What is the role of Emergence in Complex Social Change?


(Ikem Opara) #1

In the words of Anne Gloger, emegence is what it looks like when momentum meets opportunity. Many of us engaged in social change work at any scale are accustomed to aligning many moving parts at the same time. Momentum and Opportunity are often two of those moving parts, and finding yourself in the same space and time as them can be quite the chase!

Earlier this year, Fourth Quadrant Partners (4QP) released its research into emergent strategy, using seven examples of widely varying social change initiatives from around the world to draw insights about what emergence means, what it looks like in practice, and what it promises to achieve.

Check out the case studies and let us know what you think! Are you working in emergence or funding emergent work? What do you think it would take to unleash the wisdom of the whole community to tackle the biggest social, economic or environmental challenges we face? Tell us more about your experience and learning.

A Whole Greater than Its Parts: Exploring the Role of Emergence in Complex Social Change.

(Arti Freeman) #2

Interesting work! We did an experiment many years ago on funding emergence - the Youth Social Infrastructure initiative. Learning to co-create the future as it emerges and studying under Otto Scharmer (Theory U) was catalytic.

Check out this paper we wrote on supporting emergence in communities. .

(Anne Gloger) #3

Leading for emergence creates resilience…

If it’s done well, emergent leadership can: strengthen everyone’s capacity to build strong social fabric to address stresses and celebrate community; and create a nimbleness and diversity of responses to unexpected shocks

There is more to explore on the question of “why emergent leadership”, and even more on “how to lead for emergence” Check out this “how to” one pager with learning and insights from an OTF funded project on community emergence and youth leadership.

Centre for Connected Communities - Tips for working in emergence

I look forward to future discussions. Thank you Ikem for raising this important issue. And thank you 4th Quadrant Partners for researching emergence and sharing your compelling insights.

(Ikem Opara) #4

@AnneG and @Arti thank you very much for throwing those two resources into the conversation. The goal of strengthening our invividual and community capacity to recover, rebuild and thrive after shocks to the systems is an important goal of any work in resilience. I think recognizing and nurturing emergence and the conditions that make emergence possible is essential work for all of us.

Is there any difference in approach for sudden shocks to the system vs the slow drip shocks that we may not all notice at once?

(Anne Gloger) #5

Great question Ikem

I think it’s a matter of degree and focus. A community that has worked together using an emergent framework for a long time to develop “by the community for the community” ways to address entrenched stresses like poverty, inequity, racialization will be much more likely to develop effective strategies to deal quickly with the unexpected shocks of community disasters.

The strong social fabric of a connected community will support a effective collective responses to shocks like extreme weather events; the social fabric of a community is stronger if it is inclusive, nimble and adaptive; emergence can be an intentional strategy to create this kind of nimble, adaptive and inclusive social fabric.

(Ikem Opara) #6

This! I really like the way you have framed this @AnneG. I have sometimes described this social fabric as an immune system for a community. It requires an intentional strategy to maintain and protect, but it really does take over in a powerful way when it is needed. We also feel its absence in a catastrophic way when it is not there.