collaboration

Civic Intelligence Role Playing Games

Pattern ID: 
139
Discussion: 

 

Role Playing Games (RPGS) such a Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) combine storytelling with a set of rules that determine the abilities of the players and govern the interactions between the players and their environment. Essentially, RPGs allow the players to simulate imaginary scenarios and act them out. There are many elements of RPGs that are similar to elements of Civic Intelligence (CI). The development of a CI-RPG could allow roleplaying game methods to be applied for practical social justice problem solving and team building.

At the start of a game, the players in an RPG gather together to form a team which is usually called a “party.” Then they are often presented with a mission, a quest which the party will attempt to complete. Before each game, each player develops the character they will play, and determines the Skills and Attributes they will have. This is similar to the Capabilities found in Civic Intelligence.

In D&D there are six Attributes every player’s character has: Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. For each character each of these Attributes will have a number value assigned to it (randomly), which measures how much of that particular Attribute the character has. Characters also have Skills, such as Concentration or Diplomacy, which correspond to certain Attributes. For example, a character with high Dexterity who has the Use Rope Skill will be very good at that Skill. The higher the corresponding Attribute the better a character will be at a particular skill.

Different characters will have different Skills and Attributes and a party must work together and combine their capabilities to be successful. A Civic Intelligence Roleplaying Game could allow a group of civic-minded people to explore ways to improve their individual operations and cooperative interactions by simulating problems and imagining potential solutions. Where traditional RPGs often serve as escapism, a CI-RPG would seek to replicate the real world and experiment in ways that might be too difficult or dangerous to perform in real life without rehearsal.

Categories: 
engagement
Categories: 
social
Categories: 
resources
Themes: 
Research for Action
Themes: 
Community Action
Themes: 
Theory
Themes: 
Case Studies
Pattern status: 
Draft

Community Oriented Social Media

Pattern ID: 
138
Rudyard
Discussion: 

Access to information and connections is essential to be successful in the 21st century. There is talk in many cities across the country of establishing municipal broadband- for example the grassroots organization “Upgrade Seattle” wants to “make the internet a city-owned and operated utility.” in Seattle.

 

A possible step further would be to create a publicly owned, operated and funded Social Network that would fill a role similar to that of radio and TV public broadcasting. The first and most obvious benefit would be the same one that comes from public broadcasting, that is- providing an alternative to the corporately owned, commercially funded media platforms, with a greater emphasis on community issues.

 

The services that companies like Facebook provide are valuable, and many of us willing give up a lot of equally valuable information in exchange for those services. The personal data Facebook mines from us is sold to other companies and used for market analysis, as well for generating personally targeted advertisements. A great wealth of information is produced thru all the clicks and likes and views from the users. All this data could go to good uses the private sector is not likely to be concerned with. Collection of census data and statistics for aiding scientific research are some of the immediate possibilities.

 

There is a need for people to have greater control over their information and how it is used. Perhaps not only a need, but a right. Then, beyond the issue of how our information is used, there’s the issue of how information filters to us through our “feeds.” The posts we see from our friends and the pages we follow (as well as advertisers) are sifted and prioritized based on hidden algorithms. There should be concern about how this system can create personal bubbles and opinion echo-chambers. Not to mention how it could influence people’s mental states (based on whether they see more police shootings or puppy videos, for example).

Categories: 
organization
Categories: 
social
Themes: 
Community Action
Pattern status: 
Draft

Archeodata

Problem: 
The amount of information that we have gathered as a species, be it in digital, analog or mental formats, is staggering, but a great deal of it has simply been abandoned after it's discovery or creation. The amount of man-hours dedicated to the countless forms of information analysis by as many individuals is incalculable, but a vast array of results from those analyses is or could be readily available to any community seeking niche information. At the time of writing this entry, it was estimated that there exists over 295 exabytes of information stored digitally. A fair amount of this information may be corrupted, duplicates or even the product of random generation, but a fair amount of it is also unique.
Context: 

Archeodata is distinctly separate from cultural knowledge in that the information it contains was only relevant to it's pursuer(s) and was later abandoned. This does not necessarily mean the information has been lost completely, only that it has been virtually forgotten and/or assumed to have no value. Possible examples could include analytic or statistical data, blueprints, music or computer code, while examples such as social mores, traditions, biological drives, simple relics, physical remains or any modern common knowledge (regardless of "age"/source) would not constitute archeodata. While the medium containing the data itself can sometimes offer addition physical data, what is important to defining archeodata is the presence of qualitative and/or quantitative information that has for all intents and purposes been abandoned, but can/could be accessed and applied to developing new, "cutting edge" perspectives.

Discussion: 
As a species we excel at information organization and dissemination. We are rare in that we are capable of mirroring behavior we have not physically seen but instead visualized through analysis of abstract information. The historic correlation between new methods of information dispersal and social "progress" is well accepted, e.g. the advent of writing, the creation of the printing press and telegraph, television and radios. These new technologies have, over the centuries, allowed progressively more information to be made accessible, and with modern digital communication we are now able to disseminate vast amounts of information quickly and easily.
 
Humanity is the only species known to encode and transmit information through abstract symbolism, i.e. writing, allowing a healthy amount of current understanding to have already been built on archeodata. Modern archaeology and anthropology are focus heavily on the recovery and study of ancient archeodata while many of the modern "hard" sciences owe significant breakthroughs to the recovery and synthesis of the same. For example, during the 1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak Dr John Snow tracked outbreaks of the disease using a standard dot map/Voronoi diagram, then famously used the data to identify the source of the outbreak as the public well on Broad Street. Afterwards, officials rejected his assertion that water was responsible for bearing the disease and his data was abandoned until 1866 when his information was used to combat a similar outbreak in Bromley. These studies were of minor interest to the medical community at the time, but several decades later were of great interest to Pasteur, Cook and Lister as they established modern germ theory. More recently, there is much debate on the ethics of using data from the infamous Nazi freezing experiments, which remains some of our only data on death from exposure. Conversely, after the death of Nokolai Tesla many of his notes were initially seized by the US government, and after declassification showed theories applicable to to modern plasma torches, radar and wireless networks.
 
The issue of privacy does not apply to true archeodata because it has, by nature, been abandoned or lost, and thus assumed to possess no value by laypersons. Information is only considered sensitive or private when it's dispersal could potentially impact ones freedoms, but this obviously does not apply to what has been discarded. For example, online fetish communities often include a clause in their membership agreement that members cannot use any information about other members obtained through any means for any purpose; this is done with the stated intention of creating a "safe space" or judgement-free community where members can explore interests without social repercussions. Likewise, government surveillance of citizens is a hotly debated topic with similar arguments for and against, where, conversely, examining the sexuality of various historic cultures is as widely accepted as our poring over ancient journals and entering tombs. A defining hallmark of archeodata is that the information holds no value to whomever, if anyone, is aware of it.
 
Much data already exists, but in addition to organization it also requires verification. For example, until the recovery and translation of Homer's epic cycle the existence of the city of Troy had been forgotten. It was found after centuries of searching evidence to verify the data that had been implied. Conversely, while the existence of Atlantis or Camelot has been implied by various recovered sources there is much more evidence against their existences then for them.  
 
Archeodata is not limited to information or statistics. A fantastic amount of software code has been written that is considered largely obsolete, ranging from machine-specific drivers to video games, and occasionally this type of information proves useful, or at least entertaining. Conversely, the rate at which software and digital hardware develop can make recovering this type of data difficult: after going out of business, the contractor that built the US military's inventory of A-10 Thunderbolts simply threw out their schematics, forcing the US Air Force to scavenge existing parts until they learned how to build suitable replacements. Similarly, NASA engineers attempting to access old Apollo mission schematics found contemporary hardware incompatible with older storage mediums while the original computers were completely inoperable. Likewise, ancient music has been the subject of much curiosity, but while many ancient instruments have been unearthed relatively few cultures through histories had developed a system of music notation and many of the ancient ones we don't know how to read. 
 
There also comes the unfortunate truth that at some point, data that is of interest to us now will also lose relevance. Our intense desire to analyze our environment is matched only by our desire to preserve our individual analyses, and it is impossible for one to predict all the ways in which information can be used. Many groups intentionally store archeodata in many forms, ranging from humble time capsules to massive national archives. Perhaps the Ur example of the intentional preperation of archeodata is Wikipedia's Terminal Event Management Policy: should a "non-localized event... render the continuation of Wikipedia in its current form untenable" occur, a series of protocols have been developed to increase the chances of the Wikimedia Foundations data banks being preserved. The "worst-case scenario" scenario, with ten minutes or less until failure, involves broadcasting the entire database, compressed, into space via radio telescopes around the world. Conversely, since 1983 the US Department of Energy has been struggling to figure out how to label nuclear waste disposal sites in such a way that their contents will be recognizable as dangerous for the length of their existence, or about 10,000 years. It feels safe to assume that in the space of that time our language and culture may be lost where artifacts remain, thus leaving the correct archeodata in an accessible way might be our only responsible option.
 
Data is much like a physical tool in that in can be applied to achieve desired results from the natural world, and in that sense finding new data is sort of like finding that a strange tool: you recognize that it is what it is, even if you just don't know what to do with it, until that perfect moment comes along when everything "clicks" and you see exactly how it can be used. The key is to remembering that even if you can use something as a wrench, that doesn't mean you might not be able to use it later on as a screwdriver or a hammer. 
Solution: 

While the internet and digital communications have already drastically increased accessibility to archeodata, there are vast archives and databases which remain, for whatever reasons, inaccessible. Communities wishing to prepare archeodata for future discovery must preserve it accordingly in an accessible manner, whether digital or analog. The advent of digital communications allow for quick and easy dissemination of large amounts of data, but with the very real possibility of network failure or hardware malfunctions the need for backups is obvious. Adding "tags" to data, or small external pieces of information by which the larger can be identified/sorted, has also shown to be a reliable means of sorting large amounts of information, e.g. the Dewey decimal system, internet tags.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

There already exists a profound amount of information, however that is really all much of it does. Countless individuals have compiled or accumulated vast amounts of data, used it for their purposes and then left it abandoned. This does not negate the validity of their data, but it does insinuate the need for making it accessible. 

Adapting Change

David Hubert
CIRAL/CIRAN
Problem: 

Heraclitus of Ephesus wrote that of all the things in the world, "change is the only constant." As time goes on, circumstances beyond controlling will occur and and communities will be required to adapt to new conditions, but the nature of some types of change and/or how rapidly the transition occurs isn't always our favor. There also usually exists a correlation between the speed with which change occurs and the amount of supporting systems disrupted by this change, most often to their detriment. Many factors and situations are beyond our individual control while the end-state of change is uncertain at best, so when we recognize the process of change beginning to occur we do what we can to influence the factors we actually can control. If it is decided that action is needed to mitigate change then the nature of that action must be determined first; as Kwama Nkrumah wrote "action without thought is empty, [and] thought without action is blind.” Great care must be taken to avoid unnecessary disruption, and a balance must be found between planning and execution, ensuring that appropriate steps are taken while ensuring they are taken before control of a given situation is lost. 

Context: 
This pattern applies to any community engaged in a decision-making process. Many issues and possible changes are not time sensitive per se, but situations can easily occur at many scales where foregone or even delayed action would be detrimental to the community. Recognizing this type of situation falls on the members of this community, but this comes with the caveats that not all situations are as time- sensitive as they may appear, and that predicted end-states and rates of transition may not reflect reality. 
Discussion: 
Wikipedia defines time as "the indefinite continued progression of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future." From that, the process of change begins with the past, the staging and valuing of variables, then moving through the present by interacting with one another, then unfolding into their end-state in the future. The Hopi saw time as an environment that one moved through, like riding down a river winding through a constantly changing countryside, but thus far both science and philosophy have failed to produce a working model of time.
 
Also much like being swept down an unknown river, change is as unpredictable as it is inevitable. This vagueness makes change a very two-sided coin, offering either hope, or, more often then not, dread, for, as H.P. Lovecraft wrote, "the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." Numerous studies have shown that the brain operates very differently under different circumstances. Hunger, sleep deprivation and sex all affect our decision-making processes differently, but few drives cause more irrational behavior then fear. When faced with change, especially at larger scales, it can be very easy to slip into an emergency mindset, to lose sight of the bigger picture in lieu a seemingly large detail, but it is usually impossible to  truly say what changes would be good or bad for us just as we cannot accurately say what changes would be good or bad for others. This stems from the simple facts that "good" and "bad" are relative to the observer and that we cannot truly predict the range of consequences from our actions. Returning to the "time as a river" perspective, it is also important to note that it is not really a river, especially in terms of where it might take one. It seems to operate much more like a river delta: broad, steady, and filled with possibilities. 
 
However, this fear of change is not without reason. Any type of change, any adjustment of variables within a given system, inherently causes disruption among adjacent entities. Most often the scale and/or intensity of this disruption is proportional to the rate at which this change occurs, i.e. c=vtc being the change occurring to a given system, v being the disruption of adjacent/interdependent systems, and t being the duration of time this change takes to occur. For example, if one were to dig a hole, one would have many options to achieve this end. The obvious solution would be to use a shovel, causing minimal collateral damage but taking a fair amount of time, where a diesel-powered excavator would certainly be faster but would tear up a lot of other ground. Moving further towards the extremes, an archaeologist can use brushes and trowels to carefully remove dirt over months or years, but with some artfully placed explosives you can have a hole dug in seconds. The perfectly valid concern held by those worried about change is ultimately over exactly which adjacent systems will be affected.
Solution: 

Changing times will require communities to change with them, but top-tier objectives, e.g. ensuring basic survival, rarely change, if ever, and what constitutes top-tier objective(s) must be identified by the community in question. That said, communities must remain flexible in their goals and be willing to adjust for new information and situations, e.g. recognizing when a lower tier objective is no longer feasible or when one method can achieve an objective better than another. Additionally, communities may often identify critical points of failure or obvious challenges within their own system(s) and develop contingencies accordingly. Intentional avoidance of "load-bearing" positions, e.g. having one person without whom the system cannot function, goes a long way towards ensuring stability, as do maintaining standardized communications, including documentation, language and data formatting, to ensure that the correct information can be found by those seeking it. Perhaps most importantly, communities must adopt the mindset of survival, of finding a balance between flexibility to go with some change and the rigidity to resist other, the willingness to "make it happen" in spite of external influence.Solution: Changing times will require communities to change with them, but top-tier objectives, e.g. ensuring basic survival, rarely change, if ever, and what constitutes top-tier objective(s) must be identified by the community in question. That said, communities must remain flexible in their goals and be willing to adjust for new information and situations, e.g. recognizing when a lower tier objective is no longer feasible or when one method can achieve an objective better than another. Additionally, communities may often identify critical points of failure or obvious challenges within their own system(s) and develop contingencies accordingly. Intentional avoidance of "load-bearing" positions, e.g. having one person without whom the system cannot function, goes a long way towards ensuring stability, as do maintaining standardized communications, including documentation, language and data formatting, to ensure that the correct information can be found by those seeking it. Perhaps most importantly, communities must adopt the mindset of survival, of finding a balance between flexibility to go with some change and the rigidity to resist other, the willingness to "make it happen" in spite of external influence.

Categories: 
orientation
Categories: 
organization
Themes: 
Education
Themes: 
Globalism and Localism
Themes: 
Community Action
Themes: 
Case Studies
Verbiage for pattern card: 
 Determining which steps to take is just as important as actually taking them, but in a time-sensitive environment, action and thought must be carefully balanced. Communities must be able to recognize where change is occuring/will occur as well as which rates of change are favorable, which are not, and which ones can be regulated or negated.
Pattern status: 
Released

Folly

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
40
Version: 
3
Verbiage for pattern card: 

"To qualify as folly ... the policy adopted must meet three criteria: it must have been perceived as counter-productive in its own time, not merely by hindsight. ... Secondly a feasible alternative course of action must have been available. ... third ... the policy in question should be that of a group, not an individual leader." — Barbara Tuchman

Neighborhood based Community Health Workers

Pattern ID: 
913
Michael O'Neill
Healthy Living Collaborative
Version: 
1
Problem: 

Fragmented systems of service delivery that are intended to deliver health, social wellbeing, and safety are in need of course correction to address severe disparities in health and welbeing that exist.  The mandate of health care reform from the Affordable Care Act is to improve care, improve population health outcomes, and lower costs. In Washington State the timeline to accomplish this is five years.

 

How can organizations that have traditionally delivered units of care shift towards providing access to wellness for a population which creates health equity, increases local capacity, and transforms payment and delivery systems?

Solution: 

Community Health Workers are an emerging solution to this problem as shown by a case study of the Healthy Living Collaborative project in Southwest Washington and other similar projects which it is modeled after.  Community Health Workers (CHWs) are trusted community members among the people they serve who can fill a variety of culturally appropriate roles.  These roles increase access for the CHWs friends, family, neighbors, and peers to resources, knowledge, and skills that promote wellness.  CHWs are a credible voice for the lived experience of local needs and play a critical role in translating this information across cultural, social, and organizational boundaries.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Community Health Workers are an emerging solution to this problem as shown by a case study of the Healthy Living Collaborative project in Southwest Washington and other similar projects which it is modeled after.  Community Health Workers (CHWs) are trusted community members among the people they serve who can fill a variety of culturally appropriate roles.  These roles increase access for the CHWs friends, family, neighbors, and peers to resources, knowledge, and skills that promote wellness.  CHWs are a credible voice for the lived experience of local needs and play a critical role in translating this information across cultural, social, and organizational boundaries.

Pattern status: 
Draft

Inteligencia Cívica

Group Name: 
Spanish translations of Liberating Voices card verbiage
Version: 
1
Verbiage for pattern card: 

Inteligencia cívica describe que tan bien grupos de personas persiguen fines cívicos a través de medios cívicos.  Inteligencia Cívica hace la pregunta crítica: Es la sociedad suficientemente inteligente para afrontar los desafíos que se le presentan?  La inteligencia cívica requiere aprendizaje y enseñanza. También requiere meta-cognición – el pensar y realmente mejorar como pensamos y trabajamos juntos.

Shared/Group Trust

Isaac Smith
CIRAL
Taking ownership in small of a greater responsibility beyond our individuality.
Version: 
1
Problem: 

We often automatically contribute the trustworthiness to a name or a brand. This may be acceptable and common, but hazardous as well. There are times when we are not aware of how much impact we have upon on organization/company/group. When mistakes happen blame is passed and no one wants to take ownership. This creates friction in a situation where solutions are being halted.

Context: 

When, say, a cruise company's ships began malfunctioning too often they lose major business. The company is to blame, yes, but the malfunction of the ship is not a specific mistake of the CEO of the company. This mistake trickles down through the hierarchy. There is an inspection missed and a part that arrived defective from another company.

The employee that missed this seemingly insignificant inspection has caused harm to lives and the company’s profits. Loss of trust of this (hypothetical) cruise company is an affect of one person’s small but very important task not properly followed through.

Discussion: 

In regards to Social and Political Capital we often forget that no one person literally does everything involved in what upholds said trust given to them. We live in a society where roles exist for sake of structure. Just as a multibillionaire company can feel the impact of one employees action or lack thereof, so can an individual of great trust in political and social realms feel the loss of capital due to those they entrust not being aware the of the part of that trust that they own.

If money driven companies and important figures rely on the varying elements of trust that need to be in place for them to exist, how much more do Non-profit organizations need to be mindful of this shared trust that exists?

Solution: 

There is an importance of having constant awareness of the trust given to us as individuals within companies, organizations, committee, etc. Our actions have the ability to progress as well as hinder the collective goal that we are a part of. Even when we do know, mistakes can be made. Through this awareness, however, mistakes are less frequent and the path to redemption is swift when they occur. We all have a piece of the puzzle that we are responsible.

Categories: 
engagement
Categories: 
social
Themes: 
Social Critique
Themes: 
Theory

Circumvention

Bryan
Version: 
1
Problem: 

Censorship and deliberate misinformation plague the modern media, the internet access of many countries, and traditional news sources. The ultimate challenge to a power structure comes from the ability of people under it to understand it. Without understanding and knowledge of a power, one cannot mount the offense needed to dismantle or change it.

Context: 

Any system of power, society, or decision-making apparatus that aims to maintain power or govern and anybody who is affected by it.

Discussion: 

Those in power have become quite adept at hiding information from public view that could threaten their ability to retain it. Governments and corporations worldwide engage in efforts to censor the flow of this information and the ability of people to discuss and act on it. Because circumvention is an inevitable by-product of censorship, they also work to plant misinformation to satisfy the inherent human need to know.

Misinformation, on its own, is not dangerous. To take an example, a conspiracy theorist's views or slanted media coverage are not particularly dangerous as the marketplace of ideas should be able to neutralize them and give people better options. Unfortunately, the marketplace of ideas among traditional media sources is severely weakened. According to FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), "Almost all media that reach a large audience in the United States are owned by for-profit corporations--institutions that by law are obligated to put the profits of their investors ahead of all other considerations. The goal of maximizing profits is often in conflict with the practice of responsible journalism." According to Ben Bagdikian who published "The Media Monopoly" which analyzes increasing consolidation of media ownership in the United States, less than six companies own over 90% of media in the country. Misinformation is easily discredited and neutralized by having access to alternative viewpoints but with less than 10% of media outlets being independent, how can people really have access to those viewpoints?

When combined with censorship, misinformation becomes incredibly dangerous. Censorship aims to prevent people from accessing information. The censor becomes the sole decider as to who can access what information. The posterchild of this problem are nations controlled by totalitarian regimes such as North Korea. In North Korea, the independent press is simply outlawed and the average person is not even allowed to use the internet. Those reporting accounts which differ from the official government stance are often imprisoned, sent to "re-habilitation" camps, killed, or simply "disappeared" in the night. When censorship is combined with misinformation, the market of ideas is simply killed.

Circumvention is both a tactic and a strategy for reviving the marketplace of ideas, exposing corruption, and re-enabling the free flow of information. While most people think of circumvention as being a technological measure, it doesn't necessarily need to involve a modem, an internet connection, or a computer. Circumvention simply needs a method to access an uncensored repository of information. This repository could be a person from a foreign country who brings in contraband documents with them or an illicit billboard exposing government misinformation.

Technological circumvention is perhaps the most widespread and useful type of circumvention. As more and more nations decide to censor the internet and place limits on what people can do online, the ability to bypass firewalls and remain anonymous becomes more and more important. Technological circumvention tools include proxies, peer-to-peer networks, and rogue websites which operate outside the jurisdiction of their censors.

Rogue websites are perhaps the simplest form of technological circumvention. By hosting websites outside of the jurisdiction of the censorsing country, the censor loses the ability to control access to these websites. Many blogs critical of the Chinese government, for example, are hosted in the United States where they are safe from censors.

Peer-to-peer networks enable people to bypass censorship and access media content that might not be available through traditional means such as web access. They can exist solely within a nation, circumventing the need to go through a government firewall. Because of the diversity of peer-to-peer networks and the difficulty in indexing them for censorship purposes, they are powerful tools for distributing archives of documents, videos, photos, circumvention tools, and other static content. Unfortunately, they are difficult to use for web browsing or interactive communication. Examples of peer-to-peer networks include BitTorrent, GNUNet, and Freenet.

Proxies and proxy networks are the most versatile technological circumvention tools. They give people under censorship the ability to connect to peer-to-peer networks which they are barred from accessing, browse the web, use the internet anonymously, and, in some cases, host websites and online services of their own. Many one-hop proxies and Virtual Private Networks such as Xerobank exist, but they only protect ones anonymity and circumvention abilities to the extent that they can continue to operate and stand by their users. As they hold the keys to de-masking users and disabling their internet access, these providers often roll over under government pressure. Proxy networks are different as they route a user through several different proxy servers which do not have the ability to single-handedly betray the user. The most technologically advanced proxy network at this time is Tor. It routes a user's connection through three different proxy servers none of which can demask the user without the collusion of the others. The connections are all encrypted making them too difficult to eavesdrop on and the network makes efforts to hide it's "network signature" meaning even the most sophisticated firewall can't block it as there is no way to differentiate between Tor and other services such as online bakning. As an added feature, it also provides the ability to people to anonymously host websites in a 'darknet' where every user is anonymous. Another example of a proxy network is I2P which contains many similar features but it not as popular or useful as Tor.

Solution: 

People must build tools and networks to make it easier to engage in circumvention and these tools must be widespread enough to be useful in times of social unrest and crisis. New methods for building these tools must be discovered as circumvention is ultimately a cat-and-mouse game.

Pattern status: 
Draft

Activist Road Trip

Pattern ID: 
611
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
134
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

It is surprising how little people really experience and learn when they travel. They often seem to be in a hurry to get to a certain place where their friends or relatives live or where the media or other "expert" has told them they should go. Many people would like to see and learn about how people live and the challenges they face, but it’s often difficult to do. Since there is apparently scant profit in trips that would help bridge cultures and encourage understanding, there is little support for it. Also, for most people in the world, travel is costly, is sometimes perceived as dangerous, and there are lots of borders that can block our progress.

Context: 

In an era of globalization, problems are no longer confined to local areas. Also, in an era of heightened fear-mongering, paranoia and suspicions about others, the importance of building bridges individually and in groups can't be stressed enough. One of the best antidotes to propaganda is first-hand knowledge and personal ties to people in different regions.

Discussion: 

Travel offers immeasurable insights if people are receptive to them and have meaningful experiences while on the road. The trouble is, of course, that "it's possible to travel all around the world and not get anywhere at all." The Activist Road Trip pattern is designed to prevent that from happening.

Lori Blewett and I just returned from a trip to Venezuela with twenty-five students. Our ultimate destination was Caracas, Venezuela, one of the three locations of the "polycentric" World Social Forum in 2006, but we visited Barquisemeto and the small hillside village of Sanare. Our tour was conducted by Global Exchange, a non-profit organization located in California, that leads "Reality Tours" to nearly 30 countries including Afghanistan, China, Ireland, Mexico, India, Iran, the Mexican-US border, and Cuba. We visited a number of community centers, health clinics, educational missions, agricultural cooperatives, and housing developments set up by the Chávez government. Also, during the bus drive from Barquisemeto to Caracas our guide briefed us about recent Venezuelan history from the point of view of Chávez supporters as well as detractors. Global Exchangeset up numerous presentations including one from an economics professor (with opposition leanings) who explained some of the particularities of the Venezuelan economy. We also had ample opportunities to converse with people at the forum.

Activist road trips can provide more meaning than standard, non-activist, road trips. But how is the pattern employed? At a basic level, people can simply go on an activist road trip. This means pursuing activist activities — especially learning — while "on the road." The preferred mode of transportation is by foot, bicycle, or car; possibly by bus or train; and probably not by airplane where unscheduled stops and flexible timetables aren't allowed. This is not to suggest that the trip should be haphazard or random — just that serendipity is likely to come into play (and chance favors the prepared mind). Thinking about the trip ahead of time, planning for it, arranging to meet with various people and organizations in advance is very useful — just don't over schedule or otherwise become slave to your plan. A simple way to "ground" the trip is to attend events at the destination and at points along the way. Events could include anything from a mass rally to a simple breakfast with friends of friends. And don't forget to record your impressions during the trip and debrief and discuss upon your return.

People can always elect to go on an Activist Road Trip but the concept itself must be institutionalized to make it easier for people in general to go on these trips and, ideally, to build active networks of people who are interested in similar issues. As with other patterns we concentrate on how to promote this incrementally, with little pieces that organically build towards larger networks or assemblies, rather than through a grand, top-down, plan. Therefore we must build upon the basic components: physical locations, activists (hosts, guest, and guides), information and means of getting from one place to the next. Many “pieces” of this pattern now exist. When, for example, punk rock aficionados, travel they often share information with each other — who’s cool in the next town, whose couch is available, etc. This works—at least to some degree for the punk community, but what if a non-punk (like me?) wants to meet with some punks or if a punk wants to find out more about a non-punk group?

The chore is to help promote processes and ideas to build a thriving alternative to existing approaches to travel that are disconnected and disengaged. Ideally each visit helps to build the network while advancing positive social change. How can the network promote people from different communities getting together? Some of the pieces that we can envision include integrated calendar of events and atlases specifically designed for this type of trip. These atlases would necessarily be dynamic — events as well as the non-profits, infoshops and other host organizations — are often short-lived.

Of course the above discussion suggests that the point of the road trip is to visit activist sites along the way. Another approach is going on a road trip as activists. The Bee Hive Collective that travels throughout Latin American and develops intricate and beautiful murals that illustrate indigenous issues and struggles, and the Miss Rockaway Armada that traveled down the Mississippi River in the summer of 2006 to share art, music, environmentalism and an anarchist perspective with everyone they met, are great examples of this. In both of those cases, the groups essentially brought their activism with them. The ultimate activist road trip in the U.S. would have to be the Freedom Rides in the spring of 1961 where activists traveling on buses from Washington, DC to various towns and cities in the deep South to publicize their fight for civil rights were met with racist violence that was only quelled after federal intervention.

A person implementing this pattern should expect a number of challenges. For example, people working in one activist destination could be overwhelmed by large numbers of people “passing through.” It is incumbent on the traveler to make sure that the host is not taken advantage of. Visitors must be sensitive to their host's situation and aware of their responsibilities as guests. Encounters between visitor and host, important as they are, have several potential complications. Who knows that the “field trip” to, say, a worker's collective is not to a "Potemkin village" that has been carefully "staged" in order to convey certain impressions to the guests, perhaps in a bid for funding. And how do we ensure that the visitors to a favella in Rio De Janeiro, a township in Capetown, or to the South Bronx, are not simply treating what they're witnessing as a spectacle.

The possibility exists that when any destination is made public, in an “atlas,” for example, hostile townspeople might choose to harass the travelers or the host. There could also be other types of vexing side-effects. If, for example, people in the hosting situation were serving food to visitors, the local health department could decide to pay a call on an “illegal dining establishment.” Also, the network is built on social relationships and the ones encountered in an Activist Road Trip are more likely to be dynamic than more established venues.

There are dozens of possible places to visit on an Activist Road Trip: activist organizations, collectives, shelters, migrant camps, small businesses, reservations, encampments, sanctuaries, labor halls, organic farms, conferences, concerts, environmental disasters, prisons, community media centers, barrios, refugee camps, etc. Ideally the travelers could stop at "World Citizen Travel Bureaus" along the way or at "People's Embassies" or, even a "Museum of Civil Society" — if people create them!

And People can add an Activist Road Trip to another trip. Rather than fly in to their destination, dropping in out of the sky as it were, people could explore the region en route to, or returning from, the event to observe first hand the realities that the forum examines. This can even be done within the city itself. One doesn't have to travel very far — physically — to find unexplored regions. The Activist Road Trip can be done in your own region or city.

Note: The photo above is from The Miss Rockaway Armada activist road trip.

Solution: 

References: Bridging the Global Gap; Global Exchange web sites & other literature

Categories: 
orientation
Categories: 
engagement
Themes: 
Digital Divide
Themes: 
Research for Action
Themes: 
Education
Themes: 
Community Action
Themes: 
Social Movement
Themes: 
Case Studies
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Travel offers immeasurable insights if people are receptive to them. The trouble is, of course, that it's possible to travel all around the world and not get anywhere at all. The Activist Road Trip pattern is used whenever activism is combined with travel. Activist Road Trips can be long or short; meditative or obstreperous. One doesn't have to physically travel very far to find unexplored regions sometimes in one's own region or city.

Pattern status: 
Released
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