Integral City Meshworks has accepted the invitation to attend the Meeting of the Minds (MotM) Conference in Toronto September 9-11, 2013.


Meeting of the Minds 2013

Meeting of the Minds 2013

MotM asked me to share some of the “strange” language Integral City Meshworks uses to talk about the city. So here is a Brief History of the Integral City Basics.

It all goes back to my eclectic career of working in human systems development. In the ‘70’s I implemented mini-computer systems for an insurance services business on national and global scales. In the ‘80’s I worked on multi-continent construction teams for an international hotel organization. In the ‘90’s I worked in micro-computer start-ups and incubators (from Silicon Valley south to Silicon Valley north aka BC Canada) and strategic planning with financial institutions. And in the early 2000’s I developed community building capacity with multiple stakeholders in a small west coast Canadian city. Across all these geographies I engaged in the development of capacities for leaders, teams, organizations, sectors, communities and finally cities. I used everything I knew about management, but ultimately needed to return to school to learn about complex adaptive systems to make sense of the patterns in human systems, that I had noticed while engaging at all these scales.

My education , spanned the right brain’s fascination with language, meaning-making and cultures and the left-brain’s demands for order and organization (starting with my BA in English Literature  and Diploma in Translation; then proceeding to an accounting designation and various courses in computer systems design and project management; and finally a doctorate in Administration and Management).

When searching for a doctoral thesis topic, I decided (as a mature student ) to attempt to weave together my eclectic exposure to global culture, business, operations and belief systems, by researching the emergence of Leadership and Learning in Self-Organizing Online Community Systems (Hamilton, 1999). My case study for this research was Margaret Wheatley and Team’s 1997 “Berkana Community of Conversations (BCC)”, an online listserve experiment whose purpose was to examine how “systems serve us in the fullness of our humanity”. Out of my research ,evolved a framework for looking at communities in a way that integrated psychology, culture, biology and systems.

The timing of this research coincided with the publication of Ken Wilber’s tome, “Sex, Ecology and Spirituality”(Wilber, 1995), which offered a framework for just such an integration. Using the emailed exchanges in the BCC listserve, as my data, I parsed the 7 month conversation into the perspectives of reality, levels of development and directions of development that characterize what is now known as the Integral Model of human systems development.

Within months of graduation, in 2000, I gained two further opportunities to expand this research. The first was an introduction to the research on complex adaptive values systems behind Spiral Dynamics integral(Beck & Cowan, 1996). The second was an opportunity to map the values of my (perfect sized) city of Abbotsford, BC, Canada for the Community Foundation (Hamilton, 2003).

The result was the four quadrant “Flower Map” of Abbotsford  that displayed data from random population sample interviews, identifying what works well in the city compared to what opposes healthy development. This in turn was backed up by data outlining what city stakeholders wanted to improve about the city.

This first Flower Map embraces the basics of the Integral City Map 1 (described in my 2008 book, Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive (Hamilton, 2008)). This map is not the external quadrants of a city that you find on city street maps, but is instead the internal quadrants of a city’s psychology and culture along with the external quadrants of its biology and systems. It represents four different realities that co-exist in the city and that cross-influence each other. However, without the use of this 4 quadrant map, the cross-linkages of these realities have remained (historically) locked into 4 separate discourses with little exchange amongst them. Even universities have typically separated their faculties so that they are organized separately like this:

  • Upper Left : Aesthetics and Fine Arts
  • Lower Left: Social Sciences
  • Upper Right: Life Sciences
  • Lower Right: Hard Sciences
Abbotsford Flower Map

Abbotsford Flower Map

If we examine our Flower Map 1, we can see these same quadrants represented as petals of a flower. (Abbotsford has a thriving horticultural sector, producing bulbs and flowers such as tulips and daffodils thanks to its farmers with Dutch heritage and expertise. So the first Integral City Map was presented as a metaphor that related to Abbotsford’s stories about itself.) The arrangement of these quadrants is organized through the polarities of :

  • individual (upper quadrants) and collective (lower quadrants)
  • interior/subjective (left quadrants) and exterior/objective (right quadrants)

With this organizing framework, then we can understand that the petal/quadrants display data that represents four perspectives of the city’s reality:

  • Upper Left : Psychology (Personal Intentions and Development)
  • Lower Left: Culture, Family and Relationships
  • Upper Right: Individual Traits and Behaviors
  • Lower Right: Social Systems and Institutions

In addition to the quadrant data that the Integral map conveys, the data displays the complexity spectrum of the values embedded in the data, displayed as stratified layers in the flower petals. The legend to the map explains that “ … the flower is a multicoloured rainbow of community values. Each of the values … is crucial to ensuring the flower of community is as full and vibrant as possible … each layer is a different

[value system] that creates an award winning Flower Show masterpiece…”. The values were described as follows

  • Beige grounds the basics of life (note: this data missing from the first map as it was not collected in 2002)
  • Purple harmonizes the values of kinship and familial traditions that bond people together most tightly.
  • Red speaks to the pure unrestrained energy of pleasure and enjoyment in community.
  • Blue honors commitment and order to life and work, a sense of direction for a greater good, stability, and even recognition of duty to creating and sustaining it.
  • Orange strives towards achieving great things together with strategic and goal oriented plans.
  • Green shares those elements that are about care and sensitivity to others, with an egalitarian perspective that celebrates diversity.
  • Yellow meshes responses about flexibility, spontaneity, and knowledge as a spur to integrating community development.
  • Turquoise hints at aspects of community that are about wholeness and global connections.
  • Coral splashes represent what we might create in the future with all our good works for the common good. (Hamilton et al, 2003)

The map combines the qualitative themed data (in the word descriptors) with the quantitative volume of response (in the width of the value colours). In this 2002 version of the map the capacities/assets were shown in a balanced set of quadrants; however, the actual data showed a skewing of the quadrants which is displayed on other versions of the map and subsequent repetition of the values mapping process in 2010 .)

This first version of the Integral City map was the grandparent of other versions of the map that have been adapted to GIS mapping, Google Earth, and shape shifted to represent nested city systems, capacity development and organizational emergence.

But the core learning for this story of the history of the basics of Integral City was that the 4 quadrant map provided the prototype for integrating maps from multiple methodologies and a common language for multiple scales of human systems embedded in the city.

The Integral City Map captures and presents data in a way that is fractal (or quasi-fractal), holographic, multi-perspectival and integrating. It provides a meta-view of the city that is based on a dynamic whole living system. We will explore more of these advantages of Integral City mapping and the peculiar language we are using to talk about cities in the upcoming Meeting of the Minds conference.



Beck, D., & Cowan, C. (1996). Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.

Hamilton, M. (1999). The Berkana Community of Conversations: A Study of Leadership Skill Development and Organizational Leadership Practices in a Self-Organizing Online Microworld, Thesis for Faculty of Administration and Management, Columbia Pacific University (Vol. PhD, pp. 367). Available from

Hamilton, M. (2003). Abbotsford Values Systems Flower Map. Retrieved July 24, 2008:

Hamilton, M. (2008). Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive. Gabriola Island BC: New Society Publishers.

Wilber, K. (1995). Sex, Ecology and Spirituality: the spirit of evolution. Boston: Shambhala Publications Inc.