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System builders have diverse skills, work with different kinds of people, create new kinds of protocols… work across a landscape that “until they came along had been unconnected” – or so said Mark Ventresca – as I explained in Innovation and Collaboration – Are we Together?

So, if I’m a systems builder who are these different kinds of people, and how do I “work” with them.

Hmm – what do we mean by “work”?

I’m reluctant to use the word “work” as it means different things to different people.

For some people “working with different kinds of people” implies doing some kind of paid work together.

For other people “work” is “what they are working on” in their own time – and the paid work or day job is simply there to pay the bills and enable the “real work” to be done. It’s a strategy I know well. All my early work in Africa was done on “working holidays” and I gained time to work on the projects by swapping a full-time job for casual work as a supply teacher.

For some people their paid work and their “passionate about it” work are identical – but that’s a rare combination. Some people who achieve that overlap do it through extreme personal sacrifice – poets starving in garrets spring to mind.

For the purpose of this post “work” implies putting effort in. There may or may not be any payment involved.

And what do we mean by “working with”?

This question is not as stupid as it may first appear. I addressed it in Building what? You and whose army?

The point I was making there is that,as Mark Vetntresca says, systems builders “work across a landscape that ‘until they came along had been  unconnected’”. This means that there may not be much obvious overlap in the short term, but taking a long term view, from my perspective, we are working towards the same, or similar ends. It’s more a matter of confluence, of “flowing together” than conscious, planned “working with”.

I can give examples of people I value because I see us as doing this kind of long term working or flowing together. They may not see it the same way. I like the analogy of confluence.  It even explains how we can be flowing in the same direction, and doing the same thing together later on, “further down river”, but be completely unaware of each other up in the hills where we are separate streams hidden from each other’s view.

Some people I’m with

I’ll introduce a miscellany of people and organisations I value, and see myself as “working” or “flowing” with in some way. It’s not a full list, but the variety will provide some kind of framework for the systems building that I’m doing and where I’m “placed”.

People connected with the Dadamac Foundation network – Some people think Dadamac Foundation is simply about UK-Africa connections and collaboration and helping people like John Dada. To me it is also where I learned about collaborating with people, from different cultures, at a distance, in ways that were impossible before the 21st century and the Internet. The challenges and barriers to communication that we’ve faced and had to overcome have been the foundation and inspiration behind much or my systems building.

ICTD people (Information Communication Technology Development) – especially the ICTD network in London and on facebook, everyone connected with #ReframingICTD, and Wayan Vota (with his networks in  ICTWorks, Fail Fests and Tech Salons). My connections with ICTD people give me a global perspective for my UK-Africa work (which is “Development work in Africa” plus connections to UK and beyond that could never have happened without ICT).

GlobalNet21 (GN21) is another favourite. The founder Francis Sealey is an inspiring example of a system builder. His vision is for GN21 to be a Global Public Square. It has already attracted thousands of people  and is still developing.

GN21 would provide rich pickings for a whole collection of PhD students wanting to research ICT and systemic change in the 21st century. GN21 could not have happened without the Internet. I have learned so much there – the people I’ve met, online strategies, content of meetings – the list could go on. GN21 is many things to many people. I like to see it as a wonderful, 21st century, learning resource and community for independents learners and thinkers (like me).

Regarding ICT and new ways of doing things: Andrius Kulikauskas – founder of Minciu Sodas and more besides – is another person who has taught me directly and indirectly, and additionally blessed me by the people I’ve met through his trans-national network. He also introduced me to the ideas of open knowledge and working in the public domain and challenged my inherited and previously unchallenged ideas of intellectual property.

The Commons – I appreciate everyone who has helped me connect with ideas related to the commons and new approaches to collaboration based on sharing information, especially Michel Bauwens (P2P Foundation) and George Por (School of Commoning).

Strategies for thinking and working together – I’m interested in how we learn to collaborate with each other more effectively, which ranges from how we pay attention and listen, to various strategies for holding meetings and getting all voices heard. I appreciate experiencing that when I’m part of Civil Society Forum. I’m also learning through my connections with the Culturevists and people connected with Holacracy.

Changing patterns of work –  I appreciate belonging to Escape School and Impact Hub Westminster. At some point I’d like to feed Mark Ventresca’s ideas of systems building rather than entrepreneurship into those spaces (see Innovation and Collaboration – Are we Together? for more about his ideas.)

Other influencers are Dougald Hine, Vinay Gupta and Lloyd Davis plus their networks through Dark Mountain, Uncivilisation, Collapsonomics, Tuttle Club and more; my friends from Everything Unplugged; the more formal institutions of London University Centre for Distance Education (with its lunchtime seminars and other events) and the RSA, especially the London region fellows’ group. Crazy-Sane friends who are doing stuff – see Celebrating my crazy-sane friends and contacts

The system that’s being built

The list above isn’t complete, but it helps to illustrate the area of interest for my systems building. It’s about deep systemic change in an increasingly connected and unpredictable world. It’s a world where we need to learn throughout our lives, to rub minds with many people beyond our immediate cultural groups, to address complex problems and work together in new ways.