Following the flow of life in Scotland – a conscious act of (in)dependence

Warning – this is partly a report on my holiday, partly a ‘normal’ blog – it is a bit more personal than usual – don’t read it if you don’t feel like reading such personal matters. In essence it’s a blog on how I was able to dance with systems, during my travels. 

So here I went, off by myself with my dog Driekus, to Scotland by ferry. Nothing planned. Not even the first night. No trains, no ferries. No trainings at Findhorn, no mid-week horse riding, no tickets for the Edinburgh theatre festival. Just the ferry crossing forth and back.

We did bring something. And it isn’t the least. I brought on these travels my very best Self. My curious Self. My trusting and intuitive Self, supported by my hands-on Self. And I also stacked in time. Loads of time. Almost three weeks to do whatever felt right to re-engage with Scotland and the part of my roots that I know so little about.

During the trip, I kept asking myself the same question: why did I go on this trip? Why in this way? And when the answer finally dawned on me, I realized it was the opposite of what people might think such a trip would offer: a celebration of my independence. Going at it alone and succeeding. Yoehoe. What a woman! Doing such a masculine thing. Following my own path without giving in to demands of fellow-travelers. Doing exactly as I please. Courageous. Fearless.

Courageous we were. Fearless not. And no. The above is not what we got out of this trip. It has a lot more to do with the title of the Green Bridges’ newsletter than you might think.

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The importance of dancing (with systems) on two legs

A personal confession

Shockingly but true: the last few years I’ve come to discover that most of my life I wasn’t fully able to perceive reality as it truly is and as it can be. With this handicapped way of perceiving the world, I could not see many crucial things. I never had clear inner visions of what can be. I would think of all there is to know in the world, as sheer impossible to grasp. Seeing all the different scientific disciplines, the fields of knowing, I would feel overwhelmed by their magnitude. Thinking: how can I ever know all there is to know and then proceed by doing the right thing? I mostly saw the details. I could only hope there would be some interconnectedness.

I also couldn’t see that things that annoy me in others, are actually part of me (‘I am the other’) and can be seen as a gift, to show me what’s going on inside and what’s bothering me about myself. I couldn’t look at a painting and feel the maker’s energy and the source of inspiration that he was connected with. Read more…

Learning to dance with systems – Donella Meadows’ view

The name for Green Bridges’ newsletter ‘Dancing with the System’, was chosen quite intuitively. You might believe how surprised I was when I found out that Donella Meadows, one of the persons that influenced me most when it comes to understanding the power of systems thinking, wrote a blog called ‘dancing with systems’ a few decades ago. A blog in which she explains what the limits are of systems thinking. And how important it is that we learn to dance with systems.

Donella Meadows: “We thought that [through systems thinking] we could control systems. That we could make systems do what we wanted them to do. But we found out: we can’t control systems or figure them out. But we can dance with them!

We can’t impose our will upon a system. We can listen to what the system tells us, and discover how its properties and our values can work together to bring forth something much better than could ever be produced by our will alone.”

With permission of the Academy for Systems Change (formerly the Donella Meadows Institute) we hereby reprint Donella’s blogpost on dancing with systems. Hope you enjoy it just as much as we do. We couldn’t have explained the importance of ‘dancing with the system (rather than trying to control it)’ any better.

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The systemic promise of populism: you’re no longer alone – I’m with you! And not with them!

What is the Donald Trump phenomenon showing us, systemically? The answers run wide. It’s about reestablishing the position of the masculine man in American society. It’s the white downwardly mobile middle class that wants acknowledgement. It’s the American coal and shale gas industry that does not want to lose position, financing the climate change denial movement, feeding into the support of a candidate like this.

All these explanations are plausible, yet to my understanding they don’t get to the core. Contemplating on populism and the phenomenon of Trump-like candidates my hypothesis is that systemically these candidates are a solution to a state of being, which I’d describe as a feeling of separateness. Read more…

Why would they listen to us, when we don’t even listen to ourselves?

Shock, awe, fear and unbelief; I wouldn’t be surprised if one those emotions hit you when you woke up to the news of Trump as the new American president. How could this be? What did we miss?

About the same time as Trump was elected I was in the presence of some of the smartest people in the world, the ones who care deeply about the future of our planet and know about the facts that matter, when it comes to the state of the planet. It was my first time at the international Club of Rome meeting and what better moment in history to discuss about what needs to be done. What struck me was the dominant question in the room: why don’t people listen to what we have to say? What’s happening to society? It seems we’re more and more living in a fact-free society. That’s scary as hell.

As I spoke to people at the meeting, listened to the argumentation and contemplated on what I had been discovering the last few years when it comes to different ways of knowing, the contours of an answer to a few of those questions, came into being. Shortly said: what I see is that we’re messing things up when it comes to how we deal with emotions and facts, analysis and intuition.

And we mess things up so badly, that we make the original problem worse. A systems archetype of ‘fixes that backfire’Read more…

Radicaliserende tegenstand van (energie)projecten op lokaal niveau – voel jij je nog verbonden?

In zijn essay ‘Niet langer verbonden’ (2 jan 2016) vraagt Bas Heijne zich af: waarom radicaliseren opvattingen in Nederland zo snel? Bedreigde eigenheid en een heftig gevoel van miskenning vormen volgens hem al jarenlang de grondtoon van de vaderlandse onvrede. Deze gevoelens gaan gepaard met heftige emoties, waarover vaak verbazing is. Hoe kan het dat een inspraakavond over de komst van een ASC of een windmolenpark zo gruwelijk uit de hand kan lopen?

Heijne beargumenteert naar mijn inzien terecht dat we moeten durven zien wat onderliggend is aan deze emoties: het gaat om een groeiend gebrek aan onderlinge verbondenheid in de samenleving.

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Corporate governance – saai en ingewikkeld? – niet met een systeembril

Soms stap ik in een wereld die ik totaal niet ken. Maandag was zo’n dag. Als bestuurslid van de Club van Rome Nederland was ik uitgenodigd om aanwezig te zijn bij een rondetafel bijeenkomst bij Nyenrode gericht op dialoog over de nieuwe corporate governance code, die ter consultatie voorligt. De bijdragen van aanwezigen duizelden me een beetje en ik vroeg me af wat ik daar aan het doen was, tot ik het geheel waar over gesproken werd tot me liet doordringen. De vraag was hoe je een onderneming met aandeelhouders (corporate) op zo’n manier bestuurt dat deze bij blijft dragen aan de duurzame dynamische balans op aarde. Een systeembril bood uitkomsten. Read more…

Klimaatverandering is ‘serious’ – toch werkt absolutisme averechts. Waarom?

Als ik terugdenk aan mijn studententijd dan is er een ding dat mij vooral achteraf opviel. Een groot aantal van de mensen dat het meest actief was in het verenigingsleven en het meeste lol had, bleek ook de grootste bollebozen. Ze haalden hun studie cum laude of hadden bepaalde lastige vakken met een 10 afgesloten. Waren dit genieën en verklaart dit waarom ze meer dan anderen konden feesten en plezier hebben? Of speelde er iets anders? Ik vermoed het laatste. Deze mensen – stuk voor stuk vrolijke, vriendelijke, joviale gevallen – waren in staat het studiespel relatief te spelen en haalden daarom hogere resultaten dan de gemiddelde serieuze bolleboos, zoals ikzelf.

Hoe kan dit? En wat heeft dit met onze omgang met klimaatverandering te maken?  Read more…

The Social Labs Revolution, a new approach to solving our most complex challenges

Blog inspired by the book: The Social Labs Revolution, a new approach to solving our most complex challenges, by Zaid Hassan

This was one of those books that sat on my digital shelve for at least 2 years until I realized I really did need to read it. I was hoping the book would help me see how to proceed with a subject that is so complex I couldn’t possibly see how we’d make progress with traditional project planning methods: the micro- and nano plastics problem in the world’s aquatic environments.

The book reaffirmed my intuition that such a problem can benefit from what Zaid calls a Social Lab. And through the description of Labs that Zaid ran himself, I became more realistic about the amount of time and effort that would be needed to get such a lab up and running, and about the time needed to keep it running.

For example, the Sustainable Food Lab took Zaid and his colleagues about 3 years to prepare and is still running. Other labs ran for at least three years. Some labs keep evolving, as the problems they focus on evolve.

What’s different about the labs, compared to traditional planning methods? How do they work? And why are they increasingly important?  Read more…

Niet alles is te koop! Oh ja? Waarom eigenlijk niet?

Blog geïnspireerd door het boek ‘Niet alles is te koop, Michael J. Sandel’

Het lijkt zo evident, dat niet alles te koop is. De liefde. Vriendschappen. Nieren. Een publieke verkeersrotonde. De aandacht van kinderen. Politiek filosoof Michael J. Sandel (Harvard University) toont met een grote hoeveelheid voorbeelden aan dat de afgelopen decennia steeds meer dingen te koop werden. Dingen waarvan je je kunt afvragen hoe gewenst dat is.

De markt rukt op als antwoord op maatschappelijke uitdagingen. Universiteiten of sportverenigingen die kampen met een begrotingstekort; scholen met slechte prestaties ten opzichte van het landelijke gemiddelde; gemeentes die het aan geld ontbreekt voor de groenvoorziening; patiënten die hun pillen niet nemen en daarmee de zorgkosten omhoog jagen; de markt weet er wel raad mee. Fijn! Mooi opgelost, zou je denken.

Door het boek van Sandel wordt duidelijk  waarom we haarfijn aanvoelen dat dit te mooi om waar te zijn is. Hij illustreert nauwgezet welke systeemdynamiek maakt dat een groeiende invloed van de markt grote ongewenste consequenties heeft. In deze blog ontrafel ik die dynamiek en teken hem uit.  Read more…