Evolving Collective Intelligence by Tom Atlee

Exploring how to generate the collective wisdom we need

Exploring how to generate the collective wisdom we need

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June 14, 2005

A Movement for the Conscious Evolution of (increasingly conscious) Social Systems

A number of people have asked about the chart I drew at the Evolutionary Salon which I described in my May 22 blog entry, Growing Together at the Emerging Edge of Evolution. Peggy Holman has sent me photos of it, as well as another key graphic that emerged from that dialogue. I've pasted them below, with a detailed description of the former. (Also note that the Evolutionary Salon page now has photographs from the Salon, as well as more photos and bios of Salon participants.)

 Images-Salon 1


A Movement for the Conscious Evolution of (increasingly conscious) Social Systems

This is a chart attempting to integrate many of the threads that emerged from the work of various
Evolutionary Salon conversations Saturday night and Sunday.

The big blue circle represents the society as it is. The other major circle (in the upper left corner of the big one) represents "the movement." The movement is here understood not as a traditional activist movement with demonstrators marching in the streets, but as the motions of the social body as it moves to wake up.

The thinner blue rings spreading out from the Movement circle represent the expansion of the movement's work and worldview into the society.
Yellow arrows pointing outward from the Movement circle into the society represent the "social creativity" practiced by the movement and evoked by the movement in the larger society. It is this social creativity -- in its multitudinous forms -- that results in the evolution of the social system.

The spreading expansion rings can be thought of in two ways. Those who see us transforming the society from one form to another can imagine the smaller movement circle expanding outward until it is congruent with the big society circle: The worldview and activities of the erstwhile movement BECOME the new society. On the other hand, those who see our Work as an increasingly conscious phase of a process that has been going on for some time and will likely continue for some time (with increasing consciousness, if we do our Work well), can visualize the thin blue rings as spreading out from the "movement" circle forever, as ripples spread from a rock dropped in the water. In this latter view,
the expansion of the rings represents an ever-emerging evolution of society which always has a "movement" (an evolving network of innovators and early adopters) at its generative center.

The bottom part of the chart represents the late-night Sunday group's work articulated by Mark Dubois, with others.
It features the spreading of the Great Story of evolution (and its remarkable implications for today's humanity) out into the society, where it inspires millions of people. These people move into the big circle in the center -- a movement function in which "people find their calling or contribution" -- and thence into the movement as active agents of social creativity. There are many ways to "find your calling". Some do it naturally. Some may find psychospiritual practices or mentorship helpful. Others may benefit from being exposed to options for action, either through stories, ideas, or actual participation, and think "THAT'S what I'd like to do." The movement would provide a wide variety of approaches to meet people's diverse needs for discovering their calling or contribution.

The upper half of the chart with two small circles represents the late Sunday afternoon and early Sunday evening work developed by Tom Atlee, Mark Jones, Paul Ray and others.
The upper small circle labeled "thought center" represents a kind of collective mind for the movement. It actively draws in information from the larger society and the movement, with special attention to the design elements ("patterns") which underlie the world as it is, the world we want to invoke, and the "change strategies" we use to stimulate evolution of individuals and social systems. It weaves these patterns into a "pattern language" -- a map of the design elements which also clarifies their interdependencies, as well as the organizations, books, etc., dealing with the issue. (See conservationeconomy.net for a well-developed pattern language.)

Although this exercise is in a sense pure research -- creating a detailed map of our work, for its own sake -- it is more than that. As it fills out, this pattern language (or multiple pattern languages) can be used as a curriculum to educate agents of conscious evolution of social systems. It can also be used to orient people to the role of their work in the larger movement, including who depends on them and who they depend on. Interviewing practitioners who deal with various social design forms (in search of design elements and insights) can be as educational for them as it is for those working on the pattern language.

The lower of the two small circles represents "strategic conversations" convened by the thought center. Strategic conversations arise out of a perceived need: Something is missing, or a link needs to be made, or some possibility is suddenly seen -- all of which can be fulfilled by a conversation of the right type involving selected people. A strategic conversation is a conversational intervention in the evolution of a social system or (especially) the movement itself, intended to unstick a stuck point or realize a possibility. It draws in diverse thought leaders and practitioners and sends them back out with increased individual and collective awareness, coherence, effectiveness and co-evolvability. It can be anything from a phone call or email exchange between people who "should know each other" to an evolutionary salon or a long conference engaging thousands of diverse practitioners in some emerging field. These strategic conversations are convened or enabled by thought center people who scan the evolutionary horizon for possible breakthroughs they can catalyze. They bring into the conversations whatever perspectives they can from their intellectual work and harvest the conversational revelations for their own work.

The bottom part of the chart sparks change with the evolutionary story and draws people into the movement, while the top of the chart increases the evolving capacity of the movement , itself, to generate change


And here is the map that was done by Llyn Peabody, graphically summarizing the work of the whole group at the end of our Saturday night "
What is emerging among us?" conversation:



posted by Tom Atlee on Tuesday June 14 2005
updated on Saturday September 24 2005

URL of this article:




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What is your plan to save the world?

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