Very often when I talk about the need for a more deep-rooted, ecological mindset across provision of a range of cultural, environmental, educational or health services, there is resistance, which is spoken in various ways:
‘It’s too radical/political for our managers/customers/funders/councillors’.
‘I agree with you but I can’t risk my job if I try to implement this approach.’
‘People don’t think like this, so haven’t asked for it. We believe in giving them what they ask for’.
‘I agree with you on all the things (e.g. safer parks/cleaner air/healthy food/hope for our children), but I don’t know what we have to do to get all the things to happen together.’
It’s clear that most of us don’t have a clear grasp of what is involved in system change to an economy and society that is more commons-based, more environmentally connected and locally resilient. But how does this resistance happen, and how can this change?
I’m really interested to discover more about these barriers, and opportunities to overcome them. What would it take for places to embrace regenerative, eco-literate and connected approaches, to enable a thrivable culture and economy for their communities? What would be involved in shifting enough people from the current mindset to a ‘possible mindset’?
Thinking about this through our Flow Three Lenses tool:
Ideal external conditions might be described as…well-resourced and economically flourishing places, that are green, healthy and attractive. There is a provision of different cultural offers, and opportunities to set up enterprises that do well. Practical barriers to access to services (e.g. Culture, Education and Health) are lifted for everyone.
- The current mindset is that such a flourishing local place depends on an economically successful nation, within a growth-based economy, and an equal distribution of GDP across the regions.
- A ‘possible mindset’ would be informed by concepts of a Regenerative economy, which helps future-proof communities to adapt to environmental uncertainties, and to actively contribute to a thriving planet.
- Will conscious assumptions expand to include the idea that flourishing local places depend on a stable Earth system? (And that it urgently needs to be stabilised…)
Ideal relational (or educational) conditions might be described as…organisations, offers and relationships that nurture capacities so that people mature to have self-efficacy, to learn new skills fast, and to interact better with other people and the world.
- The current mindset is that this depends on curricula geared to young people gaining relevant knowledge and skills for a high tech future, and their teachers developing professionally and harnessing technology.
- A possible mindset might embrace eco-literacy as a core capacity informing the other capacities.
- Will conscious assumptions expand to the idea that ‘interacting better’ with the world includes ‘more-than-human’ beings so that the purpose of learning is ‘bigger than self’?
Ideal internal (or personal) conditions might be described as…contexts that reinforce compassionate and empathetic values, and resilient attitudes in people.
- The current mindset is that this depends upon deliberate creation of a moral and/or enriching community in which all can thrive, aided by opportunities to access play and self-expression. (Views vary, of course, between more or less discipline or freedom.)
- A possible mindset is to embrace connectedness as a core value.
- Will conscious assumptions expand to include bioempathy as the main motivating pulse behind compassion for others, both human and more-than-human?
As you can see from a lot of recent posts, I’ve been thinking about how change in people or organisations happens through levels or steps, and through the application of systemic frameworks for change.
My thinking is that ‘readiness’ to embrace the possible mindset could be plotted on a ‘spectrum of transformation’:
- Defiantly resistant: Seeing these terms and concepts as anathema, because they work against social mobility for people in a preferable world of continued industrial growth
- Unaware: Well-meaning and responsive but none of these (or related) terms and concepts are on their radar
- Shocked and cracking: Anxious about environmental changes but with no grasp of what can be thought or done as an alternative
- Shifted attitudes: Conscious of the need to shift, and actively seeking concepts and paths of action
- Implementing a thrivable culture: On the path, with buy-in from others and these terms and concepts being used
- Leading the way: Actively creating a successful thrivable culture, confidently using these terms and concepts, and sharing strategies.
This thinking is informed by Susanne Cook-Greuter’s Nine Levels of Increasing Embrace in Ego-Development, from Impulsiveness to Unitivity:
Predicting what might possibly happen in the near future (again using the Three Lenses):
- The external world forces change: I predict that people will generally shift somewhat along this spectrum in the next year as the environment has jolted more obviously into an emergency. However, most people will still lack concepts and strategies to respond, because their context or milieu has not shifted, and because fears will throw up barriers…
- People’s capacities depend on context: I think that readiness to embrace the possible mindset will vary according to role, artform/sector or location, because some groupings of people may share a strong emerging awareness of this thinking within their partnerships, others may have partial awareness (e.g. human-centric) and others may be dominated by conservatism. The bigger the partnership the more mixed or confused the agendas are likely to be, and leading practice is more likely to be seen in small organisations or individual practitioners.
- Inner values can be driven by fear: I suspect that because many Cultural & education sector workers will be distressed themselves by the global crisis, and project this onto others, they may overemphasise the role of arts & culture to soothe, heal and distract, rather than having concrete ideas about how they can help people become resilient to a fast-changing reality.
And finally, what interests me is how readiness to embrace the possible mindset can be affected by interventions in particular places. For example, will the changes happening in Preston, where the council is encouraging co-operative businesses to be set up, create the conditions for a more ecological way of thinking?