Ecosystem Mapping

Mapping the ecosystem so that it becomes (more) self-aware, interconnected, resourced and effective.

UPDATE: [Oct 2021] We have launched a dedicated site and directory for this project Read more in the announce post.

Life Itself is part of an emerging ecosystem of individuals, organisations and initiatives around the world. We know that many of them are trying to create change, often by shifting how we make sense of the world, by how we engage with one another — in short, by engaging in sense-making and culture-making.

But that is more or less all we know about this newly emergent space, and, as such, it calls for exploration. What are its defining characteristics? How do organisations differ, and how are they similar? What is this space? What are the other ecosystems to which it is interconnected? And how will it evolve? These are some of the things we are hoping to find out.

Finally, there is purpose beyond simply exploration: understanding can lead to self-awareness and self-understanding making the ecosystem more known, interconnected, resourced and effective.

Read our blog to check out the conversations we have been having:

… and more coming soon!

Also see our original announcement

Our Initial Enquiry

What we know

The ecosystem of change-makers which Life Itself is part of has come to life primarily in the last 10-15 years, thanks to three key developments.

1. Recognising the shortcomings of Western societies

Although the last 100 years have seen incredible technological, scientific, social and economic progress, there is a sense that Western societies have failed to generate corresponding advances in human flourishing. Rates of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues are rising; complex collective action problems and global catastrophic risks (such as climate change, nuclear war, the weakening of democratic institutions, global inequality, etc.) appear unlikely to be solved by technological or scientific innovations alone. As a result, more people are recognising the need for better ways of being and acting, individually and collectively.

2. An increased need, and increased opportunity, for social innovation

Our current era is marked by both a huge need, and huge opportunity for social innovation. We face unprecedented challenges that require radical departures from business as usual if we are to address them. At the same time the growth of the non-governmental sector has left a great deal of space for diverse actors to support our response. Innovative approaches to social change, which might be deemed beyond the pale for more traditional organisations, are increasing in number. While we might not yet have a full understanding of the ecosystem we exist in, one thing we are certain of is that it is more vibrant than ever.

3. Acknowledging the connection between inner and outer transformation

Implicit in the activities of organisations in this space is also a belief in the connection between inner and outer transformation. At the individual level, this is relatively intuitive – in order to make lasting changes in your life, your mental state must change. The same holds at the collective level. A whole systems transformation requires some form of structural change (outer transformation), as well as some form of cultural change (inner transformation). The key point here is that the former does not guarantee the latter. Changing the external components of a system can indeed affect individual behaviour and is important, but it is much less likely to achieve the desired outcome unless people’s inner lives are appropriately aligned, especially when the system is complex and unintended consequences are difficult to predict. This is why culture is important: it regulates behaviour and makes it more predictable. It may sound obvious, but it is only in recent years that change-makers have started to take seriously the importance of inner transformation.

What we want to know

Through our exploration, we are hoping to answer the following questions:

  • Who are the individuals, organisations, communities, etc. that make up this space?
  • How can the space be mapped? What are the key groupings and directions? 
  • What are the major differences and similarities between actors in this space?
  • What, if any, are the areas of overlap and what, if any, are the gaps?

Answers to the questions above will help Life Itself and other similar organisations to better understand:

  • Who they could work and partner with
  • How they complement and differ from other organisations
  • Potential opportunities and future directions
  • Where to share and find ideas
  • Where to find like-minded people

In addition, exploring the space can help to establish credibility for the people and organisations involved. By better understanding it and finding appropriate terminology to describe it, public awareness can grow more easily.

Get in touch!

If you are an individual or an organisation active in this space, and you think you could provide insight into our research questions, get in touch! We would love to hear from you. Email us at [email protected]

State of Sensemaking 2020

After our initial round of research in 2020, we compiled an initial map of the ecosystem and an accompanying snapshot report outlining the space.

See: State of Sensemaking Report 2020 for more.


This ecosystem mapping project began in 2020. See this blog post for more.