emergent strategy

(2017) by adrienne maree brown

intro’d when she was guest on sam chaltain‘s seed & spark (notes here) zoom series


notes/quotes from book:

ella baker: this may only be a dream of mine, but i think it can be made real

lennon imagine law.. imagine if we




it was here, edge of mexico, near massive ocean, a few yrs ago that i began to realize how important emergent strategy, strategy for building complex patterns and systems of change thru relatively small interactions, is ot me.. the potential scale of transformation that could come from movements intentionally practicing this adaptive, relational way of being, on our won and w others

emergent strategy is a way that all of us can begin to see the world in life code – awakening us to the sacred systems of life all around us.. may of us have been and are becoming students of these systems of life, wondering if in fact we can unlock some crucial understanding about our own humanity if we pay closer attention o this place we are from, the bodies we are in

holmgren indigenous law.. what we need most is a means to undo our hierarchical listening.. to self/others/nature.. ie: tech as it could be to facil a leap to a nother way for 8b people to live.. today

the world is full of beauty, magic, miracles and patterns that induce wonder.. this book is a collection of essays, speeches, spells (poems), interviews, convos, tools, profiles and poems sharing my learning processes in the face of that wonder. you are basically holding a book of me saying ‘wow everything so amazing’.. or.. ‘that’s not wow.. why not go w the wow option?’


emergence is one of the best concept i have leaned for discussing this wow.. this wonder.. ’emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions’

i’m not sure about patterns.. i don’t know.. i think it’s less strategic than that.. it’s more a letting go and trusting us.. we just can’t seem to let go enough to see.. because we keep not letting go enough to see (has to be all of us or the dance won’t dance).. so we perpetuate the tragedy of the non common.. and give ourselves reason to keep on holding on to all the red flags (of not letting go enough)

emergent strategy is how we intentionally change in ways that grow our capacity to embody the just and liberated world we long for

strategy: a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim

yeah.. i don’t think legit emergence can be planned/aimed-at/policied.. unless the plan is simply to let go.. of any form of m\a\p.. any form of democratic admin.. this is why we haven’t yet gotten there (to legit freedom.. an undisturbed ecosystem.. et al)

ie: imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for.. what the world needs most is the energy of 8b alive people


this book is for people who want to radically change the world.. to apply natural order and our love of life to the ways we create the next world.. to tap into the most ancient systems and patterns for wisdom as we build tomorrow

see.. i think the ‘wisdom’ (what each of us needs .. needs to know.. whatever) .. is already in each one of us.. and we just need a means to uncover that.. to hear that.. i think when we look to patterns and history ness.. it’s not taking us deep enough to hear.. the essence of us..

what we need is a legit nother way that 8b people can leap to .. at once.. ie: humanity needs a leap.. to get back/to simultaneous spontaneity .. simultaneous fittingness.. everyone in sync..

i am writing this book primarily for other people like myself who crinkle our brows and lean away when someone starts speaking math, who fall asleep almost immediately when attempting to read nonfiction, but who get spun into wonder about the natural world and want to know things, who feel and know more than we can say or explain, and want to know how knowing those thing scan transform the ways we approach changing the world

lit & num as colonialism

i’m sure there are science people who could write a contrarian book to anything in here.. the natural world actually supports any worldview – competitive, powerless, isolationist, violent

yeah.. i think that’s sea world.. not the natural world.. i think we have no idea.. just glimpses.. that are vastly shaded by tragedy of the non common.. any of our research ness and history ness.. are just iterations of same song

ie: black science of people/whales law et al


to a certain degree, our entire future may depend on learning to listen, listen w/o assumptions of defenses.. so i’m open to hearing what doesn’t work about this book, as long as you promise to stay open to what does work

yeah.. spot on on the listening.. but much deeper than that.. i don’t think our healing is going to come from our ongoing whalespeak.. that’s more a spinning our wheels ness.. not about listening to that.. about each of us listening and trusting what’s already in us.. using that data to connect us.. not about fixing/solving.. it’s about a legit reset.. to a nother way to live

ie: art (by day/light) and sleep (by night/dark) as re\set.. to fittingness/undisturbed ecosystem

14 octavia butler said, ‘civilization is to groups what intelligence is to individuals.. it is a means of combining the intelligence of many to achieve ongoing group adaptation’

yeah.. i don’t think being ness is about civilization or intellect.. or adaptation..


sci fi is simply a way to practice the future together.. it is our right and responsibility to create a new world..

not a right or a responsibility.. just the way we dance when we’re legit free


my mentor grace lee boggs – after reading wheatley.. started asking us what our movements would look like if we focused on critical connections instead of critical mass..

ie: imagine if we.. all about augmenting our interconnectedness

grace lee boggs.. meg wheatley


on being a dressing room (as doula/healer) where people come and try on their most authentic selves


i am charged to write about the revolutions i long for.. i read sci fi and visionary fiction as political, sacred, and philosophical text, and i engage w others who read it that way.. gone w ursula le guin and others.. i started this in earnest w octavia.. she took my breath away w her ideas of how to navigate change..

rursula le guin.. social (non) fiction et al


principles of emergent strategy

small, change, convo, learn, trust, connect, present (vs prep), pay attention


elements of emergent strategy


properties of nature we can apply ie: 1\ mycelium/fungus – largest org on earth.. interconnectedness, remediation, detox; 2\ ants – coop work, collective sustainability; 3\ ferns – a form of fractal, small scale solutions impact the whole.. all scales; 4\ wavicle/wave-particle – the more certain we are about speed or position, the more uncertain we become about the other, uncertainty/doubt, valuing both process and outcome; 5\ starlings – sync’d movement, murmuration, guided by simple rules w/o leader, collective leadership/partnership, adaptability; 6\ dandelions – each seed has tiny parachute that allows it to spread, entire plant has medicinal properties, mistaken as weeds, hard to uproot, taproot remains, resilience, resistance, regen, decentralization

1\ mycelium, kiss the ground (doc), augmenting interconnectedness, detox as detox; 2\ wild city of ants, planet ant (doc), disruptive sustainability – deck; 3\ fractal thinking, organism as fractal, small is {ginormous} beautiful; 4\ embracing uncertainty, cold (naked) swim, water, embodiment (process of); 5\ murmuration, undisturbed ecosystem, not sure about adaptation because ie: brown belonging law et al, but yes to antifragility; 6\ the dandelion effect, healing (roots of), regeneration, et al


i do believe what we pay attention to grows, so i wanted to stop growing the crises, the critique.. the elements in this book are way to shift my attention to the positive, to what i want to grow

ie: curiosity over decision making.. offense over defense.. et al.. begs a legit reset/refocus

i like the word biomimicry, and i love knowing that the practices of mimicking the natural world have been happening since humans came into existence.. this is actually an ancient practice, a recovery rather than a discovery

yeah.. i think we could take that even deeper.. not about mimicking.. nature even.. but about listening deeper to (recovering/uncovering) what is already in each heart.. to me.. mimicking takes us more toward ie: wilde not-us law.. and away from ie: brown belonging law

i’m thinking if we try to copy an ancient practice.. no matter how good.. we miss the part of the dance the dance needs us to dance.


1\ undisturbed ecosystem (common\ing) can happen

2\ if we create a way to ground the chaos of 8b free people

janine benyus: biomimicry is basically taking a design challenge and then finding an ecosystem that has already solved that challenge and literally trying to emulate what you learn.. there are 3 types: 1\ copying form and shape 2\ copying a process 3\ mimicking at an ecosystem’s level.. like building a nature inspired city

again.. i think that’s part of why we haven’t yet gotten to the dance .. it’s not about copying anything else – no matter how good.. no form of telling people what to do.. it’s about listening deeper in each moment to the itch-in-the-soul

if we legit need everyone.. which i believe we do.. then we need to trust everyone w their own dance.. ie: not a person or a tree copying photosynthesis.. just dancing.. the copying ness.. or the listening to this or that for how to solve something.. is a distraction to us being legit us.. we gotta let go of all that and trust us

humanity needs a leap.. to get back/to simultaneous spontaneity .. simultaneous fittingness.. everyone in sync..

the elements i explore.. i define what the element is according to a dictionary.. offer wriring on the element.. towards the end is a brief assessment ool you can use to reflec ton how much emergen startegy is hsowin up in your life and work..

see.. to me .. that’s not trusting us.. we have to let go of thinking someone needs to tell us, guide us, prep us, train us.. otherwise.. we won’t let go enough.. to see that each one of us is already enough.. socrates supposed to law et al.. killer

we are already emergent beings, just by our very existence.. but we’ve been tricked away from it

yeah.. tricked/intoxicated/caged/voluntary complianced.. whatever.. but what we need is 1\ let’s do this first – set 100% of us free with a detox embed..


ie’s of marx, zapatistas,.. to .. joanna macy speaks of the great turning.. i like this visual of turning and evolving as opposed to destroying the systems in place now..

begs we org around something 8b souls already/ongoingly crave.. ie: maté basic needs.. imagine if we could all leap to a nother way.. today.. in sync

karl marx, zapatistas, joanna macy, et al


the elements (and their nature): fractal – large/small ness; adaptive – how we change; interdependence/decent – who we are and how we share; no linear and iterative – pace/pathways of change; resilience and transformative justice – how we recover and transform; creating more possibilities – how we move towards life




intro’d to fractals in 2004 when doing electoral organizing to get bush out of office.. what i saw clearly.. was that we americans don’t know how tot do democracy.. we don’t know how to make decisions together, how to create generative compromises.. how to advance policies that center justice

yeah.. that’s not organism as fractal.. that’s whales as fractal.. meaning.. any form of democratic admin.. is not us.. it’s not going to help the dance dance..

most of our movements are reduced to advancing false solutions, things we can get corp or govt agreement on, which don’t actually get us where we need to be..

same song if going for any form of democratic admin..

taleb center of problem law.. what we need to focus on and org around.. is a problem deep enough for 8b people to resonate w today..

so many of our org’s working for social change are structured in ways that reflect the status quo

any form of democratic admin.. will reflect the status quo


grace articulated it in what might be th emost used quote of my lie: ‘transform yourself to transform the world’..

i think more fitting.. ‘uncover/restore/heal/listen-to self.. to uncover/restore/heal/listen-to the world’.. meaning.. i don’t think life is about focusing on transforming us or the world.. and if we do.. even if we think we’re just doing it until things get better.. we get stuck in that habit/mode (like the process that got us into sea world).. of focusing on transforming rather than on being.. the dance


this is why gar alperovitz’s writing speaks to me.. what’s between capitalism and socialism.. whatever we build will stand on the foundation of those econ experiments

? – why that foundation?

gar alperovitz


this is why gopal dayaneni’s work appeals to me.. what are the strategies we need learn.. to move our movements into right relationship w planet..

to me.. that we have to learn something from someone/where (rather listen deeper to heart) is a red flag

gopal dayaneni

i want a future where we are curious, interested, visionary, adaptive

let’s just be curious.. let’s just trust that/us.. ie: cure ios city


how do we cultivate the muscel of radical imagination needed to dream togehte rbeyond fear?

imagine if we


non linear and iterative

our problem is that our iterations are linear.. we need to let go .. more..

ie: good bye cycle.. iterate.. iterating detox.. chaos.. carhart-harris entropy law.. et al


we need to go beyond having a critique/counter anal/alt systemic plan for society.. we hav eto actually do everything differently, aligned w a diff set of core principles for existence.. esp our movement building

agree.. but movement building has just been same song.. meaning.. not legit diff.. we need to let go of that as well.. we need a means for humanity to leap.. to get back/to simultaneous spontaneity .. simultaneous fittingness.. everyone in sync.. if it’s not all of us in sync.. we’ll just keep spinning our wheels.. has to be all of us for the dance to dance

ie: a nother way


that means time spen on getting a clear decision making process in place will be worth every second in the long run

decision making is unmooring us law

that means facilitators skilled in consensus and sythesis have an important role to play..

yeah.. any form of democratic admin.. is same song


another lesson i observed from the people’s mic experience at occupy wall street.. if someone called for the mic.. they were granted it.. but if people weren’t feeling the statement, eventually they stopped repeating it..

we need to (and now can) go so much deeper than that.. what we need is a means to undo our hierarchical listening to self/others/nature.. otherwise we’re just spinning our wheels (sucking our energies.. drowning.. killing ourselves) in whalespeak


the baby knows exactly what it needs to know (in birth), it is doing what it is meant to do.. babies don’t learn to eat/poop in a toilet or walk instantly.. it is slow, iterative, repeating attempts fueled by *curiosity and longing.. make space for natural order to emerge

yeah.. let’s go off *this.. this is huge.. (except maybe pooping in a toilet) .. gabor maté calls it not yet scrambled ness.. and we’re missing it with all the supposed to’s of school/work et al.. that kill a 5 yr old/curiosity/itch-in-the-soul.. let’s get back/to that.. ie: cure ios city.. imagine if we

graeber care/free law et al vs maté parenting law


jayeesha dutta: ‘i’ve always been drawn to the water: oceans, lakes, rivers.. in recent years i’ve come to recognize how this deep, spiritual connection to he water energy connects me to the rhythms of our planet/peoples.. it is a necessary form of healing.. ‘

jayeesha duttawater ness


creating more possibilities is my fav aspect of emergent strategy.. creating more possibilities counters the very foundational assumptions about strategy.. the word ‘strategy’ is a military term, which means a plan of action towards a goal.. a practice of narrowing down.. one way/agenda/leader/values.. reducing the wild and wonderful world into one thing that we can grasp, handle, hold onto and advance..

hmm.. not sure we’re meant to grasp, hold onto, advance..


we do this in movement all the time.. i have been in countless meetings where.. it isn’t that we never need sharp, directed, focused and even single issue moments.. *we absolutely do.. it’s just that.. we often reject that chaotic fertile reality too soon.. as if we can’t tolerate the scale of our won collective brilliance..

oi.. ie as meeting.. like ie as whales.. *not so sure legit free people do


what we are really asking .. is how do we who know the world needs to change.. begin to practice being diff?..

we focus on and org around legit needs.. via a means to undo our hierarchical listening


convo w autumn (her sister) on consensus.. autumn ‘ one of the folk i worked closely w to build the consensus curriculum that i taught for years, david graeber, was on the ground at the beginning of occuy, and i’m sure he had a lot to do w it..

david on consensus et al