Evolutionary Edge

Voices of an Emerging Movement for Conscious Evolution

July-August 2006

Moving the Edge

Conscious participation in the further unfoldment of The Great Story - a practitioners perspective

by Finn Voldtofte

What happens when we engage in conversations and inquiry in which we deliberately let go of our personal egos and stories and instead focus on sensing into the impersonal field ”in the middle,” opening ourselves to a greater wisdom waiting to emerge among us? An ongoing inquiry into the role of collective intelligence has come into existence, has been seen, and is being kept alive.

The conditions of life for humankind are impacted by natural systems – the ozone layer, climate, the fertility of the land, availability of water, magnetic fields, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc. But mankind -- and nature -- must deal with the conditions mankind creates through the activity of social systems, as well. Social systems don't always create negative conditions, of course. Sometimes they enable life, in spite of life-threatening natural conditions.

Life is changed by the way we live. It makes a difference how we choose to live and what solutions we come up with on the challenges facing life now. The solutions that emerge in our time will create -- are creating -- patterns that coming generations either benefit from or struggle with, according to the quality of our work now.

So far the evolvement of mankind's social systems has mostly been driven by need, scarcity, disease, war – and only to a lesser degree by ideas and visions about what is possible. But now that humankind has developed the capacity for self-reflection, communication, global and cosmic perspective and material wealth to the degree we have, the opportunity has emerged for us to actively take part in evolution. We can become conscious – awake, knowing – co-creators of the social systems that -- together with nature's systems -- define the conditions for life on Earth.

What is the role of collective intelligence in this? If we want to evolve conscious social systems – then how do we do it? How do we move the edges of our capabilities of what we can consciously co-create, individually and collectively?

Well, I don’t know the answers to these questions. But I do find myself in the middle of an undertaking that in retrospect could be said to address them. It is called "Moving The Edge". One of its manifestations was a gathering of 21 people from US and Europe who met for four days in Aarhus, Denmark, in March 2006. But it really started as an inquiry before that, and it is now seen as an ongoing inquiry into the role of collective intelligence in moving the edge of evolution.

Being a practioner in the field of process consulting, I and a few other local friends engaged two years ago in some special ongoing playful conversations. We experimented with kinds of conversation and inquiry in which we deliberately let go of the strictly personal aspects of ourselves (ego, personal stories, etc.) and focussed on sensing into the impersonal field "in the middle". After about a year we named the conversations as CIPI – the collective intelligence practitioners initiative – and at one point came to a vision of having a kind of international "festival" for practioners in the field of collective intelligence – whatever a festival would mean, and whatever being a practioner actually means. (Later we clarified, that a practioner in this context is one who engages any specific area of skill or competence and who, while doing that, holds the perspective of the entire social field that is impacted by the specific activity).

Then at an evolutionary conference in September 2005, we encountered a couple of people with a similar vision. Together we soon formed a convening team for a gathering. Invitations went out in late December 2005, and a few months later we met in Aarhus. I think each of us got 20 new friends during the few days of intense work.

The applied "method" of inquiry was to support the emergence of a field of collective intelligence amongst the participants, and then engage that field in an inquiry into the role of collective intelligence itself. Given that perspective, I could never as an individual do justice to what happened, what emerged, what was learned, what was moved, what new patterns in the collective were created. However, I can hint at the richness in thinking and learning I personally experienced, and in the high energy and productivity that has been an ongoing result ... but really, that is only a personal perspective.

That points to an important question: How can we record and make available what happens in meetings like this? In fact, that was one of the themes that surfaced. So did a number of others, including these: How can the quality of leadership take form and be present in a field of collective intelligence? How do we learn to distinquish between what is only personal, and what is a personal way of giving voice to the impersonal "middle"? How do we learn to go slow and grow in our ability to "stand in the fire" when the energy in the processes become as intense as it seems to be needed for really breaking through the inertia of habit and human conditioning?

One of the results of the gathering in March is that an ongoing inquiry into the role of collective intelligence has aquired a ”body” – it has come into existence, has been seen, and is being kept alive by people in it. As seen in retrospect, it has been a simple and natural unfoldment – a possible facet of how self-reflective consciousness in impersonal form further evolves. As seen in the flow of unfoldment it was informed by an evolutionary perspective, and yet it has taken surprising, unforeseen forms – which I think is a sign of any truly evolutionary process.

It seems to me that in these months patterns are being created – prototypes are emerging for gathering people around both a theme and an intention, with the intention being to participate for the sake of the whole (engaging a field of collective intelligence amongst the participants) and in service of the theme. As participants we are being powerfully called to stretch our willingness to show up -- not for personal purposes and hopes of gain, but to be present, hang in, lean in, let ourselves get at times almost lost in confusion, and eventually experience ourselves as part of an unfolding great story. Oddly, this challenge makes people come rather than stay away.

The inquiry goes on. A gathering is called for October 2006, where we will make a stretch from the March gathering to not only continue the deepening into principles and practices of collective intelligence, but also to research into the principles and practices as they may reveal themselves when the field of collective intelligence is put in service of specific inquiries such as the following:

On movingtheedge.org you can find more about this undertaking, including links to extensive procedings from the gathering in March. If you feel called, you are welcome to join.

July 7, 2006

Finn Voldtofte