Social transformation

I’m back to the blog after spending the entire month of March researching, rethinking and revising Chapter 8 of Turning Signs (and welcoming the spring of 2021). The chapter isn’t completely done yet, but in the meantime i want to share this excerpt from Free, Fair, and Alive (pp. 204-205), a book on Commoning by David Bollier and Silke Helfrich (New Society Publishers, 2019):

Geographer Dina Hestad of the University of Oxford has studied what characteristics must be present for actions and strategies to be socially transformative. She has provisionally identified the following criteria:

  • Work towards a vision which reflects the need to live in balance with the carrying capacity of the earth
  • Consider that change in a complex system cannot be controlled due to uncertainty
  • Avoid displacing problems to other locations or times, which could prevent wider system change
  • Tackle the root causes of acceleration and growth — the feedback loops that cause most of today’s ecological and social crises
  • Work towards systems that avoid unchecked imbalances of power and help avoid triggering humans’ (destructive) ancient tribal circuits
  • Promote understanding that humans are part of a much larger whole, and create possibilities for resonance and meaningful, affective relationships between people and nature
  • Develop healthy human agency at individual and collective levels for transforming and co-creating our future
  • Open up new possibilities for acting rather than shrinking our opportunities to act
  • Communicate a compelling and inspiring story of system change that names the problems and identifies commensurate leverage points and resonates with people from all walks of life and across ideologies
  • Promote social cohesion and a sense of togetherness at different levels, which includes trust, a sense of belonging, and a willingness to participate and help
  • Promote critical thinking, generosity of spirit, and openness to learn from diverse ideas and perspectives

Commoning has a rich potential to meet all of these criteria. Of course, implementation is critical! That is to say, strengthening and expanding commoning from within a market/state polity will be really difficult. But it is entirely feasible.

One thought on “Social transformation”

  1. Hi Gary,

    Enjoyed your blog. Refreshing to be reminded of the power and benefit of social cohesion and action (in my last year of university, was writing an essay on Social Capital). The BIC (Baha’i International Community) increasingly provides a template upon & through which much of the commoning goals you quote can be designed and implemented.

    Most of my work is contributing to health and soundness with individuals & small groups. There are so many humans wounded as a result of personal, intergenerational & cultural trauma, that they’re not in very good shape to go out and change the world, although “every man does his best” as my dad used to say. And Baha’u’llah informs us that each sincere, intoned prayer can circle the globe and “cause the heart of every righteous man to throb.”.

    The beauty is that social action and personal healing & spiritual awakening can join hands and mutually enhance, increasing the likelihood of integration, evolution and capacity on both levels for implementation of the practical steps towards a just and mature society that nurtures, inspires and innovates.

    The New AndaLuz Centre for Authentic Dialogue (NACAD) has been an effort towards understanding and applying true consultation as a means to bridge mindful awareness with improved communication for effective decision-making, conflict resolution and the healing of trauma.

    From 2016-19 we held biweekly NELSOZ’ sessions (the Z is for Zoom) with groups of 10-15 from various countries. If you’re interested to read about it, see
    Take care – Hugh

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