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2005 & 2008, Chaordic Model & Institute

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NOTES - Chaordic Organisation

(from IPC7 web)

presentation by Stefania Strega Scoz at the 2005 Croatian IPC

  • [Scribe: Angie Polkey]


Format: Participatory talk with slides and discussion.

(( DOES anyone have the flipchart notes for point 4. below please? ))

Chaordic organisational design recognizes that nature and evolution are better models for organizational success in a dynamic, changing world than inflexible ones. It embraces ethics and a dynamic blend of opposites, such as competition and collaboration, to enable the design of organizations that maximize autonomy through self organization and self governance. At the same time, it promotes connections and interdependence between organizations to produce a ‘distributed’ network that is neither centrally coordinated nor comprised of individual isolated units. Current examples include the internet and Alcoholics Anonymous. There are 6 key elements to chaordic organizational design, all of which have some parallels with Permaculture design and which could be developed to foster the evolution of Permaculute organization and networking. For a summary of chaordic design, email Stefania; for a comprehensive explanation and expansion of the model, see http://www.chaordic.org/

Key Points

  1. Chaordic organizations are compatible with humans & the biosphere.

  2. Autonomy, self organization and self governance are key features.
  3. They are part of distributed organizational networks, which are those that lie between centralized and decentralized.
  4. The 6 key elements of a chaordic organization design are Purpose, Principles, Participants, an Organizational Concept, a Constitution and Practices that serve the purpose and create value. (( WE WENT THROUGH EACH OF THESE in the workshop, brainstorming which of these we already felt we had in our permaculture network - DOES ANYONE HAVE THE NOTES PLEASE? It was a central aim of the workshop, I hope someone kept the flipcharts we wrote them on? ))

  5. The ideal conditions for success include crisis (!), champions (of the model), working group structure, both design and practice, and compromise.
  6. Leaders within a chaordic organization need to manage themselves so that the key features (see above) can be fostered and errors are not punished; they must be willing to ‘not know’ all the answers!
  7. Chaordic organization requires us to ‘midwife’ (develop) teachers that, rather than becoming gurus, help empower others.
  8. Chaordic organization has many parallels with Permaculture design and practice, and could be a useful model for the continued development of the Permaculturce network.

Perma: ChaordicOrganisation (senest redigeret 2008-04-16 09:54:13 af localhost)


in the phase between CHAos and ORDer, the Fertile Edge of Life

also can download the InstituteDesign.pdf

Many leading scientists believe that the principal science of the next century will be the study of complex, autocatalytic, self-organizing, non-linear, adaptive systems, usually referred to as "complexity" or "chaos theory."

They believe that such systems, perhaps even life itself, arise and thrive on the edge of chaos with just enough order to give them pattern, but not so much to slow their adaptation and learning.

(you can download a document with some of this information here - chaordicx.doc)


Chaordic means characterized by the fundamental principles of nature and evolution.

The word chaord was formed by borrowing the first syllable of the two words: cha- from chaos, -ord from order.

Re-thinking uni-dimensional models

Decentraized - Centralized ... > Distributed (=UnCentralized = Chaordic)

    • Decentralized:

the dots (points of the system) are ... 

Totally autonomous


Unstable relationships

Diferent or uniform

Radom growth

The PermaCulture 'network' currently fits this description

    • Centralized:

the dots (points of the system) are ... 


Conected by power

Fixed relationships


Growth from the centre

Some organizing in the PC 'network' can be seen to fit this description

(perhaps started to attempt to balance the great weaknesses of the decentralized system) 

    • Distributed (Networks - Chaordic Organizations):**

the dots (points of the system) are ... 


Connected by protocol

Stable relationships, dinamic environment

Diverse and uniform

Growth from any point in any direction (initiative)

But perhaps what we all really aspire to is for our PermaCulture Network to be more like this description

Chaord - (kay'ord)

1: any autocatalytic, self-regulating, adaptive, nonlinear, complex organism, organization, or system, whether physical, biological or social, the behaviour of which harmoniously exhibits characteristics of both order and chaos.

2: an entity whose behaviour exhibits patterns and probabilities not governed or explained by the behaviour of its parts.

3: the fundamental organizing principle of nature and evolution.

Chaordic - (kay'ordic)

1: anything simultaneously orderly and chaotic.

2: patterned in a way dominated neither by order nor chaos.

3: existing in the phase between order and chaos.

Characteristics of Chaordic Organizations

• Are based on clarity of shared purpose and principles.

• Are self-organizing and self-governing in whole and in part.

• Exist primarily to enable their constituent parts.

• Are powered from the periphery, unified from the core.

• Are durable in purpose and principle, malleable in form and function.

• Equitably distribute power, rights, responsibility and rewards.

• Harmoniously combine cooperation and competition.

• Learn, adapt and innovate in ever expanding cycles.

• Are compatible with the human spirit and the biosphere.

A Collective Intelligence Issue

There are other ery interesting differences between these three structures

and this graphical representation of them should make quite obvious why it is in all of our interests to design for a more chaordic PermaCulture movement ... see UnifyingPilot for more info.


A New Kind of Organization Based on Purpose and Principle

by Donella Meadows' (Dana) The Global Citizen, December 23, 1999

What do the Internet, Alcoholics Anonymous, and VISA International, the organization that brings us the VISA card, all have in common?

You can find them just about anywhere on earth, that's one common thing.

They have not spread through unrelenting market push, like Coca Cola.

Rather they are pulled by demand, because they meet real needs very effectively.

They serve their purposes successfully year after year without any obvious headquarters, no glittering center of power, no centralized command.

No one owns any of them.

VISA does $1.25 trillion worth of business a year, but you can't buy a share of it.

Dee Hock, who founded VISA, would say these are all chaordic organizations.

He made up that word by combining "chaos" and "order."

Chaordic organizations are self-organizing and self-governing.

They operate not through hierarchies of authority, but through networks of equals.

It isn't power or coercion that makes them effective, rather it's clear shared purpose, ethical operating principles, and responsibility distributed through every node.

Continue reading > > chaordic1

The Chaordic Way of Organization

A Concept Paper - Harlan Cleveland (Draft)

In order to think through what it will mean to organize human activity "chaordically," which is to say in an uncentralized fashion, we will need to consider:

• How we got here -- the shift from hierarchical to uncentralized


• The role of information, now the world's dominant resource, in speeding and facilitating that shift;

• The central role of standards in making uncentralization work; and

• The evident steps along the path to chaordic organization.

Continue reading > > chaordic2

The Art of Chaordic Leadership

by Dee Hock

This article appears as "The Art of Chaordic Leadership" (Chapter 7) in On Mission and Leadership.

There was a time a few years back when for one brief moment the essence

of leadership was crystal clear to me. Strangely, it was after leaving

Visa and moving to a small, isolated ranch for a life of study and

contemplation, raising a few cattle. I was attending to chores in the

barn, comfortable and secure from the wind howling about the eaves and

the roar of torrential rain on the tin roof. Through the din, I became

aware of the faint, persistent bellowing of one of the cows. Awareness

gradually rose that the bellowing was unusual.

Continue reading > > chaordic3

Reading List


The Wholeness of Nature:

Goethe's Way toward a Science of Conscious Participation in Nature

Henri Bortoft - Lindisfarne Press - 1996

An excellent in depth exploration of different ways of perceiving science, nature and humankind.

The Web of Life:

A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems

Fritjof Capra - Doubleday - 1996

An accessible introduction to essential principles of ecology and living systems, with an aim to illuminating their implications for how we design sustainable communities.

Engines of Creation:

The Coming Era of Nanotechnology - K. Eric Drexler - Anchor Books, Doubleday 1986

A very good introduction to the technology which lies ahead. If read with the thought in mind of what this will mean to social, institutional and economic change, it will stretch the mind.

The Soul's Code

In Search of Character and Calling

James Hillman - Random House, Inc. - 1996

A penetrating exploration of the wholeness of mind, body, spirit and soul, as opposed to the Newtonian/Cartesian concept that they are separate entities and that the self is separate from the world.

Birth of the Chaordic Age

Dee Hock - Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc - 1999

Dee Hock skillfully weaves together the story of VISA with his own remarkable life story and visionary philosophy to describe a new form of organization he calls "chaordic".

The Self-Organizing Universe:

Scientific and Human Implications of the emerging Paradigm of Evolution

Erich Jantsch - Pergamon Press - 1980

One of the first books to provide an overview of the emerging paradigm of self-organization, with an emphasis on sociocultural systems. A classic, though challenging.

Out of Control:

The Rise of Neo Biological Civilization

Kevin Kelley - Addison-Wesley Publishing - 1994.

An interesting compendium of where such thinking about self-organizing systems and the technologies for creating them are leading in a variety of fields.

Earth In Mind:

On Education, Environment and the Human Prospect

David W. Orr - Island Press – 1994

An educator and environmentalist explores the deep connections between education, ecology, agriculture, ethics and the politics of place.

  • * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

See the Chaordic Commons Library http://www.chaordic.org/learn/resource.html

Bunsha: Improving Your Business Through Division

Kuniyasu Sakai and Hiroshi Sakiyama.

Intercultural Group Inc. (ICG pocket business book not easily available.) - Small book by noted Japanese businessman about a successful, radically different way of structuring ownership and management. Explodes some myths about how Japanese manufacturing works.

The Dance of Change:

The Challenges to Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations

Peter Senge and others – 1999

Leaders in the field of organizational learning share lessons learned from their experience. A useful collection of perspectives that goes beyond theory to see how well ideas can actually be practiced in contemporary business and organizational settings.


The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos

M. Mitchel Waldrup Simon & Schuster - 1992

A good summary of the scientific work now emerging, with rather more emphasis on the Santa Fe Institute and personalities therein.

Leadership and the New Science

Margaret Wheatley - Berrett-Koehler - 1992

A fundamental overview of some of the core concepts and fields pertinent to chaordic organization.

A good foundation for understanding complexity theory.

A Simpler Way

Margaret J. Wheatley and Myron Kellner- Rogers Berrett-Koehler – 1996

Provocative observations about the fundamental processes of self-organization and the application of living systems theory to the organization of human activity, by two leading organizational theorists.

Bionomics: Economy as Ecosystem

Michael Rothschild - Henry Holt & Co. - 1990

A lengthy but well-written book with an ecological perspective on economics, which contains some of the themes of Chaordic organization.

Discussion forum on Chaordix

found it jun08, not 'live' from time but we can populate it .. just log yourself in


EUPC10 Proposal, 2010

We Propose that we make a unified and concerted effort 

to actively support the Chaordic Permaculture Institute project so that we together create a truly international and democratic, non-centralizing structure that supports and better interconnects the permaculture network.

The first pilot project was started in 2008 here:  PermacultureInstitute.pbworks.com

The re-design for this is getting under way in 2011 & will be compiled here:

BackgroundShort Introduction Video

(10 mins in 2 parts)

Chaordic Permaculture Institute Design part 1

Chaordic Permaculture Institute Design part 2

Longer Intro Video

(20 mins), july 2010

Chaordic institute intro

of Stella talking a little of the background of the Chaordic Institute 

and how it has been progressing, you can see it here on Blip.Tv.

Needs a computer with Quicktime to see it, which it will prompt to download if it doesn't find it on the computer

(it should be possible to load the video whilst connected to internet to later see it off-line if needed)

Current Problems

How is the permaculture network as an organisation?  It's great, and not at all bad if you're very familiar with it (why old hats don't even see a problem, often) but if you're faced with it for the fist time, or if you are still getting to grips with it, what you mostly notice is ... lots of chaos!    Is it even a network? (we'll keep using that word but note in the above videos that the chaordic model finally gives a technical definition for a network: we tend to use it more colloquially at the moment, and we all might mean different things by it)

In our network .... What on earth is going on?   Where is what happening?   And why is that happening AGAIN?

We are, indeed, a great example of a decentralised system.   Which is what Bill Mollison and other pioneers wanted, and he was quite right to warn against centralising: centralisation comes, almost automatically, AS THE ORG. GROWS, with bureocracy, powerstruggles, a propensity towards dogma, controls, taxes, rigidity and all sorts of other stuff we aren't very keen on in the alternative movements.     But they didn't know about chaordic organisations then, and now we do.    So we have a viable alternative outside of the decentralised-centralised dichotomy now, and it combines the benefits of both of those without the disadvantages.

Each region making sure all certificate holders who wish to do so, and especially the ones active with interesting PC experiments or projects (that we could all learn from) have their profiles  up there.