5 Tweets from the #CynefinRetreat: Economics and Value, Snowdonia 2018.


5 Tweets barely scratch the surface of 3 days (and nights) of talking and thinking and walking and talking at the Cynefin Retreat in the heart of Snowdonia, Autumn 2018. Link here on the Cognitive Edge page.

It was an absolute joy and privilege to attend , so,  I just want to plant a metaphorical ‘walking pole in the ground’.  To remind myself of a few things I need to come back to over the coming weeks and months.


At the core of this metaphor is a massively important point. In too many examples of; community regeneration, development work or quality improvement initiatives, the scaffolding becomes the important ‘thing’. The people doing the supporting work become too focused on the scaffolding. When the scaffolding is removed (often in response to budget cuts), the ‘thing’ was supposed to have ‘built’ cannot stand up on its own two feet. It’s not sustainable.

Have a read of this post by Cormac Russell, Beware of the Progressives (Part 1) and this by Paul Taylor; ‘Communities Need A Different Model – And That Might Not Include Us’ to get a sense of what I mean about the danger of  the Scaffolding becoming the most important ‘thing’.

There are variations and extensions of the Scaffolding metaphor, which I’ll need to return to in the future. Have a look at the following posts for more detail:

Sonja BlignautLearnings from Whistler (Cynefin Retreat): Scaffolding and Emergence

Kaimar KaruFrameworks, falseworks and scaffolding (and Information Technology perspective)

Matt WyattRepresentation – Go forth (an explanation of analogy, metaphor, models and much more)


The main point here is about the power of images. The idea is that images go straight to the part of our brains where we can make sense of complicated things. The system described by donut economics; the ecological ceiling, a social foundation and the fair and just society we need to exist between these two, is certainly complicated.  If an image helps economists to think about more than just money and stakeholder value, that has to be a good thing.

Here’s a link to Kate Raworth explaining Donut Economics at the TEDx Athens



Governments have been trying to change the behaviour of their citizens ever since there have been governments. Better understanding of psychology, neurolscience, cognitive science and the ‘internet of things’ makes this potentially more powerful and effective.  The ability to ‘nudge’ people towards becoming a herd of sheep, directed by the Psychocrats is getting ever closer.

Have a look at Neuroliberalism: Behavioural Government in the Twenty-First Century (Economics in the Real World) for a balanced view.

For a poignant video that gets to the heart of the issue in 4 minutes, try Uninvited Guests.  https://vimeo.com/128873380

If you want something a bit more ‘1984’. Have a look at this from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:  Leave no dark corner – China is building a digital dictatorship to exert control over its 1.4 billion citizens. For some, “social credit” will bring privileges — for others, punishment.  You can thank Beth Smith for that!


The idea that your heritage deeply influences your sense of identity probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The proposition that there are many potential ‘futures’ that could emerge, and we will influence that, depending on our heritage and identity was something that made me sit up and pay attention.

This did make me think about my time in the Basque Country, and their approach to long-term thinking and planning – Planting Oak Trees to Build Future Ships.  Industry, self-reliance and future planning seems to define a large part of the Basque identity. If  the Heritage and identity of the Basque people is shaping their future, what does that look like for Wales?


At the risk of becoming self-indulgent – this is very much a personal call to action.

The Cynefin Retreat in Snowdonia has given me lot that will help me move forward at a practical level. I also met some amazing people and excellent conversations, thanks everyone.

Finally, here’s a picture proving you can Walk into Mordor… actually we were walking out of the Devils Kitchen at sunset.  Twll Du, the Black Hole that splits Clogwyn y Giefr  between Y Garn and Glyder Fawr.  The clouds often rise up the ‘chimney’ like smoke to signify the Devil is cooking… Thanks William Oliver.




About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here: https://whatsthepont.com/churchill-fellowship/

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