(Adapted from Piero Mella 2009)
If we observe the world and universe surrounding us, there is a whole/part relationship between “entities”, which we must be aware of and appreciate.
Atoms, molecules, cells, individuals, ecosystems or people, businesses, economies... should not be seen as autonomous and independent entities, but as a whole–composed of smaller interacting parts–that are also an interacting part of a larger whole (see images above).
This is referred to as Holon, which derives from the word "holos", whole, and the suffix "on", which means particle or part (as in proton, neutron and electron).
To put it another way:
"a Holon is any object or concept observable on three levels:
1. as an autonomous and independent entity that acts according to its own general behavioural principles and rules;
2. as a whole entity (system), possessing emerging properties, with respect to the component parts that it transcends; and
3. as a part of a vaster whole that conditions it." (P5)
By applying this whole/part observational relationship systemically, the world appears as a hierarchy of holons, or a Holarchy. At each hierarchical level, holons experience the effects of the structural or operational variations of the holons from which it is composed, which, in turn, produce variations in the behaviour of the superior holons of which it is a part.
Coined by Arthur Koestler’s back in 1967, it is a systems approach to help think holistically, which is gaining recognition across the world.
Methodology and approach
Holonic aims to integrate many methodologies and approaches because one size doesn't fit all, and no tool is ever complete, regardless of what the next big thing promises.
Likewise, the Circular Economy, Doughnut Economics and so on, shouldn't be seen as the panacea for all our economic and social-environmental ills. Instead, they should be seen as highly influential frameworks and engaging narratives that have brought together many older schools of thought, which are in a process of emergence, connecting with others in this "generative" or "New Economy" space.
As such, the name Holonic, which incorporates the concepts described above, was chosen as it also serves as a powerful lens through which to better appreciate what an economy is, its purpose and how it relates to life and well-being. Helping to develop an innate economic compass, allowing these frameworks, methods, and tools to be used to better direct our collective actions.