Five Insights about Global Transformation from the Kosmos Study, Connecting for Change

Last year, Kosmos commissioned a communication research study to better understand an emerging global movement and how groups within the movement could connect effectively. Led by Kosmos Digital Editor Rhonda Fabian and Jen Horner, PhD, both alumni of the Anneneberg School for Communication, the study was shared widely with the Kosmos community and remains one of the most-read features on our website. You can access the longer article about the study here. Or request the full study by contacting Kosmos.

Here we summarize the key insights from the study.

By Rhonda Fabian

A growing community of noted authors, local and global activists, world spiritual figures, economists and ecologists (Influencers) are speaking urgently of a world in crisis and the simultaneous awakening around the world to a ‘new story’ of transformation, a story no longer based on greed, competition, and scarcity, but one informed by fresh expressions of cooperation, indigenous wisdom, community-building, sharing, and innovation at all scales from local to global.

To understand this ‘global transformation movement’ better, how it is articulated, maintained and shared, the Connecting for Change Study used a combination of methods including nominal group technique; a survey targeted to 80 Influencers; and content analysis of 110 websites. These sources, along with ancillary data, led to the eventual consideration of 336 people and organizations comprising the study’s area of inquiry. It was felt that combining the classic methods of influence research with content analysis would return results that, while not statistically quantifiable, might yield rich, nuanced, and actionable insights. Participants self-selected by indicating that they agreed a global transformation movement was already underway.

Five Insights from the Study

1. The Global Transformation Movement is self-organizing.

The ‘movement’ belongs to no one person, group, or belief system. It is a story in process, based not on pre-existing design, but rather as a product of dynamic self-organization. It is a story of people working together to address the world’s most profound challenges. An interconnected ‘network of circles’ is slowly self-organizing, spanning distances, cultures, and other differences. Presaged by the Occupy Movement, there is an emphasis on power-sharing, affinity groups, and participatory democracy. Small communities of practice help shape public policy on the local level and may include civic groups, economic cooperatives, art collectives, spiritual centers and more. Social media platforms and online communities provide a means to connect, scale, teach best practice, strengthen relationships, and share events in real-time such as political actions and performances.

2. The Global Transformation Movement is a values-driven ‘movement of movements’.

Climate Justice, Peacebuilding and Human Rights are seen as interrelated and inseparable movements in the quest for positive global change. Access to food, energy and water, as obvious examples, are universal rights that are at the center of many conflicts, yet are also providing new opportunities for cooperation and sharing.

Personal transformation practices like meditation and consciousness-raising, often lead to the formation of small, strong, intentional communities of practice which find expression through initiatives such as the Local Living Economy and Transition Town movements, spiritual and civic organizations, and more. The Commons, Biodiversity, and Sacred Ecology movements are also frequent mentions.

Reducing carbon footprint – at all scales – is an expressed goal, yet respondents generally describe desired ‘outcomes’ as a set of values, rather than specific milestones. Among these are the values of sharing, respect for diversity, economic and climate justice, and care for all life. Methods for advancing values and goals focus strongly on communication, education, resource sharing, and practice through local activism.

3. The Global Transformation Movement uses alternative forms of learning.

From online courses to deep-nature workshops, respondents tend to seek and create their own customized learning experiences, choosing hands-on and place-based education over traditional classrooms. There is a sensed need to unlearn and discard old assumptions, regain indigenous wisdom, and ‘relearn’ practical skills such as agriculture and permaculture, building, crafting, and arts. Others seek to build leadership skills, deepen spiritual practices, and gain expertise on specific issues. Traditional schools and universities are seen as reinforcers of the deeply entrenched status quo, or ‘old story.’

4. The Global Transformation Movement emphasizes improvisation.

Borrowing from the world of music and dance, improvisation is a collaborative and spontaneous process that allows new kinds of order to emerge. Groups engaged in transformational work are increasingly ordered by improvisational principles. More akin to a meandering stream or a flock of birds, improvisation follows a natural fluid set of rules, rather than rigid imposed ones. Improvisation requires attention, intention, communication, awareness of self and others near to the self, and awareness of the larger picture or pattern that is emerging. Thus, improvisation is an emergent process, and one expressed abundantly in nature—in the natural ways that systems connect, change, and reassemble to create powerful new forms and ideas. It is precisely at the margins, or ‘edge of chaos’—where there is just enough order to recognize a pattern, yet sufficient openness to allow new ideas to take shape—that the most powerful initiatives and practices are emerging.

5. The Global Transformation Movement is spiritual

Ideas about collective consciousness, interbeing and Oneness connect many of the thinkers in our study. The related concept of ‘global citizenship’ emerges as a way of self-identifying that reflects cooperation with and belonging to the world. Rising ecological awareness is ushering in a new era of Gaia-consciousness. Rather than viewing the Self as an isolated participant apart from Nature, the study reaffirms there is a growing belief that humans are an integral part of Nature’s intelligent design. Beneath the political, ideological, and cultural divisions at the root of so many problems here on our planet, there is common purpose—to thrive. Separateness is a fading story. Beneath all our differences a sense of unity is emerging.

Next Steps

Kosmos is developing Phase II of the research and will soon launch a related project to increase civic engagement. Aware that small, informed groups are often the key to positive action at the local level, Kosmos is developing methods to encourage the creation of such groups around critical areas of interest, support their effort and track their work. The goal is to foster connection between groups.

We welcome inquiries from potential partners to assist in our ongoing research efforts.