Emergence defined

 

In my last post, I declared a goal: to have a supportive relationship with 40,000 people about cities and our relationship with them. I have crossed a threshold to think this goal, let alone say it out loud and communicate it to the many of you who are reading my blog, following me on twitter, LinkedIn and facebook.

This goal makes me feel distinctly uncomfortable, so I recognize it as my own version of a threshold of a new age.  This goal requires me to reach out very far, much farther than my internal filters say is appropriate. I am a ‘good Canadian’, who doesn’t toot her own horn. Yet the opportunity before me, using social media, is profound. It is a new age, where I can connect with people across the planet. The people who see cities as I do are not concentrated in one spot – we are all over, and there is so much to learn from each other’s experiences. Because of this new age, I can find my tribe across the planet, build relationships with them and seek out ways to support each other in our work. This, I actively wish to pursue: making connections and see what comes.

What will our work be? That will emerge…

Peggy Holman provides a simple definition of emergence in her book, Engaging Emergence: order arising out of chaos. The result is new levels of patterns as we make sense of the world. On the Nest City Blog, there are many posts that speak to this – simply search for posts with the tag “Spiral Dynamics integral.”  Our value systems have evolved – emerged – in response to our life conditions. We make sense out of the chaos we see, then find more chaos, followed by more order. As a reminder, here is the Spiral as we have looked at it here:

Spiral of purposes - 8.005

Each level on the Spiral is a new order of complexity (complexity is increasing with movement upwards). As Holman puts it: “Emergent order arises when a novel, more complex system forms (p. 18).” There is a transition from one order to the next, and in this transition there is a threshold.

Each level of emergence is a new world that we see with fresh eyes. It works differently, it organizes itself differently and it values different things for different purposes. To see the new world, we must cross a threshold:

Without warning, thresholds can open directly before our feet. These thresholds are also the shorelines of new worlds.   (John O’Donohue)  

The passage to a shoreline of a new world, from the sea, can be rough or calm. Whether a straightforward or dramatic manoeuvre, it is a transition from what we know into a world we do not know. It is daunting and thrilling at the same time to make the voyage through thresholds into the unknown and the uncertain.

As cities and citizens we come upon thresholds. What is their role in our own emergence?

 

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Sources / Further reading

Peggy Holman, Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity

John O’Donohue, Bless the Space Between Us

Don Edward Beck and Christopher C. Cowan, Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change 

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This post forms part of Chapter 6 – Emerging Thresholds, of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities. Click here for an overview of Chapters 4-7 (Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence). Click here for an overview of the three parts of Nest City.

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