Building social change organisations for resilience and impact
In recent years there has been an explosion of interest in agile and decentralised approaches to self-organising structures. Drawing on systems thinking, information theory, and notions of agility, these approaches have revolutionised practice in traditional organisations from public sector institutions to corporations and businesses. Are those of us working for social change actually falling behind? What can we learn from these approaches that can be harnessed to the values we want to embody? How can we better design our organisations for resilience, agility, and impact?
Organisations play a central role in supporting individuals and groups to come together to learn, act and have an influence towards social, economic and environmental justice. When they work well they multiply our influence, they channel energy, and they promote creative and innovative action. Yet organisations face numerous challenges from sustaining themselves financially, to dedicating time to reflection and learning, and to managing diverse points of view and skills.
Many grassroots organisations reject hierarchies in favour of flat structures and systems, but can suffer a loss of responsiveness, continuity and scope for innovation. New approaches to organisations can help solve those problems. Others theorise about swarming and the power of non-linear dynamics, but often fail to apply them beyond critical moments of spontaneity. The right balance of structure can enable agility and spontaneity, whilst supporting longer term purpose. More traditionally hierarchical organisations often seek to benefit from adopting new self-management methods (like those explored in Frederick Laloux’s Reinventing Organisations), but too often applying these approaches merely mask the old hierarchies. This training will explore these kind of challenges, give you an overview of the field, and build your confidence to find evolve organisations that are agile, resilient, effective and able to embody their values.
Many organisations rely and thrive from successful collaborations or partnerships, and social networks and social media are supporting even greater connectivity between organisations. We will look at how to build valuable and empowering connections between organisations – to create supportive and beneficial relationships. These connections form an important part of strategies for resilience when societal, economic and environmental challenges are deepening.
This course aims to explore some of the key elements that underpin organisational effectiveness and resilience including:
• balancing autonomy and cooperation
• supporting both innovation and conservation
• honouring diversity and commonality
• being rooted in an evolutionary purpose and values
• selecting the structure and systems that will lead to greatest creativity and effectiveness
• providing meaningful work and relationships which enable individuals to flourish
• contribute to healthy working culture and work life balance
The course will explore questions such as:
• How can organisations, networks and formal groups ensure that they are effective and resilient in supporting social change efforts?
• How can our organisations empower individuals and synergise their efforts?
• How can social change organisations ensure that they don’t replicate faults with the business as usual approach?
• How can individuals best contribute to forming, sustaining and ending social change entities without burning out?
• How can our organisations keep learning and evolving?
Who is it for?
• Those who are setting up, or have set up their own organisations, networks or formal groups and wanting to building their understanding of how to ensure their entity is resilient and supports their vision
• Those who advise on or manage aspects of organisations, networks, or groups and would like to explore this area with others, and consider how to best influence change
• Those working in flat structures and taking an active role in improving how they work
• Those interested in, or researching, the area of organisational development within social change
• Those practising mindfulness and interested in how mindfulness or broader contemplative practices can support social change entities.
During the course we will look at a range of organisational methodologies such as Sociocracy and Holacracy, examine systems approaches to organising (as in the work of Margaret Wheatley), unpack case studies and take time to explore how to apply different learning in our own situations.
Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations (2014)
Margaret J. Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World (1999, 2006)
Margaret J. Wheatley, Finding Our Way: Leadership For an Uncertain Time (2005)
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems – A primer (2008)
Charlotte Millar is Head of Training for the New Economy Organisers Network and is a co-founder and strategist with the Finance Innovation Lab. Her specialist fields are strategy, organisation building and leadership. NEON is a network of people working for an economy based on social and economic justice. Its main aims are to connect its members, build their power through training and give them the narratives and media skills to shift the debate. Within this network, Charlotte leads on training NEON members to build the effective and sustainable leaders, organisations and movements needed for large scale change. The Finance Innovation Lab incubates the people, ideas and movements building a financial system that serves people and planet. Charlotte co-led the design of their incubation programme for innovators in alternative finance and specifically focuses on building participants’ collaborative leadership skills. She is also Chair of Positive Money, who campaign for a fair, democratic and sustainable money system. She is also a Trustee of the Public Interest Research Centre, who develop the stories and communication strategies campaigners need to affect deep cultural change. In her limited (!) spare time, Charlotte finds ways to deepen her connection with Buddhism, nature and the arts.
María worked for the Red Cross in community development, strengthening civil society, education, and food security in Latin America and Africa. Building on her studies in social psychology and international development, she studied Alternative Economics at Schumacher College, UK. This led her into work on organisational change with NGOs and grassroots movements. María specialises in complexity and participation applied to organisations: organisational structures and culture, emergent strategy, leadership amongst others. She co-founded The Eroles Project, a learning for action project and La Bolina, a systemic project looking at repopulation, inclusion and agroecology. María´s co-authored: Small is Important: Learnings from an integration and regeneration Project. Factores Clave para la Acción Reflexión Colaborativa, Enfoques y herramientas participativas en la cooperación al desarrollo, Activism and spirituality.
Ruth Cross is co-founder of Eroles Project – an international learning for action centre, and, Asociación La Bolina – a visionary intercultural initiative working to regenerate land and lives through creating social integration and sustainable livelihoods for locals, migrants and refugees in El Valle, Andalucia, Spain. She is the Artistic Director of Cross Collaborations, an award winning arts for change immersive theatre company.
Ruth is an experienced arts activist, social theatre maker, researcher and educator specialising in instigating transformative and regenerative change. She can be found directing immersive performance with migrants and refugees, creating participatory arts action campaigns and coordinating cross-disciplinary projects with organisations, decision-makers, civil society and local communities.
For the last 10 years Ruth has facilitated capacity building training with activists and social movements. She is a research contributor with Schumacher Research in Action community, is a member of the international Delicate Activism community and of Social Arts network ImaginAction. As well as a collaborator with Asociación Solidaria Andaluza de Desarrollo (ASAD).
a holistic approach
Agency, theory and strategy - a deep inquiry
1. A thorny-evergreen flowering shrub, with a high capacity for regeneration and resilience. Its seedpods open in contact with fire and it reshoots from charred stumps. A successionary plant that grows well under challenging conditions. It improves soil fertility through nitrogen fixing, preparing the way for renewed biodiversity.
2. A traditional choice for igniting fires. Burns hot and bright.
3. A networked project adding nutrition and fertility to European social movements through training and capacity building. It kindles the realisation of social justice, ecological intelligence, and cognitive vitality.