Collaboration in the Context of Complexity

Elise Miller, MEd

This month CHE is featuring two Partner calls focused on systems approaches to improving health and well-being (see The first CHE Partner call is “Ecological Intelligence: A Conversation with Daniel Goleman” to be held on June 12th. Dan has written a number of bestselling books on different expressions of intelligence, and his most recent book, Ecological Intelligence, highlights the need for what he calls “radical transparency” in the marketplace so that we can make informed and smarter consumer choices – choices that truly support our long-term health and that of the planet.

The second CHE Partner call is “A Common Agenda for Health and the Environment: Goals for the Next Generation and Steps to Get There” to be held on June 23rd. “A Common Agenda” differs distinctly from “Ecological Intelligence” on a number of counts. For example, “Ecological Intelligence” focuses primarily on the consumer and why what we buy and manufacture often has far-flung negative consequences on human and ecological health, while “A Common Agenda”, articulates specific generational goals – from “vibrant communities” to “green jobs” to “ecosystem protection” – that were developed by over 100 leaders in diverse sectors along with concrete steps to reach these goals.

Both documents, however, point fundamentally to the same issue: We must collaborate across sectors and among diverse constituencies in order to effectively address the multiple factors that influence our health and future; if we stay in our respective silos, as is still the predominate modus operandi in academia, government, industry and even the nonprofit world, we do so to our collective peril. Cultivating our capacity to take appropriate, life-affirming actions in the face of complexity is essential in today’s world. This means respecting and relying on each other’s areas of expertise and abilities as well as working to clarify and understand inevitable differences in the assumptions, expectations and priorities we each hold.

This kind of collaboration in the context of complexity is at the heart of CHE’s work. In the coming months, we intend to deepen our exploration of systems biology, ecological health and preventive interventions as these apply in very concrete ways to enhancing human health for generations to come.

Along these lines, CHE is establishing a discussion group on environmental factors linked to “metabolic syndrome,” a cluster of conditions that elevate a person’s risk of developing certain chronic diseases such heart disease, stroke and diabetes. We will certainly need both “ecological intelligence” and “a common agenda” in order to achieve our collective goal of a healthy world to leave our children and theirs. We hope you will join us on these upcoming CHE Partner calls and in other future activities.