When we at The Storefront first coined this expression several years ago, I don’t think that I fully appreciated just how much we embraced emergence in our work. Now, however, upon reflection, it is glaringly obvious to me that we owe much of our success uniting people, organizations and processes for community based change to our emphasis on emergence.
It was an emergent process that created The Storefront in the first place. Nobody knew exactly what it would look like and each person involved influenced its development. There was incredible momentum in the community and by service providers to create a “hub”. When we seized the opportunity to take over the old library in Morningside Mall, we couldn’t have predicted that 15 years later, that hub would still be going strong and have spawned dozens of inclusive and collaborative initiatives that have changed the neighbourhood in profound ways.
We still pay attention to the momentum and unite that momentum with new opportunities: it’s how The Storefront evolves and grows. What’s changed over the years is our methods for emergent learning and development have become more intentional.
It was therefore, incredibly meaningful to me, to receive an email last week, letting me know that we’re not the only ones to see the value of emergence in community work.
Jillaine Smith, a principal at Fourth Quadrant Parnters in the US, wrote to let me know that East Scarborough Storefront has been nominated for inclusion as a case study in an important new research project, “Exploring Emergence in Complex Social Change Initiatives.” A detailed description of the research project is available at 4qpartners.com/research.html.
What this means is that Fourth Quadrant Partners, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will studying The Storefront to help them to answer two critical questions:
- If we more actively bring together the best thinking of everyone involved in an initiative, rather than depending on top-down strategy, can we discover solutions to complex problems that no one person could have thought of on their own?
- Can we develop solutions to complex problems that are not just sustainable, but that grow and evolve to meet real needs over time?
Of course, my answer is a resounding yes!
I am so excited that The Storefront is to be included in this work! There has been such great thinking in the field of emergence from people like Michael Quinn Patton, Henry Mintzer, John Kania and, of course the principals of Fourth Quadrant Parnters, I’m delighted to be part of the process to connect it with the very real and meaningful on the ground work in Kingston Galloway/Orton Park.