From competitive to collaborative advantage: co-creating conditions conducive to life
There is a lot of talk about ‘collaboration’ these days. That is a good thing! We need to shift from thinking about ‘competitive advantage’ to co-creating ‘collaborative advantage’ if we want to create a world that works for all. The converging crises and the potential for synergistic opportunities that societies everywhere — and humanity as a whole — are faced with are of a systemic nature and need systemic solutions.
We cannot solve these problems in the silos of disciplines and sectors. They require diverse stakeholders to work together. They challenge us to think more systemically and dynamically as we embrace uncertainty and the limits of our knowing. They remind us that certainty, predictability and control have been illusions of a fractured way of seeing and limited information about the complex dynamic systems in which we participate. To name just a few of these complex and interconnected issues:
We need to respond to climate change by drawing down carbon into soils, forests and biomaterials.
We need to shift from the use of fossil sources for our materials and energy needs to producing everything we (truly) need from renewable energy and regeneratively grown biomaterials.
We need to address the adverse health effects, societal costs, and erosion of social cohesion that are caused by growing inequality within and between nations.
We need to redesign our economic and monetary system while avoiding a total collapse of national and global economies with all the potential for trauma and populists that manipulate the masses for their own pursuit of power.
On an overpopulated planet facing the real and present danger of runaway irreversible climate change, escalating resource wars, and societal breakdown, the only way to win is to create win-win-win solutions that work for the individual and the collective. Such solutions will restore health and vitality to the whole community of life by regenerating the healthy ecosystems functions on which our societies and economic systems depend. Clearly that requires all of us to learn to collaborate in profound ways.
The time of them-against-us-thinking is over. We are all in this together. We need to create a shared vision and mission that can galvanize collective action, if we want to create a thriving future for all. Collaboration to create diverse regenerative cultures everywhere is in every individual’s enlightened self-interest.
Creating diverse regenerative cultures everywhere does not mean we have to be all the same, to the contrary, as we create elegant solutions that are carefully adapted to the biocultural uniqueness of place, we create vibrant diversity within the unity of a human family ready to take on global challenges by leveraging local and regional opportunities in global collaboration.
Now, allow me to distinguish between collaboration and co-creation. Strangers can collaborate, and as they do and share their visions and passions they begin to understand what gives them meaning in their lives. It is the process of living the questions together from which regenerative cultures can emerge. As communities engage in collaborating for a better future for their communities and for the world, they cease to be strangers and become friends with a shared purpose. That is when co-creation starts!
Co-creation begins when we work with others on a vision that is larger than our own self, our own life, our own family — a vision that benefits ourselves, our community and our world. Importantly this holds for co-creating with the non-human members of the community of life as well. We need to become ecologically literate and learn how to apply nature’s ingenuity to integrated whole systems design and sustainable innovation.
As we engage in regenerating local and regional ecosystems while shifting towards circular bio-materials economies that aim for predominantly regional production for regional consumption, we will regenerate bioregional economies and create meaningful work for many who.
As we design solidarity, collaboration and sharing into the vibrant local businesses networked into scale-linking regenerative business ecologies, we will help to increase social cohesion, as well as, unleash creativity, nurture resilience, encourage innovation.
Co-creation with the community of life in the diverse ecosystems we inhabit — upon which we depend for our survival — will be an important part of creating a thriving future. First and foremost we have to collaborate locally, regionally and globally to restore healthy ecosystems functions and increase bioproductivity everywhere — implementing Sustainable Development Goals 14 (aquatic ecosystems) and 15 (terrestrial ecosystems) — this will avoid runaway climate change and achieve SDG 13 (climate action), and in this process we can — through playing non-zero-sum games for collaborative advantage — implement all the other sustainable development goals in one whole systems approach. As life, we are capable of creating conditions conducive to life!
Daniel Christian Wahl works internationally as a consultant and educator in regenerative whole systems design, and transformative innovation. He holds degrees in biology (Univ. of Edinburgh / Univ. of California) and Holistic Science (Schumacher College) and his 2006 doctoral thesis (Univ. of Dundee) was on Design for Human and Planetary Health. He was director of Findhorn College between 2007 and 2010, and is a member of the International Futures Forum, a fellow of the RSA, a Findhorn Foundation Fellow and on the advisory council of the Ojai Foundation and the Ecosystem Restoration Camps Foundation. Daniel’s clients have included UNITAR (with CIFAL Scotland), UK Foresight (with Decision Integrity Ltd), Ecover (with Forum for the Future), Bioneers (with the Progressio Foundation, and with the Findhorn Foundation), the Dubai Futures Foundation (with Tellart), The Commonwealth Secretariat (with Cloudburst Foundation), Gaia Education, the Global Ecovillage Network, the State of the World Forum, Balears.t, Camper, LUSH and many educational NGOs, universities, and design schools. He is co-founder of Biomimicry Iberia (2012), and has been collaborating with ‘SmartUIB’ at the University of the Balearic Islands since 2014, and works part-time as Gaia Education’s ‘Head of Design & Innovation’ since 2015. His recent book Designing Regenerative Cultures, published by Triarchy Press in the UK in May 2016, has already gained international acclaim, and his blog on Medium has a large international readership.