Orientation

The Power of Story

Pattern ID: 
793
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
114
Rebecca Chamberlain
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The truth about stories is that's all we are. Thomas King (2003)

Stories are fundamental to being human. How do they change as languages and cultures evolve through different communication technologies? In the age of cyberspace we often feel alienated from genuine stories, ones that we live with every day, that tell us how to become decent human beings and live meaningful lives. Corporate media exploit story patterns that evolved to pass on ethical codes, and we are trapped into thinking about products instead of reflecting on our lives. Traditional myths explored dynamic relationships between humans and nature. How can stories to help us adapt to our quickly changing world?

Context: 

This pattern addresses the concerns of organizations and individuals involved in: Education, Culture, Arts, Society, Mythology, Technology, Law, Philosophy, Humanities, Psychology, Science, Environmental Studies, Religion, Social & Political Science, and Activism.

Discussion: 

One way or another we are living the stories planted in us early or along the way, or we are also living the stories we planted "knowingly or unknowingly" in ourselves. We live stories that either give our lives meaning or negate it with meaninglessness. If we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change our lives. Ben Okri, Nigerian storyteller.

Patterns in stories tend to reflect the environments we live in and the communication media we use. Indigenous peoples evolved patterns in oral traditions that resonated with the voices of the land and reinforced memory and meaning. The invention of writing and the phonetic alphabet played with the way language and images could be displayed as texts. The advent of the printing press offered freedom to experiment with new narrative and poetic forms, as well as restraints, as texts and language became standardized. The structure of stories changed as they moved from the places they were told onto the printed page.

Today, can words again become "winged" as they fly through both time and space in new forms offered by electronic media? Speech is communal; it exists only as it is being shared. As stories shift and change in response to new environments and technologies, who has access and jurisdiction to manipulate them? Can these new mediums offer opportunities to engage our senses and help us reconnect to the natural world? Can this enriched experience help us reflect on the deeper messages that stories contain?

Stories are conduits or vehicles that mediate our inner and outer worlds. When we tell stories, we are connected to live events and internal dramas. Modern cultures utilize technology to record ideas or performances, and tend to value the analysis of texts, recordings, and other artifacts of expression. We cultivate methods of reflection that reinforce our capacity to respond, think, and explore symbolic messages, but our objectivity makes us feel removed or alienated from authentic experience. We often yearn for the mystery of stories to deepen our lives. Oral cultures are immersed in ritual and experience; the time, place, and context in which a story is told is crucial to its meaning. Myths, which convey symbolic messages, are also repositories or living encyclopedias of practical knowledge and wisdom gained from sustainable relationships to the natural world. Oral traditions resonate with mnemonic patterns, poetic rhythms, tones, and inflections of local landscapes. 

Richard Louve points out that studies of the songs of birds and whales reveal many of the same laws of composition as those used by humans. New scientific methods have enabled humans to learn about the intricate patterns of human and animal communication, but have not given most children a deep or genuine experience of animals and the stories or songs grounded in the natural world. This results in what Love describes as the modern child's "hyper-intellectualized" perception of nature and other animals.

Technology gives us tools to analyze and preserve traditional stories, but also disrupts and alienates people from meaningful stories that connect them with sustainable patterns in the natural world. Modern myths are often caught up in the social, political, and economic systems that our new technologies have created. Those who control the stories, knowledge, and mediums of communication wield the power.

Marshall McLuhan explores the shadow side of technological and economic success by arguing that popular culture is a source for diagnosing the "collective trance" of industrial society. Ads are a new kind of storytelling; "a social ritual or magic that enhances us in our own eyes." Rolf Jensen says, "The highest-paid person in the first half of the next century will be the 'storyteller.' Many global companies are mainly storytellers, and the value of products depends on the story they tell." Advertisers proclaim freedom of choice as the foundation of the American way of life; however, they gloss over questions of power and control. McLuhan suggests that individuals break the hypnotic trance of the media through tough-minded evaluation that probes the collective myths of our industrial folklore.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell says, "not only have the old mythic notions of the nature of the cosmos gone to pieces, but also those of the origins of the history of mankind." He suggests, that to give meaning to life, the modern person cannot simply reproduce inherited patterns of thought or action, but must create their own stories. Since many people start with seeds provided by the media, how do they proceed?

Words and stories are active agents. Ernest Cassirer says that the "word," in early cosmologies, is the primary force from which being and doing originate. Likewise, the cause and effect of media and print "word magic" in modern cultures determines our political and economic systems, and can result in nationalism and colonialism. Traditional stories and myths that have evolved from oral, consensually shared standards and beliefs that value feeling and community interaction have come into conflict with technologies that value independence, analytical thought, and scientific or secular authority. Modern civilization is faced with a split between the head and the heart.

In the Greek myth of the phonetic alphabet, King Cadmus plants dragons' teeth (alphabetic symbols) that rise up as armed men. If the alphabet could have such effects, what is the effect of modern technologies? We face the problem of how to deal ethically with the power humans have manufactured through technology. Can we recover a sense of reverence for the word without fueling tribal or national myths that sow dragons’ teeth?

Thoreau anticipated these arguments in “Walking,” when he says, “There are other letters for the child to learn than those which Cadmus invented.” Rather than learning letters in dusty schools, Thoreau wanted students to learn from wilderness. For him, mythology came close to expressing the language of nature. He advocates a kind of “tawny grammar” that celebrates what is wild and free. Through this, he says, “The highest that we can attain is not Knowledge, but Sympathy with Intelligence.”

Perhaps McLuhan suggests a solution to our dilemma when he says, “two cultures or technologies can, like astronomical galaxies, pass through one another without collision; but not without change of configuration.” Are we ready for a transformation of this magnitude? Can we connect traditional stories and myths with new technologies in ways that don’t hypnotize us into a trance, but actually engage us more completely with community and the natural world?

Solution: 

Storytelling, an ancient art, needs to be rediscovered and updated. Stories help humankind to understand, reinterpret, and reframe the meanings that under-gird their existence. Can we use new communications technologies to weave together words and images, scientific information and poetic inspiration, and incorporate multiple voices (including the larger community of plants, animals, birds, and elemental forces) to tell multi-faceted stories of our earth communities? Can stories help us to weave together the communications and global challenges that face us as we learn to live co-creatively with each other and the natural world?

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The ancient art of storytelling needs to be rediscovered and updated. Stories help humankind to understand and reframe the meanings that undergird their existence. We can use new technologies to weave words and images, scientific information and poetic inspiration, and incorporate multiple voices to tell multi-faceted stories of our earth communities. As Thomas King tells us, The truth about stories is that’s all we are.

Pattern status: 
Released

Labor Visions

Pattern ID: 
771
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
112
Nancy Brigham
independent web designer and activist
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Fifty years ago, there was little doubt that unions had dramatically raised living standards for workers. But while more than one in three American workers belonged to a union in the early 1950s, today scarcely one in ten workers do. As companies move jobs away from unionized workplaces, it’s no coincidence that fewer workers have health insurance and that pay has stagnated. Non-union workers are only one-fifth as likely to have reliable defined-benefit pensions. In their heyday, American unions became somewhat complacent, confident that they were an accepted part of American life and secure in their ability to bargain middle-class living standards for millions of workers. Many neglected the need to vigorously organize new members or reach out to the public.

Context: 

New technology has helped businesses consolidate into huge multinationals that swiftly move jobs around the world to where labor costs are the lowest. This has vastly strengthened the power of employers to keep workers from unionizing and getting a fair shake. American workers watch their jobs transfered to Mexico, where workers can be controlled by management-run unions. When Mexican workers organize real unions, they encounter government hostility and threats to move work to China. In this global

Discussion: 

Recent surveys show that U.S. workers want to join unions. But employers often prevent this from happening by illegally threatening or firing union activists. More than 23,000 U.S. workers are dismissed or punished each year for exercising their legal rights to form or join a union.

Trade agreements like NAFTA and GATT further weaken worker power. While they strongly protect corporate intellectual property and investment, they open up nations to unfettered competition in terms of jobs and living standards. Even workers in high-tech fields like programming see their wages and job security battered by international outsourcing.

Unions have historically helped workers overcome this competition by uniting them to win across-the-board justice for the majority. In the 1900s they won equal pay and benefits across whole industries like automobiles and steel. The challenge today is to overcome international competition and join hands to win good wages and conditions worldwide.

The challenge is daunting to say the least. The AFL-CIO split in 2005 when several big unions formed a new federation that pledged to organize more vigorously. This division, however, may also dilute the clout of labor to act in concert. Nonetheless, steps being taken today suggest ways we can move toward the vision of global worker justice and unionism, aided by fast, global Internet communications. These steps include: •

  • Build broad support for workers and communities, regardless of location or whether there is a union contract, and apply pressure to encourage government support for workers.

    People can join AFL-CIO campaigns to support better laws and worker rights at workingamerica.org. The Jobs for Justice coalition also rallies public support for worker-justice battles. The campaign against Wal-Mart, one of the most powerful economic forces on earth, is proof that the movement can reach beyond its members. Wal-Mart paved the way for retailers to aggressively demand lower costs from producers around the world. The union movement is using the Internet to tap into a broad reservoir of resentment to these tactics, including small businesses and towns devastated by Wal-Mart super-stores, states fed up with covering health costs Wal-Mart should have paid for its own workers, and young people upset with the Wal-Mart-ization of culture and opportunities. Laws are being passed in Chicago and elsewhere to demand that major retailers pay good wages and benefits. •

  • Connect with immigrants and workers across national borders to build permanent support networks and apply global pressure on companies and governments to respect workers.

    Given the vast distances and differences in living standards, culture and language, as well as interference from repressive governments, reaching across borders is not easy. To succeed, unions must connect with other social movements and take maximum advantage of technology to communicate quickly and cheaply around the world. •

  • Organize globally against corporate threats to play workers against each other.

    The New York-based National Labor Committee exposes the appalling conditions in foreign sweatshops through creative media events that attract support from churches and the public. The Campaign for Labor Rights in the U.S., Britain’s LabourStart and the U.S.-based UE electrical workers union (which publishes a virtual newsletter on Mexican labor and is allied with a democratic Mexican union) also organize powerful email campaigns to support union struggles around the world, while groups like the Comité Fronterizo de Obreros organize on the ground across borders.

  • Challenge the commercialization of culture and inspire an ethical framework in which people are called upon to make sacrifices – such as not buying products made in sweatshops – to press for gains that benefit all.

    Students are organizing to support labor rights locally and globally. The first group of Mexican workers to organize at a maquila clothing factory (i.e., a factory producing products for export under conditions favoring multinationals) was at the Korean-owned Mexmode factory in Puebla. A courageous strike by young women workers won a new union in 2001 through key support from the U.S.-based United Students against Sweatshops, which in turn is allied with labor and global anti-sweatshop groups. They quickly mobilized using the Internet. •

  • Share technical ideas, information and organizing experiences with activists and labor supporters worldwide.

    Academics have been sharing information globally on labor organizing, as evidenced at the Global Unions conference sponsored by Cornell in 2006. And union supporters from several nations meet biannually at LaborTech conferences to showcase creative uses of modern communications. •

  • Push for trade agreements that protect not just corporate investment but workers’ rights, with trade penalties for mistreating workers. Insist on democratic input into international trade rules.

    Several Latin American governments have rejected the neo-liberal basis of modern trade agreements and the anti-worker conditions imposed by lending institutions. In 2006, a popular French revolt against watering down job protections for young workers won a surprise victory. Recent rounds of trade talks have failed, and Mexican voters turned out en masse for Lopez Obrador, who wants to renegotiate NAFTA.

The labor movement cannot and will not die. Workers are struggling for union rights around the globe -- even against the greatest of odds. And the public is increasingly supportive.

Solution: 

After decades of losing ground, unions and advocates of worker justice are striving to overcome the competition for jobs that pits worker against worker in a global “race to the bottom.” A vision of global progress, based on humane values, solidarity and local community, can motivate a union movement that transcends borders and involves all workers and allies. The Wal-Mart campaign, the anti-sweatshop movement and international networking are evidence that unions, the public, foreign workers and academics are reaching out in new ways to form support networks to raise standards for all workers. And they are pressuring governments to reject the neo-liberal trade policies that disadvantage workers, and insist on trade rules that require justice for workers.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

As companies move jobs away from unionized workplaces, fewer workers have health insurance and pay has stagnated. New technology has helped businesses create huge multinationals that move jobs to where labor costs are the lowest. Labor Visions, based on humane values, solidarity and local community, can motivate a union movement that transcends borders and involves all workers and their allies.

Pattern status: 
Released

Arts of Resistance

Pattern ID: 
437
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
111
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Repression and other forms of injustice and other social ills are often overlooked, dismissed in a cursory way, or deemed to be inevitable and immutable. Even when these problems are acknowledged, resistance to them is shallow, erratic, uncoordinated and ineffectual. Although art can be used to deliver a message of inspiration and information for the disempowered, it is often irrelevant; it can be a tool of the powerful and a diversion of the wealthy. In many cases, a distracting and ubiquitous corporate media has replaced the tradition of people and communities telling their own stories.

Context: 

People and societies around the world have over the years developed their own versions of hell on earth that some subset of its inhabitants is obliged to endure. These regions exist within all societies, but vary in size and in magnitude of abuse ranging from neglect to active repression.

Discussion: 

Artists occupy a unique role in society. Through a diversity of approaches, they explore new terrains that words alone are incapable of describing. Art can address issues, help solve problems and even serve as a "public psychiatrist" that surfaces social anxieties. Art speaks to places that other languages can't and affects consciousness on a level that we don't understand and can't map. Some, but not all, artists work for social and environmental justice. Notably artists can explore ideas of personal or societal importance or they can operate within a world circumscribed by religious authorities, corporations or the art-buying public, a decidedly privileged class economically.

The "world" that "resistance" strives to understand and confront provides an exhaustible fount of inspiration for artists – professionals and non-professionals alike. The media through which messages and stories can be conveyed includes T-shirts (indeed, wearing the wrong t-shirt is an invitation to harassment, fines, and imprisonment in my regions and countries around the world) and comics and zines, opera, ballet, graffiti, murals, sculpture, film, film or many other approaches. Art can be immersive and engaging; it can help build community and involve the "audience" in rituals or processions. Art can be an invidual or collective effort, big or small, public or anonymous, clandestine and furtive, In can be created by children or by people or emotionally disturbed. The art of homeless people, refugees, or incarcerated people is likely to present a view of the world that the rest of us may not see.

Resistance art brings hidden knowledge out of the shadows. The historic roots of contemporary experience, a common theme of Chicano murals, such as those created by Los Cybrids collective, in Los Angeles and other southwestern cities in the US explore themes of identity and hybridity. Another approach is to present the reality of a situation in a documentary style, such as Walker Evans' sparse, unadorned depression era photographs of the rural poor. Another approach is exemplified by George Grosz's grotesque and piercing caricatures of militarists and war-profiteers, or Hitler garbed in a bearskin.

In the 1980s, Artists of the World Against Apartheid based in France issued a broad appeal to artists around the world to contribute anti-apartheid works of art. Ernest Pignon-Ernest of France and Antonio Saura of Spain worked unselfishly for two years to make it happen. A major exhibition was mounted in late 1983 at the Fondation Nationale des Arts Graphiques et Plastiques in Paris. Since the organizers had stipulated in advance that the art would be held in trust and given to the people of South Africa on the occasion of "the first free and democratic government by universal suffrage" as the basis of an anti-apartheid museum, the collection was moved to South Africa at the request of president Nelson Mandela.

A similar event took place in the U.S. two decades later. With the invasion of Iraq looming, first lady Laura Bush, picked an inopportune time to invite poet Sam Hamill to a special White House event, "Poetry and the American Voice," which was to celebrate the works of Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes. Instead of being seduced by to the allure of power and prestige, Hamill refused Bush's invitation. Instead he emailed several friends asking them for poems on the theme of war which would be bound and presented to Bush. This ignited a poetic firestorm that claimed no national border. Inspired by Hamill's defiance, a web site (http://www.poetsagainstthewar.org) was established that provided a platform for poets around the world to express their feelings related to the impending war. The site proved immediately and enormously popular – at its peak it was averaging several new poems a minute. Now the site has over 20,000 poems online – including works by Adrienne Rich, W.S. Merwin. and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and spotlights several poems per week. The project ultimately published two volumes of poetry and an excellent documentary film, "Poets in Wartime," was inspired by the effort. Moreover, the work engendered a non-profit organization, "Poets Against War", was formed with the simple yet direct mission statement: "Poets Against War continues the tradition of socially engaged poetry by creating venues for poetry as a voice against war, tyranny and oppression."

This episode (Poets Against War) raises the general question of the role of occupational groups and whether there is an implicit or explicit obligation to help deter aggression and war. A short list of such candidates would include teachers, religious leaders, engineers, journalists, farmers, and doctors and nurses and other caregivers. A longer list would include almost everybody – for very few people in the world actually want to be within war's lethal compass, as either participant or as innocent bystander.

Another fascinating example, is the beehive design collective, an amazing anarchic and itinerant design collective that, although home-based in Vermont, travels around the world to create region-specific murals. Members often work with indigenous or other people to develop murals that capture the unique circumstances of the people who live there. The murals they develop grow organically; containing a variety of elements sinuously weaving indigenous plans and animals, historic referents, and symbols of corporate and colonial domination, with images of fanciful and realistic resistance.

Resistance art has many audiences. In the anti-apartheid movement, for example, the audience would obviously include the victims of apartheid and the supporters of their struggle. It would also include the people who believe themselves neutral of hadn't thought about apartheid from a moral standpoint and people who were actively promulgating it: politicians, policemen, the media, and business spokespeople who benefited from the cheap labor provided by the marginalized victims. Beyond that, the audience extended to the rest of the world. Many people outside of South Africa worked on anti-apartheid campaigns. Gill Scott-Heron's anti-apartheid anthem, "Johannesburg," was played on the radio in US cities, where its uncomfortable references to big segregated cities in the US like New York and Philadelphia showed that South Africa was not the only country in the world where prejudice and racism flourished.

From Goya and Picasso to Johannesburg's T-shirt artists of and anonymous graffiti artists around the world, resistance artists, generally acting on their own – have portrayed the horrors of war or other abominations. Activists in Seattle, hoping to help cultivate a supportive community network for resistance artists have convened an Arts of Resistance conference for the past two years. Through workshops, presentations, videos, and, most importantly, through face-to-face dialogue and debate, the idea that art can be socially transformative became more widely recognized and more thoughtfully practiced.

People ultimately also need to be reminded of two things – that they are not impotent and disconnected spectators but active and engaged participants in the ongoing vibrant fabric of life. Art, therefore, can tell the story of the ongoing struggle while suggesting ways for people to take part. It can also sketch out, in possibly indistinct and uncertain terms, a future that may exist, after successful struggles, where children, and their children, and their children's children do not experience the daily injury of living in an unjust and unhealthy world.

Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu, a longtime foe of apartheid, notes that when resistance art is successful, "People come to the forceful realization that they are not entirely the impotent playthings of powerful forces." According to Tutu, resistance art, whether it's a play, song or T-shirt represents, "a proud defiance of the hostile forces that would demean and dehumanize."

Solution: 

Art can convey beauty, love and joy. It can also convey justice, fairness, dignity and resistance. Engaging in art can hone creativity by encouraging exploration within a plastic medium. The future itself is a plastic medium and we will never know how malleable it is if we don't explore it. Resistance art can be a seed that helps people understand their situation and how they might work to improve it.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Repression and other forms of injustice and other social ills are often overlooked, or seen as inevitable. Art can be used to deliver a message of inspiration and information for the disempowered. Art can convey beauty, love and joy. It can also convey justice, fairness, dignity and resistance. The future itself is a plastic medium, a canvas that we all help paint. Arts of Resistance can be seeds that helps people understand their situation and how they might work to improve it.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
London Extinction Rebellion mural, purportedly by Banksy, 2019

Homemade Media

Pattern ID: 
489
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
110
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

People outside the major spheres of power are often denied access to the tools and technologies of self-expression. This is often the unfortunate by-product of poverty; education is out reach of the majority of the majority of the world's population and access to media tools (including cameras, editing software, recording studios, the Internet) and other systems is often prohibitively expensive. Although this situation can be debilitating to people who are caught in those circumstances, the rest of society suffers as well: they are deprived of stories and perspectives that could enrich their understanding of the world while preparing them to become better citizens of the world — and their local community.

Context: 

Anybody with a story to tell — and this includes everybody — could benefit from this pattern. This pattern, however, specifically addresses those people with little to no access to media production of any kind. Although this pattern focuses on the people who lack the access, implementation of this pattern often requires the assistance of people and organizations who have both the resources and interest in working with people in a participatory way.

Discussion: 

The story told in the 2004 documentary "Born into Brothels" is an excellent example of this pattern. In 1997, New York-based photographer Zana Briski traveled to India to document the lives of women, children and men who lived in Calcutta's impoverished red light district. During the next three years, some of which was spent living in the brothels, Briski noticed that many of the children of the prostitutes were fascinated by her photographic equipment. Soon she started giving them cameras and helping them to use them as a new lens to look at their world. Later she organized shows at galleries for the photographs and made the photographs available on the Internet. The money from the sales is now being used to help support the children's education. While raising money for the worthy cause of education — and raising the consciousness of millions of others who watched the documentary — is exemplary, the most important outcome of the project may be the increased awareness and perception that seemed to be unlocked in the children by the acts of observing and recording their surroundings with the camera.

While the Homemade Media pattern is not a panacea it does have many possible benefits. The first benefit is of course that learning to create media helps build skills and as such may lead to employment. Regardless of that, however, it helps build confidence and self-esteem. These positive attitudes about oneself and the desire to keep persisting in the craft of creating media — whether photography, interviews, audio recordings, or newspapers — is a good defense against self-destructive behaviors such as alcohol or other drug abuse or gang activity or criminal outlets. The act of capturing an image in a camera's viewfinder or writing down fragments of overheard conversations or otherwise recording promotes the idea of reflection upon various aspects of life or the imagination.

Media is inherently shareable in some way. Photographs can displayed for viewing in galleries, printed in magazine or hung on public walls. Videos can be shown on televisions or in theaters. These can be artistic, informational, or lead to social change in some way. In any case, however, they can be used to communicate with others. Homemade Media can open up channels of communication with people, as audience or as potential partners for additional collaboration.

A few other examples can show a little more of the breadth of the pattern: Drawings of children in Darfur present the horror of genocide that is hard to shake off. Gumball Poetry (http://www.gumballpoetry.com/) allows people to buy a short poem from a gumball machine for 25 cents. One of the most remarkable projects, however, took place in Bogoto, Colombia. Film-maker Felipe Aljure developed the Rebeldes con Cauce project in which he worked with 140 young people with no filmmaking experience to help them learn how to make films (Dowmunt, 1988). Most of the students were from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. They studied film, developed outlines and created ten to fifteen minute films which were ultimately aired on Bogota's channel Canal Capital where they received "outstanding" ratings.

The Plugged In Project in East Palo Alto helped teach underprivileged youths how to create web pages that told their stories (while teaching them a skill, self-confidence, etc.) from celebrating Thanksgiving holiday with their family to witnessing the seizure of a family member by immigration officials for now have the appropriate papers to remain in the country.

The homeless newspaper movement is active in many cities around the world. Although it takes different forms in different cities, the basic model is the same: The newspaper concentrates on issues of homelessness and poverty, two subjects that are likely to be covered sensitively or in much depth by mainstream media. Beyond that the newspaper is often actively engaged in the struggle for the rights of poor people and engages poor people and their communities in every aspect of the newspaper production and distribution. The Real Change weekly newspaper in Seattle is sold by people who are homeless or otherwise in underprivileged positions for $1.00 and receive 70 cents for each paper sold.


Introductory graphic can be found at http://www.kids-with-cameras.org/bornintobrothels/
Solution: 

The Homemade Media can be applied in a million ways. Support and enjoy homemade media in your community and around the world.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Capturing an image or conversation encourages reflection and introspection yet people outside the major spheres of power have little access to the technologies and tools of self-expression. Although this can be harmful to those people, others are deprived of enriching stories and perspectives. Homemade Media helps build confidence and self-esteem as well as employment skills. Anybody with a story to tell can benefit from Homemade Media.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Kids With Cameras

Control of Self Representation

Pattern ID: 
483
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
109
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

How people are represented — in speech, story, or image — will influence to some degree how they are perceived — by themselves and others — and, hence, are treated. Africa, for example, is typically presented to the rest of the world — and to Africans as well — by CNN and other western media — not by Africans or African media. This problem, of couse, is not confined to Africa. Poor people everywhere are portrayed — if they're portrayed at all — as nameless and voiceless, rarely as people with ideas, aspirations, creativity, culture or values.

Context: 

This pattern is applicable in any setting where information about one group of people is being developed and distributed by another group of people.

Discussion: 

"More recently, in later modernity the theme of the everyday has been considerably more prominent. But this does not mean that questions about who is representing for whom and why and how have been resolved. Issues about legitimacy of representation remain crucial, and indeed I shall argue that how to articulate and represent the everyday is the main issue in the politics of culture." - David Chaney (2002)

Non-whites, convicts, the poor, sick, starving people, flood victims, uneducated, aged, rural as well as intellectuals, dissidents, gender, ethnic and other marginalized groups are often the victim of mis-representation. Their presentations are often paper-thin, stereotypical at best. (While mention of other people are simply omitted; they don't exist.) The net result is a compelling, free-floating image of "normalcy" that serves as a model to be emulated.

This pattern represents a concept that gets very little notice. After all, there is really no way to fully control your representation or what people do with it. Ultimately it’s an expression of power: Who is creating the representations, under what conditions, and how can they be maintained, changed, or challenged? When somebody else is determining how you will be represented you have been robbed of your right to defend yourself, to make your own case for who you are. On some level, it's a type of identity theft. Who you are has been determined elsewhere and stamped on you.

Why bother with representations? Is there really anything to worry about? Are there any negative implications? Yes. For one thing, there seems to be substantial evidence that people start believeing their own representations — and act according to them. Representations, unfortunately, can have exceedingly long life spans since culture tends to replicate itself. Also people individually see little reason to change the way they view the world unless there is a compelling reason to rethink themselves.

This pattern on the one hand depicts the need for people everywhere to grab hold of their own representation and challenge the mechanisms (generally of media production) that perpetuates the stereotypes. At this level of analysis the pattern recommends a more accurate and bi-directional approach to "representation" — often of entire countries, ethnic and other marginalized populations. At a deeper level this pattern seeks to remedy a problem much more insidious -- that of a steady colonization from "within."

The importance of this pattern is obvious. It's why people may be suspicious when others are talking about them. It's why big corporations and political parties spend enormous sums on public relations and "spinning" news and other information to their advantage. Corporations and government agencies have elaborate and professional strategies for ensuring that their public portrait is painted according to their specifications. Movies stars, writers, etc. have their own publicists whose job it is to bring (or push) certain information to certain people. On the other hand, powerful people and institutions also go to great lengths to keep some information submerged and hidden forever.

There are several tools for addressing these problems. People in the group who may be perpetrating the stereotypes — white males (like me) for example — have the responsibility to acknowledge these transgressions and strive to overcome them. Media literacy and media critique are two skills worth developing and media monitoring is a worthwhile way to develop a fact base that can be used to confront the mis-representers. Much of this work should be done at a community level: the analyses should be shared, for example, with the community because it's often the community that is being mis-represented. Also, as was alluded to earlier, it may even be possible that members of the mis-represented community may be unconsciously living down to the stereotypes of their community.

Media is essentially a one-way street, a mute, wall-to-wall hallucinatory enclosure. (Although people do interpret according to their own rules that the media doesn't necessarily control.) The "message" of this medium is rarely acknowledged — it is truly the fabled 800-pound gorilla. Like a voice in your head, its message is compelling and persistent. It won't go away! It sows indecision while removing individual autonomy and opportunities for authentic social learning. Yet media producers aren't necessarily evil. Often laziness, lack of imagination (cloning the popular movie), and financial decisions factor in.

Solution: 

The first step to addressing this problem is to acknowledge that it exists. Since the media (and cultural representations generally) are so ubiquitous that it's hard to believe that there is a bias, however implicit. The second obstacle is thinking that nothing can be done about this. As you dig deeper in this you may simultaneously be amazed at the extent of the problem and your desire to help overcome it.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Whether through speech, story, or image how people are represented influences how they're perceived and treated. Non-whites, incarcerated, sick or starving people, disaster victims, uneducated, aged, and rural people as well as many others marginalized by gender or ethnicity are misrepresented. One cannot fully control self-representation but it can be addressed. The first step is increasing awareness of the problem; the second is analysis; the third is action.

Pattern status: 
Released

Appropriating Technology

Pattern ID: 
500
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
108
Ron Eglash
rpi
Version: 
2
Problem: 

We usually think of technology as that which is designed by elite groups -- mostly male, mostly white, mostly upper class, etc. But the lay public can also be thought of as producers of technology and science. The "smiley face" emoticons we use in email, for example, were not designed by experts; it was ordinary people taking advantage of a flexibility in the system. Technology appropriation can be profound: Latino "street mechanics" for example created the Low Rider car which revolutionized their culture. Black teenagers created the "scratch" sound of rap by appropriating the turntable. Appropriated technology can help the disenfrachised gain social power. But there are three barriers. First, marginalized people often see science and technology as the enemy, a force to be resisted. Second, marginalized people often lack the education and physical resources for technology interventions. And third, designers (or at least the corporations they work for) do not necessarily see flexibility as something they should incorporate in their products. Of course not all cases of appropriated technology are happy stories: neo-nazi groups are also outside the centers of scientific production, and they too adapt and reinvent to gain power.

Context: 

Barrier 1: science and technology as the enemy. Social critics of often cite "technocracy" as the evil which perpetuates disparity in social power. Thus oppositional groups which subscribe to this theory will tend to desire less technology and not more. We see this in the 1960s counter-culture, in the conflation of technology with patriarchy, and in race-based movements that see an original "natural" or "pure" identity that was later defiled by colonialism.
Barrier 2: science and technology as unattainable. Our society tends to mythologize expertise, particularly that of science and technology, making lay interventions less attainable than they actually are. Many researchers suspect this serves to maintain elite priviledge and passive consumption.
Barrier 3: designing for rigidity: Corporations can increase profits by forcing consumers to use their products or engage in limited behaviors: for example Microsoft's operating system created barriers to competing internet browsers.

Discussion: 

In collecting the various case studies for our anthology (Eglash et al 2004), it became apparent that some examples made a stronger case for appropriation than others. Using that distinction, we developed the following three categories. You can think of these as being positioned along a spectrum from consumption to production (see figure above).

The weakest case, "reinterpretation," is defined by a change in semantic association with little or no change in use or structure. That is, the lay person has changed only the meaning of the artifact, not its physical make up. Graffiti tags are a good illustration: the physical and functional aspects of a building are essentially unchanged, but the semantic claim to ownership, as a form of either cultural resistance or criminal turf war,is not trivial. The next stronger case, "adaptation," is defined by a change in both semantic association and use. For example, the Bedouin society of Egypt, a relatively disempowered ethnic minority, found that cassette tape players, which were marketed for listening to music from the Egyptian majority, had an unused recording capability as well. They began to record their own songs, and this eventually led to the rise of a Bedouin pop star and the creation of new economic and cultural opportunities (Abu-Lughod 1989). Adaptation requires two technosocial features. First, an attribute of the technology-user relationship that Hess (1995) refers to as “flexibility.” For example, a calculator is less flexible than a word processor, which is less flexible than a personal computer. Second, it requires a violation of intended purpose. It is a mistake to reduce this to the intentions of designers; we also need to consider marketing intentions and “common-sense” or popular assumptions. In the case of Bedouin cassette players we have a pre-existing flexibility for recording that was intended by the designers, but this was obscured by the marketing focus on play-back only. Adaptation can be described as the discovery of a “latent” function, but that definition needs to be problemitized in the same ways that philosophers have debated whether mathematics is invention or discovery. The creativity required to look beyond the assumed functions of the technology and see new possibilities is a powerful force for social change, yet one that receives insufficient theoretical attention.

The strongest case for appropriated technology is "reinvention," in which semantics, use and structure are all changed. That is, if adaptation can be said to require the discovery of a latent function, reinvention can be defined as the creation of new functions through structural change. Low-rider cars (see figure below) provide a clear demonstration of this combination. Although automobile shock absorbers were originally produced for decreasing disturbance, Latino mechanics developed methods for attaching them to electrically controlled air pumps, turning shock absorbers into shock producers (the cars can move vertically as well as horizontally). Low-rider cars violate both marketing and design intentions, but the new functionality was introduced by altering the original structure, rather than discovering functions lying dormant in the original artifact.

Having studied appropriated technologies, what should we do with them?

First, it is important to understand that in distinguishing strong versus weak cases for appropriated technology, we make no evaluation of ideology or effectiveness. One might, for instance, find more political success with reinterpretation than reinvention in a given case. It is, rather, more a question of how much involment the lay public can have in production versus consumption.

Second, appropriated technologies do not have an *inherent* ethical advantage. Not all forms of resistance are necessarily beneficial in the long run. Aihwa Ong, for example, notes that Malaysian women using spirit possession as resistance to exploitation may be releasing frustrations that could have gone into collective labor organizing. And as we noted, white supremacist groups might well be described as marginalized people who appropriate the internet and other technologies. While free speech must be preserved at all costs, appropriation is not making a better society in the case of neo-nazi web sites.

Third, Insofar as science and technology appropriations do have potential contributions to stronger democracy (cf. Schuler 1996), we need to understand how these positive attributes can succeed. First, there are obstacles to appropriation on the design side; most obviously those created by totalitarian governments, but corporations can also dampen or discourage appropriation. The flexibility required to allow user adaptation, for example, is increasingly threatened in contemporary information technology marketing strategies. Encouraging designers to incorporate appropriation as a positive virtue means reversing this trend towards inflexibility. Second, there are obstacles to appropriation on the lay public side. We need to not only overcome the ideology barrier, but also the barriers of education and access to physical resources.

Solution: 

In terms of the designer barrier, we can train engineers and designers to think about approapriation as a positive goal. In terms of the ideology barrier, we can encourage marginalized groups to strive towards positive conceptions of hybridity rather than relying on notions of purity. And in terms of the resource barrier, we can encourage the creation of community technology centers, among other efforts.

Finally, we should examine each case of lay/professional relationship in terms of the dependence or independence fostered by various appropriated technology strategies. A "consumer ombudsman" offers more independence than a marketing survey, participatory design offers more than the ombudsman, and appropriating technology offers a maximum of independance. But again this is not an ethical spectrum -- there are cases in which groups are better off with an ombudsman than an act of appropriation. Increasing independence can free up new possibilities, but decreasing it can facilitate institutionalization. Rather than romanticize independence, both users and designers should strive towards the lay/professional relationship that will move toward strong democracy in their particular context. In conclusion: we can encourage, inspire, and incite the use of appropriated technologies for opening new possibilities in the relations of culture and technoscience.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

"Ordinary people" can produce science and technology. Latino "street mechanics" created the Low Rider car and Black teenagers created the "scratch" sound of rap. Appropriating technology can help the disenfranchised gain social power. We can encourage marginalized groups to explore positive "hybridity," create community technology centers, and train engineers and designers to think about appropriation by users as a positive goal.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Ron Eglash

Engaged Tourism

Pattern ID: 
766
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
107
Christine Ciancetta
Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Tourism has largely developed unhindered by environmental and community concerns. Its sole basis is economic growth, with the majority of profits funneled to already rich industrialized nations. At its worst, tourism devastates rich landscapes, displaces long-established and thriving communities, causes pollution, creates a culture of drug and sex-trafficking, abuses access to clean water, and eradicates culturally unique lifestyles and livelihoods.

Context: 

Individuals or organizations seeking to take part in travel and tourism that benefits local communities should investigate the many resources for Engaged or Responsible Tourism. The hallmark of Engaged Tourism is that it is community-determined, sustainable and draws on the existing people and environmentally centered resources of the community.

Discussion: 

The challenges to participating in responsible tourism are many. A westerner's perception of travel and vacationing are already formed to expect a certain kind of product. Swimming pools, air-conditioning, lavish meals, subservient staff, "staged" traditional activities and the like leave little room for discovering the many wonders of foreign cultures or experiencing the complexities of a different lifestyle. Foreign governments share in the global race to classify tourism as a national export, paving the way for multinational corporations to build a tourist infrastructure at the expense of whatever may be in its way.

Tourism Concern, an NGO based in the United Kingdom is a primary source of information about the social, environmental, and economic impacts of tourism at the same time that it advocates and provides information about alternatives. According to Tourism Concern's Web site, some of the main negative effects of tourism include displacement of people (particularly native peoples living on their traditional lands), environmental damage from uncontrolled development, and water abuse. In examining water abuse it's easy to find that "the presence of tourists naturally means a much higher demand for water. Local communities normally do not benefit, and in most cases, are not allowed access to infrastructure built to ensure safe drinking water. The development of golf courses and hotel swimming pools are responsible for depleting and contaminating water sources for surrounding communities; this is especially true in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. An average 18-hole golf course soaks up at least 525,000 gallons of water a day - enough to supply the irrigation needs of 100 Malaysian farmers."

Equations, an East Indian NGO promoting responsible tourism, documents several tourism projects that are moving ahead without local support. The mega Bekal Tourism Project plans to convert Bekal, a northern rural coastal fishing district, into Asia's largest beach tourism resort of 6500 units by 2011. As a consequence, four entire fishing communities would be destroyed, communities that are among the most sustainable in all of India. In addition, unique cultural practices are at risk: "The indigenous fishing community of Kasaragod is the last remaining community along the Keralam coast with traditional fishing techniques. They abhor over-fishing and adhere to sustainable harvesting practices. The community still practices the traditional 'sea courts' where the community heads assemble at the place of worship every day to hear and decide on issues within the community."

The Bekal project illustrates more. The government of Keralam has already begun acquiring land as cheaply as possible under "public purpose" and intends to sell the land to private and multi-national tourist organizations for this same price. To date, there is no Environmental Impact Assessment despite the fact that as planned it would violate national Coastal Regulation Zone rules. Local community members are being denied due process through hearings that are a sham.

Fortunately, there are organizations that are becoming involved in the process of re-vitalizing community efforts to direct tourism. An extensive list of responsible travel organizations can be found on Tourism Concern's Web site, (http://www.tourismconcern.org.uk/). Reference books also published by Tourism Concern include "Good Alternative Travel Guide: Exciting Holidays for Responsible Travelers" by Mark Mann, and the new, "Ethical Travel Guide" by Polly Pattullo, lists ethical and sustainable tourism in over 60 countries.

Global Exchanges is a model organization in creating opportunities for Engaged Tourism. Their Reality Tours operate give people "the chance to learn about unfamiliar cultures, meet with people from various walks of life, and establish meaningful relationships with people from other countries."

Solution: 

Engaged tourism represents a shift in both attitudes and activity. Tourists traveling to developing nations shift their attitudes from participating in inexpensive fun abroad to participating in meaningful experiences in international communities. Interestingly, it is exactly the presence of western engaged tourists that assists in re-establishing the values, culture, status of local people and communities adversely affected by commercial tourism.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

At its worst, tourism devastates ecosystems, displaces communities, causes pollution, promotes drug and sex-trafficking, restricts access to clean water, and degrades culture. A westerner's perception of travel often is oblivious to foreign cultures or different lifestyles. Engaged Tourism shifts from fun abroad to meaningful experiences. In fact, engaged tourists can help re-establish values, culture, and status of people adversely affected by commercial tourism.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b3/Puerto_Princesa_Underground_River.jpg

Self-Designed Development

Pattern ID: 
761
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
106
Justin Smith
The Public Sphere Project & St. Mary's University
Version: 
2
Problem: 

All too often development initiatives are designed and implemented by outside professionals, politicians and wealthy elites. Neither community empowerment nor fundamental sustainability plays a central role in many of these interventionist projects. And just as bad, they fail to honor the basic desires and knowledge possessed by these people. Thus displacement, increased unemployment and the overall degeneration of livelihoods becomes the normative result of mis-planned, mis-interpreted and thus, mis-implemented development. Similarly, even among the well-meaning development NGOs a culture of dependence tends to emerge with communities being perpetually tied to the expertise and monetary assets that these organizations bring with them.

Context: 

Before governments, international development agencies and corporate stake holders attempt to define the nature of development for a particular community or region (or for the world for that matter), peoples must proactively assert their own paradigm as a challenge to the problematic realties that have come from vertically planned development schemes, and to break out of dependency.

Discussion: 

Stepping away from the interventionist model of development, self-designed or autonomous development emphasizes at its core development designed and implemented by the people it is intended to affect. While on one hand this pattern presents an orientation towards the practice and approach of development at one level, at another it is meant to be translated into the direct actions of peoples pursuing the right to define the trajectories of their lives, the lives of their families and their overall communities. It tries to avoid the assumption that all peoples want to be developed, rather it does assume that peoples wish to enjoy a certain type of life defined on their own terms and the hope is that they have the opportunity to realize that desire in their life-time.

The words self-designed or autonomous are meant to address the fundamental notions of power, who has it, who uses, and how it’s used and to what end. As a pattern that values autonomy, but also a notion of development towards greater well-being traditional as well as modern knowledge must be acknowledged, understanding that they do not always have to be perpetually competing forces, but when approached carefully they can be utilized to promote viable path towards community transformation that honors the social, cultural and political realities a community exists within. Thus, the overall basis of the self-designed development places both the responsibility and power of change into the hands of those who have been historically disempowered through the processes of traditional ‘developmentalism’.

At the level of orientating this process, its necessary to re-frame development and stress a redefinition of the roles between peoples in communities seeking transformation and the various outside agents who are working for authentic social and economic change. Here we would emphasize facilitation over the management and design on the part of the part of the so-called professional, and community independence and autonomy over dependence.

Take for example, the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) (See: Action Research) so often thought of as the mainstay of the development practitioner seeking to design projects, becomes instead an awareness tool for community members themselves to guide their own decision making process on what steps are to be taken to better their livelihoods, and offer clear paths to achieving that. In fact this tool can be used by a community without the need for complex levels of understanding into social research and can be used in a relatively low-tech way within a variety of settings. Therefore, the role of the outside agent can be to act as observer and identify ways in which they can help a community realize their mutually defined goals.

At the level of implementation the pattern can guide specific actions to be taken up by communities to include any number of projects defined by a community. For example, projects can be anything from a system of check dams used to provide electricity to power a rural village; another project could be the construction of a primary school or health center for women. They can include the creation of farming cooperatives to ensure the community not only achieves the ability to provide sustenance, but can then also generate income by selling their products outside their geographical community.

Undoubtedly the use of this pattern at this level will be context specific and must be shaped by the various needs and desires, and including the capacities and capabilities of peoples seeking to pursue this pattern of development. This recognizes that not all communities possess the same needs or desires, nor do the posses the same levels of capacity or capabilities. Therefore in one community where the level of civic capacity is high, as well as a great deal of cohesion and participation among community members, then a more autonomous approach to development is going to be more easily realized.

Yet, to a community that lack a certain level of capacity and cohesion it may be necessary for the community to seek the assistance of an outside agent to facilitate in the process. This could include consciousness raising, financial support, transfer of knowledge and so forth, but fundamentally any such assistance must be a result of the wishes of the community and brought forth based upon the terms and desires of those these plans are meant to assist.

There may however, be situations in which such a pattern may not be at all viable, or only very minimally. This is particularly true in situations of displacement, through war, famine or other outside forces that breaks a necessary level of cohesion due to fissure in the very nature of their communal ties, and thereby fragmenting the people’s capacity to coordinate and act collectively. In these situations, the pattern may still be utilized but it will be much more of a goal to be actualized by development agents who are seeking to ameliorate the problems associated with fragmented communities. The pattern thus becomes a guiding force for the interventionist, and care must be taken not to cross the boundary of creating development dependence among peoples.

In these situations it can also be potentially problematic as it can be difficult for agencies to relinquish control over development initiatives as community reconstitute themselves and gain a level of independence and cohesion that would allow for them to participate in a process of autonomous development. And since its difficult to say when the work of an NGO is done in area there remains this tendency maintain a role of interventionism long after a community has acquired the capacity to define their own goals. It therefore begins to become the kind of development the outsiders envision and not that of the community.

Thus, this pattern not only becomes an orientation to community driven development but an orientation and guide by which NGOs themselves can pursue a process to empower communities by emphasizing any number of projects designed to empower peoples to regain control over their lives in the wake of a rapidly modernizing world.

Solution: 

First, those among the professional development community should not always assume that a community wishes to be or needs to be developed. Rather support to communities should be pursed based on invitation. For the communities themselves this is an opportunity to empower themselves and to project the ways in which they wish to interact and be defined in the process of modernization that is going on everywhere. It is an opportunity to exert their own sense of identity and influence their livelihoods as best and most effectively as possible in the face of so many outside forces that are consciously and unconsciously seeking to define their collective futures.

When pursuing a development project peoples must come together, discuss, plan and decide what they want. If the community chooses to maintain a traditional way of life it becomes up to them on how they will protect that. And in the event that a community does seek outside assistance it is up to them to define the nature and terms of that relationship to those working with them from the outside. And for those with a low-capacity for truly implementing such an approach any initiative must incorporate the necessity of capacity building for communities to achieve a level in which they can envision their own development. Ultimately, the realization of a community’s independence rather than dependence in this world should be at the fore in such circumstances.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Development initiatives are often designed and implemented by outside professionals, politicians and wealthy elites. Neither community empowerment nor fundamental sustainability plays a central role in many of these interventionist projects. Communities must take the opportunity to proactively assert their own paradigm and to exert their own sense of identity and influence in the face of outside forces attempting to define their collective futures.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Wikimedia Commons

Self-Help Groups

Pattern ID: 
762
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
105
Justin Smith
The Public Sphere Project & St. Mary's University
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Individual capacity among poor peoples in the developing world, particularly women to establish credit and develop self-sufficient businesses is problematic. Lack of assets, and stable employment lends a view that these peoples are not credit worthy, thus they are barred from a variety of economic opportunities.

Context: 

Organizing groups to support collective and individual credit acquisition, as well as formal and informal skills training can assist peoples in accessing the capital necessary to initiate small businesses and ultimately help build livelihoods for families and communities.

Discussion: 

A very basic description of the Self-Help Group (SHG) has been summarized by the Rural Finance Learning Center. According to their definition: " Self-help groups are usually informal clubs or associations of people who choose to come together to find ways to improve their life situations. One of the most useful roles for a self-help group is to provide its members with opportunities to save and borrow and it can act as a conduit for formal banking services to reach their members. Such groups can provide a guarantee system for members who borrow or they may develop into small village banks in their own right. In rural areas self-help groups may be the only way for people to access financial services " (2006).

The structure of the SHG is meant to provide mutual support to the participants by assisting one another in saving money, opening up cooperative banking accounts that help women and other peoples to build credit with a lending institution. The SHG also functions to support members through maintaining consistent contact among group members to aid the individual’s savings goals, to help support the creation of these micro-enterprises. Often the SHG helps in the conception of these businesses and even the implementation of these enterprises upon receipt of the micro-loan.

The SHG also supports accountability for ensuring that the loans are paid back and the SHG can continue to include other members and support greater access to credit and capital to those within their community. SHGs also provide a space which facilitates the discussion of many issues pertaining to the community’s socio-economic, educational and health status. Thus, the formation of this group provides a forum to initiate many participatory activities (including training and awareness camps).

This process has also shown to increase confidence among participants, and help support greater levels of decision-making status in their society, particularly within South Asia. This hopefully will encourage members to participate and contribute in general social and political matters in their respective villages.

As peoples are supported in building their credit they in turn are able to apply for micro-loans geared towards a number of self-sufficiency based business ventures. Many of the business commonly financed consist of seamstress shops, beautician parlors, and in the rural areas these business can be as diverse as natural healing clinics, chicken farms and aqua-culture projects, to silk weaving or any number of handcraft based ventures.

While a great number of SHGs have been initiated by communities themselves, many of the SHGs are implemented through the help of an NGO that can provide the initial information and support to establish these groups. Such information and support often consists of training people on how to manage bank accounts to include deposits, withdrawals and balancing of the cooperative and individual accounts. Similarly informal education regarding a number of possible trades can take place in order to build up the capabilities of the participants to function as business owners.

But the SHG has some instances shown problems that must be addressed when considering their use as a pattern of community empowerment. For instance, many of these people are in absolute poverty and the little that they do save can put a family in an already precarious financial situation in a worse of place.

Other issues revolve around the nature of work and the family in developing countries where the women are often the primary householder while the male is involved in work outside the house. The creation of these businesses often adds greater levels of work upon women as they are committed to the SHG and the creation of their business to support their income and yet their household duties are still expected to be met by their husbands. In these situations the pressures can be immense to juggle the business, household chores and the rearing of children.

However, in response to some of these problems many NGOs have sought to play a critical role in lessening that burden by offering school to children and thereby giving women members the ability to pursue their career goals by providing a place for their children to go while simultaneously providing education to those children that would otherwise be working at home. Despite some of the draw backs the role of the SHG is still a vital and growing component of bottom-up development, and hopefully eventuating self-designed development in the future

Solution: 

Despite the problems some of the participants have faced due to the changing nature of their socio-economic status; the SHGs offer one approach to create associations of support for some of the most economically marginalized groups within society. Through the desire of women and other members of the community these SHGs can provide an organized structure for providing employability and ownership for peoples otherwise left out.

Overall, communities themselves can act to develop similar groups (or with the aid of NGOs working in the area), as these programs can be realized with relatively little resources from the outside.

It should also be noted that the SHG is not a panacea to social and economic development, and should only be one part of a larger solution to addressing poverty in communities. Other patterns must be called in to address some of the social consequences that can arise from the creation of an SHG.

Careful attention must be paid particularly to women as they are often the primary benefactors of the SHG and yet the amount of work involved is no less stressful and difficult for them. Other steps might also be taken to addresses these issues to pursue and integrated approach to supporting development.

For an in-depth guide to SHGs see: A handbook for trainers on participatory local development: The Panchayati Raj model in India.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Individual capacity among poor peoples in the developing world (particularly women) to establish credit and develop self-sufficient businesses is often unrealized. Organizing groups to secure collective and individual credit, and skills training, can help in accessing the capital needed to build businesses and livelihoods. Self-Help Groups offer one approach to create associations for economically marginalized groups.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Image: Justin Smith

Sense of Struggle

Pattern ID: 
436
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
104
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

There are myriad forces in the world. Some of them are working to change it, to create an alternative future while some of them are working to preserve the status quo and to perpetuate injustice and privilege. Many of the forces that are the strongest are the ones that must be challenged: A casual response is inadequate: a sense of struggle is necessary to meet those challenges.

Context: 

This pattern is applicable to any person or group that is working towards the solution of a seemingly intractable social or environmental problem.

Discussion: 

Social change is not easy. Effecting change is long term and not trivial. The change that is needed may not occur until long after the deaths of the people who first seek it. A sense of struggle can bind together a group dedicated towards positive social change.

A sense of struggle emerges from the realization that the problem is very deep and the appreciation that there will be setbacks over the long-term. A sense of struggle lies midway between unwarranted optimism and helpless despair and cynicism.

A sense of struggle which is often necessary in social activism can change over time into something less desirable. Sometimes, a too grim sense of struggle can result in not acknowledging a genuine opportunity when it comes along. A sense of struggle unrelieved by humor, cameraderie, etc. can even give way to dogmaticism, paranoia or messianic thinking. Being flexible and open to new approaches and to new people who share your concerns is the best way to avoid these problems.

"If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without ploughing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the awful roar of its mighty waters. Power concedes nothing without a demand!"
    —Frederick Douglass

Solution: 

We need to cultivate a sense of struggle and, at the same time, make it easier for those who do struggle.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Many of the strongest forces in the world must be challenged. A Sense of Struggle can unite a group striving for positive social change. A Sense of Struggle lies between optimism and despair. We need to cultivate a Sense of Struggle and, at the same time, make it easier for those who are involved in the struggle. According to Frederick Douglass, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress."

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Gandhi, Salt March; Wikimedia Commons
Syndicate content