collaboration

Online Anti-Poverty Community

Pattern ID: 
743
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
103
Penny Goldsmith
PovNet
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Anti-poverty advocates and activists are isolated in their own communities. They often do not have the communications and education and training resources they need to do their work. Poor people do not have the information they need to exercise control over their lives and get the resources to which they are entitled or to advocate effectively for themselves.

Lack of access to communication severely limits opportunities for building communities where poor people can help themselves access the resources they need and for advocates and activists in the anti-poverty community to be involved in organizing for social change locally, nationally and internationally.

Context: 

The players in this online movement include poor people and advocates involved with community advocacy groups, settlement workers, multicultural groups, seniors organizations, disability groups, legal aid, test case interveners, labor organizations, public libraries, women

Discussion: 

Poverty is a debilitating worldwide problem that affects poor people directly as well as society at large. Although access to information and resources is critical to overcoming poverty and alleviating the problems of people living in poverty, poor people and anti-poverty advocates traditionally have less access to the Internet and other communications technologies.

Although poverty and computers do not make for an obvious alliance, it is clear the two worlds must connect unless we want to have a society where access to information and resources is only for those who can afford it.

Public access sites are rarely adequate to satisfy public need; users need people to help them do online research and free printers to print out forms and information. Hosts of public access sites need funding to keep equipment up-to-date and tech support to keep computers and Internet connections running smoothly. Lack of access to communication makes it difficult to connect communities in the anti-poverty world outside their local regions.

PovNet is a non-profit society created in British Columbia, Canada in 1997. It is an online resource for anti-poverty advocates and poor people, created to assist poor people and advocates involved in the communities identified above through an integration of offline and online technology and resources.

PovNet works with advocates and activists across Canada involved in direct case work and social action and justice. Some of these groups include:

* The National Anti-Poverty Organization (http://www.napo-onap.ca/), a national voice for poor people, working to eliminate poverty in Canada

* The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (http://www.policyalternatives.ca/), a left-wing think tank doing research for change in social policy

* Canadian Social Research Links (http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/), an all-inclusive resource for social policy information about poverty in Canada

* DisAbled Women's Network of Ontario (http://dawn.thot.net/), an online inclusive community fostering virtual activism and individual empowerment locally and globally

* The Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) (http://www.fafia-afai.org/home.php), a coalition of over 50 Canadian women’s equality-seeking and related organizations organized to further women’s equality in Canada through domestic implementation of its international human rights commitments.

* The Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC) (http://www.tdrc.net/), a group of social policy, health care and housing experts, academics, business people, community health workers, social workers, AIDS activists, anti-poverty activists, people with homelessness experience, and members of the faith community who provide advocacy on housing and homelessness issues and lobby the Canadian government to end homelessness by implementing a fully funded National Housing Program.

PovNet has become an online home for advocates in BC and across Canada. Its Web site provides regularly updated information about issues and policy changes.

Using PovNet resources is an interactive process. Advocates learn the tools because they find them useful in order to do the social justice and case work that they care about; poor and otherwise marginalized people find the Web site when they need information that is relevant to their lives.

For example, PovNet email lists have grown over the years into invaluable resources for specific campaigns (for example the Raise the Rates campaigns in both Ontario and British Columbia to raise welfare rates). They also provide an online support network for advocates working in sometimes quite isolated areas in British Columbia or in other parts of Canada.

As one advocate put it: "I love the PovNet list - on the lighter side there's the kibitzing going on amongst the subscribers which often brings me to laughter - always a good thing in this job. On the serious side - the exchange of ideas and generous sharing of experience is a huge boon to those of us who often don't have time to pick up the phone to seek advice from our colleagues."

Another subscriber says: "The lists that I am a subscriber provide me with first-hand current information on what issues are affecting BC residents and/or newcomers. I am able to provide useful information and referrals to some of the requests coming through PovNet lists. They are an invaluable and efficient resource for community advocates, settlement and family workers, especially those issues that are time-sensitive and need an immediate response."

Other PovNet tools include a Web site which is updated once a month with new information, online education and training courses (PovNet U) for poor people (for example the course, "Be Your Own Advocate") and for advocates ("Introduction to Advocacy," "Disability Appeals" and "Tenants' Rights"), as well as an online space for anti-poverty community groups to have their own Web spaces, calendars, and discussion boards.

PovNet is a flexible in that it can adapt to needs as specific campaigns emerge. For example, we set up an email list for a new campaign to raise welfare rates, and created an online hub for papers and press releases when a group of anti-poverty activists traveled to the United Nations in Geneva to speak on behalf of the social and economic rights of poor people in Canada.

Building a successful online movement in anti-poverty communities includes, first and foremost, the people. Start by finding local community workers who want to broaden their connections, getting together key people (without computers) to talk about what is needed and identify the technological limitations, communicate with advocates and activists in diverse anti-poverty communities, both urban and rural, First Nations, aboriginal, different cultural communities, disability groups, women, youth, seniors, workers, human rights and anti-poverty workers, and international anti-poverty workers.

Then identify the barriers, which could include access to the technology (education, money, literacy, language), how to share information, resources and skills between "have" and "have-not" advocacy communities (e.g. community advocates and advocates in funded agencies, etc.), researching how to provide online resources in languages other than English and how to provide an online space for poor people to communicate and access information via public access sites and interactive Web-based resources.

Barriers for advocates and activists using PovNet tools have changed over the years. Initially, fear of technology was a big factor. But as advocates observed its use as a communications tool, they taught and continue to teach each other. Money for computers and printers is an ongoing problem; as the technology demands higher-end equipment. For example, advocates in rural communities with dialup access get frustrated with attachments that take up all their dialup time. The anti-poverty work becomes harder as governments slash social services; the advocates have fewer resources to do their work. Technology cannot address such needs.

Despite the difficulties, the network continues to grow, establish links with other organizations both in Canada and internationally, and exchange ideas and strategies for advancing social change.

Solution: 

The most effective online anti-poverty communities are constructed from the bottom up rather than the top down. Their resources are defined and created by advocates and poor people to address the need for online anti-poverty activism as it arises. Electronic resources can provide additional tools, but they are activated and made useful by the underlying human and locally based networks where the work of advocacy is actually being done.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Because anti-poverty advocates and activists often don't have the education and training resources or communications they need, their opportunities for building communities are limited. At the same time, poor and marginalized people don't have the information they need to exercise control over their lives or get the resources they need. The most effective online anti-poverty communities are defined and created by advocates and poor people to address needs as they arise.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
PovNet

Shared Vision

Pattern ID: 
438
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
101
Stewart Dutfield
Marist College
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

In any collective enterprise, the participants have diverse goals and points of view. Not everyone will agree that a given course of action is the best available, and the results of collective action may not meet all expectations. Not knowing that they are pursuing dissimilar goals, people may work at cross purposes. Over time, especially where involvement is voluntary, commitment to the enterprise may erode or the group may become less diverse.

Context: 

Organizations dedicated to a social or environmental issue attract people from diverse backgrounds, with strong feelings and differing levels of experience and interest. Such a group is bound together by the common concerns of a diverse membership, and those who feel underserved within the group may dissipate the efforts of the group or take their energies elsewhere. Building upon and integrating shared concerns into a shared vision helps members to focus their involvement in the group, so as to better orient their energies toward the collective enterprise.

Discussion: 

A McKinsey report on nonprofits states that not-for-profit organizations have a special need for a vision as a means to guide their actions and evaluate outcomes. A “compelling, easy-to-understand description of how the nonprofit would like the world to change in the next three-to-five years, what role the organization will play in that change, and how the nonprofit will measure the success of its role” (Kilpatrick & Silverman, 2004, p. 3), the vision should pervade the organization’s activities: an ultimate guide for making decisions and setting goals in alignment with collective values and aspirations.

A vision should express values, purpose, and progress toward a better future. It should be neither too specific nor too general. Detailed goals, though necessary, do not belong in the vision itself; they easily become outdated, either once they are attained or when unforeseen opportunities and unexpected consequences occur. On the other hand, noble sentiments and statements of principle do not always easily translate into action under complex circumstances.

A shared vision should be clear and compelling, aspirational for a better world in the future, and describable in simple terms. It should be capable of being understood as a common purpose, and of acting as a guideline for evaluating decisions and outcomes on a continuing basis. Nanus (1992) recommends that a vision be challenging but realistic, and developed by people throughout the organization.

The content of a shared vision is less important than the life it brings to the organization. Peter Senge quotes Robert Fritz that "It's not what the vision is, it's what the vision does." (Scharmer, 1996, para. 30). A shared vision comes from the individual visions of group members; it becomes a force for action through the process of becoming shared. The difference between the shared vision and current reality should generate energy for change. Through its use, a shared vision should ensure that strategic decisions and specific goals are aligned with the organization’s values.

To provide both accountability and allegiance to collective values and goals, a vision must be successfully put into practice. According to Etienne Wenger, "One can design visions, but one cannot design the allegiance necessary to align energies behind those visions." (1998, p. 229); members’ allegiance can, however, be encouraged in the way a group or organization enacts a shared vision—how its members live out their accountability to collective values and goals. One way to promote allegiance to a vision is to use and communicate it constantly; another is to promote behavior, both inside and outside the organization, which is consistent with the vision.

A shared vision lives constantly in tension with fast-changing and unpredictable circumstances. To pursue a vision while ignoring what is practical and relevant cannot sustain an organization, yet the vision is an essential guide to action through a succession of new circumstances and possibilities. Brinckerhoff (2003) believes that not-for-profit organizations should respond flexibly to external demands, while remaining in alignment with the collective purpose. By maintaining the shared vision, an organization learns not only how to do better, but also what better to do; “The world changes, and so must the vision.” (Nanus, 1992, p. 20).

A shared vision helps to guide an individual project with specific tasks and finite lifespan (Christenson & Walker, 2004). Developed in conjunction with stakeholders both within and outside the project members (for example, developers, funders, and the community at large), it helps people make sense of the project plan and their contributions to it. An easily understood, inspiring, credible and challenging vision can create and sustain the alignment of members’ energies, their enthusiasm and allegiance to the group, and their accountability to shared values and specific goals.

When a community or civic project first begins, participants may be highly enthusiastic, each with a strong conception of what the project should be. It is tempting to jump right in and assume that everybody shares the same vision. Proceeding from this ambiguous and contradictory beginning may lead to division and hard feelings within the group, and to unsound early decisions that become "built-in" to the system.

Developing a shared vision may be the single most important task for the group to accomplish at the outset. Developing shared perspectives on both the vision and the process for enacting it are indispensable for success. Good communication is essential; face-to-face group meetings, brainstorming and other methods of envisioning a collective future provide a forum for dialogue which e-mail, for example, can not address adequately.

Steve Cisler suggests the use of a spoked circle as a graphical decision aid to fine-tuning the vision. The circle represents the "space" of decisions and goals, and the endpoints of the spokes represent the two possible extremes of each decision. Cisler (1994) shows an example of the spoked-circle used by the Silicon Valley Public Access Link (SV-PAL) Project. The upright spoke, for example, might be labeled "architecture" and the location of the small circle on the spoke near the "distributed" endpoint depicts the decision to use a distributed architecture instead of a centralized one. A point on the middle of a spoke would indicate an intermediate position between the views represented by the endpoints.

There are no stringent requirements as to how to use the tool. Simply identifying the spokes can be an important first step, as the spokes clearly show which decisions are to be made. It may not be critical to determine the exact location of the spot indicating a decision. In some cases, a group may decide to postpone a decision, but it is a group decision, nevertheless, that ultimately must be made with others in the group. If it hadn't been resolved, for example, whether the network should be free to use or whether there should be fees, the organizers could say, "We're still trying to resolve this. Which approach do you think is best?" The tool can be used as a way to explain compromises or transitional circumstances by showing the current point in relation to the direction along which the developers plan to proceed. For example, when the system is launched it might be deemed necessary to charge users a small fee, but ultimately the system would be expected to be free to use.

Solution: 

Create, communicate, enact and maintain a shared vision. Create the vision early in the life of any collective enterprise; it will guide the actions of the group or organization as a whole, and for individual projects that the group undertakes. Clearly communicate the vision, and use it to guide strategy, decision-making and goal-setting. As circumstances change, be prepared to modify the vision to keep it alive and capable of energizing group members.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

A vision should express values, purpose, and aspirations for a better future in simple terms that everyone can understand as the basis for participation in the group. Developing a Shared Vision may be the single most important task for the group to accomplish at the outset. It will guide strategy development, decision-making and goal-setting of the group or organization and for individual projects that the group undertakes.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
William Blake

Appreciative Collaboration

Pattern ID: 
741
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
99
Stewart Dutfield
Marist College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Collaboration toward a shared goal is not always an uplifting experience; sometimes the problem is that there always seem to be problems. People can become discouraged in their work toward some common good. They suffer a dissonance between, on one hand, their enthusiasm for an uplifting cause and, on the other, the gritty reality of bringing it about. What seems at the outset to be a life-enhancing enterprise can produce frustration, burnout and turnover of group members.

Context: 

To pursue a shared goal is to seek a positive impact on the world: what David Cooperrider (1990) describes as a heliotropic movement, toward the light of a positive image of the future. As long as the group visualizes the positive contribution that its work will make, it will approach its work with optimism and hope. If pursuing the goal appears as the remediation of a deficit rather than movement toward a positive image, over time a focus on the negative will emerge.

Discussion: 

Conflict can affect a group of people positively or negatively; it can be functional or dysfunctional. Some level of conflict can lead to creativity, responsiveness to change, and learning from experience. Conflict becomes dysfunctional when it produces feelings of hostility, interferes with honest communication, and distracts from the shared goal. People become frustrated when conflict prevents them from achieving what they want to achieve. They may react through aggression, compromise or avoidance; each of these makes the situation worse than it was. The result is a diversion of the group’s attention to perceived problems with the collective enterprise: a language of deficit in which not merely the shared goal, but the group itself becomes a problem to be solved.

Geoffrey Bellman writes of the commitment, passion, and “aspiration for a larger life” (2000, p. 68) which energize people who seek to change the world for the better. If we can see the beauty in our collaborations, we can release the creativity that comes from a compelling vision of a future worth working for.

Human beings, the groups and organizations we work in, and the world we inhabit all contain the potential for this larger life. Through consistent attention to what is alive, and to what can be alive in the future, we can become more alive. The belief that that people are good and that they respond positively to being treated accordingly is well-grounded in research on the Pygmalion effect (Cooperrider, 1990). We respond to positive images of ourselves by regarding others more positively: by noticing their successes, remembering their strengths, and seeing challenges from a positive aspect.

An appreciative approach adopts a fourfold cycle of discovery, dreaming, design and destiny (Cooperrider & Whitney, 1999). It starts not by identifying a need or deficit, but by discovering the best of the current situation. It dreams or envisions what a better future might be, rather than analyzing what caused the deficit. In place of planning how to redress a deficit, it collectively constructs a design for a better future. Instead of acting to resolve a problem, this approach enacts a better future as its destiny.

To enact a better future suggests that a life-affirming end is a natural outcome of life-affirming means; we aspire to larger life in the world through larger life in ourselves and in our collaborations. If we learn to be drawn together by a positive image of each other, our collective effort “enhances the potential for creative, fresh human action toward a life-enhancing purpose” (Srivastva & Barrett, in Srivastva & Cooperrider, 1990, p. 386).

This can succeed if we continually revise our expectations of what we can achieve: to open new possibilities for ourselves, for those we collaborate with, and for the world we hope to improve. This requires that we continually learn by developing and revising “the norms, strategies and assumptions which specify what work gets done and what work is important to do” (Dixon, 1999, p. 48). We need to maintain a dialogue, with ourselves and others, about our individual and shared assumptions.

To better understand the value of others, we must suspend our own assumptions. People are seldom malicious or idiotic, but they often work from different assumptions; once we can understand these assumptions we can appreciate their value. For this reason, appreciating differences is critical to collaboration. Once we appreciate others’ concerns (Spinosa et al., 1997), we can embark on a dialogue about how to work together.

Appreciative collaboration assumes that differences are valuable, and focuses attention on what is positive in any situation; in place of a vocabulary of deficit, it offers a forward-looking language of hope. Combined with a clear shared vision, appreciative collaboration allows us to achieve life-affirming goals through life-affirming means.

Solution: 

Positive images of the future lead to positive actions. Consistently build positive expectations for the future on the basis of positive attributions to what has been achieved in the past. Constantly learn the value of others, and be prepared to change cherished assumptions if they undermine the larger life of the group.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

People working toward some common good can become discouraged when they experience the gritty reality of bringing it about. When the group visualizes the positive contribution that its work will make, it will approach its work with optimism and hope. Appreciative Collaboration encourages us to see the beauty in our collaborations, so we can release the creativity that comes from a compelling vision of a future worth working for.

Pattern status: 
Released

Informal Learning Groups

Pattern ID: 
757
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
98
Justin Smith
The Public Sphere Project & St. Mary's University
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Overemphasis upon formal education can lead to an oversight of alternative learning methods that could be more appropriate within certain contexts. Particularly, for adult populations looking to increase their understanding on relevant subjects, the option of pursuing formal training is not conducive due to the investment in time and extra resources it takes. As a result, people find it difficult to acquire the skills necessary for them to address a radically changing global economy, and thus many capable people continue to remain behind.

Context: 

In cities, in villages, in the work place, or an internet cafe, even in a coffee shop amongst friends, learning can and does take place. Individuals and groups of people can come together to share their knowledge in structured or non structured ways to actively engage one another to mutually build each others understandings. When other methods of learning are not available, and yet the skills necessary to gain better employment, or the building of awareness on specific issues facing a community are needed for achieving greater livelihoods; informal learning processes can serve as an effective alternate route to meet the needs of communites and individuals.

Discussion: 

In a variety of settings from the workplace to village level development initiatives, informal learning through group interactions and individual self-teaching can be an effective tool for developing new skill sets, alternative ideas and even new approaches to advancing livelihoods.

What is informal learning? There is a hot debate among many educators as to what it really is, especially since its practice has become more common place within developed countries as businesses and employees attempt to stay abreast with the latest developments in technologies, and management practices so that they can collectively and individually remain competitive in a market driven environment.

Definition:

  • Informal work-related adult education activities that take place without an instructor. Examples of such activities include on-the-job demonstrations by a supervisor or coworker; on-the-job mentoring or supervised training; self-paced study using books, videos, or computer-based software; attendance at brown-bag or informal presentations; and attendance at conferences, trade shows, or conventions related to one’s work or career (nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/glossary/i.asp).
  • Occurs in everyday life and may not even be recognized as learning by the individual. For example, using a television guide may not be equated by an individual as having learned how to use a table. Related concepts/terms include: incidental learning (www.nald.ca/adultlearningcourse/glossary.htm).

To better illustrate, here is a visual aid used to describe informal learning processes based upon information need.


It has been cited that, "Many times we can find the answer in the world around us, through either people, or formal courses, or bits of information. When it's not found (whether it doesn't exist or a search is incomplete), we go into a problem-solving mode. Then we need data, and analytical frameworks. If we do it in conjunction with others, we need collaboration and/or communication tools. Finally, if we solve it, we (should) close the loop by either adapting the materials to account for this problem in the future, or to create new material (Quinn, 2002)".

In the developing country, informal learning has gained a reputation as a tool for meeting a number of goals that not only include skills training, but also civic and health related education that can be acquired through individual inquiry, as well as through group interactions. Similarly, adult literacy projects that utilize an informal education approach (predominately among women populations) have gained increasing prevalence. In fact, women participants of local self-help groups often support one another through imparting knowledge to one another, they can help to tutor each other in their homes for building up literacy and educating each other on personal finance.

When done in a group context an informal learning project can consist of a number of group led demonstrations that relate to managing one’s personal finances, to starting a business, as well as how to use a computer for e-mail and even how to access your political representatives. The learning spaces are as dynamic and varied as the topics and the people often involved in them. Sometimes these groups are started through simple conversations among neighbors, or the group is seeded with support by an outside agency that brings some structure to the initial group development but after time allows the groups to be autonomous and define its own interests and pursuits.

Similarly, online learning groups can assist its members in learning new software, or computer programming. Take for instance the number of user forums dedicated to asking and answer technology related questions. This exchange among participants constitutes an informal learning group in which information is shared that ultimately builds upon the skills of the participants. In this online dialogue, individuals bring to the group their own experiences and expertise to share with other members of the group to help support a mutual sharing of knowledge. Even those not openly communicating with the group can benefit from finding answers to their own questions. As new doors are opened through this process new levels of curiosity emerge that can aid in the further participation in the group.

While these types of learning communities are contingent upon access to information technology; in other contexts these groups can meet within their geographical proximity. Community animator can act as a facilitator by asking participants questions that help them ask new questions or find answers to question that they may have not known how to answer before.

Regardless of how a group is organized the informal learning group serves two basic functions to provide access to information and knowledge creation as well as evoking a deeper level of individual curiosity among participants and to prompt them towards greater levels of self-enrichment, whether that be for financial gains or merely inner personal gains.

Though informal learning has gained greater focus over the years within development related education and beyond, technologies and access to information resources can make this pattern difficult to effectively utilize. While usage of these groups in development initiatives is high its difficult to ascertain whether or not they have had the level of benefit being represented through the increased effectiveness among employees with the corporations of more highly developed countries. While, this does not mean that informal learning groups are inadequate but it perhaps highlights the acceleration of learning possessed by those who have greater access to information on a larger scale. For this reason this pattern could be made more effective within a development related context through the linking with other patterns that emphasize technology infrastructure an alternative access to information for groups.

Solution: 

As an approach to improving the capacities of peoples involved in any number of development schemes designed to address local livelihoods, informal learning groups can provide an alternative avenue for supporting life-long learning spurring individual curiosities and the acquisition of new skills.

Community leaders, self-help groups, development agencies and local employers can all act as initiators in the upstart of informal learning groups and encourage and overall culture of participatory learning geared to meet the interests and needs of the community. All of these can be done through communities meetings, general or directed interactions during tea/coffee breaks, these opportunities can be pursued and developed at the local internet cafe or even time can be set aside by employers who realize the benefits of supporting a more educated and curious workforce.

Overall, the pattern tends to be mutually reinforcing as knowledge is created curiosity tends to be ignited furthering greater levels of self and group directed investigations. It's up to individuals, groups, communities and businesses to promote these endeavors, and thereby increase the intellectual capabilities of its local residents.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Overemphasis on formal education can overshadow more appropriate learning methods. This is especially true for adults with time and money constraints. Informal Learning Groups can support life-long learning, skill-building, and curiosity. Community leaders, self-help groups, development agencies, and local employers can help launch educational projects that encourage a culture of participatory learning to meet community needs.

Pattern status: 
Released

Community Building Journalism

Pattern ID: 
745
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
97
Peter Miller
UMass/Boston
Version: 
2
Problem: 

How do activists, would-be activists, and those interested in learning about and participating in any movement or community of practice get a sense of what the best practices are, what the underlying philosophies are, who the leadership is and what they're thinking, what the key institutions and organizations are and how they're developing, what the most useful resources and tools are, and what's going on in other communities? How do people learn how to participate with a critical and reflective perspective?

Context: 

The journalistic pattern and communication tools noted here can be used in any field, narrow or wide, where public education and outreach as well as discussion and information sharing among key contributors and other participants are important to the vitality and development of the field.

Discussion: 

There are many ways of speaking to this family of problems/issues/concerns: face-to-face get-togethers, from conversations to conferences; email/discussion lists, blogs, web sites and bulletin boards; books and articles; faxes and radio—are all useful approaches. Tying into all of these, regular publications have come to serve a key role in movement-development and community-building. Tom Paine's Common Sense at the beginning of the American Revolution, arousing the colonists in a radically new "common sense" way, and The Federalist Papers, the country's first major newspaper op-ed series, designed to convince people to support the newly drawn up Constitution—these crucial works of popular journalism that helped set our country's founding are indicative of what can be found in any social and political movement, large or small, specialized or general. Regular publications that cover the events and developments of a movement are indicative of the depth of thought and commitment that people have to their work and their interest in sharing it and learning from one another. Movement/community-building journalism and their publications are most often written and produced by the actors and participants in the movement and provide reflections on the roots and meanings of specific contributions to the field; they tie particular events and achievements, programs, institutions, and actors to a wider field of interconnected activities that together point toward renewed possibilities for people creating a healthier and more democratic common world. Consider professional academic disciplines, how they all have their many journals (international, national, regional) and their growing on-line availability and distribution, and their importance to developing cohesion and direction in their respective communities of practice. Consider the situation among artists, social workers, leftists, conservatives, citizens of any size viable community. In American political life, consider the longevity of key political journals and how they have not only reflected trends and movements but helped define the movements themselves and provided an arena for its participants to learn about and from one another—that strand of radical liberalism that has characterized The Nation from its inception as a vocal anti-slavery voice, the descent from progressive liberalism to neoconservatism represented by The New Republic, the development and fracturing of the radical political culture and politics of eastern European Jewish immigrants as found in The Partisan Review, Dissent, and Commentary.

In the field of community media and technology, the Community Technology Review (www.comtechreview.org) reflects several useful pattern features of current community-building journalism:

• CTR has served as the formal and informal publication of both the Community Technology Centers' Network, www.ctcnet.org, the country's oldest and largest association of nonprofit and community organizations dedicated to providing emerging technology resources for those who don't ordinarily have effective access, and of the Association for Community Networking (www.afcn.org), the affiliation of institutions and individuals interested in developing community-wide information resources and tools. CTR has covered key directions and issues of its two prime organizational partners by placing them within the developments of the wider field of community media and technology. Thus, for example, the fall 1999 issue was a joint production of CTCNet, AFCN, and the Alliance for Community Media (ACM, www.alliancecm.org), the national association of community cable public, education, and governmental (PEG) access centers; ACM and community cable access center development receive on-going coverage. CTR has maintained close relations with the Community Media Review, ACM's official publication; with the fairly-recently established Journal of Community Informatics (http://ci-journal.net), the international journal of what is emerging as the emerging academic discipline of the field, especially outside the United States; with the Digital Divide Network, the online communication environment (at www.digitaldividenetwork.org) that has done so much to address issues involving the problem identified in its name; and with the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (www.nten.org), the association of nonprofit technology assistance providers, and has offered ongoing coverage of NTEN, Circuit Riders, CompuMentor/TechSoup and other organizations/developments in this part of the field. To the degree it is a model, CTR suggests that coverage of key organizations in a field provide a useful map that can be of assistance to both the experienced actor and the new participant looking for information and guidance.

• CTR is published simultaneously on-line and in hard copy, using state-of-the-art tools most appropriate to each environment. The developing on-line environment has been designed with open source publishing tools (Movable Type/Drupal) that provide a large number of embedded hyperlinks for readers to easily explore special areas and references in depth, extensive searching capacity throughout the archives (www.comtechreview.org/issue.php), interactive options for reader comments/additions and communication with authors and editors. Desktop publishing is tied to appropriate printer and print-on demand options for hard copy production and distribution, providing a tangible publication for those readers and occasions where hard copy availability is especially appropriate and useful. With the growing number of links to community-produced audios and videos, CTR provides an integrated multi-media platform that models a variety of approaches that can be used.

• Articles are written by a combination of recognized leaders in the field and first-time authors who have worked on innovative projects and new resources. With first-time authors, editorial staff have expended substantial time in providing writing and editorial assistance. Overall, the tone and approach towards the reader is one that assumes an interest and some familiarity with the field but one that seeks to provide explanations and meanings when technical or field "jargon" or acronyms are used; in general the CTR seeks to welcome the reader into an on-going conversation among some of the major practitioners and leaders in the field (hence the inclusion and important role of photos of authors and individuals who are participants in the events covered). In contrast to so-called "objective" or "neutral" journalism and reportage, movement building journalism engages both the producers and readers in a way that builds and strengthens their communities.

Solution: 

Develop journalism and communication venues that present news, events, and developments in a field in-depth, covering key organizations and institutions to offer a map and guide, using the most appropriate communication tools for participant leaders and actors. For those interested in using hard copy or on-line tools for community-building in a field that does not currently make use of them, discuss the situation with your colleagues and compatriots and find an associated field where such tools are used. Those who have developed them will almost always provide useful advice and even volunteer assistance.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

How do activists and those interested in movements or communities of practice get a sense of best practices, underlying philosophies, strategies, leadership, key institutions and organizations, useful resources and tools, and current work? Developing journalism and communication venues that present in-depth news, events, and developments in a field is essential. And covering key organizations and institutions can help offer a map and guide.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Peter Miller

Citizenship Schools

Pattern ID: 
788
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
96
Lewis A. Friedland
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Carmen J. Sirianni
Brandeis University, Dept. of Sociology
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Some of the the skills of citizenship, like basic communication and cooperation, grow from skills we learn in daily life. Others, like deliberating with others, defining problems, collaboration on common projects, and organizing are not so basic: they, often, need to be learned. Not long ago, associations and intermediary institutions–social and professional clubs, religious congregations, neighborhood schools–rooted in local communities were the main places where these skills were learned. Today, there are fewer contexts in everyday life to learn them. People are less connected in and to local communities and often learn about what's important in the media. Increasingly, general discussion about political and civic issues is occuring on and through the Internet. But it is easier to find information on the Net than to learn reflexively with others. The Net only partly lends itself to learning collaborative citizenship skills. Further, many lower-income people, in the U.S. and around the world, still lack access to the Net. Therefore citizenship schools are needed to build civic skills in both local communities and on the Net.

Context: 

In order to act effectively, people need to learn and apply the skills of citizenship. Everyone who wants to find a democratic and lasting solution to deep and complex problems needs these skills and they are open to anyone to learn and teach. But there are also experts-civic practitioners, government officials and civil servants, teachers and scholars, civic and community organizers

Discussion: 

Citizenship Schools originated in South Carolina in 1959, and quickly spread throughout the South through the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee. In the late 1950s many Southern states had literacy tests, that required people to be able to read and write, and sometimes answer "citizenship" questions (generally designed to exclude blacks from voting). Teaching large numbers of African-Americans in the South to read, write, and learn about citizenship was critical in the larger struggle for civil rights, including the right to vote. According to Andrew Young and Ella Baker, movement leaders, the Citizenship education program was the "foundation on which the entire movement was built." (1) But communities with Citizenship Schools had few ways to make connections with other communities that lasted over time. Eventually, as the early fights for civil rights were won, the schools faded.

The spirit of the schools lived on through the decades that followed in hundreds of civic training programs conducted by organizations and local communities. Faith-based community organizations like the Industrial Areas Foundation train local clergy and lay organizers who learn to conduct campaigns and forums to build consensus on issue agendas like housing, school reform or job training. Environmental watershed, forestry, eco-system restoration and justice movements and others, teach citizens and youth to collect data and monitor environmental quality while building skills of civic trust and cooperation. And new civic movements to build a new model of the public and civic university are growing, like the Council on Public Engagement at the University of Minnesota .

Citizenship Schools have also beeen tried online. In 1994, the American Civic Forum met to try to address a widely perceived crisis in political life and civic culture in the U.S. The Citizenship Schools were an imoprtant model and a Civic Practices Network (CPN) was built, to use the newly emerging technology of the Internet to build skills of citizenship. CPN, launched that year, sought to facilitate broad and multimedia sharing of best cases, civic stories, mutual evaluations, and mentoring opportunities. Other independent civic networks also emerged around this time, including LibertyNet in Philadelphia, and Civic Net. Despite the growth of the Internet, however, no broad network connected and nurtured these activities.

As the web matured beginning around 2000 finding information on many topics of civic interest-public deliberation, the environment, youth, education, health care, communication-became relatively easier for individuals. But the new problem was how to link these groups together to not only provide information in their own specialized subfields, but to create an active environment for teaching, learning, and collaboration while also building a larger sense of solidarity in citizenship. National civic portals to aggregate the growing number of civic sites and discussions on the Net were one proposed answer. But by 2003 or so with the emergence of the blogosphere, the topology of the web itself suggested that distributed links among widely dispersed civic sites might lead to new kinds of collaboration in which a great deal of the work of gathering and connecting is done by sites in the mid-range. This is the level most appropriate for new citizenship schools on the web.

Therefore to build Citizenship Schools in local communities and institutions it is necessary to build a framework that can support many local organizing efforts with curricula and training routines that are distributed, shared, inexpensive, flexible, and sustainable. These can be done in local communities, through institutions like schools and universities, and on the web.

Local citizenship schools would necessarily be the result of pooled efforts among many active local civic organizations across different areas. Many could benefit from local government support. In Seattle, for example, the Department of Neighborhoods provides leadership and skills training to many neighborhood, environmental, and other civic groups.

Citizenship Schools through university extension and outreach could train new expert practitioners rooted in local communities. For example at the University of Minnesota, the Council on Public Engagement reaches out to both scholars and academic staff to redefine the teaching and research mission of the publci university. Potentially, certificates and university credit through university extension services and community colleges could provide individuals valuable learning resources that also support and reinforce the extended investment of time, attention, and civic commitment.

New Citizenship Schools on the web could allow collective learning in a distributed, asynchronous environment; help frame a broad civic agenda collaboratively through distributed discussion; and form a mid-range network of portals to focus attention without the intial high costs of building national space. Schools on the web could support and integrate both local and statewide efforts. The CPN is one online model indicating that there is significant demand online for serious learning material about civic practice. Deliberative-Democracy.net demonstrates how key blogger-editors can be recruited for a civic site and distribute the labor of a serious, ongoing conversation. The Liberating Voices Project [check best name] is also a key example of a distributed learning collaborative.

For the pattern to be realized online, moderate-sized hubs with committed editors will need to be seeded and a few models created. Possibly, Citizenship Schools on the web could ally with university partners, particularly in civically oriented extension programs, to provide credentials and a modest flow of support. Their life-cycle is potentially renewable. If a network of citizenship schools succeeds, it could become self sustaining, using commons models with relatively little ongoing external support.

The biggest challenge in building Citizenship Schools on a commons model is sustaining energy and collaboration, and maintaining a high quality of information. As noted, a commons model requires moderate levels of commitment from a wide core. Many of the contributers will be citizens, academics, policy makers and administrators with other jobs and commitments. Rewards will be instrinsic. A second challenge is to get citizens to commit time to learning, not to just "graze" for information.

The main critics of the concept might say that Citizenship Schools are an anachronism and depend on communities of face-to-face solidarity that are less relevant by the year. Learning doesn't take place this way anymore, despite the fact that the Citizenship Schools would be on the web. Further, getting individuals to make long-term commitments at adequate levels will be nearly impossible.

Solution: 

There are five basic steps to promoting this pattern: (1) Build Citizenship Schools in local communities, institutions and online that can aid collaborative learning; (2) Develop a sites (local and virtual) that include active learning and civic curricula that can be widely shared. (3) Find citizens (lay leaders and experts both) who can serve as teachers and editors who can make minimal but real commitments; (4) Build templates to aid the spread of learning; and (5) Create new forms of civic credentials that provide value to both individuals and communities.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Finding lasting, democratic solutions to deep and complex problems requires citizenship skills. Some are learned in daily life. Others, like deliberating, defining problems, collaborating on projects, organizing, and understanding public institutions and processes are not basic. We need Citizenship Schools in local communities and on the Internet in which citizens can come together with each other and with skilled practitioners and learn from each other.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Septima Clark Public Charter School

Document Centered Discussion

Pattern ID: 
856
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
92
Todd Davies
Stanford University
Benjamin Newman
Stanford University
Brendan O'Connor
Stanford University
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Supporting group interaction around a shared document is challenging for designers of two-dimensional interfaces and asynchronous, text-based groupware. The need to deliberate (collaborate, make decisions, or make comments) around documents appears to be one of the main reasons that groups that could otherwise interact virtually and asynchronously using the Internet choose to meet synchronously, either in person or online, often in a richer environment than text only (e.g., including audio, video, or a three-dimensional environment). When some or all stakeholders are unable to participate in synchronous meetings, distributed asynchronous interaction offers many advantages to groups deliberating about documents: more time for reflection, revision, and information seeking (cf. Holland and Stornetta 1992); the ability to accommodate people's conflicting schedules; flexible interaction modes through conversion of text to and from speech (e.g., for disabled or less literate users); the easier access, storage, and search afforded by digital archives; and the empowerment of those who are at a disadvantage when participation involves speaking in a live group (Price and Cappela 2002). But mapping in-person meetings onto an asynchronous interaction through distributed two-dimensional text displays entails several types of lost richness, including nonverbal grounding cues (Clark and Brennan 1991), spatial depth, the natural use of separate perceptual modalities for document (visual) and discussion (auditory), and the use of a shared temporal progression to guide attention.

Context: 

In our usage, a document can be in any format, including images, audio, and video, but our primary focus here is on digital documents in which most of the information is in text. Discussion that takes place around a document consists of comments that pertain to either the document as a whole or some part of it. The document may be fixed or evolving as the discussion around it proceeds, but the document assumes an elevated status over the comments made about it because, for example, it has been chosen for careful discussion, its final version will have governing consequences, or it will represent the outcome of a collaboration. In the latter cases, the group must somehow reach a decision relating to the document (e.g., whether to adopt it). This pattern focuses on interfaces for visually abled users. Adapting the analysis presented here for visually impaired users might be possible, but our feeling is that that will require quite a different approach, one we hope to investigate in the future.

Discussion: 

The projection of a three-dimensional, multimodality, co-located, synchronous deliberation experience (i.e., communicating face-to-face in a non-virtual place) onto a two-dimensional, primarily visual, distributed asynchronous interaction requires essential aspects of face-to-face deliberation to be remapped onto a screen interface. The needed mappings can be judged according to two broad goals:

  • Visible relationships. Relationships between comments and the texts they reference, between different comments, and between group members and the document and discussion should be as visible as possible.
  • Distinguishable boundaries. Separations between contextually related and unrelated text and comments and between individual authors of documents and comments should be as distinguishable as possible.

We first consider visible relationships. Exhibiting relationships between the components of document-centered deliberation (document, comments, and participants) implies a number of refinements of this goal. First, the document text that is the target of deliberation should be covisible (displayed simultaneously) with comments around it, and the identities of comment authors and document text, when relevant, should also be covisible with their output. Second, the referencing relationship between a comment and its target text should be visible, that is, the interface should incorporate ostensive pointing (meaning that a pointing relationship is displayed on the screen rather than being enacted through a peripheral device) and in-text placement of comments. Third, response relationships between comments should be visible through threading. And fourth, the reactions of deliberation participants should be visible through polling and decision features.

The other goal is distinguishable boundaries. Visible relationships can be inadequate, as anyone would know who has used a map with ambiguous place labelings. The interface should also mark boundaries between text that is and is not the reference target of a comment, for example, though text highlighting. Text authored by different people at different times should be distinguishable through textual boundaries. The topic of a text should be able to be viewed separately from its main body through headers. And obsolete comments (those made on a previous version) should be recognizable through pertinence markers which indicate which versions a comment pertains to, as well as those to which it does not apply, for example, because it has been addressed in the revision process.

The Deme environment for online deliberation is a tool for document-centered discussion, polling, and decision making that incorporates all of the elements derived above in a dynamically updating (no-page-reload) interface. The introductory image above shows the most recent design of the meeting area viewer in Deme. The shaded-in header of a comment in the discussion view pane on the right points to a shaded-in comment reference in the text of a document shown in the item view pane on the left. Deme provides covisibility between document and comments through an optional split-screen view. In-text comment references are transiently pointed to (the dotted-line arrow goes away as soon as the user scrolls) when clicked on, and comments are displayed in the context of hierarchical threads. Members can vote on documents under a variety of decision rules. Boundaries are provided through highlighting, text boundaries, headers, and a versioning system that remembers when comments become obsolete and marks them as such. The design takes advantage of no-page-reload web server calls to provide dynamic relationship visibility and boundary distinguishability.

Solution: 

Applying the principles of relationship visibility and boundary distinguishability in an integrated way puts online deliberators at less of a disadvantage relative to their face-to-face counterparts.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Groups need to deliberate around documents. Distributed asynchronous interaction allows more time for reflection, revision, and information seeking; the ability to accommodate conflicting schedules; and easier access, storage, and search of digital archives. Groups can discus the document as a whole or parts of it. The document may be fixed or evolving, but the document should remain central.

Pattern status: 
Released
Aaron Tam
Stanford University

Service-Learning

Pattern ID: 
428
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
90
Norman Clark
Appalachian State University
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The people who are the most affected by the digital divide typically need to access information from nonprofit organizations. However, most NPO's do not have the time, personnel, and/or skills to create and maintain web sites. Thus, the service-oriented information needed the most by lower income community members is often not online. In addition, many lower-income community members lack the skills necessary to effectively use web sites. Finally, data supporting the local impact of the digital divide is often insufficient or even non-existent.

Context: 

This problem has a unique solution in regions surrounding college campuses with service-learning programs.

Discussion: 

The groups most likely to be impacted negatively by the digital divide are paradoxically the groups that need access to basic service-related information the most. Quite often, members of these groups also lack the skills needed to use the Internet effectively. In addition, nonprofit organizations (NPO's) often have the information needed by these disadvantaged groups, but also paradoxically are unable to make this information available online. The needs of both groups are in conflict, and create a context in which it is extremely difficult for either group’s needs to be met. Digital Divide Impacted Groups’ Needs: * easily accessible and up-to-date information * interaction with service providers * appealing design * intuitive navigation systems * training NPO's Needs/Lacks: * personnel to put information online while still meeting clients' needs * additional time to create and maintain web pages * knowledge and skill to create effective web sites * funds to pay for server space or a webmaster One possible solution is for the NPO's to rely on a volunteer from the community to create and maintain a website. However, relying on volunteer labor for web sites is risky, due to the turnover rate and varying skill levels of volunteers. What is needed is a pool of skilled, but cost-free, assistance. One place to find this pool is on college campuses with service-learning programs. Service-learning is a pedagogical method designed to link course content with external experiences. Students learn the course-related materials through traditional learning in the classroom and through practical projects in and with the community, as well as about the reality and significance of the social issues faced by the community; while simultaneously providing a service to the community by meeting specific needs of the agencies or the populations with which they work. A service-learning class intentionally links the content of the course to a relevant NPO's goals. Students benefit from the chance to apply their skills to a real problem, and to learn about the needs of the community; while the NPO's benefit from the chance to have some of their goals and needs met, and to influence the next generation of leaders. In the long run, research has shown that students who take part in service-learning courses feel a greater sense of connection to their local communities, as well as an understanding of their interdependence with their neighbors. Connection and interdependence are building blocks of responsibility, and responsible citizens are in turn the building blocks of strong communities. The initiative for a service-learning course can come from a number of different places. Individual professors can choose to use this pedagogical method in their courses, universities may require service-learning in certain classes, or community agencies may propose projects that fit with the learning objectives of a class. Regardless of the source, effective service-learning requires collaboration between the members of the community and the academic institution: it should be done WITH the community, not ON the community. The goals and needs of the community must be combined with the goals and needs of the course. This process of collaboration is often facilitated by offices on the campus specifically designated to assist with service-learning. The service can take one of three forms. 1) Direct service: students work with the community members served by local agencies. In the case of the digital divide, students in a wide range of courses could train local community members to access and evaluate online information. This training could be done at the local library, senior centers, retirement homes, elementary schools, and any other locations with the necessary facilities (connected computers). 2) Indirect service: students work with the local community agencies to provide them with some needed assistance, which indirectly benefits their clients. In the case of the digital divide, students in web design courses can be required to create and/or update web sites for local NPO's, or run workshops training agencies representatives to maintain their own sites. 3) Community-based research: students (with faculty support) conduct research for and with a local community agency. In the case of the digital divide, people trying to change the existing systems sometimes lack the hard evidence needed to prove that a problem exists. Students in a wide range of research-methods courses could conduct survey research into the impact of the digital divide at the local level. But most importantly, the impact of a service-learning course goes beyond the immediate project: it results in changed lives. This is because a critical component of any service-learning course is reflection. Research shows that we don't really learning anything from experience (we often make the same mistakes repeatedly); we learn from thinking about our experiences. Students in service-learning courses are required to reflect on their experience in rigorous, thoughtful, and evaluated ways. This process drives the learning home, increasing the integration of knowledge they have gained in the present course with the way they live their lives in the future. For example, to create web sites, students must understand the agency, which means they must research the role that the NPO plays in the community, the populations that it serves, and the social issues that underlie its mission. This research helps students understand how critical access to the right information is for everyone, and how information is always related to power. Putting students in contact with members of the local community can also help dispel stereotypes. Students' easy access to computers often leads them to mistakenly believe that the digital divide is just a "Mercedes divide." Requiring students to work with underfunded and understaffed non-profit agencies, who are themselves working with disadvantaged groups, can open their eyes to the very real informational needs in the communities in which they live.

Solution: 

Service-learning provides a way to use the resources of a college or university to meet real community needs, such as designing web sites for NPO's or training community members to effectively access and evaluate information online. Students can create valuable resources for the community while simultaneously becoming more aware of the social issues in that community. This ensures that once people are able to cross the digital divide, they will find the local information that they need, and not just more places to shop. This also creates the possibility for the next generation of leaders to have a better understanding of the information needs of their local community.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

While many important community issues are ignored, higher education often focuses on abstractions. It can miss the myriad issues that are everywhere. Service-learning connects learning and research to practical projects. In relation to the online world students could maintain web sites for non-profit organizations, train agency representatives to maintain their own sites, and train community members to access and evaluate online information.

Pattern status: 
Released
Pattern annotations: 

Experimental School

Pattern ID: 
837
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
89
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Steve Schapp
United for a Fair Economy
Thad Curtz
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Schools can become institutionalized and non-responsive to the real needs of their students, the community or, even society at large. Schools with static and immutable assumptions and values are unlikely to meet society's changing needs. This is particularly unfortunate at a time when the need for public problem-solving is the most acute. If schools aren't innovative and if people don't seriously think about how education can play new roles in new ways, it's unlikely that the society will be innovative in cultural, technical, scientific, or civic thought or action. Schools also tend to assist privileged subsets of society. Typically, older people can't attend school, nor can poor people, working people, or rural people. Many colleges and universities (at least in the US) are more becoming commercially-oriented, thus promoting economic aggrandizement of individuals and corporations while ignoring the common good.

Context: 

Any situation where education or some type of "schooling" is necessary. This pattern has almost universal coverage because learning is a universal phenomenon. Humans are built for learning!

Discussion: 

For this pattern we can define an experimental school as a school that broadly attempts to accomplish certain aims (such as social and environmental amelioration) while adopting experimentation as an abiding and guiding orientation. This implies that the school is not perfect and it affirms that the school will at least try to adapt to changing societal circumstances and needs (while maintaining its values). Moreover, it will work towards its goals through a thoughtful experimentation that involves careful and ongoing evaluation of the approaches that the school is trying.

School according to John Dewey should be an experiment in collective action and it should break down walls between academia and practical work. Although this pattern is quite broad (and actually contains several patterns in their own right), several themes or trajectories stand out that support Dewey's contentions whether the student is ten years old or eighty, or whether the student is classically educated or illiterate. Adopting an "experimental" orientation reflects a belief in meliorism — that things can improve through directed effort — and an acknowledgement that nothing is perfect; the need for adjustment is an unavoidable and normal fact of life. Beyond that, the general orientation is compassionate engagement and integration with the world. In a general but non-dogmatic way, an Experimental School would be concerned with the common good, it would stress solidarity and activism. It would be much more permeable — the boundaries between the institution, between teacher and student, between theory and practice and between the academic disciplines themselves and the disciplines and the other systems of knowing that people have devised, would all be less distinct and more forgiving. Additionally there would be more variety as to when and where the educational setting would be and who was eligible to take part. Costs would be as low as possible to encourage everybody to attend. Education is not just for some small segment of the population who are destined for power, prestige and money. The following table, admittedly over-generalized, highlights some of the ways in which a "modern" university can be contrasted with an Experimental School.


  University Model Experimental School
Site Centralized, stationary, and formal Various locations, movable, informal
Student body Elite, all same age Open to anybody, life-long learning; mixed classes
Assessment Defined by faculty, etc. consists of tests, grades Self assessed by student as well as by faculty member through oral and written narrative evaluation.
Curriculum University-directed, discipline-based, disciplines kept separate Student-directed, inquiry-based, discipline boundaries blurred and broached
Role of teacher / role of student Authoritative / receptive ("empty vessel") Teachers and students are both co-learners
Costs Expensive for middle and lower income people Free
Instruction mode Lecture Peripatetic, seminar, group work
Credential granting Often the most important reason for attending Doesn't necessarily grant credentials. Learning is primary.
Focus On the individual On the group or community
Goals Learning facts, getting degree Learning how to learn, thinking across the curriculum
Faculty Credentialed with PhD Knowledge, skill, values, commitment, and values are as important as credentials
When 2 semesters or 3 quarters per year; no summer with established beginning and end dates for unit of time, Weekdays, 9:00 to 5:00 Weekdays, evenings, anytime
Theory and practice Kept separate ("practice is for trade schools") Integrated

Walter Parker believes that "Idiocy is the scourge of our time and place" (2004). Idiocy was defined by the ancient Greeks to mean the state of being "concerned myopically with private things and unmindful of common things." Idiots are like "rudderless ships" that are not grounded in either the local or the global community. Unable to see beyond their parochial interests, they're likely to do damage to themselves and to the communities in which they live. In his consideration of how idiots come about their idiocy, Parker asks whether our public "schools marshal their human and material resources to produce idiots or citizens? Does the school curriculum, both by commission and omission, cultivate private vices or public virtues?"

Parker proposes several important remedies: "First, increase the variety and frequency of interaction among students who are culturally, linguistically, and racially different from one another. Second, orchestrate these contacts so that competent public talk—deliberation about common problems—is fostered. In schools, this is talk about two kinds of problems: social and academic. Social problems arise inevitably from the friction of interaction itself (Dewey’s “problems of living together”), and academic problems are at the core of each subject area. Third, clarify the distinction between deliberation and blather and between open (inclusive) and closed (exclusive) deliberation. In other words, expect, teach, and model competent, inclusive deliberation."

It's also important for students to take some responsibility (and interest) in their own education early. People with these attitudes and capabilities can undertake their own ongoing education (even in the absence of schools and teachers) and work with others to get them involved. One of the best ways to do this and to help install the sense that the student is part of the process is self-assessment of learning at all levels.

If the point of evaluating students' work were only to rank them, or to give faculty a lever for encouraging their efforts, or even to describe the strengths and weaknesses of what they had produced, then it would seem clear that teachers should do it by themselves. The deepest reasons, however, for asking students to formally assess their own work pertain to the students' development over the long run. For one thing, the student may have learned some things which are relevant to learning which the teachers don't know about. If students have learned how to write a paper without agonizing over the first paragraph for hours, or pay a new kind of attention to the clouds when they go for a walk, or think about the late Roman Republic when they read the papers, these changes may say more about their education in literature or physics or history than their essays or exams do, yet be invisible to the teachers.

The practice of self-assessment is a central way for students to acquire the reflective habits of mind which are essential to their ongoing capacities to do good work, and to progressively improve their work over time. Growth in intelligence, or thinking, is precisely growth in the capacity for ongoing reflective self-assessment. This point is the center of Dewey's analysis of the difference between mere activity and educational experience in Democracy and Education (1916): "Thinking …is the intentional endeavor to discover specific connections between something which we do and the consequences which result, so that the two become continuous."

But formal education is considered complete at a certain age. Does this mean that people who have missed this one chance or who are otherwise interested in additional education are simply out of luck? Popular education, developed in the 1960s and ’70s by the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire helps to answer that question positively. Popular education is a non-traditional method of education that strives for the empowerment of adults through democratically structured cooperative study and action. It's carried out within a political vision that sees women and men at the community and grassroots level as the primary agents for social change. It aims to enable ordinary people to define their own struggles and critically examine and learn from the lessons of past struggles and from concrete everyday situations in the present. It is a deeply democratic process, equipping communities to name and create their vision of the future for which they struggle.

The popular education process begins by critically reflecting on, sharing, and articulating with a group or community what is known from lived experience. It continues with analysis and critical reflection upon reality aimed at enabling people to discover solutions to their own problems and set in motion concrete actions for the transformation of that reality. In Freire'’s model, the teacher becomes a facilitator, the traditional class becomes a cultural circle, the emphasis shifts from lecture to problem-posing strategies, and the content, previously removed from the learners’ experience, becomes relevant to the group.

Popular education has always had an intimate connection to organizing for social change. In the early 1960s, Freire, began his work in this area by using the principles of dialogue and critical consciousness-raising—fundamental to popular education—to teach literacy to peasants struggling for land reform in Brazil. Freire argued that action was the source of knowledge, not the reverse, and that education, to be transformative, involved a process of dialogue based on action and reflection on action.

Although starting a new — or supporting an existing — Experimental School might be the best use of this pattern, the concepts of an Experimental School can be useful to anybody who is establishing new programs in a traditional school or involved in virtually any way in the education of themselves or anybody they know. The key concepts are respect for learning, reflection, and a faith in the importance of reasoning and, especially, reasoning together.

Solution: 

Integrate the ideas from this pattern into educational settings that exist or can exist. We can think about how we think and we can learn about how we learn.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Schools with unchanging assumptions can't meet society's changing needs. This is unfortunate now when the need for public problem-solving is most acute. An Experimental School attempts to accomplish positive aims while adopting experimentation as a guiding orientation. The key concepts are respect for learning, reflection, and faith in the importance of reasoning and, especially, reasoning together.

Pattern status: 
Released
Pattern annotations: 

Future Design

Pattern ID: 
441
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
88
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

By acting as though the future will never arrive and things never change, we are subconsciously creating the future with the seeds that we are unwittingly sowing today. Whether by actively embracing the conventional "wisdom" that has created these socially and environmentally precarious times or by succumbing to the dictates of habit, instinct or necessity, humankind seems to sleepwalking into the future. Indeed it is quite plausible that we are creating the ideal conditions today for unspeakable disasters tomorrow.

Context: 

This pattern can be used in a million situations, especially when people feel strongly that the directions they're following aren't the directions that they think they ought to be following. Employing this pattern often takes the form of a collaborative envisioning exercise with a variety of stakeholders.

Discussion: 

Looking at the future with open, imaginative and critical eyes can open up the possibility of — if not the demand for — fundamental social change. After all, why would anybody bother to contemplate the future if there were no possibility of change; if every step taken was an echo of some past step.

The purpose of this pattern is to get people actively engaged envisioning better futures and making plans on how to get there. Through "rehearsing for the future" we hope to create a wealth of possible scenarios that could become the positive "self-fulfilling prophecies" of tomorrow, rather than the violent and exploitive scenarios that seem to rule today.

Educational settings are not the only setting for introducing and advancing a rich future-oriented agenda but they may be the best. Unfortunately, however, current educational practices seem to be oblivious to the future. Schools present topics such as mathematics or science with no historical context. History, on the other hand, though based on human events, becomes an "authoritative" recounting of past facts while the future is a "mere abstraction" (Slaughter & Beare, 1993). And since everything seemingly and inexorably unfolded in an inevitable way, the sequence of human events appears largely unalterable.

One failing of a non futures-oriented educational approach is the lack of inquiry into the causes of the world's problems (Slaughter & Beare, 1993). Nor is there any effort to develop or consider that could help alleviate these problems. Beyond a cursory look at history, where the impact of people who aren't elites is never evident, many people worldwide live in an eternal now, a temporal cocoon which cultivates amnesia of the past and ill preparedness for the future. Both elites and "ordinary people" seem unwilling to acknowledge that they have roles in shaping the future. Forgetting that fact in the face of immense 21st Century challenges strips humankind of its fundamental capacity to consciously make plans (Slaughter & Beare, 1993).

Future Design helps surface the internal models of the future that have been ignored, repressed, or deliberately kept from view, and attempts to understand how they play out and how they came to be. At the same time, and somewhat independently, Future Design builds new models that help liberate us from dangerous inertia and help us be more effective in our thinking about and acting on the future.

There is an endless variety of exercises, games, workshops, and other activities that we are calling "Future Design." Many of these could be organized and convened in just about any setting. Lori Blewett and Doug Schuler recently used a "Design a Society" workshop to organize a large team project in our "Global Citizenship" program at The Evergreen State College. Schools, of course, should not be the only place where Future Design can be pursued. Future Design activities are needed that could be done individually (and, hopefully, shared), on the job (government, NGOs, business, etc.), with activists, and as broad-based, possibly phased, longer-termed projects — with or without government involvement and support.

The current project, Open Space Seattle 2100 to develop a "comprehensive open space network vision for Seattle's next 100 years" contains elements (including the need for participants and resources — even if it's just time) that could be considered typical of Future Design activities. Since the Seattle plan is ambitious it requires broad support and ample resources. The University of Washington and the City of Seattle are key players as are a variety of environmental, civic, neighborhood, professional and other groups. Many of the Future Design projects that have civic goals are participatory and inclusive. At the same time that the community is developing a collective vision, the organizers also aim "To catalyze a long-term advocacy coalition and planning process for Seattle's integrated open space."

The Seattle project consciously invokes the visionary park and landscape work of the Olmstead brothers in the early 1990's that contributed to Seattle's livability. The timeline for this project which is longer than standard planning horizons, frees participants from a variety of constraints on their thinking. By encouraging people to think beyond what's considerable immediately do-able people are more likely to be creative. On the other hand, if the timeframe is too far in the future participants are likely to feel detached from the enterprise. The Seattle project gets around this by including tasks for the short-term as well as visions for the long-term.

In order to strike a balance between the real and the imagined, designers of Future Design projects must provide a structure for less-structured activities to take place within. The projects must provide prompts — scenarios, instructions, props, etc. — that encourage people to imagine a future without forcing them down certain paths. Since people can't simply be instructed to "be creative," these "prompts" are used to promote futures thinking among the participants. This pattern can be used in many settings, but research has shown that Future Design needs a supportive atmosphere, and, as Open Space Technology literature suggests, participants need to participate with passion, commitment and an open-mind. A broad spectrum of community groups needs to be represented, or at least recognised, or the outcome can reaffirm prejudices and help perpetuate old conflicts.

Future Design processes often provide a variety of participatory opportunities. The 7-10 person teams that addressed open space issues in one of the neighborhoods outlined on the Seattle Charrette Map (see image at end of this pattern) are key to the effort but organizers have organized a lecture series and a blog (http://open2100.blogspot.com) to encourage alternative ways to participate.

Massive challenges await this vain undertaking at every turn. How effective is Future Design? How do games and other Future Design approaches translate into action How do future designers from one group build on the results of others? Interestingly a project whose recommendations aren't implemented can still be a success. Margaret Keck describes the "Solucao Integrada" (Integrated Solution), a plan for sewage treatment and environmental restoration in Brazil, which, although shelved by the government, lived on in the public's eye as an example of sensible large-scale solution in the face of other ill-conceived projects. "Success" must be judged in a variety of ways and this includes inclusivity and richness of the Future Design process, its immediate impacts and its indirect contributions to the overall imagination and civic culture of a community.

Finally, as John Perry Barlow's email tagline reminds us: "Man plans, God laughs." Human history is full of twists, enlightened and macabre, tragic and heroic. The future is unlikely to come out the way we think it will or want it to, but that shouldn't prevent us from trying to work towards the goal of a more just and healthy future.

Solution: 

Develop participatory activities that addrdess these four major objectives: (1) Develop visions of the future and ideas about how to achieve them; (2) Bring into the light and critically analyze the current models of the future that people, society and institutions are employing both explicitly and implicitly; (3) Help instill feelings of empowerment, compassion, hope and courage in futures thinking and action; and (4) At the same time, cultivate humility in regards to the unknowability of the future and the limits to human reason and understanding.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

By acting as though the future will never arrive and things will never change, we are creating the future with the seeds that we are sowing today. The purpose of Future Design is to get people actively engaged envisioning better futures and making plans on how to get there. Through "rehearsing for the future" we hope to create possible scenarios that could become the positive "self-fulfilling prophecies" of tomorrow.

Pattern status: 
Released
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