For the next few days I am attending a meeting of GAN-Net outside of Boston. A GAN is a Global Action Network and the people attending the workshop come from organizational development, knowledge management, human development and related fields.

These few days we are discussing the structure, strategy and governance systems of Global Action Networks including how these features could change to make them much more effective in reaching their global missions for social good. Sometimes it seems odd to be discussing fundamental changes in the governance structure or global strategy of a complex organization that has been around for 60 years or has developed a membership base of 10 million people. Surely that organization’s structure must be chiseled in stone? However, as one participant reminded the group on the first night, institutions are created in our imaginations, and they can be recreated there too.

For those who are not reading Winnie the Pooh (like I am at my house), a Woozle is an imaginary creature that Pooh is afraid of meeting one dark night while trying to find his way home with Piglet. He eventually discovers that the Woozle footprints he finds are just his and his friend’s as they have been walking in circles. These Global Action Networks are a little like that; they might seem large, complex and scary, but in fact they are just us. So changing them should be completely within our realm of possiblity (though of course as we are seeing it is not always so easy).

So off we go to explore how to create a new organizing paradigm for the world with this question: How does the world, how do we, and how do I, discuss and address strategy, structure and governance of complex, global multi-stakeholder issues with the precision and scale required to bring about deep societal change? We need to keep reminding ourselves that those huge footprints we are finding are merely our own.

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