What would it take to unleash the wisdom of the whole community to tackle the biggest social, economic or environmental challenges we face? To help communities prepare for the effects of climate change? To help people move out of poverty? To help all children be prepared to participate fully in their communities?
At Fourth Quadrant Partners, we serve as thinking partners with those who seek to create sustainable social change by bringing together the wealth of experience and innovative thinking it takes to solve the complex and ever evolving challenges they face.
We bring to this work the tools and practices of Emergent Learning. We created Emergent Learning to help teams and communities coalesce and evolve their thinking and be rigorous about testing it out through time. Emergent Learning helps teams and communities generate solutions that are more effective and sustainable because they are more suited to their unique challenges.
“Emergent Learning helps you see the rudder in the middle of the murky ocean. For those of us in the business of stewarding complex social change, we can better see what is behind us, what could be ahead, and we can learn quickly as we go.”
"As a leader and manager, I have learned to value mistakes and failure as important points of reflection in a process. Using these tools gave me the language and framework to create an environment of learning."
"Emergent learning--and the community of practitioners who are using it--can help accelerate the progress of innovative work. The practical tools that support rigorous thinking are good reminders for teams that it is useful to articulate assumptions and intended results before jumping to solutions."
The McCune Charitable Foundation deliberately used the principles 4QP discovered in our research on emergence to rethink its grantmaking strategy...and its very way of operating as a grantmaker. This article illustrates how moving from a prescriptive strategy to an emergent one can shift the power imbalance between grantmaker and grantees, expand agency and ownership for complex social change, and potentially create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Now available to download: 4QP just released its funded research into emergent strategy, using seven examples of widely varying social change initiatives to draw insights about what emergence means, what it looks like in practice, and what it promises to achieve.
In our 2016 Foundation Review article, we distinguish “adaptive” and “emergent” strategies, explore how the research into complexity can inform philanthropic practice, and offer Emergent Learning as a framework to help make thinking visible and support real-time and peer learning.