Real Economy Lab | New Economy Meta-Movement Part 1: Architectures
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24 May New Economy Meta-Movement Part 1: Architectures

eco2 map org-work 1a

If you’ve visited our next economy ecosystem map lately, you may notice that it has grown. We’re adding new organizations and initiatives to the map regularly as responses come in from our online survey form. In coming months, we’ll continue to expand the mapping to include many more of the hundreds or perhaps thousands of innovative, influential projects working to conceive, implement, and promote a sustainable, generative, and just economy across sectors and around the world.

On the surface, representing large numbers of entities and their varied data in ‘map’ form creates a problem: visually, it’s a mess. Due to the richness of the data we’ve collected on the how, what, and why that characterize next economy practitioners (see our full working taxonomy), any attempt to render it all at once in a single view will produce a nice spaghetti pile of complex-ified information. Appetizing, but not so useful! Thankfully, the Kumu mapping tool we use presently to visualize our data offers a number of features to allow sorting, filtering, structuring, and other analyses which render more meaningful perspectives and insights.

While such targeted, granular views are clearly informative, the real aim of our project is to compile and present a unified understanding of this next economy ecosystem as a dynamic whole: a web of Actors fulfilling various niches and roles, banding together into networks and ‘tribe groups’ to achieve larger shared aims and outcomes. We want to be able to make sense of that dauntingly complex all-at-once (and always-in-flux) reality by introducing suitable frameworks for analysis and synthesis which are both comprehensive and contextual. A thoughtful process of identifying, framing, and labeling larger patterns and relating them one to another visually will open a slew of new approaches to connect the ‘dots’ and merge larger ‘clusters’ for collective impact, supporting all of the diverse efforts and ideas represented on our map.

Ultimately, we want to generate inclusive big picture views that reveal important, perhaps unexpected patterns in the way that Actors are clustered and linked, down to the finer details of their thinking and doing, and from this to discern latent opportunities for strengthening and furthering their combined efforts. See a prior post Sighting Common Ground for more background on this approach.

It’s easy enough to explore the data set through the lens of specific attributes, one or two at a time. But how about working with 5, 10 or more attributes at once in meaningful ways? How might we discover and render higher-order groupings or ties that show correspondence between categories, such as the link between organizational form and political-economic paradigm, or between stated positions and primary means of effecting change? These questions led us to the idea of meta-categories which are just as they sound: an encompassing label for a set of attributes which are connected under a larger umbrella concept, structure, or pattern.


Infographic design by Ishan Shapiro

What you see above is an illustration of three sets of meta-categories we’ve developed based on our provisional narrative framework. They offer us a way to slice through the larger data set, generating the kinds of cluster plots that you see on the right side of the diagram. Tribe groups, themes, and archetypes are not separate and distinct, they intersect and weave through different layers of the narrative, helping us to make sense of it as a whole. Nor are they objective or definitive–these are patterns that we uncover and highlight as some of the many possible ways to draw out areas of convergence, or contours of possibly significant features in this landscape when viewed as a whole. Our methods for doing so can be replicated and adapted by anyone interested in testing a different model or approach.

This kind of ‘meta’-modeling is an iterative process; we’re interested in testing and sharing what works. Do you have ideas for an alternative or improved ‘systems architecture’ to try out — a set of attributes or a selection of Actors which exhibit qualities or behavior in common? What other clusters or meta-categories could help to make sense of this ecosystem map, leading towards more convergent understanding and collaborative action?

Results from updated analysis along these lines are being incorporated into the main Ecosystem Map as we go, adding visual cues such as color coding shown on this view of archetype grouping. We’re very curious to see how this model and resulting insights can inform dialogue and catalyze collaboration among organizations and networks represented on the map so far. An upcoming post will report on direct experiences and feedback gained as we put these ideas and insights to the test with initiatives currently represented on the map.

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