9th March 2007 | Draft

Resonances between Challenging Psychosocial Change Initiatives

Selected web resources

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This is an attempt to respond to resonances with, and between, a variety of radical psychosocial initiatives -- as exemplified by:

The focus here is on the challenges faced by such initiatives in giving creative form to their intentions -- in the light of learnings from the past and inspirations for the future. Clearly this implies moving beyond the conventional patterns of  past initiatives which have been less successful than had been hoped. A particular concern is how such initiatives can be "grounded" in relation to many other social change initiatives.

Relevant priorities

The challenge in determining what is "relevant" to an initiative, or to its reconciliation with others, might be understood as any of the following, whether singly or in some combination:

  • reconciling modalities:
    • the conceptual challenge of reconciling different models, proposed by distinct constituencies
    • the "political" challenge of determining with which other initiatives to partner, which to invite as participants, and which to avoid
    • the religious and theological challenge of reconciling different belief systems committed to the initiative
    • the spiritual challenge of reconciling different experiential understandings and practices
  • compromising:
    • the compromises required to ensure the financial viability of the initiative
    • the compromises required to ensure the media exposure of the initiative and the dissemination of its insights
    • the psychosocial dynamics and contrasting preferences between the central personalities instigating and undertaking the initiative or active in its processes
    • compromising on location between symbolic value and constraints on participation (travel costs, security, visas, etc)
  • engaging:
    • the compromises required to ensure the involvement of people of authority endorsing the initiative
    • ensuring appropriate participation and empowerment of wider circles of people
    • representing the perspectives of those involved in the process to the authority structures of the world
    • ensuring the appropriate degree and quality of impact and practical outcomes
  • enabling:
    • making best use of the latest technology to facilitate the dialogue between participants at the event and remotely located
    • use of appropriate facilitation, recognizing the constraints on cultural preferences and enthusiastic use of particular processes
    • appropriately registering emergent insights during the process to facilitate its evolution
    • use of non-verbal and non-textual means of articulating and communicating emergent insights in a memorable manner (song, poetry, music, art, etc)
  • positioning:
    • engaging appropriately with critics, opposition and those with reservations -- or engaged in alternative initiatives effectively competing for resources, participants, speakers, or claims to representation
    • learning from past initiatives with similar aspirations -- their strengths and weaknesses
    • simplifying and prioritizing the above into a viable comprehensible strategy

The papers referenced below clarify some of these challenges and their relationship. (See the Wisdom Page for an extensive collection of web resources on the nature of wisdom and the challenge of its communication)

Primary concerns

  • Transcending the game - seeing the pattern as a whole

  • "There is no need to put it together, it already is together" (Whole Earth Catalog) -- the challenge is how to see it so

  • Shifting, as appropriate, from 'Us and Them' to 'Them is Us'

  • Catalyzing a view of the whole

  • As with conventional comprehension of "peace", what inhibits recognition of the attractive dynamics of "prior unity"?

The challenge of giving contemporary significance to the elusive dynamics as an attractor is explored elsewhere -- in an experiment in succinct articulation of the Tao Te Ching (The Peaceful Dynamics of Not-Two, 2007)

Specific concerns

The following checklist, and the links to other papers (containing further links), can perhaps be best read superficially at first -- as an indication of possible areas for further exploration, many of which may not necessarily be of immediate relevance (as noted above). Unfortunately, as a checklist (a "laundry list"), it specifically fails to be consistent with a number of suggestions made below -- which would give greater coherence to the pattern of possibilities.

  1. Language: There is a general problem of offering timeless wisdom and proposals for change in language that is either well-worn (to the point of entangling people in the futility of old patterns), calls for forms of unconventional response and insight (for which people may not be immediately prepared), or has a "secret" hidden quality (for which many have now developed a predilection)

    1. The challenge of non-English translation should not be forgotten. Other languages may hold other nuances (especially in their use of negatives) and may shade distinctions in unexpected ways

      Conceptual Distortions from Negative Descriptors, 1974
      Difficulties in the Transfer of Information between Languages, 1986

    2. The challenge to the conventional significance of the grammatical parts of speech:

      -- nouns are assumed to connote essential static well-bounded phenomena
      -- verbs are assumed to indicate a progression to a new place or condition, a new elsewhere or elsewhen
      -- adjectives and adverbs are assumed to be precluding the relevance of complementary judgements
      -- injunctions/exhortations are assumed to be originating from another, rather than being a reflection or delayed echo of what is saying to oneself
      -- negation and assertion are assumed not to be interwoven as on a Mobius strip, implying the truth of a particular perspective that can be named (rather than that of the whole which can only be understood from a higher dimension)

    3. The challenge of translation across 'cultures', as distinct from languages, should also be recognized - especially in the light of stylistic preferences

      Systems of Categories Distinguishing Cultural Biases, 1993

    4. The related challenge of interpretation through different disciplines should not be forgotten.

      Metaphors as Transdisciplinary Vehicles of the Future, 1991
      Higher Orders of Inter-sectoral "Consensus": Clarification of formal possibilities, 1991

    5. The fact that a text may be understood as offering a Rosetta Stone through which to interrelate the variety of understandings should not obscure the challenge of understanding the universal significance of a Rosetta Stone within a particular language

    6. There may also be a case for exploring a complementary set of "languages" appropriate to engaging with people with different mindsets and styles:

      12 Complementary Languages for Sustainable Governance, 2003 -- Pozzy/Neggy, Luvvy/Tuffy, Vizzy/Tekky, Artty/Bizzy, Wizzy/Praggy, Fuzzy/Leggy

    7. Possible "health warning" (a Caveat Lector) regarding descriptions of such challenges, especially when they imply or evoke a self-reflexive reframing, potentially associated with a shift in identity to a greater sense of wholeness and integrity:
    8. A reading is a depiction only to the extent that its capacity to entrain is inhibited

      A reading is an entrainment only to the extent that any such movement obscures recognition that one is discovering from where one is then taken by it (seemingly for the first time)

      A reading is a linear sequential explication in time only to the extent that one is pulled into a pattern of experiential wormholes that inhibits recognition of the challenging atemporal pattern of that labyrinth

      A reading is only a challenge to comprehension to the extent that it is felt to inhibit rather than enable further growth in understanding

      A reading is only an answer to a question enabling growth to the extent that one comes to it without recognizing how one is both the answer to that question in principle and why one is a question calling for a new understanding of what an answer means in practice

      A reading is only meaningless to the extent that one fails to recognize the source of meaning to which it points -- as with a dog focusing with enthusiastic puzzlement on the pointing finger of its master -- thereby inhibiting understanding that dog, finger and master are but pieces of the paradoxical mirror through which one may step

      A reading is only a collection of sentences and chapters to the extent that one fails to recognize one's role in seeing them whole -- as the pattern that connects,thereby embodying them as the songlines of the
      noosphere --  through which otherness is incorporated

      As a reading, the above sentences are of course themselves an aspect of the self-reflexive challenge

      Is Not-Two the Peace that Embodies the Pieces -- the integrative punchline of cosmic humour?

  2. Values and principles as strange attractors: Use of the term value or principle, and any of the terms which they imply, tends to reinforce thinking of them in a conventional manner. There is a case for considering them not as entities, in the conventional philosophical sense, but rather as "attractors" as articulated in the complexity sciences:

    Human Values as Strange Attractors: Coevolution of classes of governance principles, 1993

  3. Patterns of organizing principles: Consideration can be given to presenting lists, whether values, principles or key issues, in order to enhance recognition of the interconnectedness of the items as a whole pattern. The symbolic and mnemonic issue of the number of items is also worth considering in the light of the comprehensibility and memorability of the whole.

    Representation, Comprehension and Communication of Sets: the Role of Number, 1978

    This is notably important when privileging a particular number of items -- possibly to the exclusion of some larger number where the items in the latter may be of greater specificity (and lesser abstraction), making them easier to understand individually (even if the understanding of the whole is then more elusive)

    Distinguishing Levels of Declarations of Principles, 1980
    Structure of Declarations: Challenging traditional patterns, 1992
  1. Medium of presentation: There are unusual traps in the use of particular media to present insights. The most challenging have to do with the "covert conventions" resulting from writing on a flat surface:

    Beyond the Plane: form and medium in terms of the calculus of indications, 2006

  2. Forms of presentation: There is a strong case to for seeking to benefit from complementary forms of presentation (as is well-recognized in muti-media marketing and traditional presentations of spiritual insight).

    Aesthetics of Governance in the Year 2490, 1990
    Aesthetic Challenge of Interfaith Dialogue as Exemplified by Meditation, 1997

    Given the challenge of enhancing understanding of the transcendent, self-reflexive significance of Not-Two, these might include:

    1. Poetry (eg Haiku), as argued in:
      Poetry-making and Policy-making: Arranging a Marriage between Beauty and the Beast, 1993
      Ensuring Strategic Resilience through Haiku Patterns reframing the scope of the "martial arts" in response to strategic threats, 2006

    2. Song is potentially of great communicative and mnemonic power. Any set of principles should be formulated as a song, if only to "re-member" and reinforce the functional links between seemingly disparate items in the list:
      A Singable Earth Charter, EU Constitution or Global Ethic? 2006
      All Blacks of Davos vs All Greens of Porto Alegre: reframing global strategic discord through polyphony? 2007

    3. Music, as with song, offers new ways of presenting complex patterns, notably when the purpose is to reconcile discord in harmony, and to engage with cultures in which music plays a fundamental role:
      Structuring Mnemonic Encoding of Development Plans and Ethical Charters using Musical Leitmotivs, 2001
      Knowledge Gardening through Music patterns of coherence for future African management as an alternative to Project Logic, 2000
      Paradigm-shifting through Transposition of Key: a metaphoric illustration of unexplored possibilities for the future, 1999

    4. Humour, as illustrated by the Tales of Nasruddin, offers poorly explored ways in which subtle insight can be widely disseminated:
      Humour and Play-Fullness Essential integrative processes in governance, religion and transdisciplinarity, 2005

    5. Game-playing (fictionally exemplified by the Glass Bead Game) and as practiced in some communities (Transformation Game, Game of Life, etc) offers poorly explored opportunities for wide communication of insight in an interactive mode:
      Playfully Changing the Prevailing Climate of Opinion Climate change as focal metaphor of effective global governance, 2005

    6. Visualization and mapping, using computer technology, offer (as is increasingly recognized) many possibilities for enabling comprehension of complex patterns of insight, notably in support of dialogue:
      Complementary Knowledge Analysis / Mapping Process, 2006
      Preliminary NetMap Studies of Databases on Questions, World Problems, Global Strategies, and Values, 2006
      Mapping Songlines of the Noosphere: use of hypergraphs in presentation of the I Ching and the Tao te Ching, 2006
      Animating the Representation of Europe, 2004
      Documents relating to Visualization, Presentation, Mapping

    7. Metaphor is increasingly recognized as a vital means of communicating insight:
      Documents relating to Metaphor for Governance
      Enhancing the Quality of Knowing through Integration of East-West metaphors, 2000
      Missiles, Missives, Missions and Memetic Warfare: Navigation of strategic interfaces in multidimensional knowledge space, 2001
      Enhancing Sustainable Development Strategies through Avoidance of Military Metaphors, 1998
      In Quest of Uncommon Ground: Beyond impoverished metaphor and the impotence of words of power, 1997
      Metaphors as Transdisciplinary Vehicles of the Future, 1991
      Towards an Ecology of Spiritual Traditions: Experimental articulation through a dynamic system of metaphors, 1991
      Through Metaphor to a Sustainable Ecology of Development Policies, 1989
      Metaphoric Revolution: In quest of a manifesto for governance through metaphor, 1988

    8. "As if" is a writing style that assumes that the desired change has already come about, were one but able to see it so:
      Gardening Sustainable Psycommunities: Recognizing the psycho-social integrities of the future, 1995
      Transdisciplinarity through Structured Dialogue Beyond sterile dualities in meetings to the challenge of participant impotence, 1994
      Aesthetics of Governance in the Year 2490, 1990

    9. Questions (as exemplified by traditional use of the koan) offer powerful non-directive ways of evoking insight, especially when their relation to "cognitive catastrophes" is recognized:
      Council of the Whys: emergent wisdom through configuration of why-question dynamics, 2006
      Am I Question or Answer?
      Cognitive Feel for Cognitive Catastrophes: Question Conformality, 2006
      Engaging with Questions of Higher Order: cognitive vigilance required for higher degrees of twistedness, 2004
      Interrelating Cognitive Catastrophes in a Grail-chalice Proto-model implications of WH-questions for self-reflexivity and dialogue, 2006
      Generating a Million Questions from UIA Databases: Problems, Strategies, Values, 2006

  3. Diversity and disagreement: Problems of perception and understanding the point from which one views
    All Blacks of Davos vs All Greens of Porto Alegre: reframing global strategic discord through polyphony? 2007
    Using Disagreements for Superordinate Frame Configuration, 1992
    Configuring Strategic Dilemmas in Intersectoral Dialogue Summary of analysis on the occasion of Earth Summit, 1992

  4. Challenge of comprehension: Encompassing complexity vs simplicity; Complexity and dynamics
    Exploring Intelligible Associations: ontological issues, integrative metaphors and knowledge organization, 2005
    Comprehension of Appropriateness, 1986

  5. "Re-presentation" and participative democracy
    Governance through Patterning Language: Creative Cognitive Engagement contrasted with Abdication of Responsibility, 2006
    Animating the Representation of Europe, 2004
    Practicalities of Participatory Democracy with International Institutions: Attitudinal, Quantitative and Qualitative Challenges, 2003

  6. Engagement vs Entrainment
    Attitude Entrainment Communicating thrival skills and insights, 2004
    Authentic Grokking: Emergence of Homo conjugens, 2003

  7. Dialogue / Interaction: The concern is how to enable (track and visualize) more appropriate and fruitful forms of dialogue and interaction in the light of the many less fruitful experiences. To the extent that the dynamics of an event are a metaphor of that which it seeks to remedy, how does it do more (consciously and self-reflexivly) than replicate patterns of dialogue that are less successful in wider society:
    Documents relating to Dialogue and Transformative Conferencing
    Complementary Knowledge Analysis / Mapping Process, 2006
    Future Generation through Global Conversation: in quest of collective well-being through conversation in the present moment, 1997
    Participant Interaction Messaging improving the conference process, 1980

  8. Unsaid vs Unsayable: There are important issues in the communication of insights associated with what cannot be said, because it is in some way unacceptable, in contrast with what cannot be communicated because of limitations in the mode of communication and the capacities of those communicating
    Global Strategic Implications of the "Unsaid": From myth-making towards a "wisdom society", 2003

  9. Chaotic openness / Premature closure
    Psycho-social Significance of the Mandelbrot Set: a sustainable boundary between chaos and order, 2005

  10. Direction vs Indirection: Explicit vs Implicit, Steak vs Sizzle, Enjoin vs Evoke
    Impact vs Chladni patterns

  11. Techniques of mass non-directive communication: (see above: Visualization, Cards)
    Minding the Future: a thought experiment on presenting new information, 1980
    Mobilization for Alienation vs. Catalysis for Participation, 1973

  12. 'Visibility' and "Importance": The challenge here is that of prolonging any "one day media impact". The dilemma is being dependent on the "importance" of elites in communicating any message of equality

  13. Structure: Recent decades have highlighted the inadequacies of structures of authority and representation as conventionally understood. The shift towards web-facilitated web-supported modes of communication has facilitated the emergence of virtual organization constrained and regulated by many experimental protocols. This has engendered its own challenges and opportunities -- notably through the impoverishment of metaphors through which organizational vehicles are envisaged:
    Dynamically Gated Conceptual Communities emergent patterns of isolation within knowledge society, 2004
    In Quest of Radical Coherence a group design initiative, 1994
    Configuring Globally and Contending Locally: shaping the global network of local bargains by decoding and mapping Earth Summit inter-sectoral issues (Rio de Janeiro), 1992

  14. Conference and dialogue organization: Compromise is typically necessary to reconcile mundanities and principle of the real world with real people with real expectations constraining the nature of their participation and engagement (if any).
    Spherical Configuration of Interlocking Roundtables: Internet enhancement of global self-organization through patterns of dialogue, 1998
    Emptying Meetings and Fulfilling Participants: Ensuring that encounters are fruitful, 1998
    Reframing Inter-Faith Relationships, 1997
    Reflections on Organization of Transdisciplinary Conferences: Challenges for the Future, 1994
    Guidelines towards Dialogue through Metaphor, 1993
    Towards a New Order of Meeting Participation, 1993
    Envisioning the Dynamics of "Partnerships for Change", 1991
    Towards Transformative Conferencing and Dialogue, 1991
    Envisioning the Dynamics of a World Parliament of Religions, 1993
    Towards a Language of Spiritual Concord, 1993
    Towards Spiritual Concord: Report of the First World Congress towards Spiritual Concord (Alma Ata), 1992
    Learnings for the Future of Inter-Faith Dialogue, 1991; Insights evoked by intractable international differences, 1991
    Conference Transformations: Maturing the reflective, focusing and transformative power of large-group conferences, especially in response to conditions of social upheaval, 1982
    First World New Age Congress (Florence): Introductory statement, 1978
    A Congress that Dared the Unthinkable Report on the First New Age Congress (Florence), 1978
    Documents relating to Dialogue and Transformative Conferencing

  15. Generic patterns and pattern extrapolation: Use may be made of well-accepted patterns to generalize from them to include a more encompassing perspective
    Universal Declaration of the Rights of Human Organization: an experimental extension of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1971

  16. Challenge of identity
    Experimental Articulation of Collective Identity -- through a dynamic system of metaphors, 1991

  17. Polarization: dilemmas of making a difference vs making distinctions: There is a fundamental challenge to "making a difference" when it implies the binary logic of "making distinctions".
    Polarities as Pluckable Tensed Strings: Hypercomprehension through harmonics of value-based choice-making, 2006
    Psychosocial Energy from Polarization -- within a Cyclic Pattern of Enantiodromia, 2007
    Complementary Patterns of Meaningful Truth and the Interface between Alternative Variants, 2003
    Coherent Patterns of Schism Formation, Bifurcation and Disagreement and the associated bonding, encounters and agreements they evoke, 2001
    Antagonistic Dualities: Polarization and Paradox, 1983

  18. "Re-cognizing" psychosocial energy
    Reframing Sustainable Sources of Energy for the Future the vital role of psychosocial variants, 2006
    Psychosocial Energy from Polarization -- within a Cyclic Pattern of Enantiodromia, 2007

  19. Cooperation:
    Catalyzation of New Patterns of Collaboration using a PC-based Structural Outliner as an Imaging Scaffold, 1992
    Cooperation and its Failures (From the 1960s through the 1980s) 12 Metaphors towards understanding the dilemma for the 1990s, 1988

  20. Interfacing: Facilitators, Hostesses, Transcend, Trickster
    Dancing through Interfaces and Paradoxes -- group alchemy in the Empty Red Centre, 1997
    Challenges to Learning from the Swadhyaya Movement, 1995

  21. Tensegrity and Syntegrity:
    Documents relating to Networking, Tensegrity, Virtual Organization
    From Networking to Tensegrity Organization, 1984
    Groupware Configurations of Challenge and Harmony - an alternative approach to "alternative organization'', 1979
    Stafford Beer (Beyond Dispute: the invention of team syntegrity, 1995)

  22. Self-reflexivity: The challenge here is highlighted by the sense that if one does not know how one is part of the problem one cannot understand the nature of the solution required -- especially if the challenge lies in comprehending how problem and solution are intertwined. But the challenge extends to the paradox of any description of the challenge and of how to engender an appropriate response
    Complementarity and Self-Reflexivity -- between nuclear fusion and cognitive fusion, 2006
    Terry Marks-Tarlow, Robin Robertson, and Allan Combs. Varela and the Uroboros: the psychological significance of reentry.

  23. Via negativa: Contrarian provocations
    Liberating Provocations: use of negative and paradoxical strategies, 2005
    Strategic Briefing for the Messiah: Based on professional insights from preemptive news and image management, 1999
    Strategic Briefing for Satan: Based on professional insights from preemptive news and image management, 1999

  24. Embodiment of the world and the other: There is a considerable literature regarding the psychosocial construction of reality. Relatively little attention is however drawn to the manner in which the problems and possibilities may be fruitfully experienced by those in the(ir) world. This is fundamental to the understanding of the dynamics of the "peace that passeth all understanding" associated with this form of "Not-Two" engagement with otherness
    The Peaceful Dynamics of Not-Two, 2007
    Walking Elven Pathways Enactivating the Pattern that Connects, 2006
    The Isdom of the Wisdom Society: Embodying time as the heartland of humanity, 2003
    En-minding the Extended Body: Enactive engagement in conceptual shapeshifting and deep ecology, 2003
    Psychology of Sustainability: Embodying cyclic environmental processes, 2002
    Being the Universe : a Metaphoric Frontier, 1999
    My Reflecting Mirror World: making Joburg worthwhile, 2002
    Documents relating to Existential Engagement and Embodiment

  25. Cautions and guidelines
    Evaluating Synthesis Initiatives and their Sustaining Dialogues: Possible questions as a guide to criteria of evaluation of any synthesis initiative, 2000
    Guidelines for Critical Dialogue between Worldviews, 2006
    Enabling a Living Library: reconciling "free voices" and "intellectual propriety", 2006
    Future World Council Creation: reflections of an ancient futurist, 2004

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