A Bottom-Up Grand Strategy to Reinvent the Planet
Building Second Order Change Capacity Around the Five Strategic Levers:
Climate, Development, Peace, Knowledge and Money
“’Listen, dear one,’ it whispers. ‘You only think you have forgotten the impossible. Go now, to that marsh beyond Fresh Pond and consider how the red burgeons into crimson; go see how it’s been preparing forever for today.’” – Lisa Starr, Rhode Island Poet Laureate
Humanity is at a critical juncture in our evolution. Unless we rapidly change our trajectory as a species, our civilization will unravel. In many parts of the world this has already begun. The question is how do we change? It’s not like we have not tried. There are many dedicated and heroic change makers pouring their hearts and souls in trying to change the world, but they struggle to get traction. Yet they keep using the same approaches over and over again. What if the problem was not the world’s unwillingness to change, but the approaches we use to bring about change? What if how we thought about social change and what people were capable of achieving was the problem?
If we wish to change the world, we need to change the way we think about change. The mindset for a new approach is best described in this provocative Apple ad: “Here’s to the crazy ones. They see things differently. Are not fond of rules. And have no respect for the status quo. While some may see them as the crazy ones ... the one’s who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do!” These are two questions the crazy ones must ask if we want to change the world.
To answer these questions requires us to better understand the nature of social change, how it is currently practiced and where an opportunity exists for it to evolve. From a social change point of view the world is a composite of many social systems. These include financial systems, political systems, health care systems, education systems, etc. These social systems were created at a time when the world was much simpler and easier to navigate. The complexity and discord in the world today has placed multiple stresses on these systems that they were not designed to meet.
When a social system is deeply stressed it becomes unstable and starts to oscillate. This unmoors it from its foundation and it begins to break down and become marginally functional or dysfunctional. The US political system is the poster child for a broken social system. But the other social systems are not far behind. The climate change crisis on the planet is the culmination of multiple broken social systems that are forcing humanity to take a hard look at the dysfunction we have created.
When a social system is not tethered to something that keeps it in place, it cannot only break down; it can also break through and evolve to a higher level of performance and social value. In systems theory this is called second order change and in this context, transformative social change. The alternative is first order change or incremental social change. I call these two approaches to social change – “social change 2.0” and “social change 1.0.”
Social change 1.0 consists of the traditional social change tools of passing laws, financial incentives, awareness campaigns and social protest. At their best, which is certainly not the norm, these tools are able to achieve incremental change. In a business as usual world this is how humanity muddles along. Although necessary, this approach to social change is insufficient in a world that requires fundamental transformation in order to avoid what climate scientists fear as species extinction for our social experiment. Not to mention in transforming the multitude of social problems that make living on this planet profoundly dehumanizing for so many and which are immune to first order change solutions.
So if you can’t achieve the transformative social change needed on our planet through forcing people to change, paying them to change, raising their awareness in hopes that they will change or shaming them into changing, what is left? Unfortunately for so many it is despair, apathy and pessimism. But what if we could empower people to want to change? What if we could help people tap into their innate desire for a better life, community and world? What if we could support people to create a vision of these dreams realized that was so compelling they were effortlessly pulled toward them? What if we then provided people the tools to attain these dreams? This is empowerment in action! It provides people with the agency that is at the heart of social change 2.0.
Over the past four decades I have been developing second order change solutions that empower individuals, neighborhoods, organizations, cities and countries to want to change. Each of these social innovations was designed to transform a high leverage social or environmental issue and when brought to scale have a huge positive impact on the future of humanity. Although I had not realized it at the time, I had intuitively been working on the five strategic levers that could help us achieve the audacious goal of reinventing our planet.
As part of this journey I wrote a book called Social Change 2.0: A Blueprint for Reinventing Our World that provides case studies of these transformative social innovations and a framework for how to implement second order change solutions around any social issue, particularly those that seem intractable. It turns out I was also creating the blueprint for this reinventing the planet plan.
Humanity has an urgent need for transformation now! With these five game-changing social innovations ready to scale and a blueprint for scaling them, I believe all systems are go for the seemingly impossible to now become possible. Here’s an overview of this bottom up grand strategy to reinvent the planet with videos and websites for a deeper dive into each of the five levers.
Bringing each of these five strategic levers to scale is a demanding undertaking to say the least. We also find ourselves at a moment in time when the social and environmental stresses are so pronounced that they have become forcing functions to accelerate human evolution. In evolutionary biology this is called punctuated equilibrium – a time when rapid change suddenly becomes possible.
In September 2015 the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 were launched. For the first time in our history as a species we have created a set of measurable goals that aspires to nothing less then dramatically evolving the experience of humanity on the planet. The world is now searching for the means to implement the magnitude and speed of transformative social change these goals demand. We are simultaneously struggling with the fear that the future these goals seek to create is quickly eluding our grasp.
This plan to reinvent the planet provides humanity with a road map, strategies and tools to simultaneously achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and create our dreams for the world. It also enables us to regain control of our destiny and transform the mentality of victimhood and fear so prevalent on our planet into hope and excitement about the future. To create the future we want, we need to believe it is possible. This experience of agency is radically different from how we have ever lived on the Earth. At the deepest level, developing agency as a human species is the most profound evolutionary change the Reinventing the Planet plan will further. And ultimately what will create the transformation we seek.
Reinventing the planet is an idea whose time has come. We can do this! Please join us in the great adventure of our time. Many hands make light work.