land in curiosity: meet emergent strategy
Thanks to Chloë Lund for editing and creating the illustrations❣️
To see our own lives and work and relationships as a front line, the first place we can practice justice, liberation, and alignment with each other and the planet - amb
In August this year, Land in Curiosity joined Classroom Alive for their second bootcamp, a space to organise and plan walking-learning journeys. Whilst at the bootcamp, we met Alan (<3) , a founder of Open Masters, he told us about Emergent Strategy (ES), written by adrienne maree brown (amb), and highly recommended that we read it. So as a group, looking for clearer ways to work together, we made a commitment to do so. This blog post explores parts of how emergent strategy fits into the year long walk that LiC is organising starting May 2019, questions about how we could use ES, and examples of how we have used ES within past walks and working together.
What is Emergent Strategy?
Here are three quotes from amb, that seem to summarise what ES is:
“Strategy for building complex patterns and systems of change through relatively small interactions”
“Plans of action, personal practices and collective organising tools that account for constant change, and rely on strength of relationship for adaptation.”
Land in Curiosity’s walking journeys involve living outside and studying whilst on the move, so by their very nature, involve having to adapt to constant change.
For example, changes in resources, landscapes, the local communities, weather, group numbers, abilities, and seasons. Land In Curiosity designs group roles (eg. facilitator, learning coordinator, food team etc) so they are open to change and regularly have new people taking them on. amb speaks of ‘intentional adaptation’ as opposed to change. This question of intent is profoundly important. How do we meet constant change and stay in touch with our deeper purpose? We agreed that sometimes our purpose, or the purpose of a discussion, might need to change. That’s okay, but it’s important to acknowledge. (eg. we come to a discussion to process a conflict, but what is really needed is a space to grief. We acknowledge this, change purpose, and can come back to process the conflict at a later date)
“I'm talking about the combination of adaptation with intention, where in the orientation and movement towards life, to is adaptation. this is the process of changing or staying in touch with deeper purpose and longing.” amb
Conflict circles, daily check-ins, sit spots, learning together, play, awareness around dominant structures, embodiment through walking; these are some of the collective practices that help us to adapt.
Personally, I have never been into fantasy, or I never realised I was. But since reading ES and listening to ‘how to survive the end of the world’ podcast by adrienne and her sister Autumn, I have become obsessed with fantasy and imagination, and its role in our society. amb suggests that we are currently living in someone else's imagination (specifically, a rich white mans’) - what then, is the world that we at Land In Curiosity are imagining? Here are some thoughts related to LiC’s three pillars
Education is free and accessible.
Education is malleable to an individual’s or a group’s needs.
Learning is influenced by our passions and sparks.
Learning is guided and supported by our commitments, our communities, our mentors, harvested and shared by it’s application in the world.
People learn at all ages.
Learning can be our purpose.
We are learning how to learn.
We are learning what to learn.
Education that isn't certified is valued and acknowledged by proof of the person, projects or applications created
We have learnt beautiful ways of living together, constantly
deconstructing violent ways of being inwardly and outwardly and with the natural world.
We play, love, work, enjoy, collaborate, meet conflict together.
We recognise our interdepenDANCE.
We support each other in 1000 ways.
Humans are not seen as separate from nature, but as a vital part of a beautiful and intelligent ecosystem.
We aim to live harmoniously, regeneratively,
We have full and meaningful perceptions guided by nature.
We are in a vital collaboration.
We do not abuse nature, suppress or exhaust their resources.
Nature is teacher and a refuge.
It can also be cruel. We respect it all the same.
The term nature doesn’t exclude technology.
It’s not opposed to cities, buildings or human-made systems.
Nature exists in all of those things.
Likewise, ‘living harmoniously’ doesn’t need to exclude things like flying in a plane, cutting down trees, eating animal products, etc.
What it does mean is that we need to pay close attention to the impact our tools and systems have on ourselves and the web of beings we are are connected to,
and adjust when the bad outweighs the good.
Examples of how LiC uses Emergent Strategy
Example no. 1: Critical mass > Critically deep
“Many of us have been socialized to understand that constant growth, violent competition and critical mass are the ways to create change. But emergence shows us that adaptation and evolution depend more upon critical, deep and authentic connections, a thread that can be tugged for support and resilience. The quality of connections [is] between the nodes in the patterns.” - amb
LiC started with around 40 people on a mailing list, mostly friends of friends who had shown interest in the project. We were told, and we thought, that we needed to grow, to ”up our game.” We would need thousands of followers to make this project a success (hello constant growth and critical mass!) Through reading ES, we are realising that the connections we create as a nomadic community - between the organisers, with those who join, and with those we meet along the way - are deep, authentic, and critical, making them more meaningful and more in line with our purpose than the amount of likes on Twitter.
Example no. 2: Competition > Collaboration
Land in Curiosity has been massively supported and inspired by the folks at Classroom Alive. They have beautifully modelled a collaborative relationship and we have learnt a lot from them (and continue to do so). In the current capitalist paradigm, it would be easy for us to see each other as competition; but by collaborating, we both deepen our relationships, our understanding, our knowledge, potential, and learn to recognise the unique value and quality of the two organisations. When we drop the competitive narrative of “my idea” or “my territory” and step up as leaders in collaboration and decentralisation, we support each other to move together towards shared goals. Pleased to say that LiC will continue to collaborate with Classroom Alive during the year long walk.
See also: Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organisation
Example no. 3: Getting shit done > small scale
Relationships and connection between the core team has become central to our perception of the project working. Our interactions, our ability to ride and swim in waves of conflict, to determine how this project will run, rather than a solely focusing on how much work we can get done. We’re thinking that how we work together and structure this project is what will make the project successful or not, and will affect how LiC will ripple out into the world.
Example no. 4:
Leadership > interdependence
“When Canada geese are migrating, they take turns at the front of the V, being the leader, the weight carrier, being the follower, the rester.” Kat Aaron
I have seen us do this beautifully so far: in planning for the year long, as each of our capacities and workloads change, as one person takes on more paid work, or needs a month to rest, others pick up the parts they can no longer do; as someone finds themselves short of cash, others will pay a greater share. So far It seems to be a fluid and natural way of working together. There is not one leader, between the five of us organising, the balance of leadership moves and shifts like waves.
We were considering setting an amount of time to commit to working each week, this was suggested to us by a mentor. I think what would be more beautiful and connective would be to open up a conversation about how much work we are each doing or not doing and how we feel about that and the impact it has on us as individuals and the project, and to recognise what each other is bringing when we have less space to work.
Adrienne’s next book is called pleasure activism. To make change, to make movements successful, it has to be pleasurable, we have to get something out of it. Who wouldn’t want to join a movement where everyone is having a beautiful and pleasurable time? How to we create pleasure when we meet, on walks: Dancing, singing, playing games, making music from the things round us, walking, embracing our rhythmic bodies, following seasonal cycles, hugs, sitting by fires, looking at the stars, swimming in Oceans Lakes Rivers, living outside, being always a part of nature, making delicious food, eating together, following out curiosities and learning always, learning as our purpose. I asked my fellow organiser Sam how we could bring more pleasure into our work. This is what he said: Sam: Personally, I find pleasure is abundant when I let it be. Not pleasure from stuff I want (like chocolate). More pleasure from life in general (like, well, anything really: the wind, people, a piece of string, etc.). Sometimes I forget this, and think that pleasure comes from the things that have previously given me pleasure. But this is a mistake. It shuts me down to further experiences of pleasure - making it something that is no longer abundant - rather than opening myself up to all its sources. I don't always open myself up to pleasure because I think I have better things to do Sometimes this is true, but not always. I find that making room for pleasure - by simply doing nothing - can be a great thing to do. So, for me, in answer to your question about how we could create more pleasure when we meet, or as we walk together, I think we need to a) acknowledge that pleasure is abundant when we let it be, and b) make room for it by having time to do nothing.
I am left with many questions to explore in our organising and living together as a nomadic community:
How does our work echo and reproduces dominant structures?
How do we want to be in the world, and is this reflected in the way we work?
I think that reviewing dominant ways of working weekly, could help us bring into awareness how we are working, and keep these questions and explorations alive. It also feeds into our commitment to work towards liberation from dominant structures.
There is so much to explore with emergent strategy, and this feels like the start of an emergent strategy journey as well as a year long walk! A journey into untangling the knots, and rebuilding a healthy and supportive community.