Creating Ripples of Change in the World!

Anyone else out there not really paying attention to US politics?  Sure, you plan to vote.  But it somehow feels far from relevant in a world where deeper and more significant change is unfolding around us — despite an utterly dysfunctional and toxic political culture in the United States.  I am so glad to be operating in the health and joy of the solution space instead.

I’d like to share a little of what we’ve been up to these last few months while literally billions of dollars are being thrown down the drain in an effort to persuade, distract, disempower, and coddle voters to come out for one candidate or another in November.  Contrary to what the media purports (and so many spend their time on by posting constantly to Facebook and Twitter about the latest “scandal” or “viral video”) there is a much more empowering story to be aware of and participate in.  We don’t need to remain in the throwaway culture of contemporary politics to be part of the change we’ve all been waiting for.

That story can be glimpsed in the populist uprisings from last year.  Arab Spring and Occupy revealed a capacity for self-organization that goes beyond anything we could have imagined.  Yet, they felt incomplete and premature at the same time.  This is because they were an early wave amongst many new ripples yet to come  So what is this story?  Stated simply:

Humanity is going through what scholar Jeremy Rifkin calls an “empathic surge“.  We are birthing a new configuration of communication tools, manufacturing and distribution processes, and cultural capacities that enable us to fully live as global citizens.  In a very real sense, we are growing up as a civilization and moving beyond the adolescent stage of consumer capitalism and into one of social responsibility embedded in global consciousness.

This transition has been a long time coming.  We have lived within a paradigm of domination and exploitation since the birth of agriculture, as I’ve described here, without the ability to establish and enforce social sanctions on destructive behavior in the complex social structures that replaced hunter-gatherer society.  Only now are we able to deploy real-time collective actions on the global stage through the use of smart devices, digital communication, and social media.  We can finally begin to architect the Great Transition of the 21st Century.

As many of you know, I have focused my work on the applications of cognitive science and complexity research to tackling global challenges that confront humanity.  When I created Cognitive Policy Works four years ago, my goal was to incubate and spread a new set of best practices for political engagement, advocacy campaigns, and organizational strategy.  I sure have gotten a lot more than I bargained for!   Now I get to work with innovative social businesses, globally-focused research centers, and online social movements spanning the globe.  What I’ve found is nothing less than a global pattern of change that feels great to be a part of.

In the last few months, I have kept extremely busy managing several parallel projects.  Among them are (1) incubation of a global research center whose mission is to simulate and visualize changes to the entire earth; (2) forge early partnerships to birth a regionally-focused partner institution that focuses on resilience planning for the Pacific Northwest (details coming soon); (3) lead an amazing team of frame analysts in preparations for a global anti-poverty campaign called /The Rules that launches this fall; (4) partner with the Sydney-based consulting team at Shift Space to deploy frame-based methodologies into Australia’s NGO sector; and (5) collaborate with meme researchers at darwinSF to begin developing new tools for analyzing deep changes in culture and help good ideas spread far and wide.

All of these activities are creating ripples of change.  It invigorates me every day and keeps me swimming in a sea of passionate, creative, and highly impactful agents of change.  You can do this too!  There is no longer a need to settle for reactionary campaigns that waste vital resources and ultimately reinforce the status quo.  I encourage you to seek out the solution makers in your community and start making waves of your own.  Here are some global trends that could benefit from a little reinforcement — and where you can really make your presence known:

  • Surge in Cosmopolitanism  ::   Practice living in the mindspace of our pluralistic, multicultural, and increasingly urbanized world.
  • Rise of Eco-Consciousness  ::  Move “beyond green” and talk about the world as a vastly complex, fully interconnected ecosystem with humans as part of the larger whole.
  • Women Claiming Leadership Roles  ::  Celebrate the women who run for public office, launch businesses, create community spaces, and make themselves heard.  And if you happen to be a woman, claim your own power and strengthen the trend.
  • Spread the Culture of Collaboration  ::  Give your ideas away.  Practice radical openness.  Participate in business models based on sharing.  Better yet, start one of your own.
  • Call Out the Bullies and the Bigots  ::  Keep shouting out the nonsense of hatred against gays, suppression of women, blaming the poor.  Evoke compassion and promote human dignity as the right way to be instead.
  • Tell the REAL Human Story  ::  Gather an arsenal of facts and insights about human cognition.  Challenge antiquated notions of “rational action” and other misguided theories of human nature.  Declare our social and moral nature as natural and legitimate.

These patterns are but a sampling of the trends that will shape the future of humanity.  We have entered a precarious stage in our young global civilization and much is at risk.  The recent plague of floods and droughts, heat waves and wild fires, remind us that we have altered the planet in profound ways and our future prospects for humanity are questionable at best.  Just because the transition has begun doesn’t mean a positive outcome is inevitable.  Indeed, the best ecological science keeps revealing that the problems are more severe and unfolding more quickly with each new report.  We’ve really got our work cut out for us!

If you’ve been waiting for this generation’s “fierce urgency of now”, this is it.  What we do to accelerate political and economic change in the next few years will likely decide the fate of our species and all future generations.  It’s really that serious.  We don’t have time for distractions, no matter how enthralling that new Samuel L. Jackson video is.  We’ve got to keep stepping up our game and taking it to new levels.  Yes, we gave ourselves the first African American president four years ago.  And we are showing strong signs that we’ll keep him around for a second term.  But that is not going to be enough.  This is the moment for bold vision and global collective action.

Go forth and make waves!


Cognitive Policy Works specializes in providing organizations and individuals with frame analysis, policy briefs, strategic advising, and training.