Posted by & filed under Open Letters.

Dear George

You asked for something more specific about why FASST is coming into being, The only way I know how to do that at present is to give you the personal story behind it.

In FASST – an introduction and invitation I explained the “What and Why?” in very general terms:

What is it?

FASST is an experimental, newly forming organisation. It’s organisational structures and procedures are those of teal organisations and holacracy. The name FASST comes from “Freedom, Accountability and Structure for Systemic Transformation”.

Why is it?

FASST is a response to the fact that we are living in a time of disruption and systemic change. We need new ways of going about things, We need to learn how to go forward together effectively in our increasingly uncertain world. The FASST experiment is exploring a possible way to do this.

This post is the explanation about the “Why” (and the “What”) of FASST on a more personal level.

I’m intrigued by the times we live in

I come to the topic of change from a systems thinking background. Given the way that “how we think” affects “how we act” this means that  systems thinking has affected the practicalities of my life as I’ve lived it.

My knowledge-base combines cognitive development and the use of digital technologies. I’m interested in information-flows and the human aspects of those flows. I care about ways that people learn for themselves, and help others to learn, and how we construct knowledge and opinions from facts and experiences. I’m interested in the relationship between people and digital technologies and what is most appropriately done by which.

For years I’ve used the Internet for independent, individual, question-led learning. Much of this has personalised, needs-driven learning, has been catalysed by practical, collaborative, community development work with friends in Africa. This practical work would never have happened without the Internet, and the related theoretical work would also have been impossible without the Internet.

Over the past fifteen years or so I have gradually found myself at a hub of a rich network of contacts, geographically scattered, culturally diverse, sharing our ongoing concerns and learning informally from each other. I can’t convey in words what this has meant in an experiential sense no matter how much I might share in the way of facts. But I do know that it has profoundly influenced my perceptions of life as it can be lived in a genuinely connected and generously collaborative world.

I am continuously intrigued by what I’m learning in this connected world, where “we” (i.e. mixed groups of people)  are able to collaborate at a distance and to share what we learn. Learning in this context refers to learning through discovery and through reflection related to practical initiatives. – i.e. not “book learning” although, as appropriate, it includes reference to relevant publications and other sources of information and knowledge.

FASST is an opportunity to go deeper

FASST is on opportunity to go much deeper into these explorations.That’s why I’m initiating it. I can see it in my mind’s eye, but it’s hard to explain. It will be much easier once we’re experimenting with it in action.

I can see how FASST can work. It offers a practical organisational environment, in a clear theoretical context, with robust constitutional procedures,  where “we” (i.e. whoever joins me in this experiment)  can develop an easily replicable, effective, collaborative environment, serving many needs and many people.  It will contribute to smooth systemic transformations towards more compassionate and less destructive behaviours than our current systems.  In FASST we will be able work on individual and group initiatives, in mutually supportive ways, with maximum personal freedom, thanks to clear structures and accountabilities. FASST is a vehicle for leaving behind the broken systems of the present and moving towards the emerging future..

FASST and the future that is already here

William Gibson said “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed” – The Economist, December 4, 2003.

FASST is a vehicle for exploring our “unevenly distributed future”.

The ways that we can connect with each other now through the Internet are causing seismic shifts in our global landscape. The old constraints of time and distance are broken. New routes are opening up. We have only recently arrived in this shifting, fluid landscape. We are still in the early stages of exploration, of pioneering and sense-making. People are experiencing this rapidly emerging future in different ways.

My vision for FASST is built on what I already know of this on a small scale through practical experience. In that sense I can say that FASST has been well prototyped.

The list below is based on what I have experienced increasingly since 2000 through my various online and face-to-face networks. Now I’m bringing all those elements together in a new, integrated and more structured way through FASST.  I don’t want to be too prescriptive or precise about how it will develop. It will grow in its own way, influenced by the people it attracts, but the list below will be “part of its DNA”.

The FASST community will be made up of people who

  • Develop collaborations and organisations
  • Think together – by developing communities of trust, despite being separated by physical distance and cultural differences
  • Learn together  – by sharing our experiences and practical ongoing work, and being mutually supportive
  • Gain new personal insights through sharing different perspectives
  • Co-create and share new knowledge through our combined insights and reflections
  • Solve practical problems that will help people and planet to thrive
  • Behave in local-global ways i.e. local individuals, collaborating through global online connections, combining local and global perspectives (not working through a traditional system of local, regional, national, international and ultimately global hierarchies)

I know that this list may seem generalised and vague, so the rest of this post explains my journey to this point, what I bring to FASST, and why I’m initiating it.  It’s been a long journey, starting in the 1970’s so it won’t all fit in this post. I’ve therefore written a shortish version below under numbered subheadings. If any section takes your interest, you’ll find a longer version, with the same headings at The long version of : “My Why” and FASST

1 – In the beginning: 1970’s, the OU, infants and micro computers

The 1970’s was when my interest in systems thinking began, through studies with the Open University. I applied what I was learning to my practical and theoretical knowledge of cognitive development and to my blossoming interest in computers. This “learning-by-doing” exploration of teaching, learning and digital technology was the first step in the journey towards FASST.

2 – In 2000 my focus was rural Nigeria and using the Internet

In 2000 my background in education and “ICT” (Information and Communication Technology) led to a new hobby. Some friends, Peter Adetunji Oyawale and his wife Agnita, invited me to get involved in a community development project in rural Nigeria, which included digital technology, information sharing, and some elements of distance learning. This widened my horizons. It also led me to use the Internet for background learning.

The “wider horizon” enabled me to connect with inspiring people, committed to innovative work, and acting outside conventional organisational structures and systems. Their influence affects the vision of FASST, and I believe many of them will play an active role in FASST as it emerges as a functioning entity.

3 – Learning online, discovering top-down disconnects – and Teal

From 2000 onwards I spent countless hours on the Internet when I was home in London, to find out about Nigeria, International Development and related topics.

When I went to Nigeria on working holidays I got a different perspective. I was getting two versions of reality and they didn’t match.

Over the years I became increasingly aware of deep disconnects between my experiential learning in Nigeria, and the theoretical, online learning I did in London. Awareness of these disconnects influenced my perceptions of hierarchical systems and information-flows that are dominantly top-down. These perceptions prepared me to be receptive to the ideas of Teal organisations, and thus interested me  in developing the Teal and Holacratic organisation called FASST.

4 – Inclusion and information flows

I have some unique experiences through working at-a-distance with people living in rural Nigeria and other locations that are similarly hard-to-reach. These experiences influence the thinking behind FASST,  its concerns about inclusion, and some unusual perspectives on information flows.

5 – High-tech, low-tech and no-tech communication

Back in 2000 and 2001 the Internet only reached as far as major cities in Nigeria, not into the rural areas beyond. We evolved all kinds of creative workarounds, to combine high-tech, low-tech and no-tech communication systems in order to strengthen our two-way information flows. From the very start this was creative, cross-cultural collaboration and shared learning-by-doing. It was only possible through commitment, relationships and trust. FASST is based on that very real practical foundation.

6 – Trial and improvement

Learning-by-doing, is also known as “trial and error” learning, or “trial and improvement”. I expect shared learning will happen in FASST as we work on our various practical projects and share the challenges and experiences from our “trials and improvements”

7 – Overview and insights

I’m interested in many aspects of systemic change. For me the interest that over-arches and interconnects all the others is how we can learn together and create new knowledge by collaborating online.

8 – FASST (and its prototype), Teal, Holacracy, U.Lab and the emerging future

All these are all interwoven. FASST is a “starting small” experimental Teal organisation which will adopt a Holacracy constitution. The ideas behind it are based on “prototyping” done previously elsewhere, and FASST itself is a kind of prototyping (FASST – an introduction and invitation) It all fits into the wider context of systemic change and the emerging future in U.Lab.