How to change the world through circles

CIRCLES AND THE EMERGENCE OF A NEW SOCIETY

1. CIRCLES AND EMERGENCE

Circles are powerful, they hold a space for people to come together, synergize, share feelings, co-create, support, inspire, express, participate, share resources, help each other, work together to solve problems, emerge new cultures. They can hold space for new forms of social, cultural, ecological, economic, and political interaction. Our hyperlocal and local communities structures have been pulled apart by certain forms of globalized forces. Circles can help reform some of our communities and natural energies of serving each other.

Circles change society by changing the way people interact with each other. Complex systems science tells us that emergence of behavior from a system is a non-linear process which no single agent is in charge of; the system self-organizes to create new patterns, and one of the key parameters in determining what patterns arise is the way different agents interact. Alter the way agents interact, and you alter the structure of the whole complex system. Circles can shift empathic levels, synergy abilities, emotional capacities in our relationships with each other. When the amount of circles reaches a critical mass in our societies, our societies will undergo phase transitions to higher stages of collective wisdom, emotional intelligence, cultural creativity and political-economic synchrony.

Circles are the units out of which we can construct a new type of society. The circle at the hyperlocal level is an autonomous structure that self-supports itself, and can withstand shifts and shocks to the larger society. Larger projects and social structures can be built on top of these circles. And when they do they have more stability because the building blocks themselves have self-regulatory ability. Circles tend to work at the hyperlocal level. Like types of circles can group to form clusters and networks. And different types of circles can also work together in self-supportive ways, forming permaculture-like guilds of circles. Layers of coordination can be overlayed over networks and accumulations of circles. These layers then become the structures at the local and global levels. These layers of coordination do not work in the traditional command and control methodology of our town and federal governments. They instead listen to the emergent behavior out of the complex non-linear system. They work by guiding and facilitating what wants to arise. They can guide circles and projects to interact in different ways. The different interactions then leads to new types of behavior that emerge in the social system. The way the layers built on top of these circles – the local, national and global layers built on top of the hyperlocal, is called subsumption architecture, where the layers built on top do not destroy the autonomy of lower levels, but instead work by facilitating the components at the lower levels to work in different ways together.

Our society is like a ecosystem, and an ecosystem needs a biodiversity for it to both flower and be resilient to different shocks. A diverse ecology of many types of circles leads to this healthy state.

2. EXAMPLES OF CIRCLES

Here are some examples of circles

Heart Circles( http://heartcirclenetwork.com/), Sharing circles, Womens circles, Mens circles (e.g.http://mankindproject.org ) – allows people to open up emotionally with each other

Restorative Circles – provides a basis for a new type of justice, legal system that of restorative justicehttp://www.restorativecircles.org/

Resilience Circles- comes together to help increase personal security http://localcircles.org/what-is-a-resilience-circle/

Simplicity Circles

Wisdom Councils – stakeholders from variety of demographics come together to provide consensus statements about topics of value for the community. A kind of political system http://www.co-intelligence.org/P-wisdomcouncil.html

Talking circles http://www.drstandley.com/nativeamerican_talking_circles.shtml

SYNCON – people gathering together to figure out how to synergestically work togetherhttp://www.barbaramarxhubbard.com/site/node/54

Gift Circles i) – provides a new type of localized gift economy

ii) Gift Project circles – are where people with different projects around town can come and share their projects and find help

iii) Gift Vending Circles – are where people come together to gather and offer their services, haircuts, massage, computing help. Its like a fair

Clothing swaps

Barter Circles

Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (ROSCAS)

World Cafe – brings people together to dialogue about meaningful topics http://www.theworldcafe.com/

United Religion Initiative Cooperation Circles – bringing together people from different religions to work together http://www.uri.org/

Transition Circles – bring people to work together for sustainability within a townhttp://transitionnorwichnews.blogspot.com/2009/06/transition-circles_16.html

Healing Jams – where people come to give each other massage, healings, energy work etc…

Yoga Circles, Qigong Circles, Massage Circles, Meditation Circles

Gardening Circles

Potlucks

3. STARTER CIRCLES

This network of circles in a town can be catalysed by Starter Circles. Starter circles are circles where people gather to explain to each other how to run different types of circles, to share tips and help starting and maintaining circles. If circles are like the cells in a the body of society starter circles are like the stem cell, constantly producing new circles.

Complex systems theory shows that when a system reaches a level of connectedness there is a phase transition in its behavior. When a certain critical ratio of circles is reached there will be phase transitions in the way a town or city functions. When the different sectors and demographics of a community becomes connected through networks of circles, new forms of coordinated behavior across those sectors can emerge.

A global movement of circles can begin with Starter Circles being seeded in different communities and towns. These Starter Circles will then help catalyse the birth of circles throughout their local community. A global network of Starter Circles can pass information about different types of circles, share best practices, and get feedback on how different locales on doing.

4. TYPES OF CIRCLES AND THEIR FUNCTIONS

i) ECONOMICS: The goal of an economic system is to distribute goods/services to match needs. To do this it requires an informational system to let the system know what the needs are, and where the goods and services are. It also needs to provide motivational system for people to work together. An economic needs to have a flow of goods and services at the hyperlocal level. When it is kept at the hyperlocal level there is a feedback system that can allows the system to readjust. If you need babysitting help if there is a hyperlocal feedback system then others see you need help and help you. If this feedback system isnt there and you do not have money then you can be in a bind. These hyperlocal flows can be created with things like gift circles, barter circles, timebanks, and local currencies circles. A gift circle works by having people share what their needs and gifts are. So people can say they need tutoring help, babysitting help, a massage, bike repair help, and others can offer to help them as a gift. The helping of leads to more community, and community leads to more gifting.

Gift circles also serve a kind of autocatalytic function in that they can birth other circles. So for instance several people in a circle may express interest in yoga, and then a yoga circle may form. Gift circles can also work to catalyse larger projects like the creation of a community center, a holistic health clinic, a farm etc.

There can also be gift circle flows at the local and global levels. So for instance a larger scale gift circlecan shift people to help when a natural diaster happens in a locale, it can shift people to help a farm launch, or it can shift holistic healers to where there is an outbreak of a certain disease.

A healthy economic system will have circular flows at hyperlocal, local and global levels. These different size scales allows the system to have more autonomy at each size scale. This autonomy gives the system more stability and resilience. In our current economic system the global flows have destroyed the resilience, autonomy and circular flows at the hyperlocal and local levels. Different types of circles and networks of circles can help restore organically some of this resilience.

For the layers of economic coordination of larger scales not to destroy the smaller scales it is best not to use command and control systems. So for instance a hotel chain because it is based on a hierarchical control can suddenly decide to take a hotel out of a community without consulting a community. It is also dependent on global shareholders, and if the hotel goes under all of the hotels simulatenously collapse. Couchsurfing.com is based on structure that does not destroy the autonomy of people to offer their housing. Even if couchsurfing goes under the housing is still available for use. Transition towns is another example of a subsumption architecture, each town has their own autonomy. The transition town network built on top of it serves to coordinate, share best practices, but if the network collapses the town can still continue to do what it is doing. A multinational bank is based on hierarchical control at the global level. So if it collapsed it would lead to problems in towns across the world. That is why when they do run into problems like recently the government feels impelled to bail them out. A network of local credit unions is less hierarchically based. The network can run into problems but that doesnt necessarily destroy a local credit union. Credit Unions though are still tied into global flows of money and are at risk because of what they invest in. A network of hyperlocal ‘banks’ where people in community pool their money together like a ROSCAS circle can provide even more stability to a system, and allow people to self-organize to help a system. A network of ROSCAS can provide a system with the ability to adapt to many more different types of circumstances.

ii) HEALTH

The goals of healthcare are to maintain health and heal sickness. Hyperlocal structures can greatly aid in these goals. A new type of national and global health care plan can be built out of hyperlocal circles where people self-organize to increase their health . Hyperlocal processes provide support for people to become involved with their own and neighbours healing. Hyperlocal circles include yoga circles, qigong circles, massage circles, healing jams, and meditation circles. Many studies have shown that yoga, qigong, meditation can increase health and lower medical costs. Local and global networks of healers, yogis, meditators, qigong teachers can come to different circles to share their knowledge and train people so they can better help themselves and their neighbours. Local and global networks of holistic healing can share best practices of both modern and ancient healing modalities from many different cultures. These networks can identify where there need to be more circles and send teachers into those areas to catalyse those healing circles.

iii) POLITICS & GOVERNANCE

Some of the goals of a governmental system are to help deal with conflict with different parties in a society, to bring order, and to manage the people. Traditionally we think of this being done through the creation and enforcing of laws, and through a government organized in a command & control hierarchy. Another paradigm of governance which is more open-source and bottom-up is through facilitation. When there is conflict between different groups, or where there is a need for coordination and collaboration between different sectors and groups facilitation can be the answer. Some of these facilitation methods are Non-Violent Communication, Open Space Technology, Deep Democracy, Theory U , Bohmian Dialogue and Wisdom Circles. Different parties sit in circle and work things out amongst themselves. Some examples of the different paradigms of governance – if school traffic is causing problems in a neighbourhood, a town council can pass laws to try and solve the problem. A bottom-up political model is for the school and the neighbourhood to come together and in a facilitated process to work out these problems themselves. Another example – if different gangs in a neighbourhood are fighting the top-down political model is for the town to pass stricter laws and have the police enforce them. The bottom-up model is to create facilitated dialogue. Nonviolent communication processes have brought gangs that have been in warfare with each other to live in peace. Facilitated processes bring different sides to hear each other with empathy. Its transformative. These processes can also allow the different parties to co-create strategies for them to work with each other in a more healthy manner.

Networks of different types of circles throughout a town or nation can send signals for when facilitated processes need to happen. The grassroots networks can then organize these circles.

The different parts of a society, the different circles interact in a non-linear way to emerge different behaviors. The circles overlap, cross-fertilize, share information, influence other. How they interact will lead to different forms of behavior emerging at larger scales. The types of patterns are emerging are complex, trying to impose say at a local or national government level forms for how things should look in a command control manner will not let the natural order emerge. An analogy to understand this is the difference between permaculture and monoculture forms of farming. Monoculture arranges an order to the plants that is not necessarily the way the plants may want to naturally self-organize into. Permaculture is based in more listening to what is happening and facilitating it. At the local and national levels what can be instead is to bring different dialogue forms the collective to understand what is happening within itself and to coordinate. So for instance town gatherings with Open Space Technology formats can help the different parts coordinate. These gatherings can include all the different types of circles. And what is happening is to host a space that allows the communities of practices that are working to be shared and passed on. It allows the different types of circles to adjust what they are doing. In addition at these gatherings processes like Theory U and Appreciative Inquiry for the collective to form visions of what it wants.

iv) JUSTICE SYSTEM

The Western traditional methods of justice is called punitive justice. Its based on the idea of punishment to deter people from committing crimes. The is another form of justice called restorative justice. This is based on the idea of bringing together offender and victim to become aware of what happened, creating the conditions for offender to restore harmony to the system by making amends, and facilitating the practice of forgiveness. Punitive justice has the problems that the underlying emotional turmoil is often not solved, and that when an offender is removed from the system to go to jail they are no longer able to contribute to society. In restorative justice the offender is able to continue to contribute to society. Restorative circles are one way to bring about this system of justice into a community. They can be organized in a bottom-up grassroots fashion. Networks of circles can guide the community to know where and when to form restorative circles.

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