I just found out about Transitions – a grass-roots model adopted to respond to the twin challenges of Peak Oil and Climate Change. I am particularly impressed that their website is a wiki. What first caught my attention was the fact that they used Open Space Technology to host their annual conference. Not coincidentally, from the same source, I learned of a gathering of cultural creatives to be held in France, also to be hosted in Open Space format.
Across the Atlantic, the Food and Society movement, sponsored by the Kellogg Foundation, also held its 2008 conference using Open Space – among other techniques gathered under the banner of the art of hosting meaningful conversations. This was a very big gathering (600+ participants), bringing together people from the whole spectrum of food and society – as the name suggests. Since some of my friends were involved in the design and facilitation of the event, I followed with some interest and was impressed by the depth and breadth of the insights that emerged from the collective alchemy as these participative processes metabolised and presenced the system present in the room.
Collective intelligence at work
These are just three examples of mushrooming grass-roots practices that I read as symptomatic of the integral, peer-to-peer age that is emerging on our planet today. It is rare in ‘conventional’ integral circles (meaning communities gathering around the work of Ken Wilber and the Integral Institute) for this kind of thing to be recognised as ‘integral’, because there is no explicit reference to ‘AQAL’ (all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, all stages), and I yet I believe that it is an integral phenomenon, whether it is ‘officially’ recognised as such or not.
In my experience, these events tend to cover all the bases simply by dint of being participative and inclusive, so that what comes out of them is multi-quadrant, multi-level, multi-perspectival and yet integrated. But it’s hard to appreciate just how much this is the case if you’re looking in from the outside. It isn’t until you experience them from the inside that you really grok how integral they are – without any particular individual or group deliberately holding any integral consciousness or design. That’s how integral can truly be said to be an emergent phenomenon in the world (in my book): because nobody’s orchestrating it.
Something that doesn’t get enough attention (if any) in integral circles is the whole field of collective intelligence and collective consciousness (it tends to get dismissed as ‘GREEN’). A few individuals with strongly developed consciousness coming together to ‘hold a field’ (it’s the same phenomenon as darshan, I guess) can catalyze a ‘normal’ group to work at a heightened level of awareness quite systematically, in my experience. That’s part of the prototyping we’re playing with (unofficially, I need not add ;-)) inside the EU Commission – where there is a growing demand for these participative approaches, because they are so much more effective than the usual bureaucratic shenanigans.