How might we move or collective thinking and action beyond single-issue social action?
Does it make sense to build our urban worlds and future societies by winning one political issue at a time?
Can we design civic business models for our cities and society?
In February’s Design with Dialogue we workshopped our framework for co-creating civic design proposals with a group of 35 citybuilders, ranging from youth activists to City of Toronto people to architects and SFI students.
A significant design challenge of our time is anticipating the relationships of multiple environmental and social problems as a complex system of nonlinear relationships. However, we cannot think about, model or discuss the relationships well, especially in the heat of discussion with deliberative groups and decision making processes. We need not only better engagement and dialogue processes for citizen deliberative problem solving, we require relevant tools.All social services, determinants of health, and economics are complex and interrelated. So why do we expect any political body or activist group to get it right? Only meaningfully diverse, multi-stakeholder groups can envision the variety of interests and outcomes in complex social systems.
The Flourishing Cities framework adapts a design tool for strongly sustainable business models as a visual organizer for engaging stakeholders in co-creating normative operational guidance for civic groups, community planners, and local governments. Flourishing can be understood as “to live within an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generativity, growth, and resilience,” or as John Ehrenfeld states it:
“Flourishing is the possibility that human and other life will flourish on this planet forever.”
This visual model enables a participatory mapping of propositions, values, and preferences that might yield significantly better group decisions for sociocultural and ecological development and governance in any planning engagement. Participants developed working models in 30-40 minute studio sessions, and presented compelling narratives for issues in:
Climate Change Action and Citizen Motivation
Placemaking for Well-Being
An additional table developed a model for Textile Waste Recovery.
The Flourishing Business Canvas is shown below, the basis for the Flourishing Cities model adapted in the workshop.
Unlike the Flourishing Business Canvas, the “Cities” canvas has not been employed in actual practice yet. This is a proposed concept, developed from extended research and is presented as a model for further inquiry and evaluation.
Presentation and references from DwD Flourishing Societies Framework.
Michael Jones and Michelle Holiday presented an exploration of regenerative leadership based on their living systems model on Sept 9. Engaging nearly 40 participants in a close circle, Michelle started off with a cycle of connections and engagement. The context was set to explore questions of engaged leadership, including:
What new ways of thinking and seeing are needed within the many participatory organizing structures that are emerging?
How can we integrate living systems principles as we explore the leadership that is needed now in our organizations and communities?
What are our new practice grounds – spaces and times of shared learning, renewal and relationship that deepen our connection with both people and place?
Michelle presented a core case story of their developmental work with the Montreal museum organization now known as Espace pour la Vie (Space for Life), a project which combined the Botanical Gardens, Planetarium, Biodome and Insectarium into a new biosciences museum group. As an evolving living system organization, the results of the journey are impressively real in the growing value the new combined museums have to the regional and scientific communities.
Michael Jones shared his stories, dialogue and music over the course of the evening, including insights from the four-step model in his book, The Soul of Place. The two revealed their combined four timeless patterns that shape all living, creative, expressive systems. We worked in small groups to find and share how these four patterns emerged in our own leadership work in the context of regenerative living organizations.
Michelle’s four patterns were drawn from years of study and development of living, biological systems. The nature of life “itself” is represented by four classic patterns that describe any non-mechanical system:
1. The parts, components, divergent members of a living context.
2. Their relationships with one another, how they connect and create new patterns.
3. Their convergence as a whole system, a unitary holon with its own wholeness of identity and distinct form.
4. The self-integration of life as an animating force that imbues a living system with its vitality.
Underlying the four patterns is a deep connection with place. Any living system is rooted in and nourished by the place where it grows, and we and our organizations and communities are no exception. Michael presented his four patterns from The Soul of Place, and through his stories of relationship with place, music and practice, and his own life, he showed how his four patterns connect neatly to the living system:
1. Homecoming, or the pattern of return of individuals to a place of recognition or home.
2. Belonging, the making of relationships among ourselves.
3. Regenerativity, the creative practice of leadership and acknowledgement of one’s role and source, form a place.
4. Carnival, transformative celebration, the expression of shared vitality (life) and possibility.
We explored the areas of practice offering the most fertile soil for these new possibilities to take root. A series of questions prompted exercises to reflect in small groups on possible applications and starting points.
What are (or could be) your practices for sensing and supporting what life calls for? What practice grounds are needed?
What do you feel called to steward? what could that look like, given the 4 patterns we explored?
Where do you see regenerative leadership coming ever more vibrantly to life? What is being done? How are the patterns present and cultivated?
What kind of greenhouse or Solarium do we need to create to cultivate regenerative leadership in ourselves and our communities?
The four phases of the evening’s session are described in Patricia Kambitsch’s sketch of the dialogue. Here the imagery moves from left to right, from the participant’s experiences in “feeling most alive” to the discussion of patterns and relationships in living systems (creating conditions for life to thrive) to the sets of patterns, and final dialogue.
About the Hosts
Michael Jones is a leadership educator, dialogue facilitator, writer and Juno-nominated pianist/composer. His most recent book, The Soul of Place, is the third in a series on Re-imagining Leadership. Others in the series include Artful Leadership and the award-winning Creating an Imaginative Life. Michael has also been a thought leader with the MIT Dialogue Project and Dialogos and other prominent leading edge universities and centres.
He has co-chaired several place-based initiatives and spoken on the leader’s emerging role as placemaker in a variety of forums including The Authentic Leadership in Action Conferences (ALIA), The Society for Organizational Learning (SoL) and many others. As a pianist/composer Michael has composed and recorded fifteen CD’s of his original piano compositions and performed as a solo pianist across North America as well as Korea and Japan. He has been integrating his music in his leadership and dialogue work for over twenty years. See www.pianoscapes.com to learn more about Michael and his work.
Michelle Holliday is a facilitator, organizational consultant, researcher and writer. Her work centers around “thrivability” — a set of perspectives, intentions and practices based on a view of organizations as living systems. To this end, she brings people together and helps them discover ways they can feel more alive, connect more meaningfully with each other, and serve life more powerfully through their work. This generally takes the form of designing and hosting transformative events, as well as delivering talks and workshops. Michelle also writes regularly, including a forthcoming book, The Age of Thrivability. Her research is summarized in a slideshow called Humanity 4.0, as well as in a TEDx presentation.
How do cultural values shape environmental and social movements?
How might deepening our understanding of cultural values and frames help us to co-create the solutions for a more equitable, sustainable and democratic society?
May’s DwD was hosted by Aryne Sheppard, who led an inquiry into the Common Cause framework as an instrument for understanding how we are shaped by our culture and the way in which we respond, both as individuals and collectively, to the most pressing problems that we face.
Environmental campaigns tend to fall into two categories:
1. Public engagement and behaviour change; and,
2. Institutional (corporate or government) engagement.
But there is a deeper level we must consider as we move towards a sustainable future: the realm of values. Cultural values influence our behaviours, attitudes and voting decisions. Culture is a key influence in shaping our view of the world and our sense of responsibilities within it. As social change leaders, it is critical to understand the role values play in individual lives and cultural norms. Working to understand and rebalance cultural values is a powerful tool if our goal is to build a more equitable, sustainable and democratic society.
Aryne discussed how power dynamics in society are seldom the subject of public scrutiny and debate. The dialogue explored how fostering intrinsic values—among them self-acceptance, care for others, and concern for the natural world—has real and lasting benefits.
The Common Cause model, with a values mapping resulting from participants selection of supporting values (green) and negating values (red) with respect to societal betterment, based on our individual perspectives.
As an adult educator and facilitator, Aryne Sheppard has worked in the areas of personal growth & wellness, leadership development and community capacity-building for over 12 years. She has have a track record of creating innovative, experientially-based programs in both the non-profit and public sectors. She believes that valuing the inner life, as individuals and as a society, is one of the most important things we can do to create deep and lasting change. Aryne earned her professional designation as an educator from OISE / UofT, specializing in Transformative Learning, with a Master’s degree in Adult Education & Counseling Psychology (2004). Aryne currently works with the David Suzuki Foundation in Toronto and her consulting practice is called Living Simply.
Design with Dialogue (DwD) is an open Toronto-based community of practice for learning and developing co-creation practices for community and organizational transformation. We hold dialogues as a space for shared inquiries that welcome all viewpoints.
DwD has the ultimate purpose of facilitating change and meaningful action in our organizations, communities, collaborative projects and as individuals. We learn and play together through participatory design, strategic dialogue, creative arts and emerging facilitation methods.
DwD is coordinated by: PETER JONES
OCAD University Strategic Foresight & Innovation, Managing partner at Redesign Network
With stewardship from Stephen Sillett and support from OCADU and community leaders.