Recent advances in the science of flow [1] are producing a more accurate understanding of how systems grow and develop, and what makes them remain vibrant for long periods of time. These findings dovetail with a great deal of social science research and rubber-meets-the road experience in building healthy human networks. RARE’s [2] goal is to create a more effective understanding of how to build durably vibrant, human networks by connecting the nuance of human practice with the precision of scientific theory and measures.

RARE members met for the first time at Towson University in Baltimore on January 13-14, 2016 to begin building this joint understanding. Participants included:

  • Practitioners from socio-economic fields including finance, monetary systems, international development, food-network development, and cultural change;
  • Researchers from scientific disciplines [3] related to the study of flow-networks.

Examples of our current efforts include:

  • A member of the French Ministry of Finance has invited RARE to participate in a five-year research project to use flow-network methods to develop effective measures for resilience and brittleness systemic health for financial systems. The program structure and budget have been developed. Our contact in the Ministry is now seeking funding.
  • RARE member Curtis Ogden (of the Interaction Institute for Social Change) is seeking to clarify the key factors and conditions that go into building effective food-networks across multiple states in the Northeast (U.S.)
  • RARE members Eric Derks and Michael Field (of The Canopy Lab) are working on a proposal to DARPA to improve measurement methods in the social sciences, particularly relating to measuring systemic socioeconomic health. Eric and Michael’s work is particularly intriguing because they specialize in creating lasting socioeconomic change by leveraging the cultural and institutional biases which drive human behavior in value-chains to produce more inclusive (systemic) economic health.
  • RARE member Dan Fiscus is using flow-network principles to turn land destroyed by strip-mining in Appalachia into a foundation for local produce and organic farming.
  • RARE member Brian Fath shows how the preponderance of win-win versus win-lose exchanges between individuals in a network creates a ripple effect that makes or breaks the overall systemic health of that network. This work should apply directly to human networks.

[1] A flow-network is any system whose existence arises from and depends on the circulation of critical resources throughout the entirety of their being. Living organisms depend on the circulation of nutrients and oxygen. Ecosystems depend on the circulation of carbon, oxygen, water, etc. Economic systems depend on the circulation of money, resources, goods and information. While ecological flow-networks are particularly advanced, the advantage of applying the broader-case principles to finance and economics is that avoids the question of whether the results are merely a metaphoric extrapolation from ecosystems.

[2] The Research Alliance for Regenerative Economics

[3] Including ecology, network analysis, thermodynamics and nonlinear dynamics.