Places to Be: The Natural Order of Things

Wes Hinckes
4 min readNov 16, 2020

Viewing Networks as Natural Ecosystems

The way we see the world matters.

Seeing nature as consisting of a series of individual elements (bird, tree, river) will not give rise to an understanding of a forest ecosystem.

I would argue that an ecosystemic understanding of our world may allow us to reintegrate the divisions we see in society, in politics and the economy.

Let’s start by looking at place.

When we look at a town with an ecosystemic understanding we may see how the local organisations and actors could find ways to work together towards shared goals.

But, just as a garden consists of much more than we can initially see, there are other dimensions that we should include other than the plants that we see growing there.

So let’s look at the town ecosystem again but through a relational lens.

Now we may see the local organisations and actors along with their relational qualities.

These could range from the quite functional and operational (communication, visibility, access, willingness to work with others) through to the no-less important softer, subtler or invisible aspects (openness, bias, discriminatory practices).

Maybe through this relational dimension we can now see where improvements could be made? Or where we should invest more time in creating trust or friendships.

Let’s add a cultural dimension to our vision.

Now we may see possibilities for creating entirely new experiences or approaches to local efforts.

Now what is the historical dimension? What is the spiritual dimension? What is the creative dimension? What is it that this ecosystem possesses, offers or could be developed to provide?

This is the way I see a garden working.

It is not plant a, plant b, plant c.

It is soil, microbes, worms, birds, shade, light, vegetation. But it is also sound, heat, moisture, pheromone, vibration and ultra violet.

All of these moving and flowing and exchanging and contributing to something greater.

This is how nature works. It is all things coexisting together.

We can look at place in this way too.

Place can become a garden of potential.

When we can see place in this way it becomes a rich palette of not just things and organisations but what we could perhaps better describe as colours, tones, sounds, experiences, understandings and discoveries.

There is abundance everywhere if you are able to see it.

There is possibility for endless reimagining if you look at things differently.

When we view place as a garden we are able to adopt within it the roles of stewards, designers, gardeners, cultivators and harvesters.

As an example I may be involved with helping local people back into work. But the way in which I do that may be to walk through the garden and pick, mix, and combine what is available there to create something which is nutritious, rewarding and fulfils the reciprocal needs of person, place and organisation at the same time.

A couple of slices of support, a leaf or two of confidence and development, a spread of culture and a dash of history and you might find that you’ve made the perfect ‘back to work’ sandwich for someone.

It’s a bit different to the thin gruel we get force fed today.

It’s also much better for everyone involved.

Bringing local organisations into this understanding can change their focus from what can often be too narrowly pinpointed and shift this to a wider understanding of local role and the potential that exists within themselves and all around them.

Think of a local arts centre which for far too long has delivered a programme which fails to engage with working class people and tastes or to local possibilities and potential.

In the garden the organisation can see themselves as something bigger and begin to develop their capacity to see, reach, engage and operate beyond their previous confines.

To funders this should be of interest.

It should be possible to develop the capacity of place ecosystems so that they can generate sustainable benefits and greater long-term impacts.

Gardens are generative and place can be too.

A little can go a long way once the thought and preparation work has been done.

Intelligence arises from an intimate understanding of the ecosystem and its potential. It comes from working alongside multiple people, organisations, strategies and needs.

You will become part of the ecosystem and the ecosystem will become a part of you. Your relationships with each other will develop and change as time progresses.

There is nothing static in this way of working. No matter where you stand or what your role you will be changed by the experience.

You will adapt to become capacity developers and learning organisations.

All part of a greater whole and a more holistic way of being and doing.

Everything in relation to all around it.

Coexisting and non-separate.

This being the natural order of things.



Wes Hinckes

Founder of Socially Enterprising / Commoner / Mostly Unemployed.