Gross National Happiness (GNH) Lab 2013: Seeding the Future

Friday, December 21st, 2012 | Uncategorized

The last weeks have been amazing. The most intense workload and energy field I have ever experienced feel as if they are finally coming full circle and now moving to the next higher level, spiraling up. Here are a few highlights:

–In Beijing we completed a six-month U-based leadership journey with senior leaders from the Chinese government. It was an amazing experience that began when the group joined us here at MIT for ten days [in June, 2012]. After that I conducted three more modules with them in China, which were nothing short of amazing. When the group reflected on its own process, it took three or so hours to complete the sharing just on personal learnings. The participants felt a shift in mindset from head to heart. They also talked about a shift in relationships. And about a shift in how they approach their work. After just a few months, they also created some pretty amazing prototypes, including one on energy efficiency and one on the rapidly growing elderly population. What struck us was that in all these prototypes you could witness a shift of mindset in how they approached the issue: from “government knows the problem and delivers what it believes to be the solution” to “government holding the space for co-sensing across stakeholders and empowering them to co-create what they most care about.”

–In Denmark we continued our work with the health leadership team of a whole region (including the leadership teams of five different hospitals; see earlier blog entry). The prototypes this group managed to create in just two months were stunningly successful. We did a new Social Presencing Theatre practice on “current reality” (Sculpture 1) and the “emerging future” (Sculpture 2). They enacted the transformation from Sculpture 1 to 2, from the old to the new system, as a transformation from an institution-centric system that is organized around a fixed set of fragmented institutions (Sculpture 1) to a relationship-centric system of direct connections across institutional boundaries (Sculpture 2).

The new system was organized in two overlapping spheres. One revolved around the patient (for a seamless patient journey across institutions). The other one revolved around the citizens (the healthy people who pay for the whole show) and the communities—which is of course where health and sickness originate. In Sculpture 2 the management team of the hospital had to leave their old top-dog position in order to (a) hold the entire space of cross-institutional relationships and (b) reach out to connect directly to the sphere of citizens and communities. So interesting!

–In Austria I co-facilitated a workshop with the Minister of Education on her project to renew the Austrian educational system. She and her team have made amazing progress in just a few years! The meeting comprised school innovators, principals, and state and federal officials. Reflecting on what is dying and what is wanting to be born, here is what one of them said: “We are tinkering with all these reforms, with all these innovation initiatives, we are renewing the “house” of education with another window here or another door there — but frankly, what we need most is a radically different FOUNDATION for the entire house!” I loved that. Isn’t that so true?

–In Brazil we delivered the Presencing Institute’s Four Day Foundation Program for the first time. Wonderful experience! Also a very interesting meeting with the Minister and Deputy Minister of Environment and with folks from Natura who are founding partners in launching the Global Well-being and GNH Lab in January 2013.

–The Global Well-being and GNH Lab is a joint initiative by the Presencing Institute with the Global Leadership Academy of GIZ (German Ministry of Development Cooperation). With the Prime Minister of Bhutan as patron, this initiative brings together leading change-makers from Bhutan, Brazil, India, China, Europe, and the U.S. The organizing question for the Lab is, How can we shift the center of gravity of the economic system from material growth to real well-being, from transactional and manipulative relationships to transformative and co-creative relationships? Deep immersion learning journeys (in Brazil and Bhutan) lead to dreaming up and prototyping practical ways of implementing new measures of economic progress (“beyond GDP, beyond material growth”). The outcome of the Lab will be a web of multi-local prototyping initiatives that will span and replicate across cultures.

–The most important thing happened yesterday, however. We submitted to our publisher the manuscript for our book Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies. Finally! A small step for mankind, but a BIG step for us…

This IS a moment of real endings and beginnings. The door to the future seems wide open. Let’s plant our seeds of the future in this moment by contemplating the real intentions we have for the next few decades ahead. Now. And for the next two weeks. And then let’s go out and make it happen!

What intentions or seeds of the future have clarified for you or have drawn your attention? I will live with that question for the next week or two and share what emerges in the next entry. Feel free to start the sharing in the comment section below…


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2 Comments to Gross National Happiness (GNH) Lab 2013: Seeding the Future

Martha Hopewell
December 21, 2012


I’m inspired by the continuing emergence of a valuing of heart around the globe. Thanks you for sharing your (and your clients!) accomplishments over the past few weeks. My intention is to support this emergence through my own focus on strengthening heart-centeredness, both personally and professionally. Your blog helps to confirm that more humans at all levels are increasingly open to embracing the heart in their lives and institutions than ever before. This IS the change we are waiting for!

January 27, 2013

Dear Otto and all,

my intentions for the future are modified and/or enriched by my journey through Bhutan, India, Bali, French Polynesia and New Zealand.
Being on the road still, it isn’t easy to clarify goals or milestones for the next years with inflowing impressions, encounters and different perspectives while standing head down under, wondering about the sun shining high from north :-)

I’m happy to see connections from some topics you posted here to my work with BenE-München or the journey of the last four months:

In Austria my BenE-collegue Jiska and me gave a workshop for teachers in Systems-Thinking on the Ökolog-Sommerakademie at Schloss Seggau. We both were impressed by the program austrian teachers have access to!
The work of the above mentioned Ministry.

In Bhutan a visit at the GNH-Centre allowed a glance at the impressive work done there. We look forward to have a GNH-Introduction with Dr. Tho in Munich next May.

And here I go for my future seeds :

– establish a permanent link between GNH-Centre and BenE-München in the field of education for sustainable development (BenE:= Bildung für eine nachhaltige Entwicklung)

– create a Munich-Hub (glocal changemakers) with Systems-Thinking, U-Process, Art of Hosting, … with an AQAL background
Hopefully to be extended in the long run into a node in a global web of places for save and sound evolution, personal, comunal and societal – spiral up on a solid and inspiring basement ;-)
Places for experiencing Nature and Quietude, flowing processes and networking, deep encounters and action learning – to open mind, heart and will.

– Get some younger high ranking administratives of the City of Munich into the Global Well-being and GNH Lab, eventually members of management of BenE’s Economy-Sector too (Insurance, Banking).

Puhh, it took me some days, nay weeks to cross the threshold and post my thoughts.
Now I have to go for it.
I know I can’t do it on my own.
The stone is thrown, the ripples circle away.
I will do my work and see –


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