Tag Archives: project goals

Change theory: working with emergence

5 Mar
Herakleitos philosopher quote

Image courtesy of David Schiller's Zen Page-A-Day 2010 Calendar

I love this quote. It’s an ancient Greek version of ‘what goes up, must come down’.

Herakleitos, the weeping philosopher, argued our only permanent reality is that of change. (How’s that for irony?)

He viewed the world order as ‘ever-living fire, kindling in measures and being extinguished in measures’.

Over 2000 years later, I’m thinking he was onto something. Yep, just looked around me – change seems to be going on quite a bit. Tick.

But I keep wondering how? How does change, especially big change, happen?

In mid-2010 I was introduced to the Berkana Institute and emergence thinking by two insightful facilitators – Chris Corrigan and Geoff Brown.

The concept of emergence provides an elegant framework for contemplating change. As Wheatley and Frieze put it in their 2006 article, Lifecycle of Emergence:

In nature, change never happens as a result of top-down, pre-conceived strategic plans, or from the mandate of any single individual or boss. Change begins as local actions spring up simultaneously in many different areas. If these changes remain disconnected, nothing happens beyond each locale. However, when they become connected, local actions can emerge as a powerful system with influence at a more global or comprehensive level. (Global here means a larger scale, not necessarily the entire planet.)

These powerful emergent phenomena appear suddenly and surprisingly. Think about how the Berlin Wall suddenly came down, how the Soviet Union ended, how corporate power quickly came to dominate globally. In each case, there were many local actions and decisions, most of which were invisible and unknown to each other, and none of which was powerful enough by itself to create change. But when these local changes coalesced, new power emerged…

To me, the guts of the theory is that we can learn how to work with emergence by understanding living systems – how they ‘begin as networks, shift to intentional communities of practice, and evolve into powerful new systems capable of global influence.’

Based on this understanding, Wheatley and Frieze argue we can encourage positive influential systems to emerge through a four stage approach: naming, connecting, nourishing and illuminating.

lifecycle of emergence diagram

Lifecycle of Emergence diagram courtesy http://www.berkana.org

I thoroughly recommend reading the full article to understand these approaches better. It’s quite short and, if you’re anything like me, it will chime inside your head for some time to come.

But how does this thinking relate to our project? Well, it helped clarify how we thought change might come about because of what we were proposing to do.

Basically, by creating an upcycling partnership between Conserve India and like-minded supporters within the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games organising system we hoped to:

  • connect these pioneers and positively change how major sporting events are delivered by proving new, valuable products can be made with event waste materials
  • nourish Conserve India with new contacts and knowledge about how to work with major events. We wanted to discover useful product materials; to make and sell new products and generate new income streams, leading to more benefits for Conserve’s staff  and the communities this social enterprise supports
  • illuminate the pioneering work of Conserve India, and other upcyclers, by capturing some of the vast media platform dominated by these major events. We wanted to tell the project story in as many ways possible, and through as many channels as we could, to see if we could find new supporters who would buy the products we created.

We wanted to cast a few small droplets into the river of change we can feel is fast emerging…

Einstein and zen quote

Image courtesy of David Schiller's Zen Page-A-Day 2010 Calendar

To see our original full project plan, otherwise known as ‘Our Best Guess At The Time’, click on our program logic diagram below.

CD2010 Program Logic May 2010

CD2010 Program Logic May 2010

So how did we go?

Tune in tomorrow, dear readers, and I’ll show you…


2000 and Zen

18 Sep

End of another lo-o-ong week. We’ve had a few positive leads about accessing Games waste but none are fully confirmed yet. On Thursday I went down with a fever (luckily not dengue, just garden variety flu). While I’ve felt pretty crummy for the last couple of days, it has given me time to revisit those 5 personal goals from the start of this blog.

Three weeks in, and I can say I’ve learnt a huge amount about Delhi – food, etiquette and the way things get done. But the health and wellbeing has definitely taken a bit of a nose dive.

Liz spider diagram 2

I also managed to get my Delhi-based office (aka my bedroom) organised. While sorting through my things I found my Zen Calendar. Towards the end of last year I started telling friends and family I was renaming 2010 – 2000 and zen. This was to reflect my hope for a year of more balance and positive changes. As a joke, friends of mine bought me a Zen Page-A-Day Calendar.

At first I just laughed and marvelled at how they’d found such a classic gift. Then gradually, usually over breakfast, I started flicking through the quotes. Many were so…zen, they made my frontal lobe shrink. But occasionally a page would stand out, staying with me for days at a time.

This page has been a particular inspiration behind my involvement in this project – the quotes have been on my fridge door for the last 9 months.

no such thing as trash

Image courtesy of David Schiller's Zen Page-A-Day 2010 Calendar

To me, the Zuigan Roshi quote is a simple truth. And, although it feels like I’m free-falling a bit lately – and I’m not entirely sure when that net’s going to show up – it was good to re-read them.

They’re going ‘straight to the pool room’ (in my case, a patch of wall above my desk).

More soon.

Follow the Joy…

1 Sep

Hi, this is Liz. For the next 3 months I’ll be managing this blog (and other social media bits and twits) as part of my Endeavour Executive Award scholarship with Conserve India.

I don’t know about you, but my 2009 was just ‘nuts and bananas’ (Southeast Queensland speak for crazy).  The challenges came on all levels – career, health, relationships – everything seemed to be saying ‘change or suffer’.

But change to what? The future seemed uncertain; I was stuck in a proverbial rut. I might still be there but for a strange day reflecting on the question, ‘if not this, then what do I do with my life?’ The answer came out of the blue, as if someone had actually whispered in my ear: ‘Follow the joy’.

So here I am, jamming everything I’m curious and passionate about into one amazing adventure. Weirdly, it’s as if my random collection of previous experiences had also been leading me to this project: grappling with gender and human rights in Nepal, building a jazz festival website (clunky 2005 effort, but not bad for a first-timer), helping make a documentary celebrating sustainable events, assisting townships go plastic bag free, writing for an environmental journal, selling ginger products to retirees at the Brisbane Ekka


Unofficial shot from my days as the Sustainability Victoria 'baglady'

While drafting the CD2010 monitoring and evaluation framework (yep, for all you project junkies, there’ll be more on that later. C’mon, admit it: project planning is a little bit sexy)……………..anyways…I thought I’d introduce myself by sharing my personal goals for the project as well.

This morning I sketched out this simple spider diagram over chai at my new local chat house:

Liz's spider diagram of 5 goals

Liz's top 5 CD2010 personal goals

Basically, the 5 lines coming out from the centre point of the web represent areas I’d like to work on over the next 3 months. The diagram works by placing a dot on each line to show where you think you’re at (as you can see, am just starting out in most areas). The further out from the centre, the more improved or competent you feel you are. So this is what my first diagram captures:

The Centre – is zero or I got nuthin’

Health & Wellbeing – this is about being kind to my body, specifically with regular yoga practice, getting back to meditation and being caffeine free for a while. Furthest point away from the centre = super zen and feeling good in mind and body.

Computer Stuff – I bought a Macbook 6 months ago but still have so much to learn about using it, ditto for the Adobe Creative Suite – never even used Photoshop before! Furthest point away from the centre = I’ve become one of those people who just rave about Macs and I know the basics of Adobe CS3.

Social Media – closely related to the computer stuff. 3 months ago I’d never even really read a blog, let alone writing one. Same with Twitter and Facebook. Furthest point away from the centre = I’ve become a zealous social media user and advocate.

Creativity – I’d like to take better photos, write well for the web and update my wardrobe with some (low impact) fashion. Furthest point away from the centre = I have a collection of images and writing I love and am swanning around in some unique, eco-friendly, mojo-enhancing, indian fashion items.

Culture – learning some hindi, discovering some historical places and reading books and watching movies on Indian culture are high on my list. At the furthest point I’ve developed hindi conversational skills, I’ve read broadly and feel like I’ve developed greater understanding of India’s history and culture by living and working in Delhi.

We’ll be doing a similar diagram for the CD2010 project as a way of communicating our monitoring and evaluation goals. I hope to publish it here soon.



(Let the Games change begin!)

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