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SYNCON (SYNergistic CONvergence)

The SYNCON process was originally developed by the Committee for the Future under the direction of Barbara Marx Hubbard, a social architect and futurist, and Air Force Lt. Col. John J. Whiteside in Washington D.C. in the 1970s. This process was born out of an awareness that attempts to solve problems in a piecemeal fashion usually lead to distrust, further alienation and fragmentation. The intent of the SYNCON process and its supportive technologies is to understand problems and issues in the context of a whole system and to discover cooperative solutions which provide for the improvement of life for all participants.

SYNCON is a process that brings together all stakeholders, all people who have an interest in the future of their community, by functional areas of concern – health, business, economics, education, government, environment, science and technology, arts and media, etc., to discover common goals, to identify community needs and to match those needs with known and required resources. This is a process which invites full participation, where we assume that those who live in their communities know best what they need and want and that they also have many resources to support turning their dreams into reality. A SYNCON is not just a one time face-to-face event, but it uses many different forms of technology to offer virtual participation for those who cannot be brought together. By training local community participants as facilitators, this process can be used to support ongoing community building activities beyond an initial event.

Syncons have been held in different parts of the world, with gang leaders and city officials in Los Angeles to the seacoast of Jamaica and in Washington DC. Using the Syncon process, polarization is overcome and opposition shifts into cooperation. A new type of leadership emerges, which connects people who might feel separate from each other, and different levels of government, community organizations and community groups get involved in creating a new future for their community. By bringing separate parts of the community together, a profound transformation occurs. Participants discover that the whole of the community is far greater than the sum of its parts and that when we come together in this way, a definite increase in hope, enthusiasm and commitment arises, energizing the community with new life.

What is a SYNCON?

The SYNCON process was originally developed by the Committee for the Future under the direction of Barbara Marx Hubbard, a social architect and futurist, and Air Force Lt. Col. John J. Whiteside in Washington D.C. in the 1970s. SYNCONS were held in 25 widely differing venues from University campuses to hotels, from Washington, D.C. to the rural areas of Jamaica and with gang leaders and civic officials in Los Angeles. The process and the technologies supporting it have been used extensively by many different groups since then.

This process was born out of an awareness that attempts to solve problems in a piecemeal fashion usually lead to distrust, further alienation and fragmentation. The intent of the SYNCON process and its supportive technologies is to understand problems and issues in the context of a whole system and to discover cooperative solutions which provide for the improvement of life for all participants.

SYNCON stands for Synergistic Convergence. Synergistic Convergence literally means 'coming together to work at the same level.' What that means in the context of our work is that, by bringing together individuals who feel passionately about what is happening in specific areas of life and community and utilizing a small group process, we can discover common needs and potentials resources far beyond that which any one of them would be capable of knowing or accessing on their own. This synergistic process creates passion, excitement and a touch of magic.

In order to accomplish its objectives, SYNCONS convene a wide variety of people – experts and non-experts, young and old, people who are part of the establishment and those who have felt disenfranchised, to deal with problems from every conceivable angle.

Synergistic Convergence is the coming together of individuals in a relationship that works toward the betterment of all. By bringing together divergent perspectives and disciplines in this holistic conferencing process, synergy is created. The process is designed to stimulate creativity by asking people what they want to create, what they need to get it done, and what resources they have to share with others. Synergy occurs out of enlightened self-interest as separate and often opposing people find a better way to realize their own purpose through discovering common goals and matching needs and resources rather than by opposition. Social empathy and trust is fostered.

The SYNCON works because the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.

For billions of years nature has been responding to crises by creating more comprehensive and complex whole systems. Humanity is now facing an interrelated set of crises that cannot be resolved by doing more of the same. We are confronting whole system crises for which we need to develop whole system responses. SYNCON is one such whole system response process.

It moves away from polarization, win/lose, either/or models, to foster the discovery of how best to get what each group or individual wants by connecting and cooperating within the context of the emerging whole system. The SYNCON model restructures the environment into a circular wheel shape with sectors representing the basic functions of any community, large or small, such as environment, health, governance, business, etc. It gives people a chance to participate within a new process that empowers vision, cooperation and co-creativity. It is continually seeking and amplifying What Works. It is possibility oriented rather than problem oriented.

Information from each SYNCON will be channeled to further research and /or analysis and for dissemination to appropriate institutions, organizations and to the public. The SYNCON process is not about adopting resolutions, but to gather the best information possible about the needs, resources and new possibilities in a particular community and to discover cooperative ways to fulfill these needs and aspirations.

The Objectives of SYNCON

SYNCON is a natural social process that:

Creates a safe environment in which diverse groups and individuals can come to a new understanding of each other's attitudes and open up to a new level of communication among themselves. People discover that their apparent adversaries share the same long-range goals and aspirations. This discovery helps solve the part of the problem which has been based on a general lack of understanding.

Can assist diverse groups in achieving consensus on goals and means of reaching them. Since the adversary mode is wasteful to human energy, once agreement has been reached, there is new energy available to act rapidly in achieving a common goal.

Offers participants the opportunity to come up with win-win solutions that draw on the growing edge of capacities in the sciences, growth psychology and the arts.

Serves as a training ground for self-selected synergistic leaders in all functions, who can then return to their organizations and institutions to help them change constructively.

Is a model for synergistic democratic decision-making which may serve communities and organizations around the globe – as a new level of county fair/town hall wherein citizens can meet to resolve conflicts, showcase new successes and make decisions with an awareness of the impact of those decisions upon the whole community.

Creates a format through which self-selected members in all functional areas can come together to provide a continuous examination of 'where we are and where we are going – and, most importantly, how to get there.

How Syncon Works

SYNCON is a process through which diverse groups and individuals can identify commonalities in their long-range goals and work toward solutions in the light of the total capacity of the whole organization or community.

Just as 'Roberts' Rules of Order' gave us a format to ensure that individuals with conflicting ideas could meet without killing one another, SYNCON offers a 'Synergistic Rules of Order' to facilitate cooperation and an all-win approach.

SYNCON brings people together in a physically constructed wheel environment. (See accompanying diagram). Participants gather in separate task forces or working groups according to their interest or function, rather than by organization and proceed to lay out what their goals, needs and resources are. Each group meets in its own section of the wheel which is separated from the others by a removable wall.

SYNCON is a tool to examine future options. It begins with the small groups, merges into larger composite groups and, finally, into one total group. This process takes place inside this pre-designed wheel environment, highlighting our present fragmented society. Small groups merge to larger composite groups to one total group

The Sectors of the 'Wheel' Represent Functional Areas of Our Society such as:

– Art & Culture
Creative expression, sports, ethnicity and the diversity of human societies.

– Environment & Infrastructure
Natural ecosystems, human habitats, and the innate interplay of these core aspects of human-earth existence.

– Healing & Wellness
From the leading edge of Western medicine to the ancient wisdom of indigenous healing practices, contributing to the fulfillment of a healthy, balanced mind-body-spirit relationship.

– Relationships & Empowerment
Families, couples, children and youth, counseling and coaching for healthy communication and clear direction and opportunities in one's life.

– Energy, Food, & Water
Attending to the basic life-support needs of humanity and the resources of the Earth.

– Economics & Business
Trade, commerce, and the exchange of goods and services within and among cultures and as a global community.

– Science & Technology
Understanding the workings of nature and applying this knowledge in developing innovations that improve the life-conditions of humanity.

– Communications & Media
The Internet, television, radio, books, magazines, satellites, PDAs, etc: how (and what) we communicate across town and around the world.

– Governance & Law
Policies and legal structures that guide the pursuit of humanity's quest towards equitable social solutions.

– Social Justice & Security
Human rights, peacekeeping, appropriate defense, emergency relief: bringing balance and safety to society.

– Learning & Education
From pre-school to graduate school, and beyond to life-long learning.

– Spirituality & Religion
The many facets of our metaphysical being and experience and how we celebrate that, as humans in a living cosmos.

Whole System Design

Also included is the center category called Whole System Design. This is where the synthesis of all sectors comes into an integral, comprehensive wholeness. It is included as the 'one' in the center since its purpose is to engender social synergy by maximizing the interrelatedness of all of the parts into a new level of understanding and whole system design.

The wheel represents both the whole, and within the whole, the functional areas of any culture, as well as areas of new potential such as Science, Information Technology and any unexplained phenomena – things not yet readily understood by our current scientific methodologies.

Each sector has a steward who is knowledgeable about the key issues of that sector, in the context of the local community. The steward will offer a brief presentation at the outset, which provides a rational framework for identifying goals, needs and resources. Each sector also has a coordinator/facilitator to facilitate the group's communication flow.

Initially, sectors are separated by removable physical walls, artistically designed panels or other ways to create discreet sections that provide some parameters for each group's area of focus. Each section's discussions are videotaped and, through a process of creating the news of the day from within each section, common issues and needs are identified and, beginning on the second day, walls come down between traditionally antagonistic areas, or areas of potential conflict, to allow for joint issues exploration and resources identification. The television component is designed to pick up new agreements and breakthroughs and is played back to the participants as the 'new' news. People see themselves as newsmakers, rather than observers. They are featured when they are creative and cooperative, and these videos can be broadcast on local TV reaching thousands of citizens.
On the third day all of the walls come down, joint summaries are presented, and the total group examines impacts and matches the goals, needs and resources of the total body.

There are generally six categories of results from the SYNCON process, which creates:

1. Individual and institutional linkages
2. Serious comprehensive education
3. Positive multi-facetted images of the future for positive motivation
4. Policy development
5. Projects – outward manifestations of the value shifts resulting from this process
6. Overcoming polarization and supporting greater citizen participation, thereby enhancing democracy.

Technology Applications

With the technology currently available, participation in SYNCONS can be through both a physical presence as well as through virtual participation. Although there is no replacement for the energetic field that is created by having participants together in the same locale, other forms of participation can offer invaluable input into the process. This can be through a wide variety of virtual participation methods ranging from sophisticated video conferencing technologies, simple cameras broadcasting through portable computers in sectors, smart swarm technologies, instant messaging, SMS, fax messages, text messaging through cell phones and others. The ultimate objective is to ensure that the widest range of issues and options are being shared and considered.

In the advanced SYNCON, every sector of the wheel is linked by video to the coordinating hub. Monitors are in every sector and a hub coordinator is in simultaneous communication with those sections on a central console – open to all. As a result, a hub coordinator can help solve problems by signaling information to a specific section. The system also increases selective interaction among sections that need one another, but might not be aware of it. Thus, a rudimentary self-consciousness and nervous system of a social organization is generated. We are currently in the process of creating the components of this system for the SYNCON process.

This potential for instant two-way communication increases vital interactions and fosters the ability to make decisions based on an awareness of the whole. Along with this, at the end of every day, the video newscasts can synthesize actual SYNCON events and breakthroughs with world news, assisting participants in recognizing that everyone makes news daily. There are no observers on planet Earth. We shape history by our every act.

The documentation of discussion content as well as findings and recommendations in a format that can be readily shared is also critical for effective follow-up action to occur. The ability to match people based on interests, organizations, skills and needs is very important. We must also create effective ways to disseminate the SYNCON summaries.

Sharing What We Learn

The Committee for the Future held demonstration SYNCONS in a variety of different venues. Over the years, we have learned that the SYNCON process can be ongoing, both at the local community level and through a wide range of communication linkages. Ideally, each SYNCON will feed into an information system where the results, breakthroughs, goals, and discovering What Works can by recorded, mapped, connected, and communicated. In this way, each event builds on what has gone on before and contributes to the whole.

Excerpted and adapted from “A Proposal for Rebuilding Communities in the Gulf Coast Using the Syncon Process” by John Zwerver (jzwer@aol.com), at www.evolve.org/pub/doc/chrysalis05_johnsyncon.html

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