Guest Post - Marilyn Hamilton

by: Heather on 12/01/2008
Posted in: Guest Posts

This just in from Dr. Marilyn Hamilton, author of Integral City. Thanks Marilyn!

Networking not working? Try Meshworking

One of the things I learned at the book launch for Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive in Vancouver on Nov. 5, was that many people realized how much more powerful meshworking is than networking.

Networking has been used by the business world to generate leads and make marketing pitches to target markets and strengthen organizational hierarchies. Networking has been used by civil society to demonstrate how links can be made between caregivers and those in need. The business world depends on its assumptions about the value of connections in effective and efficient hierarchies to make networks work. Civil society has depended on the social capital that is generated from delivering services to the less fortunate to make networks work.

But we are now in an age where both the values of efficiencies and effectiveness and the capacities of social justice need to be brought together. Meshworking does just that by adapting the ways that the brain builds a mind and the mind builds a brain. A natural meshwork arises from bringing different elements or capacities together (just like brain synapses that reach out for new connections) and creates pathways where connections are repeatedly made. Eventually if this happens often enough, the repeated connections create well travelled energy patterns that become learning and eventually structures in the brain.

That's why meshworking is qualitatively different than networking -- it depends on differences connecting (like business and civil society) and order emerging from repeated patterns. Such order eventually results in structures that include both the natural hierarchies and self-organizing capacities that support and enable complexity to emerge.

We need both kinds of networking but neither alone is sufficient to today's challenges in either business or civil society. The world is ready for some fresh approaches that combine the two intentions -- the self organizing networking (often done by civil society) with the hierarchical networking (often done by the business sector) brought together become meshworking. That will allow us to discover surprisingly creative ways to solve existing problems with existing resources that get recombined so something new emerges.

An example might be locating new housing stock in existing homes, by finding people with extra rooms and creating a support structure to provide services to the working poor or homeless. Bringing these approaches and people together might be a terrific solution to challenging economic times for both groups. This is an example where, both self-organizing and organizational hierarchy are needed for solving old problems with existing resources in new ways.


Thanks Hycroft House for showing me how one kind of networking is necessary but not sufficient to meshworking -- but both kinds of networking can create valuable meshworks. This is what I explore in Chapter 10 of "Integral City". All the meshworkers at Hycroft House who practised getting to know new people and discovering how they could help each other make a difference were great examples of meshworking intelligence at work.

For more on the benefits of meshworking and designing cities to function intelligently as a whole system, check out Marilyn's book, Integral City.

Integral City

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