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So, exactly WHY are we here? What is it that most needs being done?

Well, this is a tricky one… what is the purpose of the OGM, and the community formed around it?

What is it we could do together that we cannot do alone?


We are in the early stages of the novel COVID-19 Pandemic AND in the midst of an accelerating sixth mass extinction event AND (in geological time terms) at the start of a period of unstable climate chaos which will challenge the survival of humanity – and that is before we even start to consider the fragmented worldviews, contested politics, overwhelm of (mis)information, inability to trust many institutions, lack of critical thinking, and multiple levels of education and consciousness with various degrees of conflict and competition amongst them as to “what ought we do?”

Consequently, in my opinion, and that of many I respect, the science shows we are heading, almost inevitably, toward global civilizational collapse, and possibly an ecological collapse so dire that life will need to start again from whatever is left when the climate has re-stabilized… we are talking milennia…

Can we head this off? Many think not…

In this fragmented landscape, where is any ‘systems leadership’ going to emerge from?

Systems Ethical Responses?

If there is a human-generated response worthy of exploring in the limited time we might still have the spare capacity to collaborate (rather than be fighting for survival) it will most likely be the result of harnessing/ steering emergent properties of complex adaptive reflexive human systems dynamics, wherever such coherence can be seeded. We have tools and approaches aplenty… and resources such as OGM and the people here.

Any project needs to build coherence before any concerted action with sufficient critical mass to shift momentum can eventuate. Given the enormity of the challenges of our predicament (in the sense described in Footnote 1) we (humanity) will need ways of collaborating in different realms of agreement and certainty, according to levels of comfort. The institutional inertia actively against this sort of transformational shift is huge – the Three Horizons Model is a useful one to view the ‘business-as-usual’ H1 paradigm in the context of the more entrepreneurial H2, and more transformational H3.

We are talking here about how to build coherence ‘horizontally, at level’ (coordination within a field/ virtual community/ place-based community etc) AND ‘vertically, across multiple levels’ (on-the-ground operational actions aligned within life-sustaining/ and regenerative whole systems ethics). Note, most current resources support the continuation of H1 – yet many of these practices are not life sustaining (look at the US Breakdown… :frowning: )

If we are to co-design and co-create real, living, regenerative communities we must go even higher than the Techno-utopian dreams of elegant suites of technologies cobbled together to create ‘more sustainable’ outcomes on a burning platform. Yes, we will need the deep expertise of the experts in many diverse fields, AND the transdisciplinary integration and cultural integrity required to bring these to the ground, elegantly, eloquently, in service of life, everywhere we can (not one size fits all).

I envisage Systems Design Laboratories (every island/ country town/ community could be one) where multiple whole system design alternatives are tested and monitored, improved with feedback, and refined as the context/ conditions/ climate etc change.

Facilitating Emergence?

Given we are starting with the fragmented mess caused and maintained by what I briefly outlined above, how will we build coherence, around what, and to what ends?

I believe we can ‘facilitate emergence’… not necessarily aim for any one particular outcome; in Buddhist terms, ‘non-attachment to outcome’ while aiming for the highest possible evolutionary step possible with whomever is assembled.

Without intending to point to the destructive qualities of ‘hierarchies’ it is worth pointing out that there are requisite functional hierarchies in every natural system. We (various sized and located cohorts of humanity) must find ways to guide the actions of all, for all, in order to – in indigenous Australian words – “Keep all alive.” While some may shy away from the thought of ‘rules’, we will need overarching/underpining ‘architectures of intent’ that enshrine the life-supporting ‘whole system ethics’ we all must follow IF we are to pass through this evolutionary bottleneck (a difficult ask, given how hard it is for some to even wear a mask…)

So, how do we envision the scope of this task of co-creating ‘whole systems ethics?’

While I personally lean toward ‘how do we each and collectively show-up more fully during collapse’ than believing we can find a way forward, I would like to explore these ‘big picture’ systems ethical topics here, and I have a few things to bring. I’ll wait for the response (if any) to this post before proceeding too much further (and it’s dinner time in Belgium :slight_smile: ).

Until then, here’s a starting diagram to get your heads around, based on one from Erich Jantsch.

I look forward to seeing you here.

Kind regards, Neil

Footnote 1: “ … the difference between problem and predicament. The distinction boils down to this: problems have solutions; predicaments have outcomes. A solution to a problem fixes it, returning all to its original condition. Once a suitable solution can be found and made to work, a problem can be solved. A predicament, by contrast, has no solution. Faced with a predicament, people can develop responses, but not solutions. Those responses may succeed, they may fail, or they may fall somewhere in between, but no response can erase a predicament. Predicaments have outcomes that can be managed, but circumstances cannot be returned to their original state.” The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future of Our Economy, Energy, and Environment – Editor(s): Chris Martenson, First published:2 January 2012


Hi Neil! My own view posing as an imaginary tech/data department goes roughly like this: the amount of information we’re producing (referring to the better parts) keeps increasing immensely, and at the same time our tooling/instruments supposed to provide the capacity/capability for making good use of it doesn’t. There’s a myriad of reasons for why that is, while few get realized, adequately addressed or improved. Sure, there are plenty of products available somewhere to some people: while very appealing and shiny, they tend to be quite large and rigid, are hardly ever customizable to the specific needs of a single individual, and no two of them can meaningfully co-operate (not to mention features to inter-operate).

Therefore I believe it’s a valid field for basic research/experimentation to potentially learn if/how OGM or the wider online collaboration community could be supported in their efforts around “sensemaking” (itself in a very poor state apparently), curation, systems analysis, system/pattern/solution design + implementation, project coordination/facilitation, etc. In the libre-free content + software development world and tech in general, many (indeed systemic!) principles, practices and processes are known + applied which enable teams to work together at a massive, global scale, some of which should be made accessible to and replicated by more general audiences, volunteers, domain experts, contributers and activists. An attempt to make it cheap, quick, easy, powerful and flexible for people to communicate and learn the important lessons about the subject matter at hand. How that could look like as the manifesting end result – I don’t know and probably don’t need to.

There’s plenty to explore in more detail, but saving up for now, others might have other and very different opinions to offer as well.

I’m personally of the impression that, all things considered, it’s very likely much, much too late and beyond repair. I’m not aware of what could be tangible, effective actions on the ground. Would assume it might be about hopefully building and retaining some capacities to respond/mitigate, at best. Does this stop me from trying? Might, but then, what else would there be left to do?


The best time to have started was 10 years ago. The next best time to start is right now!

[I’m sure I am butchering someone’s quote!]

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Why are we here? What needs to be done?

Suggestion: Identify a small scale systemic problem that needs to be addressed. Create causal loop diagrams. Then create integrated stories off of them with data flow diagrams to do walk throughs with subject matter experts. (Alternatively, the reverse of this can be done (i.e, create the Data Flow Diagrams first).

Once we have success on a relatively small scope project, we can move on to bigger issues.

yes we need to be conducting manageable experiments and… as also and NeilD suggest:

That work also has to begin now as well.

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Thanks all for the comments so far. I have a Dutch language exam tomorrow, and so will try to continue the conversation on the weekend. Kind regards, Neil

Does it need a purpose beyond the mutual discovery?

A valid question Kevin; obviously, for some, no.

My understanding of why I received my invitation to the OGM Group was exactly because, after many years of providing for mutual discovery, some here are looking for how to make a difference with the tools and knowledge sets that have been developed. I see part of my contribution is in bringing a voice that might have considered some of the implications of setting a mutual direction (not necessarily one objective) and the systems-ethical implications of various ways of doing this.

I hope you will note the original comment and that I intend to bring more to this thread when time permits :slight_smile:

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Hi again all,

Thanks for your comments here, and for the ongoing conversation on the OGM Zoom catch-up (yesterday for me).

Just dropping by briefly to post the rest of that first diagram by Jantsch, with a couple of my red ellipses thrown in.

You might have picked up already that I’m gently nudging/inviting people to look at the overarching/ underpinning ethical principles that might inform ALL actions at multiple levels within our OGM circles of influence. A key question was asked by @Doug yesterday - what if the starting assumptions/ presumptions are unstated…? We could continue that line of inquiry to ‘what if they are wrong?’… and that one to ‘how do we know they are wrong?’ … and that one, again, to ‘who decides, when there might (always are!) different starting points depending on the worldviews and values of those observing/ commenting?’

As I’ve stated in the first post, I see we are already in social-ecological collapse. I like this quote from Rod Griffith in Tackling Wicked Problems (Brown et al 2010) and have used it in lectures and presentations:

"My passion is the relationship between human societies and their environment, and I see the pace, scale and direction of societal and ecosystem change and the following three tensions as central to sustainability –

  • Between continuous incremental change and discontinuous or step change

  • Between transaction (change within existing assumptions) and transformation (profound change based on new assumptions)

  • Between deliberate intervention and systemic self-adjustment.”

This short thread here has already attracted multiple perspectives on the starting question… so… at what point, ‘above’ all those different perspectives, can we weave and agree the guidance mechanisms for all of us in the current ‘global’ context? How do we do that without compromising any particular voice, but in ways that don’t just have us do “the wrong things, righter”?

So, a few more diagrams to come, but as we know, ‘the energy goes where the attention is’ and ‘the attention goes where the energy is’, so, this diagram asks - where do you see the focus ought to be (systems ethical question)…?

I think we, this collective, with our broad range of perspectives and gifts, have the capability and maturity to aim for some sort of ‘vertical coherence’ not just a place to play or coordinate at only one level.

[Caveat: I know this diagram relates to the language of what some will see as ‘old paradigm’ ways of seeing the world. It was drawn in 1975… and yet much of the world we still need to operate in/ with/ beyond is governed by similar processes and heirarchies… so we will need to interface]

I look forward to your comments. :pray:

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I am making a difference, I believe with the projects I am working on. But the ogm calls seem wide and discursive, educational, fascinating, and open my eyes to new possibilities. The teams I work with are coordinated around mutual tasks with common goals. That is not what the ogm group is. And that’s fine with me. There are problems to solve. This group i think deludes itself that it has the shape of a problem solving group.

which is a good distinction to make so as to focus on what we ARE doing well here at the moment…which we might just call ‘the story of everything’ (in contrast to the theory of everything) or ‘the map of everything’ or ‘how to find everything’ …but really, we’re still at the stage of just asking “where is everything?”…

i agree this group is doing discovery very well. And exploration itself.

Hi all, As a newbie I cannot comment on ‘who’s deluded’ [quote=“Kevindoylejones, post:10, topic:127”]
This group i think deludes itself that it has the shape of a problem solving group.
[/quote] or not, or whether or not [quote=“Kevindoylejones, post:12, topic:127”]
group is doing discovery very well. And exploration itself.

I was attracted to ‘the potentials’, which, I sense, in the interactions and OGM Calls (especially Call #10 last week), are greater than what those here longer might have already been doing and those who is currently benefit from OGM as it currently is.

I decided to ask the starting question above, exactly to test the current state of play and the readiness to go further. In this I mean no criticism, these are open questions:

  • What could/ought we be doing with this amount of knowledge and this network of people?’ and - What ought we be doing if we are awake to the current state of the global system/s of which we form parts?

If none here can see greater opportunities or needs, so be it.

I’ll take a little sidestep to show a couple of other constructs that have helped me communicate in the past, recognising that we are (I believe) a diverse group from multiple disciplines, aiming to tackle issues like #storythreading and #storyweaving to try to be of greater benefit to a broader audience, beyond current users and receivers of OGM’s gifts.

If we recognise that each of us brings particular component, skills, and worldview lenses through which to view opportunities - what is it we could do together that we cannot do alone? Beyond individual perspectives?

And, if we were to weave some of our skills, knowledges together, where might that take us?

And, if we did that, how would we operate across these disciplines to improve our collective discernment?

And, to answer these questions we might consider some framing (as I was trying to provide) for how to decide what and what priorities.

And, to answer these questions, how do we decide the rules for how we make the rules - i.e. Metaconstitutional Procedures for how we co-constitute the way/s we operate here?

I sense that IF we can agree on some of these elements, then we will be able to better influence the Whole System, not just whatever part/s we’ve selected, horizontally, to focus on - as transdisciplinary ecosystems of players, operating within agreed approaches, with agreed priorities, multiple levels of engagement, aligned vertically, within common whole systems ethics… Anybody else fee drawn to this sort of ‘Big Question’?

I hope this makes sense to at least some people here.

[Note: I’m testing to see whether one post can string several diagrams together, and make more eloquent sense together than if I was to post a whole series of separate posts - if not I’ll need to revert to a more piecemeal approach]

Kind regards, Neil

thank you Neil, as usual you are capturing a broader conversation. This was also my takeaway from last week’s call… lot’s of potential, but quo vadis?

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I’ve been lurking in the shadows, following discussion and calls intermittently as I’ve waited for the answer to this question to be more clear. It seems to me that much of the conversation has focused on “what” – solutions for implied problems that seem to range from wide concerns with global sustainability (agriculture, education, finance subsets), to more specific problems related to organizational effectiveness that would benefit from, for example, storythreading tools.

What I’ve not yet seen (sorry if I’ve missed it in these many conversations)-- how does human nature-- biases, cognitive limitations, egos, self-interest-- factor into the very discussions we have here, and the proposed solutions? To what extent do the tools proposed here reflect certain biases that may reinforce problems or limit effective change?

I’m also wondering who OGM contributors regard as their stakeholders/audiences/customers (if any), what problems those stakeholders have defined, and whether and how tools proposed here will help in managing those problems.

Lots of interesting ideas being proposed here, some of them beyond my ken, so I apologize if I’m missing the obvious.


Thanks @StephanieS, great questions.

I have been asking my questions slowly to tease some of this out–for every (every!) group of initially undifferentiated people start to gravitate towards those things they are attracted to, and away from those things they have no time for, and this is an indication of ‘where they are at’.

This is not a bad thing–it’s the difference that makes the difference–and, without some difference there can be no change, no innovation, and we just keep doing the same things and expecting different results (or, and equally valid, we are happy to keep doing exactly the same things).

The questions I’m asking are open questions to allow each person reading, watching, listening… even lurking :upside_down_face: to think and feel into the ethics of ‘what OUGHT we be doing?’ Given THESE skills, THESE tools, THESE people, in THESE times… if an individual is aware of the systemic issues in the world, do they feel individually compelled to act? If so, how? At what ‘level’ (no criticism - it’s just hard to discuss without recognizing the vertical difference in approach/es and potential leverage if higher system ethics are adopted).

So, if multiple individuals see a way to act (and nobody is yet saying they do or will - instead we have a sea of separate proposals, each seeking some form of critical mass before it is deemed worth advancing), how do they self-organize around that action? What is it that they could do together that they could not do alone? How do they ‘co-constitute’ around ‘who WE are?’ What common principles guide their individual actions for collective benefit? How do people reach agreement and certainty about 'what most needs doing? (priorities) And how does a group of, at this point, volunteers, gain sufficient commitment from enough people and governance processes to create the inertia needed to ‘move’ together?

There are several ways to investigate this.

One is to toss out a proposal and see who is attracted.

One is to identify skill sets and interests to see what might be woven together, IF the individuals so selected are interested.

Another is to challenge from the ‘higher’ question, the question of what most needs doing IF we are going to make enough difference to make a difference… which requires reaching some sort of common understanding of the nature of the predicament, some sort of acceptance of what might/ might not/ does not/ can not work, and THEN realign around ‘what is it we could do together?’

This is a diagram I developed some years ago to show how, for any concerted effort, one needs somebody with a more transformative mindset to at least cast the possibility of something others might not have thought of… projects and programs work this way, innovation and entrepreneurialism operate this way, as does evolution… something comes along which makes the previous ideas look ‘less than’ the potential outcomes of the newer alternative… IF it works… and some things are worth taking the risk, because either the consequences of acting are full of so much potential or the consequences of NOT acting are so dire.

Back to your questions: I don’t know the biases or worldviews of the people here yet; and, even if I did, that wouldn’t matter. What does matter is whether there is an overarching goal, a bigger objective, a risk-worth-taking that, if presented care-fully, supported widely enough, might (not will) gain the support of those that were initially complacent, dismissive, resistant or undecided. We don’t need everyone to agree, but we do need enough people to agree before we dedicate resources (time, effort, money etc) to it.

The area I’ve been working in has been around ‘how do linked social-ecological systems (i.e. real complex adaptive reflexive human societies in real, changing, complex adaptive environments) survive as the systems change around them?’ I’ve worked with real communities, and asked them “how do we help you do what you know must be done, if you want to be here in 50 years time?”

This requires reaching some level of common understanding of systems context, trends, likely directions if business-as-usual continues, and how they all see/ feel about it – frankly, if they don’t care enough about their own community, I need to move on, for no amount of an outsider trying to convince them is going to change their minds.

I use this diagram (behind the scenes) to guide/ frame my interactions in communities. It doesn’t directly answer your questions, but I hope you will see, it does show how I try to ‘hold space’ for the multiple worldviews, biases, levels of understanding, systems awareness etc in any (initially undifferentiated) group… the first step is to be ‘welcomed’ because they can see you are trust-worthy, that you are empathetic, that you are authentic, and that you have at least some clue of the systemic challenges ahead, and the ways of building coherence across difference.

Thanks again for your questions.

Kind reards, Neil

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Thanks for your thoughtful reply. You’ve answered my question.

Regarding the wide variety of issue being brought up here: The song largely remains the same, only the buzz words change. Suggestion: Do not focus on what the most important issue is. Instead, focus on getting the ball rolling by selecting a small scope issue which we can have a high degree of success in addressing.

Once we have addressed a small scope issue successfully, THEN we can focus on the most important issues.

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Neil: Can you summarize in a sentence WHY we wre here?

YES! Discovery is important, but it is just the first phase in addressing an issue.