From meeting a friend to meeting UN goals — Theory U in action (Part 2)

Presencing Institute
6 min readOct 10, 2022


by Kathryn Ghent & Rachel Hentsch — Read Part 1 here

u-lab 2x 2021 — Final meeting, June 2021. Live connection via Zoom between Ticino (left) and Rome (right)

In this second part of the article (read Part 1 here), Paolo Fedi and Manuela Pagani Larghi share about the outcomes, ongoing challenges and possible next steps in the development of the Generative Interdependence Agreements (ADIG “Accordi Di Interdipendenza Generativa”), as a scalable way to stimulate individual and corporate social responsibility towards sustainability, Agenda 2030 and the Common Good — through the application of Theory U.


The result of the Theory U process was the finished ADIGs — a tool to stimulate individual and corporate social responsibility towards sustainability, Agenda 2030 and the Common Good. They have an effect on partner relationships by making them deeper, thanks to the process that accompanies partners in the co-creation of ADIGs and follows Theory U principles and techniques. They have a domino effect by including the responsibility of partners who sign them to make at least one more with other partners.

They are a non-monetary tool, relying on the sharing of non-monetary resources and they represent the intersection of three values, interdependence, trust and generativity.

From the 7 companies that took part in the u-lab 2x program, four of them are in the process of signing an agreement, Paolo and Manuela facilitated the process in meeting their partner and defining the content of an ADIG. Three of them still have to complete this process. They have already selected a partner with whom they will co-create and sign an agreement.

Participating companies include: a large multinational automotive company, a management school of a university, a multinational ISO certification company, a charitable foundation, an Organization working for the Third Sector, and a company offering “city craft co-working” spaces. Almost all of them have involved one of their partners, while three of them have decided to co-create an ADIG together.

The arrangements in the ADIG involve collaborations that use the companies’ own resources to disseminate “good economy” practices and implement operational prototypes. The impacts on the communities targeted increase awareness of Agenda 2030 issues. Some of them have transformed their way of working with an elimination or reduction of sources of pollution. What’s incredibly important is the domino effect, multiplying the commitment to co-create another ADIG by the partners involved.

How the ADIG flows work

Paolo stresses again the importance of the process as well as the outcomes: “I think the major insight we gained from this experience is that we need to have, to practice and to apply the ADIG experience with a certain number of enterprises just to “put the hands-on” so a company can understand and feel itself working and promoting an agreement.”

Manuela adds: “What was also innovative for us was the desire to go beyond numbers and so we talk about “rendi-narrative”. In Italian we say “reporting” which means telling stories through numbers,

but we thought of not just talking about said numbers but spreading the initiatives through storytelling, so sharing not only what has been accomplished, but also the crucial changes in relationships, between partners, the empathic aspects and values that are surfaced through stories!

Indeed for us the most important thing is small companies, micro companies, allowing them to say what they are really doing for our society. And with the framework that we prepared they have this possibility.”

Break-out room work: what will inspire the “third WIN” of the ADIG? Going beyond BAU (business as usual)

Manuela and Paolo feel that the 2x journey was the start of a community because now that they have the developed ADIG instrument, they know what really counts are relationships and community.

There was also an unexpected outcome for Manuela: “From my facilitation of Theory U, I have been called to the Citizens National Assembly for food politics in 2030. Theory U changed my life.”

Challenges and possibilities for the future

Building the ADIG community is a challenge but overall Manuela and Paolo feel their calling is to demonstrate that the ADIG works not only as a tool, but really allows people to build a relationship that is based on values instead of only money. Manuela says: “It gives you abundance, it gives you the possibility to thrive, to do better than if you are merely pursuing profit, for us the community is very important.”

Paolo and Manuela want to share the results of their 2x learning and disseminate the ADIG idea, process and framework. Then they would like to recruit advocates and associations that could spread to their participants the idea of signing an ADIG.

They would like to reach poorer countries, Manuela says: “We could really use that kind of instrument in order to build relationships that in a crisis like the one we are facing allow us to find the synergies, also from a business point of view, because together we can overcome challenges that we cannot successfully face alone.

We could also put 2 companies in the same space, it’s a little bit like a barter but the difference is that it can be done among more people, and there will also be a third win when you do this. It’s not only my win, it’s not only your win, but what we are doing has to be something that generates value for all society and it has to be really clear in the agreement.”

One thing that would help bring all the ideas together is the idea of a “story living handbook.” Paolo and Manuela plan to set up a platform where companies can tell their ADIG stories and where people can get ideas about how to write an ADIG with somebody else. It will also be a place where those who receive the benefits from an ADIG, the society, the local area or whomever benefits from the “third win” can confirm the value received. The idea is to have feedback both from the two companies who signed the agreement and the third parties who received benefits.

Final words on the process

What became clear during the whole journey is that as Theory U illuminates practice, ADIG is a practice that illuminates Theory U. What was observed is that partners, accompanied in the process of co-creating an ADIG, acquire techniques (theory) that they are called upon to test in the field soon after.

Often what emerges first are the “blind spots”: these are the partners’ blind spots. Paolo and Manuela have seen partners first express a desire to change the world and then, after a few steps, fall back into “materialistic” operating systems. They have seen partners rush to define an action in order to satisfy the “doing,” but without bringing in genuine attention and intention.

So working towards an ADIG, co-created action, acts as a mirror: it tells you what you are willing to do and offer for a better world, without being able to measure your accountability. It is an act of trust, toward your partner and toward the abundance of life.

We have seen chance encounters with friends lead to concrete benefits for companies, their local area, and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. Theory U underpins and supports real change.

Paolo knows that “if people want to be enactors and multipliers of good impact on sustainable development goals and on common good, they can understand and use and promote the ADIG”.

Manuela came to the understanding that “it is a way to transform your own business, your relationships and yourself.”

Paolo, Manuela and the Presencing Institute invite you to join them as we all journey towards that other world we know is possible.