Yesterday I was walking through a gentle snowstorm with my dear friend and Berkana colleague Tenneson Woolf. We were on Mt. Timpanogos, a magical place in Sundance, Utah. Everything was quiet up here at 6500 feet, as we trudged slowly along the slippery path. And then Tenneson asked me if I ever wondered whether what we do matters.
I’ve struggled mightily with that question for years. When you take a long view of the world—and when you look at it from a systems perspective, as I’ve learned to do during nearly a decade with Berkana—things can look rather bleak. I’ve learned from Meg Wheatley that it’s nearly impossible to transform complex systems. Most of our efforts result in small, incremental changes that leave the system’s underlying properties essentially intact. And so it is that today, despite the efforts of so many changemakers, non-profits, foundations and activists, we still have schools that value testing over learning; a healthcare system that thrives on sickness rather than health; an economic system that reveres ownership and exploits workers; and so on. And if I’ve understood Meg Wheatley correctly, there’s very little we can do to fix these systems.
That can feel bleak indeed.
Fortunately, there is a way out of this impasse. Rather than working to fix the old system, pioneers step forward and begin to invent a new one. Some pioneers are inventing a new energy economy. Others are creating alternative currencies. And still others are toppling arrogant old regimes in hopes of creating more inclusive governments…
Over the past 10 years, I have met many pioneers all over the world who are working to build healthy and resilient communities. More often than not, their experiments are tiny, reaching only hundreds of people, occasionally thousands. It is all too easy to slip back into doubt about whether what we do matters. Often, our experiments won’t ever go to scale. But some of them will. We just don’t know which ones—and that’s where the leap of faith is required.
So this is my leap of faith: My intention for this blog is to make visible the people who are pioneering the world we wish for, to tell the stories of communities that are learning how to become healthy and resilient. Because if we can see one another, if we can inspire, support and connect to each other’s experiments, then we strengthen these experiments, invite more friends to come along, and eventually abandon the old systems, leaving them to dissolve into the path we’ve long since left behind.