Global Sensemaking

Tools for Dialogue and Deliberation on Wicked Problems the ears of my ears awake and now the eyes of my eyes are opened

e.e. cummings, XAIPE, 65

I returned to Somerset on Tuesday from a memorable journey to New York for the Personal Democracy Forum conference and Berkeley for the DIAC Tools for Participation conference, awestruck and enthused by the social changes unfolding across the web—and convinced that we face a wave of institutional reform in civil society far deeper than we can begin to imagine.

The journey was memorable too, for the multiple meetings it afforded with fellow global sensemakers, and for the dialogue and promise that flowed through those meetings.

To recap, for those new to the endeavour, the twin perceptions underpinning the global sensemaking network are that:

(i) humanity faces an emerging mess of systemic global challenges—such as, climate change, poverty, peak oil, population pressure, water shortages, declining biodiversity, and failing food supply—that are the product of patterns of thinking and behaviour that no longer make sense.

(ii) we need new tools of thought if we are to adapt to the scale and complexity of these challenges; tools that augment individual intelligence with the structured insights of many minds.

We are collaborating, with anyone who wants to join us, to accelerate the development and implementation of those tools.

A big idea emerged on Saturday evening from the preceding flow of dialogue with Mark Aakhus, Peter Baldwin, Simon Buckingham Shum, Jeff Conklin, Bob Horn, Luca Iandoli, Mark Klein, Anna De Liddo, George Mobus, Jack Park, Jack Paulus, Al Selvin, Brian Sullivan, Andy Streich, and Mark Szpakowski—the kind of idea that has no single author and that is a product of the co-mindedness and co-presence of all.

In essence, the idea is to:

(1) Distil and map humanity’s current best understanding (from all sides of the debate) of the problems and potential responses to the social mess of environmental, energy and economic challenges that we face in the build up to the UN conference on climate change in Copenhagen in 2009.

(2) Embody the map of this material in two three-dimensional spaces (off- and on-line) that the relevant political leaders, policy makers, and rest of us can explore in a highly immersive and intellectually and viscerally compelling form. One embodiment will fill a large event arena with the map on the floor forming branching pathways that lead the participants through the problem / solution space supported by a rich array of multimedia exhibits. The second will build on the first in an online, explorable, immersive, and continuously updatable 3D-space akin to Second Life.

(3) Draw together the leading scientists, stakeholders, politicians, policy makers, mappers, programmers, event managers, artists and funders necessary to deliver on the promise of this idea.

The scale and complexity of the challenges we face require an unprecedented, concentrated, creative response of a kind that lies beyond the scope of conventional policy making approaches and patterns. Work is starting within the group to assemble the necessary talents to realise this ambitious goal: and there is an open invitation to join us.

There is little time to lose.

Cross-posted on the Global Sensemaking blog.

Views: 89

Comment by Andy Streich on July 5, 2008 at 3:46
UN conference on climate change in Copenhagen in 2009 is from 30 November to 11 December 2009. The "big idea" needs to be organized, created, delivered, and setup in 16 months. That's a very short amount of time to go from idea to realization. Let's get to work! Who's taking the lead?
Comment by George E. Mobus on July 5, 2008 at 4:49
I found the idea of a workshop in which we bring potential users of the sensemaking tools together with our group of sensemaking tool developers appealing. Perhaps in addition to simply testing ideas about how the users would like to use such tools, we can focus the workshop on constructing a Version 1.0 Global Challenges Space Map. Some of us could take it (assuming we develop something!) and construct a real life version for display - a project where college and high school students might enter a contest to develop displays of the nodes in the map for inclusion in the final product - and others could do the same in 2nd Life or its equivalent.

I would be happy to guide organization of the workshop, and Luca has volunteered to help. It would be a first step. Looking for ideas of time and who to invite. I will be checking first thing next week on venue possibilities but will need to home in on size and calendar time.

BTW: Tom Friedman has been up to his own brand of sensemaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival. I think he has identified the challenges and their relative importance, but he continues to believe in the magic wand of technology as the great savior. I still struggle with how people's experience with the results of Moore's law somehow translates into their belief (faith) that all technological advances must follow the same pattern. People want to believe Moore's law somehow replaces the second law of thermodynamics when it comes to energy matters. Maybe when the dust settles policy wonks will be more inclined to listen to physicists!
Comment by Andy Streich on July 5, 2008 at 7:43
I realize not everyone may have had time to fully digest the meeting(s), recover from the trip, catch up on missed work, etc. When possible, though, I'd love to know more. Always interested in details, and given the number of people who attended would like to hear your different takes on the experience.
Comment by David Price on July 5, 2008 at 23:52
Andy and George,

Thanks for the feedback. I'm starting to explore funding options for this already, and, in line with George's suggestion, think that we should aim to put the timetable in place for the workshop as soon as practical; viewing the workshop (and the preparation for it) as an initial prototyping phase.

One option might be to aim to schedule George's workshop later this year as a stepping stone to the event that Simon is planning in Edinburgh in early 2009.

Three other significant dates to bear in mind in the build up to Copenhagen:

6 November 2008 (Brussels): 2nd Roadmap to Copenhagen Conference

1 - 12 December 2008 (Poznań): COP14

Summer 2009 (La Maddalena, Italy): G8 Summit


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