#BubbleSharing & #BubbleSurfing for Cross-Network Learning

Fyodor Ovchinnikov
11 min readDec 23, 2018

The combination of #BubbleSharing & #BubbleSurfing is a great way to accelerate cross-network learning. What is it exactly? Let’s start with #BubbleSharing.

In our culturally-determined pursuit of “objectivity”, we often try to remove our biases from the picture and strive for a comprehensive overview when we attempt to synthesize what is going on in our field. This humanly impossible task puts enormous pressure on us and makes many of us only write about very specific topics.

#BubbleSharing is simply sharing a snapshot of how we see the field we care about without claiming objectivity, comprehensiveness, or universal value of our perspective.

This happens when we embrace the fact that we will always be biased when we select things to share or when we make generalizations or assessments. Once we recognize and own that, we can simply share news, themes, references, and resources as they relate to our own work without any guilt for being “subjective”.

In fact, owning this subjectivity and being transparent about it makes it real. It allows others to see the field we care about — for example, the field of systemic change — through our eyes, see connections we consider important, and become better navigators of the field-at-large. When many people do #BubbleSharing and #BubbleSurfingchecking out other people’s bubbles — individual biases start bumping upon each other and co-evolve much faster and in much more harmonious ways.

It’s Not About Maps

#BubbleSharing & #BubbleSurfing is not about creating maps that will stay relevant for a long time.

#BubbleSharing is about inviting others into your world with your language and priorities in the here and now. It includes not just references, but themes and personal attitudes in a certain moment in time. In the domain of check-in questions, it is close to “What is alive for you right now in the field you care about?”

#BubbleSurfing is not about aggregating information from as many bubbles as possible and compiling this information into a comprehensive map. It is about meeting others where they are, appreciating them for who they are, and letting your own bubble evolve because of these encounters.

Individual #BubbleSharing and #BubbleSurfing can facilitate random learning and new collaborations from parts of the social graph that are very far away from each other and are unlikely to engage in a participatory way just yet.

Without an extra effort to adjust what you write for a particular audience, and with minimum effort surfing such bubbles because there are no expectations for you to understand anything specific about them (similar to one’s participation in Open Space sessions), it makes it easier to find unlikely connections and insights based on authentic perspectives far beyond one’s usual “collective bubbles” of participatory gatherings.

It is exactly opposite from attempts to create “one map to rule them all” — all maps are limited, reductionistic and outdated the moment they are created. Individual #BubbleSharing is what we normally do in one on one conversations with new kindred spirits we meet in our systemic change journey, the only addition is that if we do it more publicly, we might catalyze synchronicities we could have never known about.

The Invitation

So the invitation of #BubbleSharing is to be yourself and, unlike what we treat as “normal”, explicitly not to think about your audience. #BubbleSharing is about using your own language, allowing your own priorities to guide your thinking, and making observations that matter to you — not your reader — visible so that those who might want to learn from your very own bubble could do that.

The invitation of #BubbleSurfing it to approach each bubble without judgment, and at the same time take it lightly, without any obligation to engage with whatever requires a lot of effort unless it evokes genuine curiosity. Of course, this does not mean that everyone is expected to share their bubble— it just means that those who were waiting for such an invitation now have an excuse to go ahead and do it.

The Birth of the Hashtag

The concept of #BubbleSharing has been brewing for a while in many conversations and it is very likely that something very similar already exists in other networks or fields. This specific hashtag was picked by Nenad Maljković in response to my post on Kevin Jones’ platform thetransformseries.net about Sharing My Bubble: Tuning into the Global Field of Systemic Change on the Eve of 2019 that includes an invitation for others to share their own “themes and references”.

Ria Baeck responded to that invitation by encouraging Susan Basterfield and Richard Dennis Bartlett from Enspiral, Daniel Christian Wahl, Otto Scharmer, Jordan Hall, and later Jean Russell to “write similar overviews from their own perspectives”. Daniel Christian Wahl, in turn, shared his recent post on Planetary Health and Regeneration with a lot of amazing references in the comments and challenged Ria herself to do some #BubbleSharing along with Helen Titchen Beeth and Anne-Marie Voorhoeve. Claire Sommer spotted this #BubbleSharing by Adebayo C. Akomolafe, Bébé Vundermann started a rich discussion, and, finally, Nenad noticed Otto Scharmer’s “unintended” #BubbleSharing and started a medium post with links to #BubbleSharing he is harvesting… or at least so it looks from my Facebook account.

Protocols of Learning & Collaboration vs. Structured Meta-Networks

#BubbleSharing and #BubbleSurfing provide a great opportunity to discuss communication protocols that can facilitate cross-network learning and collaboration. So many of us in the field of systemic change agree that we need “networks of networks” or “meta-networks” to increase “resonance” or “harmony” — as Ria Baeck puts it — of our change efforts. With so many attempts to create meta-networks, it is painful to see the recurring pattern of people trying to create a strong identity, a shared language, shared methodologies and practices, etc. In its best, this leads to the birth of a new community of practice — which is great but it can be limiting if we stop there — and in many cases groups are just too diverse to agree on anything.

In our vast and complex world, what if in addition to building highly structured networks and communities, we as individuals and groups focus on developing the capacity to quickly grasp vocabularies, identities, and contexts of other groups, identify overlaps and differences, learn whenever it works for us, and hold paradoxes without assuming that we know better? That was the thinking behind the “How to Read this Post” section of the “Sharing My Bubble” post:

Here is one way to engage with this post: as you glance through it, filter out what you already know and what does not seem interesting, take note of what you can immediately learn without doing additional research, identify what looks intriguing but needs more research (this is what all the hyperlinks are for), and sit with anything that triggers you or contradicts your views or knowledge to understand it from different perspectives.

I also invite you to think about what themes and references you would add or argue with based on your perspective and share them in the comments, in your own post, or with me directly at f.ovchinnikov@evoleadinstitute.com. This post is likely to become a living document for some time, so don’t be surprised if you see some updates in a few days.

Sharing My Bubble: Tuning into the Global Field of Systemic Change on the Eve of 2019 by Fyodor Ovchinnikov
December 20, 2018

#BubbleSharing can help our “bubbles” become more visible, and some decentralized protocols of #BubbleSurfing could help us all navigate and learn from such “bubbles”. It is clearly impossible for any task force to map all change initiatives for 8 billion people, so nobody can really be in the center of a true network of networks for global transformation. However, it is still possible to navigate the unknown with grace and ease in a way that fully honors the need for staying on the edge of change.

The Roots of My Personal Inquiry

My own thought process around learning & communication protocols vs. meta-networks started a few years ago with reading The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves by W. Brian Arthur, specifically after reflecting on his experiment that consistently produced an 8-digit calculator code from random combinations or operators combined with an embedded purpose and a learning mechanism. What if we stop forcing things to align with our views for a moment and embrace the dance of random encounters with other people’s networks and perspectives and over time develop effective ways to retain lucky combinations?

Articulating a Key Distinction for Steve Waddell

After exploring different approaches to meta-networks, I formulated this distinction in an email to Steve Waddell this past April:

1) Metanetworks with a clearly defined purpose, structure, language, boundaries, and practices can accelerate learning across networks, build cohesiveness and harness synergies. At the same time, such meta-networks have at least some significant geographic, methodological, ontological, and/or domain limitations.

2) There is a creative tension between the need to transcend the boundaries of initiatives, networks, and metanetworks to overcome these limitations and catalyze large systems transformation. This cannot be done by creating another metanetwork with a shared identity, boundaries, structure, etc., because of the inherent limitations of such metanetworks. Instead what is needed is radically decentralized experimentation with learning and collaboration protocols that allow for paradoxes, while contributing to the increase of trust, understanding, and healthy relationship building in the field.

My email correspondence with Steve Waddell
April 5, 2018

Harvesting the Wisdom of Networks at #ReGen18

Further thinking was inspired and encouraged by the Collective Narrative on Harvesting the Wisdom of Networks that Beatrice Ungard, Stuart Cowan, and I harvested at the #ReGen18 conference in San Francisco a month later. Here is an especially relevant excerpt from that narrative:

Recognizing and nourishing our humanity is vital for regenerative networks, so we need to remember that sharing knowledge on the human to human level is essential. As we do that we need to treat regenerative networks as evolving living ecosystems, create conditions for diversity, complexity, and creativity, work on cultivating the sense of belonging, trust, and safety, break down barriers to access and design for inclusivity, develop protocols for sending and receiving in a way that supports reciprocity, allow for flexibility and free embodied engagement, invite inquiry, learning, and co-creation, reward self-reflective commitment, listening, self-balancing and self-healing, enable both place-based and global digital connectivity, build a shared context, agree on a conflict resolution process, compost everything that is no longer effective, set regenerative principles as a filter, and build health at the nodal level using ancient and emerging technologies that are available to us.


Regenerative networks will operate as living organisms, having the capacity to have their own awareness about themselves and cycles that each network as a whole as well as its individual components will be going through. Like today’s Internet, regenerative networks of the future will be free, accessible, and inclusive. People will be welcome to hop on when they want to engage, to co-create, and when this desire is no longer there, it will be natural and easy to hop off. Like the Internet, regenerative networks will provide a send-and-receive protocol and facilitate “spontaneous cooperation”.

Harvesting the Wisdom of Networks: a Collective Narrative
May 4, 2018

Thought Partnership with David Witzel

That also lead to a thought partnership with David Witzel who had been developing ideas around communication protocols for a while. Here is what Dave wrote a couple of years ago:

“Networks can be thought of as the blood vessels of the regeneration movement. The network supports the flow of critical resources including ideas, talent, experience, data, money, and excitement. Networks leverage the capacity to contribute.

Obviously, we’d like to see the regeneration network get bigger and better connected. As Kevin Kelly explains, “Mathematics says the sum value of a network increases as the square of the number of members.”

Perhaps less obvious, we also want to integrate other, existing, networks and be able to easily form new sub-networks. The power of the Internet is driven, in large part, by its ability to be a “network of networks” connecting not just individuals but also networks at businesses, government agencies, universities, and more.”

The Regeneration Wave: It Takes a Network by David Witzel
June 3, 2016

Thank You for #BubbleSurfing! Know More? Do Some #BubbleSharing!

It is wonderful to see spaces like Impact Journey — Creating the Future, Movement Weavers Global Open Space, Global Challenges Collaboration, The Next Edge, Art of Hosting, Enspiral, NextEra Global and many others emerging to facilitate cross-network learning. With all those spaces playing a very positive role, and I think that we should not ignore the benefits of tuning in with others across any kind of spaces using communication & learning protocols that are not attached to any infrastructure, methodology, brand, or individual.

Nobody would be able to claim that they “invented” those protocols, but instead many people and groups would be simultaneously discovering them, remembering those that work well, and freely exchanging this meta-information with others so that the most relevant and useful protocols survive.

The trickiest part, I think, is how to balance the need for alignment of the general purpose vs the necessity of holding paradoxes and disagreements in methodologies, approaches, and worldviews. However, I would not be surprised if related thought and practices have been developed and articulated in some parts of our social universe that I am yet to explore. Sounds something you know? Do some #BubbleSharing!

About The Author

Fyodor Ovchinnikov is Co-Founder & Director of the Evolutionary Futures Lab, a California-based organization that enables learning and collective action for systems transformation through educational programs and strategic community-centered initiatives. Besides that, Fyodor serves on the Advisory Board of the United Nations Association of the USA, San Francisco Chapter, and on the Board of Directors of Uptima Entrepreneur Cooperative where he also teaches and mentors founders of community-centered social enterprises.

Spread across regions, sectors, and formats (such as participatory process design, education, and advocacy), Fyodor’s work is grounded in a conceptually coherent quest for understanding the transformation of complex social systems in the face of our planetary crisis and it is strategically focused on the quality of the intention behind initiatives he chooses to support.

About Evolutionary Futures Lab

Evolutionary Futures Lab is a California-based social enterprise that enables learning and collective action for systems transformation through educational programs and community-centered strategic initiatives. We work with and alongside international allies, partners, and clients to explore and catalyze evolutionary futures that are radically more just, sustainable, and flourishing.​