InterJournal Complex Systems, 585
Status: Submitted
Manuscript Number: [585]
Submission Date: 20621
Positive Feedback Loops, Principles of Tracking and Permaculture Applied to Sustainable Community Building: A Case Study
Author(s): Flavio Silva

Subject(s): CX.13, CX.14, CX.16, CX.43

Category: Article


POSITIVE FEEDBACK LOOPS, PRINCIPLES OF TRACKING AND PERMACULTURE APPLIED TO SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY BUILDING: A CASE STUDY Silva, Flavio Premise One of the patterns observed in the tracking tradition is that all animals, but human beings love visiting the 'transition zone', which is a place where environments meet (i.e. prairie and forest, water and sand, etc.) In other words, diversity is an integral part of nature, and as such animals naturally accept it. As natural beings, humans can be affected in ways that they may re-discover (or uncover) how to operate in a diverse social environment. Context The experience took place within the sole distributor of electric power in the cosmopolitan area of Brasilia, Brazil, the Companhia Energetica de Brasilia - CEB. Most employees were busy trying to understand the new organizational architecture, which had been previously designed by a group of consultants, and were uncertain about what would happen to the 'good old niches', held mostly by well-educated male engineers, who were immersed in a well-defined hierarchical structure. There was a culture of doers with stiff postures, who had been following specific rules to accomplish specific tasks. The new architecture was process-oriented while the former was goal-oriented. There were scattered evidences of a culture of collaboration. Consequently, the system was not conducive to the generation of feedback loops throughout the company, especially positive ones. Negative feedback happened as a result of a controlling posture derived from the framework established within the company, and it was restricted to the scope of those departments that were directly related to each other. On the other hand, the new model yielded solidarity. It encouraged collaboration, shared responsibility and, thus, it demanded a radical shift on the power relationship, from top down to bottom up. The major obstacle, however, was that there was no way to work on a strategic, shared planning without aligning it to the company’s new design. The complexity resided in aligning people who had distinct levels of perception, and were at different stages of integration of the already on-going process in the company. Method The overcoming of this challenge required a paradigm shift of major degree. Principles of positive feedback loops and Permaculture, and the foundation of tracking (people, in this case) were utilized to design practices that brought people together to deal with the issue of cultural change in this complex environment. The key insight was to observe people’s behaviors, including their avoidances, and map them, as it is done in the tracking tradition. As a result, two distinct patterns, which expressed, respectively people’s likes and dislikes, preferences and non-preferences were woven together. As the mapping activity progressed, the level of intangibles decreased. Conversely, the level of certainty increased in terms of what could be expected from the partakers. The next step was to generate new, creative impulses into the system, which took in consideration the patterns revealed by the partakers, so that they could act in new, proactive ways. Their responses to these inputs generated a sequence of new ways of conversations and actions, which gradually created the following: a) need for nexus; b) sense of purpose; and c) shared focus. The turning point came with the emergence of a comprehensive program with several interesting and intertwined projects in social accountability called CEB Solidary and Sustainable. This program was created to integrate all once scattered actions on social accountability, connecting one another, as well as creating new projects. The coordinators of this program became the link between all parts involved – the company, employees, stakeholders, government, society and environment, and the systematization of these multi-leveled relationships made the building of a sustainable community possible.

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