How can we apply Integral City theory or frameworks to my city? This is a question I am often asked.
At the What Next Integral Conference, Roger Walsh offered some helpful suggestions for applying Integral Theory in general. These are also a useful approach to engaging Integral City practices.
1. Step 1 is to offer an Integral Analysis of the situation and/or city. This may involve a completely private analysis that helps you move to each of the next steps. It challenges the analyst to observe with all five senses and to use the four Integral City maps to notice what there is to notice.
2. Step 2 is to use the analysis from Step 1 to identify the assumptions that are in operation. An example of this kind of analysis is to notice what voice(s) your city inquiries are coming from – the City-zen? Civil Society? City Management? Business? What is important to these voices? What worldviews are they expressing?
3. Step 3 is to provide (integrally informed) information that can help make better sense of the city. You can help identify: What values are important around here? What is working? What is not working? What could work better? And then your challenge is to facilitate the theming and relationships amongst the answers.
4. Step 4 invites you to subtly shift the perspective of the voices. An appreciative question can often enable a re-frame of the view of a situation from me-centric to other-centric. For example, to shift the perspective of environmentalists vs business owners we might want to listen to the stories people share in response to this question: “Tell me about a time when you were positively impacted by a business in your neighbourhood?” When stories are shared, perspectives start to expand as more partial frames are brought in, to complete a wider, more whole picture.
5. Step 5 opens the space, to offer a vision of possibilities. This step occurs when you have earned enough credibility through walking through the other four steps, that you can create the conditions for all the voices of the city to speak to a desired future. A desired future with support from as many stakeholders as possible gains the momentum that arises from shared beliefs.
Following the 5 Steps sounds logical. Seems simple. But each step requires the practise of seeing the world through compassionate lenses that grow ever wider and deeper with each new step taken. And navigating this practise grows and evolves the practitioner’s capacity for implementing Integral City approaches every step of the way.
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