The Transformation Project – part 1


Richard Moore

Bcc: FYI
rkm website

The Transformation Project
This project is motivated by the belief that a much better world is possible. A world where society is in balance with nature, rather than destroying nature. A world organized around what people need and want, rather than around creating wealth for the few. A world in harmony rather than a world plagued by conflict and war. A world where people have a real voice in how their societies operate.

This project is also motivated by the observation that the current systems of society cannot be fixed. A better world calls for a whole new way of organizing things, making decisions, allocating resources, dealing with economics, etc. We need a total transformation of society: a whole new operating system for Spaceship Earth.

This project is inspired by a process found in nature: the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. A butterfly is not a caterpillar that grows wings; it is a completely new creature, with a totally different biological operating system, created out of the raw materials of the old creature.

The creation of the butterfly is orchestrated by a relatively small number of special cells, imaginal cells. These special cells carry the blueprints for growing the new organs, and they carry the vision of the final butterfly form. Furthermore, they have the ability to inspire ordinary cells around them to play their role in implementing the blueprints, and fulfilling the vision of the butterfly. 

The goal of this project is to create an analogue of imaginal cells: some kind of process that can develop the blueprints for building a better world, and do so in such a way that people will want to play their role in implementing the blueprints, and fulfilling the better-world vision.

A plan has been developed for pursuing this goal, based on the application of proven methods and principles. This plan can be carried out by a small project team, only a dozen or so people, with the right skills – and a great deal of commitment. The plan calls for the team to organize a series of events aimed at launching the process of blueprint development and better-world envisioning. 

These are seed events, following a pattern that can be easily replicated, so that the ongoing process can become self-organizing. The project team is not seeking to organize the process of transformation; rather it seeks to sow the seeds of self-organizing transformation.

Principles of vision development
In developing a vision for a better world, there is certainly a role to be played by people with specialized knowledge. If we want to come up with a better bridge design, experienced bridge engineers clearly have a critical contribution to make. But perhaps we don’t want or need a bridge! The ultimate source for a vision of a better world is us ordinary people: what kind of world do we really want? 

The first principle of vision development is that it needs to proceed as a conversation between people with specialist knowledge on the one hand, and ordinary people on the other. A dialog, exploring the boundaries and overlaps between what can be done, and what is desired. The specialists can provide creative scenarios, of systems that could be developed and projects that could be carried out; the rest of us can say which scenarios we like and don’t like, and which ones need to be explored further – and we can contribute our own creative ideas to the conversation as well. 

In seeking to arrange such an ongoing conversation, there are three primary considerations to keep in mind. First, there is inclusiveness: we need to include the full spectrum of specialist thinking in the conversation, and we need to include the concerns of all the rest of us. Second, there is efficiency: it behooves us to approach the conversation in a way that minimizes overhead and maximizes rate of progress. Finally, there is quality: the individual conversations need to be structured in a way that enables everyone present to participate, and that taps into the full creative potential of the group. 

In partial response to these considerations, the second principle of vision development is the principle of the representative microcosm. This is a principle that responds to all three of our primary considerations, and it is the same principle that lies behind the twelve-person jury system. Twelve randomly-selected citizens, if they agree on a unanimous verdict, can be expected to reach the same verdict that the general population would have reached, if everyone had the time to sit through the trial and deliberate on the evidence.

A jury serves as a representative microcosm of the whole community. Long experience has shown that twelve is a small enough group that their deliberations tend to converge in a reasonable time. And experience has shown that when twelve people are selected randomly from a community, that brings into the deliberations most of the sentiments and concerns that prevail in that community. The requirement of unanimity ensures that all of those sentiments and concerns are taken into account in reaching a verdict.

The principle of the representative microcosm means that we can convene relatively small conversations, and those conversations can be inclusive of the concerns and thinking of a larger population. And if those conversations lead to unanimous conclusions, we can expect that the concerns and thinking of the larger population have been reasonably represented. The efficiency benefits provided by this principle are considerable, and the project plan makes heavy use of this approach. 

There is more that is needed however, as regards both efficiency and quality. Assembling the right microcosm is the essential first step, and unanimity is an essential objective, but there remains the question of process. A conversation can be productive, or it can be unproductive, depending on the dynamics of the conversation. There are proven processes, facilitation methods, that can greatly enhance the quality of group conversations. Processes that make sure all concerns get taken into account, processes that tap into the full creative potential of the group, and processes that move the conversation efficiently along.

The third principle of vision development is appropriate process. For any given conversation, of any given size and duration, it is essential to make use of best-practice process methods, appropriate to that particular conversation. If people are investing their valuable time in these conversation, they will want their time to be used efficiently, and they will want their concerns to be taken into account. And if we want to make maximum progress with vision development, we will want to tap into the full creative potential of those who are assembled. 

Part 2 tomorrow: The project plan