Organising the Human Organising Project

I always advocate that you should organize a group or organisation in a way that is congruent with the message you’re trying to impart to the world. Organising the Human Organising Project thus presents two simultaneous challenges – how to organise the project and how to carry it out. A good starting point is to look at the purpose.

The purpose of the Human Organising Project is to explore and promote ways of organising based on our highest understanding of what it means to be human.

The idea behind the purpose is that if we conceive of human beings as being capable of self-governing, then we can create ways of organising that build on that ability, rather than rely on domination and control. It is a fundamental assumption that people who are self-governing are more likely to act with compassion for others and thus contribute to a more sustainable world.

The Project will achieve its purpose primarily by building a community of people interested in engaging collectively in the exploration of these new ways of organising.

I started the project in February 2015 by inviting a few people to join a conversation. We have held six rich conversations so far, and the idea of a festival of Human Organising has been born which is already gathering momentum (see elsewhere on this site for details).

Already I know I am not alone in this endeavour. Diverse and wonderful people have made the effort to come to the gatherings, and a number of them including Debbie Warrener, Anna Sexton, Marc Pell and Victor Vorski have contributed to moving the project forward. Others have expressed an interest in getting involved in some way.

So, having taken the first tentative steps, how do I /we organize ourselves? There are many things to think about – legal form, governance paradigm (VSM perhaps, or sociocracy or holacracy), values and so on. Currently, leadership is what I am most interested in. How, as founder, do I lead this emerging community? I’m happy, indeed keen, to be a leader but have no interest in being the leader. I don’t see the Project as being “led” by any one individual or group, or “owned” by anyone. Treating a group of people as being owned or controlled by a few individuals usually inhibits the potential of the organisation and its people. I think of the project instead as being “held”. In that holding, I expect a few individuals to be prominent, but I expect many people to play a role. Active participation by all has to be one of our values.

In terms of leadership, I’m very taken by (family therapist) David Kantor’s four player model that recognises four different role types in a healthy conversation: moving, following, opposing and bystanding. This model suggests that it is unhelpful to label individuals as “movers”, “followers” and so on – but rather that leadership and followership are roles in a group, and that every member of the group can play that role from time to time. It is like a hat they wear for a while, perhaps just a few moments, and then pass on.

You can depict this like so:


Screenshot 2015-08-07 13.14.12


Screenshot 2015-08-07 13.14.37

Movers initiate.  Without them, there is no direction.  Followers support the current move.  Without Followers, there is no completion.  Opposers critique the move.  Without Opposers, there is no correction.  Bystanders are those who take a step back and ask if there is anything else the group should be focusing on.  Without Bystanders, there is no perspective (Ref: Isaacs W. (1999). Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together)

Each of us has a natural tendency to fall into one or two of these roles more than others.  Kantor defines a healthy system as one where any individual is capable of engaging in any of the four roles at any time.  In an unhealthy system, only certain individuals occupy certain roles.  Hence unhealthy systems are more likely to get “stuck”.

I like to think of the Human Organising Project as (among other things) an ongoing conversation. This allows me to think of individuals emerging from the crowd, taking on a leadership role for a minute, a day, a week or a year, and then disappearing again into the crowd as others take their place. It is a constant dance. I will do my fair share of moving but am also more than happy to oppose, follow and bystander as I feel is useful.

Already I can see that the festival idea is getting a life of his own, and I am simply trying to follow it, focusing on informing other people of what is going on.

Leadership is one of those things that people spend lifetimes thinking about. For now, I can just spend this short blog post on it. I have no doubt it will come up again and again as we move the project forward.

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