Awareness-Based Collective Action

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Contextual Quote

Otto Scharmer:

"Over the past three weeks, we have almost miraculously transformed our collective behavior on a planetary scale. The amount of disinfecting, hand washing, and social distancing at home and in public spaces is mind boggling. Over the span of three weeks, almost all of the world’s population was able to focus on one single issue. That collective focus of attention has started to dissolve many of the obstacles that usually stand in the way of profound change. Within days and weeks, we, as a species, effectively changed our collective behavior. We mobilized massive resources to fight the spread of the virus. And we are forming unprecedented new patterns of collaboration across institutions and communities. In short: energy follows attention. First, we apply our collective attention onto the challenge at hand, then we develop interventions that successfully transform our collective behavior, which in turn bends the curve. In a nutshell, the moment we focus our global attention on one single issue, there is nothing we can’t do." (


Otto Scharmer:

"We are bending the curve. How? By bending the beam of collective attention back onto ourselves, through the realization that our own behavior (e.g., social distancing) contributes to the flattening of the curve, to the well-being of all. That, in my view, is the new superpower in the making — the rise of a new pattern of collective action that operates from an awareness of the whole: Awareness-Based Collective action (ABC).

It’s a pattern of action that is familiar to most of us — for example, when we face disruptive challenges in our families or communities. What do we do? We come together. We hold each other. We jointly pay attention to what is happening. And then, once we see together, everyone simply does what needs to be done. Often without central coordination. Without formal governance. Spontaneously. Coordinated by seeing together — by a shared awareness of the whole. That’s the magic. We often see this kind of response in local communities. We see it less often on a national level and scale. And we rarely ever see it on a global level. But occasionally we do, such as in the case of the Paris Climate Accord. The “spoon” starts to bend when we shift our mode of action from one way of operating to another — from ego-system to eco-system awareness." (