Tuesday, February 20th, 2018


mark Mark Gordon

Mark is an experienced entrepreneur and business executive with over 25 years of experience in fields as diverse as publishing, web development, and nonprofit management. He recently managed the award-winning KeepSpace Westerly process, a partnership initiative aimed at the revitalization of an historic New England downtown. He volunteers as president of both the WARM Center, a homeless shelter and soup kitchen, and the Society of St Vincent de Paul for the State of Rhode Island. Mark is also co-founder and former executive director of The St. Michael Institute of Sacred Art and the founding editor of Healthcare Technology Management and 24/7 magazines. Mark has written on strategic planning, corporate culture, and change management for CIO Magazine, and currently writes a weekly column on politics, economics and culture for the global Catholic web portal, Aleteia.


Fred Presley

Fred Presley, AICP, has a diverse background in community and organizational systems at the working level, He brings a powerful perspective to whole systems thinking that complements academic models and thinking and offers insight into the practical, inner workings of the systems involved. Fred has worked at the local, state and federal government levels and is currently the Town Manager of West Warwick, Rhode Island.

Fred is an experienced municipal planning and economic development director and is a registered planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners. He has over 20 years of experience in environmental, land use and economic development planning at the state and local government level. His planning focus is in creating whole places that encourage creativity, innovation and resilience.

Fred has presented at international, national and regional conferences and events on the topic of applying whole systems thinking to communities and organizations. He has been interviewed and featured in Knowledge@Wharton, the Wharton School of Business’s online magazine, speaking on whole systems and the current global financial crisis. Most recently he was a featured participant in the Festival of Thinkers in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, a gathering that included over one hundred world thinkers and a dozen Nobel Laureates.

What is a ‘path tree?’

pathttreeNative American tribes living in deep forest maintained trails that appeared invisible to an outsider. To them the way was clear, emblazoned with markers that lasted for decades, even centuries. How did they do it? They established path trees, also known as signal trees. Tying back a sapling to give its trunk a sharp bend in the direction of the trail, they encoded information in the very growth of the tree. As long as it stood, it showed the way to those able to read it. To anyone unfamiliar with the forest, with what belonged and what might have been subtly altered, the path was indistinguishable from the woods around it. Whole-systems thinking is about the pattern recognition that occurs when we scale or slew our perspective appropriately. Through whole-systems thinking, we walk the delicate line between chaos and complexity, just as native Americans did when they discerned the signposts known as path trees.