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The Pivot Projects: The Work and the Movement

The email from Colin Harrison, one of the three leads on the Pivot Projects, came on April 4, 2020.  Colin is a long-time friend and IBM Distinguished Engineer (retired, albeit in name only). The opening words read: “Dear Debbie:  I hope this finds you and Richard in good health and well isolated.  Please sit down; I have a big request for you and it will take a moment to explain.”  Tongue in cheek, he went on to write: “On Saturday afternoon two weeks ago, I was thinking about how best to save the planet, the way one does, when inspiration struck.  I realised that many of my professional friends were likely to be asking themselves the same question…”.   How might we respond for care of people and planet in the wake of Covid-19?  Colin, along with Peter Head and Rick Robinson, responded by reaching out to friends and colleagues across the globe.

Pivot Projects was initially formed to develop policy recommendations for the UN Climate Change Conference, COP 26. It quickly became much more.  In the words of William McKenna, “By harnessing the vast experience of these global participants, the wisdom of indigenous cultures, and the sheer computational power of artificial intelligence linked to systems modeling, the people of Pivot Projects are providing suggestions about what it means to pivot, as well as local tools and training for individuals, local communities, and policy makers across the globe to find their best regenerative, resilient pivot path.”

To date, over 300 subject experts, academics, and practitioners from across thirty countries have been mobilized.  Together, we work across diverse workstreams, engaging the intersections of natural and human-made systems, including Sustainable Infrastructure, Finance, Urban Systems, Mobility, Water & Waste, and Agriculture & Food. From the start, there have also been workstreams to engage the whole person: Faiths, Education, and Arts & Culture.

Early on, a collaborative partnership was formed with SparkBeyond, an AI-powered problem-solving platform, to harnesses complex data.  The intent was to identify the pain points of businesses, governments, and communities.  Through the partnership of AI and human beings, Pivot Projects is looking to help the people on the ground tackle complex societal and natural systems impacted by climate and Covid-19.

The aim is to accelerate collaboration in specific areas by exploring for relevant and useful insights using AI to navigate complex relationships among large bodies of open and custom data.  The challenge: Knowledge alone is not enough.  Habits must be changed.  Consciousness transformed.

From the start, Pivot Projects looked to the Faiths to aid in the transformation of heart, mind and soul.    Inspired by the World Economic Forum’s report on The Role of Faith in Systemic Global Challenges, the Faith sector was asked to support the development of relationship and process to nurture:

1. Commitment to values that make needed policy, economic and social changes sustainable;

2. Provision of a helpful perspective on the issues (alternatively, they can also contribute to some of the underlying problems);

3. Nurture of religious freedom that leads to more prosperous and innovative societies;

4. Connection on the ground (84% of the world’s people affiliate with one faith or another).


Taken together the historical faiths and emerging spiritualities represented on the Pivot Projects are committed to responding to the crises we face. Where the faiths provide a vital capacity to respond to immediate needs, global consciousness provides a path toward developing the new. Both play an integral role in the care of soul and creation, seeing it as a sacred duty.

Poets & Prophets (Poets, a learning community grounded in the wisdom traditions, has sought to support the Pivot Projects through the creation of intentional conversations, interdisciplinary journeys, and soul-based strategic process. Our present zeitgeist presses for the creation of a new kind of community that nurtures spiritual maturity, while also addressing the 21st century leadership challenge of leading change toward the flourishing of the one and the whole.  Where the poet expresses what we are collectively yearning for, the prophet leads us to action.

Our acts of love and social action reflect an understanding that our individual and collective flourishing are inter-dependent; we thrive together or not at all.  Our ability to lead change is intimately tied to the spiritual journey of growing up and waking up. As leaders we must nurture both, if we are to lead social, environmental and economic change with intention. As a scholar practitioner who is passionate about equipping leaders to build the new for the flourishing of people and planet, working with the Pivot Projects has been pure joy.

As the “prodigal” who ran away from the world of business to enter the ministry,  Pivot Projects allows me to bridge the worlds of spiritual formation and organizational development, working with individuals and organizations committed to the transformation of their communities. Growing up into spiritual maturity is not an option for 21st century leadership. Nor is learning how to adapt to the changing needs of community.

In the midst of the COVID crisis, a global gathering of volunteers is using collective intelligence, AI and a systems approach to pivot toward a healthy prosperity recovery for people and the planet.  Interested?  Let me know and I’ll get you connected to the right team:

Dr. Deborah Rundlett

is the founder of Poets & Prophets, a global community of change leaders committed to the flourishing of people and planet. Prior to founding Poets & Prophets, she served in business, as part of the advertising launch team for the IBM-PC; the academy, teaching a doctoral track in leadership; and the church as pastor and judicatory leader. A graduate of Yale Divinity School and the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, Deborah is passionate about equipping leaders to serve as agents of change for the flourishing of their communities.

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