An exchange of value between two humans creates a bridge - the volume and duration of the exchange widens and strengthens the bridge.
- We find flowing through the system energy, materials, nutrients, goods and services, information, belonging . . . the generic term is value. They flow through human systems based on the value we place on them.
- We use the terms connections, bonds, relationships, agreements, contracts, ... the generic term is bridges to describe the channels over which this value flows.
- The generation and exchange of value is process. The set of bridges directing the flows is structure.
- All structure in human systems derives from the choice of individuals to maintain a bridge.
There was an interesting discussion on Omidyar.net that started with an exploration of the economic concept of social capital. That concept postulates two types of social capital
- bonding social capital that holds people into groups and which can be positive or negative from the point of view of a society - depending on whether the groups are in conflict, and
- bridging social capital - which is always beneficial from the point of view of the society because it reduces conflict - but is also much harder to do.
For our purposes as network weavers, we use the terms connections, bonds, relationships, agreements, contracts, and bridges and there is not, I think, any clear distinction between them. In our discussion, we agreed that any connection between human beings could be thought of as a bridge. And if the bridge attained a certain width and strength, we could think of it as a relationship or bond.
Much of the material I will be posting here was written prior to that discussion and primarily used the term relationships as the generic term. I think now however that bridge is a more descriptive and useful term in the following sense:
What we call civilization - that part of the one whole system impacted by human choice - is all of the bridges each of us chooses to maintain. These bridges direct the flow of value through the system. Poverty and environmental damage are a lack of adequate bridges (See: essential unity). And the solution to these problems is not to tear down other people's bridges - the solution lies in building the missing bridges (See: Using a Better Map).
All the power that there is in human systems is contained in the choice of individuals to maintain a bridge. No organization exists without the participation of individuals. Each of us is the source of power for multiple organizations. It is the choices each of us make that configures the world. Therefore, WE have the power to configure it any way we choose.
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