City evolution inside and outside


‘Think about it. We are like water, aren’t we? We can be fluid, flexible when we have to be. But strong and destructive too.’ And something else, I think to myself. Like water, we mostly follow the path of least resistance.
Wally Lamb, We Are Water


As humanity evolves, so too do the social structures we create to organize ourselves.  In last week’s post, Do it all, all at once, I revealed a series of social structures that illustrate how humanity has organized itself over time. To fully engage the city system, we need to work in all of these structures.

In Leading from the Emerging Future, Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer notice that we first organized communities around place. From this, they articulate four levels of organizing economic structures that correspond with their four structures from last week:

  1. Organizing around centralized power: the state (one sector; centralized state)
  2. Organizing around competition: state plus market (two sectors; decentralized markets)
  3. Organizing around special interest groups: state plus market plus NGOs (three sectors; conflicting relationships)
  4. Organizing around the commons (three sectors; co-creative relationships)

I added two additional structures to Scharmer and Kaufer’s work, and this is how I describe  their modes of organizing, to tease out our evolutionary thread further:

  1. Organizing for flex and flow: the state, the market, NGOs, the field (co-generative relationships for/with the whole)
  2. Organizing for the field: the planet and the field (cosmic, holonic awareness)


This evolutionary movement can be seen in the history of St. John’s, the most eastern point of land in North America. In what appears to be an unplanned city is the story of a settlement’s life conditions over time (Is an unplanned city unplanned Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). The life conditions dictated the purpose of the settlement, what it was organized for and ultimately its shape. The life conditions dictated how they organized: a calm harbour that didn’t freeze; a geographic location in proximity to Europe; fresh water and materials to build shelter; a strategic economic resource in the cod stocks; a strategic military location along shipping routes; the port authority, court house, government house and custom house added order; the prosperity of today’s entrepreneurship pushes the boundaries of moral codes; and today’s social and technology media are changing what we know and how we know it.

Spiral of purposes - 8.005
Spiral of city purposes – what we organize for

The overriding purpose of a city – wherever it is in its development – is to integrate the needs of its people, with its context, to create a habitat in which people survive and thrive. More specific purposes of a city can be varied and be many things at once. We organize to meet all of those those purposes. That is why when engaging with city systems, we must do it all, all at once.

In the midst of all the purposes, at every scale, there are transitions underway. In individuals, in groups, in organizations, in cities, in nations, in our species, Scharmer and Kaufer offer a window into what happens when the transition from one purpose/mode of organizing to another occurs:

“… whenever an economic paradigm is unable to provide useful answers to a period’s biggest challenges, society will enter a transitional period in which, sooner or later, it replaces the existing logic and operating system with an updated and better one. What, then, is the driving force for moving an economy or a society from one operating system to another? We believe that there are two primary ones: exterior challenges (the push factor) and the development of consciousness (the pull factor).” 

As life conditions change around us, we are compelled to respond. As the world becomes more complex, we are compelled to develop our consciousness to be more complex as well. The pattern in St. John’s is a pattern in us all.


What pulls us along in our evolutionary journey is a dance between the world around us and the world within us.

We are like water.

Perhaps the valley in which we flow is the world around us. At times we flow freely and unhindered, smoothly.  At other times we fall. In some instances we run through narrow passages, carving our own path over time. Other times we hit the rapids with great fanfare, noise and confusion. We are influenced by the wind, the earth, the sun and the moon.

We push and are pushed back.

We are pushed by our cities and we push back.

But how does what we think about our world and our cities change when we realize that we have made them? Our city habitats, and all of the organizing we do within and around them, are made by us. By becoming more conscious of this relationship, we can trigger a new operating system for our cities – and make the move to Scharmer and Kaufer’s fourth structure – where we co-create in the commons.

How does the city make us more conscious of ourselves?

What does the city pull out of us? 

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Some friends and I started a book club to explore Leading from the Emerging Future, Otto Scharmer (Theory U) and Katrin Kaufer’s new book. This is a post I created while figuring out why this book didn’t go far enough for me.

Here are some earlier posts:

Need to know a bit more about how all this works? Here are 7 principles that frame the emerging spiral, and 6 conditions for evolutionary expansion. And some other stuff:

  1. Beck, Don Edward and Cowan, Christopher C., Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford (2006), particularly pages 52-56.
  2. Hamilton, Marilyn, Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive, New Society Publishers Inc., Gabriola Island (2008)
  3. Scharmer, Otto and Katrin Kaufer, Leading From the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc., San Franciso (2013)
  4. Sanders, Beth, “From the High Water Mark to the Back of the Fish Flakes: The Evolutionary Purpose of Cities,” Vol 51, No. 4, p 26-31, Plan Canada.  Print publication of the Canadian Institute of Planners.


Do it all, all at once


Do it all, all at once, as appropriate.

That is what is necessary to engage a whole system.

Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer, in their work Leading from the Emerging Future, describe four levels of social structures that have emerged as humanity grows and develops. The first three are very familiar to us: (1) where power is centralized at the top, (2) where power is decentralized at the top, and (3) where power becomes relational and networked.

Structure 1
Scharmer and Kaufer’s Structure 1.0
Structure 2
Scharmer and Kaufer’s Structure 2.0
Structure 3
Scharmer and Kaufer’s Structure 3.0

(For readers familiar with the Spiral of values I have previously explored (here’s a primer), Scharmer and Kaufer’s first structure is RED/BLUE, the second BLUE/ORANGE, and the third ORANGE. The fourth, below, is GREEN, with a hint of YELLOW.)

According Scharmer and Kaufer, the fourth structure we are growing into locates power in the social field. They see this clearly, and they see how to create habitats that will allow us to access new knowledge and intelligence that is not accessible with the previous structures.

Structure 4
Scharmer and Kaufer’s Structure 4.0


As the structures have evolved, our levels of listening evolve, along with transformations in our levels of awareness and how we coordinate ourselves. It is a journey that is facilitated by infrastructures to help us tap into our creativity, infrastructures to co-initiate, co-sense, co-inspire, to prototype and  co-evolve.

The journey they articulate is one where the locus of leadership shifts from ego (me-in-we) to eco (we-in-me). They name the journey we are making from self to Self, from me to we. The most important thing they name are the characteristics of habitats that support and sustain learning. The places we make and shape to nourish and foster the transformation under way matter.

Scharmer and Kaufer stop short of saying something important: all structures have value. 

And this leads me to a fifth structure of my own that reflects a leap past the first four to a structure that expects and accepts all structures that Scharmer and Kaufer have identified. We have evolved from structure to structure as they have described. They note that each earlier structure exists in the structures that follow, they leave the reader with a sense that as we advance, we leave the earlier structures behind; they are somehow lesser, no longer appropriate. Their work is incomplete.

My fifth structure, drawing on Spiral Dynamics, is a big leap past structures 1 to 4, because 1+2+3+4=10.  It looks like this.

Structure 5 or 10
How I imagine Structure 5.0 (or 10?)

This fifth structure is characterized by a flex and flow of all four of Scharmer and Kaufer’s structures (in Spiral-speak, this is YELLOW). As conditions dictate, all the earlier structures are appropriate. When there is an emergency and fire-fighters are called to action, structure 1 is perfect. When there is no emergency, structure 2 may be appropriate. The fire chief and his personnel retain their hierarchical expectations and organize themselves to make sure the resources are in place for the next emergency; their power is decentralized. Even further behind the scenes, fire department personnel (can) work collaboratively in a network of city builders to make sure that the design of new neighbourhoods meets the needs of citizens and various other needs that need to be met in our city habitats. Their “turf” gets mixed in with that of many other stakeholders in structure 3.

Structure 4 is appropriate when the context allows the players to sit back and contemplate what they are doing and why. It might be a strategic planning session at the fire hall that involves a diverse range of expertise and experience to make wise choices. From structure 5, we see that the time and place varies for each approach, that they all happen, naturally. Where Scharmer and Kaufer characterize structure 4 as eco-in-me, I characterize structure 5 as all-in-me.

Drawing again on Spiral Dynamics, I sense a sixth structure (TURQUOISE), yet again more complex, that encompasses the expanse of systems of systems at work in life. This structure again builds upon the previous structures, taking into account the field in which all systems work, at every scale.

 Structure 5 or 15


There is a pattern at work in these social structures and within us. What has our attention is expanding. How we organize ourselves is transforming. Here is a summary of these structures. The first 4 belong to Scharmer and Kaufer, the remaining two mine, drawing on the lineage of Spiral Dynamics:

  1. State-centric – hierarchy and control – traditional awareness
  2. Free market – markets and competition – ego-system awareness (ego-in-me)
  3. Social market – networks and negotiation – stakeholder awareness (we-in-me)
  4. Co-creative – seeing and acting from the whole  – eco-system awareness (eco-in-me)
  5. Co-generative – embodiment of the whole – flexibility/spontaneity  awareness (all-in-me)
  6. Holonic experience of being –  expansive planetary connections – global cosmic awareness (Gaia-in-me)

To engage the systems in which we live and work, it is not sufficient to engage only the most recent structure. They all need attention because they all need to be healthy and they all have valuable contributions to make to the system as a whole. We must do it all, all at once, as  conditions require. They are all necessary, in the right time and place.

What social structure are you growing into?


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Need to know a bit more about how all this works? Here are 7 principles that frame the emerging spiral, and 6 conditions for evolutionary expansion.

Some friends and I started a book club to explore Leading from the Emerging Future, Otto Scharmer (Theory U) and Katrin Kaufer’s new book. This is another piece, on Chapter 8. Here’s what came from my exploration of earlier chapters:

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I am fascinated by the tipping point where what is acceptable public discourse becomes clearly UNacceptable. Case in point – University of Calgary’s Tom Flanagan, who appeared in a maelstrom of news coverage over the last week due to some ill-conceived public remarks. The headlines tell the story:

It’s a precipice that can appear quite quickly, seemingly out of nowhere for the Flanigans of the world if they have grown no appropriate antennae. In Flanagan’s case, the lesson for us all is that any moment can become a public moment. A simple video recording or a photograph can be distributed widely in a short amount of time. The antennae we use for our immediate context, to judge what is proper to say/do, must grow to take into account what can be done with what we say/do.

Our antennae must tune into changing social life conditions. And they must work at scales, at all times, or we will be caught in the Flananigans, a threshold of collective response to the world we live in.

What do antennae at scales look like?

How do they help locate – and define – thresholds?

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This post is part of Chapter 6 – Emerging Thresholds. Here are some plot helpers of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities, the book I am sharing here while I search for a publisher:



Choose the right leap


I know I have reached a threshold at the edge of a chasm when I struggle. Feelings of angst, uncertainty, discomfort, frustration, fear, unease and even anger signal to me that something’s awry. These feelings are telling me that there is a choice before me, whether I recognize it as a choice or not. All I know is that there is some kind of chasm before me, around me – or within me.

As I contemplate the word ‘chasm’ I think of the surge channels my brother and I encountered on the West Coast Trail, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada. Imagine an expansive flat shelf of sandstone along the edge of land at the ocean. This is where we walk, instead of the unruly wilds of forest on the upshoot of land beside us. The ocean, as it moves back and forth, erodes the sandstone and creates channels perpendicular to the path of human travel along the shore, and these channels range from narrow and shallow to wide and deep. They are also shallow and wide, and narrow and deep. What they all share is the surge of the ocean through them, back and forth.

Source: - EHEzy.jpg

Some of our crossings were simple, a matter of simply stepping over: a deep chasm but not wide. Others were shallow enough to simply walk through. They started to get challenging when they were too wide and deep to cross and we had to find a route overland. The scariest crossing was just wide enough to jump over.

We chose to jump the channel, over the churning ocean below, because the leap was easier than finding an overland route way out of the way through the brush.  We stood there with a choice: hard and harder. I am still curious about our choice to jump, for it may have been wiser to find an overland route because the consequences of a mis-jump were significant. A fall into the cold water, gushing back and forth about 5 metres below us, would mean a difficult rescue. The trek overland simply meant certain hardship and time, but no risk of personal safety.

We made our choice carefully for the channel was too wide, and the view down too spooky, to feel confident. My whole being halted before making the leap. I could feel a physical uncertainty washing over me, telling me that this was too much to ask. This is an unusual feeling for me as I have great confidence in testing myself in physical challenges. I jump into things. The truth is, we didn’t give ourselves too much time to think about the consequences or our options. We chose to believe we could do it – and we did.

Choosing when to leap depends on the context. If we did not have the physical ability to leap, were tired at the end of the day, lacked confidence, or if the sandstone was wet and slippery, an overland route would have been more appropriate.  It would have been a hard an arduous, unclear trip in and of itself. It would have been a leap of it’s own as we battled the wild bush.

The leap we chose made sense given our context. Our antennae were working well: we chose the right leap.

The next post will explore the role of struggle in our choices.  


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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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Persistent practical problems


As I explored the role of destination as we organize our cities in previous posts, I reached the conclusion that where we are headed is both alive and adrift. We know – and we don’t know exactly – what we want to achieve at the same time. When we have a destination in mind, but it shifts and adjusts to changing life conditions, something new has emerged. When we notice that we are moving in a direction, even if not yet able to define that direction and it feels adrift, it is alive. Our purposes are planned and unplanned.

When we have a clear destination in mind, it is easy to lay out a course of action because it is clear, linear and rational. When we trust we are moving in a direction, we only know we are moving in a direction when we come upon thresholds – indicators that something is happening.

In our cities, Jane Jacobs notices that new activities must take place for cities to develop – or they stagnate. She wrote this passage in her book, The Economy of Cities, in 1969:

Once a serious practical problem has appeared in an economy, it can only be eliminated by adding new goods and services into economic life. From this solution to city problems comes true economic growth and abundance. No city by itself develops all the various goods and services required to overcome its complex practical problems, at least not in historic times and probably not in prehistoric times either. Cities copy each others’ solutions, often very swiftly. They also support each others’ solutions, by importing relevant goods to solve problems. 

Practical problems that persist and accumulate in cities are symptoms of arrested development. The point is seldom admitted. It has become conventional, for instance, to blame congested and excessive automobile traffic, air pollution and noise upon ‘rapid technological progress.’ But the automobiles, the fumes, the sewage and the noise are not new, and the persistently unsolved problems they afford only demonstrate lack of progress. Many evils conventionally blamed upon progress are, rather, evils of stagnation. 

I was born 6 days into the year 1970, and the list of persistent practical problems that Jacobs articulates has not lessened in my lifetime. I agree that this indicates stagnation while simultaneously I would argue that we have made progress in other areas of city life. But regardless of the progress made, the persistent problems persist and this should capture our attention.

There are three significant points made in this passage:

    1. New work is essential to address the challenges of today’s life conditions.
    2. New work replicates itself – as appropriate, and as determined by us – across and city and from city to city.
    3. Persistent problems are an indicator of arrested development, a lack of progress, stagnation of our individual and collective development.

Jacobs is highlighting the need to notice when it is time to learn – to know and understand the world differently.  In an earlier post, I highlight the conditions for evolutionary expansion articulated by Beck and Cowan: openness to the potential for change, exploration of solutions, a sense of dissonance with way things are, a realistic understanding of barriers to change, insight into new patterns, and consolidation of understanding.

Jacobs is telling us, from 1969, that the well-being of our cities has everything to do with how we show up – our willingness to grow and learn as individuals and as whole cities. Persistent practical problems in our cities are an indicator of OUR stagnation, our lack of emergence.

The next series of posts will highlight forms of thresholds that tell us that the conditions are there, should we choose, to know and understand our world differently. To emerge.


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Sources / Further reading

Jane Jacobs, The Economy of Cities

Peggy Holman, Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity

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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Purpose – planned and not planned


‘Purpose’ has some sort of connection with ‘destination’. Why would you go anywhere without a purpose in mind? Why go to the trouble?

While exploring instrumental and intrinsic purposes in the macro evolution of the human species, based on Steve McIntosh’s work, I realized that citizens are instrumental to the intrinsic city. As I connect this to the destination / journey / emergence Venn diagram (Figure A), I see that there are two ways to look at destination: specific destination and longer-term direction. The difference is subtle and significant.

Destination venn
Figure A

An immediate destination is a concrete goal or objective that has my attention and serves to focus my action. For example, I will run a half marathon this spring on May 19, 2013. This means that I will have to organize myself, my life and my schedule; I have to plan out a training schedule and commit.

I have chosen this sort of destination before, only to be thwarted by injury. I aimed to run a half marathon in February 2011, but in November 2010 I hurt my ankle playing soccer. With the help of my physiotherapist, I adjusted my expectations and my training schedule and still ran the race. I did a lot of cycling, instead of running, to maintain fitness. I reintroduced running slowly, little bits at a time, gradually increasing time running. The race was no longer about a time goal, but simply finishing without harming myself.

When I set my goal, I had no idea what could knock me off course. I learned to shift my destination in response to my life conditions. I recognized that an important part of the journey on the way to destination is that new destinations will emerge. I also recognized that they will only emerge if I am open to learning and adjustment on the way.

I have a new injury to grapple with as I think about the May 19, 2013 half marathon, and a new destination in mind. The purpose of this run is to simply be a destination that serves a larger, overall purpose: my well-being. I can’t define ‘well-being’ well, but I can recognize actions (or destinations) that will move me in that direction.

There are so many different routes to well-being, many of which I have not contemplated as being a part of my life, but could well emerge over time. At 43, with a healthy body, I can be physically active. In my life to come, there will be quite different destinations I will choose. I can not possible imagine, or plan out, how I will achieve well-being. I can look at shorter term destinations and ask if they are consistent with the direction I wish to go.

Short-term destinations lend themselves to being planned; they are linear and rational. Direction is nonlinear, hard to grasp and full of possibility and purpose. Direction unfolds.

We can only plan so much, but we can stop and look at our direction.

What direction are you going? 

What direction are we going?


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This post forms part of Chapter 5 – Destination Alive or Adrift, 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.

City’s destination is our evolving purposes


At the beginning of December 2012, I began exploring the role of purpose and destination as we organize our cities with this question: is our destination alive or adrift?  In Focus, learn and choose, I share a personal reflection on the role of purpose as I was struggling with the increased darkness as we approach the winter solstice; when things are feeling adrift, I sense a higher purpose that connects me to my work.

As a species, our work shapes what we emerge into yet the very purpose of evolution is evolving. What is constant, however, is our quest for survival and improvement; humans, and the settlements we create, share this quest. I came across 100 urban trends that highlight the emerging destination of our cities. While this list of highlights are not definitive, they do elucidate a trajectory in our cities’ development. They demonstrate that there is direction in destination.

Just as I may feel adrift in my personal work, so too can our cities. Teasing out the direction in which we wish to go is as important as a specific destination. These are two different scales of purpose, perhaps, where destination is specific and in the short term, while direction is more difficult to latch onto an essential element in our quest to improve. Understanding what constitutes improvement points us in a direction. And as we move in a direction, the purposes that show up as specific destinations along the way evolve.

As the purpose of evolution is evolving, so to are the purposes of our cities. I see a nest of purposes for the city (Figure A) that manifest at various scales, from the self, to family/clan, group/tribe, neighbourhood/organization, city, and eco-region (Figure B).

Figure A: Nest of city purposes
Figure B: Hamilton’s nested hierarchy of city systems

Each scale of individuals and collectives, are reaching, as interested and able, into expanded purposes (Figure C). A range of purposes are alive at every scale, from the individual to the city, to the planet and universe; even purposes we can not yet contemplate and imagine. Each purpose is in response to context and circumstances and are therefore always in flux. As life conditions change, we are pulled down the Spiral to ensure survival, and we are pulled up the Spiral as we aim to improve.

Figure C: Spiral of purposes

This all takes place as a dance between our individual and collective lives, and especially in the co-creative dance where we built our physical, social and economic habitats together: the city.

A city’s destination is to serve the evolution of our evolving purposes.

What purposes are alive in you? In your city?

What purposes are you and your city expanding into?


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This post forms part of Chapter 5 – Destination Alive or Adrift, 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.

The Spiral is based on the work of Clare Graves, Don Beck and Christopher Cowan: Spiral Dynamics.



A soul-feeding winter rest


I am  sneaking back into the digital world today after a winter rest of digital darkness that began on December 20, 2012.  I stopped blogging and stepped away from the variety of social media in which I participate.

As I dive back into the digital aspect of my life today I notice that my ‘dark’ time was spent connecting to my habitat.

On the first day of darkness, I met the sun at the edge of a nearby riverbank for my morning practice. I bid the sun goodnight with a cross-country ski from along the river in the heart of my city. I took walks through my city, exploring Christmas lights in neighbourhoods and trails in creek valleys. The wonder of winter in my physical habitat is alive.

My dark time also brought my social habitat alive, while building a gingerbread house, gathering for Christmas parties with friends and family. Many gatherings also connected us to our physical place – we tobogganed on New Year’s Eve in the moonlight, downhill skied in the Rocky Mountains, and had a birthday party on the lake my family has enjoyed for decades.  

A winter rest, leaning into the darkness of the season, fuels my inner being. My physical place feeds me. Exercise and fresh air feeds me. Time to float and lightly contemplate the world feeds me. Social time with friends and family, steeped in culture and tradition feeds me. A winter rest with time alone and with others, both active and inactive, allows me to be well for me and for others.

My soul has found more solid ground, prepared to start a new year with renewed vigor for my work.

Happy New Year from my soul to yours.









There is direction in destination


The purpose of the city is survival and improvement: survival of the human species and the improvement of the quality of our life conditions.

The first-order and second-order purposes described in city purpose – survival and improvement, are essentially this: the drive of all living things to survive and reproduce, and, in humans, a self-reflective capacity.  Humans possess free will, and for Steve McIntosh, author of Evolution’s Purpose, this means that we have the ability to perceive and pursue higher values.

…it is this emergent capacity to discern and make moral distinctions that gives us the ability to evolve our culture. Because of our sense of higher purpose – because we can feel the ever-widening potential of a better way – humans are continuously driven and drawn toward more complex forms of social organization (p. 146).  

Our drive for improvement, the “ever-widening potential of a better way” pulls us in our own development of  how we organize ourselves. The top 100 trends in urban thinking reveal the nature of this pull in the year 2012: cities are idea makers, density catalyzes human progress, the reason for the existence of cities is the well-being of inhabitants, and collaboration as part of the human experience. Our ways of organizing ourselves are continually emerging into higher levels of complexity.

One way to look at these increasingly complex forms of social organization is through Spiral Dynamics, where our development, in response to our life conditions, oscillates back and forth between me/myself/I (warm coloured text on left) and we/us/our (cool coloured text on right).  As we develop, we value new things and the very purpose of our cities evolves along with us.

City Purpose Spiral

We have within us an impulse to thrive in cities. While we work continuously to organize ourselves to change and improve our life conditions, we are moving in a direction that is expansive and emergent. We are growing. While the specific destination is unknown, the general destination is known: survive and improve. As we work at our short-term destinations day-to-day, we can trust that an overall destination is emerging. There is direction in destination.

What is the nature of your city’s emerging destination? 

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This post forms part of Chapter 5 – Destination Alive or Adrift, 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.

Notice if it is time for change


Change comes about when it is ready.  Not when I am ready, you are ready, or we are ready.  When change is ready.

Back in June I noted Beck and Cowan’s six conditions for change: openness to the potential for change, the presence of solutions for the current problems, sufficient dissonance and turbulence with the present, the ability to overcome the barriers within self and others, insight into the patterns in play, and consolidation of understanding that leads to change.

These six conditions are not a recipe; just ‘doing’ these things is not enough to see change, let alone make change happen or last.  Beck and Cowan are very clear on this: even if all conditions are met, awakening new ways of thinking MAY happen.  It is not a given.

Change is a complex matter.  A small action (or realization) may have huge unintended consequences.  It is possible that all conditions could be met and no change would take place.  There might not be sufficient dissonance, for example. The potential intelligence might  not be there.  There could be barriers that can not be overcome.  It is possible that we are not even able to see and feel what is wrong with the current life conditions, let alone begin to imagine what new possibilities could exist.

When I look at our cities and how we live together, I see that collectively we are experiencing dissonance with how we live.  Everyone seems to be unhappy, some of whom see new ways of being and living together.  There seems to be a gap between what we ought to do and what we do that we barely understand as individuals or as a collective.

Changes needed to resolve tension in our cities will come when the conditions are right.

An essential practice: notice if it is time for change.  If not, be patient.  If yes, seek out the ways you can influence the conditions for change.   My next posts will explore other critical practices that support our uneasy journey.  


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This post forms part of Chapter 4 – An Uneasy Journey, of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities.

Nest City is organized into three parts, each with a collection of chapters.  Click here for an overview of the three parts of Nest City.  Click here for an overview of Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence, chapters 4-7.