Identify Networks of Hope – The Power of a Prompt

‘Identify Networks of Hope’ – The Power of a Prompt

[IFF Prompt – 14 Nov 2017]

Hope is a big part of my daily interactions with folk… mostly the hope that my (usually email) communication will find its recipients well, and in fine fettle Hope this finds you well But a recent communication from the International Futures Forum ‘prompted’ me to reflect more directly on the hope I regularly ‘hope’ for.

The IFF helpfully (and hopefully?) circulates a new prompt weekly, selected at random from a ‘deck’ of prompt-cards, developed as short pithy statements informed by the Forum’s work, ‘to prompt us to recall our own learning’: “These ‘IFF prompts’ (have) proved very effective in opening up new perspectives on familiar material and in promoting better thinking and action appropriate for the conditions of the modern world”.

The November 17, 2017 prompt was ‘identify networks of hope’, triggering my noticing that hope was very much ‘on my radar’ at the time… especially after the Nov 2017 Edinburgh IFF breakfast session, where Graham Leicester, the IFF Director, had reported on his ’Tools for Hope’ experience, at the Association of Professional Futurists conference. He had noticed some sentiment around the importance of a shared iconic vision of the future, to collectively draw us forward… a serviceable dream perhaps, such as that in a burgeoning bud about to bloom flourishingly forth. I noticed that hope seems to readily ‘team’ with dream – and possibly also with blind faith in a world worth growing into… through ‘networks of hope’.

All this triggered a deeper and wider recall of previous engagements with ‘hope’ that seem to have stayed with me, and are probably still at work within me, in my own work in the world… but it’s not really ‘stuff’ that I get to ‘out’ often – except when wonderfully ‘prompted’ like this.

What came up included an early inspiration to represent ‘hopes and dreams’ as the ‘stuff’ of planning (my professional field for four decades) from a 2000 presentation. I recall feeling that this was a somewhat risqué perspective to be advancing then – to fellow professionals at least, but not necessarily for informed lay-persons – my main audience at the time.

But, zeroing in more on hope (rather than hopes), and trying to get at its essence, I remain fundamentally impressed by some diagramming in a 1970s book by an early mentor of sorts, John Friedmann, and his ‘Retracking America’. In a chapter on ‘the uses of the future’ he closed with a fascinating conjunction of the (near) future, hope (historical future), and faith (a-historical future) (see image of diagram here). It seems to me that one doesn’t see those (future~hope~faith) on the same page very often; they are mostly different strokes/takes for different folks/professions? But ripe for some ‘networking’ perhaps, some meshing, some meshworking. For example, what might be the weight of hope and faith in H3 (Three Horizons) future consciousness? How might they be more consciously ‘admitted’? Is there an ‘intermediating’ role for hope, between future and faith?

And then there has been the inspiration in the work and words of Eric Trist who helped me to a formative sense of my planning back then, as ‘the organization of hope’, fuelling later encouragement to my students to cast themselves as ‘hope-organizers’. Trist was at work in me in my early forays into professional planning, most notably through offerings such as his New Directions of Hope (Recent innovations interconnecting organizational, industrial, community and personal development). These ideas were first presented in Glasgow in 1978.

“Hope, in the hypothesis I am making, comes from the outside, below, the        middle and across. The degree of hope is greatest when it comes from all        four directions, for these form an interdependent set” (p. 1979, 440)

An interdependent set… a network? … laying out ‘the directions of innovation’ (Table 1, 440)):

Outside – Periphery, not centre;

Below – Bottom up, not top down;

Middle – Community, not national level;

Across – Network leverage, not formal channels.

Trist was very much emphasising networks back then, as:

“…the channels mediated by individuals which cross organizational      boundaries… networks are unbounded systems, complementary to organizations. In organizations people act in roles; in networks they act as themselves. People who have the same concerns, who share the same values, have the knack of finding each other wherever they may be so that very rapidly the interactions resonate through the ‘extended social field’, which is a complementary aspect of society to organization life. As networks form in an extended social field, they are apt to induce changes in formal organizations, as regards policies or even structures, which would otherwise be impossible” (1979, p.441)

Networks as vehicles of hope, as organizers of hope? Trist, speaking in 1978, went on to note:

“Networks have special importance at the present time because individuals are changing faster than organizations. The values likely to shape the future are emerging in individuals. In groups and temporary systems arising from the networks formed by future-oriented individuals lies the greatest leverage for change. This is especially so when these networks, operating in the periphery, coming up from the grass roots and concerned with a particular domain, form a voluntary organization, which contains a number of imaginative people, among whom there are natural leaders – to address the unresolved issues and take action on new lines” (1979, p.441)

Networks like IFF, organizing hope, in service to a better future. Or networks like those now being forged in U Lab contexts (such as U Lab Scotland) , spinning off the application of U Theory by the Presencing Institute ; here I am also finding prominent themes around ‘extended social fields’, being led ‘from the emergent future’. And the ‘creative integrities’ emerging from the IFF work on Three Horizons and Transformative Innovation. Networks of hope – identified. Such is the power in a prompt…