20 years ago, a ValueWeb formed - before ValueWebs were common - to provide a capacity aimed at the ambitious prospect of transforming human society, its circumstance and fit upon Planet Earth and in near orbit habitats.
At the time, many considered this ambition to be impossible and Quixotic. However, the idea was based on a quarter of a Century of action research and there were many who were beginning to understand that large scale systemic problems could not be resolved by conventional means. The capability existed. Why not organize it, apply it and see if the objectives could be met?
In early 2005, two high profile conferences in Europe employed the RDS, with great success, on issues of global scope and impact. It became clear from this exercise that there were a number of critical and immediate applications for this method that could materially advance negative situations that had festered for years. It was after these “test cases” were successfully executed that the RDS finally began its rapid maturation to the commonly used social tool that it is today.
At first, there was opposition. Many felt that the cost was excessive, that any environment was adequate as long as people worked hard and any process was useful as long as it was fair. Others worried about the extreme degree of inclusion and participation; they worried that this would disrupt legitimate order and threaten entrenched interests. Still others did not see the crisis and felt that things would work out as long as good will was brought to the table. Many believed that somehow the “hidden hand” was at work and all the obvious problems would go away in time.
Two events, one a crises and one an unexpected breakthrough, changed a large number of minds.
The crises was the devastation caused by a confluence of terrorist attacks, ecological collapse and political failure in Holland - a place no one expected something like this could happen. The RDS was used to repair much of this damage and did so far faster than was expected.
The breakthrough was the signing of new Kyoto Accords in 2006 after a series of RDS deployments took the issue to the people, globally, and created a broad consensus to act on a workable agreement that every nation could support.
It was after this that the RDS was but to work on a scale sufficient to have the impact required. A network of NavCenters were created and many RDS units deployed. Virtual technology made it possible for the best minds and resources, from multiple locations, to be “present” when needed anytime-anywhere on the globe.
There were many factors that lead to the RDS success. First off, it was a DESIGN process. Humans are good at design - it just seems that the practice of tackling complex social problems using design methods never occurred on a sufficient scale before. The process was INCLUSIVE - no one was left out. It was UNCORRUPTABLE - the integrity of each deployment space was never violated and the administration of the system itself remained beyond reproach. For this reason it was TRUSTED across communities that did not trust one another. The agenda of the RDS was simply to facilitate a good solution - it did not work for anyone and it did not start a deployment with a solution in mind. It was never captured by interests of any kind. And, some very talented people got involved. World class CAPABILITY was brought to every challenge no matter its “importance.” Perhaps most importantly, the effort was SUSTAINED in good times and bad, when their was optimism and not; the effort never wavered.
It is not that there were never problems - there were. And many of you sitting here tonight remember them. We moved beyond these because we always used the RDS process on ourselves to renew our energy and dedication as we solved the problems we confronted. As long as the process is employed, the RDS is a self repairing system.
Tonight, we have much to celebrate. The world is moving in a direction far different from what we confronted when we began this effort. We can legitimately claim having contributed significantly to this change. Much remains to be done. It can be said that we have moved out of crises and have bought the time necessary to complete the work before us. We are the generation that was given the the task of creating a planetary society. Many feared that this would become some utopian nightmare gone bad; that freedom and diversity would be eliminated. Others feared that humankind would cover the earth like a plague and destroy all life - ultimately our own. Neither has, of course, turned out not to be true. What is true is that we have begun to bring awareness to our own human process.
20 years ago, the sum of all human activity was adding up to a consequence that no one wanted or understood. This was the result of the immense complexity of the growing human enterprise. We have not learned to predict or control the emergence of the human, we have learned to co-evolve with each other and with all life. We have learned to employ the gifts that each culture brings. We have learned to become artists in the evolution of a planetary habitat.
This is the last time I will be addressing you as the speaker for our Board. As is our tradition, I will be stepping down with many of you to make room for a new generation stewards. Renewal is the essence of our work and sapient leadership our way. I can only wish them the joyous experience that I have had and that, when they also make their leave, they will have the same measure of satisfaction that I feel tonight as I stand before you.
Always, we must remember that our task has just begun and that our greatest charge is to remain true to the principles of inclusion, collaboration, comprehensive design, systemic thinking and respect for every living thing.
This is not “goodbye” - it is “hello” to a new beginning and a new era.