Although they may not realize it themselves, Lina Srivastava and Sean Howard are organization development practitioners working in the realm of social change - the sort of stuff that OISE's new Collaborative Program in Workplace Learning and Social Change focuses on. They facilitated an example exercise that addressed a real problem in the emerging world, that of waste pickers in Delhi losing their livelihood due to commercialization of waste disposal. The situation was simplified for the purpose of the session, and relatively little guidance was provided to the individual break-out groups at the outset. We were challenged to seek to understand how individual perspectives could be changed that would change behaviours, and subsequently lead to systemic change in a societal setting. (Howard is a marketer by background - his method was more-or-less OD; his vocabulary was marketing).
Having an OD guy in our group (me) enabled us to navigate the problem using a systems change approach. We asked "who's perspective are we talking about," and that led us to identify the various stakeholders and their particular interests. We then observed the complex interconnections among the interests - themes that would undoubtedly be problematic, through which feedback and feedforward loops would be created, causing ripple effects throughout the system. We then realized that the only way this complex issue would be resolved is by creating a space of engagement, in which all parties concerns would be heard and respected, and that the interrelationship polarities and tensions could be explored.
There's that "space of engagement" notion again - the basic principle of ba. In dealing with situations as complex as those that arise in an organization, or throughout the larger community, it is vitally important to be able to create a common space in which all parties can engage. Effectively, we are creating the conditions for a valence organization to emerge from among a group of individual constituencies, each with their own interest. Identifying and exploring the nature of the potential valence relationships becomes a means through which dialogue can be facilitated, and that, in turn, creates the ba space from which resolution can emerge.
Thanks to Lina and Sean for inspiring what has turned out to be an interesting line of thinking for me, taking Valence Theory from philosophy and theory, to praxis.
[Technorati tags: sustainability camp | suscamp | lina srivastava | sean howard | systems change | organization development | social change]