Executive Summary..


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Differentiating Advantage:

The intentional design of healthy, sustainable and effective social systems—from families to organizations and communities—often seems an impossible task considering the complexity of contemporary society and the rapid changes in both our social and natural environments. If we hope to succeed as a species, we need to learn how to look beyond the symptoms of individual problems and begin the task of designing ideal futures that evolve flexibly and organically. Albert Einstein once noted that "we cannot solve problems using the same thinking that created them." To do so creates results which often resemble a Band-Aid on a sieve: a few holes are patched but the bucket still leaks.

It is for this reason that Aurora Now has chosen a new and unusual path toward the fulfillment of its mission. Rather than focusing on one or two narrowly defined issues, Aurora Now seeks to approach problems and their solutions at a systemic level by educating people, youth, organizations and communities how problems are interconnected and weave a complex web that cannot be appropriately addressed utilizing traditional cause and effect thinking. More importantly, we seek to help people understand that although humanity is challenged with seemingly overwhelming, complex issues, solutions themselves need not be complicated even if they do need to be comprehensive and complex themselves. These solutions, we propose, can most effectively be manifested by gaining an awareness and appreciation of both our human capacity for creativity and our unique capacity for conscious choice. As an organization committed to addressing the problems traditionally caused by diversity issues, we creatively utilize the gifts, skills and perspectives provided by our human diversity in order to join together in collaboration to address a variety of social, humanitarian and environmental issues.

In the 1930s, Buckminster Fuller proposed that "it is now possible to make the world work for 100% of humanity through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone." His life and work were dedicated to demonstrating how this objective could be manifested through the application of what he termed "design science." Also providing applicable and practical guidance utilizing the wisdom of a more comprehensive and holistic approach, educator and social system scholar Bela H. Banathy provided insight into the process of "idealized social systems design" which addresses the unique challenges of creating sustainable and healthy social systems created by unpredictable human beings. He noted that "it is impossible to restructure a horse and buggy into a spacecraft no matter how much time and resources you commit to it." Instead, Banathy proposes transcending the limits of our current systems in order to envision an ideal future system. This idealized image becomes a guiding beacon toward which we can choose to move, one choice at a time. Later, Banathy's contributions were further developed by other systems scholars, including Aurora Now's research partners, Alexander & Kathia Laszlo of Syntony Quest, to include the goal of designing evolutionary learning communities through the design process. Evolutionary systems design includes the critical knowledge that in order to remain sustainable over time, systems must evolve with their internal and external environments, remaining responsive and even anticipating change from within and without. Design, as noted by author Ben Haggard, ".. is the art and science of placing things in appropriate relationship." Until elements of any system, whether ecological, technological or human, is organized and each element related to every other, those elements remain a mere collection of parts.

Our research in the systems sciences (including the sciences of chaos, complexity and social systems inquiry) allow us to transcend cultural, ethnic and socio economic perspectives on how to relate to others who are different from ourselves. Our approach goes far beyond the goal of promoting tolerance to real appreciation and celebration of our differences and the diversity of our human family. By utilizing the models provided in natural and ecological systems, we inspire people to move beyond human tendencies for affinity and homogenization by understanding how biodiversity helps sustain the health and evolution of natural systems. Scott Peck, in A Different Drum writes, "Even if one world meant a melting pot where everyone is blended together into a bland mush, rather than a springtime salad of varying tastes and textures, I'm not sure the outcome would be palatable."

The systems approach understands that there is no paradox when seeking unity in diversity:

"Systems thinking uses both analysis and synthesis to understand structure, functions, and processes of a system, its subsystems, and the environment in which the system is embedded. Therefore, systems thinking transcends both reductionism and holism. Systems thinking implies the understanding of the complementarity and unity of 'apparent opposites' and of the interactions that join them, instead of focusing on the competitive characteristics that exist between them. Therefore, apparent opposites -- such as men and women, East and West, self and other, mind and body, reason and emotion, science and spirituality, society and ecosystem -- are interdependent complements that can coexist in harmonious balance and diversified unity under the systems paradigm." (Laszlo, K. 2000)

Traditionally, nonprofits have been most successful when they have chosen a single, clear identifiable problem to address. Our commitment to address issues from a more holistic, comprehensive perspective offers both unique challenges and opportunities as a nonprofit organization.

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