A Deeper Focus


Report from the Bioneers pre-conference intensive “Catalyzing a Resilient Communities Network”

“We’ve been borrowing from the future, and the debt has fallen due. The science says we have physically entered a period of great change, a synchronized, related crash of the economy and ecosystem. The Great Disruption will ultimately take human society to a higher evolutionary state. We have the opportunity to build a society that represents our highest capacities’ that works with rather than against nature. This crisis presents what may be a “once in a civilization” opportunity for a step change in human evolution, but one driven consciously rather than biologically. We are the people we’ve been waiting for. This is the time.” —Paul Gilding, The Great Disruption

Article written by Victoria Carranza
November 30, 2012

As I briefly talked about at the Central Coast Bioneers conference, I represented the Central Coast region and attended the pre-conference Bioneers intensive on October 18th 2012. The intensive Catalyzing a Resilient Communities Network was cosponsored by The Thriving Resilient Communities Collaboratory and Threshold Foundation. The collaboratory shared strategic actions from Global Action Network (GAN) groups on how to create a Resilient Communities Network and conducted an exercise creating a mapping “sketch” of Resilient Communities drawn from “mental models” of diverse thought leaders and doers. Scott Spann of Innate Strategies facilitated this exercise. Keynote speakers including the founder of Bioneers, Kenny Ausubel, Steve Waddell, Gar Alperovitz, David Orr, Andy Lipkis, Astrid Scholz, Peter Warshall, and more, who gave strong presentations that instigated the collaboratories. Collaboratories are participatory discussion circles catalyzed by plenary and other speakers. We broke up into the following categories: tools, social resilience, governance, ecological resilience, financial resilience, and networks.

Overall, it was a landmark gathering that welcomed an outstanding crowd of progressive, loving, and dedicated members of their respected communities. It was inspiring seeing all ages and backgrounds coming together as a network. Upon returning to our satellite conference, I can attest that our community is taking the necessary steps in learning, experimenting, and innovating as a model of resilience practices and democracy. Passionate people are the seeds for self-organization. However, we are not the magic, but the influencers of it. We must continue this work.

So why does resiliency need to be our primary focus? As we are faced with the Great Disruption, where the collective is only beginning to awaken, the key is building resilience. This needs to be built both on an ecological and social or rather, political and spiritual, level. Key principles of resilience thinking include: systems thinking, fostering the system’s capacity to adapt to dramatic change, diversity of stakeholders and responses, abandoning command-control approaches, and greater decentralization with more localization.

There is a threat that hovers over me that I think was the instigator for this intensive. Disaster preparedness is a reality whether you are an environmentalist or believe in global warming or not. The truth is short. Hurricane Sandy’s ferocious assault has citizens on the East Coast left with power outage, lack of food and water capacity in their local area, flooded and destroyed buildings, and little to no business happening as a result. Power generators are illuminating the streets and a waterline on some buildings near the New York Harbor reach 8 feet high. Television newscasters highlighted the families not being able to fly out and see their loved ones over the holidays and Black Friday sales plummeting. What is it going to take for us to cover the real story?

“What if we all were managers of the ecosystem?” provokes Andy Lipkis, founder of Tree People. It is about using what we have. We can’t plan on the rain season but we can double efficiency and maximize our ability to recharge our aquifers and sequester carbon.

We believe what we see; it’s the human experience. So what is it that we want? What do we want to do? David Orr spoke to this. Mary Gonzales, a community organizer, chimed in with motivational words. It’s about living in community and in abundance, not scarcity. The only thing power understands is equal or greater power. Stop being powerless and give up your private life, she says.

Let’s be clear about transitioning. How do we know when to move forward? Did we miss anyone? We need to be sure not to cancel each other’s work, reinvent the wheel, know when there is too much input and not enough decision-making, and the power of listening and not talking in the same respect.

Let’s ACT like a network in the midst of being busy taking ACTION ourselves. It’s not about representing one organization over another. Emergent new ideas come from creative tension. We have got to realize that the strong supporters of our collective work are great for mentoring and idea sharing. However, it is going to take all of us on board to understand the needs of our community as a whole. The take home message was to Learn Up. It is about learning from home base, whether that is in your community or on your own, then experimenting and innovating with others, whether that is your community or the larger network. Learn, Experiment, Innovate.

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