Community Transformation

The concept of “comprehensive community transformation” (CCT) is an idea that has emerged from twenty years of COTF collaboration with many colleagues, organizations and communities throughout the U.S. and other countries.  The basic concept for CCT is that the fast-pace of transformational change in our society and economy requires a deep level of collaboration not previously required. For any community to insure its vitality and sustainability in an increasinlgy complex and connected age, there will need to be more than projects and tradtional strategic planning…there will need to be “parallel processes” involved with seeding transformational thinking and action in the follow community arenas:

a) Transformational Learning

“The COTF concept of Transformational Learning is evolving as a new system of 21st century learning that can be seeded in parallel to traditional education. Transformational Learning maintains the importance of core curricula content           ( with an integration of weak signals and future trends ), and, at the same time, introduces new competencies such as  1) connective listening and thinking within a futures context, 2) learning how to ask appropriate questions to connect disparate ideas, people and organizations in a dance of continuous innovation, and 3) developing new skills of a) futures generative dialogue, b) parallel processes and c) understanding impacts of future trends. Capacities for TL in schools and communities are initiated in small core groups, introduce new language, emphasize the use of generative dialogue, develop and/both thinking, and establishes a focus on moving beyond “one best answers” to provide multiple solutions to new ideas as well as existing issues. We believe TL will undergird how educators will need to prepare students for a 21st century society that is more fast-paced, interconnected and increasingly complex.”

b) Master Capacity Builder

Master Capacity Builders (MCB) are “transformational leaders” who are focused on building “capacities for transformation” in the thinking and action of people, organizations and communities to be able to adapt to a different kind of future that is emerging. The concepts of parallel processes, looking for access points, designing complex adaptive systems, seeding transformational ideas, identifying weak signals, considering issues within a futures context…..all of these are skills and knowledge important to any MCB.
c) Creative Molecular Economy

At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, a totally new type of economy organized around biological principles is forming.

The concepts of “global innovation networks,” “instant, small batch manufacturing (3-D),” ”genomic engineering,” “nanotechnology,” and “advanced computerization such as augmented reality,” are the cornerstones of a fluid and dynamic type of economy where individuals and small groups will constantly connect and disconnect in projects and processes of continuous innovation.

As a result, the focus of the emerging Creative Molecular Economy will be to create a local culture constantly open to new ideas, methods and techniques, as well as to evolve an “innovation ecosystem” of interlocking networks of 21st century entrepreneurs.

d) Mobile Collaborative Governance

With the advent of mobile communications technologies, the next stage of democracy will evolve into three levels of use:

  • As a way for elected officials and staff to access information more effectively from interested citizens on existing issues (reforming, not transformational).
  • As a process to design and implement research and development projects around emerging issues important to the future of local areas (futures projects).
  • As a new platform for a five phase community-based process to:
  1. Identify the most important issues for any community annually.
  2. Establish a face-to-face and virtual “citizens congress” for teams to identify key factors important to the number one issue resulting from Phase A. Each team would have a “futures facilitator” able to add key trends, weak signals and transformational factors without manipulating outcome of the group.
  3. Each “citizen congress” team would be given an expected time frame to develop a strategy to resolve the issues based on the multiple factors that had been defined.
  4. Representatives from each team (elected by the group) would meet with core facilitators to review all strategies and reduce to minimum number.
  5. Those minimum strategies would be voted on by citizens who sign up using their mobile phones.

e) Community Based Wellness (pH Ecosystem)

To build capacities for transformation of our healthcare system at the local level requires a newly conceived system of healthcare based on the principles of CAS. The concept of resiliency for both individuals and communities, the ability to adapt quickly to changing conditions, will be important in an emerging and  increasingly fast-paced, interconnected and complex world.

When we begin to view healthcare in this way, the more we see that even programs focused on encouraging individuals to eat healthy, get physically active, and quit smoking will not be enough to bring about health and wellness across an entire community. Complex community issues e.g. homelessness, poverty, poor nutrition, addiction, environmental pollution, isolation etc. will also need to addressed as they also impact health.

As a result it becomes clear that health and wellness is everyone’s responsibility – government at all levels, individuals, families, communities, service providers, non-profit organizations, elected officials, and business and industry will all need to play a role if healthcare is to move in a new direction.

The future of healthcare must shift from an emphasis on intervention to a preventive, treatment and care system that reduces the impact of social, economic, and environmental factors and strengthens community resiliency by including the following elements:

  • leadership at both the “grasstops” and “grassroots” of our communities that emphasizes the leadership and community building required for comprehensive community transformation;
  • interlocking collaborative networks of active and engaged citizens involved in knowledge building and prevention activities, as well as treatment and care.
  • a network of 21st century neighborhood academies instilling futures/transformational thinking, integrated delivery systems. and action throughout a local community;
  • promoting greater system dialogue and response to emerging issues and leading practices by establishing local and regional health and community integration networks and webs that will encourage “meshwork” by supporting state and national dialogue, knowledge transfer, provision of a collective voice, quality, and sustainability;
  • futures oriented activities, projects and programs involving citizens in fun and engaging ways (being healthy does not have to be an arduous task.);
  • a “physical and virtual centerpiece” for healthcare prevention and treatment; that is “holistic” (comprehensive) in nature to encourage local leaders and citizens to shift into a new paradigm of thinking about healthcare, moving beyond traditional approaches.

f) Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS)

Scott E Page from the University of Michigan provides us with a definition of a CAS.  According to Page, a CAS is a system where the individual components have four main properties.

  • First, the individual components are interconnected. They form networks in which each component has some connection or relationship to other components. In the murmuration of starlings, each bird has neighboring birds that it can see, hear, and feel.
  • Second, they are interdependent. It is not enough to be connected, the components must influence each other. When starlings are flocking, the flight pattern of each bird is highly dependent on the fight patterns of nearby birds.
  • Third, the components that make up the system must be diverse. This diversity is often expressed in variable response thresholds. So while a murmuration only contains starlings, each bird will respond to the behaviors of other birds with a different sensitivity.
  • Finally, the components must be able to adapt. They must change over time and this change is the result of the interactions they have with the other parts of the system. A starling flying in a flock must continuously change its speed, direction, altitude, and its sensitivity in response to the behavior of others.

A living organism is a self-organized CAS (complex adaptive system) with all its parts interacting. The whole bears no resemblance in shape or function to its individual parts. The individual parts cannot exhibit the same behaviors as the whole system. The flock of starlings does not look or act like an individual bird, and the individual starling cannot produce flocking behavior.