The Foundation Stones Project

(This page follows The Core Challenge Of Our Times in the FS Main Thread.)

At the heart of Context Institute’s work is a core curriculum for 21st century change agents – seven essential topic areas for understanding our world and ourselves – that we call the Foundation Stones:

  • What Time Is It? introduces us to the core challenges and opportunities we face in the 21st century, and invites us to make the journey from being part of the problem to being part of the solution, from the mindset of the Empire Era to the mindset of the Planetary Era.
  • Tools For The Journey equips us with the essential metaphors and concepts we need as we work on making the shift into a Planetary Era perspective.
  • How Connected Are We? addresses one of the core misconceptions of the Empire Era.
  • Living As A Whole Being explores the deep, personal, inner aspects of our nature and being.
  • Whole-system Economics weaves together threads from all of the previous four Stones to address how we might approach our practical, daily, outer existence in the Planetary Era.
  • Whole-system Governance addresses the practical means of collaboration that will be needed to allow Planetary Era cultures to thrive.
  • Street Smarts For Change Agents circles back to each one of us from these big-picture visions and addresses the question of “what can I do to make a real difference — to make history?”

It is our response to the core challenge of our times: to bring our cultures into sync with the 21st century reality around us and get past old ways of thinking and cultural blind-spots so that we can build the better future many sense is possible.

Each stone offers much that is helpful to our times, but their full value only emerges as we tie them together and they draw strength from each other. Together, we see them as the bedrock underlying the whole-system pathways that can lead us to a thriving sustainable planetary future.

If this positive, even joyous, approach to the future appeals to you, we invite you to Engage With This Work.

This page provides an overview of the seven stones. Over the coming months and years we will be expanding this section into a library of articles, videos and interactive graphics we will be creating for each of these areas.

Stone 1. What Time Is It?

  • Issue addressed: Where are we (humanity) in the flow of history?
  • Core concept: We are in the midst (going back a few hundred years and likely continuing at least through the 21st century) of a cultural transition as deep as the shift out of hunting and gathering and into agriculture and cities that took place five to ten thousand years ago. We are moving from the Empire Era to the Planetary Era.
  • Rests on the ground of: History, future studies, anthropology, archeology, global modeling, global trend analysis.
  • Supports: Understanding current events in a bigger context and seeing the leverage points for constructive change.

Presentation Videos

Articles for Stone 1: The Core Challenge Of Our Times, The Dynamic Planetary Context

Related In Context articles: The Human Story, What Time Is It?, No Simple Answers, Beyond The Limits To Growth

Stone 2. Tools For The Journey

  • Issue addressed: What conceptual tools do we need to understand culture and how to change it?
  • Core concept: Culture is a dynamic, evolving interface between our innate human nature and the wider world. To adequately understand this dynamic interface we need basic understandings of the mind and of systems.
  • Rests on the ground of: Systems theory, neuroscience, anthropology, psychology and additional social sciences.
  • Supports: Making the shift into a Planetary Era perspective and becoming an effective agent of constructive cultural change.

Human Operating-System Literacy Videos

Systems Literacy Videos

Articles for Stone 2: Working Memory, The Dynamic Life of Long-Term Memory, Culture As Interface, The Human Operating System, The Burden And The Gift Of Culture, Two Essential Literacies, Meet Your Mind – Introduction

Related In Context articles: Woven throughout many articles such as System Dynamics Meets The Press.

Stone 3. How Connected Are We?

  • Issue addressed: How connected are we (as human beings) to each other and to the rest of life?
  • Core concept: We are more interconnected — physically, socially, psychologically and in other ways — than modern Western culture understands or acknowledges.
  • Rests on the ground of: Social psychology, history of science, quantum physics, parapsychology, many religious/spiritual traditions from around the world.
  • Supports: A deeper understanding of human nature, behavior, and potential; better cross-cultural understanding.

Related In Context articles: Stories, Facts & Meaning; The Next Great Turning

Stone 4. Living As A Whole Being

  • Issue addressed: Meaning and purpose in life.
  • Core concept: It is all about expressing love and creativity and expanding one’s ability to express love and creativity.
  • Rests on the ground of: The world’s spiritual, religious, and philosophical traditions; depth psychology.
  • Supports: Living with meaning, satisfaction, and inner harmony.

Related In Context article: The Garden

Stone 5. Whole-system Economics

  • Issue addressed: Managing the practical aspects of our lives.
  • Core concept: We need a more whole understanding of real-world economics. For example, there is a necessary flow of goods and services within and among 1) households, 2) organizations, and 3) nature, only some of which involve money, yet we need to include them all to achieve true economic success.
  • Rests on the ground of: Systems theory, conventional economics, ecological economics, and related disciplines.
  • Supports: Smarter economic strategies for households and organizations; overall economic success for humanity within the constraints of a finite planet.

Related In Context articles: Design for a Sustainable Economics; From Dismal Science To Joyful Art; The Importance Of Time; Beyond Ownership; Economics, Ecology, and Us

Stone 6. Whole-system Governance

  • Issue addressed: Decision-making for groups of all sizes including households, businesses and governments.
  • Core concept: The best decisions 1) stand the test of time well, 2) are broadly supported within the group, and 3) are timely. There are many methods to get to these outcomes (including fresh ones made possible by new technologies); which one is best depends on the context.
  • Rests on the ground of: Group process studies, organizational development, law, political science.
  • Supports: Flexible, context-appropriate, and more effective decision-making.

Related In Context articles: A Citizen Legislature; Political Savvy; What Works and Why; Reclaiming Politics

Stone 7. Street Smarts For Change Agents

  • Issue addressed: How best to facilitate change?
  • Core concept: “Change” comes in many different kinds and stages. The key to effectiveness is matching the right strategy with the particular kind and stage you are dealing with.
  • Rests on the ground of: Organizational development, study of the diffusion of innovations, depth psychology.
  • Supports: Graceful, constructive, wise and timely change capable of shaping history.

Related In Context articles: The Innovation Diffusion Game; Reclaiming Politics

(The next piece in the FS Main Thread is Who Are The Foundation Stones For?.)