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Context Institute is devoted to helping you – and others like you – birth a brighter future for yourself, for humanity and for the earth.

We do this by focusing on positive cultural change toward a humane and sustainable world, all based on our 35 years of experience doing this work.

If this positive, even joyous, approach to the future appeals to you, we welcome you.

Next steps:

Introducing Bright Future Now and the Bright Future Network

This is our big news from 2015: We’ve started to develop a new experiential learning program called Bright Future Now. This program will take conceptual material from the Foundation Stones presentations and deepen it into felt experience, practical skills and embodied behavior so that you can begin to live the Planetary Era now.

At the heart of Bright Future Now are three basic skills: inhabiting your Optimal Zone, going beyond linear and categorical thinking, and using a systems perspective.

These three are my distillation from decades of involvement in cultural change. You can find many programs that focus on one of these or another, but I know of no other program that uses these to weave together the emotional and the cognitive, the personal and the group, all in the context of the Empire to Planetary transition – and it’s the synergy among these threads that creates the real magic in Bright Future Now.

The graduates from this program will then go on to make up the Bright Future Network, an incubator for the next stages of Planetary Era culture.

We still have more to do before we can offer these as public programs but, now in 2016, I want to start sharing the development process through the this website and through CI News. You can find out more at Bright Future Now Initial Vision and its companion, Bright Future Network Initial Vision. Expect these new programs to be a major theme for the coming months.

The “Tools For The Journey” videos are online

After a long haul with a number of technical challenges, we now have the videos from the two Tools For The Journey presentations in January 2015 available:

The Human Operating-System Literacy presentation videos:

  • identify the key cognitive and emotional shifts that we need to move from an Empire Era “mind” into a Planetary Era “mind”
  • go into the underlying “operating system” that, once understood, can enable new patterns of behavior that may well seem like a new human nature
  • are especially useful to those who want to help make the shift into the Planetary Era be as graceful as possible – starting with their own shift
  • work together with the “Systems Literacy” presentation videos, which provide the other half of Foundation Stone 2: “Tools For The Journey”.

The Systems Literacy presentation videos:

  • introduce and explore the systems perspective as a major toolkit for the Planetary Era “mind”
  • show how a systems perspective can be applied in a wide variety of situations, many of which don’t require any math
  • convey the systems perspective as a practical, everyday tool for dealing with life’s many challenges and opportunities.
  • base systems thinking in an understanding of the human operating system

I invite you to take a look!

Progress report – February 2016

We’ve continued to make progress toward implementing our strategic vision as described in the video for Context Institute’s long-term strategy. You will find the full story in the new Progress Report On CI’s Long-Term Strategy.

I’ve again converted that report to a system map with descriptions on kumu.io. Just click on the image below to visually explore what we’re doing.

Progress report

We’ve made a lot of progress toward implementing our strategic vision over the 10 months since I posted the video describing Context Institute’s long-term strategy. I’ve gathered many of these threads up into a Progress Report On CI’s Long-Term Strategy.

I’ve also converted that report to a system map with descriptions on kumu.io. Just click on the image below to visually explore what we’re doing.

First “Human Operating-System Literacy” video is online

The first video from the January “Tools For The Journey” pair of presentations is now online at Human Operating-System Literacy Presentation. The rest are being edited and I hope to get them online over the next few months.

PDFs of slides now available

The slides from the two “Tools For The Journey” presentations are now available as PDFs: Human Operating-System Literary and System Literary. These will give you a sense of the territory covered and I hope you’ll find them useful.

They both include links to demos (on slides 52 and 62 for hOS and slides 35, 62 and 66 for Systems). The links are live and you are welcome to play with these demos.

(The videos of the presentation are in process but it may well be a few weeks before I can start posting them.)

“Systems Literacy” on 1/28

The next Foundation Stones presentation in Seattle is just a few days away! We’ll explore tipping-points, time-lags, shifting constraints, strategic leverage points, maps vs. stories and other helpful tools and see how these concepts can be applied in easy but potent ways in everyday life. I’m excited about how it’s all coming together and look forward to sharing it both in person on the 28st and via video over the next few months.

For the full story, please download the PDF flyer. Please share that flyer with anyone you know who might be able to come.

If you are planning to come, please the previous post for some practical suggestions.

“Human Operating-System Literacy” on 1/21

The next Foundation Stones presentation in Seattle is just a week away! We’ll journey deep into how our minds work, blending the latest neuroscience with a Planetary Era perspective. I’m excited about how it’s all coming together and look forward to sharing it both in person on the 21st and via video over the next few months.

For the full story, please download the PDF flyer. Please share that flyer with anyone you know who might be able to come.

If you are planning to come, we have some practical suggestions:

  • Arrive early:
    We have a full evening and need to start on time. Sign-in for the event will start at 6 pm. The Church lounge will be available from 5 pm. If you would like to bring food to eat before the event, you can do so in the lounge.
  • Getting there – Public Transit:
    Your eventual destination is Sixth and Seneca. If you don’t already have a route, Google Transit or Metro’s Trip Planner can help. Every bus that runs through downtown stops within 2-4 blocks of the venue, as does Link light rail. Simply get off at University Street station or the stop closest to University Street / Benaroya Hall / the Downtown Post Office.

    Finding the hall – Walk uphill on University Street. Turn right at Sixth Ave and enter the Church through the second door, closer to Seneca Street, which will take you directly to the hall we will be using.

  • Getting there – Biking and Walking:
    Head toward the intersection of Sixth and Seneca. Enter the Church through the door on Sixth closer to Seneca Street, which will take you directly to the hall we will be using. Bikes can be stowed inside the hall.
  • Getting there – Driving:
    Getting from I-5 to the church is quick and easy. You will find a helpful map and directions here.

    Coming from the north – Take the Union St exit off of I5. Go a few blocks on Union to 5th and turn left. Go one block to University, turn left but get in the right lane. Parking is about half-way up the block on the right.

    Coming from the south – Take the Seneca St exit off of I5. Go a few blocks on Seneca to 4th. Turn right and go a block on 4th. Turn right on to University and get in the right lane. Go up the hill past 5th. Parking is about half-way up the block on the right.

    Coming from I-90 – Exit I-90 heading north on I-5 and take the Madison St. exit. At light, turn left and go down to 4th. Turn right and go three blocks on 4th. Turn right on to University and get in the right lane. Go up the hill past 5th. Parking is about half-way up the block on the right.

    Parking – There are two parking garages used by the church. You don’t want the first one, which has an open-air ramp and is run by IBM. The second one that goes under the church building is what you want. Tell the parking attendant that you are there for a “Plymouth Event” and you won’t be charged (presuming you arrive after 4 pm). There is no attendant in the garage after 6:30 pm, so don’t leave valuables in the car.

    Finding the hall – Take the elevator from the parking garage up to the 2nd floor and you will be right at the entrance to the hall.

  • Seat cushions:
    The seating is on standard metal folding chairs. If you would like some padding, please bring whatever you like.
  • Video:
    The event will be video recorded and eventually put up on the web. If you have personal issues with appearing in publicly-available video, you should get in touch with us directly.

Subtitles in Chinese and Russian!

The “What Time Is It?” videos now have subtitles in Chinese and Russian as well as in Spanish and English. I’m grateful to Spring Cheng, Jiawen Hu and Volodya Shestakov for all their efforts. Work is also proceeding on making voice-over dubs for Chinese and Russian. Please let your Chinese- or Russian-speaking friends know.

If you are interested in being involved in translating to another language, to whatever degree, please contact me.

“Human Operating System Literacy” and “Systems Literacy” presentations – Jan 21 and 28 in Seattle

The “Tools For The Journey” set of Foundation Stones presentations will be on the last two Wednesdays in January. If you are (or will be) in the Seattle area, save the dates — 6:30 pm on Jan 21 and Jan 28, 2015. If you know people in the area, please encourage them to come.

These presentations will be videoed and made available for free here on context.org, just like the What Time Is It? videos.

Human Operating System Literacy

We begin on the 21st with a deep look at the ways our minds (including our emotions) work, so we can becoming better Planetary Era catalysts. Some of the questions we’ll explore are:

  • What are the practical consequences of our minds being pattern processors?
  • What’s the dance between your conscious and subconscious, among various parts of your brain and body, and among your various sub-personalities?
  • What is your optimal consciousness zone, how can you spend more time there and how can you help groups spend more time there?

Lots of great stuff about how we humans really work.

Systems Literacy

Then, building on the Human Operating System, on the 28th we will get to see “systems” in a whole new psychologically-grounded light as we explore the role of systems literacy in the Planetary Era.:

  • We’ll pull back the curtain of confusion and mystique around “systems” to discover that “systems thinking” is fundamentally just a consciousness of relationships.
  • We’ll explore how system models can provide a wonderful blend of the best of our visual, linguistic and kinesthetic capabilities – perhaps as important for the Planetary Era as literacy was for the Empire Era.
  • We’ll get to see “maps” and “stories” and their relationship with fresh eyes.
  • We’ll get familiar with tipping-points, time-lags, shifting constraints, strategic leverage points and other helpful tools and concepts from the world of systems.
  • We’ll explore how these tools can be applied in easy but potent ways in daily life.

I’m really looking forward to sharing these two great liberating literacies through this pair of presentations. For more on these topics, please look at Two Essential Literacies.

The event will be in Hildebrand Hall at the Plymouth Church in downtown Seattle. The church has a great lounge if you need a place to hang out between work and the event.

¿Qué hora es?

I’m delighted and grateful to announce that the “What Time Is It?” videos have been translated into Spanish! Rafa Giménez has created both subtitles and voice-over dubs for the whole series. Take a look at Vídeos de ¿Qué hora es? to see what he has made possible – and then let all of your Spanish-speaking friends know! Muchas gracias, Rafa!

Now that we’ve learned how to do it through this first translation, we are ready for more languages. If you are interested in being involved in translating to another language, to whatever degree, please contact me.

Systems Thinking In Action
Online Conference

I’ll be one of the keynote presenters in the first online Systems Thinking In Action Conference. The conference runs for five weeks – from August 5th to September 4th – with a fresh keynote presentation each week and lots of ways to engage – Plenary :: World Cafe :: Open Space :: Podcasts :: Forums. It’s being recorded so you can choose your own pace and timing from any timezone. And you can even choose your own price!

My keynote on August 19th is called New Tools for the Journey: The Human Side of Sustainability. It’s just one small piece in a rich feast of content and interaction. The other keynotes deal with topics like:

  • The habits and skills essential for 21st leadership
  • How to thrive in a hyper-connected, socially-driven world
  • Making systems visible in a complex world
  • A paradigm of plenty

Add to this all that will emerge from the World Cafes, Open Space sessions and Forums and it should be quite a five weeks. I encourage you to check it out.

PS – You can listen here to a podcast interview that Chris Clark (the conference host) did with me as a preview of my presentation.

Context Institute’s Long-term Strategy

CI exists to help birth the Planetary Era. That’s its heart-song. It sings to me each day and lifts my spirits when the work gets hard. It connects me to all the previous generations who would have loved to have had our opportunities to make a difference and to all the generations yet to come who will live with the consequences of our choices. It is a wonderful sweet longing – but how does it translate into meaningful action and how can I share it so you can hear this heart-song too?

Those questions have inspired me to create a 9-minute video about CI’s long-term strategy. I encourage you to watch it and discover how, as the pieces of the strategy are put in place, Context Institute will be able to help you and others worldwide become effective Planetary Era change agents – all for the sake of moving into a brighter future as quickly and gracefully as we can.

“What Time Is It? Part 5” is online

Just in time for Earth Day, this 16-minute video completes the main presentation by exploring how we can work with the momentum of history to move as gracefully as possible into the Planetary Era. (We still have the video of the Q&A time after the presentation to complete but this will need to wait while I attend to other tasks.)

You will find it and all the previous videos on the “What Time Is It?” Videos page.

Now that all of the videos from the main presentation are complete, I’d like to ask for your questions and reflections on the series. What thoughts have they stirred up in you? What other effects have they had on you? Do you have any “yes, but what about …” questions?

I look forward to writing an article with responses to your questions and another article with your reflections. Your comments and questions will also help me to “upgrade” the content in the transcription-based articles.

Your response, short or long, means a lot to me and really helps to move this work forward. Please send it to me via the comment form.

“What Time Is It? Part 4” video is online

This latest 18-minute video looks towards the future of the Planetary Era as well as the challenges in the remaining Empire-to-Planetary transition. It completes the arc of exploring Tribal to Empire to Planetary.

You will find it and the previous videos on the “What Time Is It?” Videos page. This page also has links to PDF versions of the slides used in each video. As always, your reflections and/or questions are welcome. You can use the comment form on the the video page.

We have two more to go: one for the last section of the presentation on “Working with the momentum of history” and one for the Q&A time after the presentation.

“What Time Is It? Part 3” video is online

The next one is up. In this 19-minute video we start to identify the key characteristics of the Planetary Era. It begins with a brief look at the changes during the Empire Era and then takes a closer look at the Empire-to-Planetary transition. We peek into the future by looking with fresh eyes at what is already happening around us.

If you haven’t yet seen the previous videos, you will find them all on the “What Time Is It?” Videos page. We’ve been getting lots of good feedback, such as:

  • “I thoroughly enjoyed this history lesson and the notion of discerning the future by looking at the previous shift in domain.”
  • “Eager to see the rest of the story unfold!”

“What Time Is It? Part 2” video is online

We’ve gotten a lot of thumbs-up on the first two videos (Introductions and What Time Is It? Part 1). Here’s John Graham commenting on the CI Facebook page:

“Well, I wasn’t at the live presentation, but I’ve seen the video edition and it is brilliant. I don’t mean ‘brilliant’ in that Robert is a genius, which he is. I mean ‘brilliant’ in that he has found the words and the technology to get across some very important but highly complex concepts in a way that will make anyone say, ‘Why, heck, why didn’t I think of that?’ Carl Sagan never did it better. Well done all around.”

The next in the series – What Time Is It? Part 2 – is now online. This 23-minute video introduces what I call the Outline of History: a way of understanding the flow of history in terms of three cultural system domains – Tribal/Empire/Planetary – and the transitions between them. It then uses this core framework to explore the first big transition, Tribal To Empire. It’s a powerful start to a journey that, in subsequent videos, will move all the way into the Planetary Era – and how we can be part of creating a thriving sustainable future.

First “What Time Is It?” videos are online

How’d the Feb 12 presentation go?  The best answer comes from those who were there:

  • “I attended ‘What Time is It?’ last week in Seattle, and over the several days since I have been humming with excitement about Context Institute’s work and purpose.”
  • “Wow. Amazing stuff. I work in sustainability, and Robert’s synthesis was profoundly insightful.”

There is so much discouragement and misunderstanding in the world today – at a time when we can ill-afford it. In this context I’m grateful that the Foundation Stones are proving to be a practical, grounded, constructive alternative – providing encouragement, new understandings, new tools and a purposeful way forward.

If you’d like to see for yourself, go to “What Time Is It?” Videos, where you’ll find the first two of what we expect to be a total of six videos to come from the Feb 12 presentation:

  • a 10-minute video that introduces the whole Foundation Stones project, including an introduction of yours truly
  • an 18-minute video that starts the main talk with a look at the dramatic changes in behavior that systems can go through – and how humanity likely went through such a change in the late 20th century

We’re working hard to get the rest of the videos finished. We’ll upload each as it’s ready and use CI News, Facebook and Twitter to announce the new arrival. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to connect with us through at least one of these. We’re excited by this start and hope these videos will serve you, and the world, well.

This work needs your backing

As we launch these videos, we’re at a crucial time in the life of the Foundation Stones project. Our impact is about to grow … and our costs already have. The time has come when we need your backing. If you’re ready to help, please accept our gratitude and use our easy Donation Form to give what you can.

If you’d like to hear more before offering your support, please take a look at A Message From Ann Medlock.


Thank you

Over the past few months we’ve gotten a fair bit of supportive feedback on the Findhorn presentation and more generally on the Foundation Stones project.

A wonderful example comes from my long-term friend David Spangler who used his monthly column in September to talk about the work he used to do in relationship to the “Big Picture” and his sense of what CI is now doing. Among other things, he was kind enough to say:

“Among the many ‘Big Picture’ thinkers of whom I’m aware, Robert stands out for his optimism about our future as a species. It’s not a Pollyanna, wishful-thinking, in-denial kind of optimism either. His positive vision is informed by a wealth of information and insight. … In painting this picture with hope and promise, no one does it better than Robert Gilman and his Context Institute. I encourage you to explore what he has to offer.”

Getting this kind of supportive feedback is deeply nourishing and I want to thank David and everyone else who has offered such encouragement. It touches our hearts and fuels our next steps.

Thank you.