Ecosystem Mapping

Richard D. Bartlett

Recently, we spoke to Richard D. Bartlett as part of our ecosystem mapping project. Read below to find out about all of the amazing things he is doing within the space. 

Richard’s background story

For Rich, the central guiding question has always been: how can there be belonging without conformity? Rich was part of the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011, through which he later became a member of Enspiral. His membership of Enspiral inspired him to experiment with decentralised modes of organisation, and he founded Loomio, a software which facilitates decentralised organisation for companies.

After Loomio he realised he was more interested in the team aspect rather than the software aspect, so he founded The Hum, which works with Green organisations to help them get to a Teal way of operating. They do workshops, training, courses and want to add retreats soon.

More recently he’s been interested in the question of how to create more communities like Enspiral: communities based on mutual trust, where members are friends and allies invested in different but parallel things and supporting each other to grow as individuals. He’s thus founded Microsolidarity, which is focused on group design.

The Space we are working in 

Rich’s attention is mostly on the horizon of what he wants to achieve, and doesn’t concern himself much with what others in this space are doing. His focus is ‘decentralised organisation’, even though that word isn’t perfect. Not exactly non-hierarchical, it’s more about not being dominated by others, and being part of a dynamic network which can change and evolve over time. The relationships between people, their behaviour and the culture need to change for that to happen, technology alone is not sufficient.

Regarding Enspiral and what they do, people who are not part of it and have not experienced it typically don’t get it, no matter how you try to explain it. Enspiral is a network of friends supporting each other and experimenting with different modes of organisations because they believe that’s an important part of changing the world for the better. It’s also about adult development and peer coaching. 

They are evolving towards a new ‘indigeneity’, which is learning how to live in peace with each other in a local context. It’s a local thing, so every instantiation will look different. ‘Adult development’ is a phrase that has recently been getting more traction and which more people tend to understand more easily.

Others in the space

Rich is interested in tracing the lineage of Enspiral so as to understand how it came about:

  • The Regeneration Network in New Zealand was a youth leadership program which gave birth to Enspiral.
  • Heart Politics was a group for people with a greater understanding of how our interior condition relates to the exterior condition of the world we’re living in (e.g. trying to do politics with our hearts intact). The Regen Network came from here.
  • The Youth Initiative Program is a cousin of the Regen Network, though not sure how closely tied they are.
  • As new people come in we want to change, but there are also some things we want to hold onto, and some of these things existed even 50 years ago. Heart Politics traces all the way back to the Maori community at the time of colonisation!

Difficulties of the work 

Rich describes Riane Eisler’s work on the ‘partnership-domination spectrum’ as a useful framework. She looks at relationships at various scales (e.g. between 2 people or 2 countries, etc.), where we can relate to each other more in a spirit of partnership vs. domination. The problem is we’re too far on the domination side of the spectrum. Partnership is about people being different and having complementary strengths, to be treated as a shared resource. This happens at all the different scales, from personal relationships to workplaces to countries, etc.

Domination is reinforced at all the different scales of the fractal, and thus has to be addressed at all the scales. We need to ask, how do we raise children to elevate their autonomy and agency, and train them for partnerships? One great resource is on this is, for deschooling.

But you also need to work on the adults – the teachers and parents. And in an age of information technology, we should be able to have a closer connection between citizens and state – it needs to be more dynamic. We should be able to participate and give our ideas. Taiwan has the most advanced digital democracy in the world, for example. 

He suggests the ecosystem mapping project is hard because everything is connected to everything else, and to all the different scales. We need people working on all the different scales, and all scales should be treated as valid and useful. There is a partnership happening between all the social change actors in this space at the different levels. E.g. at the individual level, how do we support people to change so they are less conditioned by the partnership-domination way of being? We’re both dominant and submissive, and we need to step out of that.

The partnership-domination framework is not the only way to slice the world. Others include the anti-capitalist framework (people who work being dominated by people who own capital) and the anarchist one (freedom vs. coercion). 

Check out our Ecosystem Mapping page for more info on this project, and please get in touch if you would like to speak with us about it, or if you know of any people it might be useful for us to get in touch with!

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