Saturday, July 30, 2011

Systems Thinking in Action

At the Pegasus Systems Thinking in Action Conference this year, a cross-sector community represented by nearly 500 people from each continent gathered to connect, learn, and reflect in regards to the session theme: “Fueling New Cycles of Success.”
We all know in our bones what it’s like to find inspiration from leading thinkers. We follow their books, talks, ideas – seeking to absorb their insights into our own, apply their provocations to our best intent and action.
But to recently scribe for some of the people who are most influential to my own facilitation practice brought a kind of mental model and process high. This feeling, combined with a series of truly gut-reaching questions, leads me to share highlights here – so the word can spread and take root in as many concerned global citizens as possible.
Here are some threads of particular relevance to the whole of our work:
Daniel Kim, founder of Pegasus and acclaimed systems thinker, opened the conference with a 3rd Generation Leadership Challenge: “What does it mean to be fully human? What does it mean to be truly free?” He proposed we transcend our current conditions with the very same tools and technologies we have used to bring us to this place. We transcend with choice, with attunement to primary purpose and core values.
Daniel Kim, Systems Thinking in Action
Dayna Baumeister brought the room to life with a talk on biomimicry, presenting an incredible display of nature’s finest instructors, through images of nooks and crannies often overlooked by the naked eye. She put forth the questions: “What if we cried for help? What would nature say?” Principles for living in harmony with the planet include: 1) be locally attuned and responsive, 2) be resource efficient, 3) use life-friendly chemistry, 4) integrate growth with development, 5) adapt to changing conditions, and 6) co-evolve to survive. She ended with a plea: “Look at nature! Crouch and be curious!”
Dayna Baumeister, Biomimicry
Andy Hargreave presented his thinking on The Fourth Way: The Inspiring Future for Educational Change. His research-based evidence in business, sports, and schools form into “15 F’s” leaders will need in order to perform beyond expectation: fantastic dream, fear, fight, fundamental futures, firm foundations, fortitude, counter flow, fast & fair tracking, feasible growth, high fidelity, fraternity, flair-flow-flexibility, fallibility, friendly rivalry, and fusion leadership. “Inside moral cohesion, it’s time for a knowledge economy of skills.”
Andy Hargreaves, Performing Beyond Expectation
Frances Moore Lappé, world hunger and poverty expert and author of Diet for a Small Planet, suggests we are co-creators in a living democracy, brimming with “eco-mind” participants. “Our actions can reverse causal patterns” by reframing a Spiral of Powerlessness into a Spiral of Empowerment, with a premise of “plenty of goods and goodness.” We can ride the energy of fear for good cause, rather than let it keep us captive in locked patterns of harm. Qualities to cultivate will include: empathy, cooperation, a sense of fairness, power efficacy, purpose, and imagination. For the full Spiral, visit and navigate from the book cover to the spiral image. It’s worth it.
Composer, author, and recent filmmaker Robert Fritz expanded on ways underlying structures determine behavior, either oscillating (back and forth continuous loops that never really make consequential difference) or advancement (true change.) In the case of great leadership, short-term plans to increase today’s profit do relieve tension in a system; but a leader must have true vision and an ability to invest in infrastructure to insure long-term interest and ongoing growth. Without these qualities, and without embracing forces at play within a creative process, “You can solve all your problems and still not have what youreally want.”
Finally Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, co-author of The Necessary Revolution, and founding chair of the Society for Organizational Learning, sent the room on its way with a powerful question: “What is the relationship between life and consciousness?” We center into this through a collective heart, accessed by gathering like-minded souls. Citing colleague Otto Scharmer’s research and a Boston-based youth-intervention program called ROCA, Senge suggested looking to the margins – the fringes – for real life examples of fundamental societal shifts. We exist in patterns of interdependence, in human-enacted systems, with emerging shared understanding. He closed the session with: “From our platforms, SEE…”
Peter Senge, Consciousness and Life
To learn more about Pegasus visit:
For preview videos with the above-mentioned speakers, visit:

Meat Eater's Guide to Climate Change + Health

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Common Cause Handbook

The world currently faces some big, serious and growing problems. From global poverty, to human rights violations, to child abuse, to environmental destruction. Yet so far, we have been able to make only small steps towards solving them. Why? While the power of vested interests is clearly impossible to ignore, one major, connected and largely overlooked factor is the values that motivate people.

In working with national and international issues, many of us have often appealed to financial costs and benefits – or to people’s desire for status or security – to help spur lasting social and environmental change. Yet cross-cultural psychological research on human values reveals that this may be doing untold damage to the causes we care about, by reinforcing the very values that underpin unhelpful attitudes, policies, behaviours and institutions.We need a new approach: recognising the importance of values and frames; taking into account how the things we call for or do can help strengthen or weaken them; and making sure that, in doing so, we are all pulling together across different sectors. The need for trade-offs and compromises will remain – but we should make them in light of the bigger picture: an understanding of the values that will be essential to securing lasting change.

Why values matter

Values represent our guiding principles: our broadest motivations, influencing the attitudes we hold and how we act.
In both action and thought, people are affected by a wide range of influences. Past experience, cultural and social norms, and the money at our disposal are some of the most important. Connected to all of these, to some extent, are our values – which represent a strong guiding force, shaping our attitudes and behaviour over the course of our lives. Our values have been shown to influence our political persuasions; our willingness to participate in political action; our career choices; our ecological footprints; how much money we spend, and on what; and our feelings of personal wellbeing.1
Values, attitudes and behaviours.2
Social and environmental concern and action, it turns out, are based on more than simply access to the facts3(a finding that may seem obvious, but has often proven difficult to fully acknowledge). In reality, both seem to be motivated above all by a particular set of underlying values. In what follows, we will examine what values are (and what they are not), the ways they work in a dynamic and interacting system, and why they are so important for those concerned with social and 


The Common Cause Handbook

The Common Cause Handbook

Public Interest Research Centre (PIRC) | July 6, 2011
With support from Oxfam, WWF and Action for Children, the Public Interest Research Centre wrote the Common Cause handbook to summarise the relevant research on values and frames and its implications in a clear, concise and easily-digestible form. The Handbook outlines what values are; how they relate to frames; why they are important in addressing major national and international problems; and how they change over time. It argues for more involving and participatory groups and organisations, and emphasises the importance of working together across different organisations to help foster more 'intrinsic' values in society.
3.0 MB | 446 Downloads
Finding Frames: New ways to engage the UK public in global poverty

Finding Frames: New ways to engage the UK public in global poverty

Andrew Darnton & Martin Kirk | March 27, 2011
Written by Andrew Darnton (Bond) and Martin Kirk (Oxfam), the basic argument of this paper is that there is a problem in terms of the UK public’s levels of engagement with global poverty. In many respects, people in the UK appear to understand and relate to global poverty no differently now than they did in the 1980s. This is the case despite massive campaigns such as the Jubilee 2000 debt initiative and Make Poverty History; the widespread adoption and mainstreaming of digital communication techniques and social networks; steady growth in NGO fundraising revenues; the entire Millennium Development Goal story; and the establishment of a Westminster consensus on core elements of development policy. This report explores what can be learned from values and frames: providing some compelling insights into the impact of our existing practices and some striking solutions to the problems that these reveal.
923.7 KB | 39 Downloads
Common Cause - The Case for Working with our Cultural Values

Common Cause - The Case for Working with our Cultural Values

Tom Crompton and the Common Cause Working Group | September 15, 2010
WWF-UK has partnered with four other organisations - Climate Outreach and Information Network (COIN), Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Friends of the Earth (FOE) and Oxfam - to explore the central importance of cultural values in underpinning concern about the issues upon which we each work. Common Cause: The Case for Working with our Cultural Values makes the case that civil society organisations can find common cause in working to activate and strengthen a set of helpful 'intrinsic' values, while working to diminish the importance of unhelpful 'extrinsic' values. The report highlights some of the ways in which communications, campaigns, and even government policy, inevitably serve to activate and strengthen some values rather than others.
1.2 MB | 5369 Downloads
Meeting Environmental Challenges: The Role of Human Identity

Meeting Environmental Challenges: The Role of Human Identity

Dr Tom Crompton & Professor Tim Kasser | April 20, 2010
This major new publication, written jointly with Professor Tim Kasser (Knox College, Illinois, and author of 'The High Price of Materialism') examines those fundamental aspects of human identity that operate to frustrate approaches to meeting environmental challenges. The study suggests that some environmental campaigning currently operates inadvertently to exacerbate these unhelpful aspects of identity. It also points to ways in which environmental organisations could begin to work in order to activate more helpful aspects of identity. Finally, it highlights new opportunities for collaborations across diverse civil society organisations to begin to address fundamental barriers to delivery on a range of concerns - from biodiversity loss to poverty alleviation, and racism to animal welfare abuses.
676.5 KB | 2674 Downloads

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Creating Urban Vitality through Mixed-Use Development

The integration of shops and homes create a high density and multi-functional environment. 
Mixed-use developments have been gaining ground as a successful planning design strategy to increase transportation options, revitalize local economies and enliven communities. Although MUDs may soon be universally accepted as the go-to approach for any new neighborhood, there are still obstacles andconfusion about implementing them. Architecture and Design Scotland (A+DS) released two publications in the past couple of months to help clarify the basics of mixed-use developments.
Both reports present their findings in the forms of “learning points,” where people share what they have learned from experience in regeneration. “They simply reflect what has been debated and what those involved at the event considered useful learning and lessons from their perspectives,” the report explains.
Published in April 2011, the first report, “Delivering Mixed Use Development at Neighbourhood & Street Block Scales,” is the outcome of a workshop on mixed-use neighborhoods, involving the work and feedback from a range of practitioners and policymakers. The solutions in the report are derived from the research undertaken by Douglass Wheeler Associates for Scottish Government, “Barriers to Mixed Use,” which identifies a number of challenges to establishing fully functional and successful mixed-use development.
The report identifies five key issues, one of which is the variation in the definition of the term “mixed use.” To avoid the confusion that may arise from this disparity, the report provides three definitions of the term:
  • Includes two or more revenue producing uses/activities, including housing;
  • Includes significant physical and functional integration, including real physical connections between uses within a five minute walk; and,
  • the overall place-making result is a higher density, multi-functional environment with vitality and attractiveness.
The other four key issues and barriers are placing mixed-use development in poorly connected locations; land ownership becoming a divisive factor in the elements of mixed-use developments; development activity fueled by rising land and property values; and finally, a lack of collaboration in interdisciplinary fields.
The second report, “Mixed Use Development in a New Neighbourhood,” a more recent addition to the series of publications, explores the specific issues around delivering a mixed-use neighborhood at Dalmarnock Cross in Glasgow’s East End. (We recently covered Glasgow’s road construction project.) This report serves as a case study, helping future mixed-use developments learn from Damarnock Cross’s experience. One of the six learning points in this report refers to a need for closer integration of land use planning with economic development, to further include public transport connections, public green spaces, access to recreational facitilites and spaces to encourage community vitality.
Download the reports here.
Learn more about A+DS’s work on urbanism here.

Mixed Use Development in a New Neighbourhood

Type: PDF, Size 2,672KB

Mixed Use Learning Point: 87

Type: PDF, Size 709KB

Sustainable Urban Form: The Modern Structure of Walkable Cities

Type: PDF, Size 1,491KB

Designing for Outcomes - Learning Point 93

Type: PDF, Size 365KB

Designing for Climate Change - Learning Point 92

Type: PDF, Size 387KB

Bo01 Case Study - What does good leadership look like?

Type: PDF, Size 1,256KB

Delivering Better Places in Scotland: A guide to learning from broader experience

This document is also available in pdf format (5.6Mb)


The report, “Centers, Cities, Clusters: Encouraging Innovation Through Sustainable Urban Design,” focuses on sustainable economic development through case studies from Barcelona, Boston and Curitiba highlighting innovative strategies for economic development in urban cores. The report includes interviews from experts behind the projects and in the fields of innovation management, economic development and sustainable urban design. Other articles present the winners of the Sustainable and Inclusive Housing competition and a briefing on the event in Curitiba, “Planning for Sustainable Economic Development Across the Americas”.
The report is available for download: