Guide: Synergy with the World Mandala

Purpose

The purpose of this method is to enable us to place any transformation project in the context of the whole human/ecological system and more easily identify creative synergies where we can get much more impact from our approach. Synergy is a condition in which the interrelationship and coherence amongst a pattern of crucial processes achieves a power and a harmony that could not be achieved in isolation.

When to use?

This techniques can be used

  •  before starting a project into order to understand better its aim and implications in the context of the global problematique
  • during a project as a reference frame for guiding tactical decisions and taking opportunities to gain leverage and avoid unintended consequences
  • at the conclusion of a project to appraise how far it has delivered congruent with the whole human/planet system

Set Up

It is important that the work space, either physical or digital, has enough surface to easily display the World Mandala and is able to allow operations on it.  Here is a basic version for reference.  This can be printed as a template for individual and group mapping of patterns of connection.

The World Mandala

The World Mandala has twelve components or nodes each connected to the eleven others.  This makes sixty-six connections each of which represents a mutual relevance between that pair of nodes.  The implication of this is that a given state of any node (for example healthy or unhealthy) will effect all the other nodes and the health of the system as a whole.  This represents the real interdependent nature  of the human/ecological system in contrast to the dominant fragmented and disconnected way in which our societies see the world and their relation to it.  The twelve words are chosen as headings to give us a quick overview of the complexity and cultivate a holistic pespective in which nothing significant is left out.

Please read the table below that summarises the content of each of the nodes.  This can be printed as a briefing card for participants.

World Mandala - The Expansion of the Twelve Nodes

World Mandala – The Expansion of the Twelve Nodes

The role of the World Mandala in this method is to direct our attention to in a way that

  1. clarifies the focus of our project in the wider context
  2. enables us to identify primary and secondary connections in the world system that matter
  3. understand the wider pattern of connections which will affect our success or failure
  4. enable us to see patterns of both opportunity and threat
  5. stimulate us to look for synergic action ideas that enhances and heals the whole rather than fragments and imbalances it.
  6. increases the chances that we will have designed a resilient situation that can adapt to any turbulence

 

Outputs

Example: Mapping two separate projects and then finding cross over interconnections with synergy potential.The examples here show a review of the primary interconnections of two complex crises.  The first is a health crisis such as an epidemic (red lines).  The crisis challenges the community`s world view and how it can be governed to achieve the public health policies.  These have a knock-on effect to the food system and also the conditions of trade that make distribution possible.  The second is an energy crisis such as a serious shortfall in the conversion from fossil to renewable energy (blue lines).  This challenges the failure of governance to achieve agreements with effects on community and polarisation of worldviews as to the importance of climate targets.  Habitat and infrastructure are compromised through, for example, pollution which questions the basis of a carbon intensive trade system.

Both these crises are going on in parallel and have a mutual impact.  This is shown in the third World Mandala which combines the two patterns (red and blue).  The behaviour of the world system arises from the interaction of both complex systems. For example, Governance is stretched in both areas; tension between world views and hence disruption of community harmony are provoked as both crises hit each other.

In the application of the method that follows you will work on a pair of complex crises of your own choosing, consider the primary  interconnections and see how they inter-react on the whole world system.  This provides a platform for developing policies, strategies and transformative initiatives.

Steps

The aim of the process is to construct a synergy potential diagram from a sample of perspectives organised by and mapped onto the H3Uni World Mandala.

This requires selecting two projects of interest each centred in a different node of the Mandala. They will be worked on separately and then together.

Here is a printable version. You will need three copies.

World Mandala for Mapping

 

Each separate perspective is then mapped on to the World Mandala to reveal a combined overview.

The final stage is examine the pattern on connections and se where there are common connections and possible threats or opportunities from the connections.

 

Step 1: Project 1 Mapping

The diagram in Outputs illustrates the procedure. The top box is your main node.  Summarise your project and why you feel that is the central node.

Then identify the three most important nodes that need to be in alignment with and supporting your project.  Characterise their connections X,Y,and Z as an action towards your node.  This is important when bringing the perspectives together.

Action for X…………………………….………………………………………..………….

Action for Y…………………………….……………………………………..…………….

Action for Z………………………………………………………………………………….

 

Step 2: Project 2 Mapping

The diagram illustrates the procedure which is the same as the previous step.  The top box is your main node.  Summarise your project and why you feel that is the central node.

Then identify the three most important nodes that need to be in alignment with and supporting your project. Characterise their connections X,Y,and Z as an action towards your node.  This is important when bringing the perspectives together.

Action for X…………………………….………………………………………..………….

Action for Y…………………………….……………………………………..…………….

Action for Z………………………………………………………………………………….

 

Step 3: Combining Project Patterns

Copy the connections of both project diagrams onto the third copy of the World Mandala.  This creates your Synergy Map.

 

Step 4: Drawing Conclusions

Examine and reflect on the combined World Mandala with the help of the following questions

  • do the two projects have connection lines in common?
  • do the connections link the projects at any of the nodes?
  •  are there possibilities for mutual help between the projects?
  • are there possibilities that they could be in conflict, for example competing for resources?
  • Are there any nodes not initially involved that turn out to be critical for either or both projects and need additional consideration?

Tips

  • It is useful in the warmup for the exercise to run through the expansion of the 12 nodes.  The words chosen for each node are deliberately simple but by implication there is a good deal of complexity behind them.  For that reason the meaning of the nodes can be customised to some extent to match the nature of the project that is being run through the World Mandala.
  •  Even the project in one specific node (e.g. food) may be ambiguous as to where it’s primary location is on the Mandala.  For example community food growing.  The important point is to choose one primary node and work from that.  Other nodes will be brought in by the exercise.
  •  It is better to have three really powerful lines in this exercise than seven or eight where their significance is confused.
  •  As well as indicating where there might be synergy or counter-productive interference, the outtake from studying the overlap between the two projects can also serve as a basis for inventing a new project that deliberately embraces the two and even takes them further generatively.

Links to resoures

Hodgson, Anthony. ‘A Transdisciplinary World Model’. Systems Research and Behavioural Science 29 (2012): 517–26.
Hodgson, Anthony. Ready for Anything: Designing Resilience for a Transforming World. Axminster: Triarchy Press, 2011.

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