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THREE-FOLD CHANGE STRATEGY August 7, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Democracy, Environment, Humankind/Planet Earth, Peace.
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So how does change work in our society and our world? For example, last year in New South Wales was the government was changed through an election. We now have another set of people setting the agenda, and in effect imposing top-down change.

Soon we might expect, if this change has not happened already, the gravitational centres of political and economic power will reassert their dominant influence. Property developers, who may well have experienced some drawbacks especially in the early days, will resume their influence.

David Korton argues that fundamental change from the bottom-up is possible. Truthout reproduces his theory. He suggests:

Social systems self-organize around ideas and relationships. They are living, complex, dynamic, and constantly evolving as they and their members learn from shared experience. The organism, not the machine, provides the appropriate metaphor. The relevant knowledge resides not with outside experts but with the people who populate the system. The challenge for those who strive to be agents of transformational change is to help members of their group, community, or society recognize, organize, and use that knowledge in ever more effective ways.

Through the dynamics of societal scale social learning processes, people innovate, create, and learn to relate in new ways that enhance their shared well-being. Individual learning translates into community learning that translates into species learning.

The overall process has three primary elements that frame a powerful societal-scale change strategy.

  • Change the defining stories of the mainstream culture. My previous New Economy 2.0 blog made the case that “Every Great Social Movement” begins with an idea carried forward through conversations that challenge and ultimately displace a prevailing cultural story. The civil rights movement is changing the cultural story on race. The women’s movement is changing the story on gender. The environmental movement is changing the story on the human relationship to nature. Through public presentations, books, magazines, talk shows, and the Internet’s many communications tools, millions of people are now spreading stories of the possibilities of a New Economy.
  • Create a new economic reality from the bottom up. Many of those who have been inspired by some aspect of the New Economy story are already engaged in initiatives that are building the foundation of strong local living economies. They are establishing and supporting locally owned human-scale businesses and family farms that create regional self-reliance in food, energy, and other basic essentials. They are moving their money to local banks and credit unions, retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency, and changing land-use policies to favor compact communities, reduce auto dependence, and reclaim agricultural and forest lands. By creating a new reality on the ground their actions open opportunities for new personal choices, demonstrate the possibilities of the new story, and build a base for effective political action.
  • Change the rules to support the values and institutions of the emergent new reality. The rules put in place by Wall Street lobbyists put the economic rights of global financiers and corporations ahead of the economic rights of ordinary people, place-based communities, and even nations. As we change the story and build appropriate institutions from the bottom up, we gain the political traction needed to change the rules to support democratic self-determination at the lowest feasible level of systems organization.

Successful social movements are emergent, evolving, radically self-organizing, and involve the dedicated efforts of many people, each finding the role that best uses his or her gifts and passions.

I wonder whether this is an effective model of social change. It does not consider for example the influence of the media as system of “thought control and propaganda”, or however the agenda and political debate is framed. Can people think outside television? The existing political order has the game set in its favor.

During the course of the Reformation, Thomas More, who has a lawyer’s concern with what he said refused when pressed to comment on “the king’s marriage, the act of supremacy or the act of succession”. These were key issues in the political order of his day. Today the key issue is the exercise of the military violence and the threat of violence by the American Empire, challenged implicitly by the debt ceiling and public opinion.

The existing system is more likely to crash, taking all of us with it. Should the environment collapse, then human society would collapse. Violence does not work in the long term, because it destroys human and environmental values. More often than not it is short sighted and stupid. Compassion has the merit that it exercises our highest capabilities drawing the tool box for survival encoded in our frontal lobes.

ELSEWHERE:

At Common Dreams, Michael Nagler links the three step strategy to the Gandhian economics.

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