A Global Strategy for Human Development:
An Example of Second Order Science
Stuart A. Umpleby
In the 1960s the Institute of Cultural Affairs, based in Chicago, Illinois, started working with poor communities, helping people work together to achieve positive change. They developed some very useful methods for facilitating group conversations. They then used these methods in poor communities around the world. They returned each summer to Chicago to discuss what worked and what did not. They would modify their methods, plan the next year's activities, implement the activities, then come together the following summer to discuss successes and learnings. Academics do something similar with annual conferences, but they focus on publishing academic articles rather than on improving the lives of real people in real communities. Part of the motivation for defining and creating second order science is to increase attention to innovative, problem-solving social actions, often conducted by Non-Governmental Organizations. Currently universities have large numbers of students and faculty members seeking to advance knowledge in the social sciences, using a conception of science taken from the physical sciences. But social systems are composed of thinking participants, not inanimate objects. In addition to searching for reliable cause and effect relationships, part of social science research could be devoted to developing conversational methods that aid joint action toward shared goals. If this goal were accepted within the social sciences in universities, there would be a large increase in the number of people working to improve social systems and developing more effective conversational methods.