Kosmos Publishes Original Research Report: ‘Connecting for Change’

By Rhonda Fabian

Almost a year ago, Kosmos embarked on a communication research initiative by generous invitation of the Fenwick Foundation. We were asked to look at the emerging, growing global transformation movement which we at Kosmos feel very much a part of, and explore questions about identity, influence, and connection.

Communication research is a field that addresses intriguing questions on a wide spectrum of human activities– how we interact with one another, in groups, and institutionally. There are methodologies to discover how we communicate non-verbally; by what mechanisms the news media reinforce social norms; how ancient artists expressed awe; how advertising cultivates stereotypes, to name just a few.

And yet, communication research, like any, is prone to bias, including self-fulfilling projections, selection bias, ethnocentricity and the like.  For this reason we chose to turn the lens of inquiry on ourselves and our own extended family of activists, writers, policy advocates and artists. Self reflection was integral to our design. Further, there was divergence of opinion about the need to connect or even attempt to define a community self-forming ‘at the edge of chaos’ – a fear that naming what is emerging might impose limitations on it. Thus empiricism was not our goal; we relied on a more intuitive grounded theory approach which seeks to discover emergent patterns and trends in large volumes of published data through inductive logic.

Dr. Jennifer Horner and I, both alumni of the Annenberg School for Communication Research at the University of Pennsylvania, led the study. We chose a trio of methods – nominal group process, survey, and formal content analysis – to draw a circle, consider the stated values, missions and methods of 336 people and organizations in that circle, and learn about the ways they connect or wish to connect. Highlights of what we learned will be shared in the Fall/Winter edition of Kosmos this month. It includes brief commentaries by Dot Maver, Michel Bauwens, Philip Barnes, Kelly Teamey, and Bayo Akomolafe.  The full study will be available by request to Kosmos subscribers.

It was beneficial to attend the recent New Story Summit in Findhorn, Scotland, where many of the participants in our study also gathered. How would our own insights align with the expressions of this wider gathering of ‘edge-walkers’, those manifesting the New Story in their own work and far-flung communities? The comparison was encouraging. The time feels ripe to cultivate deeper connection between localized efforts bioregionally and globally. There is a shared longing to heal ourselves and the planet – to ‘un-do’ rather than ‘do more’.  And if the Summit taught us anything – we need new ways to work together in groups. Our gracious hosts at Findhorn Community helped us see that we are not fragmented pieces of a puzzle – we are already whole, a thriving global community. We just need ever better ways to connect and share so that we might have greater impact in service to all.

A research study can never be more than a snapshot in time. We already have a bouquet of new questions and so our inquiry will continue. Yet, we are are grateful for the opportunity to present our initial findings – the first communication research study about the emerging global transformation movement, through the eyes of the extended Kosmos community  –  and we look forward to the dialogue it generates.

Rhonda Fabian is the digital editor of Kosmos Journal, CEO of an educational communication company, and community activist.