Framework CINETONE®

CINETONE® is a framework for diagnosing a community of life (civitas) within the public domain. It focuses on finding the tone, using measurement, dialogue, co-creation and presentation. The name is the acronym of CIvitas Naturalis Ecosystemic TONE.

The framework uses various methods and techniques for data collection and measurement of the ecosystem. We operate using in-depth interviews, quantitative surveys with factor analysis and pattern matching, literature review, design thinking, tribal dialogue and (e)co-creation. We measure the biotic side being the determinants component, role, interaction, phase and trait, as well as the abiotic side being the cycles of energy, water, nutrients, geography and climate. The determinants are derived from research and proven technology in daily practice. They tell us about the physiology, morphology and ecology of the ecosystem.

While collecting and measuring, we look at (1) production, such as weight, dosage, biomass (literally) and importance, power and influence (figuratively), (2) population, such as presence, numbers, and quantity and (3) architecture, in the form of structures, shapes, forms.

A selection of the results is expressed in this book in media and tools: images, graphs, fabrics, diagrams, colours, symbols, transects and grids (chessboard). Consider the results as attempts to catch the tone of the living ecosystem involved. For that, we make use of a limited set of determinants.


In our approach, organisations are the organisms of the city. They are considered as components of the ecosystem. They are grouped according to functional differences, such as business, civil society, finance, government, nature, non-government, politics and science. These are responsible for most of the dynamics and interactions within the ecosystem city. Every function has its colour for readability. We make use of the Pantone® Matching System for consistent use.


Systems are structured by countless interactions between components, which are driven by the felt or experienced degree of profit of a relationship with another component, expressed as beneficial (+), unfavourable (-) or neutral (o). Seven types of interactions can be defined:


  • Mutualism (+ +). Components benefit from each other.
  • Commensalism (+ o). One component benefits from another that is not affected.
  • Amensalism (o –). One component inflicts harm to another without any costs or benefits received by itself.
  • Parasitism (+ –). One component, the parasite, benefits from the interaction, while the other (host) is harmed. It is a form of symbiosis which comes with a price. 


  • Competition (– –). More components compete for the same resources or between them.
  • Predation (+ –. One component hunts (being predator or herbivore) and eats the other (being prey or plant). Among equal components, it is called cannibalism.


  • Neutralism (o o). Two components that do not affect each other, interactions are negligible or insignificant.


In nature, ecosystems find themselves in a mosaic of phases. The natural forest is not a homogeneous static but can be defined as the sum of different phases that are present and co-exist simultaneously. This mosaic makes the forest what it is in essence. In each phase, the energy, nutrient and water flows are different, as well as their resilience, population dynamics and biodiversity. Oldeman (1990) describes the four phases of the architecture in which the units of the ecosystem show themselves:

  • Innovation: a new beginning after reorganisation, fire, colossal competition, or new seedlings.
  • Aggradation: the build-up individuals are in development and growth, in prospect, expansion.
  • Biostasis (maturity): individuals determining the rules, a balancing act, stable, mature phase, rich structure, high biodiversity.
  • Degradation: individual components are in decay, dying, leaving, and part of the system collapses.

What counts for trees in a forest can also be applied to organisations in a city ecosystem. In the diagnosis process, it is wise to know to which phase the public issues involved organisation belongs.


Elaborating on the roles of components within an ecosystem is relevant to understanding its dynamics and diversity. In principle, all components can take all roles and differ highly depending on time, place, value and factors. Knowing a role of a component in society is vital to understanding the actual systemic situation we are diagnosing.

Of course, laws, rules, regulations and the Constitution are elementary in the division of roles and have led to a more or less predictable attribution of roles among components. With present transitions, though, a more flexible division is needed and coming.

A usable set can be found in the work of The Quality Institute Dutch Municipalities (KING) and is summarised in the report De Staat van de Gemeente by Aardema et al. (2005). It is a set of interconnected roles from an actor or governance perspective and from an object or governed perspective. We have chosen chess pieces to symbolise these roles.

Actor roles

  • Steward (black king): symbolise, identify, connect, show compassion, take care, welcome, strengthen cohesion, carry rituals, and guard.
  • Regulator (black queen): decisiveness, power, threaten, demand, courage, perseverance, set things right, constrain, discipline, set the rules and enforce them.
  • Collector (black bishop): go-between, facilitate, contract, collect tax, process.
  • Developer (black knight): involve, sense of community, strengthen cohesion, share and distribute, (letting) participate, co-create.
  • Service provider (black rook): deliver, serve, provide, distribute, front office.
  • Representative (black pawn): chosen by the people during an election in councils, representing the people as citizens.

Object roles

  • Inhabitant (white king): citizen living in the city and neighbourhood.
  • Servant (white queen): obey and follow laws, rules, and regulations.
  • Contributor (white bishop): tax pay, contribute, donate, volunteer, support, finance, fund.
  • Partner (white knight): develop, contribute in knowledge, feelings and insights, co-create.
  • Client (white rook): receive products and services, indicate a choice.
  • Voter: elect the representatives, the best of the best.


A trait or character is a feature of a component. It results from cultural factors, business type and leadership and management forms. One trait for optimal development is mentioned over and over again in the helix concepts. That is the attitude, empowerment and willingness to cooperate with other components (on the local or regional level).

“In natural ecosystems’ traits play a central role because it is the trait that determines how a species (the component in our model) reacts to environmental change and how this reaction influences ecosystem functions.” (Astor, 2011). A direct relationship exists between an organisation’s trait and the system’s effect. That is truly a holistic essence. 

“In this respect, functional traits can be defined as those phenotypical components of an organism that influence ecosystem properties or biogeochemical processes, and those that determine the response of an organism to environmental conditions” (Lavorel et al., 2002; Hooper et al., 2005). We distinguish the following stages of this trait:

  • Evasive: Inward-looking and operating independently from other components. Hard to be approached.
  • Square: Working and focusing mainly on their own targets, unaware of the bigger picture they can benefit from. Stiff and leaning back on cooperation.
  • Delta: Improving and learning organisation, more and more aware of the environment and possible benefits of enhancing basic processes to own performance.
  • Rolling: Cooperating and networking with a main accent on self-satisfaction, basic processes are good, and there is an excellent network to deliver products and services on a reasonably high level.
  • Mature: Cooperating with maximum benefits, well-organised and open to cooperation, initiating alliances, and being an optimal player in the bigger picture of common goals.


Aardema, H. en A. Korsten (2005). De Staat van de Gemeente: Op weg naar een handzame, landelijke gemeentemonitor. Den Haag: VGS, BMC, PON, Open Universiteit Nederland, InAxis.

Astor, T. (2011) The importance of species traits in biodiversity-ecosystem functioning research. Uppsala: Department of Ecology, SLU, Uppsala Link

Cirtwill, A., Eklöf, A. (2018) Feeding environment and other traits shape species’ roles in marine food webs. Ecology Letters, 2018; DOI: 10.1111/12955 Link

Hooper D.U., Chapin F.S., Ewel J.J., Hector A., Inchausti P., Lavorel S., Lawton J.H., Lodge D.M., Loreau M., Naeem S., Schmid B., Setala H., Symstad A.J., Vandermeer J. & Wardle D.A. (2005) Effects of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning: A consensus of current knowledge. Ecological Monographs, 75, 3‐35.

Lavorel, S. & Garnier, E. (2002).Predicting changes in community composition and ecosystem functioning from plant traits: revisiting the Holy Grail. Functional Ecology, 16, 545‐556.

Linköping University (2018) Deeper understanding of species’ roles in ecosystems. ScienceDaily. (accessed July 2, 2023).

Oldeman, R.A.A. (1990). Forests: Elements of Silvology. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag.