The Downing Street Project / network

(Soft) Power to the People! and the revolution starts within…

Reading Indra’s question on my Comment Wall, “Would you like to write something for the site,” I felt a big “Yes!” and wanted to jump to write, right away, but tempered my boyish enthusiasm for two days, out of caring and loving the work that you all are doing here.

I am still new to this community and am here, mostly, in a listening mode. I feel I can’t contribute anything of much value before sensing more of the field and discovering the resonance between it and my own appreciation of an integral politics. The kind of an integral politics I’m thinking of is the one that will be capable to harmonize and build with the synergy of not only the feminine/masculine qualities but other complementary polarities as well, e.g.: autonomy/community, conserving/rebooting, etc.

Reading the blogs and comment walls, and forums on this site made me curious of how my “internal Downing Street Project” is doing. How well I consumed the marriage of the internal feminine and masculine? Do they inspire each other and have a committed, playful, and always-evolving relationship? Those are questions that my attention keeps returning to, from time to time.

I also try to sense what are the essential forces present in the emergent social field of authentic conversations around gender relationship and their impact on our social systems. Indra’s blog at Huff Post on “Do Women Need Their Own Space?” was very eye-opening to some of those issues. I warmly recommend to read it if you have not yet done so. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, its “comments” section was closed. It is unfortunately because the subject deserves a high profile public dialogue space even beyond the borders of Britain.

I believe that transforming our gender relations from competition and dominance to collaboration and partnership is the most foundational issue of our transition to a better world. They affect profoundly all social systems including governance, media, education, and finance, just to name a few.

What I am also present to in me, is a sense of urgency about increasing the influence in the world of such soft powers as “using intuition and emotional intelligence, making relationships, networking, mediating…” (After Gender Neutrality, in The Guardian)

That’s because there’s no way to meet the galloping complexity of our intertwined global crises without a massive increase of our collective intelligence and wisdom, which in turn is conditioned on a massive increase of soft power of/in women, men, and our communities.

How can we do that? Neither I, nor anybody I know has the complete answer. The only thing I know for sure is what’s not needed -- a grand plan and a top-down, “rolling out” approach to implement it. Instead, we may connect our conversations to grow wiser together. I wrote about that approach, here.

I am fascinated by the possibility of creating a collaborative, participatory action-research, with widening circles of involvement, to discover what may become possible when a critical mass of women (and men) are in their best at using soft power for affecting social innovation and change. Observing what works well at small scale and why, then sensing the conditions necessary to scale it up could be some of the first steps. Appreciative Inquiry and the U Process could be natural allies in the research methodology. Does anybody know of any funding program that could make it possible?

Finally, just one more sentence about why I am so passionate about seeing and supporting women taking their place, in much larger number, in the leadership of our institutions. It’s a sentence borrowed from a 19th century Russian philosopher. “No one can be free until everybody is.” (Kropotkin). In the context of post-feminist liberation of the soft power, that sentence also means, no man can know what is freedom to realize his full social potential until we create a world where all human institutions are designed to benefit from the proportionate presence of women in guiding them.

If you are with me so far, then after all these long sentences of my prose you deserve a little poetry. :-)

I’d enjoy hearing from you.


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Comment by indraadnan on July 3, 2009 at 22:30
Hi George - Great to have a man actively blogging and engaging on this site, thanks!

Integral thinking is core to our ideas, or maybe more important, integral doing. One of the key challenges is for us to move those four quadrant maps away from the drawing board and into the Houses of Parliament as well as into our own homes. We want to bring an awareness of the correlation between our inner impulses, and the way we do governance. At present, everything is grouped around productivity in the service of the economy. That results in our well being and families being marginalised. The knock on effects of that are social dysfunction.

To find a balance, we have to first decide what the distinctions are that we are trying to balance. That we should even separate our days into Work and Life is symptomatic of our inability to recognise and integrate the many diverse ways we create value. I prefer a balance between Play and Care - as Pat Kane says in The Play Ethic - or Progress and Understanding, Quantity and Quality, Reason and Instinct. It's not until we even question the nature of power that we see there is a distinction between hard and soft and that a balance is to be found there.

I love your approach with Collective Intelligence and we certainly hope to benefit from the processes that you are describing. At the same time, we need to balance that patient groundswell of thinking, with interventions in the present that make a difference now. That's what brings hope and hope brings strength. We know that lasting political change only occurs when the people change, creating, in turn, a new context for the emergence of different structures and policy. However, what causes them to develop? To move from a passive yearning to an active self development?

Consider the effect of Obama on global politics. He has given so many people a new vision of what is possible - not just for the US, but also within their own countries.

Quotas for women would cause a seismic shift - but I'm not sure of the effect on our voters. There is a very different context for that kind of change in Sweden, Finland, even Wales where they have been successfully implemented. But the sudden emergence of lots of women, not pushing their way into politics, but being invited in by a public that has begun to call for them - that would make a big difference!

I would welcome the men in this debate to be gender specific too: what do men have to lose and more important, what do they stand to gain from balanced leadership? What is the argument for The Downing Street Project from men?

Looking forward to more thoughts.

Comment by Lee Chalmers on July 3, 2009 at 7:51

I love your post! Thank you. I agree that the move to collaboration is one of the most crucial. It's funny, Indra and I notice that as the founders of The Downing Street Project, we constantly have to do this work in ourselves first. Having been conditioned for so long in the business world, I notice that it isn't my first response when the chips are down. Through transforming this tendency in myself, I help the space of DSP transform too. But you already know that ;)

One of the challenges we are constantly facing is finding hard power arguments for soft power. We need to meet the business world there and the political and show that soft powered approaches + hard power = smart power and this has benefit. We need to meet people where they are.

I'd love to hear what way others think we can increase the desirability of soft power approaches in politics (and business).


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