What I came up with was a list of 65 abilities (diagrammed above) that tended to fall into five main types:
Knowledge: Acquired information that is essential context for understanding how the world works and how we might do things better.
Innate Capacities: Inherent abilities, aptitudes we’re born with (evolution has selected these qualities for survival for all species, not just humans, and you can see all these capacities simply by watching the birds, or wild creatures at work or play. Many of these innate capacities are drummed out of us by the education system or other social indoctrination and can be lost. And they must be practised to be retained.
Acquired Capacities: These are also abilities that come to us naturally, but they generally emerge from practice and with maturity as we become adults
Skills: Learned abilities that come from applying our knowledge and capacities in practicable ways. None is inherent; all are learnable.
Behaviour Patterns: These are complex abilities that involve the sophisticated application of a mix of knowledge, skills and capacities. Many of these are rare and hard-won and all must be practised. It’s been my experience that in hierarchical organizations and social structures these behaviour patterns are almost non-existent. They emerge generally from groups of people finding the most effective way to work together as peers. This is where the real “ability gap” lies, I believe, if we are to be effective in our Transition Initiatives, in becoming more resilient personally and collectively, and in building a new and better society after civilization’s collapse.
I think most of these 65 abilities are fairly self-explanatory. I have added notes to the five I think are not. I went through a lot of other possible abilities which I finally grouped into this list of 65 (if you’re curious, here’s my worksheet listing which are grouped with each of the 65).
It’s a fairly imposing list. No wonder living in intentional community is such a challenge! So what good is this list? Here’s what I did with it:
I wrote each of the 65 abilities on a “post-it” sticky note (I used 4 different colours for the 4 different types)
On a large whiteboard, I made a map, as shown above, to delineate areas where I had the ability, needed to improve it, or didn’t have it at all, and likewise areas where those in my community(ies) had or lacked the ability. I posted each of the 65 sticky notes in the appropriate spot on the “map”. If I was the best in my community at some ability, it went on the far left side of the map. If it was an ability many of us in the community are good at, it went in the middle (midway between left and right) and so on.
I considered the degree to which I am or will be very dependent on my community (stickies on the right side of the map), and the degree to which it will be very dependent on me (stickies on the far left side of the map). I realized that some of the latter abilities are not recognized in the community, and I need to take responsibility (in Transition activities at least) for conveying these as areas where I can provide a unique contribution to my community.
I considered the degree to which my community is unprepared for crisis (stickies in the bottom section of the map). There were a lot more than I expected, given the number of capable and experienced facilitators here on Bowen Island.
I created my own personal “learning plan”. I have a lot to learn, even if I continue to be dependent on others in my community in a number of areas where I will probably never be particularly competent.
I asked myself: Looking at this map, and imagining some of the crises we are likely to face in the coming years and decades, Could I survive collapse (answer: I’m not sure)? Could my community (answer: I’m not sure)? From what I know of the world, could most communities (answer: probably not)?
I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this. As a tool for Transition Initiatives, would this be a useful first step to assess current personal and community strengths and weaknesses? Or would it be so overwhelming that it would just discourage potential Transitioners before they’d begun?
And is it useful as a personal “taking stock” tool, to measure your own resilience, and what you need to learn in the years ahead?
Dave is now probably best known for his weblog How to Save the World, where he writes about understanding how the world really works, and how we might create better ways to live and make a living.
Dave is currently VP of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, where he is responsible for research and thought leadership, and more specifically for helping the accounting profession and entrepreneurs in general become more innovative, resilient and sustainable. Prior to this he worked with Ernst & Young for 27 years in many different capacities as CKO and Global Director of Knowledge Innovation, and as Director of Entrepreneurial Services.
Dave speaks and writes prolifically on knowledge management, business innovation, and sustainable entrepreneurship. His first book, Finding the Sweet Spot: A Natural Entrepreneur's Guide to Responsible, Sustainable, Joyful Work, has just been published by Chelsea Green.
He lives on a natural wetland on the Oak Ridges Moraine northwest of Toronto.