Stitching together a movement in the making

Saturday, September 12th, 2009 | Uncategorized

I just return from an interesting meeting in D.C. among various grass root movements for economic and societal renewal (like BALLE, the business alliance for local living economies), advocacy groups, and think tanks that try to research, rethink and reframe the foundations of a green, equitable, regenerative economy. it was a great meeting that will help to build and stitch together the global movement around transforming and renewing the economy. two interesting observations from the meeting. first, the international dimension (non US based networks that do the same thing) was largely absent. second, it felt as if there were almost two different ways of framing and languaging the key issue. one is, from the perspective of the current political discourse, to frame it as a issue of “us” vs. “them,” progressive vs conservative forces in the society. but is that really the best way of framing it? left vs. right?

the other way of framing it is less about “us vs. them” and more about a self-aware and self-reflective way of envisioning a future that we want to create and then to work from that shared intention across boundaries. in that case its more about a shift of awareness from ego- to eco-system. it was apparent that these two approaches really talked different languages that do not connect easily.

have you seen similar situations? do you see a larger movement growing together in other parts of the world? if yes, what is it that you see growing together?


4 Comments to Stitching together a movement in the making

Tom Klein
September 13, 2009

Hi Otto,

For me, this question goes to the heart of our development, and confronts us with a great challenge…

Being tuned in to the war in the cultural fields over the last decade has been a painful experience. That several fundamentalisms were in the throws of their last hurra! seems clear in hindsight. We seem to have passed through an intense phase of creative destruction, not only of structures, but more importantly of ideologies. The relative calm that has descended on the social field (notwithstanding continued attempts at dramatization), seems to open up spaces to listen for the resonance of what might come.

I experience that old habits die hard, and so it is easy to rely on outdated categories to frame the current situation. Yet “Liberal” and “Conservative” have long been empty terms, out of touch with the current problems and challenges we face (e.g. American conservatives have descended into fiscal and social irresponsibility, while German conservatives become the standard-bearers of social democracy…!). The shared meanings behind the terms, as Bohm would say, have become incoherent to the point of meaninglessness.

While many continue the fight, this presents us with an opportunity, as the longer we try to frame things in lost terms, the more convincingly we experience their inadequacy. It strikes me that they are ripe for their sublimation.

I find that operating from the frame that we take a “self-aware and self-reflective way of envisioning a future that we want to create and then to work from that shared intention across boundaries” (to the extent that I manage it) is the most viable alternative that we have to the culture wars of the last years.

The challenge lies in agreeing on the future that we want. Is it one of religious certainties, of skeptical inquiry, of holistic integration? In a world of incoherent meanings, we still have the reality of nature and each other for orientation. But what is real to some is an abstraction to those identified with the fragmentation of daily experience. To a fundamentalist awareness, it must be simply incomprehensible.

What are the alternatives? In a playful book on future scenarios, Mathias Horx, a German trend researcher, plays out a politics of the future in which key players from around the world come together at “Big Mother” meetings to deal with global challenges. Global politics is divided into two camps, the “complexists” and “reductionists,” loose coalitions of interests which represent the tendency respectively to see the world in its complexity and work towards holistic solutions, and those who see the source of problems and their answers in ways reducible to simple, fundamental terms. “Parties” representing these views would more realistically represent the different kinds of awareness driving our current development than the ones we have now.

Although Horx does not say so, the challenge of his distinction lies for me in the implication that it describes not only different states, but also of levels of awareness. The viability of the latter level is not as great as the viability of the former (though I suppose that remains to be tested!). As Wilber says in a current Podcast (tp://, as long as mythological levels of awareness persist, culture wars seem inevitable.

So is it a question of two sides growing together, or is it a developmental question of more complex awareness superceding and helping to pull up one which is less so?

Ralf Lippold
September 19, 2009

Hi Otto,

Stitching together the grass-root movements around the globe is probably the main challenge of the close future (before the bodies of old institutions are overtaken business as usual after the crisis due to their imense and sheer power).

There are lots of small and larger movements such as SoL (,, The HUB-Network (, LockSchuppen (, Singularity University (, MIT’s D-Lab (, MIT’s Senseable City Lab (, and many more.

The challenge is in connecting these in a useful and for all acceptable manner.

First question that arises for any of these mentioned above:

Why should the individuales who shape these institutions open up to cooperate or exchange information with others?

What is the mental model that often stands against being OpenContent, OpenKnowledge, and even OpenConsult?

– Ralf

Michael Hann
September 21, 2009

Hello Otto,

I also see this dynamic in most of the forums in which I am participating around the world. However, recently I was invited to the State of the World Forum meeting in Brazil and something very different happened.

There was lots of fragmented thinking and talking about ‘solutions’ and those ‘others who don’t get it.’ However, amongst this, about 25 reflective practitioners were invited to be present within the larger group of nearly 250 people. People like Nancy Roof, Jan Inglis, Sara Nora Ross, Daniel Wahl, Laurent Labourmene, Cynthia McEwen, Richard David Hames, etc…, a truly wonderful group of whole-systems change practitioners.

This group eventually self-organized and intentionally decided to create a container for presencing.

This involved asking genuine questions of ourselves and others at the meeting, to encourage reflection on our present-moment experience; on our inner state, what we were noticing in the conversation, our connection to the whole, and our systems perspective. The conversation slowed right down, became deeply reflective and generative, with much time for silent meditation naturally and spontaneously arising.

The field effect that unfolded was something I have rarely experienced around the world. Whilst people were still working in ‘solution silos,’ downloading and talking about ‘others,’ a new sensibility of connectedness began to arise and is continuing to emerge in the post-meeting project groups. A little more reflection has crept in and there is general acknowledgment that we will benefit shifting from ‘problem solving’ to something more generative that integrates our head, heart and soul.

Rarely do I see so many skilfull reflective practitioners invited to a meeting like this. Most of us didn’t have formal roles (e.g. as facilitators etc), but were rather invited to participate. I wonder what other global forums might be like if we had large groups of such skillful reflective practitioners at each?

There are many lenses through which to understand what unfolded in Brazil, and much more was undoubtedly invisible to my own lens. However, this simple, but carefully crafted design, of inviting 1 reflective practitioner for every 10 other stakeholders, appeared to have an enormous effect on creating a portal for the emergence of reflective and generative capacities within the larger group.

Regards, Michael

October 8, 2009

very interesting. tom, its true, its culture wars and they do not seem to lead anywhere. so copenhagen is our first Big Mother meeting, right? interesting distinction that you cite: complexists vs reductionists… and good to hear from you michael and from your meeting in brazil which makes us hopeful…
to be continued!

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