Transform the System News

Wade Hudson, Editor
April 23, 2018


  • Readers’ Reactions
  • Blog Excerpts
  • Books
  • Resources
  • Editor’s Note


Twenty-three individuals have commented on the publication of Transform the System: A Work in Progress. Their comments are posted here.

Penn Garvin, formerly a community organizer and consultant in San Francisco, has offered the most substantial feedback. Penn now works in rural Pennsylvania where she founded She reports, “I really have tried to incorporate how we treat each other as an integral part of our work.” She’s also working with the Poor People's Campaign “to bring together those agencies working on the front lines with the poor and marginalized.” And she’s on the Board of a community center where she formerly worked that addresses toxic trauma. She wrote:

I really appreciate all the work you have done to bring this book out.  There is a lot of really good history, perspective on how it relates to where we are now, and analysis of the present movement and its problems.  You are a very good writer and it all flows really well. Thanks for your ideas and love and care for the movement. All of that comes out really clearly in what you have written. You refer to a number of movements towards integration of thinking which I have been following and really glad that you incorporated. Your proposal for a new mission is really good and one I applaud. It would be a good move on the part of the movement to start discussing and thinking about this mission.

My suggestions for your booklet are basically two:

(1) I believe that until this nation deals with the history and legacy of white privilege which has distorted our democracy from the beginning, we will never have a truly democratic nation….It would be good if you could incorporate some of this into what you have written.

(2) I would give ideas of how to help activists (who are already doing so much) to integrate what you have suggested into the work they are already doing rather than suggesting they form new circles to study and talk about this.  There are some who may want to and yet there are many who could integrate the new mission and some of your perspectives into the work they are already doing.… I truly support you in your work….

Wade’s reply: Thanks much for your helpful, extensive comments. Though I did address white racism, I did not address white privilege and agree that I should have. I believe I did suggest how activists could integrate my suggestions into their work rather than starting a new circle. In the future, I’ll try to clarify that, solicit ideas about how to do it, and seek to evaluate those options jointly.

Following are some additional comments:

Robert Anschuetz: I find both the flow of your argument and the writing itself quite terrific…. I myself am on board with it. I even buy into your idea that, in order to build "a compassionate community dedicated to the common good of all humanity," we Americans must ourselves first "become better human beings."... Congratulations on completing it….

Bruce Schuman: Masterpiece.... You are onto something great here, Wade. I want to hang out with this and keep breathing and see what I can absorb. I think we're on a resonant wave.... nicely done....

Roger Marsden: I like the humility in your introductory comments about your experiences; what has worked; what hasn't; seeking collaboration, etc. stated in a way that invites collaboration. The sections are nicely organized. …In that part with William James and James Baldwin there could be some CG Jung shadow work. …More is needed about people who don't just "disagree" but hold VERY different values. …. It looks like the key here is how we define “developed.”


Intimate Mutual Support

      …Subjective gut reactions, emotions, beliefs, norms and values shape behavior. Habitual thoughts and feelings call for careful self-examination. We can strengthen our effectiveness by undoing some of our conditioning. If we change ourselves, we can better change the world….



Why Systems Thinking

A systemic worldview exposes root causes, clarifies how issues are interconnected, avoids divisive scapegoating, and affirms that the primary problem is the self-perpetuating system, not particular individuals. While acknowledging individual responsibility for reinforcing the system, systems thinking cultivates humility, respect, and mutual understanding.

A holistic approach encourages the development of communities whose members support one another in their efforts to both become better human beings and help transform the system. It acknowledges that the subjective world changes the objective world and the objective world changes the subjective world. It encourages us to integrate personal, social, cultural, and political growth. By overcoming counter-productive thoughts and feelings, we become more effective….



Transforming the System

    Personal, social, cultural, and political changes headed in the same direction are contributing to social transformation. Self-empowerment, community support, cultural shifts, and political action are reinforcing each other. No one predicted legislatures would adopt gay marriage so quickly, the Florida legislature would pass a gun control bill, or the West Virginia teachers would win their strike. Evolutionary revolution is underway….



How to Transform the System

If the American people unite, we can transform this country into a compassionate community dedicated to the common good of all humanity, our own people, the environment, and life itself. The following measures can help us achieve that goal — step-by-step, with evolutionary revolution:

  • Build massive movements focused on proposals backed by strong majorities of the American people.

  • Encourage inactive individuals to become active by learning how to treat people with more respect.

  • Support one another to become better human beings.

  • Clarify connections between the issues we face by developing a systemic worldview that will hold us together over time….



New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World -- and How to Make It Work for You, Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms.

Collaborating with the Enemy: How to Work with People You Don’t Agree with or Like or Trust, Adam Kahane.

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt.

How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds, Alan Jacobs.

Affluence Without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushmen, James Suzman.

Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States, James C. Scott.

Occupy Theaters: A New Political Process to Reorient Government to Serve the People, David L. Smith.


Contributors have brought to my attention the following resources:

Conscious Elders Network

Charter for Cocreation

The Wellbeing Economies Alliance (WEAll)

Organize Training Center (OTC)


Dear reader, you’re invited to help:

  • Build the website and work  together on other projects. If you’re interested, please use the site’s Contact form to let us know.

  • Draft a manifesto and a pledge to advance holistic, systemic transformation grounded in self-improvement and mutual support.  

  • Evaluate Transform the System: A Work in Progress. Do you disagree with any of the content? Do you consider any of it important? How might it be improved? To contribute, you can use the form at the end of each chapter.

I’d love to collaborate with others on those efforts. Would you like to contribute in some way? Maybe write a post for the blog?

Right now I’m focused on the website and hope to develop it as a clearinghouse of information and analysis. I don’t plan to initiate any new projects, such as workshops, but I welcome invitations to participate in projects that others initiate. And I continue to look for a holistic community I can join.

The focus question for this project has been: What is “the system” and how should we change it? Other questions on my mind are:

  1. Is “the system” too abstract? If so, can we make it more concrete?

  2. Can this project’s current tagline — “personal, social, cultural and political transformation” – be improved?

  3. What easy-to-learn methods can facilitate open-ended, intimate mutual support for self-improvement? What new methods might do so? What about questions to be posed during “check-ins” at the outset of meetings, such as “What thoughts and feelings have I had recently that I would like to avoid in the future?”

  4. Could that kind of mutual support help you?

  5. What hashtag might best capture such an effort? What about a meme?

  6. Should we highlight either of these phrases?

The System is the enemy.
Change Myself, Change the World

Those are some my questions. What’s on your mind?


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