whose stability, functioning and future increasingly is in doubt. Conventionally, critical theory and systems theory have been regarded and treated as mutually exclusive treatments and modes of analyzing of societies undergoing transitions from premodern to postmodern conditions. …
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Power is the drive of human systems (nations) to individuate, that is, for the system parts – individuals and groups – to function independently of one another, to go their separate ways. And, as the parts go their separate ways, they tend to differentiate, they become more different from one another. The Power state of systems is characterized by freedom, energy, competition, variety, innovation, and growth.
Love is the drive of systems (nations) to integrate, for the parts to come together as interacting components of an integrated whole. And, as the parts come together in common effort, they tend to homogenize, developing more commonality with one another. The Love state of systems is characterized by togetherness, cooperation, uniformity, oneness of purpose.
Nations survive by developing a balance between Power and Love processes, and what differentiates one nation from another is the balance and intensity with which these processes are expressed.
Systems self-destruct when one process totally drives out the other.
Anarchy develops when Power completely drives out Love. The welfare of the parts supersedes the welfare of the system. Parts lose their commonality with one another. Competition devolves into warfare and internal struggles for survival. The system as a whole dis-integrates.
Totalitarianism develops when Love completely drives out Power. Freedom is suppressed in the service of cooperation. Difference is suppressed in the service of uniformity. Individuality, entrepreneurism, and innovation are suppressed, as is the human spirit. The systems collapses under its own weight.
Ideological struggles. Warfare develops as humans attach values to the neutral processes of Power and Love, seeing one as the good and the other as evil.
The advocates of Power champion Power as freedom and liberty, and they see Love as all that crushes freedom and liberty.
The advocates of Love champion Love as equality, community, and unity, and they see Power as all that destroys equality, community, and unity.
Both advocates are correct in one respect. Power and Love have their creative and destructive properties. Power can and has destroyed community, equality, and unity. (See the hollowed-out cities, the growing inequality, and divisiveness in the US and other western societies.) And Love can and has crushed freedom and liberty. (See the history of communist nations.)
No system is pain free. Even in balanced societies – systems of Love and Power – Power both liberates individuals and groups and it weakens and destroys community and leads to inequality and divisiveness.
And Love both creates equality and mutuality and #it suppresses freedom and independence.
So, for example, both the US and Scandinavian countries are balanced systems; Scandinavian countries are weighted more on Love, resulting in less inequality at a cost of some freedom; the US is weighted more on Power, resulting in more freedom at the cost of inequality and divisiveness.
That complexity of system life is just how it is.
Advocates tend to stress the creative aspect of Love or Power while denying or ignoring the destructive consequences.
It is paradoxical that, in their ideological purity, prisoners of heartless ideologies insist on destroying the very processes that are essential to system balance and survival.
For those unfamiliar with my work on whole system processes, see Barry Oshry, Context Context Context,Axminster, U.K., Triarchy Press, 2018