Toward A Science of Intentional Change

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Humans have literally changed the face of Earth — even when viewed from the far reaches of outer space.

Humanity needs a science of intentional cultural change. The only way for us to arrive at a thriving planetary future is through a deliberate, well-designed, collective process. Otherwise the 7.4 billion of us alive today (and our descendants) will not successfully navigate the complexities of 21st Century globalization.

The mission of the Culture Design Labs we are creating is to monitor, analyze, and design effective patterns of cultural change — using the rigor of academic research to change the trajectory of the real world in practical terms. Accomplishing this will require a collaborative network of researchers and design practitioners helping guide humanity through the paradigm shift that is needed for our collective survival.

Humanity is now confronted with a set of wicked problems that are complex interdependent, and global. Examples include human-caused climate change, ocean acidification, resource wars, the breakdown of ecosystems, mass migrations, the rise of fascism, failed nation states, massive wealth inequality, global poverty, and the corrupting influences of money in politics, to name a few. With an exploding population, rising demand, depleted supply, and a political-economic imperative to make profit for a few off the labor of the many we are on a path toward global overshoot-and-collapse.

This means the end of everything we value for ourselves, our communities, and all future generations.

We must do better. But how?

We need systemic solutions that work with natural evolutionary processes to design cultural change tactics and strategies.

Luckily, just as the need is most urgent, new developments in the study and management of social complexity finally make it possible to apply design thinking to the great global crisis. This has already been done on the local scales using team management, group facilitation, and organizational development tools.

Now is the time to do it at the level of bioregions, global trade networks, and for the management of planetary assets like the Amazon rainforest and the world’s ocean.

An Example — Watching Economic Ideas Spread

The stories we tell about economic systems have strong influences on the policies that get adopted by governments and the management practices of investors, entrepreneurs, and employees within organizations.

Powerful tools exist for studying discourse that reveal how these stories are structured, where they come from, how they are reinforced (or marginalized) in learning environments like business curricula, as processes of inculturation through myths and fairy tales taught to children, and in the framing of media stories in the press.

The Culture Design Labs will bring together researchers like data scientists who study social analytics on the web and linguists who reveal the logic of narratives in the frames and metaphors that are commonly used in a given culture. This kind of research is readily applicable in media creation for culture change campaigns and to guide the formulation of crisis management policies.

We are now in the planning stage for creating the first Culture Design Lab with my partners at /TheRules. Among the expert knowledge and methodologies we will deploy are:

  • Cultural Evolutionary Studies :: How ideas, behaviors, and practices spread across social systems while evolving through selection and fitness processes.
  • Complexity Science and Systems Thinking :: How interacting parts give rise to systemic behavior through feedback loops and governing dynamics.
  • Cognitive and Behavioral Sciences :: How the workings of the human mind shape perception and belief and the manner in which social networks influence behavior.
  • Scenario Planning and Group Facilitation :: How groups work together to create shared agendas and while tracking trends and patterns that help them make sense of what is changing in the world.

We are currently in the exploratory phase of planning and will incubate this research center through a series of experimental projects with partner organizations in our network.

The principal partners at this stage are:

  1. The Evolution Institute :: A think tank with the mission of applying evolutionary thinking to everyday life.
  2. The Rules :: A global network of activists and organizers focused on addressing the root causes of inequality and poverty.
  3. The Cultural Evolution Society :: A community of researchers and design practitioners interested in the advancement of cultural evolutionary studies.
  4. The Empathy Surplus Project :: A grassroots community-based organization in Ohio working to spread compassion and empathy in local politics.
  5. Evonomics Magazine :: An online communication platform for the science of new economic thinking based on evolution and complexity science.

Feel free to contact me if you’d like to get involved and help make the Culture Design Lab a success in 2016 and beyond.


Joe Brewer
The Evolution Institute

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I am a change strategist working on behalf of humanity, and also a complexity researcher, cognitive scientist, and evangelist for the field of culture design.

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