The hi:project and sustainability
Sustainability is concerned with the health and resilience of living systems. Human networks ARE, in part, living systems. In every living system, each primary unit’s ability to operate intelligently is what allows collective intelligence to arise. In information and social networks, the primary unit is the individual human being. However, several problems arising from the current non-living structures and interfaces of these systems currently constrain or prevent the ‘intelligent operation’ of individuals. For example:

  • The vulnerability of our personal data
  • The inability of people to see and understand the results of their actions on collective global scale
  • The lack of trust people have in corporations and other large organizations with disproportionate power in today’s world.

Constraints on intelligent action do not make individual people less intelligent, but we do become less trusting. Whether or not we understand network dynamics, emergence, or collective intelligence, we do know when we are not being treated as humans. We resent feeling like numbers or cogs.

The hi:project provides an opportunity for proactive organizations to engage with, rather than react to, these interrelated problems. It offers possible solutions to some key structural weaknesses of existing information networks. The hi:project ‘re-decentralizes’ information control, helping restore the balance of power essential for the creation of trust. We remove constraints on individual intelligence by:

  • Enabling citizens to control, and therefore ‘vote’ with, their data
  • Making feedback loops within human information networks more visible to both individuals and organizations, enabling more coordinated and immediate actions when addressing problems;
  • Moving from CRM to VRM (vendor relationship management) – dis-intermediating the relationship between the individual and the organization; providing a context from which, for example, a company can engage customers in trust-based, accountable relationships; and
  • Allowing organizations to focus on their own area of core competence by allowing the community intelligence to take on the ongoing interface design problem.

As a result of engaging rather than avoiding these problems, organizations gain access to a more empowered and intelligent network of individuals – customers, employees, members, etc. – which offers the following capability and capacity enhancements:

  • The decentralized structure of the network gives people the ability to self-regulate, contribute to meaningful feedback, and co-create emerging patterns. This increases the expression of collective intelligence and enhances the co-creation of market intelligence resulting in clear, useful feedback loops and a strong network.
  • Through the creation of accountability mechanisms, a trust-based network develops, and organizations begin truly acting as global citizens. This reinforces trust and loyalty, creating greater community engagement.
  • By empowering networks of individuals to operate as living systems, organizations can then help these individuals be better citizens.

The potential loss of control inherent in the creation of more balanced relationships essential for trust may seem frightening to some organizations at first – especially those in positions of great power – but what it actually does is make the leading edge, the front line information from the market, more visible. Small ripples of discontent or approval become visible earlier, allowing organizations to create more responsive strategies and resource deployments. This makes it easier not only to do the right thing, but to see the right thing to do.

In essence then, we, as social beings, want to feel safe, collaborate towards the greater good and trust those we work with. Building our information networks and interfaces to better enable these outcomes helps create possible futures that many people would prefer. In addition, the emergent properties of individual humans, such as intelligence, creativity, and adaptability, are better expressed within the network, allowing us to act collectively with more intelligence.

In partnering with the hi:project, organizations have a unique opportunity to help solve wicked problems in both human information networks and wider global systems. The situational context of a network based on dis-intermediated, trust-based relationships has an architecture that tacitly teaches individuals global citizenship. By allowing people to operate as a living system, organizations can empower them to be better citizens.

Once customer-citizens become familiar with what it feels like to be truly treated as a living human by a corporation, bank, or large organization of any kind, they will demand it from others. They will also be empowered to protect and ‘vote’ with their data, using it as the currency it is to affect the change they want to see in the world.This can pave the way to acceleration of a transition to a sustainable future, not only through internal behavior of organizations, but through education of the customer-citizen.

I would like to acknowledge Joe Brewer (@cognitivepolicy) for contributing to this post.

Image source: Asaydi blog post.

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