Metaphor which can help in thinking

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Metaphor which can help in thinking

The Boostino Project and all that has happened between participants - citizens, activists, scientists and above all municipality officials like you – proves that a well working city is like an ecosystem and that this old, good notion will help us a lot on a daily basis while thinking of solutions and projects. Look at the easiest Wiki definition: An ecosystem is a community made up of living organisms and nonliving components such as air, water and mineral soil.[3] Ecosystems may be studied (…) as (…) structured systems and communities that are governed by general rules.[4] The biotic and abiotic components interact through nutrient cycles and energy flows.[5] Ecosystems include a network of interactions among organisms, and between organisms and their environment.[6] Ecosystems can be of any size but one ecosystem has a specific, limited space.[7] Ecosystems provide benefits, called "ecosystem services", which people depend on for their livelihood. Ecosystem management is more efficient than trying to manage individual species. The logic of this definition vividly translates how often we make the mistake of using “system” as a metaphor as a basis for our thinking and acting. And the differences between these two notions are profound. Look at this table and think how often you have system in mind when making ecosystems work: From system to ecosystem

System thinking can cause many troubles for the city - especially within its sustainable and fair development.

Conclusions from biology which we can use in our daily work: 

All elements of an ecosystem directly or indirectly interact and influence each other. Ecosystems should be fully connected. Taking care of communications and connections is vital, which is why brokerage is so important. Every part of an ecosystem has some role to play, exclusion leads to disorder. It means we cannot ignore even the smallest part of our ecosystem, we cannot overlook any social group of our citizens, as without this the whole ecosystem balance can be disrupted.

Important: Exclusion transforms elements into burdens vs. Inclusion make them act as assets.  As city officials we are responsible for what we can call ecosystem services - but we should invite all other inhabitants to co-create and transform these services. Civil servants are like managers of these services: not owners or administrators.  An ecosystem is a living community and is based on relations, respect (for all its nonhuman and non-living elements!) and engagement. The balance of an ecosystem can be devastated by isolation - that is why as city officials we have to link in all the other stakeholders to our ecosystem enabling them to have access to its creation process, its services and assets.  Wellbeing is an ecosystemic feature not a state for some of its inhabitants. It is possible only for a short term to provide wellbeing for one group to the exclusion of others. What are the elements/components that we have within the city?

Processes, procedures, all the actors inside the city and connected ones from outside, law, citizens and their behaviors, assets and commodities, natural conditions and infrastructural situations all within city limits together create CITY ECOSYSTEMS. All of them can operate in innovative ways. The special position of local government A local authority is both part of the ecosystem jointly with all others (see Brokerage chapter) but at the same time, in relation to the “social contract” local government has a unique responsibility - management of ecosystem services. It does not mean that as officials we know better or understand better - it means civil servants have a job to do in making ecosystem services more efficient and fair. If we want to succeed we should:  care about involvement of others on certain stages of policy making and implementing (but remember that often you are the only one in the meeting who is paid for working for the city).  look for new methods and tools of doing things - but never ignore the provision of the law to which we are subject.  make sure that you evaluate and critically observe (jointly with others) projects and policies which are happening in your ecosystem - testing and improving is the only way to foster developmental change (and bureaucracy is an invisible risk in every institutional structure). Innovation as a feature of a balanced ecosystem By now we know that innovation[1] is not something we can just add or attach to existing procedures, projects or settings. We should think more about having the innovative dimension integrated into all processes. Innovation is equally accessible for all ecosystem inhabitants through the way they operate:  focused on solutions and real change,  connected with others - freely and beyond hierarchy,  transforming settings, procedures and law into more effective directions,  in trust and clear understanding of common goals,  in constant contact with citizens and their situation. We don’t have to choose the direction of implementing an innovative approach (top down or bottom up) - we have to take care that all elements are affected by innovative approaches. Dealing with the complexity of contemporary challenges requires collective actions as impact on these matters must be collective to achieve success.

[1] There are more than 30 definitions of social innovation, as we saw in the Boosting Social Innovation network: it is an interesting exercise to browse through them and try to grasp the variety of sense hidden beneath – like in Young foundation document:

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