Toward an Integral Approach
There is a growing awareness that community resilience requires an integral approach to eco-social challenges. An integral approach includes compassion, inner resilience (healthy and compassionate relationship “caring”) and outer resilience (just and sustainable systems “sharing”) within an eco-social region. It includes taking care of people and places for both today and for tomorrow, for our children and for the seventh generation.
Community thought leaders across civic, corporate, and social organizations believe that an integral, whole-systems approach is an essential factor for making real progress along the thriving resilience journey. An integral approach pays attention to the inner relationships and outer actions of both an individual person and the community as a whole. Wisdom society patterns seem to reflect how people relate to each other as much as what they do together. There is an emerging consensus that developing our inner social resilience is the highest priority need of all.
An Integral Model of Community “Anatomy”
We use this integral diagram as one of many useful models to describe the anatomy of people and place. Community scale is represented by the rings, starting with each person’s heart in the center, surrounded by broadening social layers from their siblings to the stars. The left hemisphere represents the interior intangible dimension of relationships, values, process, etc. that can happen anywhere. The right hemisphere represents the exterior tangible dimension of ecosocial systems rooted in place: laws, maps, food, buildings, money, etc.
The inner (left hemisphere) patterns of a wisdom society are reflected in our shared dreams, visions, cultural stories, music, and art. Setting our fiercely compassionate intention and commitment to birthing a wisdom society is one of the most important things we can do to cocreate it. We deeply honor and appreciate the gifted visionaries who are shepherding the birth of a wisdom society through their work as theologians, philosophers, authors, peacemakers, artists, moviemakers, social architects, subtle activists, and so on. The inspirational wisdom society visions in such books as Marianne Williamson’s Imagine (2000); John McKnight and Peter Block’s Abundant Community (2011); and Barbara Marx Hubbard and Neale Donald Walsh’s Emergence (2012) offer fertile ground for reflecting on what living in a fully thriving, resilient society might be like.
The future is seeded by the power of such inner reflective practices as imagining, dialogue, art, reading, and meditating. Community action researchers advocate this inner work as crucial to ecosocial change. Bridging personal and collective inner work reinforces our ability to heal, to know ourselves as seen by others, and to experience our belonging in a richly diverse community interbeing. These inner experiences carry over into more effective outer action.
The outer (right hemisphere) patterns of community are visible in the words and deeds of everyday life in human and planetary ecosocial systems at the following community scales.
Thriving resilient communities begin within an individual, shown as the heart in the center of the model. They start with a personal yearning for healing, for interconnection, for happiness. Commitment to doing inner personal work allows them to have the skills and the capacity to work with both the inner and the outer dimensions at the group and larger community levels. As the person practices listening, appreciation, respect, and sharing more deeply in their personal life, the deeper wisdom effects ripple throughout all the communities in which they participate. The reverse is also true. As communities grow wiser as a whole, the deeper wisdom effects ripple through each of their members’ lives.
Family and Friends
Healthy intimate relationships are a precursor to social wisdom. Without the formative and foundational support of family and friends, people generally cannot evolve or thrive in full health, and thus neither can the broader social collective.
Groups & Circles
Groups are the fundamental “cell structure” where social growth happens. Group systems support intimate groups of two or more people: a couple, family, neighborhood, and so on. Think about all the community-oriented activities you have been involved in. They are usually sustained by a core group, even if they were started by one person: management teams, church trustees, town councils, knitting circles, presidential cabinets, etc. Collective wisdom development requires harnessing both the shared unifying energy and unique diverse talents of members of a group. Communication systems like circle work, dialogue, and process work (see Developing Collective Wisdom in Groups) can help transcend the often less-than-optimal modern group culture to cocreate groups that work.
Communities and Organizations
A community or organization is a medium- to large-size group who share a common area of passion or place. It might be a geographic, place-based community like a town, small city, or forest. Or, it could be an interest-based community like a not-for-profit animal shelter organization or a business like a medical equipment sales company. It may be active across a wide geographical area but typically has a single organizational hub. A community feels local, like home: a place where people belong.
In a community of practice, members not only share a passion but also deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis. According to Wenger, McDermott, and Snyder (2002), communities of practice may take many forms, but they all share these elements:
- The domain—the common topic of interest that brings people together and guides their learning;
- The community—the group of people who care about the domain and who create the social fabric of learning, based on mutual respect and trust;
- The practice—the specific knowledge, tools, and processes the community develops to be effective in their domain (p. 45).
Communities of practice tend to form spontaneously among people who share a common area of passion. They have existed naturally since humans first gathered around a fire to discuss hunting strategies, but have recently attracted closer attention as a business knowledge management tool. Local communities must develop stronger communities of practice across what is known as the megacommunity (social/grassroots, civic/government, and corporate/business) sectors to address the increasingly complex needs of today’s communites. Community councils and dialogue, asset mapping, and restorative justice (see Developing Collective Wisdom in Communities) are several successful examples of cross-sector wisdom systems.
Cities and Small Regions
The city/county ring represents very large, single-hub communities: cities, small regions like counties, corporations, watersheds, and so on. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and the rest lives in small regions such as counties. This larger scale of community usually involves more complex ecosocial organization to address social and ecological needs than in a smaller community. The capacity of cities and small regions to serve their people and their place is clearly fundamental for a healthy society. See Developing Collective Wisdom in Communities and Movements for examples of successful city systems and locations.
Distributed Community: Broad regions, Nations, Networks, and Social Sectors
The distributed community ring (more simply called the nation/network ring) is also very important in broader-scale thrivingresilience. A distributed community is a formal or informal set of communities with a “multi-hub” shared decision-making structure rather than a single hub. A formal distributed community could be a geographically large civic or social organization like a regional alliance, a bioregion, a national state or province, an entire nation, or the United Nations. Or, it could be a large formal corporation or organization with multiple independent centers of responsibility. An informal distributed community system is a community network such as Facebook or the Internet itself. A community network tends to be a more open, organic, peer relational structure either within a formal distributed community or a virtual interest-focused network. Distributed community systems bring together the cultural power of numbers and diversity with the structural strength of large-scale organization and collaboration. See Developing Collective Wisdom in Communities and Movements for success stories of broad-scale systems and movements.
The earth community consists of the entire human, species, and planetary ecosocial matrix of planet Earth. The human community is the human population around the globe and the informal and formal social systems whose interests span the whole globe such as the United Nations. The species community refers to other life species. The planetary community refers to the planetary eco-spheres such as the lithosphere.
As a growing consensus of scientists, scholars, and spiritual visionaries recognize the unprecedented challenges facing the Earth Community, many innovative global initiatives have been launched with the aim of helping to catalyze a global wisdom culture. Our collaboratory focusses on smaller-than-global-scale collaboration so instead of a dedicated global systems section we highlight several global wisdomkeepers here:
- Global wisdom councils and networks: The Club of Budapest (http://www.clubofbudapest.org/wwc.php), Alliance for a New Humanity (www.anhglobal.org), TakingItGlobal (www.tigweb.org), Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (www.cpwr.org)
- Forums and Conferences: State of the World Forum (www.worldforum.org), Bioneers (www.bioneers.org)
- Toward a Global Ethic: The Earth Charter (www.earthcharter.org), Charter for Compassion (www.charterforcompassion.org)
- Global Think Tanks: The Club of Rome (www.clubofrome.org), Dialogue Institute (http://global-dialogue.com)
- Global Knowledge Bases: Encyclopedia of Earth (www.eoearth.org) and WiserEarth (www.wiserearth.org)
Cosmic Community and Beyond
The cosmic community and the Great Mystery beyond are left to the reader’s imagination and beliefs, which are beyond the scope of this story!