Boisevolve is a locally-based group that will focus on building the capacity for the conscious evolution of our culture and society toward forms that are more supportive of human development and a thrivable relationship with our environment. Boisevolve is an “evolutionary cell” — a new kind of advocacy group that is focused not on issues but on transcending the old patterns that create the issues that bog us down.
Why now? We are living in an era of transformation. The dynamics we are seeing and feeling in our society and world are part of a historic shift. This shift has been from an era of slower change and unconscious cultural evolution, which characterized the previous 10,000 years of human history, to a time of rapid change and the need and opportunity for conscious evolution. While this shift has been underway for more than a century, most of our institutions and ways of addressing change remain stuck in the era of unconscious evolution. This has not only inhibited individual and social development, but has threatened our survival as a species as well.
Priority Areas for Evolutionary Advocacy and Capacity-Building
- Building the Capacity for Dialogue: By “dialogue” is meant authentic, constructive, and transformational conversation. Dialogue is key because it can open the door to understanding, finding and creating common ground, and solving problems. It is also key to some of the other mandates of evolutionary activism because it can open the door to the examination of assumptions and to creating shared vision. Dialogue in large groups can be particularly powerful. At present, many people are not comfortable with, or feel competent in, this kind of conversation. One reason is that people confuse dialogue with debate. Another is that they perceive it as “talk, not action”. Another reason is simply lack of experience; like anything we learn in a culture, it takes practice.
- Surfacing Assumptions: Assumptions are the generally unexamined basic ideas we hold about things. Our social systems are built on them. If they remain unexamined, they can’t be questioned, and the relevance of the institutions they are built on can diminish without our knowing why. This becomes catastrophic in a time of rapid change and diversification. Making it a regular practice to surface assumptions, reflect upon them, and to build a permanent “reflex” or consciousness and transparency about our assumptions, becomes essential.
- Strengthening Individual-Collective Feedback Loops: The larger and more hierarchical societies have become, the harder it has become for individuals to recognize their very active role in maintaining existing patterns and systems through their daily choices. In a large and fragmented society, it becomes harder for individuals to see how they can make a difference. If conscious evolution is to gain momentum, it will be essential to help people see the big in the small, the long-term in the short-term. In that way, all people can gain the knowledge and the encouragement needed to become co-pilots of their society and culture, not merely passengers or, at worst, perpetrators or victims.
- Fostering a Systems Perspective: Everything is connected, directly or indirectly, to everything else. Recognizing this reality and working with it is the heart of the systems perspective. Another aspect of the systems perspective is a recognition that things can’t be reduced to, or explained by, their parts. Put another way, interaction produces new and often unexpected things. This has important implications for humans’ relationships with the world and with each other. Seeing and acting systemically, rather than in piecemeal fashion, is a perspective that will be critical to shifting into an era of conscious evolution. With inter-relationships comes complexity, and working with complexity is another dimension of developing a systems perspective that is empowering rather than frustrating.
- Fostering Awareness of the Influence of Technology: Technology—which includes any tool from the pencil to printing press, from the automobile to the smartphone to social media—has been a major driver of change in human culture, and in behavior down to the individual level. Becoming conscious of the power of existing and emerging technologies, and of their potential effects at every level from individual to global, is essential to making the choices associated with conscious evolution.
- Building the Capacity for Visioning and Idealization: Vision—a rich, evocative picture of a desired condition—creates a magnet for change because it affects expectations, intentions and actions. It frees up aspirations, core values and core ideas about “what should be”. Without vision, existing patterns tend to continue and a group, community, or society drifts in a reactive mode, in danger of becoming less sustainable and relevant. This is evident today. Vision alone, however, is insufficient if it doesn’t form the basis for action—for design. Vision also needs to be shared vision; otherwise, it will not serve all people, and designs inspired by it will be weakly supported.
- Fostering Readiness for Participatory Design of Social Systems: “Design” is a disciplined, creative inquiry in which everyone who serves, is served by, and is affected by a system bring about the system that fits well with their needs and aspirations. Design translates vision into organization and action. This is not something that any society in the world is used to doing. It goes hand-in-hand with the best of what democracy means, i.e., inclusiveness and creativity. In a design culture, the role of the expert shifts from designer to advisor. It is essential at a time when so many of our institutions are based on archaic principles and assumptions that do not fit the knowledge of today and aspirations for tomorrow. Fostering a design culture is closely related to all of the other priorities of evolutionary advocacy and capacity-building.
- Fostering Evolutionary Awareness and Consciousness: Evolutionary awareness, or evolutionary consciousness, means being aware that the kind of change we’ve been experiencing is not “normal”, that it is epochal, and transformational. This lays the groundwork for recognizing the evolutionary dynamics and opportunities in every aspect of our lives, personally and collectively.
- Encouraging Evolutionary Leadership: Individuals are sometimes in situations and in positions where they can influence the direction of attention and energy in a sustained and strategic way. This might be thought of as a generic definition of leadership. Leadership behaviors that combine vision, participation (of all stakeholders), and transformation will fit with and tend to support all of the other mandates of evolutionary activism, even if the leaders themselves are not thinking in such terms. It is important to identify, support, and expand this kind of leadership because of our society’s reliance on the visible initiative of individuals (i.e., those we tend to label “leaders”) as a source of inspiration and cues for direction among the majority of people.
Near-term activities for Boisevolve include AssumptionScope and Boise Talks.
AssumptionScope, invented here in Boise, is a process that will surface the assumptions operating within our major social and societal systems & institutions so that those assumptions, their validity, and their implications for the design of those systems can be consciously reflected upon by all stakeholders in an ongoing, interactive manner.
AssumptionScope will focus initially on five institutions: Education, Health Care, Governance & Politics, Economy, and Justice.
The general sequence of the activity is as follows:
(1) Surface an initial set of observed assumptions with one or more groups of people intimately familiar with the system,
(2) Validate and refine that set by inviting review by a wider group of people familiar with the system, and
(3) Exhibit the resulting set of assumptions in a permanent, public, interactive forum through which all stakeholders, including the general public, are invited to reflect upon and indicate their level of agreement with the assumptions.
The rationale behind the project is that while all of the features of our social and societal systems are underlain by assumptions, including core ideas and values, those assumptions (by definition) tend to remain unexamined. This is problematic because when left unexamined, the systems on which the assumptions are built are at risk of diminished “goodness of fit” with new knowledge, with the needs of society, and with the aspirations of stakeholders. This reduced fitness can, in turn, fuel problems and “crises” that cannot be effectively addressed.
The first system we’ll be focusing on is education. Click here for a request for participation for the initial AssumptionScope Education focus group.
Boise Talks will be a series of one or more ongoing dialogues in groups of 20-30 participants. All in the community are invited. The dialogue will be lightly facilitated, with only enough structure to help ensure a positive experience. The dialogue can center around any topic.
The purpose for Boise Talks
- To provide people of the Boise community with an opportunity to hear and to be heard, in a setting that supports inquiry, learning, and growth.
- To help people gain comfort in, and competence with, dialogue.
- To provide an opportunity for people to practice unearthing and examining assumptions, including their own, those of other participants, and those of the culture in which we live.
What Boise Talks is not
- While participants may explore and address different points of view, Boise Talks is not a debate group or a conflict resolution group.
- While participants may learn more about themselves and feel good through participation, Boise Talks is not a personal therapy group.
- While participants may get into deep exploration of ideas and issues, Boise Talks is not a philosophy group or a political group.
Interested in Boisevolve?
To join the Boisevolve effort, participate in any of the activities and projects, or to learn more about Boisevolve, see the Contact page or visit the Boisevolve page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/boisevolve/