Index to Posts on This Site

NOTE: As of late 2021, I am in the process of updating this site–mostly expanding the case study materials plus adding new topics or subpages. I am also reorganizing the previous page structure some, removing or merging pages for less duplication and easier access. This means some links to other posts or pages in this site may not work for a while, but I will take care of that as soon as possible.

I will remove this notice when I’ve completed this phase.

Meanwhile, thanks for your understanding, as I have many gaps to fill and excesses to edit.

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I occasionally post articles with essential concept frameworks and/or practical skills. This pinned post serves as an index to the post titles, with a summary and link.

I will also note here that this companion website provides important resources for deep-dive learning on topics related to deconstructing situations of harm and (re)constructing safe and sustainable teams, projects, organizations, partnerships, and larger collaborations. Production of the visual bibliographies is a long-term project for me, so, I will be completing layers as time allows.

I select resource materials to give a wide range of genres or information types, and at varying levels from introductory to academic. After I’ve chosen items, I post their title, author or developer, copyright or release date details, and links to publisher or producer since these websites often have details unavailable elsewhere. As I acquire the items, I add scans and additional details, for example, a soundtrack list or important background information on the production. This is all part of a plan leading to my writing essays and developing information tools that analyze the context and content of the items, and tie them in with topics in the “Do Good Plus Do No Harm” training series.

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Welcome to Futuristguy’s Field Guides!

Introducing Futuristguy’s Field Guides – Post #1 of 3. The Big Picture and the Backstory. First Words: Hope and Change. What Drove Me to Develop This? Overview Series for Futuristguy’s Field Guides.

Introducing Futuristguy’s Field Guides – Post #2 of 3. What is This Series About? Why Use This Unusual Content Format? What’s a “Field Guide”?

Introducing Futuristguy’s Field Guides – Post #3 of 3. Who Will Benefit From This Training, and How? Seven Core Ideas/Elements of “Common Ground for the Common Good.” What Do “Robust/Healthy” Systems Look Like? Seven Layers of Essential Elements.

Systems, Systemic Abuse, and Transforming Corrupted Systems ~ Part 1. Systems and Systemic Abuse. Basics About Systems. Systemic Abuse. Transforming a Corrupted System – Lens #1: Repentance and Remediation. “Spotlight”: An Example of Research for Repentance and Reparations.

Systems, Systemic Abuse, and Transforming Corrupted Systems ~ Part 2. Transforming a Corrupted System – Lens #2: Humility and Conciliation. Examples Involving Personal and/or Systemic Repentance and Remediation. Addendum: Complex Situations, Possibilities for Transformation, and the Realities of Ambivalences.

Field Guide “Essentials” — A Series of Three-Frame Tutorials on Dealing with Systemic Abuse. This “Essentials” post has a series of three-frame tutorials, or “Threetorials,” as I have sometimes called them. In the 10 Threetorials posted, the first slide usually gives a definition of the concept framework, or a summary quote about it. The second slide usually gives some kind of visual image, chart, or graphic, plus a few details. (Note my Fotolia licensing information at the bottom of such slides.) The third slide expands on some of the most important points in the first two slides.

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Field Guide “Essentials” — A Series of Three-Frame Tutorials on Dealing with Systemic Abuse

Introduction to “Threetorials” and Art Image Usage

Each Field Guide has between 150 and 200 art illustrations and graphics. These are not incidental images, but were specifically chosen as part of my efforts to “show, not just tell.” I find these “gold guy” images from Fotolia artist Scott Maxwell provide metaphors that demonstrate what abstract concepts look in concrete action. And for some of us, we may remember the art image or graphic as the doorway to the content, while others may find the words a more graspable gateway. In team situations, we should expect to have both of those kinds of learners, along with participants who need other elements to optimize their processes of learning and applying – thought questions, discussion guides, case studies, etc.

This “Essentials” post has a series of three-frame tutorials, or “Threetorials,” as I have sometimes called them. These are drawn from a larger set I’ve been working on that refine 15 complex concepts into sets of 10 slides for each. In the larger sets of 10, the first 3 slides typically introduce a concept framework, and the next 7 give details. I plan to make the full sets of 10 available at some later date, but have not yet determined in what format(s).

In the Threetorials here, the first slide usually gives a definition of the concept framework, or a summary quote about it. The second slide usually gives some kind of visual image, chart, or graphic, plus a few details. (Note my Fotolia licensing information at the bottom of such slides.) The third slide expands on some of the most important points in the first two slides. [Click on the thumbnail image to see a full-screen-size version.]

Continue reading

Systems, Systemic Abuse, and Transforming Corrupted Systems ~ Part 2


Transforming a Corrupted System (Concluded)

It’s one thing to do research to expose the darkness and pave the way for moving into the light. It’s another to engage on a pathway of transformation that changes a system that’s been hijacked or otherwise corrupted, and work to repair the relational and organizational damage. What does it take on both sides for remediation actions to work? This post considers the complementary attitudes of humility and conciliation, and suggests follow-up examples that show a range of these attitudes in action for individuals, organizations, and larger social systems. Continue reading

Systems, Systemic Abuse, and Transforming Corrupted Systems ~ Part 1

Recent events have made systemic abuse a more common term in news reports and on social media. Though we’re using the phrase more often, I’m not sure most people have more than just a vague idea of what it means. We’d benefit from a more detailed understanding of systems and systemic abuse, if we’re committed to “Do Good Plus Do No Harm.” So, that is where my Futuristguy’s Field Guides Training Series begins.

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Systems and Systemic Abuse

Basics About Systems

A while back, my friend Julie Anne Smith at Spiritual Sounding Board asked if I had a definition of “systemic abuse and cover-up” that she could quote for a blog article she’s been working on. I told her I’d get back to her, as I’d need to talk about a couple different terms in order to get to what she was looking for. Here’s what I came up with, which is an extract from the chapter on “paradigm systems” for dealing with spiritual abuse from a systems perspective.

If we’re going to talk about systemic abuse, first we have to grasp the core concept of systems. Here’s how I describe them:

Systems are a specific set of seven parts—people, principles (beliefs), practices (values and actions), partnerships, processes, products (tangible items or intangible goals), and impacts (personal, social, organizational)—that are all interconnected and function as a unit within some kind of boundaries (one organization, or an entire industry, as examples).

In that sense, we can see a family, work team, church congregation, or non-profit board as a system. Its members (people) work together (partnerships) from a particular worldview (principles) to accomplish goals (products) that are compatible with what they show that they value and how they typically behave (practices). It takes the investment of their intention, time, attention, and resources (processes) to build the level and quality desired in doing something that makes a difference (impacts). [Click on image for a clearer view.]

Seven Elements in Organizational Systems ~ (c) Brad Sargent, Images licensed from Scott Maxwell/Fotolia.

Continue reading

Introducing Futuristguy’s Field Guides – Post #3 of 3

Futuristguy’s Field Guides ~ Three Target Audiences

I mentioned in earlier posts that I changed the audiences I was writing for – multiple times, in fact. When I began the cultural research parts of this series in the 1990s, I intended my audience to be primarily people who were “planting” faith-based organizations – churches, ministries, non-profits. The original title was, Will Wearing a Nose Ring Make Me Relevant?

That expanded to what I then called “culturologists” (what are more often called “cultural geographers” nowadays) and futurists. Back then, I also planned to write separate volumes for those dealing with recovery from victimization via spiritual abuse of authority/power in religious settings. The revised titles referred to esoteric identity subculturology or subculturanean systems. Definitely more theoretical than practical.

A final, and surprising, shift came in 2015, after I’d been diligently boiling down hundreds of pages of preliminary work. I felt I should target the material to broader categories of social entrepreneurs, not just the limited subgroups doing church-related work.

I resisted that redirection at first, eventually sensing the wisdom in it even if I wasn’t all that excited about what it meant for rewrites. I had to revise the order of the volumes, adjust the language so it wasn’t limited to religious audiences, and integrate the series in ways that would amplify the benefit to all of my former intended readers – if they worked together to develop common ground for the common good. That reordering and rewriting process took two full years, but what is now Field Guide #1 is done! Watch for the publication date. Meanwhile, here is how the final mix of expected audiences turned out for the series, and what I concluded were central principles around which all three groups could integrate collaborative efforts. Continue reading

Introducing Futuristguy’s Field Guides – Post #2 of 3

Introducing Futuristguy’s Field Guides:

The Big Picture and the Backstory ~ Post #2 of 3

What is This Series About?

My forthcoming Futuristguy’s Field Guides Training Series provides concept frameworks and practical skills so we can “Do Good Plus Do No Harm” in our enterprises and institutions. Although I draw from ideas and case studies I’ve learned from through the years, I base the series primarily on my personal experiences in working with and for non-profits since 1972. In that time, I’ve served in roles ranging from volunteer to staff, and board of directors member to consultant.

Sadly, a significant number of these situations included toxic leaders, dysfunctional teams, and projects that inflicted harm on the people who served and the people meant to be served. Thankfully, these were counterbalanced by positive experiences, either immediately after a destructive one or, at the same time. The contrast of experiences between help and harm raised many real-world questions of ethics and actions. Some people might have just left those alone and tried to move on. But I felt I had to wrestle with them, if I was to survive the madness, figure out how to keep moving forward into greater healthiness, and avoid getting snared again. This process brought me to three key conclusions that inform every part of this training series:

1. Changes inside and outside our organization are inevitable, but transformation is intentional. So, if we do nothing to challenge such changes, we – individually and institutionally – automatically absorb that atmosphere by osmosis, including all of its inherent poisons. And that is a dangerous default position to be in.

2. People who are eager to make a difference in our world rarely prepare for the realities of how things can go wrong. They seem to think good intentions or supposedly good theories and best practices will conquer all problems. But challenges to success from both inside and outside of our enterprises require responses, if we’re to have the transformational impact that we hope for. (Later, we’ll look much more into what “success” means.)

3. We can’t stay sustainable if we don’t intervene when people try to hijack our group for their own agendas. Regardless of how nice such individuals may seem, they’re actually malignant and drain our resources dry. It’s probably easier for social entrepreneurs to assume others are people of good will, because we want to do good. But not everyone has sincere motives and being naïve to them won’t negate them.

Navigating these dynamics takes a lot of attention, and, I believe, new kinds of tools and trainings. Hopefully, my reflections on the many problems these conclusions represent are redemptive in helping people identify sick systems, deal with the damage, and work to prevent further abuses. Chapter titles use the kinds of questions I had myself when I was working through abusive situations I experienced. Also, I divided the material into field guides with built-in workbook sections, with the design of using one field guide for each quarter or semester, for use with support groups, undergraduate and graduate students, and start-up teams. Continue reading

Introducing Futuristguy’s Field Guides – Post #1 of 3

This post launches a set of articles that overview my forthcoming Futuristguy’s Field Guides Training Series on practical concepts and skills to “Do Good Plus Do No Harm.” It will have four volumes. The first two explore how to deconstruct toxic systems that cause harm, and the last two explore how to (re)construct sustainable systems for personal and social transformation. Here are the themes in each volume:

  • Field Guide #1 – Identifying systemic abuse, malignant individuals, and toxic institutions.
  • Field Guide #2 – Recovering from abuse, removing perpetrators and enablers, and repairing damage to/by organizations.
  • Field Guide #3 – Engaging in transformational paradigm shifts and cultivating transcultural teamwork.
  • Field Guide #4 – Setting up projects, organizations, and partnerships that simultaneously benefit community, ecology, economy, and spirituality – and do no harm.

Many of these issues have been on my radar for decades, since I started working with non-profits in the early 1970s, and have also endured six situations where leaders abused their power/authority. In developing this material, I’ve kept three groups of people in mind that I believe will benefit from it personally—and also in working together with one another on transformative social enterprises.

  • Group 1 – survivors of abuse, those who support them as personal advocates, and those who take up their cause as social activists.
  • Group 2 – students of history, culture, and strategic foresight (futuring).
  • Group 3 – change agents: social entrepreneurs (issue-oriented), community developers (place-oriented), and professionals (people-oriented).

Are you curious to see how these very different groups might collaborate for the common good? I hope so! Field Guide #1 will be released in the very near future—so stay tuned for details! Meanwhile, on with the overview series … and hope you feel comfortable enough to chime in with your comments.

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Introducing Futuristguy’s Field Guides:

The Big Picture and the Backstory ~ Post #1 of 3

First Words: Hope and Change

It is odd that something called “First Words” should be nearly the last thing I wrote for Field Guide #1. But it’s because it may be the most important thing I say, and it just took a long time to distill it down to this one theme: hope.

As a futurist, I think about hope a lot. Hope alters the course ahead into a more positive, preferable, and sustainable direction. This forward-looking orientation motivates what I do, and infuses what I write. Continue reading

Welcome to Futuristguy’s Field Guides!

My first Opal Design Systems resource, which is due out for publication in late 2018, is volume #1 in the Futuristguy’s Field Guide Series on Do Good Plus Do No Harm. This four-volume training series is based in my own experiences and studies in organizational development, paradigm mapping, cultural geography, learning styles, creativity theory, recovery ministries, media studies, simulation games, quadruple bottom line enterprises, and strategic foresight (futurist skills). Its main purposes are:

  1. To help survivors of malignant leaders and toxic organizations – along with survivor advocates and activists – process their experiences, find routes forward for personal recovery, and explore ways to redeem their destructive experiences by supporting other survivors and challenging abuse of power.
  2. To equip social transformation practitioners and intercultural, intergenerational teams to develop start-up endeavors with sustainable impact or transition existing institutions for a more flexible legacy.

The training series covers essential concept frameworks, practitioner skills, practical learning exercises, and impact evaluation metrics needed for creating common ground for the common good. These are focused toward implementing holistic design strategy for existing organizations and start-ups. I designed the series to equip participants in a wide range of organizational types. These include entities like community development projects, faith-based ministries, for-benefit businesses, and non-profit agencies.

To accomplish the good, we must be aware of the bad. Many illustrations and practical exercises related to toxic systems emerge from real-world experiences shared by survivors of abuse of power, whether in social, political, or religious settings. I know from personal experiences what this is about, plus I’ve done a lot of research and reflection about the destructive power dynamics. And I find that principles which prove relevant to power abuse survivors seem generally to apply to survivors of other kinds of abuse and violence. Also, many of the people we hope to help in our social transformation endeavors are likely to be victims of misuse of authority, verbal abuse, and emotional manipulation. So, the material is relevant there as well.

The content is meant to be worked through and chewed on, thought through and reviewed, reflected upon and discussed. It’s not the sort of stuff you can expect to get through quickly in a few sittings and really “get it.” I use a carefully sequenced series of articles to break down complex processes into more easily comprehended layers and stages and steps. Many articles feature art images that illustrate the concepts. So, words and pictures work together to help those with different learning styles grasp the material better.

Many of the workbook section exercises are meant for teams to go through together. This interaction gives people with diverse cultural backgrounds and different perception strengths an opportunity to build teamwork where each member contributes. This mirrors the mission of social transformation organizations where work is accomplished by teams. It also helps build a “transcultural” team that seeks to be holistic and integrative as a group, while also helping one another bring out the best of who they are individually and culturally.

Who might find this transcultural system for social transformation especially relevant? I would suggest individuals with a range of purposes could find it useful:

  • Survivors of abuse of organizational power, along with their advocates and support team – who want to go beyond personal healing and recovery to do something “redemptive” and preventive with their experiences so others are protected from that kind of abuse.
  • People who want to become culture readers, cultural interpreters, cross-cultural advocates and workers, social activists, community planners, and/or futurists.
  • Social entrepreneurs doing non-profit start-ups, church plants, social transformation projects, community development work, government or NGO projects, or the like.
  • Mentors and coaches of next-generation advocates and activists.
  • Leaders of “legacy” institutions who are in the midst of figuring out how to either transition their leadership, strategies, and structures to next generations, or else shut it down.
  • People interested in better understanding various cultural and paradigm sources of conflict between individuals, groups, and nations – and how to bridge those differences more constructively.
  • People interested generally in what it means to “do good” and to “be good,” and to keep social and work environments trustworthy and safe for all people. That way, anyone and everyone can pursue personal spiritual change for the betterment of themselves and for the benefit of others.

So, the Do Good Plus Do No Harm training series is for both professionals and everyday people who desire to make a difference by improving the well-being of others. I look forward to its publication, and to other eventual Opal Design Systems components that will create a more complete resource! In the meantime, this site provides an overview of those elements, the theories behind them, and samples of the writing styles I use in them.

~ Brad Sargent / “futuristguy”