All who love and serve their fellow humans are agents of a spiritual future – one where the human spirit is evolving towards ever greater cooperation, sharing and unity.
In every interaction, these servers ask one simple question of themselves – how can I bring this future closer? When asked sincerely, and motivated by pure goodwill, it can impact any and every situation. Every moment, every event, every conversation becomes meaningful and significant. The magnetic power of the future is drawn into the present, and service of all kinds is energised. The future depends on the willingness of more and more people to recognise their responsibility for creating it, and to commit themselves to asking this question. They then become agents of the future, and accelerate its birth.
All the initiatives and groups mentioned in this newsletter are agents of the future, dedicating their creativity and passion to bringing a new world into being. Every one of them began with a person or a group glimpsing a way to bridge to the future, and committing themselves to that goal. All people of goodwill can become agents of the future, by joining their efforts with initiatives like these, by starting their own, or by simply committing themselves to asking this one question in their own environment and circumstances – how can I bring this future – of greater unity, cooperation and sharing – closer?
All articles are summarised from the websites of the organisations featured.
The Global Ecovillage Network envisions a world of empowered citizens and communities, designing and implementing their own pathways to a sustainable future, and building bridges of hope and international solidarity.
1. To advance the education of individuals from all walks of life by sharing the experience and best practices gained from the networks of ecovillages and sustainable communities worldwide.
2. To advance human rights, conflict resolution and reconciliation by empowering local communities globally while promoting a culture of mutual acceptance and respect, effective communications, and cross-cultural outreach.
3. To advance environmental protection globally by serving as a think tank, incubator, international partner organization and catalyst for projects that expedite the shift to sustainable and resilient lifestyles.
4. To advance active citizenship and community development by coordinating the activities of regional ecovillage networks and reaching out to wider society and policy makers in order to accelerate the transition to sustainable living.
Registered as an international charity in Scotland, GEN works through five broad regional networks: GEN-Oceania and Asia (GENOA), GEN-North America, GEN-Latin America (CASA), GEN-Europe, and GEN-Africa. GEN-Middle East is an emerging region and NextGEN is a global network focused on engaging and empowering youth in the ecovillage movement.
GEN has consultative status within UN-ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) and is a partner of the UNITAR-CIFAL initiative, which provides trainings in sustainable development to local governmental officials around the world.
Through the sharing of best practices and innovative solutions and the honouring of deep-rooted traditional knowledge and local cultures, GEN builds bridges between policy-makers, academics, entrepreneurs and sustainable community networks across the globe in order to develop strategies for a global transition to resilient communities and cultures.
An ecovillage is an intentional or traditional community using local participatory processes to holistically integrate ecological, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of sustainability in order to regenerate social and natural environments.
The motivation for ecovillages is the choice and commitment to reverse the gradual disintegration of supportive social/cultural structures and the upsurge of destructive environmental practices on our planet. For millenia, people have lived in communities close to nature, and with supportive social structures. Many of these communities, or “ecovillages”, exist to this day and are struggling for survival. Ecovillages are now being created intentionally, so people can once more live in communities that are connected to the Earth in a way that ensures the well-being of all life-forms into the indefinite future.
Ecovillages, by endeavoring for lifestyles which are “successfully continuable into the indefinite future”, are living models of sustainability, and examples of how action can be taken immediately. They represent an effective, accessible way to combat the degradation of our social, ecological and spiritual environments. They show us how we can move toward sustainability in the 21st century (Agenda 21). In 1998, ecovillages were first officially named among the UN’s top 100 listing of Best Practices, as excellent models of sustainable living.
The Ocean Cleanup
Boyan Slat, (CEO) who founded The Ocean Cleanup at age 17, is the youngest-ever recipient of the UN’s highest environment award. He descibes the mission of the initiative:
“At The Ocean Cleanup, we’re developing the first feasible method to clean up [the] world’s ocean garbage patches. Five vast areas of Open Ocean, known as the subtropical gyres, act as a trap for ocean plastic. We specifically focus on the North Pacific accumulation zone – also known as ‘the Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ – since about 1/3 of all oceanic plastic is concentrated in that one area between Hawaii and California.
When I founded The Ocean Cleanup almost three years ago, there was no realistic way to clean up these accumulation zones, each several million square kilometres in size. I realised that coastlines are evidently very effective in catching plastic. Unfortunately, there is no landmass in the middle of these gyres, so I then proposed to deploy a very long array of floating barriers attached to the seabed. This would act as an artificial coastline, allowing the ocean to clean itself. We aim to deploy our first pilot system in 2016, and hope to be able to start cleaning the North Pacific by 2020.
Yet a common argument against our efforts is that focus should instead be on preventing more plastic from entering the oceans. I fully agree prevention is top priority. Having to clean up the gyres again a few decades after cleaning up would be nothing short of annoying. But in my opinion, one does not exclude the other – they complement each other.
First of all, the ocean garbage patches do not go away by themselves and hence need to be cleaned up at some point in time. Several years ago, researchers noticed the discrepancy between the amount of plastic floating in the world’s gyres and the accumulative influx of new plastic into the oceans. I believe that most of this plastic ‘disappearance’ occurs before the plastic would reach the open ocean, not after. Thin film objects quickly lose their buoyancy after getting fouled, often sinking near shore. Near the coast, forces such as waves and winds predominantly work towards land, which could cause most of the plastic entering the oceans to beach quickly after leaving rivers or other land-based sources. Sediment research, plastic fragmentation mechanics and initial Mega Expedition results are supportive to this hypothesis. So even if we manage to prevent more plastic from entering the oceans, the garbage patches will continue to cause damage.”
Avaaz—meaning “voice” in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages—launched in 2007 with a simple democratic mission: organize citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.
Avaaz empowers millions of people from all walks of life to take action on pressing global, regional and national issues, from corruption and poverty to conflict and climate change. Our model of internet organising allows thousands of individual efforts, however small, to be rapidly combined into a powerful collective force.
The Avaaz community campaigns in 15 languages, served by a core team on 6 continents and thousands of volunteers. We take action—signing petitions, funding media campaigns and direct actions, emailing, calling and lobbying governments, and organizing “offline” protests and events—to ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform the decisions that affect us all.
The Avaaz Way: How We Work
Previous international citizens' groups and social movements have had to build a constituency for each separate issue, year by year and country by country, in order to reach a scale that could make a difference.
Today, thanks to new technology and a rising ethic of global interdependence, that constraint no longer applies. Where other global civil society groups are composed of issue-specific networks of national chapters, each with its own staff, budget, and decision-making structure, Avaaz has a single, global team with a mandate to work on any issue of public concern—allowing campaigns of extraordinary nimbleness, flexibility, focus, and scale.
Avaaz's priorities and power come from members. Each year, Avaaz sets overall priorities through all-member polls, and campaign ideas are polled and tested weekly to 10,000-member random samples—and only initiatives that find a strong response are taken to scale. Campaigns that do reach the full membership are then super-charged by, often, hundreds of thousands of Avaaz members taking part within days or even hours.
Moments of crisis and opportunity
In the life of an issue or a cause, a moment sometimes arises when a decision must be made, and a massive, public outcry can suddenly make all the difference. Getting to that point can take years of painstaking work, usually behind the scenes, by dedicated people focusing on nothing else. But when the moment does come, and the sunlight of public attention floods in, the most crucial decisions go one way or another depending on leaders' perceptions of the political consequences of each option. It is in these brief windows of tremendous crisis and opportunity that the Avaaz community often makes its mark.
In any country or on any issue, those moments might come only once or twice a year. But because Avaaz can work in all countries and on all issues, these moments can crop up several times in a week.
Because Avaaz is wholly member-funded, democratic accountability is in our DNA. No corporate sponsor or government backer can insist that Avaaz shift its priorities to suit some external agenda—we simply don't accept funds from governments or corporations.
United by values
Movements, coalitions, and organizations often fracture over time into many smaller pieces—or spend more and more of their time trying to hold warring factions together. At Avaaz, we recognize that people of good will often disagree on specifics; instead of straining for consensus, each of us simply decides whether to participate in any particular campaign.
But underlying Avaaz campaigns is a set of values—the conviction that we are all human beings first, and privileged with responsibilities to each other, to future generations, and to the planet. The issues we work on are particular expressions of those commitments. And so, over and over, Avaaz finds the same thing: that people who join the community through a campaign on one issue go on to take action on another issue, and then another. This is a source of great hope: that our dreams rhyme, and that, together, we can build the bridge from the world we have to the world we all want.
The Good Country Index
The idea of the Good Country Index is simple: to measure what each country on earth contributes to the common good of humanity, and what it takes away, relative to its size. Using a wide range of data from the U.N. and other international organisations, we’ve given each country a balance-sheet to show at a glance whether it’s a net creditor to mankind, a burden on the planet, or something in between.
We're not making moral judgments about countries. What we mean by a Good Country is something much simpler: it’s a country that contributes to the greater good of humanity. A country that serves the interests of its own people, but without harming – and preferably by advancing – the interests of people in other countries too.
The Good Country Index is one of a series of projects we’ll be launching over the coming months and years to start a global debate about what countries are really for. Do they exist purely to serve the interests of their own politicians, businesses and citizens, or are they actively working for all of humanity and the whole planet? The debate is a critical one, because if the first answer is the correct one, we’re all in deep trouble.
The Good Country Index doesn’t measure what countries do at home. This isn't because we think these things are unimportant, of course, but because there are plenty of surveys that already measure them. What the Index does aim to do is to start a global discussion about how countries can balance their duty to their own citizens with their responsibility to the wider world, because this is essential for the future of humanity and the health of our planet. We hope that looking at these results will encourage you to take part in that discussion.
The Interspiritual Network
The Interspiritual Network is comprised of organizations and individuals who are exploring and embracing the emerging Interspiritual paradigm for authentic understanding, collaboration and practice.
Together we are creating a global community for sharing and cross-pollinating our respective perspectives, practices, rituals, visions and ideals. We are experiencing the profound contemplative wisdom practices at the heart of the world’s spiritual and secular traditions. We are celebrating a unity within the diversity of the world’s spiritual traditions and experiencing a new interspiritual consciousness guiding us towards a sustainable, healthy and peaceful earth for humans and all living beings.
In an interview, Kurt Johnson, one of those involved in the network, explained interspirituality in the following way:
“The way that we have put this in the evolutionary context is that interspirituality is the inherent evolutionary response of the religions to globalization and multiculturalism. In other words, the response that religion could have to become part of the solution to a global civilization that’s healthy and works, rather than part of the problem that it has always been based on conflicts about ideas and creeds and dogmas. Religion itself would evolve to this understanding that back-burners theology and ideas, back-burners the mental parsing out process, and makes central the matters of the ethical teachings, the idealistic teachings, and the things that come from love, kindness, compassion, mutuality, and interconnectedness. This is the vector of its understanding. It has inherently evolved in a way that’s positive toward the globalization process rather than remaining a negative force. This is the way we frame it when we challenge people—religion can either step up to that inherent evolutionary path to meet globalization in a positive way, or if it doesn’t, as Ken Wilber said, it will forfeit the claim that it has something to add to international and global phenomenon.”
The Humanitarian Data Exchange
The Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) is an open platform for sharing data. The goal of HDX is to make humanitarian data easy to find and use for analysis. Launched in July 2014, HDX has been accessed by users in over 200 countries and territories. Watch our HDX launch animation or introductory screencast to get started.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) manages HDX. OCHA is part of the United Nations Secretariat,responsible for bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent response to emergencies. The HDX team includes OCHA staff and a number of consultants. We are based in North America, Europe and Africa.
We define humanitarian data as: 1) data about the context in which a humanitarian crisis is occurring (e.g., baseline/development data, damage assessments, geospatial data); 2) data about the people affected by the crisis and their needs; and 3) data about the response by organisations and people seeking to help those who need assistance.
The Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education
The Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE) is a multidisciplinary academic association with an international membership of educators, administrators, staff, students, researchers and other professionals committed to the transformation of higher education through the recovery and development of the contemplative dimensions of teaching, learning and knowing.
The ACMHE promotes the emergence of a broad culture of contemplation in the academy, connects a broad network of academic professionals with online resources, and stimulates scholarship and research concerning contemplative pedagogy, methodology and epistemology within and across disciplines through initiatives and events including the annual ACMHE national conference.
We envision an education that promotes the exploration of meaning, purpose and values and seeks to serve our common human future. An education that enables and enhances personal introspection and contemplation leads to the realization of our inextricable connection to each other, opening the heart and mind to true community, deeper insight, sustainable living, and a more just society.
Though powerful and vitally important, the conventional methods of scientific research, pedagogy, and critical scholarship need to be broadened. The experiential methods developed within the contemplative traditions offer a rich set of tools for exploring the mind, the heart, and the world. When they are combined with conventional practices, an enriched research methodology and pedagogy become available for deepening and enlarging perspectives, leading to lasting solutions to the problems we confront. None of these methods require an ideology or creed and each is available equally to all.
We envision higher education as an opportunity to cultivate a deep personal and social awareness in order to stimulate inquiry into what is most meaningful to us as interconnected human beings. We seek to recast the traditional foundations for education into a truly integrative, transformative, and communal enterprise that is wholly open and inclusive of all backgrounds and that cultivates each person in the fullest possible way.
Hab: Community of Love in Action
Hab, which means love in action, is inspired by the spiritual legacy of Fr. Bede Griffiths, and was established by Adam Bucko. V.K. Harber is the spiritual director. We are an ecumenical and interspiritual contemplative community which offers formation in radical spirituality and sacred activism.
The goals of this community are to provide spiritual direction and contemplative mentoring, connect young people with elders and mentors, and build a movement of small communities of people who dedicate their lives to a contemplative life and to inspired, transformative action in the world.
We organize our lives around our calling
Understanding that our calling is our unique way of touching God we focus on becoming who we were born to be and offering it to the world in service of compassion and justice.
We try not to participate in structures that do not reflect our values
We invest and participate in things that reflect the values of a “world that our hearts know is possible”.
We see God in the poor and broken
We dedicate our lives to direct service to those who are hurting. We serve God by serving those who are broken.
We understand that direct service is not enough
We also dedicate ourselves to changing the structures that create suffering and perpetuate the social, economic and ecological injustices of our day.
All of our activism, prayer, and community is rooted in Deep Nonviolence. We cultivate our sense of truth, confess our shortcomings to each other, practice forgiveness and work on reconciliation.
Our focus is missional
We take our values seriously and work towards building a movement.
The Presencing Institute (PI) is an awareness-based action-research community that creates social technologies, builds capacities, and generates holding spaces for profound societal renewal. This community tries to contribute to shifting the economy from ego to eco, and toward serving the well-being of all.
A ten-year research project we started in 1996, conducted by Otto Scharmer and his colleagues, including Joseph Jaworski and Peter Senge, at MIT, resulted in a consciousness-based framework of leadership and change. That framework, referred to as Presencing or Theory U, says that the quality of the results that a system creates is a function of the awareness from which the people in that system operate. The findings have been published in the books Theory U (by Otto Scharmer) and Presence (co-authored by Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, and Betty Sue Flowers).
Since it emerged around 2006, Theory U has come to be understood in three primary ways: first as a framework; second, as a method for leading profound change; and third, as a way of being – connecting to the more authentic or higher aspects of our self.
Seven Theory U Leadership Capacities
The journey through the U develops seven essential leadership capacities:
1. Holding the space of listening: The foundational capacity of the U is listening. Listening to others, listening to oneself, and listening to what emerges from the collective. Effective listening requires the creation of open space in which others can contribute to the whole.
2. Observing: The capacity to suspend the “voice of judgment” is key to moving from projection to true observation.
3. Sensing: The preparation for the experience at the bottom of the U — presencing — requires the tuning of three instruments: the open mind, the open heart, and the open will. This opening process is not passive but an active “sensing” together as a group. While an open heart allows us to see a situation from the whole, the open will enables us to begin to act from the emerging whole.
4. Presencing: The capacity to connect to the deepest source of self and will allows the future to emerge from the whole rather than from a smaller part or special interest group.
5. Crystallizing: When a small group of key persons commits itself to the purpose and outcomes of a project, the power of their intention creates an energy field that attracts people, opportunities, and resources that make things happen. This core group functions as a vehicle for the whole to manifest.
6. Prototyping: Moving down the left side of the U requires the group to open up and deal with the resistance of thought, emotion, and will; moving up the right side requires the integration of thinking, feeling, and will in the context of practical applications and learning by doing.
7. Performing: A prominent violinist once said that he couldn't simply play his violin in Chartres cathedral; he had to “play” the entire space, what he called the “macro violin”, in order to do justice to both the space and the music. Likewise, organizations need to perform at this macro level: they need to convene the right sets of players (frontline people who are connected through the same value chain) and to engage a social technology that allows a multi-stakeholder gathering to shift from debating to co-creating the new.
Theory U Encourages You to Step into the Emerging Future
Examples of these seven Theory U leadership capacities can be found in a number of multi-stakeholder innovations and corporate applications. The Presencing Institute is dedicated to developing these new social technologies by integrating science, consciousness, and profound social change methodologies.
Presencing, a blend of the words ‘presence’ and ‘sensing’, refers to the ability to sense and bring into the present one's highest future potential—as an individual and as a group. Theory U offers both a new theoretical perspective and a practical social technology. As a theoretical perspective, Theory U suggests that the way in which we attend to a situation determines how a situation unfolds: I attend this way, therefore it emerges that way. As a practical social technology, Theory U offers a set of principles and practices for collectively creating the future that wants to emerge (following the movements of suspending, redirecting, letting go, presencing, letting come, enacting, and embodying).
Nesta is an innovation charity with a mission to help people and organisations bring great ideas to life.
USEFUL IDEAS: We believe that innovation – the creation and use of new ideas – is the primary source of human progress.
It drives economic growth, greater well-being, a richer culture and the prospects of a more sustainable planet. Nesta exists to stimulate more and better innovation – helping to understand how it happens across the world and in all sectors, how it can be supported, and how promising ideas can be put to use.
FROM ANYONE: We believe that the world uses far too little of its potential for useful innovation.
Deep specialised knowledge remains vital for innovation. But many breakthroughs also come from people outside the biggest universities, companies and governments. Indeed, far more people than ever before can contribute to creating new ideas – helped by better education and new technologies as well as tools like challenge prizes, open innovation and accelerators. We advocate more open and democratic innovation – and believe that far too little of this innovative potential is being used, mainly because of how education, science and government are organised.
FOR EVERYONE: We believe that more of the resources devoted to innovation should back ideas that serve the common good.
As a charitable foundation we exist to promote innovation for everyone’s benefit. Not all innovation is good – in fact many innovations cause damage, and too much of the funding for innovation goes on better ways of killing people, or selling things, or meeting the needs of the very rich. Too little backs innovations that meet fundamental human needs and solve problems that matter to the public. That’s why we prioritise supporting innovations with the greatest prospect of creating value for everyone – in fields like health, education and the arts – whether they’re in the public and private sectors, or in civil society.
How we do it
We use our resources – money, people, convening power – to promote new ideas that serve the common good.
We also influence larger systems – governments, finance, science – so that good ideas can thrive.
We act as an investor, researcher, funder and doer, and work both in the UK and internationally, helping to cross-pollinate great ideas from around the world.
What we're going to do
Our goal over the next five years is to become better at doing all these things:
• to grow our global reputation as a centre for the understanding and practice of innovation
• to help great innovations achieve impact at scale
• to extend our reach by evolving into a network of collaborating organisations
• and to pioneer new methods of tapping great ideas and collective brainpower for the common good.
Our aim over the next few years is to become more useful to you.
We want to be the partner of choice for organisations who are looking for unparalleled expertise on the practice and theory of innovation in all sectors.
We want to be a better collaborator with people and organisations of all kinds to help them grow their ideas.
And we want to help innovators from all walks of life by providing them with the right skills and tools to help them break through the many barriers that stand in their way.
Institute for Economics and Peace
The Institute for Economics and Peace is the world’s leading think tank dedicated to developing metrics to analyse peace and to quantify its economic value. It does this by developing global and national indices, calculating the economic cost of violence, analysing country level risk and understanding positive peace.
The research is used extensively by governments, academic institutions, think tanks, non-governmental organisations and by intergovernmental institutions such as the OECD, The Commonwealth Secretariat, the World Bank and the United Nations. The Institute was recently ranked in the top 15 most impactful think tanks in the world on the Global Go To Think Tank Index.
We aim to create a paradigm shift in the way the world thinks about peace. We use data driven research to show that peace is a positive, tangible and achievable measure of human well-being and development.
Founded by IT entrepreneur and philanthropist Steve Killelea in 2007, the Institute for Economics and Peace is impacting traditional thinking on matters of security, defence, terrorism and development.
Rutger Bregman, Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and a 15-Hour Workweek. The Correspondent, 2016.
In concise, lively prose, Bregman lays out the arguments for a number of radical social reforms. Surprisingly, President Nixon is revealed as an early advocate of basic income. Sprinkling his text with historical studies, anecdotes and statistical analyses, he makes an accessible and well-reasoned case for a universal basic income, paid to everyone without exception; and the closely related case for a much shorter workweek. He also reviews ideas on how to shift people’s working lives towards more meaningful and productive goals, through intelligent taxation and values-based education; and calls for a replacement for GDP as a measure of wealth. He makes the provocative suggestion that by far the most effective way to support less developed countries is not development aid, but the opening of borders to allow easier migration. Bregman concludes by emphasising the power of ideas to change the world, and bids all those who dream of a better world to be both patient and vigilant for those moments when the world is ready for change.
Mohammed Mesbahi, Heralding Article 25: A people’s strategy for world transformation. Kibworth Beauchamp, UK: Matador, 2016
This brief and compact book by the founder of the organisation, Share the World’s Resources, is addressed to people of goodwill and especially to young people who are informed and energized by insight into the oneness of humanity. They are advised to focus their efforts on a call to implement Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”
Through five chapters Mesbahi calls for an engagement of the heart, the spirit and the intuition by ordinary people of goodwill across the globe. Governments have failed to “guarantee the full realization of socio-economic human rights in every country.” The only way to end poverty is “to cooperatively organize the global economy in order to share the resources of the world…” Immediate action is called for to implement Article 25 as a set of laws in each land, using the United Nations as a democratically reformed and re-empowered agency to facilitate a unifying global economic governance.
Inspired by the Occupy movement, Mesbahi’s vision is of “spontaneous, ceaseless, peaceful and unbelievably huge demonstrations that revolve around the human rights of Article 25.” Those inclined to social activism will find inspiration and clear reasoned argument in this book.