The mycelial approach to social change: networking transformations instead of achieving ‘hierarchical’ reform

We can see there is a hierarchy focused way of creating change which is focused on changing what the hierarchy (government) does. And then there is a way that is based on transforming people from a grassroots way and then linking them up in mycelial networks. And which is based on collaborating between the different parties as opposed to us vs them. This is the promise of the open collaboration approach.

The Open Collaboration blog contrasts the reform and transform approaches to social change:

“There is a protest based way of approaching change which is rooted on creating enough public pressure that it causes a government to shift its policies. This is the REFORM route. This is in contrast to TRANSFORM route discussed later in this essay. The transform route is even more openly collaborative as it aims to bring the different parties together to transform together.

In relationship to capitalism we need to build new ways of shifting resources that are less predicated on some of the predatory ways of multinational capitalism. Fair trade networks, local economy movements (e.g. farmers markets and local currencies) create a softer and fairer capitalism. Gift economy networks (e.g. networks of gift circles) create a way of shifting resources around not based on relating things in such an ownership and exchange based way. This kind of approach requires a transformation at a deep level of the way we relate to each other and things. These new ways are open collaborative mycelial gift economy networks.”

They also give an example:

“An example of an organization that is pioneering this open collaborative transformational approach is the United Religions Iniative which facilitates the bringing together of different religions to work together and heal. Its non-hierarchically organized, and any community can organize their own group without having to take orders from a head of the United religions initiative. This non-hierarchical approach has allowed the flourishing of many of these local circles. An example of an organization that is part way there to this approach is the Search for Common Ground. They work in communities to help facilitate different groups which have tension with each other to connect, dialogue, and heal. So they are working to transform. The Search for Common Ground organization structure is more hierarchical, less open collaborative – headquarters is in charge of the organization. This process of having to work through management means it is probably harder to start your own local Search for Common Ground chapter which means the organization doesn’t proliferate as much as could.”

Finally, they explain how their approach is rooted in integral theory:

“Spiral dynamics is a system that looks at how we as individuals and society progress through different levels. The black, feminist, sexual orientation revolutions of the 20th century were green type revolutions, which we focused on bringing a paradigm of equality. The focus was on using protest and challenge to implement this new paradigm. The focus was ‘winning’ the revolution. There was an us and a them.

A yellow second tier revolution would focus a lot more on the different parties understanding each other’s views, listening. So there would be a lot more dialogue and experiential inquiry between those who were against and for black, gender, and orientation equality. There would be an attempt to synthesize and integrate the different views. There may not always be success in finding an agreed on synthesis, but there would be a respect more. This approach would be more non-violent than the green approach because it works with both parties, those for and against equality, it works with both left and right.

A turquoise second tier revolution would be take the dialogue and experiential inquiry further. There is an understanding of how to create deep individual shifts. People will sometimes undergo ‘spiritual’ transformations. At this level there is a deeper understanding of systems theory as applied to the whole social system. There is an understanding of how to use the non-hierarchical, non-ownership paradigm of open collaboration to help proliferate and replicate local circles of transformation to create a powerful revolution. This approach is even more non-violent than the yellow approach because it understands on a systems level how to hold a collective social space to create deep transformation that transmutes conflict into healthy relationship.”