For Shared Challenges and Shared Situations, We Need Networked, Proximity-Oriented Approaches

Do you think that many of our most critical challenges these days are shared challenges? I do. I’m talking about challenges shared by groups of people, from small groups to regions to humanity itself. I think our dominant mental frameworks are not as robust or as effective as we need them to be for shared challenges. And, our dominant mental frameworks don’t leverage our current technologies well enough. I think there are better approaches for our critical shared challenges, and using them could boost not just our survival prospects, but our health, happiness and sustainability too. In addition, these approaches can be used for more everyday shared situations, including shared situations in businesses, communities, organizations, schools, governments, churches, homes and elsewhere. I’m looking for adventurous early adopters to try out these approaches. But let’s think about tools for a minute.

Using the right tool for the job, or a better tool, usually helps. There are many kinds of tools, including physical tools, software tools and also conceptual tools. Conceptual tools may be some of our most important tools. Using conceptual tools to change how we conceptualize or conceive of problems and situations can make big differences in how we deal with them. Not only can they make possible different approaches, but different conceptual tools can generate very different results. Also, an interesting thing about conceptual tools is that often, the more general they are, the better. When you have general concepts that apply to a broad range of situations, you have powerful tools that can be used more often.

I’ve developed some new conceptual tools for shared challenges and shared situations. These leverage the concept of proximity, including the idea that proximity also means nearness in relationship. Proximity thinking is a very general proximity-oriented framework that as a whole is a conceptual tool. And, the ProxThink framework becomes a set of multiple conceptual tools when you get to know it. I developed the framework over many years, integrating my diverse background in the arts, sciences, design and business. It’s a framework for creativity, innovation, problem-solving, sustainability and living, and a significant part of it is for people who share a proximity, challenge or situation. A situation is whatever a person or a group is dealing with or considering. A challenge is a type of situation.

From a proximity thinking point of view, some of the conceptual tools and approaches we use for shared challenges and shared situations could be better. I can’t go into everything here, but for now remember that we can consider situations, in a very general way, with just three terms: element, relationship and proximity. And, that the proximity consists of elements related or potentially related to a situation, in physical, mental and other ways. With these terms in mind, we can begin to see that many of our approaches for dealing with challenges tend to be more element-oriented and/or relationship-oriented, in contrast to being proximity-oriented. For example, element-oriented and/or relationship-oriented approaches like markets, politics and hierarchies can work well in some situations, but they are often also used less effectively in situations which are more proximity-oriented. Now consider more proximity-oriented shared challenges like climate change, sustainability, shared projects, shared spaces, shared resources and shared events. In these kinds of challenges, it helps if the group with the shared situation can relate more directly to the proximity of the situation. Networked technologies, when combined with some proximity-oriented approaches I’ve developed, help groups relate more directly to proximities. How? By deploying the ProxThink growth model processes of RelatePoints, ProxMonitors, Vadi Agreements and ProxRewards (proxri) on a collaborative, networked, mobile platform. Not only does this help a group better deal with a shared situation, but the proximity of their shared situation can become a kind of living thing.

Not relating well to proximities may explain the persistence of some of our challenges and some of the dysfunctional situations in our lives. Using proximity-oriented approaches for some of our shared challenges and shared situations could make a difference. And at the same time, using them could be more healthy, fun and enjoyable. I think it can also create more sustainable proximities and what I call sustainable variety. However, we need to be somewhat careful in transitioning to proximity-oriented approaches, since our “muscles” for relating to proximities are weak. Also, just as there are limits to element-oriented and relationship-oriented approaches, there are limits to proximity-oriented approaches. So element-oriented and relationship-oriented approaches will still be valuable. Life then becomes more a matter of choosing, combining, and even overlapping the most appropriate approaches. In other words, using the right tools for the right jobs.

A longer introduction to these proximity-oriented approaches, including links to the collaborative, mobile Shared Situation Guide that you can use now, is a piece I wrote called Some Situations Call for Proximity-Oriented Approaches Like the Shared Situation Guide, Leading to More Sustainability and VarietyKeep in mind that the Shared Situation Guide is a preliminary implementation of proximity-oriented approaches, and more will need to be done to integrate the processes it uses into our systems and lives.

If you’re interested, you might try one or more of these non-sequential options: Read the piece mentioned above. Start using the Shared Situation Guide immediately on your mobile with your associates, friends, family or neighbors (no cost, offered via proxri). Schedule an online or in-person guide workshop. Dive into the ProxThink framework at To explore and use the Shared Situation Guide, to contact me, or to collaborate with others using the guide, visit:


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