Transformation of Capitalism (ToC)

Monday, January 19th, 2009 | Uncategorized

something happened over the past few days, weeks, months. something that has changed and sharpened the context and focus of my work. so far i have always focused on very specific projects and initiatives in concrete institutional settings. i always knew that all these projects are situated in a larger systems context that one day needed to be addressed head on. i have often referred to this larger systems context in terms of “transforming capitalism.” with the continued collapse of financial institutions and markets worldwide and with the Obama administration moving into office only hours away, that moment now has arrived. now is the time to address these larger systems issues more head on. which is why at the dec Presencing Institute (PI) core meeting we decided to launch an action research initiative on that topic. transformation of capitalism is really just a placeholder name. what we talk about is the evolution of the global economic and political and cultural system such that we begin to recreate the foundations of society from a “field 4 awareness.” field 4 in Theory U is a state of individual and collective attention that is defined as “seeing and acting from the emerging whole.” (see TU, chapter 19, or this paper). so the question on the table is:

how can we regenerate an economy that works for all (rather than just a few of us) and that unlocks our full creative potential?

how can we evolve our political and deepen our democratic process by creating infrastructures that give all people that are affected by a decision a voice that inputs into that decision making process accordingly?

how can we renew the educational and cultural root system of our society such that every single human being can find resources to reflect and connect to the sources of one’s creativity and self?

as the old social structures around us will continue to crumble, these (and other) root questions of societal renewal will move more and more center stage. the PI ToC initiative will contribute to this global conversation by

–creating a global action research community of change makers that actively explore these questions and share their findings in the PI Community (a community that has been joined by more than 1000 change makers from 73 countries in less than four weeks)

–developing a network of places (planetary accupuncture points) in which these root questions are explored by doing, by locally renewing the community and regenerating the economy bottom up

–creating a network of innovation ecosystems that links up highly innovative institutions and change makers (across all three sectors) to collectively generate different ways of co-sensing and co-creating a future that resonates with our highest aspirations

–a thoughtleader dialogue forum that will stage global classroom  sessions through a regular event series in the PI Community.

summing up: the REAL work is starting right now!


15 Comments to Transformation of Capitalism (ToC)

Margaret Champion
January 19, 2009

Your blog Otto is truly inspiring. Overwhelming in the call… but nothing less of our collective should be expected.

While participating in the global classroom, more prominent evidence emerged as markets were collapsing worldwide. I hoped at the time that the work you are leading – that you are co-creating – would inform responses to this global crisis.

It can sometimes be difficult to connect our day to day work with these broad social structures.

Rather than assume it is impossible to contribute anything of relevance… you call on us all to offer nothing less than the intentional, relevant co-creation of sustainable communities…

Bernd Nurnberger
January 19, 2009

Thank you for your inspiring call to action. I notice resonance with the goals of Corporation 20/20 (link above). Mail me if you’d like an introduction.

Anna Lise M. Grandjean
January 21, 2009

Dear Otto
You are so very right, I was, again, so moved and happy at the same time watching the inauguration of Obama yesterday. I really feel part of a warm global movement rising, I feel myself much closer to people in the world sharing the same values, and part of something new, big and better.

Thank you for introducing the term “transforming capitalism” in my vocabulary. Without knowing, this is of course what I have been trying for many years. Going from being a concerned environmentalist cleaning up and restoring lakes in Denmark, to developing cleaner technologies to prevent pollution which unfortunately only few would implement, trying instead to work with and move the politicians towards a more sustainable society, I have now ended up in industry among the leaders responsible for managing most of the earths resources – raw materials, energy and people. This is where I want to work and carry through change management for the leaders in order to transform the thinking in companies towards sustainable development. But it is a tough uphill battle, and I often felt alone on the travel.
This is why this community is great. It is like finding a lot of good friends you did not now about, and with whom you talk the same language.

Warm regards
Anna Lise

January 22, 2009

Margaret, Bernd, Anna Lise–yes it feels as if we are crossing a threshold. my ToC blog entry as written right prior to the Obama inauguration this week; but the inauguration has really lifted the whole of consciousness to a different playing field. has it? read on the PI community site how people have experienced the Obama inauguration event!
Anne Lise–i look forward to continue this conversation at our March 18 MIT event on Transforming Capitalism!

here is the site on the obama experience sharing:

Toni Stafford
January 23, 2009

Otto and others, the phrase “planetary acupuncture points” has reminded me of another global initiative which has “co-sensing” as a focus. It’s called the Global Coherence Initiative.

Researchers at the Institute of HeartMath have long researched and documented the connection between human performance and “coherent” heart rhythm patterns, as measured by biofeedback devices. Now they’ve teamed up with a former NASA physicist and other scientists and are deploying mechanisms to measure movements in the ionosphere which happen to correlate to major planetary events. There’s a very informative short video at

The connection between Presencing and Coherence is something I could write on and on about. But I’ll do that in my own blog, it’s not my intention to hijack yours, Otto!

Juergen Nagler
January 27, 2009

Otto, many thanks for your leadership in expanding consciousness.
ToC needs to happen and it is, as there change can be seen and felt in many areas. Obama is the latest “energizer”. There is an evolutionary shift to research in our global economical system.
Are there possibilities to do a PhD in connecting “Business and Sprit(uality)”? I published a first concept draft on my blog (link above).

Elizabeth Jetton
February 5, 2009

As we know intuitively and through our U experience that all knowledge and expressions of humanity (such as economics, ecology) have a root source of creative intelligence, a place of wholeness in seed form – it is wonderful to be part of the gathering community that lives in the root questions. A group of us wish to extend an invitation to this community to be part of a gathering at one of those “network of places” where these root questions can be beautifully held around the question of money. Money as even more root adn closer to soul than the conversation about capitalism perhaps. More information will be forthcoming, but for now you can visit and find: Art of Hosting at Gold Lake, CO: For people asking urgent questions about money issues.

Martin Siesta
February 6, 2009

Elizabeth, all the details ofthis learning journey is now posted under “Events”

February 8, 2009

reading this thread and coming out of a whole series of discussions across sectors it looks as if ToC is emerging as one of the key themes for the decade ahead of us.


Tom Wojick
February 15, 2009

Otto, Your blog is inspiring and coincidentally I wrote two blogs, The Imperative of Trust and The Pursuit of Happiness for Planet 2025, that reflect your themes. In the Trust blog I conclude that the level of mistrust in our hierachical systems and leaders make it impossible at this point in time to be effective in leading change and that we must engage the groundswell to be active and assume leadership. In the Pursuit of Happiness the main theme is that we have been derailed in ability to change because of pursuit of pleasure. In the pursuit we have spoiled our planet and remain disatisfied with our lives. It is only through committment of a purpose larger than us can we expereice and find happiness. Obviosuly, Theory U is a process that can restore trust, instill a true sense of meaning and happiness and create and innovate change that our planet desperately needs.

Martin Large
February 20, 2009

Your three key questions of how we build an economy that works for all, how we are deepening democracy and how are we enabling a creative educational/learning space for people to realise their full potential and contribute-are vital ones.

It would be good to link up with other communities of place and learning, as we are trying here in Stroud, England to build a community of practice for these questions through our cultural, social and economic regeneration work, and spread the learning with those similarly engaged through Strpud Communiversity-now linking with 4 other European communities for shared learning.

February 26, 2009

I know that your thoughts here are very rough, Otto, but think some more about whether “transformation of capitalism” is the best name for what you are trying to do.

Whenever I hear people talk about “capitalism” and “the economy” in a very generic and almost mystical (or mystifying) way, it reminds me of the lessons that I learned from J.K. Gibson-Graham’s classic book The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It). In that book they highlight the need to look closely at the way we talk about and imagine “capitalism.” They show how the way we talk about economic activities can limit our perception of the economic diversity that’s actually happening. And consequently, our limited perception of diverse economic realities can limit our ideas about what could be possible.

More information about J.K. Gibson-Graham’s research and a bibliography of their writings is on their Community Economies web site:

Tim Mundell
March 1, 2009

Otto, I am a middle school principal on Long Island (NY) engaging staff and students in change they do not even understand is happening to them. The U has been my guide for transformation of the school for three years. The culture of the school has transformed in three years, but moving toward a consciousness about the process is the next big challenge. My dissertation is grounded in this theoretical and ideological foundation and focuses on a leader’s practice in building a learning community. When I used the term “presencing” in my proposal, I stumeped my chair, in essence telling me that the work is really on the cutting edge. Transforming schools is a constructive effort toward building the paradigm of the future because the students are the leaders of tomorrow.

March 7, 2009

mark–like u i am also not happy with the term transformation of capitalism. its a placeholder. mainly because i havent found a better term that is a) correct (descriptive), b) evocative, and c) points at the right level of profound (as opposed to gradual) change.
thanks for sharing the link that i will follow up on. do you have any better term that comes to your mind? or anyone else here in the loop? whats a better term than ToC?

March 7, 2009

Tim, great work. why dont u share a bit of your story in the Education Group at the Presencing Institute Community site?
they all would be very interested in such a story.

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