Harbinger Consultants

Culture + Complexity + Change

YEAR | Welcoming 2016

mt lindesay

New Year greetings. It’s been some time since we posted and while we continue to travel well and go strong, we have weathered some difficult times last year. We ended 2015 and commenced 2016 reflecting on family and work, creativity and endurance. In 2015, our year began with participation in the U.Lab mooc and the loose formation of a community of practice working with Otto Schamer’s Theory U. This reinforced our thinking and care for positive thinking, a sense of purpose and transformative work in this world. Change is necessary and like others we struggle to find our place in transformative processes while developing empathy and reflective practices. Last year, particularly the last three months, saw many rites of passage and milestones that have been painful for us – not so much a horrible year, but one peppered with learning and challenges. While we endeavoured to face them openly and mindfully, some stinging and grief continues. We are thankful for the support and understanding of our friends, colleagues and family.

In facing the loss of one parent and the progression of terminal illness in another, we encountered failures in systems that we believe should both know and be better. Notably, we have been confronted by the treatment of the elderly by the health care system and the aged care system; systems in which the elderly are predominant users. We are not referring to the medical and nursing staff as such, but to the system itself as a complex and hierarchical entity that despite its promise of serving communities can erase kindness, knowing and care. In our experience, we found too many good people constrained by systems (usually bureaucratic, bean counting, mechanistic and self-serving) that lose sight of human frailty and need. There are those who just serve the system and more than once we faced bureaucratic bullying in times of duress, only to lose trust in a system which is entrusted to care. We grappled with architectures and infrastructures that seem to forget their place in society and community, where the need for emotional and social wellbeing has been designed away.

We enter 2016 with strengthened resolve to reflective practice, relationship building and transformative work. Our purpose and research is focused on working with communities and organisations in generative ways that facilitate system change and innovation. Whether conceptualised as design, planning, strategy or collaboration, people – engaged, open and creative – are at the core of these efforts. Some of this approach has been realised in all of our work including projects undertaken by John with Plan C including a social planning project with Moree Plains Regional Council and local communities to address community and place renewal. John’s collaboration with Plan C has resulted in an energetic and collegial joining of knowhow that is rolling into other projects such as Aurukun community planning and development, Flagstone place activation and Glenorchy community and economic development. All of these projects share a commitment to community-powered and collaborative innovation that is reflected in the team itself. Linda’s PhD on system innovation, infrastructure planning and sustainable transitions is progressing towards confirmation stage. There is more going – always more – such as a small voluntary project involving the collaborative crafting of a tactile and interactive wall hanging for a hospital dementia unit, with contributions from several local artists, makers and crafters. We’ve produced so many pieces so far that there will be more than one wall hanging – such is the economy of goodwill and willingness.

Best wishes for a wise, worthy, wild, well, worldly and wonderful 2016.


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