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CAPABILITIES of Leading Complex Community Change through Artistic Practice
Developed from EMCarts Community Engagement Labs

These five capabilities that are vital to the work of changing complex systems, which are also inherent in artistic processes. Activate them in the service of complex social change:


  1. Being able to work with the surprises of inter-dependence and unpredictability. This capability recognizes that everything is interconnected and mutually influential, often in counterintuitive ways that are difficult to untangle, impossible to predict, and lead to unintended, perverse consequences.

  2. Being able to weave new networks and make imaginative connections across differences (connecting like-minded people across traditional boundaries). We set out to increase the density of connections within and between different networks - making "imaginative connections" across the different sectors and silos within the community group.

  3. Being able to let go of advance planning in favor of experimentation and discovery (using repeated small experiments to discover new insights and possibilities). It’s hard to shift away from the dominant planning approach that is based on step-by-step progress toward definite goals. We try to embrace “learning by doing,” using repeated experiments to discover new insights and possibilities.

  4. Being able to make generative use of sustained uncertainty and ambiguity tolerance (making active use of multiple simultaneous approaches to plumb unexpected strategic potential). This capability is more than merely tolerating ambiguity while driving toward resolution. It means making active use of multiple simultaneous approaches as the way to go deeper into the system, to plumb unexpected strategic potential.

  5. Being able to rehearse new pathways and dispassionately let go of our favorite ideas (amplifying promising experiments, while closing others down).

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