Thursday, May 12, 2016

Organizational forms compared: my evolving TIMN table vs. other analysts’ tables — revised & expanded

This post provides an expanded iteration of my similarly-titled May 2009 post (here). Besides making a few edits to the text about my TIMN table, I have added numerous tables.

In addition to my TIMN table, this new inventory presents tables in rough chronological order from William Ouchi (1980), Walter Powell (1990), Jane Jacobs (1992), Allen Paige Fiske (1992, 2004), Max Boisot (1995, 2004), Jessica Lipnack & Jeffrey Stamps (2000), Grahame Thompson (2003), Bob Jessop (2003), Mark Considine & Jenny Lewis (2003), Gerard Fairtlough (2005), Federico Iannacci & Eve Mitleton–Kelly (2005), Paul Adler & Charles Heckscher (2005), Karen Stephenson (2009), Kim Cameron & Robert Quinn (2006), Harold Jarche (2012), Clay Spinuzzi (2013), Otto Scharmer (2013), and Kojin Karatani (2014).

As with my 2009 post, the purpose of this 2016 post is to present my TIMN table comparing the four TIMN forms, along with alternative tables by other analysts. My notion is that it should be instructive to have various tables available in one place for side-by-side comparison. It provides a way to highlight differences in underlying assumptions and dimensions. For me, it also helps substantiate the validity of my TIMN table.

* * *

My TIMN table comparing the four forms: tribes, institutions, markets, and networks (1996, 2009)

Table 1 summarizes many points I’ve made (plus some not yet made) about the four TIMN forms. Its details indicate their differing strengths and limitations. This version of the table is from my 2009 post here, as indicated above. The original version is in my first paper about TIMN (1996, p. 17).

As an overview, the table conveys that each form, once it is subscribed to by many actors, is more than a mere form — it develops into a realm, even a system of thought and action. Each form embodies a distinctive cluster of values, norms, and codes of conduct; and these must be learned and disseminated for a form to take root and for a realm or sector of activity to grow around it. Indeed, each form’s rise spells an ideational and structural revolution. Each is a generator of order, for each defines a set of interactions (or, if you prefer, transactions) that are attractive, powerful, and useful enough to create a distinct realm of activity, or at least its core. Each becomes the basis for a governance system that is self-regulating and ultimately self-limiting. And each tends to foster a different kind of worldview, for each orients people differently toward social space, social time, and social action. Indeed, what is rational — how a “rational actor” should behave — is different for each form; no single “utility function” suits all of them. Each attracts different kinds of personalities.

Thus each form becomes associated with high ideals as well as new capabilities. As each develops, it enables people to organize to do more than they could previously. Yet all the forms are ethically neutral — as neutral as technologies — in the sense that they have both bright and dark sides, and can be used for good or ill. The tribal form, which should foster community solidarity and mutual caring, may also breed a narrow, bitter clannishness that can justify anything from nepotism to murder in order to shield and strengthen a clan (or other tribal form) and its leaders. The hierarchical institutional form, which is supposed to lead to professional rule and regulation, may also be used to uphold corrupt, arbitrary dictators. The market form, which should bring free, fair, open exchanges, may also be distorted and rigged to allow unbridled speculation and profiteering. And the network form, which can empower civil society and its nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), may also serve to strengthen “uncivil society” — say, by enabling terrorist groups and crime syndicates to organize transnational networks. Thus, it is not just the bright sides of each form that foster new values and actors; their dark sides may do so as well. As Jane Jacobs (Systems of Survival, 1992, esp. p. 151) observed about what she calls the guardian (i.e., +I) and commercial (i.e., +M) syndromes, “monstrous moral hybrids” can take shape if they are mingled improperly.

Finally, note the last three rows. One points out that each form has a different architecture: Tribes, with their interlaced lineages and marriages, resemble circles and labyrinths (not to mention networks and webs). Hierarchical institutions are often depicted as pyramids or stovepipes, and markets as atomized billiard balls moving freely in space. Nowadays, information-age networks are said to resemble geodesic domes and “buckyballs” (after Buckminster Fuller). The next row observes that each form corresponds to a different aspect of anatomy: tribes to a body’s skin or look; hierarchical institutions to a musculo-skeletal system (as Thomas Hobbes implied); markets to a cardio-pulmonary circulatory system (as Karl Marx noted); and networks to a sensory nerve system (as Herbert Spencer thought, and many writers still suppose today). These are only analogies and metaphors, but they help impart the distinctive nature of each form.

The last row notes that each TIMN form is associated with a different information and communications technology revolution. In brief, the rise of the tribal form depended on a symbolic revolution: the emergence of language and early writing (runes, glyphs), enabling the storytelling that is central to tribal cultures. The rise of the hierarchical institutional form — as in the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church, the absolutist states, and their vast administrative structures — reflected a mechanical revolution: the development of formal writing and printing, first penned script and later the printing press. This was important not only for keeping records and issuing commands, but also for inscribing laws that chiefdoms and states could apply to growing populations who were not kinfolk and often not well-known to each other. Next, the rise of the market form and its far-flung business enterprises was sped by the electrical technologies of the 19th century: the telegraph, telephone, and radio. Today’s spread of the network form extends from the digital revolution and its technologies, notably the Internet, fax machines, and cellular telephones, which are especially empowering for civil-society associations around the world and across political spectrums.

I suppose I should get around to revising some lines in this May 2009 table. For example, the line about key products: as I discuss in a later May 2009 post (here), “club goods” could be added to “gifts” under Tribes, and “commons goods” could replace “collective goods” under Networks. Also, the line about key philosophers: because of a recent op-ed by David Brooks (here), I realize I could add “Durkheim” under Tribes.

I’ve also been meaning for years to add a line (or more). For example, about religious expressions: much paganism could fit under Tribes, the Catholic Papacy under Institutions, Protestantism under Markets, and by implication, whatever-comes-next (something more Buddhist?) as a result of the Network form taking hold. But right now, I am more intent on generating a survey of other analysts’ tables — a lot of work — so I shall leave such revisions to my table for a future effort.

Of course, readers should remember that this table and its write-up are lifted out of context. The context I’d like others to be aware of is provided mainly by two posts: an overview of TIMN (here) and a deeper look at TIMN system-dynamics (here). Readers should also notice that a key challenge for TIMN, still not fully resolved but discussed in many posts (e.g., here), is distinguishing between the Tribe and Network forms. My table speaks to this challenge, but it endures anyway.

* * *

Other analysts’ tables about organizational forms

My goal is to display and briefly discuss tables comparable to TIMN’s that identify key forms of organization, preferably tables that focus on cardinal forms of organization, are about society in general, and have an evolutionary orientation. A few tables meet these criteria exactly, but others only obliquely.

Thus, the following typologies are, like TIMN, mostly about hierarchies, markets, and networks. However, some refer to other forms, such as clans or heterarchies, or use other terms, such as peer-to-peer (P2P) instead of networks. Far as I know, my TIMN table is the only table that treats tribes as a distinct, separate organizational form. Also, many tables don’t really focus on forms of organization, but rather on something related — i.e., “ways of getting things done” or “modes of exchange”. Moreover, many tables focus on something less grand than society — usually business organizations. And they are not truly evolutionary — instead they typologize tendencies happening today. No matter: all are close enough to meeting my preferred criteria, and they are all interesting and instructive for TIMN.

For comparative and inspirational purposes, what follows are screen grabs (click to enlarge) and blurbs about the other tables I have come across. There are of course many write-ups that compare organizational forms, as I have discussed elsewhere, especially (here). But not every write-up is accompanied by a table (or figure, or chart — or it is, but I can’t do a screen grab). This constrains whose ideas get presented here. Indeed, some appealing discussions (e.g., Jung & Lake, 2011; Carson, 2016) are devoid of tables like those below. Moreover, I have not included any analysis, even if it includes a table, that discusses just two forms. Thus, myriad analyses about hierarchies vs. markets, or hierarchies vs. networks, are not represented here, even though I discuss them in other writings. My concern here is with analyses accompanied by tables that purport to identify a cosmology of at least three organizational or related kinds of forms, preferably with an evolutionary bent that overlaps well with TIMN. (See end note for further information.)

A few generalizations appear to apply across the tables that I have included:
  • The treatment of hierarchies and markets (and their cognates) is generally clearer and more standardized than is the treatment of networks (not to mention tribes).
  • Where networks (and their cognates) are discussed, the tables and related text are often more about social than organizational networks — and the analyst may not be clear about the distinction between social and organizational networks.
  • “Trust” is often listed as an attribute of networks, but not of hierarchies or markets. This is a sign the analyst may be thinking more in terms of social than organizational networking — and it’s not a good sign. Some kind of trust is involved in each and every form — trust is not unique to networks.
  • Tribes (or cognates, like clans) rarely get identified as a distinct form. Instead, their attributes often show up listed under the network form, especially when the analyst is thinking in terms of social networks. Indeed, drawing clear distinctions between tribes and networks (or their cognates) remains a challenge (as noted earlier).
  • There is little consistency to the order in which the forms are listed. If the analyst is a sociologist or economist thinking in terms of the classic dichotomy between hierarchies and markets, then either markets or hierarchies usually get listed first, and networks later on the right side of a table. But I have seen tables where networks are given the middle position, especially if the analyst views it as an in-between or hybrid form. It depends on the analyst’s focus and rationale. In contrast, I have a specific, evolutionary order in mind: T+I+M+N.
After pondering all these alternative tables, I continue to believe that TIMN is preferable. I also notice that, the more time goes by, the more other analysts’ tables have evolved toward resembling TIMN. Indeed, the penultimate two — Jarche, then Spinuzzi —rely on TIMN. And the final two — Scharmer, then Karatani — overlap with TIMN so much that I am surprised and pleased, though neither seems to know about TIMN. Which reminds me of what I replied to an inquiry about resemblances between TIMN and Max Boisot’s “I-Space” work: “I've long figured that when it's time for a new idea to arise, it's likely to do so via various people at about the same time, all scattered around unknown to each other. Sort of a variation on William Gibson's famous remark about the future being already here, just poorly distributed” (email, October 4, 2012)

From William Ouchi’s article about clans as an alternative to bureaucracies and markets (1980 — walled but lately here):

Ouchi is a management professor and strategist. This table (p. 137) summarizes his proposal (p. 132) that: “Markets, bureaucracies, and clans are therefore three distinct mechanisms which may be present in differing degrees, in any real organization.” With this, the paper offers a rare early effort to add clans — a variant of TIMN’s tribes — to the established transaction-cost view that hierarchies and markets are the key alternatives. Accordingly, clans may, under some conditions, offer a better way to create efficiencies and avoid organizational failures from a transaction-cost perspective. The conditions Ouchi identifies are where harmony is essential — i.e., where teamwork and a strong sense of community are needed, and individualistic opportunism must be avoided — such that relying on hierarchies and markets is inadvisable. His concept of clans draws on Durkheim’s concept of organic solidarity, and he notes how common this was in preindustrial enterprises. But his focus is its rising significance in modern high-tech industries, notably in Japan.

From Walter Powell’s seminal paper on networks as neither hierarchies nor markets (1990):

This is a classic table, the first by an economic sociologist to add networks to the traditional dichotomy of hierarchies and markets as the paradigmatic options that business enterprises face. It’s also the table and write-up that most reassured me, early on, that TIMN was viable — that scholars would increasingly recognize networks as a cardinal form of organization. His particular focus was on craft and high-tech industries. What the table (p. 300) indicates is that, by comparison, network designs are (more?) relational, reputational, open-ended, and nimble. Among the points that the table misses but the text notes is that networks may also excel at gathering and processing information. I also like the point in the text (p. 303) that “In essence, the parties to a network agree to forego the right to pursue their own interests at the expense of others.” However, this kind of behavior is not unique to networks — it often crops up in other organizational settings as well.

From Jane Jacobs book Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics (1992):

Jacobs lays out the “guardian moral syndrome” and the “commercial moral syndrome” as the two key “systems of survival” that lie behind successful social evolution. For each syndrome, she specifies fifteen precepts (see chart). Her view tracks with TIMN, for the syndromes correspond roughly to TIMN’s institutional (+I) and market (+M) forms. She refers to practices that correspond to TIMN’s tribal (T) form; but rather than separate them out, she embeds them mostly under the guardian syndrome — in my view a shortcoming that makes it more a tribal (T) than administrative (+I) syndrome in some of her applications. But I like very much her emphasis on keeping the syndromes separate and in balance. For additional discussion, see my post about her concept of “monstrous moral hybrids”.

About Alan Paige Fiske’s work on “four elementary forms of sociality” and Relational Model Theory (1992, 2004):

Fiske, a behavioral anthropologist, posits that all social relationships, minor and major, reduce to four forms of interaction: communal sharing, authority ranking, equality matching, and market pricing. People develop their capacities for social interaction in mostly that order, from infancy onward. His own table about these forms is large and detailed; so I’m displaying a simplified table by a proponent. Fiske’s sharing, ranking, and pricing forms correspond to TIMN’s tribal, hierarchical, and market forms. But his equality-matching form, which is mainly about equal-status peer-group behavior, does not correspond to any single form — some attributes fit the network form, but other attributes (e.g., reciprocity, feuding, revenge) fit better under TIMN’s tribal or market form. So the overlap is limited. Fiske’s approach has greatly influenced P2P theory (here & here), resulting in a pertinent exchange between Michel Bauwens and myself (here — esp. comments section).

From Max Boisot on markets, bureaucracies, clans, and fiefs in I-Space (1995, 2004):

In his influential book Information Space (1995) about the nature of the information environment in which agents operate, Boisot depicts “I-Space” as a three-dimensional cube with three axes: degree of codification, abstraction / concreteness, and diffusion / concentration. Then (whether in that or a later book I still don’t know for sure), he argues “that certain institutional structures thrive because they best adapt to specific conditions in a given I-Space” (source). The four structures he identifies are markets, bureaucracies, clans, and fiefs — offering a typology he constructed on his own, “derived from the characteristics of the information environment that agents confront” (personal email, 05/10/2001). Accordingly, “Information and knowledge move through the space either through the cognitive efforts of individual agents or through a process of social exchange or transactions between agents. Both activities are either facilitated or hindered by the presence of institutional structures designed to lower data processing and transmission costs in a given region of the information environment captured by the I-Space. We identify four of these – markets, bureaucracies, clans, and fiefs - in Figure 5 and briefly summarize some of the information and cultural characteristics of these transactional structures in Table 1.” (2004, p. 12) While not an evolutionary framework, it can be used as such — say, for tracking how technology changes may affect the nature and location of information in I-Space, and how information’s changing nature may interact with organizational changes. Boisot’s ideas have been quite influential in Singapore, and elsewhere on the Cynefin framework. It overlaps to a degree with TIMN.

From Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps’s book on the rise of virtual teams (2000):

In this Toffleresque table (p. 36), management strategists Lipnack and Stamps highlight what they regard as the four ages of organization, beginning millennia ago. The first age is about small groups, but in the text these are equated with nomads and tribes — terms I prefer. The authors explain their distinction between hierarchy and bureaucracy, but I question its significance. Moreover, why markets are not featured as a form of organization remains a mystery to me — but it has something to do, I suppose, with their emphasis on the internal workings of organizations. In any case, the table barely does justice to their ideas. They were early, articulate pioneers in spotting that an “age of networks” was dawning, and in analyzing the rise of “virtual teams.” And I like their point (p. 46) that “The postindustrial model is inclusive of old models, not a replacement for them.”

From Grahame Thompson on hierarchies, markets, and networks (2003):

After co-editing a fine early reader on Markets, Hierarchies and Networks (1991), Thompson, a British political economist, wrote his own book on Between Hierarchies and Markets: The Logic and Limits of Network Forms of Organization (2003). As this table shows (p. 48), he views network forms of order as distinct from hierarchical and market forms, yet as having variable attributes that mean they often fit somewhere in between. Indeed, networks “do not so much completely displace markets and hierarchical modes of governance as complement and support them in different ways … in a manner that often ‘re-moulds’ the operation of markets and hierarchies to such an extent that these themselves become ‘something different’ with enhanced performative effectiveness.” He clarifies (p. 28) that “networks as a third coordinating mechanism” arise in two versions: “an ‘organized’ variant and a ‘self-organizing’ variant.” And that hybrids may arise, e.g., of markets and networks (p. 146). While new kinds of “policy networks” can be helpful, they are often caught pincer-like between the “shadow of the hierarchy” and the “shadow of the market” (p. 187) Thus, “networks — any networks — cannot operate effectively without the support of a framework in which the state and the other authoritative or hierarchical government institutions … continues to play a leading role.” (p. 222) Uh-oh, there’s that word trust in the table — but he clarifies (p. 173) that “trust is a precondition for any form of social life.” (There’s a helpful Venn diagram about the three forms on p. 51 — I wish more analysts did likewise, for it illuminates the possibilities for hybrids.)

From Bob Jessop’s paper on governance and metagovernance (2003):

Jessop writes about governance (and what he calls metagovernance) for solving coordination problems, particularly in the European Union. In this chart about the major modalities of governance (p. 3), the terms he prefers — exchange, command, and dialogue — correspond, as two rows indicate, to markets, hierarchies, and networks respectively. I like that it has a row about spatial-temporal horizons — a rarity among these kinds of tables, but an interest of mine (the STA:C theme at this blog, along with TIMN). I also like that it has two rows about system failure, a focus of this particular paper.

From Mark Considine and Jenny Lewis’s paper about bureaucracy, network, and enterprise models (2003 — walled):

This paper and its chart (p. 133) are focused on alternatives ways of delivering services — the evolution from traditional bureaucratic, to new corporate, market, and network models of governance. A key finding is that “A new corporate-market hybrid (called ‘enterprise governance’) and a new network type have become significant models for the organization of frontline work in public programs” (p. 131), particularly in Europe and around the British Commonwealth. It’s a pertinent finding, but I don’t find the chart all that illuminating. Moreover, the write-up emphasizes trust and a shared organizational culture as being essential to network designs. This is not a wrong point, but as I’ve already indicated, it may well be that in the final analysis all organizational systems rest on trust and a shared acceptance of the culture most suited to the functioning of that form (even if it is a hierarchy).

From Gerard Fairtlough on hierarchy, heterarchy, and responsible autonomy (2005):

In his book The Three Ways of Getting Things Done (2005), Fairtlough lays out his “triarchy theory” about three fundamental ways of getting things done in organizations: hierarchy, heterarchy, and responsible autonomy. A key point is that organizations have become over-dependent on hierarchy, while two alternative ways often perform better: heterarchy, and responsible autonomy. Accordingly (p. 12), “These two ways of getting things done are similar in being non-hierarchical. But heterarchy involves continuous interactions between individuals and units as they decide what to do and how to work together. This takes time and effort — a possible disadvantage for heterarchy. Responsible autonomy, if set up properly, means sub-units are much more self-sufficient and interaction between them less intense.” Indeed, the autonomy he characterizes is more about groups than individuals. He also clarifies (p. 12) that “Every organization is a mixture of hierarchy, heterarchy and autonomy — in varying proportions.” For further background and discussion, I’d point here. [NOTE: I can’t locate the table I thought I had. Pending finding it, I’ve posted a screen grab from the book’s table of contents.]

Pro-commons P2P theorist Michel Bauwens has shown particular interest in Fairtlough’s theory and its overlaps with P2P theory. Consider a key distinction among centralized, decentralized, and distributed networks: Says Bauwens (here), “If hierarchy is the power system of centralized systems, then heterarchical power is the power system of decentralized systems, and Responsible Autonomy is the power system of distributed systems.” By extension, Bauwens has proposed a “new triarchy”: the state, enterprise, and the commons (2010), which line up with hierarchy, heterarchy, and responsible autonomy respectively. This helps Bauwens argue that people should start thinking in terms of three sectors — public, private, and the commons —not just the standard first two.

From Federico Iannacci and Eve Mitleton–Kelly’s paper on heterarchies (networks?) as lying between hierarchies and markets (2005):

This table (online, unpaginated) is from two scholars at the London School of Economics interested in complexity theory, information technology, and open-source networks. It represents their effort to add heterarchies to the usual dichotomy about their being two major forms of organization. What’s unusual here is that they locate heterarchies in between hierarchies and markets. Moreover, they claim that many heterarchies consist of nested hierarchies bound together by loosely coupled networks. So, heterarchies are networks, but not simply so. Indeed, they suggest in a couple spots that “Networks might just be sets of social practices rather than meta– or new organizational forms.” In any case, the table makes the point that heterarchies offer coordination processes different from what’s offered by hierarchical firms or autonomous market actors. And they see this as a boon for developments like open-source software.

From Paul Adler’s and Charles Heckscher’s remarkable paper on collaborative community (2005):

This table (p. 16) distinguishes three approaches to coordination: hierarchy, market, and community. The authors focus is the corporate business realm. Their concern is that hierarchy and market ways of doing things have eroded community ways far more than is desirable, especially now that collaborative knowledge production is becoming paramount. What’s needed is a new kind of community principle to go along with the hierarchy and market principles. By “community” they mean much that other analysts mean by “network” and related terms — thus their trifold array is quite standard. But their key point is unusual: They advise against returning to the old (my T/tribal?) form of community, because it leads to drawing sharp distinctions between insiders and outsiders, protecting traditional values, and stifling individual autonomy and creativity. Instead, what’s needed is the development of a new, higher form — “collaborative community” — that would engage participants who have multiple identities, stimulate the collective creation of shared value, and place trust in peer dialogue, review, and accountability. Indeed, they say (p. 37), “without a rebuilding of communal institutions, the potential of a knowledge economy cannot be realized.” Their best examples presently lie in the scientific community and the open-software movement. (Of all the papers I have blurbed about here, I was especially taken with this one for a while — as expressed here. More on this in a future post.)

From Karen Stephenson’s article commending heterarchy over hierarchy and network (2009 — walled, but maybe here):

This paper strives to make a useful point under a concept of heterarchy: that performance may improve when hierarchical organizations are interconnected by collaborative networks. Yet, the table (p. 6) and some of the text is conceptually problematic, as several of the invited counter-point commenters indicate. The paper’s notion of a network is often more social than organizational — it’s even called a tribal form at one point. And the notion of heterarchy is more what others view as some kind of network — as an organizational network, as a hybrid of a hierarchy and network (a networked organization), or as a networked set of otherwise separate hierarchical organizations (“silos”). Other analysts would probably blend the network and heterarchy columns into one; or perhaps make a case that heterarchy is not so much a distinct major form as a hybrid or amalgam of other forms. It’s good to see the mention of collective goods in the heterarchy column. But it remains unclear to me why networks are associated with personal interests. And there’s that word “trust” again; I’ve already mentioned my view of that. Even so, the text makes a point I like that is not reflected in the table — that heterarchies, not to mention networks, can operate perversely in some contexts, and may have a dark as well as a bright side.

From Kim Cameron’s and Robert Quinn’s work on CVF — the “Competing Values Framework” (esp. 2006 — figure on p. 16):

While early versions (in the 1980s) of this framework about organizational culture do not align well with TIMN, the current version does — with its four quadrants about Clan, Hierarchy, Market, and Adhocracy, so long as adhocracies are viewed as networks.  One criticism: they equate Clan with collaboration and Adhocracy with creativity, but adhocracies are as much about collaboration as are clans, just in a different way.  Another qualm:  theirs is not quite an evolutionary framework about corporate culture, but their presentation makes it seem that Hierarchy evolved first, Market second, Clan third (à la modern Japanese business models), and Adhocracy fourth (because of the digital information revolution).  While their point about Japan is sensible, a longer TIMN-type time perspective implies that family/clan models preceded bureaucratic hierarchical ones.  Yet, much of CVF is in keeping with TIMN dynamics:  They observe that organizations may be constructed around a dominant form, yet may draw on the other forms to suit particular goals and contexts.  They observe that the four value systems embody opposed and competing principles; and that using them in effective combinations means dealing with the necessity of paradox, the need for congruence, and the ever-present challenges of tensions and trade-offs.  Here’s a quote (pp. 21-22):  “The two upper quadrants share in common an emphasis on flexibility and dynamism, whereas the two bottom quadrants share an emphasis on stability and control. The two left-hand quadrants focus on internal capability whereas the two right hand quadrants focus on external opportunity. What is important to remember is that the quadrants represent clusters of similar elements and similar orientations, but those elements and orientations are contradictory to those in the diagonal quadrant. The dimensions in the framework, in other words, separate opposite, competing, or paradoxical elements on the diagonal.” [Thanks to Clay Spinuzzi for spotting this framework. For more about comparing CVF and TIMN, see Spinuzzi's post and our discussion in the comments section here.]

From Harold Jarche’s comparison of Cynefin and TIMN (2012) — not to mention Tom Haskins’ comparison (2009):

Jarche, a business consultant “helping people and organizations master the emerging network era”, is interested in both the Cynefin framework about micro-level problem-solving situations and the TIMN framework about macro-level organizational evolution. Starting in 2009, inspired partly by fellow blogger Tom Haskins (beginning here), Jarche has configured tables like this one from 2014 (here, p.61) that relate the two frameworks. Much as I am pleased and intrigued, I continue to question (e.g., here & here) whether it would make more sense to rotate the relationships so as to equate Cynefin’s simple with TIMN’s tribal, and Cynefin’s chaotic with TIMN’s network situations. For more about Cynefin, see Cognitive Edge, especially originator David Snowden’s posts regarding complex systems and problem-solving situations (e.g., here), and about Cynefin’s roots in Boisot’s ideas. Also see Spinuzzi’s post (here) comparing Cynefin, TIMN, I-Space, and CVF ideas, while also appreciating and engaging Haskins for his synthesizing efforts.

From Clay Spinuzzi’s briefing on “Toward a Typology of Activities” (2013):

Spinuzzi, a professor of rhetoric and writing who is keenly interested in networks, has lately “been trying to characterize different sorts of activities and particularly how hybrids of those types lead to internal contradictions.” His preliminary typology looks at group activities according to whether an object of activity is defined internally or externally, and tacitly or explicitly. This leads to a two-by-two matrix — thus his typology — about clans, hierarchies, markets, and networks, as presented in the adjoining graphic. He lists seven main sources for this typology, of which five are among those above, including TIMN. As his work develops, he intends to examine hybrids — activities that combine two or more of the four types — with an eye out for “interference patterns and internal contradictions”. While I refer above to his original 2013 blog post, Spinuzzi’s article, “Toward a typology of activities,” appeared a year later in the Journal of Business and Technical Communications, 2014, as specified here.

From Otto Scharmer on progressing from capitalism 1.0 to capitalism 4.0 (2013):

 As I noted in a 2014 blog post (here), MIT-based innovator Otto Scharmer outlines an evolutionary progression from capitalism 1.0 to capitalism 4.0 that is quite TIMN-like. According to one of his write-ups (here), there are essentially “four logics and paradigms of economic thought. They all respond to the basic coordination problem of our modern economies, but in a different way. • 1.0: Organizing around centralized power: state and central planning → giving rise to socialist and mercantilist economies (single sector) • 2.0: Organizing around decentralized power: markets and competition → giving rise to entrepreneurs and the private sector (two sectors: public, private) • 3.0: Organizing around special interest groups: negotiation and dialogue → giving rise to the NGO sector (three sectors, conflicting: public, private, civic) • 4.0: Organizing around shared awareness and cultivating our commons → giving rise to co-creative relationships among the three sectors (government, business, civil society) in order to innovate at the scale of the whole system. These four logics mirror four different stages of economic development. Each earlier stage is included in the later ones. As economies move from 1.0 to 2.0, 3.0, and now possibly to 4.0, the consciousness of the human economic actors also evolves from traditional (1.0), to ego-system awareness (2.0), to stakeholder awareness (3.0), and to an eco-system awareness (4.0) that we see beginning today.” In other write-ups, and presumably in a co-authored book (2013), he adds another earlier stage: • 0.0 : Organizing around place-based communities (pre-modern)”. This work continues at the Presencing Institute — notably its sections on social and especially economic evolution, from which I grabbed the chart here. Overall, his view maps imperfectly but surprisingly well onto TIMN — partticularly in his ideas about progressions, about sectors adding together, about the old persisting with the new, and about heading toward a revival of the commons.

From Kojin Karatani (2014) on four modes of exchange behind social evolution:

This impressive new book, The Structure of World History (2014), by Japanese Marxist philosopher Kojin Karatani, provides “an attempt to rethink the history of social formations from the perspective of modes of exchange” rather than the traditional modes of production (p. ix). As the tables depicts (p. 10), Karatani explains (preface) that, “There are four types of mode of exchange: • mode A, which consists of the reciprocity of the gift ; • mode B, which consists of ruling and protection; • mode C, which consists of commodity exchange; and • mode D, which transcends the other three. These four types coexist in all social formations. They differ only on which of the modes is dominant.” Mode A characterized the adoption of fixed-settlement agriculture; Mode B the emergence of the state; and Mode C the commodity exchanges behind capitalism. He argues that Mode D — “a future mode of exchange based on the return of gift exchange, albeit modified for the contemporary moment” through recursions to nomadism and the pooling of resources that characterized nomadic tribes before exchange became a dominant principle — will prevail in the future. Moreover, the outcome may have religious implications, because “this final stage — marking the overcoming of capital, nation, and state — is best understood in light of Kant's writings on eternal peace.” (source) I am astonished at how well this maps with TIMN — it’s four forms, some system dynamics, and the speculative future projection — thus providing a fitting ending for this post. [I just learned about Karatani a couple weeks ago (h/t Michel Bauwens, esp. here & here), and have still not read his book. So this blurb is preliminary; I expect to have to make revisions before long.]

* * *

End note: other pertinent studies

For additional details and citations to key scholars, see Chapter 2 “Rethinking Social Evolution”, esp. pp. 12-16, in my In Search Of How Societies Work: Tribes—The First and Forever Form (2006 — free download). Besides discussing studies that concern each TIMN form separately or in pairs, this chapter also identifies other studies that cover three or more forms. A few I discuss there merit mentioning here:
Wolfgang Streeck & Phillipe Schmitter (1985) posits that community, market, and state — characterized respectively by spontaneous solidarity, dispersed competition, and hierarchical control — have been the main models of social order and governance (Table 1, p. 122). Here they propose adding a fourth: association — an “associative order” characterized by “organizational concertation” (Table 2, p. 125). Their concept of community overlaps with TIMN’s tribe; and their market and state forms equate to +M and +I respectively. But their concept of associations has them so tightly tied together, in a corporatist manner, that it overlaps only somewhat with TIMN’s concept of networks.
Ulf Hannerz (1992, pp. 46–47) posits that “four organizational frameworks encompass most of the cultural process in the world today,” and his “form of life, market, state, and movement” frameworks correspond roughly to TIMN’s tribes, markets, hierarchies, and networks, respectively.
Mary Douglas (1996, 1996) seems to discern three major cultural contexts — enclaves, hierarchies, and markets — and her notion of “enclaves” corresponds roughly to clans, whose external boundaries are closed and whose internal norms are egalitarian. Her “grid-group” framework regarding “‘who am I?’ and ‘how should I behave?’” — leading to a matrix with quadrants for individualism, fatalism, hierarchy, and egalitarianism — aligns somewhat with TIMN.
Neo-Darwinian analyses by various anthropologists show the emergence of egalitarian sociability, hierarchical domination, and social exchange as mankind’s most basic ways of acting together (e.g., Tiger & Fox, 1971; Boehm, 1999) — further helping validate TIMN, in my view.
All very interesting — but I do not have screen grabs for including any of these studies here.

If I were to update those pages today, I would also include numerous more recent studies — so numerous that I quickly find that I must resist starting to list them here. Again, if I have overlooked an analysis that sports a pertinent table, please advise me.

Blog roll: a list of pertinent blogs:

I’ve gone looking for blogs where organizational forms get discussed — all the forms, not just networks. Here are the main ones I've found so far that are still functioning — a different list from that in my 2009 post:


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A TIMN appraisal of the Chamber-of-Commons idea — awaiting the emergence of a +N sector (Part 3 continued)

This post — as a continuation of my prior post (here) — further elaborates the idea of creating Chambers of Commons, in order to foster a +N sector, and thus contribute to the transition from triform (T+I+M) to quadriform (T+I+M+N) societies — the next phase in social evolution.

To reiterate a bit: In 2012, while wondering about the revival of “the commons” as an idea (and reality) full of potential implications for social evolution, I was also fuming that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was increasingly trying to distort our market system on behalf of favored business interests. So I proposed (here) that Chambers of Commons, particularly a U.S. Chamber of Commons, be created and networked together in the decades ahead.

As I saw it, purposes might include illuminating commons issues, advancing the monitoring of commons matters, congregating interested actors, advising on policy issues, and helping to develop a commons sector (separate and distinct from our long-standing public and private sectors). This might help forge new ways of working on valuable ideas that have lost ground in recent eras: the public interest, the common good. My vision also hoped that someday we will see media events where a chamber of commerce and a chamber of commons are both asked their views about some crucial public-policy topic — i.e., a U.S. Chamber of Commons gains parity with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Fortunately, the idea was picked up by pro-commons P2P activists/theorists David Bollier and Michel Bauwens in 2013. And by 2015 a few prototype efforts were in planning stages, notably for a US Chamber of Commons and a Chicago Chamber of Commons (h/t Steve Ediger). Some interest also emerged in Europe — however, a parallel proposal by Bauwens for Assemblies of the Commons may be proving more attractive there (h/t Maia Dereva).

Thus I foresee Chambers of Commons becoming strategic wedge organizations plying wedge issues for the purpose of fostering a commons sector that contributes to building +N. Today I’d like to offer three thoughts about their future potential .
1. Creating Chambers of Commons is a good idea whose time is nigh — but better conceptual clarity and a bigger audience are needed.
2. It is advisable to emulate historical aspects of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC), the better to counter-balance it.
3. It is important that the Chamber-of-Commons idea serve the creation of new network (+N) sectors — more than and apart from a reform of existing market (+M) sectors.
I deal with each one below. Most of what I say about the first and third points is assembled from what I’ve said before. The newest material in this post attends the second point.

Idea whose time is nigh — but better conceptual clarity and bigger audience needed

For generations, the concept of the commons has mostly meant natural commons — e.g., the clear air, clean water, and open land that even President Nixon once deemed a “birthright” of every American. Lately, because of the Internet and related digital technologies, the concept has expanded to include information and knowledge — the cyber commons. Whether and how to include other social matters — e.g., health, education, housing, public/civic infrastructure, insurance, law, the arts, etc. — is under discussion, along with ideas about whether to emphasize the contents of “the commons” or the practices of “commoning”. More debatable is whether to include social entrepreneurs (e.g., with “B Corps”) interested in marketing information-age products and services in post-capitalist ways; their activities may belong more in the market (+M) sector than a commons network-based (+N) sector.

Yet the concept’s revival has barely touched public awareness. U.S. political leaders and party platforms don’t mention it; nor do news and opinion shows on radio and TV — but for rare exceptions on rare occasions. For example, Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now, Thom Hartman’s The Big Picture, and The PBS News Hour often discuss commons-related issues, like those mentioned above, but I have yet to see them mention the revival of “the commons” idea or the prospects for a “commons sector”. Instead, pro-commons ideas are mostly advanced piece-meal by dispersed issue-specific civil-society NGOs (e.g., Sierra Club, Electronic Frontier Foundation).

Ferment around commons ideas is growing mainly on the Left (e.g., via The P2P Foundation) — but only parts of the Left. Awareness among Centrists is difficult to find, despite Elinor Ostrom’s winning the Nobel Prize, and Yochai Benkler’s writings about the advantages of “network-based peer production”. Interest on the Right is sorely lacking, held back by notions about “the tragedy of the commons” as well as by ingrained adherence to traditional public-private distinctions — though conservative concepts about stewardship, protection, and conservation could contribute to pro-commons ideas.

An advantage of the chamber-of-commons idea is that it looks ahead to the emergence of a sector of activity that will cut across all sorts of issue areas, political ideologies, and advocacy organizations. That the concept still lacks definitional clarity and public support is a problem — but it may also be an opportunity that well-designed chambers may help address and resolve.

Emulating the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — the better to counter-balance it

My inspiration in 2012 for the idea of a U.S. Chamber of Commons derived partly from my adverse reaction to what had become of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC), at a time when I was already wondering about the rise of pro-commons thinking and what that might mean for the emergence of a new network-based (+N) sector alongside the existing public (+I) and private (+M) sectors. My long-term vision became that someday we’ll see issues covered by media where representatives of both a chamber of commerce and a chamber of commons are asked to present their views and answer questions about some hot topic — in other words, a U.S. Chamber of Commons will achieve public parity with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

While that inspiration and vision are about Chambers of Commons serving to counter-balance the USCC and its affiliates, there is much in the USCC’s history that looks worth emulating. It was created by assembling dispersed pro-business forces (e.g., existing local chambers and businesses) around a national center in 1912, at the behest of President Taft and with the approval of Congress. The goal was to improve the representation of business interests in Washington; but motivations also included counter-balancing the increasingly well-organized labor movement. This new Chamber was deemed a “social welfare” organization worthy of tax-exempt status. And it was said to be an advisory organization, particularly to advise the government about business matters — though it soon became an advocacy organization as well. All those points — assembling and networking dispersed forces, creating a high-profile national center, gaining recognition from Executive and Legislative leaders, serving significant advisory (and advocacy) roles — amount, I’d say, to a few historical “lessons” for developing a network of new Chambers of Commons.

A key development for the USCC’s history was the “Powell memo” (authored in 1971 by Lewis Powell, a prominent corporate lawyer, whom President Nixon placed on the U.S. Supreme Court a little later). In this memo, Powell argued that “the American economic system is under broad attack” by anti-business forces. So he laid out a sweeping strategy for defending and advancing American business interests. One consequence was the creation of influential new pro-business think-tanks, media, and advocacy networks According to two analyses,
“Though Powell’s memo was not the sole influence, the Chamber and corporate activists took his advice to heart and began building a powerful array of institutions designed to shift public attitudes and beliefs over the course of years and decades. The memo influenced or inspired the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Accuracy in Academe, and other powerful organizations. Their long-term focus began paying off handsomely in the 1980s, in coordination with the Reagan Administration’s “hands-off business” philosophy.” (source)
“Powell’s memo is widely credited with leading to an extraordinary transformation in public opinion about free-market economics, government regulation, and the efficacy of government. The transformation resulted from the creation of a loose network of business people and advocacy organizations that organized around the ideology of unfettered free market economics.” (source)
So, that may be another another historical experience worth emulation. If/as a U.S. Chamber of Commons takes hold, it may benefit from someone writing its own kind of “Powell memo” —a variant designed for pro-commons (and pro-social) rather than pro-commerce actors.

And indeed I have come across progressive calls for a new “Powell memo” — notably by an analyst who wrote several times about the USCC during 2015-2016: Anthony Biglan (co-author, The Nurture Effect: How the Science of Human Behavior Can Improve Our Lives and Our World, 2015). Here’s what he concluded in two posts about social and cultural evolution:
“So let this be my Powell memo. If you don’t like where the evolution of capitalism has taken us in the past forty years, join with others who share your understanding of what humans need to thrive and build a super-coalition of individuals and organizations working to influence public understanding, public policy, and direct action.” (source)
“There is no shortage of organizations that can contribute to our evolving in this direction. What is needed, however is higher level selection of a super-coalition of organizations just like what Lewis Powell advocated for the business community.” (source
That fits well with TIMN. But notice that his call for a new “super-coalition of individuals and organizations” is focused on building a broad-based progressive movement to correct the adverse effects of capitalism. Moreover, by now I’ve seen many calls for creating progressive new organizations and coalitions, and most have similar emphases on countering capitalism. Some even note a need to counter the USCC specifically (e.g., Gar Alperowitz, as noted in an addendum to my 2012 post on the commons). In other words, all these progressive proposals are far more about reforming +M than building +N.

Yet, if TIMN is valid, what will prove strategically wiser is for some innovations — Chambers of Commons in particular — to be focused primarily on building +N sectors, and tangentially on rectifying what’s gone wrong with capitalism and its +M sectors. As I stated in a comment at another of Biglan’s posts:
“My point, as I argue elsewhere, is that America is entering a phase of cultural evolution that will add the “network” level to the foregoing. A cutting-edge for this new phase appears to be clustering around new (and old) ideas about “the commons”. Thus an innovation that I would urge adding to your list is for a network of Chambers of Commons, including a U.S. Chamber of Commons. If viable, it could help generate the kind of new “super-coalition of organizations” you favor, in order to help propel the rise of a “network” sector and counter-balance actors like the Chamber of Commerce that reinforce aging “institutional” and “market” practices. I’d wish for a Powell-type memorandum on behalf of a Chamber of Commons.” (source)
While a U.S. Chamber of Commons might emulate the USCC in such regards, the purposes would be different, as would governance, sponsorship, membership, audience, and areas of interest. The two could become rivals on many issues — but commons chambers should not be designed simply as contrarian mirror-like opponents of commerce chambers. The commons chambers have a more distinctive long-range challenge on which to focus: the rise of +N.

(My sources on the USCC include: Wikipedia, the USCC itself, Verini, Grim, Katz, Powell, Biglan, Biglan, Biglan.)

Focusing on serving +N ideas and actors, more than on reforming +M

In my TIMN view, the Chamber-of-Commons idea should focus on the creation of new network (+N) sectors — more than and apart from a reform of existing market (+M) sectors. Other actors can/will attend to reforming +M as their primary goal. For a pro-commons chamber it should be an ancillary goal.

Creating Chambers of Commons seems a good idea whether it stems from P2P or TIMN, or if it gets associated later with some other forward-looking framework, such as Gar Alperowitz’s “next system”, Joe Brewer et al’s “cultural evolution”, Kojin Karatani’s “Mode D”, or John Keane’s “monitory democracy”. Yet, in my view, it would be best if the idea's implementation were guided by the nascent theoretical framework that inspired it: TIMN.

According to TIMN, people have evolved four cardinal forms of organization. Tribes (T) came first. Hierarchical institutions (I) were next. Then markets (M). Now information-age networks (N) are on the rise. Seen across the centuries, societies have progressed — or failed to do so — according to their abilities to use and combine these four forms, both their bright and dark sides, in properly bounded and balanced ways.

Today, America is in the early throes of evolving from a stalled distorted triformist (T+I+M) system toward a potentially innovative rebalanced quadriformist (T+I+M+N) system. Adding +N will mean letting +N actors give rise to a distinctive network-based sector. As noted in Part 1 in this series, earlier analysts have said this new sector will arise mostly around non-profit civil-society NGOs, and eventually grow into a “social”, a “third”, a “citizen”, a “plural”, or a “care” sector that is distinct and separate from the established public and private sectors. At present, I think “commons sector” best captures what’s emerging.

Whatever the +N sector ends up being called, TIMN means it will grow in part by taking over some functions and activities that the old sectors no longer perform well enough. At the same time, +N will work best if the older forms and their spaces are respected, even as they get altered in order to work better together. That is what happened in past TIMN progressions (see here), and that’s what’s at stake in the decades ahead.

This has implications for the Chamber-of-Commons idea. Since much of +N seems associated with the revival of the commons, the new Chambers could act as strategic harbingers. Yet, to best focus on figuring out +N, they may have to avoid getting too involved with +M actors and issues. According to TIMN, +M is here to stay; it is essential to advanced societies. There are lots of good reasons to criticize capitalism these days — but not to get rid of +M, the market system. Indeed, from a TIMN perspective, +N will work best only where the T (e.g., family), the +I (e.g., the state), and the +M (e.g., business) parts are also relatively strong, balanced, and working well together for society’s sake. Which may require lots of restructuring, from top to bottom.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Awaiting the emergence of a +N sector (Part 3 of 3) — toward a U.S. Chamber of Commons

My December 2012 post about the concept of the commons (here) proposed that it might be a good idea to create a series of Chambers of Commons, including a U.S. Chamber of Commons, and network them together. This would be in keeping with TIMN’s implication that a +N sector will eventually take shape, as discussed in the first two posts in this set of three.

My TIMN-inspired forecast was that a U.S. Chamber of Commons could operate as a wedge organization plying wedge issues. This could help provide organizational impetus to pro-commons and other +N actors and ideas, while also counter-balancing negative aspects of the +M influence of the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its affiliates and allies.

My proposal gained some traction, I’m pleased to say, because the 2012 post was noticed by P2P activists Michel Bauwens and David Bollier, among others. Today’s post offers an update, prompted by news in 2015 that Chicago-area activists started working to organize a Chicago Chamber of Commons, along with a US Chamber of Commons.

Today’s post draws on my 2012 post, as well as on updates I added during 2013-2015. But for the most part, today’s post reports on new materials and other observations about the idea to create chambers of commons. The first sections are mostly reportage. I refrain from offering much TIMN analysis (or my own personal views) until the final section.

Overall, I am upbeat about people’s efforts on behalf of the chamber-of-commons idea. But I have a key concern as well: efforts to date seem aimed more at reforming +M than evolving +N. That may make sense for some anti- and post-capitalism perspectives on the Left; but from a TIMN perspective, I’d wish for a greater and sharper focus on creating +N.

Initial interest in the chamber-of-commons idea in 2013

In remarks about my 2012 post, David Bollier focused just on the chamber-of-commons idea, while Michel Bauwens emphasized its potential as one of various initiatives within a broader plan he was formulating.

Bollier greeted the proposal warmly as “a timely idea” — a way to “advance the commons paradigm” and “span the cultural barriers that divide digital and natural resource commoners”:
“Scholar of networked behavior Ronfeldt has proposed an idea whose time may have arrived: let’s create a new federated network of commons enterprises called the “Chamber of Commons.” The term is a wonderful wordplay on the more familiar group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the notoriously reactionary business lobby.
“A federation to help advance the commons paradigm and projects is a timely idea, especially in international circles and localities that enjoy a critical mass of commons projects. …
“... It would be especially exciting if a chamber of commons could begin to span the cultural barriers that divide digital and natural resource commoners, not to mention international political boundaries.” (source)
Bollier also wisely noted some organizational and membership challenges that might be faced:
“I would respectfully suggest that any parties that enter into a Chamber of Commons have a focused commitment on the commons paradigm and philosophy. It’s imperative that a group of this sort take the commons seriously, and not see the Chamber as an opportunity to wrap themselves in feel-good PR terms. …
“As this little thought-exercise suggests, clarifying the criteria for membership in a Chamber of Commons could be one of the biggest but most important challenges. ...
“... The best solution, I think, lies in having serious commoners, as members, decide the criteria on an ongoing basis, and pass judgment on any new members. After all, any participants in such a project would have a big stake in protecting the integrity of the commons concept and its reputation. ...
“... It’s time for various commons and commons-based businesses (coops, CSAs, etc.) to find ways to band together. We need to create a new focal point for making commoning more visible in an organized way. The mutual support, dialogue and new initiatives could only be enlivening.” (source)
Meanwhile, beginning to formulate a broad P2P-inspired plan that he and his colleagues would call the Commons Transition Plan (here), Bauwens embedded the chamber-of-commons idea in a “powerful triad” of “next steps” for “constructing three institutional coalitions”:
“The civic/political institution: The Alliance of the Commons ...
“The economic institution: the P2P/Commons Globa-local Phyle ...
“The political-economy institution: The Chamber of the Commons”
Of the three, Bauwens viewed the chamber-of-commons proposal as a way for “emergent coalitions of commons-friendly ethical enterprises” to form counterparts to the business-oriented chambers of commerce:
“In analogy with the well-known chambers of commerce which work on the infrastructure for for-profit enterprise, the Commons chamber exclusively coordinates for the needs of the emergent coalitions of commons-friendly ethical enterprises (the phyles), but with a territorial focus. Their aim is to uncover the convergent needs of the new commons enterprises and to interface with territorial powers to express and obtain their infrastructural, policy and legal needs.” (source)
Together, Bauwens said, these three “institutional coalitions” would provide a “powerful triad for the necessary phase transition” to a commons-oriented economy and society:
“In short, we need a alliance of the commons to project civil and political power and influence at every level of society; we need phyles to strengthen our economic autonomy from the profit-maximizing dominant system; and we need [a] Chamber of the Commons to achieve territorial policy; legal and infrastructural conditions for the alternative, human and nature-friendly political economy to thrive. Neither alone is sufficient, but together they could be a powerful triad for the necessary phase transition.” (source; also here)
And that’s how the chamber-of-commons idea began to take root in pro-commons and P2P circles.

Subsequent idea to create parallel assemblies and chambers of the commons

In early 2015 (at least that’s when I first read about it), Bauwens added the idea of creating “Assemblies of the Commons” alongside “Chambers of the Commons”:
“At the local level, we propose the creation of Assemblies of the Commons, institutions that bring together all those that are creating or maintaining commons, immaterial or material, but we propose to restrict membership to civic organizations and not-for-profit oriented projects.
“At the same time, we propose the creation of local Chamber of the Commons, the equivalent for the ethical economy and ‘generative’ capital, the what the Chamber of Commerce is for the for-profit economy. Our aim is to reconstruct commons-oriented social forces at the local level, and to give them voice. These assemblies and chambers could produce a social charter, that would be open for political and social forces to support, which in turn would guarantee some forms of support from these new institutions.” (source)]
Acting in parallel, the Assemblies and Chamber would reinforce each other. Yet each would have different roles, purposes, and participants; and they would operate independently:
“I am proposing the creation of two new institutions:
“1. Assembly of the Commons. This will be a place or an institution where people who actually co-create common goods can meet, create a shared culture and create social charters and demands towards the policy world.
“2. Chambers of the Commons. – Which is for all ethical entrepreneurs. People who create commons and who create livelihoods for the commons. They would also create their own institution.
“The reason why they need to be separated is a bit like the separation of church and state. When you are in business you have certain priorities, when you are a citizen you have other priorities. I think it is better not to contaminate these two institutions and let them operate independently.” (source)
As trends have developed, it appears that the assembly idea may be proving more popular in Europe, the chamber idea in America.

Elaboration in P2P and pro-commons plans throughout 2013-2015

Bauwens and his colleagues steadily reiterated these ideas in numerous additional writings and talks during 2014 and 2015 (e.g., including those cited below, plus here and here).

As I understand it — though I’m not sure how best to summarize it — their goal is a new type of post-capitalist economy (and society), organized around the commons and P2P principles. This economy (and society) would rest on “network-based peer production” and “commons-based peer production” — particularly, “open cooperativism” and “platform cooperativism”, pursuant to fostering an “ethical entrepreneurial coalition” and an “ethical market economy”. This new economy would be oriented toward benefitting civil society, and be served by a new type of state (the “Partner State”). The chambers and assemblies of the commons would be constructed as “meta-economic networks to bridge these fields of action.” (sources: writings by Bauwens and Bollier).

In Bauwens words, “The Commons transition plan is based on a simultaneous transition of civil society, the market and the state forms.” Moreover,
“In the Commons Transition Plan, we are making also very specific organizational proposals, to advance the cause of a commons-oriented politics and a ‘peer production of politics and policy’.” (source)
The organizational structures and interactions he proposes are very elaborate — more than I can convey here, but including the following points regarding the chamber-of-commons idea:
“As an alternative, we propose that we move to a commons-centric society in which a post-capitalist market and state are at the service of the citizens as commoners. …
“• Ethical market players create a territorial and sectoral network of Chamber of Commons associations to define their common needs and goals and interface with civil society, commoners and the partner state …
“• Local and sectoral commons create civil alliances of the commons to interface with the Chamber of the Commons and the Partner State …
“• Solidarity Coops form public-commons partnerships in alliance with the Partner State and the Ethical Economy sector represented by the Chamber of Commons …” (source)
Overall, then, Bauwens urged anew in 2015 what he originally urged in 2013 — a “Chamber of the Commons” as part of “a powerful triad for the necessary phase transition”:
“In short, we need an alliance of the commons to project civil and political power and influence at every level of society; we need phyles to strengthen our economic autonomy from the profit-maximizing dominant system; and we need a Chamber of the Commons to achieve territorial policy; legal and infrastructural conditions for the alternative, human and nature-friendly political economy to thrive. Neither alone is sufficient, but together they could be a powerful triad for the necessary phase transition.” (source)
Quite an ambitious ideological and organizational agenda.

Optimistic global outlook for P2P efforts at the end of 2015

As a result, 2015 closed with two optimistic wrap-up assessments. In the first — The Top Ten P2P Trends of 2015 — Bauwens noted that “It is therefore particularly heartening to see the simultaneous creation this year of several local commons groups, such as Assemblies and Chambers of the Commons.” He thus lauded:
“5. The launch of independent, commons-centric civic organisations
“I called for this about three years ago, but they are finally emerging.
“A proto-Assembly of the Commons has been operating in Ghent, Belgium, and on the occasion of a big francophone city festival on the commons (Villes en Commun), Toulouse and a few other French cities launched Assemblies of the Commons. A Europe-wide Assembly meeting is planned at the EU-level. In Chicago, a Chamber of the Commons was launched and, just this month, a Commons Transition Coalition for Melbourne and other places in Australia. This means that commoners will increasingly learn to have a political and social voice.” (source)
A related document — What the P2P Foundation did in 2015 — adds further promising details:
“Our proposals to create an independent political and social voice for commoners gained traction in 2015. Chambers of the Commons and similar were created in Chicago (USA) and several cities in France, and a local Commons Transition Coalition in Australia was formed, all following Michel’s visits.” (source)
All quite impressive and purposeful, despite some TIMN-related misgivings I have that I will raise in a concluding section (or follow-up post)

Organizational progress in Chicago

The place where activists committed to pro-commons and P2P principles have seized on the chamber-of-commons idea the most (and prospectively the best) is Chicago. In May 2015, a gathering of Chicago-area activists began to rally around Creating a Chamber of Commons (source), which raised the question Could Chicago be the first city to create a Chamber of Commons? (source), partly on grounds that a Chicago Chamber of Commons Points Way to Thrivability for All (source).

I am too removed to tell much about his innovative activity. But materials at a few sites and blogs enable me to glean the little that follows.

With support from the Chicago Community Trust, and before long a grant from the Knight Foundation, interested activists organized a steering committee, led by Steve Ediger (as head of the newly-fielded US Chamber of Commons), and set out to generate workshops and a start-up plan, much of it inspired by Michel Bauwens and his writings (see above). They also established two websites for the project:
• one for the Chamber of Commons US (here)
• the other a Facebook site for the Chicago Chamber of Commons (here)
Their objective is to create an “umbrella” organization, an “advocacy group”, and/or a “seed” for promoting pro-commons stewardship based on P2P principles. Their current focus is on Chicago — yet their hope is that it will become a “prototype” or “template” that can spread, leading to additional new chambers across the country.

The efforts in Chicago appear to reflect some of the organizational and membership challenges that Bollier anticipated in his 2013 post (see above). While my meager knowledge doesn’t tell me to what extent the Chicago-area organizers have had to face such challenges, an October 2015 event report revealed that theirs has been “a complex task”:
“It took a long time for the group to reach consensus on the Commitment and by the time we got to Coordination, looking at the calendar and tasks to identify incongruities among dependent tasks across teams, we were almost out of time. … Whether, or not, we had true consensus remains to be seen as we execute tasks.” (source)
In general, their efforts have been oriented to addressing pro-commons matters, broadly defined, but with an emphasis on emerging economic reforms:
“We advocate and bring visibility to elements of the generative economy, partly to protect endangered areas of the Commons and partly to develop the expression of new forms and practices of Commons, such as the knowledge Commons.” (source)
“The Chamber of Commons recognizes, supports and highlights the green shoots of a budding Generative Economy. As such, we see ourselves as an advocacy group for emerging models of generative-ownership designed businesses forming around the Commons.” (source)
“Forming around these Commons is an entire economy created by new types of businesses engaged in market activities, but in an ethical way. These include fair trade organizations, solidarity organizations, B corps and social entrepreneurs, Bauwens said.” (source)
This emphasis on economic matters appears to be attended by a selective focus on new kinds of business enterprises and opportunities in particular:
“The US Chamber of Commons, a startup organization dedicated to “recognizing, supporting and highlighting the “green shoots of a budding Generative Economy,” is trying to get a new form of chamber off the ground: one to connect social entrepreneurs, L3C’s, B-Corps and other enterprises focused on triple bottom line, sharing-economy approaches to commerce and community development.
“The group sees its role as advocating for the four broad categories of organizations outlined in Marjorie Kelly’s Owning our Future: (1) Commons Ownership and Governance (2) Stakeholder Ownership (3.) Social Enterprises and (4) Mission Controlled Corporations. … The discussion will address an array of Commons-relevant topics such as the environment, public land, the food supply, public education and transportation, open-source software, the internet, arts and culture and taxpayer- funded scientific research. Unclaimed realms such as the oceans, Antarctica and outer space will also be on the agenda.” (source; also here)
Against this background, the goal is to formally announce a Chicago Chamber of Commons at a grand assembly in May 2016. I wish them well, though I have some concerns I’ll raise in the next section.

A TIMN assessment of the Chamber-of-Commons idea — my thoughts at this point

Oh gosh, as I look over this draft before tackling this final section, I see that once again, in my slowed-down condition, I have written an overly long wordy post, all the while refraining from injecting much TIMN analysis until the end. Yet TIMN is what matters most.

I can tell, now that I have started to focus on this concluding section, that my ability to finish it in a succinct timely manner is somewhat in doubt. So I’m just going to go ahead and post what exists above, plus posit the following sketchy outline of what remains to be added.

In my view, there are three key points I should make about the Chamber-of-Commons idea with regard to TIMN:
  • It remains a good idea whose time is nigh, whether motivated by P2P, TIMN, or some other forward-looking framework (e.g., "cultural evolution") — but especially if/as it becomes instructed by TIMN.
  • It seems advisable to emulate historical aspects of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the better to counter-balance it — and counter-balancing it may be a key function.
  • It is important to assure that the Chamber-of-Commons idea serves the creation of the prospective +N sector, more than and apart from a potential reform of the +M sector.

Whether the full version of this concluding section — the elaboration of those three key points — ends up being appended here before long, or is issued as a new post, remains to be seen.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Awaiting the emergence of a +N sector (Part 2 of 3) — a nod to Darwinian dynamics

TIMN purports to be a kind of theoretical framework for describing, explaining, and analyzing a lot about social evolution across the ages, primarily from an organizational perspective. +N is viewed as the next stage in centuries-long processes of innovation, variation, selection, and adaptation, shaped in part by how people go about their struggles to compete and cooperate — indeed, to out-compete by out-cooperating.

Darwinian dynamics behind TIMN

Thus, TIMN is rather Darwinian. And indeed, an old chart comparing the TIMN forms contains a line tentatively comparing biological and social evolution, which I explain as follows:
“The next row observes that each form corresponds to a different aspect of anatomy: tribes to a body’s skin or look; hierarchical institutions to a musculo-skeletal system (as Thomas Hobbes implied); markets to a cardio-pulmonary circulatory system (as Karl Marx noted); and networks to a sensory nerve system (as Herbert Spencer thought, and many writers still suppose today). These are only analogies and metaphors, but they help impart the distinctive nature of each form.” (source; also here)
Furthermore, in a collection or propositions about TIMN dynamics, I included several that seem quite Darwinian to me. Here’s one that claims that incomplete adaptation may be best:
“Imperfect adaptation to a form may be optimal for continued evolution: The task of getting a form “right” does not mean that exact adaptation (or adaptedness) to its environment is best for a society’s potential for further evolution. Incomplete adaptation may provide for flexibility. Each form may well have an ideal type in theory and philosophy; yet, in practice, none operates fully according to its ideal — nor should it. One reason may be the presence of other forms, and the importance of having to function in relation to them. Another reason may be that imperfect adaptation may allow for opportune, innovative responses to environmental changes.” (source; for more, see 1996, p. 34)
And here’s another that has Darwinian aspects, for it insists on the evolution of regulatory mechanisms that enable the TIMN forms to work properly together:
“Successful combination depends on the development of regulatory interfaces: As societies progress in TIMN terms, the forms and their realms increasingly intersect and interact, such that a society’s functioning depends not only on which forms are present, but also on the nature of the interfaces between the realms. Regulatory mechanisms (laws, policies, agencies, etc.) enable realms — e.g., the state, the market — to function well together. Regulatory interfaces also help keep those realms separated and in balance, preventing one from overwhelming another. They provide a needed kind of connective tissue.” (source)
Even so, I am years behind in trying to lay TIMN out in Darwinian terms (I’m no expert on Darwin anyways). But I’d offer a couple points and snippets here that may help with thinking about the emergence of +N, at least abstractly.

Pertinent points and snippets from Darwinian thinking

A crucial initial point may be to note that Darwin’s work is about the evolution of “species” — but the TIMN forms do not correspond to species. They correspond to something higher from a taxonomic viewpoint. According to Wikipedia, “The best-known taxonomic ranks are, in order: life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species.” I’m not sure which of these equates best to the TIMN forms, or to their mono-, bi-, tri-. and potentially quadri-form (T+I+M+N) combinations. But I am sure that the TIMN forms and their combinations are not “species”; instead, they generate myriad and varied species of societies. Deeper consideration, more than I can do now, may reveal that the fields known as morphology and phylogeny are more appropriate than speciation to understanding TIMN.

That said, lots of deliberately Darwinian concepts and dynamics look very applicable to TIMN. Here are two snippets that recently caught my attention — one about general dynamics, the next about an advance in speciation.

Regarding the general dynamics of selection and adaptation, David Sloan Wilson writes (a bit controversially, I gather) about an “iron law of multilevel selection”:
“The iron law of multilevel selection is: “Adaptation at any given level of a multi-tier hierarchy of units requires a process of selection at that level and tends to be undermined by selection at lower levels.” The reason that unsustainable practices are so common is because they benefit lower-level units at the expense of the higher-level good.” (source; also here)
This looks pertinent to TIMN. I see no reason why TIMN cannot be articulated in terms of multilevel selection. Besides, Wilson’s point about lower-level selection undermining higher-level selection matches a point I often make about the tribal/T form. It is the first and forever form; no society can do without it as a basis. Yet, it is not an easy form to get right. Its bright sides (e.g., family, community) can reinforce the other TIMN forms. But its dark sides (e.g., gangs, cronies) can corrupt and distort them. Indeed, TIMN offers a way to analyze corruption that I’ve not seen before: Basically, TIMN implies that corruption arises, and persists, because of the strength of the T form in societies where the TIMN forms are not properly separated and shielded from each other — notably where T and +M forces penetrate and corrode the +I sectors (e.g., Mexico, Russia). It’s a Darwinian dynamic that cuts across all the forms.

Also of interest here is an article on “Our Transparent Future” by Daniel Dennett and Deb Roy (drawing on Andrew Parker’s In the Blink of an Eye, 2003). They use the biological evolution of eyesight in the Cambrian era millennia ago — plus the ensuing revolution in “transparency” and the “arms race” between perception and locomotion — to forecast an organizational revolution for our own time. Accordingly, “Parker’s hypothesis about the Cambrian explosion provides an excellent parallel for understanding a new, seemingly unrelated phenomenon: the spread of digital technology.” (source)

In drawing parallels between past biological evolution and future social evolution, Dennett and Roy conclude that we should expect “a massive diversification of species of organizations” in the future:
“The tremendous change in our world triggered by this media inundation can be summed up in a word: transparency. We can now see further, faster, and more cheaply and easily than ever before — and we can be seen. …
“The impact on our organizations and institutions will be profound. … the old interfaces are losing their effectiveness. …
“By analogy, we might expect organizations to respond to the pressure of digitally driven social transparency with adaptations in their external body parts. …
“Small groups of people with shared values, beliefs and goals — particularly those who can coordinate quickly in a crisis using ad hoc channels of internal communication — will be best at the kind of fast, open, responsive communication the new transparency demands. To draw a contrast with large hierarchically organized bureaucracies, we might call these organizations “adhocracies.” As the pressures of mutual transparency increase, we will either witness the evolution of novel organizational arrangements that are far more decentralized than today’s large organizations, or we will find that Darwinian pressures select for smaller organizations, heralding an era of “too big to succeed. …
“A final implication of our Cambrian analogy is that we should soon witness a massive diversification of species of organizations. It has not happened yet, but we can look for early signs. … Time will tell, but it appears that we might be at the cusp of a radical branching of the organizational tree of life. …
“Most sheltered from immediate evolutionary pressures are systems of government. … Yet even here we should anticipate significant change, because the power of individuals and outsiders to watch organizations will only increase.” (source — h/t Dick O’Neill)
I like that; it expresses Darwinian principles in ways that coincide with TIMN. There’s nothing new in their observations about the digital information revolution — indeed, they seem to be playing catch-up. But I've not seen anyone else draw close parallels between a specific phase of biological evolution and a prospective next phase in social evolution. Their emphasis on “transparency” — personally, I think “illumination” would be a more apt term — fits with the parallel I noted up front between +N and the biological evolution of sensory systems.

Thus I agree with their evocations that “we should soon witness a massive diversification of species of organizations”, and that “we might be at the cusp of a radical branching of the organizational tree of life.” That is very TIMN-ish of them. Even so, their projections are quite conventional, for they tout already-widespread ideas that the digital information revolution will empower non-state actors and individuals, thereby resulting in new organizational species. But according to TIMN, more than new species — possibly a new genus or phylum? — should be expected from +N, along with new kinds of networked actors.

Potential proving grounds for a +N sector

Wrapping up this post — both as a follow-on to the prior post (here), and as preparation for the next post in this three-part series — one conclusion I draw is that Darwinian ideas can help with developing and presenting TIMN. Something is to be gained theoretically from going in Darwinian directions. Moreover, something may also be gained practically, if the ill rep of Social Darwinism can be superceded.

For example, I take heart in the above regards when I see prominent pro-commons P2P theorist-activist David Bollier write about the prospects for organizing a commons sector — “its aliveness” —in a way that is almost implicitly Darwinian:
“It means breaking down some of the dichotomies that we take for granted, such as between public and private, between collective and individual, between rational and nonrational. In the commons, they start to blur. You have to start talking about the commons as this organic whole, and not as this machine you can break down into parts or dissect. It’s a living organism and that’s precisely what needs to be studied: its aliveness.” (source)
To end this post, I’d call attention to two prospective proving grounds.

One may be what develops organizationally around the vast new sensory apparatuses that are being created. I’ve alluded to that in both this and the prior post. I’ve also discussed it in other posts scattered across this blog. For this post, I’d just add an apropos quote I spotted not long ago. It’s by Alex Pentland, Report for the World Economic Forum (2008):
“These distributed sensor networks have given us a new, powerful way to understand and manage human groups, corporations, and entire societies. As these new abilities become refined by the use of more sophisticated statistical models and sensor capabilities, we could well see the creation of a quantitative, predictive science of human organizations and human society. At the same time, these new tools have the potential to make George Orwell’s vision of an all-controlling state into a reality. What we do with this new power may turn out to be either our salvation or our destruction.” (source)
Another proving ground may be efforts to create Chambers of Commons that can give guiding impulse to +N efforts, while also countering the purportedly +M (but actually quite distortive) roles of the Chambers of Commerce. More on that in the next/third post (about a week or two from now, since I don’t have much of it drafted yet).