Announcing the Institute of Applied Metatheory


Announcing The Institute of Applied Metatheory

Robb Smith

January 10, 2023

Dear friends,

Last Saturday I explained that with the start of 2023 the team at Integral Life hopes to kick off a third, Integration Stage of the integral movement. Today, I’m very pleased to announce the launch of The Institute of Applied Metatheory, a social action think tank founded on a focused, singular mission: to use Big Picture, “integrative metatheories” to map difficult problems, issues and contexts in order to help us identify promising targets for social action, evolutionary acupuncture points (i.e., “Transformational Fulcrums”) where good metatheory suggests action-learning experiments might unleash new forms of progress.

The Institute will aim to use the most comprehensive maps of reality that are available to translate wicked contexts into transformational experiments, and in doing so, to rationalize consensus for social action.

This mission grows out of our belief that the real complexity of society—and, broadly speaking, that of a global, interpenetrating “metacrisis” in education, meaning making, economics, environment and leadership—has outrun the complexity of the worldviews trying to navigate it. We believe this problem has been made far worse by the fragmentation of sensemaking at the intersection of social media, disciplinary silos, political tribalism, and non-integrative mindsets.

We see these two pillars, of overwhelming real complexity and outmatched sensemaking, as underpinning all other challenges we face in the 21st century. They simply demand much more of us around metapractical social innovation. They demand we transcend our narrower ideological biases, our personal silos and our institutional incentives to work in a more open, cooperative and socially-reflexive way. In a very real sense, IAM is an example of its own medicine in action: a social experiment founded to explore and experiment with a speculative hypothesis of a novel way to convene metatheorists, funders, subject-matter experts, leaders and others to collectively learn toward better transformational praxis.

And we invite you to join us. As a social action think tank, we can’t succeed without galvanizing a diverse community of dedicated and talented people to take action. Here’s how to get involved:

  1. Visit the IAM website to learn more about the Institute
  2. On the website, view and consider funding the Initiatives we’re rolling out (each will be explained in much greater detail in the coming months)
  3. Request an invite to join the Institute as a volunteer contributor, leader, expert or funder
  4. If you represent an institution and would like to explore partnering with us on a new or existing Initiative, email us at makeanhistoricimpact at

Thank you for your support.

Loving regards,



We would love to hear what you all think of this endeavor. In many ways, this feels to us like an idea whose time has finally come, and we are hoping that many of you will want to get involved at ground level. Let us know how this lands for you, and whether you’d like to be a part of this new unfolding!


Anyone who like me may be attuned to terms like “megathreats,” “permacrises,” or “global polycrises” and the urgency that those terms evoke, and who thinks this IAM “social experiment” is some kind of immediate answer to those threats/crises, would most likely be wrong.

And I like that about the IAM project; while ambitious and focused on some really significant needs, it is still somewhat modest in its expectations and isn’t overpromising anything. It is in fact asking “whether the integral movement can move from deep thinking to collective action…” in order to support integral modes of knowing-being taking hold in the world. I am reminded of the fable of the race between the turtle and the hare, and in fact, when I first read this post, before even visiting the IAM site, my intuition told me this is a project in which “going slow” would be important. Steady progress, not haste.

I thought the analysis and summary of the integral movement under The Backstory was spot on, and the graphic of the econo-sociosphere 2022 speaks volumes of the “uncoordinated motion” of recent years during the Differentiation phase. Many of us surely relate to that.

Obviously a lot of thought and work has already gone into the IAM project (and some people’s money too). I think the Encyclopedia of Integrative Metatheories is a great idea; along with the Integral Epistemology initiative, it seems foundational.

So these are just some off-the-cuff reactions; I’ll be reading about it more.