Constellation Method of Social Change

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= In spite of current ads and slogans, the world doesn't change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what's possible.

- Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Freize [1]


"The constellation model was developed by and for the Canadian Partnership for Children's Health and the Environment (CPCHE). The model offers an innovative approach to organizing collaborative efforts in the social mission sector and shares various elements of the open source model. It emphasizes self-organizing and concrete action within a network of partner organizations working on a common issue.

Constellations are self-organizing action teams that operate within the broader strategic vision of a partnership. These constellations are outwardly focused, placing their attention on creating value for those in the external environment rather than on the partnership itself. While serious effort is invested into core partnership governance and management, most of the energy is devoted to the decision making, resources and collaborative effort required to create social value. The constellations drive and define the partnership.

The constellation model emerged from a deep understanding of the power of networks and peer production. Leadership rotates fluidly amongst partners, with each partner having the freedom to head up a constellation and to participate in constellations that carry out activities that are of more peripheral interest. The Internet provided the platform, the partner network enabled the expertise to align itself, and the goal of reducing chemical exposure in children kept the energy flowing."


Similarities and Differences with Open Source Model

"Over the past few years, we have seen an increasing number of efforts to draw the experience of open source into new domains. Work in areas like open educational resources build upon the open source approach quite literally, encouraging teachers to openly license, share and remix educational content. Efforts in areas like open philanthropy are less literal, drawing more on the ethos and practices of open source and less on the idea of producing open digital artefacts.

The constellation model falls in this second camp, drawing inspiration from open source.

Some of the elements that the constellation model shares with open source include:

1. Action teams come together to achieve a goal based on mutual self interest where the balance between community and self drives peer production.

2. Clear but lightweight coordination structures ensure that individual and organizational energies align towards achieving the greater goal.

3. Meritocracy is balanced with inclusion as the best ideas and approaches rise to the top and are strengthened by the expertise of the community.

4. Individuals and groups get in or out at any time based on their own interests and needs.

5. Leadership and community health are valued.

The main differences are:

1. The constellation model focuses on promoting social values while the open source model focuses on digital assets that can be distributed under open source licenses.

2. The lack of focus on digital assets means it is not easy to fork a team. The right to fork is not only missing, it would be antithetical to the need to coordinate activities towards the magnetic attractor.

3. The constellation model draws teams from partner organizations in an ecosystem while the open source model draws individuals from anywhere.

The links between open source thinking and the constellation model are not accidental. A number of people involved in the early design of the constellation model were involved in open source projects. The constellation model intentionally drew on the practices of open source from its inception." (

Case Study

"Building on seven years of experience, this article provides an overview of the constellation model, discusses the results from the CPCHE, and identifies similarities and differences between the constellation and open source models."

Article at