Willfully unfolding lemonade


The words willful unfolding have continued to unfold!  Relentlessly.

As part of the Integral City conference, I have four roles: co-design the eLab program with Marilyn Hamilton, interview many of the 50 visionaries we have gathered, speak to participants about the role of the Integral City master rule (take care of self, take care of others, take care of place), and harvest the meaning we make of what we are learning.

As we have been working on the conference, we have been struggling with making sure that we create the conditions for the transfer of wisdom from people who have been living the 12 evolutionary intelligences to participants.  These are the 36 live sessions that form part of the conference.  We are also aiming to create the space for an asynchronous community space that allows the participants to meet each other and make meaning together.  Holding this latter intention as been my role as the Harvester.

Up until today, I have had no idea how our harvest function was going to take place with our technology choice.  I have willfully held on to the intention to create the conditions where the emerging Integral City Collective is able to connect as a collective, rather than as individuals.  We wish to create the conditions to see the collective, to discuss within the collective.  To interact with the collective.  To be a collective.

The way to go about creating this kind of space has been very slow in unfolding.  I have had to be patient as we made decisions about the technology we use and whether it can hold the dream of a collaborative space that can hold us in our exploration really well.  Our challenge is that the technology platform we are using is moderately good at setting up individuals to connect with each other.  Not more.  And at this stage in the game we are not in a position to change our platform so we are making lemonade out of lemons, as one of my colleagues puts it.  We will make great lemonade together.

Whether we meet face to face or virtually, the quality of our interaction comes with what we each bring and the spirit in which we conduct ourselves.  Regardless of the structure, physical or virtual.  This is how we will make lemonade.  And the lemonade will nourish the next iteration of the technological structures that we need to serve us well in our virtual worlds.

The lemonade will serve the next unfolding.


_____ _____ _____

7  free interviews are posted on the Integral City Collective website.  Go to the conference page, scroll down to the bottom of the page to register for the free Integral City expo and you’ll have access to the interviews.  This is free time to learn with Don Beck, Ann Dale, Ann Duffy, Barrett Brown, Buzz Holling, Hazel Henderson and Terry Patten.  Enjoy

Go to the conference link above, then click on this button...


Willful unfolding

It is 13 days until showtime, when the curtain goes up for the Integral City Expo and eLab on-line conference.  We have a lot to do and we could have chosen to focus our time today on tasks, but we made a different decision today.

We chose to pause and consider our work and its role in our selves and our world.  We circled up for 90 minutes to reflect individually and collectively on the following:

  • stories of when we feel appreciated working with each other
  • ideas of how to strengthen our culture of appreciation
  • the callings in our lives in relation to our work on the Integral City Expo and eLab
  • the common patterns of intention within our highest individual aspirations
This was a wise choice to spend our time this way as we head into the chaos of putting on a month long on-line conference.  We are grounded in the understanding of our shared calling to work together, even when most of us have never met face-to-face.
Our trust in each other has been amplified.  Our shared, emerging purpose has been amplified.  As we move into crunch time, our ability to priorize with purpose will be amplified.
We are ready to forge ahead.
Here is the poem that emerged from our time together, our feedback loop to ourselves, grounding our selves and our work serving cities and citizens as we design for our unfolding future.




Planet of cities

Earth is now a planet of cities.  The implications of this stage in our evolution are going to be discussed in 15 days by world thought leaders in the first week of a four week online conference: The City 2.0.

Each day  of Week 1 will focus on an evolutionary intelligence that supports citizens and cities:

  • Tuesday Sept 4 – Ecology
  • Wednesday Sept 5 – Emergence and complexity
  • Thursday Sept 6 -Living systems

Here is a quick review of what is happening Week 1 (please enjoy the links to web pages with some information about these folks).

On Tuesday September 4, Bill Rees, co-author of Our Ecological Footprint, will begin Day 1 of the conference exploring the contribution of ecosphere intelligence in cities.  Brian Eddy and Michael Zimmerman will follow, giving us examples of how ecosphere intelligence contributes to city design.  We will wrap up the day by setting the stage for participants to share stories of living ecosphere intelligence by hearing the stories of Karen O’Brien, Lummina Horlings, and Gaston Remmers.

Day 2, on September 5, will begin with Buzz Holling‘s take on emergence and complexity in cities.  Jan de Dood and Harrie Vollaard will give us examples on how emergence and complexity contribute to city design.  Day 2 will conclude with some stories of what this intelligence looks like in real life, starting with Ian Wight and Will Varey.

Week 1 concludes on September 6 with a look at living systems.  Elisabet Sahtouris starts us off on Day 3 with a look at life cycles and aliveness in the city.  Darcy Riddell and George Por will show us how how to apply living systems intelligence.  The day will conclude with a round of stories about implementing living intelligence.  Bjarni Snaebjorn Jonnson and Roberto Bonilla-Nunez will get us started.

These folks come from around the world.  Appropriate for a week’s exploration of Earth as a planet of cities.  They hail from Canada, The Netherlands, the United States, Scotland, Norway, Iceland and Mexico.  Their work takes place on planetary and local scales.  They look at cities integrally, examining the city ‘s interior and exterior perspectives.  Among them they are thought-leaders, scholars and practitioners.  They are a wonderful blend of what it means to think about cities integrally, to feel cities integrally and to embody cities integrally.

That’s week #1 in a nutshell.

For more information, please explore the conference web site.  Speakers’ bios can be found here.





City designers for ecosphere intelligence

I will be interviewing Brian Eddy and Michael Zimmerman on the opening day of the Integral City eLab, Tuesday September 4, 2012.  We will be exploring ecosphere intelligence, our awareness and capacity to respond to a city’s climate and eco0region.

(For over a decade, Brian Eddy has been exploring sustainable development with an integral lens.  Here is a link to one of his articles available online:  Integral Geography: Space, Place  and Perspective (2005 – World Future 61).  Michael Zimmerman is author of Integral Ecology: Uniting Multiple Perspectives on the Natural World, a wonderful treatise on the the transdisciplinary nature of integral ecology.)

Day One will begin with Marilyn Hamilton’s interview of Bill Rees, author of Our Ecological Footprint,  who will provide an overview of the contribution ecosphere intelligence makes to cities.  Eddy and Zimmerman will zoom in on how the three principles of ecosphere intelligence can be used in city design:

  1. Honour the climate and geography of your city.
  2. Steward the environment.
  3. Add value to the earth space.
Day 1 will conclude with ecosphere intelligence practitioners Karen O’Brien and Ina Horlings, and a look at integral approaches to climate change and sustainability.

Click here for information on the eLab.  Stay tuned for more information on the eLab and details on how to participate.




eLab: a relevant crucible for change

The Integral City eLab is taking place from September 4-27, 2012.  Our mission – to pool curious minds to co-create an exploratory space for anyone wishing to create cities that serve citizens and cities well.   We aim to create the conditions for a new, life-giving story for our cities, the habitat we create for ourselves to ensure we thrive.

eLab rooted in three principles

We have created the eLab because we believe that:

  1. Cities are the most relevant boundaries and crucibles for change
  2. For collaboration we need a common lens and language from which to communicate
  3. The city lens is under construction – it requires learning how to think differently

The purpose of the eLab is to create the conditions for these three principle to gain life, to change how we think about our cities.  Our cities are a part of our evolutionary story and a significant part of the systems we humans build to support ourselves.  It is time to understand city systems.

Here’s the skinny on the format

The eLab will take place over four weeks, three days each week for a total of 12 days.  Each day of the eLab will explore one of the 12 evolutionary intelligences I have been exploring here and that form the basis of Marilyn Hamilton’s work (Integral City website, the book).  The 12 intelligences are grouped in threes, giving each week an overal theme:

  • Week 1 (Sep 4-7)  – Planet of Cities
  • Week 2 (Sep 11-13) – Gaia’s Reflective Organ
  • Week 3 (Sep 18-20) – Aligning Strategies to Prosper
  • Week 4 (Sep 25-27) – Amplifying Intelligence

Each day will explore one evolutionary intelligence through three questions and three principles that guide the intelligence.  This will be done each day at three scales (three sessions each day): a thought leader, people who design for this intelligence and the stories of practitioners of the day’s intelligence.

Feel free to explore the eLab program further at your leisure.  For details and registration please contact Marilyn Hamilton at marilyn@integralcity.ca

Over the next couple weeks I will be highlighting the speakers that will be sharing their work, life and stories about our relationships with our cities.

My three roles at Integral City eLab


For the months of August and September I am taking a break from posting Nest City while I step up my work on an international webinar eLaboratory on cities:

Integral City eLab 2012 – Co-creating the Future of the Human Hive

Integral City eLab is 12 days of webinars from September 4-27 (Tuesday – Thursday each week) and an on-line learning environment to serve as an eLaboratory  to explore how to design prosperity systems for the liveable city.   Our intention is to create the space and place for people across the planet to share and learn of ideas about our relationship with cities.  We will explore big ideas and share stories.  Click here for information on the eLab.

I have three roles in the eLab:

  1. C0-host eLab webinars.   Marilyn Hamilton, David Faber and I will be hosting/facilitating/moderating the 36 eLab sessions.  Some will be formal presentations, others will involve extensive Q and A, while others are designed for participants to explore and share their experiences and stories.
  2. Blog the eLab.  Prior to the eLab I will be writing about the contributions our speakers make to our understanding of cities as whole systems.  During the eLab I will be blogging about eLab stories and making meaning of each day.  I will be creating pieces to head out into the world as well as creating a jumping off points for discussion among eLab participants.
  3. Co-create the spaces and places to make meaning.  With my fellow eLab organizers, we are holding the intention, and creating the structure for personal and collective learning about ourselves and cities.  We are holding this intention for the duration of the eLab and into the future that we can’t see yet.

So for Nest City readers, you will see a shift in focus here.  For the month of August I will be writing about the speakers that are engaged for the eLab.  For the month of September, during the eLab itself, I will be blogging each conference day about meaning I make of the day’s journey.  This will be a juicy side-journey that will provide lots of intelligence to put toward the creation of Nest City and nest cities.

I look forward to sharing the Integral City eLab with you!


August – guest blog about Integral City eLab speakers/ideas

September – guest blog Integral City eLab stories

October – back to Nest City blog





Concluding city patterns


In these Nest City posts, I have looked at cities in three ways so far: our impulse to build and gather in cities, our impulse to organize our cities and last, our impulse to thrive as a species.  In exploring each of these three impulses, patterns about our cities are revealed that are crucial to understanding how to organize our cities our cities to serve their citizens well – and how to be citizens to serve cities well.

Chapter 1 – The City Impulse

Building cities as our habitat naturally occurs for us.  We work at this every day – psychologically, physically, socially and culturally.  Our work, whether paid or unpaid, is always in response to our habitat.  We work constantly to think, make and do new things, which changes our habitat and our responses to habitat.  And so on, endlessly.

Our relationship with our habitat – cities – feeds the evolution of our cities and our habitat.  Given this relationship, it is time to build the nest we need.


Chapter 2 – The Planning Impulse

The overriding purpose of a city is to integrate the needs of its people with its context, to create a habitat in which citizens will survive and thrive.  The purpose of planning is to support a city’s efforts to notice, adjust and organize to ensure the city is able to integrate the needs of its citizens with its context.

The city is a dance of voices and values and  the act of linear planning is simply a level of organizing that responds to a particular set of life conditions.  There is a time and place for linear planning, and life conditions are now emerging allowing us to recalibrate the practice of planning that holds a destination in mind while allowing for learning and adjustment along the way.  We are learning to live into a reality in which we recognize that we do not know exactly where we will end up.


Chapter 3 – The Thriving Impulse

Our cities are built by us and for us.  We do this to ensure that we survive, yet as we saw in Chapter One, we have a drive to constantly think, make and do new things in our work.  The result is our drive to thrive.  This drive results in cities.  And cities compel us to think, make and do more new things.  This is the essence of our evolutionary relationship with cities: an infinity loop.

Spiral Dynamics describes this pattern well: we grow and develop – evolve – in response to our life conditions.  12 intelligences also serve the evolutionary character of cities and our relationship with cities.  While they each offer much to understanding cities, they can be summarized in as evolutionary intelligence one useful sentence:

Seeing the whole city as alive, evolving wholes that need nourishment allows us to navigate toward cities that serve citizens well, and citizens that serve cities well.  

On to Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence

Part 2 of Nest City will focus on four things: destination, journey, emergence and the sweet spot at the intersection.  This is the dynamic of how we can set ourselves up to organize ourselves and our habitats well.


My next post will lay out the plot for Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence.  


_____ _____ _____

If you are interested in learning more about evolutionary intelligences relating to cities, you will be interested in the Integral City eLaboratory – Co-Creating the Future of the Human Hive.


Our impulse to thrive in cities

I am at the end of Chapter 3 – The Thriving Impulse.  Beginning with my June 13, 2012 post, Pause for evolutionary understanding, I asked this question: where do we need to put our attention to ride out our evolutionary burst successfully?

To begin, I explored some theoretical frameworks to shed some light on our evolutionary relationship with cities.  I looked first at Spiral Dynamics with a primer,  the principles that frame the Spiral and the conditions that guide evolutionary expansion.   We grow and develop – evolve – in response to our life conditions.  We evolve with our habitat in all aspects of our lives.  We have within us an evolutionary impulse to thrive.

From this point, I choose to explore Dr. Marilyn Hamilton’s 12 evolutionary intelligences one at a time.  As I concluded this process, I realized that I can summarize these 12 evolutionary intelligences in one sentence:

Seeing the whole city as alive, evolving wholes that need nourishment allows us to navigate toward cities that serve citizens well, and citizens that serve cities well.  

We see the whole city with integral maps, such as the nesting holarchy of city systems and Spiral Dynamics integralthe four quadrants and scalar, fractal relationships.  The four integral quadrants of the city allow us to see the city’s inner intelligence (our conscious capacity and psychological well-being), outer intelligence (embodying right action and biological well-being), building intelligence (creating structures that flex and flow, and our social well-being) and cultural intelligence (feeding each other and cultural well-being).

Thinking of cities as alive draws on our ecosphere intelligence and our living intelligence.  Seeing cities as evolving wholes draws on our emerging intelligence and our evolving intelligence.  And just like any living entity, cities need nourishment.  Cities and citizens thrive with inquiry intelligence and meshworking intelligence.

Our navigating intelligence allows us to declare a destination and notice if we are on track.  Ultimately, I believe we are aiming for cities that serve citizens well – and citizens that serve cities well.

This work is about thriving.  This is work that never ends.


This post wraps up Chapter 3 – The Thriving Impulse AND it also wraps up the first Part of Nest City.  Part One – City Patterns has looked at three impulses in the human species: the city impulse, the planning impulse and the thriving impulse. My next post will recap the patterns in our relationship with cities before switching gears and tackling how we can organize ourselves, and our nest cities, for emergence.


_____ _____ _____

If you are interested in learning more about evolutionary intelligences relating to cities, you will be interested in the Integral City eLaboratory – Co-Creating the Future of the Human Hive.


Endless practices


As I reflect on yesterday’s distillation of 12 evolutionary intelligences that serve cities, I can’t help but think that there are things for us to do and ways for us to be to allow these intelligences to flourish.  If these intelligences flourish, then so will citizens and cities.

So what would activation of our evolutionary intelligences look like?  Endlessly practicing to:

  1. See the whole city, the good and the bad.
  2. Notice the systems within the city system, and the systems of cities.
  3. Integrate of the four integral voices of self and the city: citizens (psychological well-being), city managers (biological well-being), city builders (social well-being), and civil society (cultural well-being).
  4. Take action with the knowledge that our cities are alive, and extensions of us.
  5. Make decisions with the knowledge that we shape our cities and our cities shape us.
  6. Nourish our cities with our curiosity and catalytic connections.
  7. Name our destination – the relationship we wish to have with our cities.
As I look at these points, I see that living these intelligences means knowing where we are going and not knowing where we are going at the same time.  It means being certain in uncertainty.  It means trusting ambiguity, and seeing clearing in ambiguity.  It means embracing the gifts of differing opinions.  It means being the citizens we need to be to have cities that serve us all well.
It means courageously having a destination in mind, even if only a thread.  It means accepting that as individuals and as a species we are on a learning journey.  It means being open to the future that is wanting to come into being and trusting that the future we want is the future we can have.
It means organizing ourselves and our habitat – our nest cities – to thrive.
As I leave this post with you today, I am at the end of Chapter 3 – The Thriving Impulse.  Beginning with my June 13, 2012 post, Pause for evolutionary understanding, I explored some theoretical frameworks to shed some light on our evolutionary relationship with cities: Spiral Dynamics and Integral Theory.  My next post will begin the transition from city patterns – our impulses to create cities and organize them so we thrive – to how we can go about organizing ourselves in our cities for emergence.  


_____ _____ _____

If you are interested in learning more about evolutionary intelligences relating to cities, you will be interested in the Integral City eLaboratory – Co-Creating the Future of the Human Hive.

Evolutionary intelligence in a sentence


Over the last several weeks I have been exploring Marilyn Hamilton’s 12 evolutionary intelligences for the city.  They cover a great deal of territory and are so interconnected.  I often find it difficult to grasp and discern the 12 intelligences and I am hungry for a simpler way to ‘hold’ them.  12 are too many for my being to juggle.

At this juncture, I distill all 12 evolutionary intelligences for cities into the following sentence:

Seeing the whole city as alive, evolving wholes that need nourishment allows us to navigate toward cities that serve citizens well, and citizens that serve cities well.  

Let me unpack this sentence and reach back into each of the 12 evolutionary intelligences explored over the last few weeks to see how they fit, how they add up to this sentence.

Seeing the whole city

Seeing the whole city means using ‘maps’ to look at the city as a whole.  Integral intelligence means looking at the city with integral maps. Four of these maps are explored in earlier posts.  Here they are, with links to a description of them:  the nesting holarchy of city systems and Spiral Dynamics integralthe four quadrants and scalar, fractal relationships.

Seeing the whole city also means seeing the four integral quadrants of the city:

as alive,

Cities grow out of our evolving interaction with our habitat.  Our ecosphere intelligence allows us to be in relationship with our habitat and adjust and grow with it as life conditions change.  When we engage our living intelligence, we see that the city is alive because its survives, it connects with its environment and it regenerates.  If it doesn’t do this, it does not survive or thrive, but dies.

evolving wholes

Our emerging intelligence allows us to city the aliveness of the city and its complexity.  The city is made up of many other whole, identifiable systems: citizens, families, organizations, neighbourhoods, etc.  The city survives just as these systems survive, has a relationship with its environment as these systems do, and regenerates as these systems do.  The relationship between the city system and its systems are always in relationship with each other, which creates the conditions for our evolving intelligence.  The back-and-forth between cities and citizens, for example, fuels the development of all wholes.

that need nourishment

Cities and citizens alike need to be nourished to thrive.  Inquiry intelligence allows us to unlock the potential of cities by simply noticing and appreciating what works in cities and working to get more of it.  Inquiry also gives us the opportunity to imagine what we need that is well beyond “fixing”.  A “fix” keeps us where we are, but curiosity about what naturally needs to come next, and the inquiry into that, is hugely nourishing.  Asking and exploring questions endlessly nourishes our cities.

Then connections we make in cities, and the quality and quantity of those connections, also nourish the city.  This is meshing intelligence, our capacity to make catalytic connections within and between whole systems.  These relationships are self-organizing and hierarchical at the same time.  The health of both nourish the city.

allows us to navigate toward

Our navigating intelligence allows us to inhabit two behaviours – aiming for a destination and the activity of discerning if on course to that destination.  This intelligence is all about feedback loops, and the creation of feedback loops that allow us to see whether our actions are helping or harming our journey to where we wish to go.  This intelligence is increasingly asking us to know where we wish to go and what “getting there” would look like.

cities that serve citizens well, and citizens that serve cities well.

In a very general way, this phrase is what we are aiming for.  It is a superordinate goal.  As all of the intelligences weave together, and as we spend time contemplating what a city that serves its citizens well looks and feels like, or how citizens that serve the city well would show up, we will begin to identify what this relationship is really about.  Ultimately, this relationship is emerging and it will continue to emerge as the relationship between citizens and cities shifts and adjusts over time.

A parting thought for today

As we organize ourselves in cities, it is clear that how we “plan” is no longer a simple linear activity.  It is one way to organize ourselves, but it does not encompass the complexity of the ways we organize ourselves.  My writing to come will focus on this simple model to live the intelligences and make the relationship between citizens and cities more whole:

Organizing our cities requires a clear sense of destination to which we navigate.  We are on a journey to make our way to this destination, yet the truth is we do not know what the destination really is.  It is both clear where we are going and unclear.  We have a sense of direction, yet we recognize that where we will end up has yet to emerge.  Our destination, our journey and the emergent quality of our travels are all because of the 12 evolutionary intelligences, and supported by them.   It’s a big trip we are on.

 My next post will explore the practices and protocols that allow evolutionary intelligence – and our cities – to thrive.  In the meantime, here is a quick and tidy set of links to the 12 evolutionary intelligences:

    1. Ecosphere intelligence – locating places
    2. Emerging intelligence – seeing wholeness
    3. Integral intelligence part 1 and part 2 – charting patterns
    4. Living intelligence – living and dying
    5. Inner intelligence – conscious capacity
    6. Outer intelligence – embodying right action
    7. Building intelligence – creating structures that flex and flow
    8. Story intelligence – culture of feeding each other
    9. Inquiry intelligence – releasing potential
    10. Meshing intelligence – enabling order and creativity
    11. Navigating intelligence – directional dashboards
    12. Evolving intelligences – imagining the future


_____ _____ _____

If you are interested in learning more about evolutionary intelligences relating to cities, you will be interested in the Integral City eLaboratory – Co-Creating the Future of the Human Hive.