I am involved in a range of projects and relationships, which have taken me across domains, disciplines and geographies.
Lately, I have been focusing my work around:
- Wayfinding - working with people to explore paths into and through challenges, to find good solutions, given the wider context.
- Complexity Practice - working with people to build a mental picture of the landscape they operate in, and how to adapt and move towards preferable futures.
What does that mean exactly?
Well I get involved in a range of initiatives, carrying out everything from collaborating to craft movement-building strategies to writing run sheets for fellowship programs, and identifying leverage points for systems change initiatives through to designing and building software.
Working on the full breadth and depth of projects means that I either tend to play an 'interpreter and coach' role (such as working alongside a team to translate between a business strategist and a marine biologist who don't really talk one another's language), or a 'specialist' role (such as designing and delivering a program for social entrepreneurs trying to bring a new idea to market).
I love working on purposeful challenges, such as biodiversity loss, climate change, sustainable food systems, community energy systems, and mental health & wellbeing.
At the most basic, I like to ask questions, and help people use those questions to do more of what's working, less of what's not, or invent a new reality, if that's what the world needs.
My ideas of wayfinding draw on practice from the likes of Strategic Design, Experimentation Culture and Emergent Strategy.
"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 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.
About Complexity Practice
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 summary which was part of my Masters here.
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.
"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.
Thanks for reading about some of the disciplines and ideas which inform my work. If you've made it this far, perhaps you'd like to connect for a chat?