Thanks to Bob Carlton, peruser of all things wonderful on the Interwebs, this fantastic piece on the Lifecycle of Emergence by Dave Pollard has come to my attention. Arguing that the traditional models of hype and adoption don’t reflect reality well, Pollard refers to Margaret Wheatley and Debbie Frieze’s model of emergence, depicted thusly by Chris Corrigan:
Emergence is an inherently complex-system construct. Rather than trying to “create” communities, what this model does is acknowledge pioneering efforts, then name them, in ways that others self-identify with, allowing these pioneers to coalesce and connect into networks. Networks are by definition loose affiliations, with members joining and leaving easily.
The next step is to nourish these networks so that they become cohesive, more integral and helpful to their members. At this point they evolve into true communities of practice. The term ‘community of practice’ has been severely misused in business to represent groups of professionals assigned to focus on certain specialties — in this sense they are neither ‘communities’ nor ‘practitioners’. True communities of practice are self-organized, powerfully supportive of each other, highly committed to their shared values and learning, and ‘practice’ in the real sense of constantly learning by doing and by collaborating with each other.Once you have a true community of practice, the final step is to propagate its value by illuminating, spreading the word through stories, events, word-of-mouth and publications about what they do and why it’s important and useful. Through this the collective value of the practitioners is realized as they become a system of influence — with the power and resources to bring about important and positive change.
Not only do I find this an accurate and valuable reflection of what I and others in the emergent/-ing church movement have been trying to do (even as some are dancing on the grave of the EC), it’s also what I’m arguing in my dissertation is the value of emergent churches to the overall ecclesial ecosystem in American Christianity. In fact, it’d be hard for us in the EC to do better than focusing on these three steps as our charism to the church.