Emergent Strategy + Transition Design in a poem by Wheatley

 

Turning to One Another

There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about.
Ask: “What’s possible?” not “What’s wrong?” Keep asking.
Notice what you care about.
Assume that many others share your dreams.
Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.
Talk to people you know.
Talk to people you don’t know.
Talk to people you never talk to.
Be intrigued by the differences you hear. Expect to be surprised.
Treasure curiosity more than certainty.
Invite in everybody who cares to work on what’s possible.
Acknowledge that everyone is an expert about something.
Know that creative solutions come from new connections.
Remember, you don’t fear people whose story you know.
Real listening always brings people closer together.
Trust that meaningful conversations can change your world.
Rely on human goodness.

Stay together.

Margaret Wheatley

Fractal, Adaptive, Iterative: Resilient Solutions

Portrait of adrienne maree brown from adriennemareebrown.net

Recently adrienne maree brown published a very personal and insightful reflection of her study of what works in centering social movements + inspiration from black, feminist science fiction, titled Emergent Strategy. She speaks the language of design naturally. I picked up the book on an impulse because the subtitle speaks to the goals of Transition Design, “Shaping Change, Changing Worlds.” And I am thrilled because she explains many of the Transition theories that Tonkinwise, Kossoff, and Irwin describe— but she is presenting them in simple structures, helping me to understand them further.

I find that this book is informing four critical things for me at once:

1. Describing why Transition Design is necessary and possible.

Let me summarize by quilting together her own words:

“I would call our work to change the world, ‘science fictional behavior’ —being concerned with the way our actions and beliefs now, today, will shape the future, tomorrow, the next generations.We are excited by what we can create; we believe it is possible to create the next world.

“How do we create and proliferate a compelling vision of economies and ecologists that center humans and the natural world over the accumulation of material?

“We embody. We learn. We release the idea of failure because it’s all data. But first we imagine.

“We must make JUST and LIBERATED futures irresistible.” – amb

2. Offering a point of view on the best approach to changing a massive system [Emergent Strategies]

“Our tendency is toward hierarchical and capitalistic and growth at all costs. But it is the adaptive and collaborative practices that are more sustainable. Those are the beings that survive through change.

“What we practice at the small-scale sets the patterns for the whole system. To see our own lives and work and relationships as a front line, a first place we can practice justice, liberation’s, and alignment with each other and the planet.

“We are microsystems. We must create patterns that cycle upwards.

“Emergence emphasizes critical connections over critical mass, building authentic relationships, listening with all the senses of the body and mind.” – amb

3. To look at everything with LOVE is the best, healthiest way to be personally resilient enough to tackle these difficult challenges.

“Where shame makes us freeze and try to get really small and invisible, pleasure invites us to move, to open, to grow.

“I am listening now with all my senses, as if the whole universe might exist just to teach me more about love… This practice lets me connect to the part of myself that is divine, aligned with the universe, and the place within myself where I can be a conduit for spiritual truth.

“Nothing is required of me more than being, and creating. Simultaneously being present with who I am, who we are as a species…and creating who we must become, and within that who I must become.

“…a pendulum swinging between curiosity, possibility, and hopelessness.” -amb

4. Notes on current day, American issues

“Americans don’t know how to do democracy. We don’t know how to make decisions together, how to create generative compromises, how to advance policies that center justice. Until we have a sense of how to live our solutions locally, we won’t be successful at implementing a just governance system regionally, nationally or globally.” -amb

The lack of comfort with, and trust in, politicians makes me think of the newly-realized sexual assault accountability for (some) politicians. And a recent Ezra Klein show podcast that presents the idea that Congress is not debating enough– within each party. Republicans especially are afraid to disagree with each other, and therefore BEST solutions don’t emerge. James Wallner, author and political scientist, makes a case for more discussion, less suppression.

The Democratic Party needs a redefinition.

“What happens when we succeed? New problems? Detroit filmmaker Oya Amakisi once shared with me the words of General Baker, a Detroit labor organizer and leader, who said, ‘You keep asking how do we get the people here? I say, what will we do when they get here?’” -amb

If we impeach Trump— will we be ready for a well-thought-out next step? What will we do differently to be a better option as a Democratic Party?

Creative Mornings Oakland: OGs, Babies, and Bullets

Pendarvis Harshaw portrait

Pendarvis Harshaw spoke at the Creative Mornings Oakland‘s (free!) monthly event today. He is a journalist and educator who lives and reflects on the issues of Black culture in Oakland and everywhere.  He is probably most known for collecting wisdom from older Black men and sharing those stories at #OGToldMe.

As I listened, I heard several opportunities for Transition Design level analysis and fresh ideas for reversing social tragedies.

“If you think that the system doesn’t work, SHOW that it doesn’t work.”
[design mapping, Tufte-level diagrams?]

How might we stop the cycle of “babies and bullets?” And how might we care for the women who are left holding it all together?
[Transition Design interventions at government, community and individual levels]

And when a woman in the audience shared her story of being shot for disrupting an abusive conversation, she talked about healing for herself and the young man who shot her. “I am glad the police didn’t catch him, that would only perpetuate the cycle.”
OGPenn responded with, “[How might we] redesign what justice looks like?”

Design Challenge: Transition the Democratic Party

“Our ambition must be to develop a vision of America that emerges authentically out of liberal values yet speaks to every citizen, as a citizen.”

“It is difficult to discuss a political vision without sounding ridiculous. It is not something you can shop for. You can’t grow it, mine it, or hunt for it… Political vision emerges of its own accord out of the timely encounter with a new social reality, ideas that capture this reality, and leaders capable of linking idea and reality in the public mind so that people feel the connection.”

Mark Lilla’s call to action: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/the-once-and-future-mark-lilla/#!

Winnow Research Blog post: http://www.winnowresearch.com/blog/unifying-liberal-vision/

Empathy-Building: Dems vs. Repubs

The book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, has been the most helpful framework for understanding how divided the United States currently is, and why Democrats and Republicans cannot come remotely close to understanding each other’s motivations.

To sum it up far too quickly, Jonathan Haidt and his team of moral psychologists have researched and identified 6 foundations that make up our individual sense of what is right and wrong. Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians different greatly.

Democrats rely on 3 core values that take precedence over others:

[The following descriptions quoted from http://moralfoundations.org]

  1. Care/harm: attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. It underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.
  2. Liberty/oppression: resentment people feel toward those who dominate them and restrict their liberty. Its intuitions are often in tension with those of the authority foundation. The hatred of bullies and dominators motivates people to come together, in solidarity, to oppose or take down the oppressor.
  3. Fairness/cheating: reciprocal altruism. It generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy.

While Republicans value all 6, nearly equally, adding in:

  1. Loyalty/betrayal: our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. It underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it’s “one for all, and all for one.”
  2. Authority/subversion: our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions. It underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.
  3. Sanctity/degradation: the psychology of disgust and contamination. It underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions).

Libertarians value Liberty/Oppression and Fairness/Cheating to a much greater degree than any of the others.

In regard to our current political hostility, and as a designer, to think about how to overcome it, Haidt writes:

“From the perspective of Moral Foundations Theory, rural and working-class voters were in fact voting for the moral interests… Until Democrats understand…the difference between a six-foundation morality [Conservative] and a three-foundation morality [Liberal], they will not understand what makes people vote Republican.”

You can test your own moral proportions here: www.YourMorals.org

Watch Jonathan Haidt on Bill Moyers here: https://player.vimeo.com/video/36128360

Design Interventions: study, make, observe, adapt, remake

Transition Design challenges are not the “Tame Problems” of capitalism that impose artificial boundaries and do not consider social and environmental concerns. Every challenge we take on as designers is likely to exist within a changing system.

Our proposed solutions may be quickly outdated, or inconsiderate, if we deliver them as confident, final solutions rather than the tweaks to a living, human system that they are. Learning the mindset of “intervene, observe, adapt” or “seed and catalyze” may be a useful addition to all of our design toolkits.

 

From a Transition Design short course lead by Irwin, Kossoff and Tonkinwise

https://design.cmu.edu/content/transition-design-everyday-life-cosmopolitan-localism-and-systems-level-change

Transition Design: studying what came before and what is to come

“The Anthropocene is the outcome of multitudes of uncoordinated design decisions, almost none of which take account of the scale, in terms of space and time, of designs’ collective consequences.We are not adequately seeing all these sociotechnical systems. We are missing the designed relations between these systems and our various habits and values that are proving so resistant to change toward more sustainable futures.”

— Cameron Tonkinwise, Professor

Read his snarky call to action here:

https://medium.com/@camerontw/design-thinking-yet-again-because-maybe-it-could-actually-be-useful-perhaps-even-necessary-b20d004a3a6d