Generosity, Thrivability and Self-Organization

Harrison Owen is the formulator/composer of the Open Space meeting format.


Harrison is fond of saying these two things:

  • All systems are open
  • All systems are self-organizing

In this essay, I am assuming you have a good grip on what ‘open’ and ‘self-organizing’ mean.

With that established, let’s move right into a discussion of generosity and its role is self-organizing systems.

Self-organizing systems are composed of agents. Like people, for example. Agents exercise their agency, that is, their autonomy. Law of 2 Feet. One way to express your agency is in the withholding or releasing of your time, or your effort, or your attention. Or your money! When you choose to release some of your time, effort, attention, money etc to someone else, you are exercising your agency (Law of 2 Feet) by being generous.

By giving a gift. It’s an act of agency. An act that contributes to the level of self-organization overall.

This has very serious implications for building a new & thriving world.

Because anyone at any time can be generous to anyone else for any reason, generosity has very serious implications for building a new & different (thriving) world.

In a culture that strongly values generosity, anything can– and will– happen.

Acts of generosity contribute  to (and are part of) the mysterious, unknowable process of self-organization.

Now, what’s really interesting about this is that every act of generosity, however small, is immediately disruptive to the current system…the broken one…the one with the story that’s not clearly not working.

The one that’s going away.

The one dominated by contract, and economic exchange.