Posts Tagged ‘design’

Building on the Russian translation of Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive Team ARGO team in Izhevsk, Russia created Russia’s first citizen initiated and produced urban conference. Accomplishing “lift-off” in the first half of 2014 and subsequent dissemination of the best practices through 360 degree communications, Team ARGO are the natural winners of the Meshworkers of the Year Award, 2014.

Team ARGO: Meshworker of the Year 2014

Team ARGO: Meshworker of the Year 2014

The practice of Meshworking is usually considered to be an advanced alignment of stakeholders, objectives, goals and activities in service to a superordinate goal.

Meshworking intelligence creates a “meshwork” by weaving together the best of two operating systems — one that self-organizes, and one that replicates hierarchical structures. The resulting meshwork creates and aligns complex responsive structures and systems that flex and flow.

ARGO – which stands for “Association of City Development” – is located in Izhevsk, Udmurtia, Russia. It started with a team of energized and visionary entrepreneurs, administrators, business executives and citizens that together define the vision for the city, key issues to be tackled and runs a broad variety of projects to develop the city on various levels – values, ideas, people, technologies, systems, infrastructure and resources.

The story of UrbanFest began a year ago when ARGO received the National Award “Silver Archer” as the best project for the development and promotion of the territories in Russia.  Lev Gordon, one of ARGO’s founders invited all the participants at the ceremony to Izhevsk to UrbanFest, the first festival of living cities.

The Silver Archer Award was the first recognition ARGO – as a social technology for the organization of integral urban development. This technology could and should be replicated. And for this ARGO created a vehicle for future development today.

Lev Gordon & Team ARGO Receiving Silver Archer 2014

Lev Gordon on behalf of Team ARGO Receiving Silver Archer 2014

In addition, Izhevsk city has come to see that the “technology of urban development” may be a key export product of the city, giving it a core brand. So they set out to create a branding vehicle.

At the same time, ARGO found many informal urban teams in Russia and discovered that their number was growing. They had a lot of interesting practices, which could also be replicated. Thus, from the initial exporting technology, Izhevsk has become interested in importing Best Practices that could become “components” of the final urban development product. Furthermore, with the idea of combining urban teams in a kind of “think tank”, the participation of experts will help to improve individual urban practices and technology in general.   So ARGO has developed the objective to create a tool kit, importing replicable urban practices and meshworking or aligning them for use by others.

Finally, with the objective that Izhevsk becomes the new center of urban development for the entire country and beyond, ARGO conducted an internal search and recruitment of resources – human systems, community and city systems and knowledge bases. In other words ARGO set out to expand the scope of activities within the city.

The framework for this integrated mesh of city capacities is Integral City – an integrated system that aligns and meshworks solutions for problems that have been identified. With the success of 2014 under their belt, Team ARGO is working towards spreading the ARGO technology of Integral City development throughout the country and beyond, creating the ability to design, adapt, and develop cities that meshwork the infrastructures that administrations can guide and the self-organize creativity that citizens can bring.

In the formative stages of the UrbanFest Forum well-known Russian experts Denis Vizgalov, creator of Living City and Sergey Gradirovsky provided their wisdom and energy. They essentially defined the image of the Forum and offered the framework of city teams changing the city and challenging each other between cities.

The Izhevsk initiative was supported by the Council for Civil Society Development under the President of the Russian Federation, and the personal adviser to the President of the Russian Federation Mikhail Fedotov, which showed the importance of this meaningful and federal-level initiative.

In addition, partners included: Higher School of Economics, Moscow School of Management Skolkovo, National Agency for Strategic Initiatives, AGT Communications, President’s Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, the Union of Russian cities, the International Association of Capitals and Cities, Rosturism, Ministry of Culture and more than 70 other organizations and 44 cities from across Russia.

The UrbanFest Forum became an example of real cooperation between the four voices of the city: urban communities and organizations, citizens, business and government. This is an example for the entire country.

ARGO UrbanFest 2014, Izhevsk Attendees

ARGO UrbanFest 2014, Izhevsk Attendees

Out of these collaborations, emerged a true “national” forum, attracting dozens of leading experts and dozens of sponsors from Sevastopol to Vladivostok, resulting in attracting sufficient financing for the conference.

One of the key outcomes of the UrbanFest Forum was support for a common vision:

Our team of experts and practitioners from across the country want to create 1000 living cities by 2030, the foundation for a modern prosperous Russia.

Team ARGO’s next project is the 2nd Forum in May 2015 – the next big step towards fulfilling this mission. At this time, the team includes new strong federal and international partners. Team ARGO believes that cities themselves are building our future. Team ARGO waits – actively – for the return of city partners to Izhevsk!

To date ARGO can measure its accomplishments with these impressive metrics.

  1. Marketing and promotion:

– 1000 cities were invited to attend Forum

– 6000 calls from a call center

– 300 posts and more than 5,000 reposts in social networks

  1. Crowdfunding and crowdsourcing

– Crowdfunding. Collected 4 million rubles. 0 rubles from the budget.

– Crowdsourcing. Attracted more than 100 volunteer organizers and 80 partners who together made Forum possible

  1. The main points of the program, included:

– Conference of Cities of the 21st century. The State Council of SD

– Nobel Award for best urban practices. 17 cities presented their best urban practices

– Large Urban game. 7 strategic directions for cities’ development

– Solving cases. 8 practical case studies

– Communications with 25 experts from 7 countries

– New relationships and inspiration for further development

  1. Results:

– More than 300 reports/materials in the federal and local media

– More than 3000 references of Izhevsk in social networks

– The creation of the portal on best urban practices urbanab.ru

– School of Living Cities conducted in several cities

– Replication of practices and joint projects

– Consolidation of active urban community in Izhevsk

– Izhevsk agreement charter on principles of cities’ development in the 21 century

– 1000 cities receive access to materials from Forum

– Experts evaluated forum as “№1 best forum on urban development in the country”


Already ARGO has made progress on all four tasks.

  1. Export of technology:

– Included in the list of recommended practices by Agency for Strategic Initiatives (ASI) and the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation

– School of Living Cities took place in 4 cities

– Creation of ARGO in Dimitrovgrad, active negotiations on replication with several cities, including Nizhny Novgorod

  1. Branding area

– In addition to the direct measurable results like 300 publications in the media and several thousand references in social networks, Izhevsk is increasingly referred to by the majority of experts and specialists in urban planning and urban development, as one of the leaders.  The UrbanFest forum itself is one of the great anticipated events in the Russian calendar of urban events. Today, the project team includes experts and practitioners from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Samara, Novokuznetsk, Holland, Germany, Canada, and France … And this platform in Izhevsk is referred to as the Izhevsk Forum. It has much potential to become more and more attractive and prestigious.

– In March 2015 ARGO team was a partner and a key speaker at the Davos World Communications Forum, where the experience and technologies of ARGO were greeted with enormous enthusiasm by representatives of over 30 countries. Many participants learned there about ARGO Integral City development approach and plan to implement it in their home cities while planning to attend next UrbanFest in Izhevsk.

  1. Import practices:

– Izhevsk is becoming a pilot area for the implementation of best-in-class urban practices from ASI

– ARGO reached an agreement on joint projects with the Strelka Institute of media, design and architecture

– Some practices of the “Nobel Award” nominees accepted and implemented in Izhevsk

  1. Internal mobilization:

– The number of members of the ARGO Coordinating Council increased, reaching over 100 people

– ARGO recognized at the level of local and regional authorities and is perceived as a key partner in most development-related processes.

– ARGO fundraising results doubled. Over the past year ARGO managed to collect about 10 million rubles for projects. Already at the beginning of 2015, we understand that this target will be repeated.

– Urban community has learned how to organize large-scale events. The fact that at the end of the year, in partnership with ARGO event agencies were able to jointly organize a charity project – the Largest Christmas Tree of Udmurtia (which was visited by 7,500 children and demonstrated the willingness of the urban community to set and achieve new ambitious goals).

It remains only to invite all Readers to the second Forum of Living Cities, which will be held in Izhevsk on May 20-23, 2015.

Why Team ARGO for Meshworker of the Year 2014?

It seems that Team ARGO has been able to pivot on the dissonances in their usual urban environment – not only in the home base of Izhevsk but reaching out to all of Russia. Their meshworking intelligences have not been stopped by dissonance – but rather triggered to creative action by dissonance (and constraints) in the environment. They are releasing new potentials that emerge new values systems and new capacities in cities. At the same time they are skillfully utilizing hierarchical structures and capacities to create sorting and selecting mechanisms that enable new options and strategies. As new living city values emerge, Team ARGO are creating the conditions for a more complex level to develop where members of their community of living city practice can meshwork hierarchies and in turn make hierarchies out of meshworks.

Team ARGO is demonstrating initiative in cities can include learning on local, national and international scales, financing, event production and disseminating Best Practices. They model the vital role of imagination, taking courage and utilizing powers of attraction. ARGO’s brand of intelligence is designing along with the diversities in people and thereby is releasing and reorganizing new intelligences that have been locked and blocked in silos of sameness.

Team ARGO’s meshworking is effectively catalyzing a shift in many city systems, so that new – living city – capacities are emerging. Effectively the city systems appear to be reorganizing themselves into something more internally resonant to their urban fabrics and externally coherent with (even turbulent) life conditions. (This is a very different story than what we hear about Russia in the western news/media.)

Team ARGO has shown that Russian communities and cities, as emergents and artefacts of human life, are vibrant, creative outcomes of the distinctive Russian brains that have created them. We can see how Team ARGO are enabling Russian cities to work and evolve by recognizing local champions, and supporting Best Practices to evolve. These meshworks in cities have the potential to become fractal patterns that may change all scales of human systems across the country.

As Team ARGO has reached out to the four voices of the city, it is obvious that an enormous value of meshworking is that it embraces both the realms of the objective and interobjective space of physical people and built structures, and calls forth the capacities that lie in the subjective and intersubjective zones of Russian cities from East to West. Team ARGO seems to have tapped into the inner domains of intention, purpose and culture in all four city voices.

Team ARGO’s meshworking intelligences are actively contributing to research, planning and management in cities across Russia with a vital center in Izhevsk.  Integral City is proud to award Team ARGO the Meshworker of the Year Award, 2014.

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Lessons from history abound to warn us that the shift involved in moving from one worldview, or system of intelligibility, to another, is unlikely to be smooth or easy.  (Brian and Mary Nattrass, Integral Leadership Review – January- February 2015)

Today in thinking about our Evolutionary Crossroads in the city I want to consider the function of transportation within the human hive. Our old paradigm for transportation is a mechanical one. Our great modern transportation systems grew out of the Industrial Revolution – which produced the great age of steam; the combustion engine; the pumping, refining and distribution of fossil fuels; the industrial car factory; and the globalized transportation of goods. Even our standardized system of time keeping and time zones grew out of the need for mechanical alignment across transportation systems and efficiency in moving goods from one geography to another across land, sea and air. Our language of functional transportation systems rings with the metaphors of machines, engines, rails, cogs, wheels, pistons, and speed.

On a more negative note, as cities have multiplied and populations increased, our language now also reflects the realities of transportation systems that have become toxic to the very urban systems they were designed to serve: pollution, gridlock, traffic fatalities, CO2 emissions, performance failures, unsafe at any speed, infrastructure deterioration. It is a language pocked by indicators of rigidity and corrosion.

So ubiquitous is the old story of transportation’s mechanical prowess, we hardly notice the irrationality of the solutions that have been attempted in order to reclaim former standards or redress mechanical failures. Widening highways (which Jane Jacobs predicted long ago would only exacerbate the very problems they were intended to solve). Safety belts and airbags for surviving accidents (thanks to the post-modern activism of Ralph Nader). Requiring restricted driving on alternate days (to reduce pollution in Mexico City – which increased the numbers of cars on the road). Creating high rise roof top heliports to transport business executives from one part of the gridlocked city to another (as in Sao Paulo).

But every one of these mitigating strategies bespeaks a criticism of the Old Story of the mechanical transportation city in the system. And as such, we must be grateful that this stage of evolution – to protect and defend the Old Story – emerged with vigour and even political power. Every well intended solution (with its cascade of unintended consequences) marks the road to a New Story that hasn’t yet emerged but whose seeds of potential are being sown.

When I first published Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive it told such a new story about the city as an integrated, complex living, evolutionary human system, that the story seemed foreign to most modern ears (and alien to traditional ears). The story was built on new Integral Maps of the City revealing its inner relationships as well as its outer ecologies; a Meshwork of Intelligences that were both individual and collective, enabling the emergence of new structures and infrastructures; and a reframe of the most complex adaptive human system yet created, as the Human Hive. The Map, The Mesh and the Human Hive was such a new story that even today with post-modern stories about Smart Cities, Resilient Cities and Ecocities, it is still an Integral vision that the world is only slowly waking up to.

Integral City :Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive

Integral City :Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive

But, with every passing year, we endure the failure of the mechanical metaphors and realities embedded in the design of the modern city, where mechanical failure is giving us serious pause that the Old Story does not serve us well in cities. Thanks to leaders like Jaime Lerner (architect and former mayor) of Curitiba, Brazil, we have heard a re-frame of the relationship between cities and transportation. Lerner proposed that he would build the city for people and not cars.

That simple shift in intention opened a crack in the old paradigm for transportation in the city. It challenged the priority and the purpose of transportation – and even cities themselves. The act of putting people first allowed us to rethink the interconnection of all things that cities – and their transportation systems enable.

This act of turning a core assumption about how cities work on its ear, reveals the role that organizational leaders can play as the Old Story shifts into a phase that is justifiably critical of the Old Story. The Nattrasses suggest that transportation (and other organizational) leaders can take specific actions during this Critical Stage that will help transform the Story.  They say Leaders in this core Critical Phase can:

  • Courageously enter and stand in territory that is uncertain and unpredictable and no matter how disorienting;
  • Conscientiously and boldly examine the fault lines that challenge even one’s own basic assumptions and beliefs;
  • Create and facilitate sense-making conversations with others in the industry and the city to discern which elements of the narrative about unsustainable mechanical/transportation systems are relevant and what they mean to the human systems in which the leader acts;
  • Co-create the terms and forms that will help others understand the meaning and irrelevance of the old story and communicate those through compelling narrative accounts.

If Lerner’s new story marks a shift from Old Story to New Story for Transportation, it has also been quickened by scientific innovation that has opened up the transportation field to new energy sources (solar, wind, water); new energy delivery systems (e.g. Bombardier wireless recharging grids); new modes of cradle-to-cradle manufacture; new methods of financing and ownership ( Uber app); new interlocking multi-modal systems (e.g. NL bike/tram/train).

Last week, I heard an even more definitive indicator that the Critical Stage of the city transportation story was shifting into the Transformation Stage, when Jeffrey Tumlin spoke of “transportation as health”. A global expert in sustainable transportation planning, he was sharing this life-giving insight in my own small city of Abbotsford. When the new story is actually invited into and entertained in small cities as well as large, that seems another strong indicator that the story is changing. Tumlin’s radical approach to measuring transportation success through population health statistics, almost made me stand up and yell “bravo”!!!

He went on to cite another statistic that affirmed an observation I had been noticing in city life; namely, that driving rates continue to decline for the first time in history. It appears that – since 2005 Millennials and Boomers have reduced their purchase of cars. These populations are either choosing never to own a car or to give up their cars – in favour of the most healthy transportation option – walking – or for public transportation.

When I first imagined the Integral City as a Human Hive, my view of transportation was embedded in the story of a living system. Now I hear the language that supports that metaphor – namely that transportation is about metabolism – the flow of resources that energize and give life to all human systems in the city.

I am encouraged not only by Tumlin’s characterization of “transportation as health” but by the Nattrass recommendations about what leaders and organizations can do to make that final shift of the Old Story of unsustainable mechanical transportation into the New Story of healthy metabolic resource flow. The Nattrasses say:

“Ultimately there is nothing mysterious about how to get into action using new assumptions and concepts.  This ability is a hallmark of our species and part of our adaptive toolbox.  We have found that most organizations choose similar areas to enact [the new story of] sustainability.  These are generally activities related to:

  1. How they use resources and materials,
  2. How they produce, or cause to be produced, waste and emissions,
  3. How they design, develop and specify product,
  4. How they manufacture or source product,
  5. How they treat people or require that sub-contractors treat people,
  6. How they distribute, transport, and deliver products, and
  7. How they give back to communities and to global society.”

It seems obvious that as transportation has been both the instigator of massive change in the city since the industrial revolution, which introduced the benefits of mechanical infrastructures, it will also be instrumental in enabling new metabolisms that nourish energy for cities that are built for people and not cars.

I am just grateful that Brian and Mary Nattrass have charted the natural change from Old Story to New Story through phases that first criticize the Old Story, then Transform the Old Story into a New Story. Through these continuous and progressive retellings, leaders create the audience for a whole New Story and the citizens for a whole new city. Leaders in transportation are now starting to help one another through the “mindfields” of psychological and emotional pushbacks that naturally arise and are involving their industry peers in creating a new narrative for new times.

For the Integral City the Evolutionary Transportation Crossroads lies at the juncture of the Map, the Mesh and the Human Hive.


Hamilton, M. (2008). Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive. Gabriola Island BC: New Society Publishers.

Jacobs, J. (1992). The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Vintage Books.

Nattrass, B., & Nattrass, M. (2015). How ARE We To Go On Together? Our Evolutionary Crossroads. Integral Leadership Review January-February(Canada Issue). Retrieved from http://integralleadershipreview.com/12795-215-go-together-evolutionary-crossroads/


This blog is one of a series that explores the relevance and application of ideas to the Integral City, in the articles published in the Integral Leadership Review – Canada Issue, 2015, curated and Guest Edited by Marilyn Hamilton.

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Integral City how do I create thee?   Perhaps Map 2 can reveal how …

There are points of time, of distant memory, 
when the soul unites 
within the pattern of the universe.  
That union brings forth the understanding of life’s harmony.  
So it should be within the [city] garden …
Author Unknown

Integral City Map 2: The Nested Holarchy of City Systems

Integral City Map 2: The Nested Holarchy of City Systems

Every relationship we belong to in the city, offers us a new garden of possibilities for discovering, growing and expanding our sense of wholeness in the city. And because we live in an era when the rate of emergence (in all earth systems) is increasing, our survival depends on our agility to be inspired by the abundance of creative potential in all these gardens.

Integral City Map 2, shows how the human systems in the city nest into a series of “relationship gardens” – or pools – that cascade into one another (that we call a natural holarchy of complexity).  This series of gardens – or pools –  includes a landscape of relationships that is more complex than the one before. The landscape of the whole city creates the habitat for the cascading gardens of communities, organizations, groups, families and individuals.

From a design perspective, each one of these gardens, calls forth a centre that creates strength for all the other gardens connected to it. Architect Christopher Alexander observed that all living systems have strong centres that interconnect and support one another (as we discussed in Map 1). In this way a kind of symbiosis evolves where multiple centres of different sizes actually serve each other in a complementary way, creating natural ecosystems that support wellbeing in each garden at the same time as they create wellbeing in the whole cascade of relationships in the cit.y

I have described the merits of this map in the audio (and printed) book, Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences in the Human Hive. I also discussed it with Ken Wilber during our Integral City 2.0 Online Conference (and Integral Life) Interview. Map 2 as a whole captures the Contexting Intelligences of the city: Evolutionary, Living and Ecosphere (with strong links to Individual, Collective and Structural Intelligences).

Map 2 in the Integral City demonstrates strong patterns that relate to the natural designs in Tim Winton’s Pattern Dynamics (TM) Structure and Exchange Patterns. But the Pattern of Creativity seems to capture best the elegance of evolutionary, living eco-systems inherent in Map 2. The Creativity Pattern in the city shows us how adaptation and novelty in the city arise from the the natural emergence of life, like an apple seed growing into a sapling, that becomes part of an orchard, that evolves a whole new species of apple.

Pattern Dynamics (tm) Creativity

Map 2 captures the patterns of the city as they relate to key conditions for innovation and creativity. They reflect how, like a garden, innovation in the city is planted, matures, cross pollinates and adaptively responds to life conditions.

Map 2 reveals aspects of the Pattern of Creativity because it reveals seven qualities identified by the language of Pattern Dynamics (TM):

  1. Seed: Map 2 starts with the individual as the core seed of intelligence in the city. In the modern city the seeds come from many cultures (like species) so that the family gardens from say the Punjab culture are distinctively the Dutch culture.
  2. Bifurcation: Map 2 does not explicitly show bifurcation – or branching in two directions from one initial path – but it has this choice implicit in it; for instance, when children who play together are directed to attend different schools; or when one family member breaks away from the church they grew up in, to attend another one: or when neighbours on the same street belong to different recreational activities or drive to different work places.
  3. Adaptation: Map 2 reveals the variety of habitats to which individuals, families and groups must adapt as they interact in the city. For people used to traditional ways, the number of choices on daily offer, is often overwhelming because they demand constant (and often stressing) adaptation to new situations outside their worldviews. For students schooled in high technology applications and entertainment, adaptation in the city is both a game and an expected life condition.
  4. Growth: Map 2 conveys the natural holarchy of nested systems in the city through which an individual can grow over a lifetime. Each system represents a “garden of experience” that expands the habitat of relationships for the individual. Each expansion offers the opportunity for more exchanges between individuals and collectives – with possibilities for innovative production, financing and integration of services.
  5. Emergence: Map 2 suggests that the interaction and interconnections amongst the different wholes (or holons) of the city will cause emergence – i.e., the creation of something new that has not existed before. (This is also powerfully conveyed in Map 3, which we will discuss in a subsequent blog.)
  6. Evolution: Map 2 clearly reflects the evolutionary complexity of the human systems in the city, as the holarchy of nested relationships becomes more complex. Map 2 shows how evolution of a city ecology depends on the transcending and including of all the less complex sets of relationships in the city. For instance, the neighbourhood, like a garden, includes all the organizations, recreational zones, schools family homes and individual comings and goings. Every neighbourhood evolves differently than others because of the variety that makes up its nested holarchy of city systems. This is why they have such distinctive patterns – just like a Japanese garden has very different features than a classical Italian garden.
  7. Elegance: Map 2 conveys the simple elegance of a classical natural form – like a conch shell, or a spiralling galaxy, or Venice’s St. Mark’s Square (a favourite example of Christopher Alexander to illustrate the evolutionary nature of creativity and beauty).

Integral City how do I create thee? Map 2 suggests that the simple unfolding of the pattern of relationships that naturally emerge across a life time in the city,  will create the complex adaptive conditions for creativity. As we have explored with Integral Architect Mark DeKay, the vibrancy of life in the city depends on creating the conditions for humans to emerge solutions that improve the wellbeing of self, culture and nature in the whole city.

In future blogs we continue the exploration of Integral City Maps 3, 4 and 5 and show how each adds further depth to Maps 1 and 2.

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Systems thinking is fundamental to understanding systems. So to understand systems, let’s start with exploring, what are systems? (1)

TED_city21, copyright TED

Systems are evolutionary structures. They are characterized by boundaries that contain system elements. Those elements have evolved across deep time, from the Big Bang until now. The basic evolutionary strata that we can point to on our planet can be classified as A – B – C (2).  Explaining this backwards …

C is for Cosmosphere – containing Universe, Earth and Matter . We study this with Astronomy, Cosmology, Math, Physics, Chemistry, Geology, Hydrology, Meterology

B is for Biological Systems – containing the living environment and life. We study these with Microbiology, Biology, Botany, Zoology

A is for Anthropocentric Systems – or human systems. We study these with Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, etc.

As humans we are the most complex systems and we not only depend on all the ABC systems but we ARE those systems. We are in effect Awake Bhangara-dancing Cosmic-dust.

An interesting characteristic of systems, is when you combine two different systems a surprising result can happen that is not necessarily evident from looking at the two original systems separately. For instance if you look at Hydrogen and Oxygen as two separate elements, you would not predict that combining them as H2O would produce water – with qualities that neither Hydrogen nor Oxygen possess on their own. ( We call this propensity of systems for unexpected outcomes – emergence.)

The B & A Systems contain the living systems. They are wholes that not only have boundaries, but the elements they contain co-exist within the boundary symbiotically – that is the existence of each element is dependent on the co-existence  and adaptability with other elements.

Systems are considered alive if they can do three things. They …

  1. Can sustain themselves.
  2. Connect with their environment (or adapt).
  3. Reproduce.

When we consider how all these A-B-C systems have evolved together we can see that they make the world sustainable – as we know and need it to be.  Geology, Energy, Water, Climate, Food, Bio-genetic Ecology and Human Systems are all necessary to sustain our life and all other life on the planet.

And when we consider how these systems impact on one another we can see the major Threats that our global systems face today. Because human systems have become so successful, we are impacting on Ecology, Food Systems, Climate, Water, Energy and Geology in ways that are eroding these system as non-renewable resources or if they are renewable living systems, we are eroding their capacity to adapt and regenerate themselves.

Living systems evolve in complex hierarchies – which means as they evolve, they become more complex as they contain more and more systems.

Basic systems start with atoms, that make up molecules, that make up cells, that make up organelles, that make up organs, that make up organ systems, that make up bodies, that make up ecologies.

As a whole living system, the human body-mind is the system we are most familiar with.

But even our individual human systems belong to larger human systems: like families, teams, organizations, neighbourhoods, communities and cities.

Interestingly each of these systems is made up of other systems and we say they exist at different scales – that is they retain similar patterns, but each system is larger than the ones that make it up. And the larger it is the greater is its sphere of influence. The concept of scale lets us zoom in and zoom out to see systems with the same patterns at different magnifications and how they impact themselves, each other and their place on this planet.

My great interest is in the most complex human system that we have yet created – the city – because it contains all these systems co-existing in dynamic relationship. I call it the human hive.

In fact I believe we are in an era when even cities are being superseded by yet a larger system – that I call the planet of cities.

In human systems we need to consider not only what makes up our bodies physically – but also what makes up our minds consciously – and how we relate to others in group cultural systems and to the environmental and built systems.

So this brings us back to Systems Thinking. When we can SEE systems – i.e. recognize a whole with a boundary containing elements – we are starting to think in the basics of systems thinking. When we can see how different systems are interconnected, we are progressing our systems thinking to a more complex level. When we use our consciousness to design NEW systems we are demonstrating our evolutionary human capacity to use emergence and adapt through being innovative and creative.

As we design new systems, we eventually produce systems of systems – like say controlling water, by carrying it in water vessels, then irrigation channels, then viaducts, then water canals and locks; then building reservoirs and dams; and then creating plumbing systems; and- dare I say it? – bottling water.

But the challenge of systems thinking is not just to see one system in isolation of other systems – but to see the whole trajectory of ABC systems as an evolutionary supra-system. Then our thinking must consider the consequences of our innovations, designs and creations. True systems thinking embraces our responsibility for initiating change that impacts all earth systems – taking responsibility not only for our intended consequences – but the unintended ones.

One of the great values of Systems Thinking is that it is critical to being able to shift our perspectives so we can be effective change agents in the world. Systems Thinking enables and supports us to see (and respect) ourselves as whole living systems, in relationship to other whole living systems, within the larger context of environmental systems and ultimately the earth as a whole planetary system.

Thinking in systems impacts how we can shift perspectives and thus how we are able to adapt and innovate, design and lead and grow and expand our capacity for caring for the living systems we are, that we relate to and that we co-create.

This is fundamental to what I call the Master Code of the Human Hive: Take care of yourself, Take care of each other, Take care of this place … so that we can take care of this planet.


(1) This was presented to Waterlution Toronto, Learning Lab Journey ” Exploring Complexity & Innovative Leadership Around Water & Energy in Ontario”. January 26, 2013. See also Guiding Step 4: Systems Thinking Helps Shift Perspectives

(2) Concept from Dr. Brian Eddy

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How can I shift my perspective of the city when I am not aware of the perspective I hold?

IntegralCity Aliveness

A shift in perspective assumes that a change in my view occurs. Unpacking such a shift requires the answers to some basic questions:

  1. What is my current perspective?
  2. Why would I change it?
  3. How can I change it?
  4. When will I shift my perspective?

Starting with the first question, it is natural to ask, “Shift from what [perspective] to what [perspective]?” It is the fundamental starting point of any change – become aware of where I stand, thus providing an awareness of me and my environment (or context).

The second question, may be one of internal motivation – should I choose (voluntarily) to shift my perspective? Or do external circumstances give me no choice? Have I been knocked off my current position by outside forces  – literally pushed aside by person(s), thing(s), idea(s) and/or circumstance(s)?

The third question emerges from the second, and brings our response and/or resources to shifting perspective into play – do I raise or lower my view – and by how much? Does my perspective become clearer? shorter? longer or change otherwise? when I include immediate, near or distant reference points of myself, others and place? This may even extend to including soft technologies like inquiry, facilitation processes or experimentation (as I negotiate perspectives with other individuals, groups, competitors, neighbourhoods) to hard technologies that change perspectives through the use of the microscope, telescope or satellite (to gain insights about biota, geography or GIS mapping systems).

The fourth question involves timing that may or may not allow for the answers to the first three questions to emerge gradually, orderly, chaotically, unexpectedly or instantly. Such timing may mean the difference between shifting perspective on my own terms (like learning a new skill or moving my place of residence) or without agreement (like being expropriated or catching a communicable disease) resulting in Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or disability.

Each of these questions reveals a quality of systems thinking that we can use to help ourselves and others shift perspectives. Each question supports us to see (and respect) ourselves as a whole living system, in relationship to other whole living systems, within the larger context of dynamic place and environmental systems and ultimately the earth as a whole planetary system.

Shifting perspectives will inevitably lead us through using these questions to think through the systems about which we have perspectives. Thinking in systems impacts how we can shift perspectives and thus how we are able to adapt and innovate, design and lead, and grow and expand our capacity for caring, for the living systems we are, relate to and co-create.


(1) This was presented to Waterlution Toronto, Learning Lab Journey ” Exploring Complexity & Innovative Leadership Around Water & Energy in Ontario”. January 26, 2013. See also Systems Thinking: A Primer

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Integral Cities in different locations must adapt differing solutions to the same infrastructure problems.  We need to evolve our internal environments and design our external environments in ways that honour the ecosphere that we are inextricably a part of . Only by doing so can both individual and collective human life optimize the amazing diversity our DNA has gifted us with and the deep resilience of the natural ecology Gaia supports us with.

Each city location provides a unique combination of matter, energy and information as the resources of its eco-region. This means over time, humans must discover, develop and design appropriate technological solutions for city metabolism that align with each distinctive environment.

Designing from local resources enables cities to innovate from natural capital and build both diversity and resilience into its food and energy security systems.  This is the principle that Lester Brown has used in developing the designs for Plan B through the Earth Policy Institute, planning sustainable futures with a roadmap of how to get from here to there.  Brown says that, “Plan B is a plan to replace the fossil-fuel-based, automobile-centered, throwaway economy with a new economic model. Instead of being based on fossil fuels, a Plan B economy will be powered by abundant sources of renewable energy: wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower, and biofuels.”

Likewise Graeme Taylor has examined Evolution’s Edge, identifying the core stresses and threats that our planet of cities imposes on the ecosphere. Graeme and his colleagues base designs for Best Futures on the principles embedded in natural design. Taylor observes, “positive outcomes are … possible. Sustainable values, theories, technologies and social organizations are emerging. These are networking together and beginning to develop post-industrial societal structures and economic processes. Humanity has the potential to transform the existing unsustainable system into a sustainable system.”

Integral City designers naturally honour the ecosphere,  enabling sustainability for the Human Hive and resilience for human systems as “reflective organs” in their eco-regions and the full ecology of planet Earth.  Design based on ecosphere intelligence is fundamental to creating the “motherboard” of an integral operating systems for the Human Hive.


This blog is a prologue to the Integral City webinar conference  City 2.0 Co-Creating the Future of the Human Hive . We are inventing a new operating system for the city.  Click to get more details re the Free Expo and eLaboratory membership  scheduled September 4-27  2012. You are invited to attend and participate.

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Integral City 2.0 innovation systems are emerging because conscious capitalists, governments, students and citizens are aligning strategies for leaders, organizations and governance systems to transform entire cities from resistant holdouts to resilient human hives. Humans as Gaia’s most “reflective organ” have located 50% of our species’ brain trust in the world’s cities.

We are starting to see the shape of Integral City 2.0 in places that have developed a variety of innovative frameworks and practical approaches to optimizing human co-existence. If we could combine and align these emergent designs into innovation ecosystems, we would create a resilience strategy that would move our human hives from City 1.0 to City 2.0 in service to a healthy planet. Five cities on five continents lead the way.

1. Curitiba, Brazil demonstrates an ability to develop individual capacity and organizational capital through people-friendly transportation systems and re-valuing eco-citizens who collect cooking oil, tires and even fallen leaves.

2. Sydney, Australia has developed Sustainability and Resilience strategies through the Sustainable Sydney 2030 Vision  for a Green, Global, and Connected City. It identified 10 targets and  five big moves embracing the city centre, transportation network, green corridors, community hubs and energy and water infrastructure.

3. Metro Vancouver, Canada  leverages community engagement and dynamic decision making that coalesces authority, power and influence, at breakfast meetings with citizens across 21 municipalities. They are anchoring three imperatives: regard for both local and global consequences and long-term impacts of decisions; recognizing and reflecting the interconnectedness and interdependence of systems; and being collaborative.

4. Songpa, South Korea demonstrates the value of Context mapping that integrates Place, Priorities, People and Planet. It completely removed a major freeway that bisected the city and fully restored the river that now has become the ecological and cultural centre of its urban life.

5. Murcia, Spain applies navigational dashboards that monitor vital signs of wellbeing across all city systems. It integrates KSF’s across city initiatives and objectives with multiple stakeholders. These measures include everything from reduction of energy consumption to school use of photo-voltaics to citizen awareness, especially immigrants, women, seniors and students.

What these Integral Cities 2.0 are proving, is that we can create the life conditions for innovation that will become a legacy to future generations. When we co-create City 2.0 habitats for innovation eco-systems we discover that:

  • secure supply chains emerge in around the Integral City 2.0
  • risk is mitigated through shared values and proximate peers
  • we can retain and attract high-performers
  • we create opportunities for sustainable energy efficiencies as we learn how to competitively recycle energy and effort in our eco-region;
  • we can redefine value-added profitability not just for our organizations, but for the city, its eco-region and Gaia herself;
  • our actions inevitably enhance our brand reputations.

Multiple stakeholders acting together in Integral City 2.0 create innovation ecosystems that become self-fulfilling – where we naturally align leaders, strategies and governance systems to develop caring capacities for taking care of people, taking care of priorities and taking care of this planet.

Download Links, Resources, Connections for Integral City 2.0 Developers at: http://www.integralcity.com/developers/

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