Archive for the 'Social Transformation' Category

Fulfilling Human Potential

This morning I was thinking about “poverty eradication.”   I was thinking about this because right before going to bed last night I watched a TEDx video titled “What Needs to be Done in the 21st Century?”   The presenters, Erika Ilves and Annie McQuade, listed 9 separate global imperatives, where each cause had its own tribe that feels that its cause is most important.

Here’s their list:

1.  The Economy, and Economic Growth
2.  Global Warming and the Environment
3.  Technology as what can save and fulfill us.
4.  Poverty eradication, and the Millennium Development Goals
5.  Disaster Relief
6.  Security and Defense – against destructive abilities of terrorists, criminals and enemies.
7.  Peace:  creating a global civilization based on shared values
8.  Global governance – creating effective global responses to global problems.
9.  Science – understanding ourselves and the Universe.

So, back to poverty eradication as an example of one of these tribes:

Extreme poverty is a very obvious and heartbreaking obstacle to living a fulfilling life.   So eradicating poverty is a very tangible, and addressable, goal to get behind.

But the real goal behind poverty eradication is to give all humans the opportunity to fulfill their human potential.

This is really the ultimate goal of any social improvement type goal, including all 9 of these listed above.  But the trick is in getting widespread agreement on what is human potential.

And yet, there seems to be broad agreement that human potential has three dimensions:  Physical, mental, and spiritual.

Physical potential means the potential to be healthy and strong.

Mental potential means the potential to be intelligent, creative, and adaptive.

Spiritual potential means the potential to be happy, loving, and to have a sense of purpose.

In addition, nearly all spiritual traditions and philosophies have some idea the full spiritual development includes the ability to transcend – go beyond – the limitations of individual and tribal egos.

Another common idea of spiritual fulfillment is to enhance our sense of connection to all of life.  Most humans feel more fulfilled when surrounded by the beauty of nature in balance – just as we feel a crucial sense of loss or danger when nature, and our connection to it, is not in balance.

To some people, “spiritual” is the most important dimension of fulfillment, because the spiritual dimension has the potential to transcend the other two.  However, to others, “mental” or “physical” is most important.  And yet, most people agree that the ideal is to have all three of these types of fulfillment.

OK.  If there really is broad agreement that the ultimate goal is to give all humans the opportunity to be fulfilled physically, mentally, and spiritually; then what do we do with that agreement?

Obviously:  We all focus on becoming saints!

Otherwise, admitting that this is the ultimate goal can easily threaten the narrow desires and expectations of many of us (and of our egos).    For example, if these are the ultimate goals, why would anyone want to be, or to remain, a billionaire?   Having a billion dollars at our personal disposal (or even many millions) is simply not a requirement for any single individual’s, or family’s, fulfillment.   And yet, a billion dollars can go a long way to help entire communities, and even many small and troubled countries, insure a higher level of fulfillment for its members.

There are also lots of other fascinating implications of recognizing fulfillment of human potential as the ultimate goal – for whole societies and for each of us as individuals.

Who Gave Organizations the Same Rights as Individual Citizens? No One.


It is widely believed that the 14th Amendment gives organizations the same rights as individuals.  It is also widely believed that the famous 1886 Supreme Court Case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, affirms that right.

Based on original research by Thom Hartman, the decision made in the Santa Clara court case did not make a single reference to the 14th Amendment, nor to the equal rights of corporations, as the basis for the decision.  In addition, the 14th amendment does not make a single reference to any form of organization having the same rights as individual citizens.  On the contrary, the language actually used makes it abundantly clear that the “persons” it refers to are individual humans.

Many believe – including me – that this is an issue that has extremely broad agreement across the entire political spectrum:  Progressive, conservative and moderate, Democrat, Republican, Libertarians, Greens, and Independents, MoveOn Activists, and Tea Party supporters.

We need to unite around what we agree on in order to make any progress.

Here are the details if you would like to see them:

In a particularly lucid interview, the historian Thom Hartman explained how the legal notion of corporate personhood evolved from a bizarre interpretation of the 14th amendment, and now appears to give corporations the same rights as individual citizens.  (Also see his new book:  Unequal Protection: How Corporations Became People — And How You Can Fight Back.)

In the interview, Hartmann says: “I think it was clear to the authors, and pretty much to everybody, that they (the authors of the 14th Amendment) were talking about human beings — natural persons.”

He also states that the first legal precedent for giving corporations the rights of “persons” was the Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad case in 1886. Every attorney and law student believes this; and yet when Hartmann researched the original court case and read the Court’s decision, the Court did not make any reference to the 14th Amendment rights of persons, even though that right was argued by the railroad.  Instead, the rights of corporations as persons was described in the “head notes” to the decision which have no legal authority and which were written by the clerk of the court, who was personally biased in favor of the railroads.

In the conclusion of the interview Hartmann says that what we need to do to reverse the ‘personhood’ of corporations is to add a new amendment that clarifies that the 14th amendment pertains only to human persons.

However, my question is:  Why do we need a constitutional amendment when  it is now clear that Santa Clara County v. S. Pacific did not affirm the corporate personhood interpretation, and when the very language of the 14th amendment makes it clear that it pertained only to real humans?

If you read the entire text of the 14th amendment, you will see the word “persons” used many times, but for every use of the word, the authors were clearly talking only about human persons, as individuals, and not referring to an organization as a “person.”

Here are the uses of the word “persons” in the 14th Amendment:

Section 1

a) Refers to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.”   Corporations and other types of organizations are not “born” nor are they naturalized.

b) States that all persons born or naturalized in the U.S. are “citizens” of the U.S. and should thus have the same rights as any other citizens.   Corporations, labor unions, non-profits, churches, and other organizations are clearly not citizens of the U.S.  Otherwise, every organization in the country could also vote, which they can’t.

c)  States that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process.   Organizations can be closed down, but they can’t “be deprived of life” because they’re not alive.

Section 2:

a) States that apportionment of members of the House of Representatives is to be based on the “whole number of persons in each State.”  Corporations and other types of organizations are not counted when determining congressional apportionment.  (Do you really want to interpret it that way?)

b)   Refers to the number of “male citizens.”  Clearly this isn’t talking about corporations or other types of organizations.

Section 3:

a) States that “no person shall be a Senator or Representative” if that person has participated in a rebellion against the government.   This use of “person” is clearly not including corporations or other types of organizations.

So the language of the 14th Amendment is certainly not talking about organizations; it is talking only about human individuals as persons.

If any amendment were going to take the extraordinary step of giving corporations, universities, membership organizations, etc., etc., the full rights of individual citizens the language would need to be very explicit in order for any judge with integrity to make such a  radical interpretation.   And yet, the 14th amendment does not make a single reference to any form of organization having the same rights as individual citizens.  On the contrary, the language actually used makes it abundantly clear that the “persons” it refers to are individual humans.

The fact that organizations are not given the right to cast a vote is also evidence that no one is seriously ready to give all organizations in the country the same rights as human citizens.

The very fact that such a bizarre interpretation of the 14th amendment has made its way into our court system is “smoking gun” evidence that over the past century a few enormously wealthy corporations have had extraordinary power in getting their way.  Thom Hartmann’s research, plus elementary logic both make it clear that this has been the case.   And this is exactly why such organizations should not have the same rights as individuals.

In order to reverse this very damaging state of affairs, we should not need to make a new amendment to state that the 14th amendment does not say what it does not say.  And yet, what else can we do?  We can’t sue the Supreme Court; we can only ask Congress to impeach one or more members.   But, given the mess we’re now in, where wealthy corporations have undue power over elections, we can’t really expect Congress to take such a radical step.

Our only hope is to unite a majority of the natural, human persons in the country around this issue.   This is surely an issue where a majority of moderates, progressives and conservatives, ultra-liberals, tea-partiers and libertarians, all agree on.

Ask them to read the 14th Amendment and tell you whether they think that the people who voted for that amendment somehow believed that corporations and other organizations are “persons” who are born or naturalized, or are male or female, or could possibly become Senators, or who have the right to vote.

Also ask them if they really believe that extreme wealth should play such a huge role as it does in determining which candidates can spend the most money to get its messages across and to attack their opponents.

Inequality of Wealth and the Story of the Two Bubbles

Sometimes you come across a set of ideas and a mental framework that makes things that are difficult to comprehend suddenly extremely clear.  And one thinks, “Wow, anybody should be able to understand this!”

Yesterday I listened to a downloaded 20 minute interview with Robert Reich speaking about the causes of our current “Great Recession.”  Reich is an economist, Professor of Public Policy, and former Labor Secretary.

I was interested in this interview because I saw that he was making this premise:

Too much concentration of wealth at the top is not just bad for people in the middle and bottom, but it’s also bad for the economy.

This is a message that is easily understood and that can help explain why our economic system is in such terrible shape, and that making the system more fair is also the way to fix it.

There are links to the podcast and also a complete transcript of the interview at the bottom of this post.

Here is a summary:

ReichAnd then I looked at the research and was amazed to discover there were two years in the 20th century in which income concentrated to such an extent it actually centralized a great deal of the nation’s income right at the top.

“One year was 2007, when the richest [1% of] Americans took home, or got, I should say, about 23 and a half of total income. The other year was 1928.”


% of wealth owned by the richest 1%

1928     23%

1979       9%

2007    28%


Industrialization was the force that led to huge side-by-side bubbles of wealth and debt just before the Depression.

Globalization, automation, and information technology are what have led to the same side-by-side bubbles of huge wealth and debt that now exist.

Too much wealth in the hands of the rich and super rich means:

a) The middle and lower classes have to go deeper and deeper into debt in order to keep paying at least partially for their modest lifestyles.

b) The wealthy have so much money that they can only spend a small amount, which means that they:

i) speculate in securities, creating an expanding bubble there,

and that

ii) too much of the burden of spending to keep the economy going is financed by too-much debt taken on by the middle class, thus creating another big bubble of debt for the economy to rest on.

When these two bubbles became too large they collapse, and the market and the whole economy collapses with them.

After the Great Depression, it was by pumping money back into the hands of the middle and lower classes that the debt bubble decreased enough and the economy got restarted, but only after many years of slow recovery.   As all economists know and often tell us, the middle and lower classes spend much greater proportions of their income than the wealthy.  World War Two also helped unleash radical levels of government spending to “fight the war” and put people back to work.

Among the wealth-re-balancing changes put into place by Roosevelt:  Legalization of labor unions and collective bargaining – illegal before 1935 – Social Security, a minimum wage, and a 40 hour workweek – all of which were bitterly fought by industrialists and others who favored the status-quo.

You can download the 20 minute podcast and a complete transcript here:

Fresh Air, 9/29/2010

Old Testament Prophets and Environmental Forecasts

Over lunch, I’m snatching a few minutes to read about the terrible prophesies of Isaiah in Karen Armstrong’s History of God.  Isaiah’s prophesies – of devastation of the land and the uprooting of most of the people – were of course soundly rejected, and also of course came true.

Reading this reminded me that no one, and no nation, likes to hear prophesies that for-tell disasters that can only be prevented by the people acting as a whole, at great cost in personal wealth and comfort, and with a great deal of uncertainty.

Prophesies of Global Warming?   It feels much better to pay attention to respected elders and experts who reassuringly say that such prophesies are unreasonable and even dangerous, and that we don’t really need to make big and difficult changes, that might cause us to be more careful with our wealth and our time.

But who is to know??

It might help to look at the record of environmental disasters that were predicted well in advance, and not heeded.   For example, several years before too much of New Orleans was destroyed, all that happened was predicted as a near certainty if big steps weren’t taken to prevent them.   Why weren’t the predictions heeded?  Because taking action would cost too much, would require more taxes, or would be bad for the economy.   All now very sad reasons.

When a majority of scientists and climate experts (not all mind you) are predicting disaster, a wiser nation would at least have a serious discussion with itself (instead of derisive dismissal or stone-walling), to find and agree on creative solutions, and hedge its bets — like investing on a huge scale in non-polluting, low CO2 emitting, sustainable technologies  – because there is simply too much to lose.

Stories entrance and entrain us

Recent research from Princeton finds confirmation in the brain of what we already experience:   Stories align minds.   In the research listener’s brain patterns closely mirrored the story teller’s brain patterns, and the strength of the mirroring correlated highly with the respondent’s ability to retell the tale.


People who tell captivating stories win more often than people who use even the best logical arguments.

But there has to be a minimum level of receptivity.  Some stories are calculated to block receptivity to stories that are considered to enhance the enemy‘s positions.

And there are also stories designed to break down barriers to receptivity.

State of theFuture Report – 2010

Alerted by summary on

This extensive report is by the Millennium Project, founded in 1996 as a global think tank that connects international experts in corporations, universities, NGOs, UN agencies and governments via 35 Nodes around the world in a participatory process and that explores how to build a better future.

Summary of summary:

“The world is in a race between implementing ever-increasing ways to improve the human condition and the seemingly ever-increasing complexity and scale of global problems.”

Accelerating advances in technology have the potential to stabilize or solve many of the greatest problems.  But changes in policies, and our collective decision-making are urgently required.

In addition, “We also need changes in human values to be discussed within and among religions, media, entertainment, and the arts. Everyone has a part to play in the great race between the increasingly complex problems and ways to improve the prospects for civilization.”

Where we are losing

Where We Are Winning

Social Networks as Platforms for Collective Consciousness

At least two things are needed for social networks to become self aware ‘platforms’ for collective intelligence:

  • A much greater percentage of the connections in the network need to be accessible and usable by anyone in the network.
  • The connections need to include information about connection weights.

Connection weights can help individuals and organizations better manage privacy and attention.

Weighted connections and real-time adjustments in the weights can also track reputation and collective desires and can facilitate and reveal collective decisions.

The trick is to add connection weights in a way that is actually usable.

Insight into Group Consciousness

The Celestine Prophecy (Redfield, 1996) was not a great work of literature, but it contained many good insights (and more than 9).

In 2000 I copied the description below of a group process based on intuitively sensing the flow of energy in a group conversation.   You could also say it’s based on extremely fluid listening, and non-attachment – which are not easy to come by in groups, but which can make any group process much more effective.

The question is, how can this level of group consciousness be developed?  A simple answer is that it can if there is a great deal of motivation on the part of group members, and if at least some of the members can model the method and help coach the others.

Is this really a “method” – or actually a level of collective consciousness that many groups experience, regardless of the particular method or process used?   Which methods are especially good at culturing listening and dropping ego-attachments?

(Excerpt follows from the Celestine Prophecy pp. 214 – 215 – this book is available for “Search Inside” on Amazon)  Continue reading ‘Insight into Group Consciousness’

Controversies with Calamitous Consequences

Today is the last day to give feedback to the USDA about an issue that many people, including experts, believe could have disastrous effects on US and global agriculture.  The USDA and Secretary Vilsack, in collaboration with Monsanto, are about to lift a court-ordered ban on Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) “Roundup Ready” alfalfa.   Information on why this is important, and how to give feedback is below.

(Even if “today” is gone; please keep reading to understand this situation better.)

There are actually two issues here.  One is that GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are potentially very dangerous, and the dangers, while controversial, are not yet well enough understood to ignore.  The second issue is that Monsanto is another example of a corporation that is simply too powerful to fail.   How much power should a single corporate entity have?   In Monsanto’s case, the company controls patents on seeds that are currently responsible for 93% of soybeans and 80% of corn grown in the U.S.  They also control patents on many other seeds that farmers can’t simply reproduce and replant, but instead they have to essentially pay royalties in perpetuity to Monsanto.

Like Climate Change, GMOs are controversial, and like Climate Change, if those who see huge dangers looming are correct, and if those who deny those dangers prevail, the dangers can not only be disastrous, but practically irreversible.

Undoubtedly many proponents for the dangers of Climate Change may not agree that GMOs are a danger, and vice versa.   However, there is at least one thing all groups should be able to agree on:  If there is significant evidence that consequences of doing nothing can be not only disastrous, but irreversible, then doing nothing – which means letting corporate and other narrow interests stay on course – should not be an option in intelligent, life-loving societies.

So, regardless of your current position on GMOs, please consider this to be a serious enough issue to put the brakes on Monsanto’s plans until more is known about the consequences.

Here is some background on the issues at stake.

As described in this recent Washington Post article, Monsanto has developed genetically modified seeds that ‘help’ farmers by making Roundup herbicide (which Monsanto also owns) easier and more effective to use, and thus giving farmer’s bigger crop yields.   Unfortunately for the farmers, Monsanto has also been regularly raising seed prices and that has been cutting into farmers’ profit margins.  But currently most farmers feel that for economic reasons they have to continue buying from Monsanto.  Now Monsanto is pushing on the USDA to overturn court-ordered bans on Roundup Ready Alfalfa.  Some of the reasons that alfalfa is so important are given below and more in the links.

Here are excerpts from a molecular biologist, John Fagan, who has spent more than two decades researching use of recombinant DNA techniques.  Much of his research has been funded by NIH (National Institutes of Health) and the National Cancer Institute.

“Genetically engineered alfalfa would be the first perennial GM crop, and would result in a huge increase of toxic RoundUp in the environment. It would expose livestock widely to both genetically engineered genes and pesticide residues. It would especially affect cows and horses–their health, their reproduction, and their byproducts, particularly milk.”

“Alfalfa pollen is carried far and wide by the wind and bees, so the presence of GM alfalfa in the environment would contaminate organic alfalfa, rendering organic dairy impossible. Consumers who eat alfalfa sprouts would be exposed directly, as well as those who eat meat.

“Despite past positive trends, this is the most serious GMO threat yet, as it creates the legal precedent at the Supreme Court level, for GMO contamination to be acceptable for any crop, with the support of the USDA.”

[UpdateMore than 200,000 NGOs, farmers, consumers and organic producers call on USDA to prohibit genetically engineered alfafa. March 3, 2010]

Here are links for learning more and to take action (by March 3)– e.g. ,by providing feedback to the USDA.

Providing feedback can take less than 3 minutes.

1. Get informed and take action:

This takes you to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) where you can send the OCA email letter as feedback by clicking “take action now.”

2. Submit comments directly to the USDA at:

You can write your own comments, or copy and paste from the letter found at the OCA link above.

Thank you!

Frozen Pipes and Global Warming – and the Need for Local Climate Talks

It has been very cold in Asheville recently – and all over the East Coast.   Today it is a balmy 45 degrees; but on Monday we woke up and our pipes were frozen.   10 degrees is rare for Asheville!

Our friend Mike, who does home repairs, came to help.  Afterwards I mentioned that “Global Warming” should really be called “Climate Disruption.”

He said, “Yes, ‘Global Warming’ is wrong.  Have you heard about the conspiracy?”  He then told me how he had been listening to Jesse Ventura’s frequent reports about how the government and rich people are making a bundle by convincing people that global warming is a big threat and then getting fat contracts to fix a problem that doesn’t really exist.   He said, “It opens your eyes.  You should listen on TV, on the True TV channel.”  I said that most scientists believe that global warming is real and a very big danger.  He said that there is evidence that the scientists are getting paid off.

I didn’t have time then – or a handy list of points to make – to have a serious discussion, so I’m sorry to say that I didn’t follow-up.  But my overall thought is that Mike is a very good guy.  I honestly believe he would listen to real experts if he truly believed they were real and not speaking out of narrow interests.  But he is currently plugged into only one channel.

Asheville is very cool, because you can find all points of view well represented here.  There are many people like Mike who listen to only the ‘conservative’ side of the story.   And there is also an extremely large and committed progressive community that cares passionately about sustainability, the environment, and the dangers of climate change.  And, there are many people who haven’t made up their minds yet about climate disruption, and who probably haven’t really thought a lot about it.

The community includes many, many people who are very knowledgeable about these issues, and also many people who are expert in facilitating group dialogue and deliberations.    I also believe that Asheville includes both progressives and conservatives who are not only knowledgeable, but who are also open enough to engage in a fair dialogue.  (Note:  dialogue does not equal debate.  It is not about winning, but about listening and reaching a truth that all sides can get behind.)

I haven’t done the due-diligence yet (mea culpa) but I strongly suspect that these groups aren’t really talking to each other.   Like everywhere else, the progressives seem to mainly interact with progressives, and the conservatives mainly interact with conservatives.  And when people from the two groups do interact, it’s very hard to talk about this issue without getting frustrated or mad or giving up.

I happen to believe that climate disruption is happening and is a grave danger.  But in order to really prevent the catastrophe that we see coming, don’t we need to talk to people like Mike, and to others who currently don’t agree, as well as to people who don’t know what to think?   Yes, that includes me.  I need to talk to Mike.  But how many Mikes can I talk to?

We need help.  In order to really break through the frustrations and make progress, we need a structure, skilled facilitators, and a group of honest people that both sides can relate to.

I can easily envision local climate talks, involving real people – citizens and neighbors – of all persuasions, and all over our country.   Each side sharing opinions, sharing evidence, and, most importantly, honestly discussing how to make collective decisions about the evidence, and how to evaluate and respond to crucial issues where there will always be unknowns and unprovables – and yet, in the place of absolute certainties, where there will still be scientifically valid levels of certainty.  (As one person said recently, “Would you put your child on a plane if 90% of industry engineers said there was 75% chance that the engines could fail anytime in the next year?  Or even a 1% chance?”)

I can easily envision these local climate talks.  But how to actually make it happen?

I can’t think of a better place to start than Asheville.

Good News: Military Solutions to Crime and Violence are Failing

From Sunday Washington Post Front Page:

Violence in Juarez Prompts Officials to Admit Miltary Failure

Why is this good news?  It’s of course actually a tragedy:  A tragedy that is playing out all over the world as violent criminals (whether motivated by money, glory, or rage) are becoming ever richer and more dangerously armed, and as their abilities steadily increase to recruit tens of thousands of poor and alienated youth to fight for them.

The only good news is that stories like this indicate ever more clearly that a primarily military/police strategy does not work, and in fact does little to reduce the influence and growth of violent criminals and extremists.   It is good news that political, civic, and business leaders are realizing that the only real solution has to include dramatically reducing the disenfranchisement of the poor, and especially of youth who are now being sacrificed as ground troops on both sides of the “fight.”

This has – or should have – huge implications for the U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan.

Quote from article:

“The United States backed that strategy [Calderon’s military-led strategy] under the 2007 Merida Initiative, signed by President George W. Bush. The bulk of the $1.4 billion aid package funds Black Hawk and Bell 412 helicopters, CASA CN-235 surveillance planes, police training and inspection equipment.

“But with the three-year initiative due to expire next year, U.S. officials have indicated that they plan to move from military assistance to a “softer” approach focusing on issues such as institution building, judicial reform and support programs aimed at impoverished youths like those who are recruited by the thousands into criminal gangs. Two-thirds of those killed violently in Juarez are between 14 and 24 years old.

“”It is more sustainable. A helicopter at best is going to have a 25-year life, but a human being in Mexico has a 75-year life expectancy,’ said John Feeley, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico. ‘If you can get to the children, you are not just giving assistance, you are contributing in the development of a person, of the society.'”

P.S. – In the same edition of the Post, there was another front page story about the dramatic growth of gangs in and around Washington, DC, and the difficulties of funding youth-targeted programs to help deal with this problem.

Thank Heaven for Left Right and Center

Who else can we thank?

Another way of saying it:

God is not on the Left, Right, or Center.

I know that is blasphemy to millions. But they seem to be worshiping tribal gods. Tribal gods are OK, but brittle.

Thank God, or the creative nature of the universe, that we are not all on the right, or all on the left, or all in the center. We are only all human, and only all earthlings.

If we were all on the right, or left, we would certainly hurtle over the cliff of our choosing, even faster than we’re now approaching the cliff that no one is choosing.

If we were all in the center, we would still be getting closer and closer to the non-chosen cliff, because there is too much investment in the status quo, and too little appetite for change.

But we’re not all in one place, one ideology, one proclivity, one style, one perspective.

That’s not a design flaw; that IS the design.

Even though that’s the design, we rail against it.

Even though, by our nature, we’re not all of one perspective, we’re in huge trouble now because enough of us haven’t waked up to realize that all our perspectives and peculiarities are needed to survive and thrive.  Or, that is, all are needed to be part of our on-going conversations, deliberations, adaptations, and innovations.

My heroes (dual gender) are those who have waked up to that, and who are able to speak well, and model well, in ways that are convincing to large segments of center, right, and left. Not just talking and inspiring (though those are important) but demonstrating – not as in protesting, but as in showing how.

What do Meta Networks Need?

(Continued from Basic Case for Meta Networks and Global Transformation)

Meta Networks are:

  • Decentralized networks of people, organizations and networks,
  • Bound together by shared goals, values, and experiences.

Meta networks are crucial for fixing global problems before they overwhelm us.

Meta networks need passionate, committed, and talented people, plus ideas, funding, and other resources.   But they also need methods and tools to make the individuals, organizations, and network as a whole more intelligent and effective.

Here are four types of methods and tools that meta networks need:

1.  Connecting people and organizations.

a.  Connecting people to people and organizations to obtain:

– Ideas, expertise and help (employees, partners, consultants, advisors, volunteers)

– Funding (investors, grants, donors)

– Inside Intelligence & Influence (related to potential customers, partners, investors, employees, and suppliers, and agencies, policy makers, communities, etc.)

Examples of tools:
Job, volunteer and consultant matching sites and databases; professional social network platforms for finding needed expertise and affiliations and obtaining trusted recommendations and referrals (e.g., LinkedIn).

Examples of methods:
Network weaving and social network analysis.

b. Connecting people to content
(to obtain news, ideas, opinions, research, experiences, knowledge)

Examples – Generic and specialized Internet search engines, content management and knowledge sharing applications and portals.

2. Sources for Reputation, Fact-checking, Due-Diligence.
(Supports other needs, e.g., connecting people, decision-making, etc.)

Examples:  Generic Internet search engines; professional social network platforms for checking professional experience and getting personally trusted insights and recommendations; reputation sites (most are not very mature yet).

3. Messaging campaigns to spread awareness and actions
(e.g., awareness and actions related to voting, contacting policy makers, talking to neighbors, donating, buying or boycotting)

Examples:  Social media sites and tools (Facebook, Twitter, messaging tools, etc.)

4. Collective Thinking and Action (big category!)

a)  Removing barriers to communication and collaboration.
(Dialogue, listening, finding common ground, consensus-building, conflict transformation, use of stories, symbols and rituals, collective consciousness effects)

b) Identifying, understanding and solving problems
(Collecting facts and perspectives from all relevant sources; Innovating (exploring/scanning/brainstorming); Integrating perspectives to reach consensus/decision on best strategies and tactics; Prediction; Deliberation and planning (evaluating ideas from different perspectives, consensus building); and Getting commitments for action.)

c) Collaborative Action – requiring complex coordination of actions by many people and organizations.

Examples of a, b, & c:   Online and in-person methods and tools for dialogue, deliberation, and collaboration.   For a partial list see NCDD’s Framework for Dialogue and Deliberation.

What is left out of this list?  Or what would you change?

Meta Networks and Global Transformation – Basic Case

Meta Networks are:

  • Decentralized networks of people, organizations and networks,
  • Bound together by shared goals, values, and experiences.

Mega organizations (like governments and corporations) are still important.

But the global problems we now face are too great to be solved mainly by hierarchically controlled mega-organizations.

Compared to mega organizations, meta networks are potentially:

  • More intelligent and adaptive.
  • More accountable,
  • Better able to bring about needed shifts in global awareness and behavior.
  • Better at distributing ideas, resources and talent to where they are most needed

Global-scale meta networks exist and are enabling great things.

But great as their achievements are, their potential is much greater.

That is, existing meta networks aren’t yet smart and coherent enough to accelerate positive global changes to needed tipping points.   Meta networks are fragmented; and most of the people and organizations in them remain hidden and inaccessible to any given person or organization with a need for more effective connections.

We need to do whatever we can to help meta networks realize their potential.

Next:  What do meta networks need?

See also:  Meta Networks and Global Transformation (March 2009)

Excellent sources of updates on Iranian election

Very interesting developments.   A promise of something good in the air, never forgetting the danger.

The best sources I have found for following what’s happening:

The Lede:  New York Times blog
Latest Updates on Iran’s Disputed Election

By Robert Mackey (Twitter posts from Iran)

Iran protests meet the social Web: What we’ve learned
(Gaurav Mishra

But of course there is a flood of good sources.

Obama’s Radical Middle Messages

Barack Obama is a Radical Centrist, preaching and teaching dialogue, finding common ground, and listening and speaking “fair-minded words” with an open heart and an open mind.   These themes appear in all of his speeches on controversial issues, which are about the only issues he speaks about.   Controversy is everywhere, paralyzing us, provoking verbal hostilities and worse, wasting our time, energies and resources and producing ineffective solutions that seem to only get us into deeper troubles.

Here are some excerpts from two of his recent speeches.

From his May 17 speech at Notre Dame in which he focused on abortion:

About dealing with conflict:

“Understand – I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. No matter how much we may want to fudge it – indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory – the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.”

About finding common ground:

“So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term.”

From his June 4 Cairo speech to Muslims around the world:  Continue reading ‘Obama’s Radical Middle Messages’

Concept: Surrender to the Lord

Why, I ask, do I want to write about this?

Here’s a thought:

This phrase, “surrender to the Lord” has deep meaning to hundreds of millions of people on our planet – Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and others.

It is also a phrase that has very little positive effect on millions of others, or in many cases, makes them want to run away.

So it is an important concept.  If more of us could get more clarity about both the sublime and the disturbing interpretations of this phrase, that could be a good thing.

It is these two words, “surrender” and “Lord” that cause the biggest impacts for either attracting or repelling people.

Throughout history there have been good authorities (kings, judges, land-owners, bosses, etc.) and bad ones; but all equally had to be called “lord.”   So when put together with the word “surrender”, the phrase can naturally be interpreted as a need for unquestioning deference and obedience.

How is that historic, very “earthly” interpretation compared to the spiritual interpretation?  Is there a close fit?  Or not?   Continue reading ‘Concept: Surrender to the Lord’

Disagreement is a puzzle, not a problem

Disagreement is a puzzle, not a problem.

Disagreement is an opportunity to learn, to create a greater whole.

The problem is hostility.

Arrogance, ridicule, self-righteousness, disrespect, spurious and misleading arguments are all forms of hostility – non-physical violence.

The good news is that many of us who disagree on important things, still agree that hostility is a mistake: We don’t have to defend ourselves from each other. We are only defending ourselves from the hostility we fear coming from others.  

Yet,  many also attack to gain control, or to defend, pre-emptively.

When the dominant paradigm (social rule) is to gain control and defend, then forget learning, forget creating a greater whole, ultimately, forget keeping the Earth alive.  Fortunately, at least, this is becoming more obvious.  Competing desires to gain control is finally becoming a threat to everyone.

OK, so now the problem is that while many of us agree that we keep making the same mistakes, we’re still having trouble agreeing on common solutions.  

Learning to listen, and talk without defenses, has become a very tricky thing !  This is what we have to work on.

How reliance on experts gets us into hot water

This article from New Scientist reports a recent study that shows how relying on expert advice actually makes people give up trying to figure out solutions on their own.

This phenomenon has both adaptive and non-adaptive effects.

It is evolutionarily adaptive by being a “conformity-enforcing” phenomenon that can kick in when a large group needs to quickly move in the same direction in order to survive a big threat.   It’s also adaptive when the issues are extremely complex and most members of the population don’t have the knowledge or experience to really evaluate the risks and make a good decision.

It is evolutionarily non-adaptive when there is still a lot of confusion around the issue, when the experts themselves don’t agree, and when many experts are guided by narrow interests that don’t serve the group (like increasing and protecting their own personal prestige and wealth).

In our current global and national situation, our knowledge and systems have now evolved to the point where nearly all of the most critical threats to our survival are caused by our own, human, activities and decisions, and where these same issues are now so complex that it’s almost impossible to expect a relatively small number of experts to understand them well enough  to make the correct decisions (even forgetting personal biases).

Our survival now rests on our ability to engage the knowledge and wisdom of hundreds of thousands and even millions of people in order to make collective decisions.    As we all know this is a huge challenge – given our current tendencies to tear each other apart over disagreements, instead thinking together for the higher good.

There has to be a way!   We need leaders like Obama, who understand that we all have to be involved in solutions to national and global problems.  We also can’t make ridiculous expectations that require these leaders to immediately come up with the right solutions.  Currently many of us are simply sitting on the side-lines second-guessing them, or else looking for ways to ridicule their ideas.

(For example see this piece by David Rothkopf in the Washington Post.  At the end of his piece he seems to agree with the paragraph above.  But at the beginning of the piece he can’t resist ridiculing Obama and his team for not being omniscient.)

We also need some significant advances in understanding “collective intelligence” that also elevates “collective consciousness” rather than being “mined” for the good of the few.

Meta Networks and Global Transformation

In  a great piece written in mid 2007, Paul Hawken reminded us that there is a global meta network (he didn’t use that term) of people and organizations who care deeply about the planet and are working to save it.

He called it the planet’s immune system, now emerging to help us fend off multiple pathologies and terrible threats.

He also said:

  • It’s a decentralized network, not an organization.
  • There is no single hub. (That is, it’s a multi-centered network.)

  • It is not a conventional “movement” where everyone recognizes the same leaders and identical ideologies.

  • “People inside the movement can also underestimate it, basing their judgment on only the organizations they are linked to, even though their networks can only encompass a fraction of the whole. “

This last point is important.  It means that the network already exists, but it’s not yet fully accessible and usable.   Making the network more self-aware and usable is now what is needed, as described more below.

Immune systems are adaptive networks.

Brains are also adaptive networks, which is why many others have also called our interconnected global networks a “global brain.”   Hawken was especially pointing to the part of the global brain that reacts to rigidity, fragmentation, and decay – including abuses of power and environmental threats.

But this same network — people who care about the vitality and prosperity of the whole Earth — is more than just an immune system.  It doesn’t just fight things (disease and injustice, etc.).  It also creates knowledge, tools, and opportunities for growth and fulfillment of individuals, organizations, societies, and (yes) life on earth.

It is really a global network of transformation.

Except, it is not quite all wired up yet.

So, what does a globally intelligent Meta Network need to more fully wake up?

It needs at least these things, which are already available in some form or another, yet still developing:

1. Methods and tools for getting knowledge, talent, and capital to the right people and organizations at the right time.

This includes:

a. Communication tools and social media

We are now swimming in these, and constantly inventing more.

b. Tools for intelligently filtering messages and requests.

This includes tools for reputation, due-diligence, and brokering trust.  Baby tools for these functions now exist.  They need to be much more intelligent and pervasive.

c. Social networking platforms for sharing social capital and trusted referrals

The right tool will need to both enable continuously updated, searchable user profiles and searching the “social graph” for trusted referrals.

d. Network Weaving

Network weaving, and training for network weavers, can help make networks ‘smarter.’ Smart networks have shorter and stronger connection paths that are most useful to network members.   This means that searches will result in more relevant results, and it will be easier to find trusted and influential introductions.  In a smarter network the overall trust will also be higher and knowledge and ideas will flow more quickly to those who need them.

2. Collaboration methods, and the training & experience needed to use them.

E.g., methods such as Dialogue, Appreciative Inquiry, TRIZ, ToP (technologies of participation) and forty or so other especially useful ones.   This is crucial because echo chambers (talking to ourselves) and the inability to communicate effectively (creatively rather than destructively) are killing us.

But this is also especially challenging.  How do we get this, the ability to think productively together, to scale, to become truly pervasive?

To get people to think more constructively together requires not only good methods and training, but also a shift in the consciousness of individuals, for example, developing a level of consciousness that is bigger than their own egos.   To be sure, there are techniques and training for that as well.   Above all, we will need ideology-free techniques as well as traditional techniques preferred by different groups.   However, techniques that help people think together with others who have different backgrounds and opinions can also help bring about a shift in consciousness towards greater openness.  Openness is a great antidote to the bad effects of small egos focused on oneself or a single group.  For more on the connection between collaboration and consciousness see David Bohm’s On Dialogue.  His work is brilliant and his methods are solid; but unfortunately he doesn’t tell us how to make the methods scale.

How do we bring this about? Continue reading ‘Meta Networks and Global Transformation’


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