Valuing Wild Margins: nature, people and teams

The wild margins are one of my favourite principles in organic systems. To qualify for organic certification, a farm must leave some corners and edgeland wild, uncultivated. These margins contribute a lot to the community of life in a farm or garden. They're a haven for wild flowers, plants, birds, insects.

Naturalists point out that diversity of wildlife and plants has many benefits for humans too, although often we don't understand them. It may be insects or bacteria in the wild margin which are essential to growing a crop we want, or inhibiting a new pest or plant disease.

So how do wild margins work for communities and groups? I've seen many groups of people who find it hard to include and tolerate divergent and challenging views. The problem is aggravated because 'wild margin' people often feel isolated, angry, vulnerable, and may lack the communication skills to make their points diplomatically. When a group feels threatened and criticised, it's tempting to turn against minority members, to scapegoat or exclude them. We can see a lot of this in society generally.

One benefit of the wild margins analogy is to show the potential insights in divergent views. If the majority of a group can learn tolerance, patience and the skills to hear the essence under challenging language, they will access more wisdom and solutions.

There are plenty of human examples of the value of wild margins. Nelson Mandela, in solitary confinement for many years on Robben Island, may have seemed an unlikely person to resolve apartheid in South Africa, but mainstream society's crises are often solved from an unlikely and marginal source. Studies of innovation often show that its sources are unexpected and undervalued.

Wisdom Tree is a small team offering training in resilience for organisations, individuals and communities. We use natural systems, including the idea of wild margins, as a key model, and many of our events are at Hazel Hill Wood, which enables people to experience these approaches for themselves. See more at www.wisdomtree.uk.net.