More Than Money
Issue #29

Money Changes Everything

Table of Contents

“Values-based Wealth:”

Creating the Emerging Culture

A Conversation with Paul H. Ray

The model of change I use is based on biological, not mechanical, metaphors. For example, slime molds start out as specks of mold crawling around. Then, suddenly, they form into a slug, then a bud, then spores, and they end up as amoebas. The way they change completely violates our notion of what these things are and how they should behave. Their emergence process turns out to be unbelievably rapid. Similarly, as Jane Jacobs explains in The Death and Life of Cities , in ant and bee colonies there is a "swarm logic" that appears. If you watch the colonies developing, you see a larger and more complex system emerge. The colony develops properties that weren't there before; it becomes something completely new. Yet there is no apparent central, governing hierarchy. This is also true of the brain. The reality is that the way cities grow and change has the same pattern as the way the brain gets organized and ant colonies develop. Each creates a new phenomenon that didn't exist before. This "emergence phenomenon" is very important to life on this planet, yet it is not described by usual scientific models-nor by customary business models.

This biological model suggests how a new human culture might emerge. Networks are formed between isolated individuals and groups, giving a common sense of identity, and something new for the whole emerges. What looks like a slow change process takes off--it can happen very fast.

I believe this is already happening in society. There are all sorts of new projects emerging that are breaking old paradigms -new kinds of foundations, initiatives, social venture networks. These new businesses and nonprofits tend to be value-led, rather than profit-led. Some are small efforts of individuals acting on their values (for example, volunteering to promote racial justice). Others are people working together in organizations and networks. (See " Emergence! ") Some of these new forms and structures look very different from economic and political structures of the past.

We don't always hear about this because much of it doesn't get reported on. Yet there is a creative ferment under the surface of modern life and a lot of it is being created and supported by people who have money. The possibility that is emerging is for a fundamental transformation of the culture into one that is grounded in values and connection to others. In my view, what is emerging is actually a new culture, not just a propped up version of the old one.

Because the emergence phenomenon is a process of connecting pieces that were previously isolated, it's important that people who think they're alone in their values share them with others. We need to connect with others around our values, sharing not just information, but what is deeply meaningful to us. We can start by talking about what's most important in our lives--which is exactly what is ruled out of most conversation! We seldom turn toward each other and say, "Who are you? What's important to you?" Interestingly, September 11 could trigger an emergence phenomenon. In New York neighborhoods, suddenly people are giving emotional and physical support. That support is what revives neighborhoods. It's helpful to take notice when people can and do create new possibilities, because that's how we see what's emerging. Ultimately, using our wealth to create a new culture means giving form to our deepest values, at the personal, societal, and planetary level, and connecting and collaborating with others who share those values.

-From a conversation with Pamela Gerloff

Paul H. Ray, Ph.D., is a founding partner of Integral Partnerships, LLC, a consulting firm that helps organizations align their internal activities and values with the values and needs of their clients. He is co-author of The Cultural Creatives , which presents the results of thirteen years of surveys and interviews with individuals discussing their values and way of life.

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