A Model for Collective Wayfinding

Blog | Words Matt Norman | 06 Dec 2022

In this 10-part series, we share 10 different pictures that can help us to make sense of the big complex world of social innovation and systems change

#10: A Model for Collective Wayfinding

What does it say?

This final picture is a bit different – because it’s mine! And I’d really love to hear your feedback.

In my studies, I’ve been asking what kind of social innovation could help us steer the huge societal transitions headed our way towards more just and joyful futures. I’ve found myself taking what my colleague Jethro would call a ‘bowerbird’ approach: collecting and arranging a range of really exciting approaches from collective imagination and deliberative democracy to collective impact, mission-led portfolios, and adaptive learning cycles.

This picture tries to articulate an approach that draws all those inspirations together – for now I’m calling it ‘Collective Wayfinding’.

As you can see, this picture echoes the converge/diverge of the double diamond, but here it’s organisations or initiatives that are moving together and apart again. The picture captures five key inflection points:

  1. Convening the system: bringing together relevant actors across sectors and scales to build common futures together.
  2. Envisioning together: I’m already learning that this needs to include processes for reckoning with the past and making sense of the present together, before we can start to imagine radically different futures and craft visions to steer towards.
  3. Aligning experiments: building on what’s already underway and designing new interventions to fill the gaps, this is about aligning many efforts across a system towards shared visions.
  4. Learning & adapting: this point brings people together again to facilitate shared learning loops and adaptation: I picture migratory birds or even starling murmurations!
  5. Weaving in: making shared visions more and more real over time by weaving connections between initiatives, and weaving them all into structures that will make them durable.

This is, of course, not a linear process, or even a neatly circular one – new convenings, visions, and constellations of initiatives might spring from one process and take on a life of their own at any stage.

Why am I sharing it?

Because I want you to tear it apart!

Well, kind of. As I said, this is a first draft, and I’m sharing it as a way to move my studies out of private research and analysis and into action in the real world where I can make a positive impact – and where I’m vulnerable to criticism.

I would really love to hear your feedback, questions, and suggestions. Don’t hold back!

For those who’ve followed along, I hope this series has inspired you – and please reach out if you’d ever like to chat about all thing social innovation.

Follow Matt Norman on LinkedIn for more insights and ideas about social innovation.