Institute Life Itself Wisdom

Transforming the Narrative as a Route to Social Transformation (Situation, Complication, Question, Hypothesis – SCQH)

We’ve just completed our Situation, Complication, Question, Hypothesis (SCQH) for the ‘Transforming the Narrative’ stream of our work. We’re posting it here to show the thinking behind what we’re up to, and of course to hear feedback and reflections from anyone who’s interested!

The structure of “situation, complication, question, hypothesis (SCQH)” is a methodology we have found useful and powerful for diagnosing problems and hypothesing solutions. (If you are unfamiliar with SCQH please see


  • Our default onto-socio-politico narrative – i.e. individualistic, technocratic materialism for individual and collective wellbeing – is exhausted (no-one thinks doubling GDP will double contentment) and/or not working (e.g. climate change) and there is growing sense of crisis.
  • There is no clear, powerful alternative replacement narrative that is widely vocalized (and accepted) – and even the need for this is debated (cf the culture wars)
  • There is a widespread sense of dissatisfaction but without an alternative this does not lead anywhere and results in a sense of resignation or reaction; and finally, there is a general disdain for politics and collective action.


  • The default is a continuation of the current trajectory and that has major issues – it’s unfulfilling and risks catastrophe (climate crisis).
  • We could address this (e.g. take collective action), we could create new narratives … but we’re not.
  • The crisis story and associated fear and resignation freezes us, or leads to reaction (or techno-magic). And we have a lot of existing beliefs/assumptions which limits space for imagination (“blindspots”).
  • The new narrative is onto-socio-political in nature (not technological), and that is harder to envision and share – and less directly enrolling (but it is possible).
  • People have to be able to hold that new narrative at the same time as being in the current one which is hard. Plus: a) be able to see a path to here to there b) whilst still being anchored in our old beliefs and blindspots c) and this a collective problem and so this involves a switch in belief-equilibrium which is not easy and is complicated by the need to co-exist / evolve within the existing paradigm.
  • Finally, we imagine (and believe) together and so we need a space/group in which this kind of imagining can happen and be taken forward into action and there is no obvious group/space for that at present. (And it needs some strongish “guidelines”/principles that shape that space both to spur creativity and limit destructive debate – i.e. consensus on some foundational values and views).


How do we create conversations, initiatives and projects that shift the big vision conversation [i.e. for a socio-cultural-political paradigm shift] with core principles of wise action, in the most effective and skilful ways possible and cooperating with and enrolling others in this program such that a wiser and weller socio-cultural-political paradigm emerges and is widely adopted?

Issue tree

Click the image to go to the Coggle diagram.


Below is the Theory of Change representing our hypothesis: