My work is informed by many threads woven together like the underground mycelial networks (aka mushroom roots) which help our forests flourish.
Praxis is the synthesis and application of theory and practice, and given I was born to an Academic and an Entrepreneur, this feels like it sums up my approach to my work well.
Some of the threads of my work include:
My ideas of wayfaring draw on practice from the likes of Strategic Design, Experimentation Culture and Emergent Strategy, as well as literal Wayfaring practices (people moving through landscapes).
"Strategic design attempts to draw a wider net around an area of activity or a problem, encompassing the questions and the solutions and all points in between; design involves moving freely within this space, testing its boundaries in order to deliver definition of, and insight into, the question as much as the solution, the context as much as the artefact, service or product. Call the context “the meta” and call the artefact “the matter”. Strategic design work swings from the meta to the matter and back again, oscillating between these two states in order to recalibrate each in response to the other."
Dan Hill - Dark Matter and Trojan Horses: A Strategic Design Vocabulary.
Read more about Strategic Design here.
"Experimental approaches accelerate learning by systematically testing assumptions and identifying knowledge gaps. What is there to be known about the problem and the function, fit and probability of a suggested solution? Experimentation helps fill these gaps without allocating too much time or resource, and helps governments accelerate the exploration of new potential solution spaces."
Giulio Quaggiotto, Bas Leurs, Jesper Christiansen - Towards an experimental culture in government: reflections on and from practice.
Read more about Experimentation Culture here, or see my freely accessible Field Guide to Experimentation here.
Emergent & Adaptive Strategy
"Emergent strategy, strategy for building complex patterns and systems of change through relatively small interactions, is to me—the potential scale of transformation that could come from movements intentionally practicing this adaptive, relational way of being, on our own and with others."
Adrienne Maree Brown - Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds.
Read more about Emergent & Adaptive Strategy here.
My work around complexity is largely informed by fields such as Complexity Science, Ecocentrism and Ecology. Building on these insights, I have built a practice suitable for complexity through my work on Social Labs (platforms for social change) and Systemic Design (generative approaches to working on complex challenges).
"Complexity theory challenges the dominant tradition of what is deemed 'scientific' and 'professional'. It questions whether we can act as if the world behaves like a machine - is predictable, can be divided into parts, and defined by unambiguous cause-and-effect links. Complexity theory emphasises that the social and natural world is organic, systemic, shaped by history and context. Things are affected by many causes and connections and these act together, synergistically. The future emerges, cannot entirely be known in advance. What happens next is affected by history, chance, choice, and the particularity of the local context."
Jean Boulton - Embracing Complexity.
Read more about Complexity on Jean Boulton's site here or my Complexity 101, or Complexity section on my Masters.
Ecocentrism finds inherent (intrinsic) value in all of nature. It takes a much wider view of the world than does anthropocentrism, which sees individual humans and the human species as more valuable than all other organisms. Ecocentrism is the broadest of worldviews, but there are related worldviews. Ecocentrism goes beyond biocentrism (ethics that sees inherent value to all living things) by including environmental systems as wholes, and their abiotic aspects. It also goes beyond zoocentrism (seeing value in animals) on account of explicitly including flora and the ecological contexts for organisms. Ecocentrism is thus the umbrella that includes biocentrism and zoocentrism, because all three of these worldviews value the nonhuman, with ecocentrism having the widest vision. Given that life relies on geological processes and geomorphology to sustain it, and that ‘geodiversity’ also has intrinsic value, the broader term ‘ecocentrism’ seems most appropriate.
University of New South Wales, PANGEA - Why ecocentrism is the key pathway to sustainability.
Read more about Ecocentrism here.
"Have you ever hiked through a forest and noticed the incredible diversity of organisms living together, from ferns to trees to mushrooms the size of dinner plates? Or taken a road trip and watched the landscape change outside the window, shifting from oak forest to tall stands of pine to grassy plains? If so, you’ve gotten a classic taste of ecology, the branch of biology that examines how organisms interact with each other and with their physical environment."
Khan Academy - Introduction to Ecology.
Learn more about Ecology here.
Social Lab are a form of infrastructure to tackle complex social and environmental challenges. They bring together diverse groups who work together to develop social experiments (ways to intervene) with the aim to influence change for the challenge at a systemic level. Social Labs have been used to tackle the likes of Youth Mental Health, Gun Violence, Racism, Food Systems and more.
Social Labs offer space to enable diagnosis, build understanding of a system, experiment with influencing change, and inviting reflection and sensemaking about the results. Labs generate multiple forms of value which could be thought of as forms of capital - social, natural, financial, intellectual, physical and human.
Learn more about Social Labs here.
"Systemic design is not a process, but a new space for harnessing dynamic complexity as a generator of innovation and value creation. Systemic design can help us to bring diverse stakeholders towards a shared frame of reference for collective action. It can help to shift the thinking, patterns, and culture of organizations and even societies. Systemic design allows us to operate beyond the boundary conditions of smooth-water approaches without becoming overwhelmed by complexity."
Alex Ryan - What is Systemic Design?
Read more about Systemic Design here.
Cover image: Photo by Mason Unrau on Unsplash