Starting the New Civilization Network

30 May 95

I started NCN March 13th, 1995. Well, all I did really was that I sent out a message on the Whole Systems mailing list.

I had for a long time been wanting to do something more actively in the direction of making a better form of society, creating a future where all of our needs are met, working on global issues, as well as on local communities.

Probably my biggest inspiration in that direction was the New Civilization Game, written in 1982 by my friend Bill Robertson. It provided me with a really large scale perspective, such as in "OK, here is a planet, what do we need to run it, let's start organizing it."

Before getting around to NCN, I had earlier started the Whole Systems list, in part to form a foundation for positive work in making our planet work better. It had grown nicely to about 500 members, if we include its companion Whole Info list, and had very inspiring people and dialogue.

But I was also looking for ways of getting more action to take place. I mean, more than theoretical discussions and electronic networking. So, my idea was that people could get together and work on projects of their own choosing, but with tangible deliverables that they could present to others. Also, that very simple networking principles would make it work. My inspiration there was the TeamNet principles that Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps are talking about it their books.

Another set of principles that I thought fit in nicely with an emerging new civilization are the learning organization concept. See, I don't think anybody can claim in advance to now exactly how a new civilization should work. It is something we have to discover along the way, and doing so requires that we learn to work together and have a meaningful dialogue. And also that we each discover and transcend our own limiting mental models.

An emerging new civilization is also an example of infinite game playing. One of my favorite books is "Finite and Infinite Games" by James Carse. A new civilization is not something with a finite end, it is not a game where there are winners and losers. It is an ongoing development of a culture, something we are discovering and playing with as we go along, and to that degree we are all winners.

Also, what in part told me that it was time to take action was that I ran into Leon Vickman and New Civilizaiton Model One. This was based on that several people on the whole systems list had mentioned my name to Leon, and since he had just recently gotten e-mail access he sent me a message. We met a few weeks later, as I found that he lives just a few miles from me in Encino in the San Fernando Valley.

New Civilization Model One had existed for more than 10 years as a group. Mostly it is a loose collection of people who wanted to do a better kind of community. They have been having an ongoing dialogue in the paper equivalent of a mailing list. They have a piece of land and some efforts in the direction of organic farming and a new time-based exchange system.

The New Civ Encino thing inspired me, but also I felt it wasn't exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted something more free-form, self-organizing, including many different projects. But I was keen on using the term "New Civilization", so I had to think a little bit about how to both support and align with Leon's New Civilization endeavour, but also making something bigger and more general without stepping on it. So, I ended up with the name "New Civilization Network", and the model of a loose network of self-organizing teams. The sub-divisions of New Civilization Model One could be regarded as teams within NCN, or as the crews that make up the Model One project, and we have an all-around synergy and cross-fertilization of ideas.

I had been struggling with the idea of writing a New Civilization Manifesto of some sort, to be a key inspirational document. However, as often happens when I deliberately sit down to try and write something Big and Important, inspiration doesn't really come. It tends to come when one is looking the other way.

So, I eventually decided just to send out a note off the top of my head with the ideas for a new civilization network. And that is what I posted to to the whole systems list.

I hadn't really expected such an overwhelming response. Lots of people started signing up and some, Gene Bollinger in particular, circulated the message on other mailing lists, such as the learning org list, and more people joined up.

So, within about 4 weeks there were about 100 people who had signed up.

I was also quite surprised and impressed with the quality of people who signed up. It was a somewhat more intellectual crowd than I had expected, but that probably in part comes from the mailing lists on which the initial message was circulated. Somehow I hadn't really envisioned the amount of management consultants and educators that would be interested in such an endeavour. Overall, a very resourceful group of people.

In retrospect it seems like it was the exact right time to start a new civilization project. It just seemed to be in the stars or in the air in various ways.

Just a few weeks later I walked into a bookstore and noticed that Alvin Toffler just had written a book called "Creating a New Civilization". A little annoying that he has to go and steal such a good title, I would like to have written a book with that name. But anyway, it is just another thing that shows that new civilizations are in the air.

Bob Gebelein popped up and had also written a book on new civilization years ago, called "Re-educating myself". That is new civilization in the sense of the civilization of a person, becoming civilized in a new way.

Anyway, the New Civilization Network now being in existence, the question is what to do with it and how to get it to work.

- Flemming Funch