Moving this site from thrivEability to thrivability for consistency on spelling. Thanks for your patience.
Let’s say that 5 years from now incredible and inspiring cooperation has taken us through a swift turn toward thrivability? It is 2013, and we are feeling very lucky as we begin to see that our changes could be heading off the downward spiral we were on. In fact, increasing numbers of upward spirals are synergizing, converging into massive shifts that we hesitantly believe will usher in a new age.
If that is the premise, then what happened between 2008 and 2013 to make that happen?
And, what are the consequences to our markets, businesses, and lifestyles?
There will be sacrifice, assuredly. What did all the people who worked in destructive industries do for a living? How did the bumps in the economy caused by massive and quick shifting do? How were we able to both care for our local populations as well as regional and global populations so that shifting toward thrivability did not have devastating consequences, even to the greedy who made it harder to accomplish?
I hear the technologies exist. What we lack is will. Okay, so let’s say we have the will? Then what happens? What will my neighborhood look like?
Will I be making trips to see my friends in Virginia? When I pass through West Virginia, will the people there be suffering massive depression? What can be done to make their region, and all of appalacia thrivable? Sans coal?
And what about Africa? Will there still be, be more, or be less internal strife in many countries over scarce resources? I have a secret hope that Africa leap-frogs in the next decade or two….but what will 2013 be like? With trouble in Kenya now, I am concerned about how countries in sub-Saharan Africa will become thrivable.
What will be playing out in Asia? The many cities being built in China and the troubles in Afghanistan and Pakistan? And how will climate change have already impacted these areas–and how will they have adjusted?
Whether or not thrivability is just a word game or something larger and more inclusive than sustainability…it is still a stronger term for what businesses aim for. What business seeks only to sustain itself? No, businesses want to thrive! Even nonprofits want to thrive. I believe thrivability is a compelling business objective where sustainability may not be.
Thrivability speaks to the yearning to both make profit in order to perpetuate an organization (and its members/employees) as well as function in productive symbiosis with its environment. Far too many organizations are currently parasitic in their approach to our culture–and it is killing off the host–our culture and our world.
How do we help organizations develop symbiotic relationships with their environment and allies? How do we help them perceive, understand, and benefit from the flow of the ecosystems in which they live and can thrive?
A core question that comes to mind revolves around businesses meeting the “needs” of clients. Where has artificial need been created? What are real and enduring needs? What will the needs be in the future as we shift into thrivable systems?
One dimension that I am not concrete about is whether using thrivability rather than sustainability really is the same thing with a different name….or is it more than that? My sense is that it is more than sustainability, but I am, for the most part, making this up as we go along. And I do feel like the name emerged, for me, from a dissatisfaction with the language and its impact on the mind when using the term sustainability. The frame is lacking to me. It implies we are at a negative state and need to reach neutral.
Some that I have discussed that with say “pshaw” to me. They say that it is my own limitations that I place on the term sustainability. The movement is fully open to humans thriving. And in some way I agree. I think most of the sustainability field is open to and hopes for a thriving world. Some are quite cynical (or well versed depending on your point of view) about our ability to become sustainable much less thrivable. I hear that. I feel the frustration. I am frustrated at our lack of progress and the pressure of time.
From a mind game perspective I am choosing the word thrivability because it is like wanting an A in a class instead of a C. Because it sounds less like a world not teetering on the edge of doom but flourishing and vibrant.
But I also wonder if there is something deeper than that. Is that mind-game criticism only coming at it from a superficial level? Is thrivability about something more vast than sustainability? Let’s try an exercise, for fun. Which of the following select words or phrases would you put within the domain of sustainability:
- zero emissions
- organic farming
- social justice
- green architecture
- conservation practices
- personal growth
- animal protection
- economic justice
- leadership development
Which ones do you think we need for a thrivable world?
Are they the same? Are they different? How and why?
Sneak peek: In the next post, I will talk about the value of the term even at the mind-game level.
There are many angles that people use to approach thrivability.
- Knowledge distribution and media. Coop America, Grist, The Daily Green, Hooze,
- Networking and online community approach. Wiser Earth, worldchanging, etc nextbillion, nabuur, razoo, gaia with zaadz, dreamfish, and many others.
- Cooperative communities and co-ops. Twin Oaks, Walnut Street Coop, Stone Soup, etc.
- Networks/communities combined with profitable products and services. Green Home, OsoEco.
- Profitable product or service angle.
- Sewer treatment, clean energy, food production, clothing and home goods for example.
- Environmental consulting, coaching, conflict resolution, mediation, process arts.
- Nonprofit perspective. Changemakers.org, Ashoka, Acumen Fund, Echoing Green, Untld, and literally thousands of nonprofits/nongovernmental orgs around the world as might be found on the Wiser Earth listings.
- Foundations. Rudolf Steiner Foundation, Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, Open Society Institute, Annie E. Casey Foundation etc.
This list is an initial catch of the spectrum and does not assume that these organizations or communities are consistently thrivable or even focused on thrivability.
I talk about field building. It isn’t a popular concept. It is mostly done by foundations, although businesses to strive to build fields that create markets for their products and services. But if you really want to change the world, looking at it, from my perspective anyway, requires one to see the interplay of different fields in the world, assess the gaps, and foster the growth of new fields that fit your strategic direction. So, if thrivability is my mission, what are my strategies? And where is thrivability as a field?
Let’s look at the second question first, because my strategy is going to be the application of my unique abilities and capacity to the gaps I note in the field. Here are the elements of a field:
- knowledge base
- workforce and leadership
- standard practice
- practice setting
- information exchange
- infrastructure for collaboration
- critical mass of support
- advocates and system support
- systemic support
See my card on Elements of a Field.
Where is thrivability with these elements? Off to do a snapshot. I assume that will take some significant time to capture, which I will document here.
So let me give you a sneak peak at my approach from there. Once I understand where the field is, I will be looking at what I can do to help it flourish. The next three to six months will involve an indexing of the network, the knowledge the network holds, the fields on which this one relies, the key and emerging players, the tools the field can use, the energy level of particular practices and efforts, etc.
Then, later in 08, I will look for leverage points, tipping points if you will, for making an impact on the field. I will rely on meta strategies learned from network analysis, complex adaptive systems, persuasion, messaging, etc.
Then I will strive to find my fit. What will my strategies be? What are my specific tangible goals? What do I see as trends, and what can I do to anticipate and make use of them? How will I support myself while being consistent with my work on thrivability?
Please join me, teach me, share with me, change with me.
Zooming way out to try to place my own evolution within the context of thrivability…here is what I have come up with so far.
Taking from my understanding of the evolution of a donor, for example.
- Initially donors often respond to requests with small gifts and make little planning or spend little time thinking about strategically giving. We can call this a passive donor. Most donors fall in this group.
- Beginning to think about strategy and setting aside funds or time for giving leads to the next phase of pro-active donor.
- Perhaps a pro-active donor gathering community of peers and setting up strategic plans might be a prudent donor.
- Creating community, fostering development of other donors, and pushing for greater awareness around giving might be an activist donor.
- Becoming a leader–sharing best practices, innovating new approaches, becoming a mentor, and advocating for the field as a respected voice might be considered the final stage of evolution–an inspired donor leader.
So what might these stages look like in parallel for thrivability?
- Passive thriver: incorporates green practices of friends, chooses thivable options when presented.
- Pro-active thriver: buys organic, fair-trade when possible. Reads news about thrivable practices in favored domains, researches to find thrivable options.
- Prudent thriver: Engages in community of other thrivers, acts as a conscious consumer, has growing awareness of complex systems at play and the difficulty of the perfect solution.
- Activist thriver: Creates and engages in community of thrivers, expands community by reaching out into network to grow awareness.
- Inspired thriver leader: sharing best practices, innovating new approaches, becoming a mentor, and advocating for the field as a respected voice.
So where am I? Perhaps moving from 3 to 4?
The last several years I have gone from leaning toward greener practices to advocating for them. I consistently choose, when possible, organic foods and clothing, reduced packaging, recycling and reuse, a paperless office practices, using my own bags at the grocery…moving from recycling when easy to recycling everything possible, reduced consumption, etc. The list is long. But it is not enough. Even if I get my friends to do what I am doing, and I do more of what my maven friends are doing.
So at the beginning of this year, I discussed with a friend, what more can we do? I already try to serve customers aligned with my view and practices. Where else can I have impact? So here we are, to blog that exploration, discovery, and emergence.
I have been thinking for a couple years now about thrivability. I research here and there to learn more. Something about it struck me. Sustainability seems like a great idea, but I don’t want to just be able to sustain life. I want to see life thrive. Human life, plant life, ecosystem life.
“Hey if we can’t manage sustainability, why even aim for thrivability?” some ask. I have a coaching background, so I know the power of setting strong, compelling goals. I say we go for the big dream, the full vision. Let us not merely work away from unsustainable activities. Instead let us work toward a thrivable world.
So I wondered, for many months, what can I do about this? And what is my role? I have many causes that interest me, where does this one fit. This new year’s I took a look, as I usually do, at my plan for the next year. And because so many of my conversations now focus on climate change, thrivability became the center point to my plan. Everything I do needs to be strategically aligned with achieving a thrivable world.
That doesn’t mean I am no longer working with philanthropy projects or community development or social justice issues, clients, and projects. It means I do all these things with the aim of driving towards thrivability.
I have also significantly shifted my personal practices over the last several years. And while I am celebrating my success at adapting new habits and behaviors, I increasingly feel like they are insufficient by themselves to make the difference I want to make. So here I stand, I can do no other…as my ancestor did before me. I must work harder for thrivability.
Will you help me? Do you hear the call? What can we do together?