Society for Organizational Learning, North America

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People with a Passion for Possibility

Developing capacity for inspired results in ordinary and extraordinary circumstances is the common passion that brings together a diverse community. In June of 2001, the organizational sponsors of SoL's global network discussed our progress to date and critical issues requiring cross-organizational and cross-sectoral learning and collaboration. Their description has been referred to as the "Marblehead letter". Beyond their local goals and concerns, members of the SoL community are committed to developing the capacity to address issues like these described in the Marblehead letter:

  1. The social (and economic) divide: the ever-widening gap between those participating in the increasingly interdependent global economy and those not, both between and within different countries. What are leading corporations doing today to address these issues, and how are they making it part of their business? What are the ranges of innovations -- in market growth, human resources, and ownership and governance -- that must be considered for the future? What new relationships are developing among corporations, NGOs and local governments?

  3. The system seeing itself: the challenges for coordination and coherence in social systems, be they global corporations, industries, or still larger systems. Are there alternatives to central control in achieving high levels of coordinated action? What sorts of capabilities, technologies, and infrastructures need to be developed to help people better see how local actions impact extended, interdependent systems that are invisible locally, as well as the overall performance of the enterprise? How do we balance autonomy with health of the whole?

  5. Redefining growth: economic growth based on ever-increasing material use and discard is inconsistent with a finite world, and finite capacity to dissipate waste. Is there a way to reconceive growth and success? Is it possible to base healthy economies on continuing increase in value created rather than on continuing increase in material throughput? What are the implications of such a shift, for business, financial markets, customers, and investors?

  7. Variety and inclusiveness: developing inclusion as a core competence in increasingly multi-cultural and diverse organizations. How can we develop the capacity to confront difficult issues that most corporations have not yet been willing to talk about?


  8. Attracting talented people and realizing their potential: developing commitment in a world of "free agents" and "volunteer" talent. Increasingly, talented and educated people have many options in their employment choices. How can we rethink the equation for loyal and generative partnership between the individual and organization?

  10. The role of the corporation: extending the traditional role of the corporation, especially the global corporation, to be more commensurate with its impact. How can global corporations better understand what determines their "license to operate" and their "license to grow"? How can they use their visibility to be a more positive force in a complex world?
Complex, interdependent issues such as these are increasingly shaping the context for strategy. Yet the pressures created by these issues tend to keep leaders in a continual doing rather than reflecting mode. We believe that the tools and methods and, as important, the quality of relationships and common concerns within the SoL community, can create unique opportunities for leaders to meet and genuinely think together, the real meaning of dialogue. Sustaining this opportunity may be vital in developing new capacities for shared understanding and coordinated action.

SoL's Design - Circles of Conversation, Ripples of Action

SoL, Inc. is a not-for-profit, member-governed corporation designed to encourage self-organizing and innovation. Local SoL communities are registered separately as non-profit organizations according to local requirements.

SoL is designed to be a decentralized global network organized around a common purpose and set of shared principles, and shared interests and concerns at the local, national, and multi-national level. Everyone participating in a SoL activity is assumed to be part of the SoL community; individuals and organizations can join SoL through a geographic (e.g. Brazil, France, Philippines) or interest-based community or consortium.

An enabling organization, the staff of SoL, consisting of local coordinators, and central support staff based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, provide a range of community building, capacity-building, communication, and "weaving" or coordinating services aimed at integrating the diverse members of the community.

SoL is designed to be financially self-reliant, taking in funds through membership fees, meetings, educational offerings, special projects, services, products, publications, and research contributions, as well as allocating funds to innovative research ideas in line with the overall research agenda. The intent is to link the researcher, practitioner, and consultant communities to realize full potential and develop funding support as new ideas mature.

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Society for Organizational Learning
101 Main Street, 14th floor
Cambridge, MA 02142
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