Wednesday, August 13, 2014

MOVING FROM VISIONS TO ACTION In field of Futures Studies, practitioners usually focus on creating visions of the future. Futurists are beginning to talk more and more about how to bridge the gap between visions and actions. Well known Futurist, Richard Slaughter has devoted his book, The Biggest Wake-up Call in History, to this gap and French Futurist Thierry Gaudin, has written a Pledge to advocate taking action. Taking Action Activists, who want to start up new paradigm activities, also have visions. However, it is the action, the doing that is most important for them. Getting a group of like thinking individuals together is one step. They often form around a very generalized vision of sustainability, peace or a world without racism. Their actions, like the development of a community garden, a tool-sharing group, or a food cooperative, embody the generalized vision. After the project gets started there are inevitably different opinions between individuals in the group, which the initiator has to reconcile if the project is to be successful. While individuals can share a vision they each have a life situation that, while often similar has certain values differences. That will mean that there may be conflicting paths to that vision. For example, a group with a generalized vision of building community in an urban setting might have a vision of exchanging their competence or skills with one another in the community; a worthy goal when many people in cities don’t know or talk to their neighbors. However, problems can occur when one or more individuals decide that the vision can be fulfilled in different ways. Some might feel that the exchange could come in the form of currency instead of reciprocal service exchange. We are conditioned by the old paradigm to feel valued by how much money we get for our competence or skills. Receiving thanks is expected, but the true measure is how much the market pays. There are others, working out of a new paradigm and spread all over the world, who have come to the conclusion that each job or service should be imbursed equally, not in currency, but in points, or hours, in other words, alternative currencies. In that way, community members are valued by how much of their lives are currency free as opposed to how much money they earn, and the status between individuals is more equal. It is easy to mix paradigms when trying new things. In our example, we know what has worked in the past and of course it still is the dominant way of doing things. If our community is largely made of customers, who are tied to the community by the need of our products, then the strong individual paradigm applies. Others may see community as an extended family when traditional extended families aren’t available. Some may see community as their friends. Not just fair weather friends, but the basis of their social life. These views of community signal the beginning of a more communal based paradigm. Establishing new structures is where the move from the vision to envisioning comes into play. Once a general vision is presented, it is up to individuals to envision and articulate their own version in ways that comply with their personal situations and values. 1) One way to start is by using Basic Values Charts. Basic Values Charts are a two chart series of fourteen values spectrums. Chart I has to do with values of Human relations. Chart II contains values spectrums that have to do with how we see the world. You can find them by clicking here: Basic Values Charts. 2) To use them one works on one spectrum at a time, marking on the spectrum line where their values lie most of the time. It is best to start with the “people are basically good/evil” spectrum as our actions are linked to how we value one another. After a discussion of what extreme goodness and extreme evil might be, each participant stands on the spectrum line (a tape or chalk line on the floor) on the position that most represents their behavior on that value. They are asked to explain why they choose that particular spot. An interview technique makes this process fun. It is important for participants to listen to one another. Don’t do more than three spectrums at a time. Each person should mark on their Values chart where they stood and their rational for standing there. The spectrums can be presented three at a time over a period of time, making them more interesting and providing time to digest the experience and rethink choices. The intention of these processes is to help individuals articulate their values and to identify any possible differences in values orientation that might cause problems in futures visions. Values orientations are neither right or wrong, good nor bad, they just are. Next is by Envisioning. Envisioning allows one to play with the various possible consequences of a vision. Every vision has more or less desirable intentions in a generalized state, but unintended consequences usually occur and need to be considered in advance in more specific circumstances. It is difficult to know when all consequences are enumerated but important to be aware of as many as possible. 1. In small groups, agree on the vision’s major theme. For example, developing community. 2. Have individuals choose one or more standpoints and envision how the vision would play out from that perspective. Suggestions for standpoints are: children, parents, adults, city, county, regional authorities, tax collectors, doctors, layers, trades people, banks etc. 3. Start with “In this reality ….”. 4. Ask which standpoints they did not choose. 5. Suggest they all take notes and give them to one person. 6. Post the results under each standpoint on a wall. Go through each standpoint. Ask where things might go well and where problems might occur. This post gives some hints as to how we might move from visions to action. It means creating our own reality. The time is right and the grass roots are the right place to start. We have to know about ourselves and what we want and where we are willing to compromise. We also have to keep changing, fine-tuning and creating in order to make our visions and a new world-view reality.

Starting over

A number of my readers and those who have stumbled into this blog might think it it not worthwile to read "Signs of the Times" that are more than two years old.

However, keep in mind that they are signs and may or may not have actualized in a larger playing field. My Signs Comentaries are always at the cutting edge, many years may pass before they are mainstream. You can still learn from them.

In the past the signs I commented upon were connected to "Signs of the Times" . This blog represents a new start that will not be linked to the webpage. You will see it here first!

Now on to business... It is clear to many that a number of business have been started that offer a service or product that benefits the world and still makes money. Bombodill Publishing is one of those companies. By focusing on young authors, giving them an early start in publishing and helping to sell their books Bombadil Publishing also makes a profit. Imagine the joy of seeing your own work in print at the age of sixteen or twenty!

Benifit corporations aren't the typical business model where a large corporation donates to culture or sports as a form of good will and advertizing, while still earning for shareholders. The new model is a company commited to particular values and balances it's societal obligations with stockholder obligations.

New laws are being enacted to recognize and validate alternative in the U.S., not on the federal level, but at the state and city levels. Maryland was the first state to pass, so called, Benefit legislation which adds a new class of corporation to the list. Other states passing similar laws are California, Colorado, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington. Already passed benifit corporation laws are also in New Jersey and Virginia.

Other approach is to tweak the for profits model to allow for-profit corporations to pursue more than just shareholder wealth. They are being called called "flexible purpose corporations".

Many people are beginning to realize that the market economic model is outdated whether it is new liberal or traditional market economic. Even though most of us have to function within a system that is failing only a few of us are willing to admit that an economy built on growth has its limits.

The question is then the future. If the current system is breaking down, what will take its place? Chances are great that there will only be a sudden collapse of the current economic system when viewed in retrospect. Those of us living through the changes may not realize what is happening, but blame their own bad luck for their financial crisis. However, this change to the corporate structure while still dependent upon growth, address the only motivation that was legally demand, that is: to serve stockholders. Social and environmental well being is now being thrown into that mix.

Can this be a middle way? Will our current, growth dependent, financial structure evolve into something else, or will a new way of supporting a growing population on a limited planet just pop into being? Is this just the beginning of the evolution process or are we a part of a larger process that began with hunting and gathering and then slid into to barter and then profit making structures and now to contributing to global and social survival?
See Yes! Powerful ideas, Practical Actions” Spring and Summer 2011

Friday, March 23, 2012

From need to action

Assumptions + visions + action = change!
For illustrations click here!

The use of Foresight Styles Assessment is increasing by word of mouth. It is reassuring to know that consultants, teachers, professors and group leaders are interested in using and developing their students, clients and employees foresight abilities.  We need those abilities now more than ever. It is becoming evident to increasing numbers of people that we have to rework the way we as Homo sapiens live on this planet; if we want to exist. We are realizing that we have energy, water, fertile land, mineral and clean air needs far beyond the ability of the planet to supply them. We need foresight in order to identify ideas that are already on the table, but not recognizable because they don’t fit the reigning paradigm.

The reigning paradigm is that which we assume, most of the time without thinking about it. At a recent symposium “Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream” in Sweden one of the exercises was to articulate commonly held assumptions, because these have to be made visible in order for us to understand the current paradigm and how it frames our decisions. We cannot envision the future if we cannot take a critical look at the paradigm that got us into this situation. We surely cannot locate the beginnings of the new paradigm either. Now the assumptions of a paradigm are not inherently bad and they allow us a framework for many important decisions and behaviors that allow us to function in society. However, it is difficult for us to understand that paradigms have a life cycle just as human beings do. The life cycle of a paradigm and the life cycle of an individual are not necessarily the same and a paradigm shift can come just when an individual has gotten her collection of assumptions sorted out and filed away.

If we are not ready, a new paradigm can come as a shock and be literally fateful. I am reminded of a story a Polish colleague told me about her good friend. The father of this friend lived under a positive version of communism where all worked together cooperatively for the common good. Even when communism began to fail, along with the fall of the Berlin Wall, he held on to his vision and assumptions. But, instead of a better form of communism, the winds of capitalism were blowing and as a good communist he “knew” capitalism was wrong. It shocked him, pained and depressed him and ended in his life by suicide.

Back at the symposium the participants were sharing their assumptions: that our environmental problems can be solved with simple changes in our behavior such as when we sort our own trash and deposit it in depots intended for that purpose; that everyone needs an automobile; that expressed feelings are a sign of weakness; that science only brings good; that everyone has a right to be a parent; that humans have rights (but not plants and most animals) and that individuals cannot make a difference.  There are others as well; that growth is necessary and inevitable, that human beings have dominion over the plants, animals, land and minerals and can use them for their own purposes, that an individual can own land, water and mineral rights, and specific genes, cells or bodily substances.

All these assumptions are based on the picture of an entitled individual who must take care of herself, on the individual over the collective, on clockwork construction and a linear paradigm. Individuals have rights, not groups (unless they are companies), time and progress only goes in one direction, and the world is made up of polar opposites (right or wrong, black or white, good or bad, leaders or followers.)

Individuals can become more aware of their assumptions by asking the simple question, what do I assume? Do I believe in “my country- right or wrong”, “All countries need defense forces.”? What do I believe? That all human life has the right to live? That hierarchy is inevitable, that men are stronger than women?

How will the new paradigm emerge? The parameters of the next paradigm have already been laid. I believe that the emerging paradigm is fueled partly as a response to what has gone wrong with the prevailing paradigm. Partly it is a response to the growing numbers of people filling the planet and partly it is being created for us because we have so abused our resources that those very abuses are impinging on our preconceived rights. Opposing thoughts like resources are ours to use and the damage caused, for example, by removing oil from the ground create a cognitive dissonance, a clash of ideas within our minds.

The emerging paradigm is about interactive systems, not the parts of machines. It is messy and complex. It requires people working together and alone and knowing when each is appropriate. It is more about responsibilities than rights. The advertizing phrase “…because you are worth it” in the new paradigm could be “…because you are needed”.  Our dominion over plants, animals and all resources will be accepted as the commons. Air, land and water will also be considered common responsibility. The various human attributes will be recognized as just that, attributes and not so sharply categorized by male, female, smart, dumb, old, young or any other definition.

Foresight is a mixed bag of abilities that use brain capacities to think holistically, to consider the future along with the past and the present, to survive in low structure situations where everything is not known and to consciously choose when to be contemplative, in the moment or take to action. Foresight StylesA is a tool that makes these choices understandable and indicates the degree to which we use our capacities. It also hints at what we might wish to improve.

Foresight Styles Assessment points out the skills we need as we move into the next paradigm and how to both create new assumptions and to understand that they are just that, assumptions. They describe, in a kind of shorthand, the reasons many things occur and give us an excuse not to make changes. Assumptions give us a type of stability, because they don’t require much thinking and are handy arguments to ourselves and in dialogue with others. Since they are held by so many, they gain in credibility and are rarely questioned. Assumptions come in bunches and just like flowers form a bouquet, assumptions form a beautiful paradigm.

Note: Be a part of foresight research by responding to alternative foresight questions at:

Find out more about Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream symposium at:

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bungee Families

It is possible that the large family home might come in vogue again. If children move in and out of the house and grandparents live longer, healthier lives as the trends now suggest, that oversized house might actually have more use than just touting financial success. It is possible that many families might go back to three generational living (or four in some cases). We know that children are going through puberty earlier and earlier. Until we are able to understand why and change those conditions, there might be a teen period between ages nine and age fourteen or fifteen, and then a youthful parent stage between 15-16 and 30. Education might be earlier for those who manage not to have children and later for others. The general age of people in tertiary studies is going up, and that could well continue.

Childcare could be everyone’s responsibility and families will have to learn to clearly define their duties in relation to the children or the children will learn to manipulate very early. Where there are several children with their families, it will be even more important to define duties and responsibilities. The grandparent who gets to spoil their grandchildren will be few and far between. More people in the family will have to work in order to support the larger family group, but the major bread winners could be those between 30 to70 or even 75+ for those who are really healthy. The dream of having health, no responsibility and money could be a passing fancy.

With puberty coming younger and physical development staying much the same as it has for centuries, a space could open for a wise elder or two to be the family leader. The term "grand" parent might take on new meaning and Asian ancestor worship might be reinstituted. There will still be a role for young and older parents as well as grandparents to keep the immature children with a full-blown lust drive distracted by other interests and developmental activities. The pressure of being popular, liked and even loved could be pushed down to very young years which would be shocking for older generations. The relatively stable family home might provide some security for children that they might not have gotten in a nuclear family. Naturally, an extended family that is dysfunctional will not leave all the problems behind them. A split family or an individual might rejoin or create a new family much as is the trend today. It will not be easy to survive alone in a big family culture.

Not everyone will be able to purchase, build or maintain a family home. In that case, they might rent a number of apartments in the same building and make renting more respectable as it will not be a temporary solution, but a more permanent one. More independent oriented family members might like to be able to shut the door on their family and have a bit of alone time with a smaller group behind a locked door!

Given the logical consequences of more drastic weather and rising water levels, there could be lots of people on the move. They will try to move with their families and within their culture groups. Finding larger homes to house them and the land to place them on that isn’t appropriate for food production will be difficult. It will mean that density will push cities farther past their limits than they are now until people realize that they can’t have so many children as there is no room or food for them. As the total population comes down, stress illness and problems within families will start to ease off. Housing architecture will change. In some areas, housing clusters might develop with groups of small houses that share a larger kitchen and recreation area, while sleeping and storage areas will be separate. They will be surrounded by gardens, and places for the whole family to exercise. Other creative solutions to complex family living will surely develop. Families with a same sex partners will not make a bit of difference as many will choose to have children and will have older parents living with them. If children are not born into a family, the dynamics will be less complicated and when those family homes become empty, they will then be a contribution to a very slow moving housing market.

The swing generation in these families will have a difficult time adjusting to the loss of what they had dreamed would be their older years. Those having grown up in multi-generational households will have an easier time adjusting. It is very possible that Bungee families are just the beginning of this multi-generational living. Get ready to love the ones you are with, there will be less chance to run away or avoid generational problems.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Transportation with perspective

In the search for alternative transportation that gets us out of our cars, but gives all the advantages of the automobile some are choosing monorail solutions. They can be built over current streets and highways so they require no major land appropriation. Even on the ground, only pillars and possibly stations will take up space. Monorails get up us up over the town, and while we won’t get a bird’s eye view, we will be viewing cities from a new perspective. We might have huge glazed buildings on either side of us or, all the glass left over from thoughts of endless oil, giving us a view into people’s offices and work lives. Window shopping might take another turn, stores might be on the second or third floor and we will see their displays as we wiz by.

Some buildings will still be low enough to see their roofs, maybe even gardens on those roofs where food for the lunch we will eat later is growing. In more open terrain we might have lovely views of rivers, living areas with houses and parks. Concert music may waif up to us as we fly by the bandstand in the park.

This might sound like a tale of the future, but in Uppsala, not far from the capitol of Stockholm, Sweden, a Korean firm is testing the impact of weather upon a monorail system. Safety has already been approved by Swedish Rail and the first of three cities is gearing up. In 1994, A Tale of the Future, a book written from the research of 35 budding Futurists, described the motivations for a monorail system like this:

“The Monorail project is based on the vision that the Monorail should facilitate harmony in the life of the city. The Monorail was designed with the view to contribute to all of man’s various possibilities to live a good life in the city and not just get to work. The designers have seen to the totality of man’s needs. The trip on board the Monorail is organized so that the riders will have a pleasant, inspired, and educational ride, since people’s lives continue even during a trip. Eating, working or studying are possible on board. It is even possible to relax in peace and quiet, socialize or be alone. The monorail is also built to be pleasant even for those not onboard. It runs quietly and is built a little above ground so that it doesn’t cut across any walkways or bicycle paths.” (A Tale of the Future is available without cost online.

In a totally different part of the world, namely, Caracas, Venezuela, politicians struggle with the huge, steep slum areas that get more permanent every day. A think tank came up with the idea of providing transportation where none existed. One area, the San Augustine Neighborhood is visible from the city due to its hillside location, but transportation to Caracas is very poor. This one neighborhood houses 40,000 people and was a good place to try urban cable cars (pictured above), with five stations around which services would be built, health care, day care, supermarkets, and recreation facilities.

These transportation systems with perspective may be a sign of what to expect in mass transit in the next 50 years, but like energy and many other problems that need new solutions, the result may well be different, and adjusted to local conditions. A wonderful consequence of this is that when we travel in the future, the true promise of going to another part of the world will be fulfilled once again. We will once again see variety in how people get from place to place and live their lives because local conditions will have been satisfied. Perspective will not only come from traveling with the birds, but from realizing that copying the West will be a dimming trend and solving the problem of sustainability will be the leading motivation.

Friday, August 7, 2009

In the earlier days of brain research most of the results were function identification. Discovering where the different parts of the brain began and ended was the question of the day. As that became clearer, the next question was what was the function of each part? We got right brain and left brain concepts from that phase of research. With the invention of MRI and fMRI neurologist have been able to see how the different parts of the brain react with each other and even with the rest of the body. That line of questioning has moved scientists from linear thinking to complex thinking.

Some people in the field of education did not wait for science to validate their insights and created their own pedagogies such as Dr. Maria Montessori, the first female medical doctor in Italy. Dr. Montessori based her ideas upon observation of mentally disturbed and uncared for children and after success with them she applied her learning to healthy children. Maria Montessori was not the first, but one of several who tried to influence pedagogy with their observations of how children actually learned. Meanwhile, neurologist worked in their own laboratories trying to understand the workings of the brain as opposed to the behavioral results of brain activity. There was very little contact between neurologist and educators. This was not unusual given that all professions up until about fifteen years ago were considered separate entities. This was fueled by the belief that teachers were not considered capable of understanding neuroscience.

Now on an increasing scale, educators, pedagogues and neurologist have begun to research together, testing the various activities that can enhance various qualities and skills found in the brain. This collective effort has moved education into the beginning of a new paradigm of teaching and learning. It is being called Brain-based education and describes the link between the results of brain research and the pedagogic actions taken in the classroom. It is multi-disciplinary because we now understand that the whole person has to be educated precipitating interaction between sociologists, physical fitness experts, psychiatrists, nutritionist, psychologists, and cognitive scientists and the classroom teacher.

Have a look at Signs of the Times for more practical information.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The un-development of towns and Towns Rethink Self-Reliance as Finances Worsen

In the current Signs of the Times we have focused upon local solutions that are towns and parts of larger cities taking collective action to form new, local, economies and develop a sense of community. Local farmers join in with city folk eager for fresh vegetables and fruit, street corners develop as a place to meet, talk and maybe swap a book or children’s toys. Neighbors turning their yards into gardens and swapping or selling produce and eggs to one another.

This Signs of the Times we present two other ways of saving local areas. In Sweden, a town replaces industrial production with technology and research. From being a huge producer of textile products to a focus on design and research, the city of BorĂ¥s has slowly evolved to a city that has moved from textiles to woven goods. Instead of sheeting and other house hold items, the local research center has focused upon other woven products that have increased applications, like stronger woven materials for bulletproof vests, materials that block the sun or deliver vitamins. In other words, they are developing tomorrow’s products for totally new markets while using knowledge of woven products that has existed in the workforce for generations.

The other survival method comes from the United States where the concept of dissolution is being discussed. When small towns and villages become in able to meet their legal commitments of policing, firefighting, health or education services, the citizens are inadvertently punished. But if the next largest authority agrees to take them in and provide those services in exchange for their taxes, the problem may be solved. However, finding the right authority to take in these citizens may not be easy. There are surely other solutions to the problems small towns are facing today, which ones will your town choose or create?