Tom Atlee: Whole System Conversations – Voice of the Whole

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Tom Atlee

Whole System Conversations – and the Voice of the Whole

WHO PARTICIPATES IN “WHOLE SYSTEM” CONVERSATIONS? – PARTISANS, STAKEHOLDERS, DOMAINS, AND CITIZENS

by Tom Atlee

Consciously convened conversations have many functions. Many seek simply to get people talking with each other. Others try to bring together what they call “the whole system” to address that system’s collective issues or dreams. Who is involved in these “whole system” conversations?

A “whole system”, in this case, involves all the parties who play – or could play – roles in some social unit or situation. The social unit could be a family or relationship, a group or organization, a community or a whole society. A situation might be, on the one hand, an issue, a problem, or a conflict – or, on the other hand, an inquiry, an opportunity, a shift, or simply a periodic reflection about what’s happening. We can convene conversations around any of these things.

So how do we decide who the parties or players are? How do we “cut the pie” of the whole system? And, if we’re ambitious, how do we elicit a “voice of the whole”?

I see four different approaches to defining who “a whole system” includes. Each approach has its own rationale and appropriate usages. They are not mutually exclusive, but are usually used more or less separately. Perhaps being aware of them and building synergies between them would enhance the power and wisdom of our conversations. These approaches include:

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Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute, POB 493, Eugene, OR 97440
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