A Brief History of the ConnectathonSeptember 17, 2023
Connective Intelligence for Life in a VUCA* World
Commenting on the emerging paradigm of complexity science almost forty years ago, Nobel Laureate Ilya Prigogine observed: “The threat lies in the realization that in our universe the security of stable, permanent rules are gone forever. We are living in a dangerous and uncertain world that inspires no blind confidence” (1984, p. 313). He went on to express the need for what has become a core tenet of the Connectathon, asserting that, “Our hope arises from the knowledge that even small fluctuations may grow and change the overall structure. As a result, individual activity is not doomed to insignificance.” While the power of individual activity for collective impact may have been recognized already years ago, it is finally being acted upon in the spirit of interbeing that flourishes through the Connectathons.
Research into complex adaptive systems theory applied to social, psychological, and economic systems has shown that human decision making is far from a rational affair. In his 2008 Nobel Award winning work, behavioral economist Richard Thaler explains how people tend to be susceptible to messaging that will ‘nudge’ them to make even difficult decisions that seem to have no obvious benefit at the moment but may be beneficial in the long term. Such realizations increase the complexity of decision-making frames, giving rise to the notion that we live in a fundamentally VUCA world: one characterised by dynamics of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. While research in the physical sciences continues to explore VUCA patterns and dynamics, the social sciences have recast the same characteristics in more humanistic terms with the acronym RUPT, expressing the lived experience of VUCA as Rapid, Unpredictable, Paradoxical and Tangled. In either case, both VUCA and RUPT are expressions of the contemporary quandary of coping with the increasingly mercurial dynamics of change in our personal and collective worlds.
* VUCA = Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous
Connectathons are designed to help us engage with such situations, and to empower collective action to address them. The initiatives that emerge from each Connectathon herald a new era in the collective self-determination of our species. The particular pressures exerted on humanity by the need to cope with combined and compounded VUCA challenges has resulted in the emergence of entirely new social transaction systems. Clearly, no one person or team can create the needed pathways to viable futures in isolation – we are all in this together.
In essence, what the Connectathons are concerned with ways to human better: how can we, individually and as a species, act in dynamic harmony with all of life and the life support systems of Earth? The challenge of addressing this question has become both profound and urgent. The practices, dispositions, and values that favour the emergence of an authentic expression of our full potential to human are varied and multiple – and often ancient. As we engage in the process of ushering in the conditions for the emergence of a truly thrivable planet — listening into the systemic nurturance spaces and seeking to identify the systemic leverage points for the emergence of a glocal ecocivilisation — it will be increasingly important for our species to find ways of taking appropriate action collectively. Indeed, humanity has reached a bridge that can only be crossed in unity.
As part of this collective solarpunk quest for a thrivable ecocivilisation, a fundamental objective of the Connectathon is the creation and promotion of relational intelligence applied to systemic innovation. If connective intelligence is the capacity to identify and connect with individuals and resources relevant to humaning for thrivability, and collective intelligence is the ability to foster synergetic initiatives based on such connective intelligence, then relational intelligence is the sense-ability required to harness collective intelligence for the greater good. Such evolutionary competence is at the heart of the Connectathon impulse to gather as a truly planetary species. Authoring this narrative involves taking stock of our evolutionary situation as a species with the power to fundamentally alter the viability of life on earth – for better or for worse. The emerging narratives of systemic sustainability, of evolutionary interdependence, of glocal thrivability all depend on our ability to connect with each other in fundamentally human and sacred ways.
Acting as a collective evolutionary guidance system, the Connectathons foster the ability for us to act as response-able agents of evolutionary development – not as human beings with myopic self-centered interests, but as human becomings who are consciously evolving members of an interdependent web of life. This is the evolutionary imperative that the Connectathons seeks to address, extending and augmenting our capacity to act together for a thrivable human presence on Earth and a flourishing future for all life — now and into the future.