#2 Four Bedrocks of Social Transformation

Image of colourful hot air balloons

A milestone year for me I have put some thoughts to what I’d like 2015 to represent. I concluded that 2015 is not just the year of Social Transformation in Australia but also the year of its implementation through exemplar demonstrations.

My commitment to this task of implementation through demonstration will be summarized via regular blogs drawing on my interface with social transformation, which is at both the micro and macro level whilst drawing on the great exemplar examples from Good Beginnings and my PhD studies. I start the year looking through a lens of expectation at the macro social transformation level and what it might look like for Australia…… systemic reform for Australia.

During 2014 and with the sad passing of an Australian great Gough Whitlam I realised that the timing of my life had been during a previous period of acute systemic reform in Australia. Prior to Whitlam leading Australia into this reform Donald Hume (1964) coined the phrase – The Lucky Country. The decades since that time have been considered by many including Australia’s leading social commentator and friend of Good Beginnings Hugh Mackay:

Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second rate people who share its luck. It lives on other people’s ideas, and, although it’s ordinary people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise. (Mackay 2008)

To me this period of my youth what not one of reform – as I had known nothing else – it was simply the norm. As a result of this I gained my lens of expectation.
Being a child of this time and to provide a current day comparison I liken this to the children that are born post the millennium (308,065 births registered in Australia 2013 – ABS 2013). Like I only knew the lucky country of Australia to be the norm the children of today only know life with the internet and all that technology offers as their norm! Likewise they will not fully understand the fundamental shifts the internet brings and nor do they need to as they are our future and are part of bringing the social transformation into action.
To assist with this action there are four social transformation bedrocks to be considered and these are nicely narrated in this You Tube Clip –
This clip is strongly supported by the work of Meadows (1972) who was one of the most influential pioneers in systems thinking. Meadow’s was best known as the lead author of the influential book Limits to Growth (1972).

The clip begins by sharing a fable in a village that consists of blind people. A creature (you and I know it as an elephant) arrives into the village and each person takes a part to describe what the creature is. By doing this in isolation from each other the description of their part does not describe the whole creature. For example ie trunk = snake ; legs = columns. Fundamental to systemic reform is to look at the whole because by considering things individually we misplace the benefit of the whole.

Unfortunately the pattern of everyday life is to look at things as separate parts rather than the whole. This is aligned to the way we learn where information is separated into a range of subjects and segmentation. This forms one of the fundamental dichotomies of the structure of society. The structure of society is complex and can only be fully understood by looking at the whole.

This is demonstrated by many scholars including Plsek (1997) who used the analogy of the throwing of a stone and a bird in flight. In the throwing of a stone- calculations are predictable in comparison to the flight of a bird – where the free will of the bird and direction of flight are totally unknown. Plsek concluded that segmentation thinking was as successful as tying the wings of the bird so as to be successful in calculating its flight path.

So rather than tying the ‘wings of the birds’ the following social transformation challenges form the four bedrocks for implementation through demonstration:

  1. Take time to understand the systems

Taking stock from all angles, including understanding what are the causes of the inflows and outflows of whatever needs to be socially transformed

  1. Common language which is meaningful to all

Create reinforcing feedback loops with attempts to harmonise and where possible converse not consult. Recognise that often there is non- linearity and tiny actions can have a huge effect

  1. Focus quality over quantity – every time

Expect delays as the richness is to be found in the ability for change. Change is not chronological and moves at different timings. In addition what worked in the pre internet era is highly unlikely to work in the 21st century techno era

  1. Decisions based on the good of the whole

Avoid short term fixes that lead to longer term issues. Unintentional outcomes can cause things to escalate and become inherent.

Being an eternal student of life and committed to a role that involves giving the future generation of Australia a good beginning I am most committed to better understanding the challenges that stem from the four Bedrocks and to achieve social transformation.

Although a different milestone ago and for a different society, just like the Gough Whitlam reform era Australia has an opportunity for systemic reform and lead the world in being 21st century ready.

I look forward to sharing my journey with you over the coming discussions around ‘consequences’ where I will introduce Social Connect the platform for social transformation and further explore the FIPo Principle, which I have drawn from my PhD studies.

Complex problems need systems thinking and systems thinking needs a simple language and Henry Ford could have said it no simpler than…

“If we keeping doing what we have always done we will always get what we have always got’.


ABS 2013 Census data www.abs.gov.au/australia/abs@nsf…/3301 accessed 3rd January 2015

Home, D. (1964) The Lucky Country. Penguin Australia

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