For years I have been working in the field of organisational structures, driven by a fascination with how business is organised, what our social structures do to people and what implications that has for society and the planet. In this post I give an overview of developments in this field and how the Human Organising Project got started.
New (and old) ways of organising There have been exciting developments in the world of organisational thinking in recent times, as people start to question traditional, top-down, hierarchical approaches to getting things done. Some of us believe that we are at a pivotal time, as the world shifts towards more collaborative, participatory and compassionate approaches to organising. Examples of some of the initiatives that have emerged include:
– Reinventing Organizations – groups around the world are gathering to explore what they consider a new evolution of organisation, known as “Teal”. This is a term coined by Frederic Laloux in his remarkable book “Reinventing Organizations” (2014) to describe self-managing, purposeful organisations that draw on humans’ innate ability to self-manage. There’s an excellent newsletter and website, Enlivening Edge, that is documenting the activities of this movement;
– B Corps: a movement of businesses that started in the US and has spread to over 33 countries. To be a B Corp, you need to be a business that has a purpose beyond profit, one that provides benefit (B stands for Benefit) to the community. There are more than 80 B corps in the UK and the community is growing.
– responsive org, agile, and other more nimble and adaptive organisational approaches, applying modern communications technology to solve old organisational challenges.
– Art of Hosting, way of council, dialogue and other integrative practices, many of which draw on ancient practices that have been known to humanity for millenia;
– Earth law – a movement of people seeking to counter the anthropocentric bias of our legal frameworks and bring a duty to care for the planet into our laws. One notable success was the introduction of the Mother Earth law in Bolivia, and there is an active campaign to adopt Ecocide as a crime against humanity at the United Nations level. So far this has been mainly initiatives at national and international level, but there are signs that this thinking is being picked up at individual organisation level too – I think in particular of Sekem, the Egyptian conglomerate, and eco-car company Riversimple.
More established groups have also shown signs of resurgence in recent times, including: employee owned organisations (the EOA in the UK has around 200 members representing more than £30 bn of revenues); the systems and cybernetics enthusiasts, many inspired by Stafford Beer’s Viable Systems Model; and cooperatives, who have for example been active in getting renewable energy widely adopted in many countries, notably Denmark and Germany.
The Human Organising Project It seems to me that the initiatives just described share at least one thing in common – a move towards recognising human beings, not as “human resources” but as sovereign beings capable (under the right conditions) of self-management and self-governance. Last year I gathered a group of friends together to explore this subject, under the name “Human Organising Project”. So far we have held a number of gatherings in London. Notes of the gatherings can be found as a series of blog posts on the website. If you want to follow the group, there’s a newsletter – go here to sign up. The Project is still in its experimental beta phase and can hardly be called an organisation – it is what I think of as an organising (it is a verb not a noun). We are also organising, along with others, the Human Organising Festival.
Festival of Human Organising – the festival that no one owns. One tangible output of the Human Organising Project is (or soon will be) the Festival of Human Organising. Designed as a celebration of more human ways of organising, it will take place in London (with an outlier in Spain) in just under two weeks time – 16th to 18th June. It promises to be diverse, vibrant and (largely) self-organising. We have included several open spaces to allow spontaneity, and also have a number of planned sessions lined up, including walks, workshops, a book reading and a closing gathering in Green Park. Do join us. All details can be found here. Nearly all the events are free and most you don’t have to book – just turn up. We have our own very modest crowd-funding campaign running – if you would like to contribute, go here. Every contribution much appreciated.