Three years ago I heard Karen O'Brien, professor in Human Geography at Oslo University, speak about Quantum Social Change. It was fascinating to see how she connected the insights of quantum physics with the domain of social change and individual & collective agency. This month, O'Brien made the draft of her new book You Matter More Than You Think - Quantum Social Change in Response to a World in Crisis available for free and I can highly recommend it.
History tells us that progressive social changes - such as the abolition of slavery, equal rights for women and marriage equality - have been the result of small groups of individuals who see their world in new ways and act from deeper and more inclusive values. These groups with an expanded sense of social consciousness ascribed rights to previously excluded groups and worked for social and political change. O'Brien's theory of Quantum Social Change explains why their agency could generate such transformative change and - more importantly - how we can access this same quality of agency in response to the ecological, climate and social crises of the 21st century. According to O'Brien:
- Quantum social change means being self-aware and self-reflective about the beliefs we hold about the future. When we ground our speech and actions in universal values, we generate quantum fractals that replicate these values across all levels and scales (see image);
- When we connect to others from a place of interconnectedness (also known as 'interbeing'), we transcend fragmentation and separation and are able to access our collective intelligence. Our actions will be impactful beyond linear logic and help materialize new realities that reflect a culture of interbeing; and
- The potential for an equitable and thriving world exists in every moment and we can realize this potential by consciously choosing to “be” the new paradigm. The more often people embody the fractal of interbeing, the sooner we will notice transformative change in society.
To some, this might sound abstract or 'too good to be true'. Having witnessed the transformations that a change agent such as Polly Higgins helped enable, this quantum perspective rings true to me. Moreover, believing in your own agency is one of the most empowering things you can do:
"Every moment provides an opportunity to take actions that generate transformative change.", says O'Brien. "And if our beliefs influence the future, then believing in our capacity to create an equitable and thriving world matters more than we think."
Image: Quantum Fractals (Source: McCaffrey 2020)
Tue, 23 June