Marilyn Hamilton (2008). Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers.
About Integral City
Integral City describes the city as if it were a whole system, the human equivalent of the bee hive. It proposes an integral meta-framework to reframe cities as resilient, vibrant human habitats. In the context of climatic/geographic life conditions, it explores the intentions, behaviors, cultures and social systems of individuals and groups in the city. It integrates the sciences of living systems, complexity, human development and energy fields, to optimize the emergence and sustainability of human capacities in the city for now and the future.
Earlier this year, I approached fellow Canadian Marilyn Hamilton about an idea to co-write a chapter about the invisible forces that give shape to the city for a collaborative book, Cities to Last. I outlined my thoughts for the structure and emailed it off. It wasn’t long before I heard back from her. Yes, she was interested. Attached to her email was a draft copy of her forthcoming book, Integral Cities. She modestly suggested that I have a look through it to see if there was something we could use.
Indeed there was. In fact, the problem for me in wanting to collaborate on this subject was that there was very little room left to play! Her book was so comprehensive, so thorough and interesting that I quickly discovered there was very little I could add to the vast territory she had already enmeshed. True to her character, she left no stones unturned and had woven so many deep concepts together into a cohesive whole that our ‘collaboration’ was destined to be rather one-sided.
The good news for those interested in integral thinking about cities is that they are sure to find in this work an exemplary application of integral theory into a highly relevant, specific field of inquiry. True to its title, the book itself is as dynamic and rich as a human hive. While I am somewhat biased in my favorable assessment, I am not alone. Early reviewers have also glowed about the book. Nancy Roof, the Founding Editor at Kosmos Journal says that “Marilyn Hamilton amazes us with the depth and breadth of her vision, her mastery of the integral paradigm, and her pragmatic suggestions for creating cities of the future.” Exactly.
Marilyn and I sat down earlier this month to discuss her book and explore her thinking about the cities, those vast hives where more than 60 percent of humanity now call home.
Jordan MacLeod: It is great to sit down at last and have this chat about your new book Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive. I believe it is coming out in two weeks, is that right?
Marilyn Hamilton: Yes, that is what I was told.
JM: For those readers who have not yet seen or heard about the book, here is a synopsis to get you up to speed:
“Integral City describes the city as if it were a whole system like the human equivalent of the bee hive. It proposes an integral meta-framework to reframe cities as resilient, vibrant human habitats. In the context of climatic/geographic life conditions, it explores the intentions, behaviors, cultures and social systems of individuals and groups in the city. It integrates the sciences of living systems, complexity, human development and energy fields, to optimize the emergence and sustainability of human capacities in the city for now and the future.”
Before we get started, I wanted to tell you that when you first sent me a draft earlier in the year, I was very impressed by how the book succeeded so well in weaving so many deep concepts together into a cohesive whole. The book is true to its title as it is as dynamic and rich as a human hive.
Another thing that came to mind was the time when we first met back in 2001, just shortly after 9/11. We were attending a Spiral Dynamics workshop in Boulder with Don Beck. Steve McIntosh was also in our group and it was pretty cool earlier this year to see you send this draft just as he was in the process of releasing his first book. It is encouraging to see both of you bringing the theory increasingly into the world. Do you see that as a general trend that is picking up pace?
MH: I must say that I was also tickled when you sent me that note and I was starting to realize that there must be something in the water that we drank while we were there, because you are also in the process of writing a book or two. I do think there is a rise in the integral framing and I just came back from the Integral Theory and Action Conference. I was presenting there and Steve was there as well. 500 scholar practitioners attended with one hundred fourteen presentations. So we were able to see everything from research to leadership in action to applications from all of the quadrants with people from around the world. For those of us who feel like maybe we labored in isolation for a long time it was a great outing to see this integral theory come alive.
Even in Vancouver, close to where I live, I know a minister of a church who is using integral theory and has written a book. I know someone who is running an integral healing center, and there is BC Healthy Communities using an integral framework. So I definitely see it coming up all over the place right now.
JM: That’s most encouraging to hear. I wish I’d been able to make it to that conference.
MH: Well, there will be another one in two years. I suspect you’ll be presenting there!
JM: I’d definitely be open to that. Tell us, why did you write the book? What benefits do you see it bringing to those working in an urban context?
MH: Well, I wrote the book for several reasons. I felt like I had a calling to do this. My own career has taken me through the study and practice of leadership, of teamwork, of organizational development and community development. And there seemed to be a natural emergence one day and I had the idea that why don’t I see if I can pull all of these systems together and see what it looks like at the city scale.
As I thought about that I also realized that one of the great dilemmas was I couldn’t really see the city as a whole. I really felt the need to try and appreciate the city from a whole systems perspective. As I contemplated the nature of the integral model, which is quite fractal, I thought that if this really works we should be able to see the city through these lenses. So I set out from a calling and the challenge and then it became also a personal dare—could I really do this?
JM: What is the urban mindset that currently prevails in urban planning?
MH: It’s really interesting, because I had tried walking in the front door of the city with these ideas in a number of different circumstances and found there was a good deal of resistance to the mindset of what I am trying to express. I also came back from a conference in July which was the Canadian Institute of Planners Conference. They had the leading edge of the planning community at that conference which is often typified as the New Urbanism. What I was able to see, this time more than the others when I have presented there, is that I have described a whole new paradigm for the city. Those who are talking about New Urbanism are more talking about what we would say in Spiral Dynamics terms is a level 6 view of the city, still as embedded in the worldview of social networks. They look at and use some aspects of complexity but still in a very fragmented way. So they haven’t pulled all of the different specialized ways of looking at the city into one framework.
That’s how I started to realize that “Oh, I am talking about something that is exponentially different. Another order of looking at the city.”
JM: Right. This is definitely taking urbanism to a different level. Going back to your observation about the level 6 New Urbanism, is there something there that is addressing current problems?
MH: That’s a great question. Looking at city design and city planning, it is still focused on bricks and mortar. Those who are doing the New Urbanism are definitely bringing in the social networking and the people aspects of a level 6 view. They still really haven’t integrated them very seamlessly into the lower right quadrant. Trying even to get workshops where planners will sit in a different way than a power based theater layout of a plenary session is a challenge.
One of my colleagues at the Planner Conference tried to get one of the leaders to do a workshop in a circle, which she has been used to using for dialogue. There was strong resistance. He could talk the talk but really found it hard to walk the talk. Or in this case sit the talk!
One of the things that the integral framework offers is the ability to look at things from all four quadrants. Not just the structural or infrastructural of the lower right, but also the cultural of the lower left and the intentional and behavioral of the upper left and right.
This brings in the possibility to see the city through multiple perspectives. From the individual and the collective, from the interior and the exterior. And this opens up, I would say, a much more energetic and lively conversation about the city.
JM: And from there you can see how every aspect of the city and every stakeholder fit as a part of the whole. This further reveals the shortcomings of approaches that fail to do so, that are unable to see the whole.
MH: That’s right. Our tendency is to think about cities right at the street level. That is one and a major reality. But certainly one of the aspects of my own life in the last number of years that has helped me to reframe the city is a lot of flying from city to city. So looking down from that plane and actually looking at the city from a 30,000 foot altitude, along with, the development of satellite imagery and even Google Earth has offered this capacity to see the city with this zooming in and zooming out perspective. And once you’ve started to zoom to different levels of altitude you take in more or inspect more closely. It gives you multiple perspectives but different scales and different resolutions to understand the city.
Think about the kind of pixilated resolution you get on a computer screen. If you see the city as being made up of millions of pixels and think about representing me as only one pixel, one person, what is my experience in the city? It is very subjective and very narrow. Versus, if you look at the whole picture altogether from 30,000 feet, taking in all the pixels, what do you see in the city? When I started to think this way, I started to see, only recently, in the past couple of months, new imagery jumping out at me. I’m able to see the city as a very living, dynamic place that’s not just about the bricks and mortar.
JM: This brings to mind your father who you give credit for being the inspiration behind the book because you frequently traveled with him when you were younger.
MH: Well it’s really interesting. When I was in Winnipeg at that conference this summer, I was walking down Main Street towards a museum that my father had opened. My father was in the museum field and was a political historian. As I grew up I had the world’s experts on human history and culture at my dinner table as regular guests. I just took that all for granted. It’s only in retrospect that I realize that my father brought history to life for me, because I was able to visit everything from archeological digs to very sophisticated museums. I’d say I either have visited or slept in most museums in Canada because of him taking visits on holidays and me going along as a kid. What I realized as I was walking in Winnipeg is that his focus was on the stratification of the past and my curiosity I would say is the layers and stratifications before us, in the future.
JM: And the present.
MH: And the present. The present is sort of this place where the past is connected from behind us and the future lies before us. It’s the place to ask the questions.
JM: Absolutely. One of my favorite aspects of your book is how you wove the human hive throughout the book, which is a powerful metaphor for bringing the city to life. Can you tell us a bit about what the hive means to you?
MH: Sure. I would go back to being someone who loves a good story and loves to tell stories. I remember a story Don Beck once told me that he had heard from Howard Bloom about how the bees had organized themselves in order to sustain the hive. He had identified that the hive was made up not of the traditional Queen and drones and the very simplistic stories when we hear about the hive from a mechanistic perspective, but rather a very dynamic hive in which the conformity enforcers are about 90% of the hive. They go out and find the resources to sustain the hive and when they came back to the hive they do their dance. I always liked the idea that the dance with 90% of the hive meant that there was a really big rave going on at the gateway to the hive. Meanwhile, there is another group of bees that are called diversity generators, only about 5% of the hive, and their job is to go out and find resources, flowers, and pollen, in different places than the conformity enforcers. Like their sister bees, they come back and do a dance at the gateway. While there are good supplies from the conformity enforcers, the diversity generators are basically ignored. The resource allocators and inner judges, which are played by very small percentages, keep topping up the conformity enforcers with, as Don says, ‘bee juice’ as long as they keep bringing supplies back. But as their supplies wane, and they harvest the flower patches down to nil, the resource allocators start withholding the resources or energy supplies that are needed to go back. Those bees then get depressed. I have this picture of these bees walking around with their heads down all bummed out—they can actually measure depression in bees through pheromones. Meanwhile, the diversity generators are still bringing back new supplies because they are not going to the same places as the conformity enforcers. They are increasingly rewarded. So, eventually the whole lot of conformity enforcers notices the diversity generators and that they are having a great party. They follow them via their communication in the dance and go out and discover whole new sets of flower patches so they can start topping up the hive again.
MH: What intrigued me about this story was this was an easy way to visualize a picture of how the bees were working together and that the conformity enforcers and diversity generators were both needed for sustainability. The fifth group that Howard Bloom identified was inter-group tournaments: other bee hives doing the same kind of thing. Together, the hives were actually sustaining the resources (by pollinating the flowers in the fields) that produced the energy for the hive to survive. And I thought ‘wow’ that is a huge picture of sustainability that we don’t talk about—not that I’ve ever come across in human systems. It isn’t enough just to think about sustainability as a one-way street—as in all of the resources coming to us. We must also learn in our own systems how to replenish the resources that we take from the world so that there is a self-sustaining system. So I said to myself, “If the hive is the bees’ equivalent of their collective living and work spaces, then isn’t that what the city is for the human species?” At that point I adopted that story and came to view the city through the lens of a living system, a human hive.
JM: Now do you see examples of this out there where you could say, “Wow, those planners or developers really see the city or a project as part of a living system and it shows?”
MH: Well, I look at it not just exactly as the bees do things. I mean obviously our species is different so we can’t draw direct correlations, but certainly I have noticed. It is well documented in the book, Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems by Lance H. Gunderson and C. S. Holling, that it appears all living systems swing between these poles of differentiation and integration in some way. I have noticed that the cities that seem to think they have their act together are not interested so much in these new ideas. But it is around the edges of the organized systems that there is the most up take. For instance, where you are in the Maritimes (Eastern Canada), where a lot of the economic engine was dependent on the fishery and (parts of) the fishery has died, many small towns have really been faced with a death sentence too. One of my colleagues who is in Halifax started working with people who wanted to do job renewal and people started coming from those small towns. They used a process called Prior Learning Assessment and eventually, some of those small places came to notice that there were quite a few members from their community who were taking this for personal reasons. And they started asking themselves, “I wonder if this whole process could be applied to reframing our resources and our capabilities at the community level?” I see that as being a real life example of the individuals being the diversity generators and asking themselves how they could bring this ‘honey’ of the Prior Learning Assessment process to the conformity enforcers of the whole community so that everyone could benefit.
Those are the kinds of examples that start to give me a lot of hope, actually, because it is people—we are always saying people thinking outside the box (now I’m going to say outside the hive)—who are giving us new ideas. They’re stretching what they know into a whole new territory and then standing back far enough to ensure that many others benefit and not just individuals or small groups.
JM: It’s almost as if this process is happening naturally or organically anyway and you are bringing a vision for understanding and really integrating this process into city planning. You, yourself, are a diversity generator, bringing an integral living systems view of the city into the planning community!
MH: Yes, I think that would be really fair to say—a diversity generator. And what I have learned in thinking about myself in this role is recognizing whether the conformity enforcers are still dancing. Are they still bringing good resources to the gateway or doorway of the hive? If they are, then maybe this isn’t quite the time for diversity generation. So it does also give me lenses to think about the cycles of the city. I think this is what the integral, panarchic and living systems approaches share—an understanding that evolution happens in waves and in cycles. We have to become aware of what those are and not try to push the wrong or inappropriate step. It might be something we think is going, but yet is something the system isn’t yet receptive to.
JM: Where is this thinking needed most, Marilyn? From a global perspective do you see places where this approach is more urgently needed than others?
MH: I think one place is in the large, behemoth cities of 20 million or more where people have migrated from the hinterlands into the city. But in fact, these cities are often operating without any sense of order. They are unsustainable because they lack resources. On the flip side, I think the large developed cities are unsustainable because they are using an abundance that is not sustainable. It will be very interesting to see with our financial meltdown right now (in October 2008) whether this is going to be a trigger that causes us to reevaluate many of the ways we have valued resources in our cities.
Then the kind of city that I have talked about where this is needed most are those that are so far along in the change process—using the Spiral Dynamics language we would say they are in a Gamma Trap—and they are cycling down. These cities are not necessarily on the behemoth scale or even a large scale. They could be small or medium sized cities that have lost their economic engine or engines, and they need to reinvent themselves. I think they could really find renewal and a new purpose where they could serve not only their citizens but the world using these kinds of approaches.
For the last kind of city I would love to see these approaches used in the new cities, the ones on the drawing board that are being built in Saudi Arabia in the desert, or out on the oceans where, again, they look great on the drawing board and in fact they are incredible engineering feats. Places like…
JM: Like Dubai, for example. Where they’ve recently announced their plans to outdo themselves and build a new tallest building. I believe it’s going to be two thirds of a mile high.
MH: Right, and it’s just totally unsustainable from a resource perspective. It is resting on the false valuation of the oil resources. Other examples that aren’t quite as extreme are some of the cities that China is building. They are building these cities with considerable attention to the bricks and mortar aspects of the structures and infrastructure, but then they are going to, as I say, pour people into them. These are people who may have lost their city because it was submerged under, say, the infrastructure for the Three Gorges Dam or something like that. But people from older cities are being put into these new structures without any consideration given to their cultures and their subjective and intersubjective lives. I think we do have examples from the past that indicate this does not go over well for their sustainability. Those are three areas that I see where these ideas could be immediately used.
JM: Yes, these cultural and intersubjective aspects of the city bring us to your use of integral vital signs monitoring (IVSM) for the city.
MH: Of course, the values are an integral part of the vital signs. Well, I have this rather eclectic past. I got to the city not through the usual planning education or academic process, but through working with human systems in a variety of ways. But I also was in a deep, dark and distant other life, an accountant! So I am used to looking at the metrics of systems, of organizations. I then started looking at the Integral model as one that could disclose a quite beautiful field of metrics that are usually displaced from one another. For instance, on the right hand side we are very used to and have strong quantitative measures, but on the left hand side, we gather qualitative measures, when we look at action research, or other culturally based studies. But we have not, at least anywhere that I know, brought those two kinds of measures together. And we have not allowed them to inform one another as to the alignment we have in our human systems. For example, the alignment of the four quadrants at the different stages of development in particular.
Also, when you think about the integral and spiral models, they tell us about the deep structures in our systems. And those are what are really driving the surface expressions. But we usually just focus on the symptoms and surface expressions because they are easy to see and easier to measure, when in fact what we need to do is go below the surface and see the deep psychological and cultural stages and strata that exist there. And even though they are different on the surface—say between very different cultures—they often have a lot of commonality underneath the surface that can help us understand what is the next natural stage a human system needs to evolve to. So the integral vital signs monitor is a way of looking at this. This covers a couple of chapters, but really merits a whole book of its own. I would say this really is a whole book and it would become something that is equivalent to an integral balanced scorecard. Or perhaps a really more dynamic monitoring based on GPS systems—that sort of thing.
JM: Yeah, it really struck me as an application where the mayor of a large city, like Madrid for example, could immediately begin to grasp the value of an integral framework and approach.
MH: I’m glad to hear you say that! I’m beginning to prototype it any which way I can and I have a couple of colleagues, one of them is in Ottawa, and that’s Brian Eddy who is an integral geographer. He works a lot with GPS and Census Canada and he says the kinds of questions I want to ask in order to develop this are possible to put on a Census document.
JM: That’s something I’d love to see happen.
MH: He has helped prototype a Google Earth version of this. And I have another colleague, Morel Fourman in the UK, who has been working with the Economist 100 organizations for a number of years. He shared with me a prototyping tool that I have online that uses an easy to read traffic light system. What I love about this is that it enables the metrics to be all very different from one another while allowing us to set sustainability targets. It means that you could set up a monitor for a city that is using these kinds of very complex approaches and yet make it very user friendly for however, whoever or whatever a city is capable of noticing, and still set up something that is integrally balanced. With the traffic light system it is already using a universal language. You can still get it to report. And as you say the mayor or any citizen could potentially dial into a vital signs monitor and get a reading every day!
JM: Fascinating! How does the traffic light approach work in practice?
MH: Well, the concept is very simple. For any metric, you set a target of what you want to achieve. So say you want the air quality to be measured at such and such a level of particulates, you use the traffic light to indicate that if you are on target you get a green light. If you are off target you get a yellow light. If you are in a hazard zone or a warning area, you get a red light. You could also set up another light, say a blue light, for exceeding the target. So, instead of having to look at a dashboard with a bunch of numbers or graphs on it, you can look at a dashboard that is pretty simple without being simplistic. Basically using the four quadrants and fractals—the different scales of the city—you can look at all of the green lights and say, “Great! We’re on target”. We can look at the yellow ones and say, “Okay, I need to pay attention to those”, and then “Whoa, look at those red ones. We need to act immediately”. So it brings the importance and urgency as well as allows for a very quick visual overview of the health and wellbeing of a city.
JM: So when you say the four quadrants, what you mean is that in addition to measuring external maters like air quality, you can also monitor the invisible value systems throughout the city to spot, say a growing Red gang issue (using SDi terminology) with weakening Blue. These are measurable aspects in such a system.
MH: Yes, because you could set those targets. Like for instance in the education system we want to graduate more students. At this time in many of the left hand quadrant issues, I do work with some of the indicators here with people in British Columbia. A lot of times in the left hand quadrants we have to look for proxies, like the number of graduating students instead of what level of consciousness are they at. But I believe you start anywhere and as you become more competent and used to using this kind of measurement then you can become more and more sophisticated about how you set your targets and what they are.
JM: Let’s talk a little bit about your personal experience in leading urban projects. What are some of the key aspects or qualities of urban leadership that stand out for you?
MH: Well, some of the urban leadership programs that I have done and many of the ones that have given me the greatest insight are projects I have taken on through pro bono work. The reason is because in such a capacity there really isn’t anyone setting the rules, so there is often greater opportunity to stretch the system. Right now I am involved in Imagine Abbotsford. We are in the third year of a four or five year program where we are trying to envision the city in 30 years from now. When I started out, most people thought I was kind of nuts because they just couldn’t see the point in doing this. We have used a different theme each year, a theme that is connected to the Imagine BC process that is envisioning the province in 30 years from now. But they have come to realize that the process they have set up has the most traction in the local areas. So it is in places like Abbotsford where we are starting to see change happen. Our first year we looked at environment and economy and in the second year we looked at culture and learning. This year we are looking at health and community. When we pull those three sets of themes together we really get a pretty good picture of the resilience of the city.
MH: So I really see that change is happening because of creating the opportunity to work with the whole city by inviting different stakeholders of the system into the room for a period of extended time. Three times each year we bring in thought leaders and the public and policy makers. We keep publishing through our community newspaper a consensus document that we discover in these dialogues. So this is an example of taking something that is very subjective and ratcheting it up to the whole intersubjective scale of the city and connecting as much of the system to itself as possible. So that is why I call myself a ‘meshworker’. That would be an example of how to create a mesh. You start some place and start to connect parts of the system that have never been connected before. And we start through stories. Simply through sharing stories with one another.
So that’s one practical, on the ground example, but I have a whole host of others we probably do not have time to go into. One, briefly, is I supervise Master’s theses at Royal Roads University at the Leadership Program there. The two year Master’s program ends in a 6-9 month engagement in an action research project. And I have supervised almost 50 research projects that have really looked at every quadrant of the city, and in some cases such as the First Nations work, all of the levels of a city. I have also worked with health care systems, education systems, and the justice system. I just did work last week with BC Healthy Communities who have been using an integral model to look at health in the province. Now they want to look at the altitude that a model like Spiral Dynamics offers.
They are understanding why some tools work with some groups and not with others, because they are seeing that the different levels of consciousness in their different communities are at very different stages of development. So those are some examples of what I have been doing.
JM: I’m just imagining now you starting off with your Imagine Abbotsford group. You have all of these meetings and workshops, and yet throughout you are introducing a whole new context from scratch…
MH: And as you know, it actually goes much further back than the Imagine Abbotsford process. Because I was actually provoked by my experience as a volunteer member of the Western Summer Canada Games executive to go back to school and learn about leadership and self-organizing systems. It was there that I discovered Wilber’s integral model and some years later took my dissertation results and applied it to mapping Abbotsford value systems. So I do have a four quadrant, all level map of Abbotsford and this has helped inform me to know when I was going too fast or too far out in front of the system. Then I had to correct my enthusiasm and find other ways to connect with the community. I have learned more effective ways to invite others into the conversation.
When I first started I had no way to explain the integral city with people here, and now I have a whole cohort of people here who understand the framework, are using it themselves, adjusting the ways they communicate with their own stakeholders and, I tell you, it is amazing and exciting!
JM: That’s cool. It sounds like the dance is working!
MH: It is! It definitely is!
JM: What is your perspective on how global forces are shaping cities right now? What do we need to do to develop the ability to truly live the whole systems approach that you write about?
MH: Well one of the lessons I took is from Jared Diamond’s work, which he published in the book Collapse. I have to say that I had a huge wake-up call when I read in his early chapters his description of the five elements that affect all societies. Of course, he was looking at societies that had collapsed or disappeared. He asked as a biologist what caused that? And the first thing he identified was the climate. So I thought, okay, that makes sense because we are all subject to that. The second thing he identified was the environment. And you know in my book I start off right at the very beginning by looking at the 17 very different habitats that our geography on Earth offers to our cities and us. Each city is in a different kind of environment and has to think about how it can be sustainable within that environment.
But the other three aspects that Diamond identified were not biological. They were cultural. He identified the effect of friendly societies—or a city in our case—with which the city trades as one. The second is the hostile societies or cities that are adversarial to a given city or society. And the last one which really is in the center between these two other ones is the city’s culture itself.
We need to look from a global perspective at the realities of our climate and its change. And we have the science to measure that in different ways. I am not a person who is going to say categorically that it is only humans that are causing climate change, because I think there are a lot of indications that there are many forces that we don’t have control over or aren’t able to affect at all. But certainly, there are enough of us on this Earth that we are affecting some climate change and the environment, which certainly we have huge impacts on.
I do think that in order for us to get a handle on urban and regional inter-reactions, we have to go way beyond what the UN’s Habitat for Humanity report on world cities does and look not only at the individual cities, but their relationship to their ecologies and their relationship to one another in those ecologies. Also, how they are exchanging the equivalent of our pollen and our flower—our energy resources—with one another? Because, ultimately, a city is an artefact of human systems in the terms of the built city and an extension of all human needs.
We have to actually get enough altitude to see the ebb and flow of energy within any given city and amongst different cities. Someone like Brian Eddy has the geographical know-how to do that. We need to bring into our cities not just city and urban planners but geographers and people who understand the psychology of large human systems—which someone like Don Beck is becoming invaluable in his capacity to do. We need people who are sociologists, we need the archeologists. We need all of our ‘-ologists’! As well our living systems and our biological systems and hard sciences so that we can bring an integrated set of human relationships and knowledge together. Your ideas at looking at the economy in integral ways are going to become critical to a global understanding of the integral city.
JM: I totally agree. Your thinking here really hits home as to the need for visual maps to ‘see’ the whole. These maps become the memes by which these ‘-ologists’ and specialists can share and extend their whole systems view of the things. This can be powerful.
MH: If you take what we know about human consciousness, it’s like the subject-object relationship, where we are so embedded in the city that the city is us; we cannot see it as an object. It is not until we are able to get outside of it that we can begin to see the effects of our own personal and collective choices. The city shows us on a huge scale the effects of our personal choices. Many if not most of us are just not ready to look that in the face yet. And yet we know the natural ebb and flow of human systems are calling us to do exactly that. We have to get to the altitude that our Google Earth gives us. And start to use it for very good purposes. It requires not just trying to increase the consumerism of our developed world and trying to make individuals ‘better’, but also that we recognize that the rest of the world, the developing world, is calling on the same resources we are.
In the sense of intergroup tournaments, we are all on one planet. We have—not just because it is nice—to share resources, not only for the sustainability of our own species but also the whole ecology of the planet. We need to become more intelligent to do so. That’s why I call it Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive. Evolutionary intelligences are what we are being called into now.
JM: Marilyn, what would you say to those readers who are willing to look this in the face? What are some of the things we can do within our own communities?
MH: I was just reviewing some of the research that was presented at the ITIA conference and there is pretty well unanimous agreement that in order for leadership capacity to develop—and by that whether you call yourself a leader or any other role you are playing in human systems—it comes down to human development: investing in it and becoming conscious of it is absolutely paramount. We must first choose to do that ourselves as individuals and then enable our families to do that, enable any groups we are associated with to do that, and bring it in to our organizations.
We can also bring it into our own communities through volunteer work. I do study leadership and human capacity development both from a formal perspective through the university and my own research but also through an informal one. The story I was telling you about Imagine Abbotsford—that has been just a volunteer group of people. The steering committee is gradually changing and gradually increasing its capacity to hold complexity to see the interconnections between people.
I have come to appreciate the power of listening to a person’s story and even better than that, listening to a whole circle of people share stories together—giving attention with intention—then dare to ask, “What do we want for our children and our children’s children in 30 years?”
MH: I think that brings it home. When we are doing retreats or workshops, I often invite people to bring seven generations into the room. Well, how do you do that? That is what the First Nations have done and their protocol for sustainability has been to make decisions for seven generations into the future. It is pretty easy to bring seven generations into the room. Ask people to bring in a photograph of someone they know who is ten years or younger, one for someone who is between 10 and 20. Usually the group has members between 20 and 45 so we cover those decades. Then we ask people to bring in pictures of their parents and grandparents. And lo and behold we get seven generations into the room and any issue we are talking about then becomes very real.
I believe that we have to invest not only in noticing what we notice, our own awareness and consciousness development, but also our ‘We’ development. Stretching out our collective development as well. It may be as simple as asking a neighbor if they need some help and allowing a relationship to develop from there. Or it may be inspiring and reaching out, like one of my colleagues in Abbotsford, trying to create affordable housing for the homeless. She is a person who is inspired by Christopher Alexander’s work, which I write about in the book. Where is she starting to apply her understanding, her deep understanding of human artifacts, buildings and architecture? At the closest to home level she could find, with the people who need it most—the homeless. That’s how I really do think change happens.
JM: Marilyn, thank you so much for your time. I think your book is fantastic and look forward to picking up a copy in the next couple of weeks. Good luck with your work and thanks for joining Integral Leadership Review for this interview.
MH: It’s been my pleasure, Jordan. I really appreciated your intelligent interview. And I’m sure you feel the excitement I feel about some of the background and some of the hope and inspiration that I do hope the book brings to others. I too look forward to seeing the book out there and seeing what others think of it!
Jordan MacLeod is the Canadian Bureau Chief for Integral Leadership Review. He is a partner in the consulting firm Cornerstone Global Associates, a co-founder of Elevator Software Corp., and author of New Currency: How Money Changes the World as We Know It. Jordan is also Co-chair of the Club of Rome’s tt30, a think tank dedicated to fostering holistic values and capacities in young leaders and professionals.