The Ecosystem Leadership Program Latin America
Creating Partnerships to Democratize Access to Methods and Tools for Planetary Healing and Civilizational Regeneration
Ecosystem organizing means organizing with people you disagree with on many levels. Yet you find some way of discovering common ground and reframing things in ways that resonate with them. The main shift is how we make all that happen; it has to do with decentering. We need to know how to decenter ourselves. Deep listening is essentially decentering, the equivalent of forgetting our own agendas. All the organizational egos get in the way of ecosystem organizing. Therefore, ecosystem organizing also requires organizational decentering. That´s what we need to learn and around which we need to create learning infrastructures. Otto Scharmer
Meeting the Partners
The Ecosystem Leadership Program organizing committee met with the organizations that partnered with the Presencing Institute and faced the challenge of making possible the first-of-its-kind international event in Colonia, Uruguay, between March 24 and 29, 2023.
Janine Saponara, the co-host from Brazil, welcomed the allies and expressed the team´s gratitude for their stepping forward to support the program, even when they did not have any proof that it would work the way it was supposed to. Next, Florencia Estrade from Uruguay shared the agenda and passed the word on to Laura Pastorini. She and Becky Buell are the masterminds behind the event.
Laura illuminated her face with the same smile shown before by Janine and Florencia. Laura’s feeling of deep satisfaction was evident when she “blamed” the event on Otto Scharmer, founder of the u.school for Transformation of the Presencing Institute, and Colunga, a Chilean ONG working for the protection of girls, boys, and teenagers in vulnerable situations.
She explained that the seeds that gave birth to this event were sowed during Otto Scharmer´s visit to Chile in June 2022. She said the goal was to bring the u.school to Latin America sometime in the future because the Latin soil was ready for an event of this nature. On that occasion, Otto suggested that it was necessary to do things differently because the future lay in regional transformations with the participation of all the ecosystem participants, especially from its margins. Laura went further, explaining that the new partners had been convened to fund the scholarship program that covered the cost of those who could not pay to participate, precisely those coming from the margins of the Latin American ecosystem whose voices will be heard in Colonia. Therefore, they wanted to convene a group of allies as diverse as those participating in the program.
Florencia guided the group to mindfulness meditation, a trademark routine in every u-school event. Immediately, she invited all the allies to present themselves.
Arturo expressed that they had confidence in the program’s potential after their experience in Chile when Otto visited that country last year. He also said that the Presencing Institute’s work had been very relevant to their society and people. José said that Colunga works to mitigate human poverty, so, on this occasion, they invited people to dive deeply into the Ecosystem Leadership program. So that
“in this critical moment we are experiencing in Chilean society, they can go back and contribute to the very important discussions that are taking place in our country.”
Rafael Maretti from Brazil said they are working with children of the Amazon jungle and have been teaching Theory U since 2017. They were motivated to participate mainly to meet people with similar transformational intentions. Also,
“as a team, we wanted to renovate our energy level by finding a bigger intention to connect to.”
Bravo Family Foundation
Fernando Silva, from Puerto Rico, is pleased to be at the ELP. He explained that the Maria Hurricane experience made them more aware of what they were called for so that they could find better ways to help the people. They have thirty programs, including the Exceptional Community Leaders, in which he is directly involved. They are capacitating local leaders in developing social enterprises to encourage entrepreneurship and sustainability in those communities so that they don´t depend on government organizations. They are bringing to the ELP four women, aged 26 to 58, who are leaders of four social organizations.
“I am very excited to be in the program because there is nothing more enriching than exposing ourselves to a collective experience of this kind.”
Dieter VandenBroek explained that Commonland creates landscapes, working with what is already there in the soil to regenerate it. He had read Otto´s article about the u.school, and the need to regenerate, so in Commonland they have been doing large-scale landscape restoration for the long term. They have been doing it in Europe with the Presencing Institute and have a partnership to do it in Africa. He mentions that Laura and Becky were present in one of their first European workshops, and learning about the ELP, he considered it an excellent opportunity to start sensing what was happening in America.
“We need to be humble to sense what´s already happening, what´s needed to create added value, and how we can support that work.”
Lorena Guillé says that being at the ELP is very significant for her because she has been a fan of the Presencing Institute and has been attending the journaling process every year for ten years, which has been like a lighthouse for her personally and professionally. She is also a fan of the League of Intrapreneurs and truly believes in changing the world through a systemic approach. She is an Industrial and Systems Engineer, so everything she has done professionally, working on corporate foundations and CSR, has been through a systemic approach. She also believes collaboration is the key to everything she has tried. She thinks that she, and more people like her, who are connected to their inner selves, go out to pursue change more confidently. Regardless that other people may perceive them as dreamers, they are, in reality, dreamers in action, which for her, it is relevant at this moment in her life and in the work she is doing at the FEMSA Foundation. FEMSA is a corporate foundation working in Latin America on childhood, development, circular economies, and other projects. Last year, they had projects in eighteen countries, and in fifteen years, they have touched the lives of 200 million people.
“So, we have the opportunity to take this forward in a very executive way, with more commitment and systemic approaches where our hearts and minds are.”
Rodrigo Herrera used to work for mining companies. Now he and his partner lead Symnetics, which seeks sustainable ways to extract minerals. Julio Neme thinks that at the center of the partnership conversations to bring this program about is the Logos, which occupies a lot of space.
Their intention for the program is to make connections to bring that sustainability for mining to Chile and the rest of Latin America.
Marcelo Cardoso, from Brazil, has been related to Theory U for a long time. He believes systems transformation is driven by deep inner work, and Theory U is essential to their work. He facilitates it in companies and other places, and also they have an embodiment program where they work with more than three hundred people. He is excited and grateful to see so many familiar faces and willing to meet new connections.
“I intend to be in this place of connection and develop these invisible threads that help us bring transformation wherever we do our work.”
Paula Mazzola, from Brazil, believes that bringing our inner child to reconnect with our nature is the most exciting and powerful work that we can do. She also thinks that we need to take conscious action to bring a new paradigm for the unity and creativity of our being for the restoration of the planet. She created Azara as a consultancy focusing on learning to bring awareness of social responsibility and ecological and nature-based solutions to the planet. Furthermore, they propose to take innovative social initiatives of any nature and provide a reconnection with our nature to restore the planet. Embedded in their business model is a wide network of partnerships.
“We are excited to participate in ELP to be able to co-create with new agents, bringing our inner child and reconnection with nature. We together can make a difference.”
The u-school for Transformation
Becky Buell explained the Ecosystem Leadership Program Latin America in the context of the u-school. The ELP is the first of a three-module program conceived as an ecosystem development program on which each year, every model builds upon the other. The idea is that new cohorts are capacitated each year and become a resource for the people starting the next year. She says this year is a prototype, so this group of participants, besides being a test case, are co-shapers of the program.
“With the u-school, we are creating a new kind of university where people can learn the skills they need to change the world in different regions of the planet. Our website states the big ambition, which is nothing less than;
Activating and supporting a global movement for planetary healing and civilization regeneration.
There are three key offerings:
- Programs to build capacities. This Ecosystem Leadership Program is one of them.
- Community and connections, habilitating spaces online and offline where people can come together for learning and action.
- Research and development of methodologies, tools, and knowledge constantly evolving through practice.
“Within this, a core premise is “partnerships.” We are innovating on how we build a u.school out of partnerships, and the ELP in Uruguay is a prototype for that. We recently made another prototype in Bali, Indonesia. We are also partnering with Ubuntu Lab in Africa to do the same.” She gave the word to Otto Scharmer.
He manifested that being part of this preamble of everyone meeting in person later this month was wonderful. He also remembered when Laura, Becky, and he sat together, and these ideas took shape. He recognized that Laura was the one who brought this program together, thanks to Becky´s initiative one year ago when she wanted to look at how the next generation´s leadership would be developed across the entire civil society and how they could approach that model from the systems lens.
“That spoke to me and brought us here.”
He said he was grateful for the invitation to Chile because he thought what was happening in the west was happening elsewhere. In that sense, Latin America is ahead of the curve in awakening a social movement and the options that it is opening. He also thinks that what is happening in various places across the Latin American continent is significant in this period of disruption.
“So, I am very grateful for this opportunity to partner with you around this new structure we want to build into the world. This is a new way of partnering and creating together these new ecosystems. We believe that the future is global and regional. But we also believe that the future of online is offline, so it is place-based. What we are experimenting with is a new way of coming together. “
He mentioned that the u-school curriculum is emerging with the experience that everyone is bringing into the situation individually and collectively, employing the methods and tools to pay attention, to read, and to decipher the deeper patterns of that experience together more consciously and intentionally, and put this knowledge into the service of planetary healing and civilization regeneration. He mentioned that one experience like that could only be made together, and he felt thankful for being a part of that conversation.
“I was at a recent conference about the future of philanthropy with Antoinette Klatzky and Thomas Hubble, and we were speaking about change. We know that when that happens, collective trauma shows up. Thomas said that trauma is when an area of your system is un-updatable — you are so disconnected from it that it is not updatable. In society, it is a struggle; it takes all of us, the whole ecosystem, to make it happen, not only in the individual but in the systems side of this transformation.”
“If you want to do planetary healing and civilization regeneration, we believe the only way of doing it is by shifting social fields from merely transactional to generative and co-creative. The only way of doing that, by our experience, is by creating support structures. That is what the u-school for transformation is trying to prototype in a scalable and replicable way in any kind of community, organization, or ecosystem. It is very important for us to democratize access to methods, tools, and spaces, which is what we will try to bring when we come together in a couple of weeks. We want to build the capacity to upgrade the operating systems from 1.0 to 4.0, as we show in this graph that some of you have seen.”
He expressed that the real problem was that we, collectively, face 4.0 challenges and disruptions. Still, the solving mechanisms in society and social systems are usually limited by 2.0 or 3.0 ways of operating. And he wondered about what we will need to enable infrastructures that allow us on every level of ecosystems, from local, to regional, to national to global, to move to 4.0 ways of operating, which is a way of operating where the boundaries between the systems tend to collapse and tend to merge into each other.
Otto and the Partners
He passed the word to Janine, who asked the allies what had struck them and what they wanted to explore more, relating their intention, the partnership, and the ELP.
Emilio wondered how he could be part of this big movement.
Dieter expressed that a 4.0 partnership has the impact at the center, and the money is serving that purpose. He also said that we need the courage to say no when money is conditioned. Consequently, if you want to create impact, you must invest in 4.0 partnerships, which takes time.
Rafael asked how we can leave our own intention behind and let the bigger intention be what guides us, which sometimes is not what we thought or wanted it to be.
Lorena said they are shifting to 4.0, bringing the people and communities to the center of their system. She also noted that framework 4.0 requires leaders and stakeholders to learn new skills to develop a future mindset because, today, the tangibility of the short term drives things. At the same time, their system works with long-term projects that span ten years into the future. She also expressed the need to change the understanding of resources because today, money is the resource; the ones that have money feel more powerful than the others. Those are concepts created by us so that we can change them.
Emilio compares the social field to the community and outside of it. They have built a community of two thousand people in Guatemala, and inside it, they have a sense of belonging and share tools, knowledge, and wisdom. Their big challenge is how to expand this relationship, especially with leaders. There is a big distance between the community and the people making decisions because they can´t connect with them. It is a gap, and they wonder how they can fill it.
Paula believes that the planet’s regeneration is only possible with a better quality of education for all, not knowing about nature but being nature. She says that shifting to the new paradigm is easy; sustaining it is hard. Consequently, they need to plant the seeds first to make it happen because the seed represents the new potential.
Laura closes the remarks by saying that 4.0 originates on the inner condition from where we operate, meaning being aware of what the field wants from us. That´s the kind of partnership that the world wants us to be and the quality of the conversations we need to bring here. “What touches my heart is that we are here cocreating a new kind of partnership.”
Otto reflected on those remarks, saying that the evolution of the conversation was really interesting, and gave his feedback.
“Dieter, what you said was shifting from a transactional mode output, meaning more than the bigger intention, but that is like shifting the locus of collaboration upstream. You can do that when you know the solution, but that is impossible in a more complex setting. Rafael referred to the blah blah of the nice conversations everyone has, and nothing happens; that´s the saying doing gap. So, letting go of expectations and leaving their own agendas behind is interesting. Lorena spoke about one of the main challenges to face — how we reach out to the people not here who think differently. There is too much organizing about ideologies; what we need to know is how to collaborate with people having different angles and ideologies that we need to engage in order to shift the system. Gandhi was an inspiration for that. He said, “the enemy is not the evil person, is the evil structure.” Meaning that we need to find a role for them in the new system. I think we are getting more intentional and effective, getting out of our own bubbles.”
“Ecosystem organizing means organizing with people you disagree with on many levels. Yet you find some way of discovering common ground and reframing things in ways that resonate with them. The main shift is how we make all that happen; it has to do with decentering. We need to know how to decenter ourselves. Deep listening is essentially decentering, the equivalent of forgetting our own agendas. All the organizational egos get in the way of ecosystem organizing. Therefore, ecosystem organizing also requires organizational decentering. That´s what we need to learn and around which we need to create learning infrastructures.”
“Laura, you spoke about shifting relationships. What is interesting is that you learn how to do that by doing it. That is what is interesting about this community; you are doing it and engaging in these dynamics in real time. That´s what gets me excited about this community.”
Florencia closed the meeting by inviting the community to think about how to show up decentered at the ELP.
Blessings to everyone
P.S. The Ecosystem Leadership Program Latin America launches next Saturday, and I will be there, thanks to Otto, Laura, and Becky.
While I write these lines, I feel a deep sense of humility, which comes from witnessing massive systemic disruptions on one side and the other, being part of a worldwide systemic movement led by one-of-a-kind leadership prototyping nothing less than planetary healing and civilization regeneration. I am conscious that I am not going to see tangible results from the work we are doing in my lifetime. Nevertheless, like a farmer, I am sowing the seeds of healing and regeneration very carefully because I can see the faces of future generations observing me from below the soil where I am planting.
When I first heard Wayne Dyer quoting Patanjali, not in my wildest dreams, I would imagine myself living it:
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bounds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”
That is what Theory U has done for me.