policy

Indicators

Pattern ID: 
412
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
29
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Citizens are often bystanders in their own lives. Research, even that which is putatively conducted in their behalf, is often irrelevant or even damaging to the livelihoods of "ordinary" people and marginalized groups alike. Since it is intended to promote academic aims, such as publication in an academic journal, rather than community goals the idea of actual benefit based on the results of the research often takes a back seat. This lack of genuine community involvement or connection helps lead to the self-perpetuating cycle of citizen disempowerment.

Context: 

This pattern could be used in any situation in which citizens need to come together to better understand complex dynamic situations and develop meaningful responses. This pattern can be used in focused or more distributed way; it can be used as the basis for a long-term project or for a project of short duration.

Discussion: 

"We view the process and product as interwoven and equally valuable. Part of our task is to practice and develop the skills of civic democracy and volunteer participation." - Richard Conlin, Sustainable Seattle co-founder

Doctors take a patient's temperature to get some understanding of the person's general health. Although this is only one measure among hundreds or thousands of other possible measurements it is judged to be important enough — and acquired easily enough — to be warrant its acquisition. An indicator is typically a single measure that can be acquired over time to help ascertain the general health or condition of a larger, more complex entity, like a lake, city, or society. It helps serve by being a stand-in or proxy for that whole.

Indicators are often devised and used by scientists, economists and other professionals to help inform them on the status of what's important to them. And just as the medical community has selected temperature as one indicator among many possibilities, these professionals have selected theirs. And, like other measurements, these can have far-reaching consequences which basically depend on they're interpreted, what meaning is ascribed to them, and what's done with them. Needless to say, communities — especially those that are struggling to stay alive — generally play no direct role in the development of these indicators, nor do they design their own.

In 1991, a group of social activists in Seattle launched an ambitious multiyear project around the idea of sustainability. Though many people today view sustainability as largely an environmental paradigm, it is one that can capture the long-term cultural, economic, civic, and educational health and vitality of a region as well. Because sustainability is a complex term and difficult to define and comprehend, the first goal was the development of a set of "critical indicators of sustainability" that would assist in defining the term and defining Seattle’s current status.

Since that time the project has matured into a community-wide program divided evenly into research and community action. One commendable aspect of their effort has been the patient, evolving, consensus-driven manner in which the project has taken shape and unfolded over time without being driven by set agendas.

When the project was launched, the "indicators of sustainability" were designed to form its intellectual as well as motivational foundation. Indicators are measurable values that accurately reflect and coalesce several factors that are deemed to be important. The selection of indicators as core constructs of the endeavor demonstrates the founders’ commitment to a long-term rather than a quick-fix effort, for it is only by examining how the values of the indicators change over time that an understanding of trends can arise. Examining changes over time may also bring to light relationships between indicators. Two indicators, for example, may actually bear inverse relationships to each other.

When people in the community identify indicators that are important to them, the indicators are more liable to carry personal and operational meaning than when social scientists in an ivory tower identify theoretical constructs that are significant only to an academic community. The indicators are carefully chosen to reflect activity within a community that is desired or not desired by that community. Furthermore, because the community identified the indicators, there is a feeling of ownership and confidence in them.

While Sustainable Seattle’s report on Seattle’s critical indicators presents a useful snapshot of several important aspects on the community’s agenda, it does not by itself create a sustainable society. According to their newsletter (Sustainable Seattle, 1994), ". . . understanding trends in our community is only the first step in the journey towards sustainability. The next step is to change the community." To that end, Sustainable Seattle initiated a Communities Outreach Project "to create measurable improvements in the behaviors and practices that drive the indicators, both on large and small scales, as a result of homes and organizations changing their behavior in response to this project." Their ambitious goal "is to enable and inspire people in the many different communities in greater Seattle to transform the values of sustainability into actions that will move Seattle, the region, and the planet towards long-term cultural, economic, and environmental health and vitality."

The Worldwatch Institute identified and assessed 50 social, economic, and environmental trends which they labeled the Earth's "vital signs" to help show the important role consumers can play in demanding environmentally friendly products. .Indicators can also be used in international or other large-scale collaborative projects. A new international effort between the US and Canada that monitors the health of Puget Sound Georgia Basin where salmon and orcas are endangered in Washington state and in the province of British Columbia shows another use of indicators (Stiffler, 2006). Of the nine indicators that the project has established five of them are declining (Urbanization and Forest Change; River, Stream and Lake Quality; Marine Species at Risk; Toxics in Harbor Seals; and Marine Water Quality) while the remaining four have not shown progress (Population Health; Solid Waste and Recycling, Shellfish; and Air Quality). Scott Redman from the US team stated that the indicator project "puts press then for us to catch up, or the other way around." There is a web site that includes data as well as a large number of suggestions for people and groups who want to help improve the situation.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists through its "Doomsday Clock" offers a variant on this concept. The clock measures the state of worldwide nuclear danger (not just from a US perspective) and graphically reports its findings in a clock whose hands are approaching midnight — nuclear apocalypse. Moving the hands is not taken lightly, "Because the Doomsday Clock is the world’s most visible symbol of nuclear danger, any decision to reset it is taken with great care and only after significant deliberation by the Bulletin’s board of directors, in consultation with the board of sponsors." It is interesting to note the infrequency within which the clock has been reset: 17 times in 56 years. The two boards reset the hands infrequently to demonstrate significant developments; the clock does not respond, "to every change in the global security environment. If it did, it would be in almost constant motion and would lose much if not all of its symbolic resonance. "

Many of the patterns in this pattern language — including this one — could be used as indicator generators. What indicators, for example, could be used to show whether humankind's Civic Intelligence is increasing or decreasing? Virtually any area, conceptual or actual, could be a source of indicators. And in any area, it will be important to think of what possible actions could comes after the indicators are developed before they're identified. What to do with information? Who could use the information? What resonance could the information have with various people and groups? 

Solution: 

Citizens need to construct community and civic indicators, publish them, discuss them, measure them, publicize them and develop policy and projects that address them. Indicator projects seems to be best coordinated through organizations and groups.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

When people in the community identify Indicators that are important to them, they are more likely to carry personal and operational meaning than when social scientists identify constructs that are significant only to an academic community. The real work begins after the Indicators have been identified. The Indicators must be measured, discussed, and publicized. Ultimately they can be used to develop policy and projects that address them.

Pattern status: 
Released

Whole Cost

Pattern ID: 
456
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
28
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Through the clothes we buy, the food we eat, the cars we drive, the way we dispose of our trash or sewage, where and how we live, and how we make a living or recreate, people everyday and everywhere make impacts — large and small, good and bad — on the world. Many of the problems in the world are compounded by people who are unaware of the damage they are inadvertently perpetuating through their daily lives. Costs are determined in overly simplistic ways such as monetary costs or immediate convenience — throwing trash out the window or into a river, for example.

Not only are these problems debilitating to people in less developed countries (thus presenting moral and ethical challenges to their more fortunate brethren), they also have a peculiar way of ultimately affecting developed countries as well (over 20% of the air pollution in the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. has blown in from China). If people had a better idea what the entire "cost" of their actions were — not just their own personal costs at that moment — there is a higher likelihood that they'd change their behavior to encourage positive changes and discourage negative ones.

Context: 

People in developed countries are always buying — things — often from developing countries — and are generally unaware of the legacy of the product. People may be morally opposed, for example, to the child labor that went into, say, a pair of athletic shoes, yet they implicitly condone the practice with their purchase. The one economic point of view holds is that the whole cost should be reflected in the price tag, but this is rarely possible. Many of the costs are impossible to put a number on, and they may even differ from the point of view of different people. (What is the "true" cost of taking away a wetland used by geese on their migration?) So the pattern includes in some sense the common economic understanding but goes beyond it. All people need to live consciously in this world.

Discussion: 

In an increasingly globalized world people are connected to each other in ways that are often unknown to each other. One of the main ways that people in developed countries and less developed countries are linked is through products. When a person in a developed country buys clothing, consumer electronics, or other items all the buyer sees is a purchase price. Missing, of course, is the entire chain of lineage that was effectuated in order to place that product within purchasing range and its enduring effects on the environment has been dispatched of. Often the price on the product obscures a sordid legacy that could include child labor, environmental abuse such as pesticides in ground water, air pollution or soil depletion, or aspects that are harder to quantify like migration of youth to the urban areas or loss of cultural heritage.

One of the basic uses of this pattern is understanding the "whole cost" of an object or a service that one is purchasing. Ultimately the intent of this pattern is identifying the whole cost of something and using the information (that a single price obscures) to promote broader public consciousness and ultimately improved social good. There are a great number of ways that the information can be used — and a great number of ways left to be discovered. Ideally the information behind the price tag will take on greater significance while the price tag itself can also be made to reflect the previously hidden information more accurately including, for example, labeling that tag to include additional information about contents or relevant environmental effects or labor practices.

Understanding the "whole cost is primarily a process of education that can be done individually (by people of virtually any age) or in more public ways through any number of ways. This "understanding" can be via a narrative or story or it can be more quantified, including, for example, information about who got paid how much for what at every step in the chain. One approach is using the origin of the product as an indicator; not buying a product, for example, if it were made by non-union, child, or slave labor or because it was produced by a repressive regime.

A more nuanced process with a distinctively quantitative feel is illustrated by the work done by the International Center for Technology Assessment in their "The Real Price of Oil" report (1998). In that report based on gasoline prices from a U.S. perspective, the authors reveal how ultimately deceptive the idea of the "price at the pump" actually is to the actual monetary cost expressed in a specific currency, dollars, for example. And while their approach, like other economically based approaches, ignores (or, at least, re-interprets) the human story, it goes a long way towards developing (and ultimately using) a unitary "price" as a meaningful attachment to a commodity or service that’s available for purchase. In the case of gasoline, the authors show how multiple government subsidies (huge tax breaks, direct support for research development and other business costs, and "protection subsidies" often of a military nature) and a multitude of "externalities" (problems as diverse as air pollution, automobile crashes, suburban sprawl and climate change that are "costs" which the oil industry is not going to address and are not reflected in any way by the price one pays "at the pump") result in a public price-tag for gasoline that distorts the real price by 5 to 15 times. The "free" television programming that occupy so much of the time of the U.S. citizenry shows another perversion of the ideas of price and costs. The shows of course are not "free" at all — at least not to the viewers (and non-viewers) who pay for the ads every time they purchase something that’s advertised on television.

A simple use of the information (at least in the gasoline case above) would be eliminate or otherwise lower the government subsidies — especially the ones that actually hurt the environment and lead to wars and other problems and let the price creep (leap?) up to the actual price (or at least closer to it). This at the least would test the citizenry’s commitment to the automobile in a fair comparison with competing approaches to transportation. A related approach is of course un-externalizing the externalities by bringing the costs back home to the companies that are making them possible. This can be done by imposing a "green tax" on the companies, which would be used to help try to reverse the damage caused by the company’s business practices. Unfortunately, as Peter Dorman explains “There is a general distrust of the effectiveness of government, a fear that green taxes will be more regressive than some of our current ones. The alternative is the creation of environmental trusts, which would collect the money on behalf of the beneficiaries, which could include current people, future people and natural entities. The trust would pay back some of the money directly (per capita rebates) and also finance ecological conversion. Vermont and Massachusetts are in the process of setting up a trust of this sort for carbon and New York and California are possibly going this route too.

The city of San Francisco recently showed another innovative use of the Whole Cost concept. In the spring of 2005, San Francisco became the first city in the U.S. to enact legislation requiring the city to consider the environmental and health implications when making purchases for the city. Since the city spends about $600 million every year on a multitude of purchases (including, for example, 87,000 fluorescent light tubes) this type of legislation could conceivably have some effect, especially since city officials are hoping that the "Environmentally Preferable Purchasing for Commodities Ordinance" will serve as model for other cities. The city is working with community groups, technical experts and other city staff to establish criteria. Debbie Raphael, the city's toxics reduction program manager, stated that "Traditionally, we have a list of specifications we use to decide which computer to buy," she said. "Those specifications do not include things like how much lead is in them? Can you recycle them? What is their energy use? What it does not mean is that cost and performance is ignored. We're expanding the universe of criteria" (Gordon, 2005).

A final use of the Whole Cost pattern is to consider the Whole Cost in more of a global "whole" way. Looking just in this the area of health reveals the importance of this approach. In a short article called "The Price of Life" by Glennerster, Kremer, and Williams (2005) point out that Africa "generates less than one half of one percent of sales by global pharmaceutical firms but accounts for nearly 25 percent of the world's disease burden." The lion's share of pharmaceutical research and development is for the health problems of rich countries. Sadly the economic equations of the world's corporations exclude the vast majority of world's population. Lacking money, the "whole costs" that are borne by them don't show up on anybody's balance sheet or business plan.

Solution: 

The first thing to realize is that the price one sees on a price tag is rarely the "Whole Cost." The second thing to realize is that the Whole Cost of a good or service is educational as well as inspirational. People have been very innovative in this area but there is room for much more. It's important to publicize the "whole cost" of a product as well as the monetary price. This could include what percentage of the monetary price goes to worker and other costs to the environment, quality of life, and other important factors.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

We leave our mark on the world through the clothes we buy, the food we eat, the cars we drive, the way we dispose of our waste, or how we work or play. The price tag on a product can hide environmental abuse, or aspects that are harder to quantify such as the loss of cultural heritage. The amount on a price tag doesn't represent all the present or future costs. Knowing the Whole Cost of a good or service can be educational and it can inspire action.

Pattern status: 
Released

Big-Picture Health Information

Pattern ID: 
742
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
27
Jenny Epstein
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Health information cannot focus solely on individual change. Many detriments to health cannot be eradicated without changes to the physical and social world that people inhabit. If environmental and social changes are necessary to get well, individual patients cannot do so solely by seeking health care and avoiding health risks. Expert medical information and advice is inadequate to create a healthy environment that in turn creates healthy people.

Context: 

Poor people bear a disproportionate burden of global ill-health, such as diabetes, malaria, HIV/AIDS and TB. Health discrepancies between rich and poor will not be solved through better access to information alone. Good food, less stress, clean air and water, and a life with a purpose will increase health and healthy behaviors. Real change to improve health comes from a shift away from acknowledging only expert clinical opinion and toward a real-world awareness of the effect of environment on health: a shift from passive diagnosis and treatment to active engagement with the causes of and solutions to health problems.

Discussion: 

We are not, for the most part, born unhealthy. We become unhealthy. And even for those born unhealthy, a great deal of ill health may have been preventable. The campaign to find the cure for breast cancer is a good example of health information that neglects any causal connection between ill-health and the environment (in this instance, an environment which includes the use of estrogen in prescription medication), and ignores political or social change that might address environmental causes of the disease. This pattern of information, in which action comes only after the individual becomes ill but nothing has been done to prevent illness in first place, focuses on individual responsibility with no questioning of the established social order. The unspoken message is that breast cancer just happens. It is up to the individual to get involved with a screening program for early detection and treatment. Information on research that investigates environmental effects to the development of breast cancer is not part of mainstream health information.

Public health information about diabetes further illustrates the lack of emphasis on the connection between environment and health. Among Native Americans, diabetes (like most other non-infectious chronic diseases) was virtually unknown before World War II. Now, in some tribes, over 60% of adults have diabetes and the age of onset is decreasing with each generation. Much of the research on diabetes among Native Americans focuses on genetic causes or on molecular level differentiations of diabetic types. It gives short shrift to how the disruption in traditional diet and life style and the devaluation of traditional medicine correspond with the dramatic increase in the disease. The connection of indigenous people to the environment that they come from, the types of foods they eat, and activities they perform to prepare those foods are not considered an active component in their health. Diabetic health information focuses on what the individual can do to access mainstream diets and medicine. It does not validate traditional knowledge that prevented diabetes in the past, and ignores how the community as a whole can work together to recreate that knowledge. This does not mean trying to reestablish life as it was 60 years ago, but it does mean putting the current problem in a holistic context that includes history, indigenous knowledge, the interaction between diet and environment, and reasons for lack of access even to non-traditional healthy food.

In 1854, John Snow removed the handle from a London neighborhood water pump that was located a few feet from a sewer ("John Snow Pub," 2006). He believed that this sewage was causing the epidemic of cholera deaths in the neighborhood. Epidemiology textbooks emphasize Snow's connection of cause and effect as the first public health intervention of the modern era. They ignore an analysis of cause: industrialization and dislocation, poverty, over-crowding etc. What options for water did people in the neighborhood have without the pump? Seldom mentioned is that, due to the demand of a thirsty public, the handle was replaced six weeks after its removal.

Public health programs must include methods to share power with communities they hope to help. What are the contributors to ill health in their communities? What are the barriers to good health that the communities identify? Information needs to realistically address what is within the control of the individual and what will take groups of people working together to solve. Methods to improve health in disadvantaged communities must reflect the larger social change and shift in power needed.

Health information such as Fast Food Nation (Schlosser, 2002) needs to be the norm, not the exception. This book chronicles the entire environment that produces fast food, including social norms and values. Similarly, the documentary film “Life and Debt” (www.lifeanddebt.org) shows the destruction of healthy, local food production in Jamaica by the combination of multinational food businesses and international government policy.

Health information needs to do more than simply inform. What does not question the present state of affairs will not, for example, bring affordable nutritious food to poor neighborhoods. Nor will it create safe neighborhoods in areas where children cannot exercise. Better access to information may improve health care decisions to some extent; unless it also generates momentum and optimism for social change then it simply perpetuates a focus on individual behavior and treatment of symptoms that have already occurred. Health information needs to look honestly at the conditions that cause ill health, and engage not only those who suffer illness but the entire social and regulatory apparatus that can play a role in improving the conditions that people live in.

Solution: 

Demand and produce health information that identifies environmental and social causes of ill-health. Analyze the interconnection between these causes and their solutions, and bring individuals, communities and governments together in putting the solutions into effect. If the struggle with disease becomes a struggle with established power, you may be on the right track.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Real change in improving health means shifting away from expert clinical opinion only and towards awareness of the effect of environment. Demand and produce health information that identifies environmental and social causes of ill-health. Analyze the links between causes and solutions, and bring individuals, communities and governments together in putting the solutions into effect.

Pattern status: 
Released

Earth's Vital Signs

Pattern ID: 
620
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
26
Jenny Frankel-Reed
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Society’'s great scientific capacity to measure and interpret the world and the role of humans in nature has failed to translate into improved environmental stewardship. Modern environmental challenges are often difficult to see, distant in time and space from their sources, and threaten global consequences. The increasing complexity and chronic rather than acute nature of today's environmental problems requires a revolution of decision making — the systematic integration of earth’s vital signs.

Context: 

Signals detected by scientists about earth's natural patterns and processes and the impacts of humans on these processes are earth's signs - indicators of what can be seen as either ecological health or the capacity of the earth to accommodate human demands. The conditions of earth's systems tend to be worsening on a global scale, but vary dramatically from place to place. Human decisions about how to live on earth drive these trends and can potentially reverse their negative directions.

Policymakers, public interest organizations, universities, and governments can utilize earth's signs to better manage human and environmental well-being. Policymakers' decisions about sustainable practices in land- and resource-dependent sectors can be backed by scientific understanding about the effects of policies on resources. Citizens can demand better environmental stewardship from their leaders at local to global scales with improved access to and translation of relevant earth information at the proper scale. Governments and enforcement bodies can strengthen their monitoring capabilities and base development decisions on the latest information about trends in human impacts on earth.

Discussion: 

Three distinct approaches to integrating earth's vital signs come from the scientific community, public interest organizations, and enforcement bodies.

Scientific institutions can collaborate to reach audiences in need of earth-related information to solve problems. The work of earth observation agencies to collect and disseminate data and images to important users like humanitarian aid agencies provides one example. Disaster prevention, response, and rebuilding are information-intensive. This fact is illustrated time and time again in the wake of natural disasters. For example, in Asia in 2005, an immediate need emerged in tsunami-affected areas for earth observation and environmental data to help in assessing damage, reaching victims and rebuilding resilient communities. In response to this need, an alliance of European and International organizations is working with the humanitarian community to improve access to maps, satellite imagery and geographic information (The CGIAR-CSI Data Sharing Platform). This kind of effort by the scientific community to ensure that information actually comes back 'down to earth' opens a host of possibilities for more sustainable decisionmaking if scientists in other fields can repeat it. Scientists from communities researching water, pollution and future risks from global warming could create similar initiatives to ensure the information that they gather becomes integrated in decisionmaking in water-scarce areas, in clean water and air policies, and for promoting climate change adaptation in development strategies, to name a few.

Another way earth’s signs are integrated into decisionmaking is by concerned public interest groups and universities gathering, translating and communicating trends that reflect environmental sustainability to motivate improved environmental governance. The outcomes of resource and land management policies such as energy, fisheries, forests, water, urban planning and rural development can be extrapolated from existing environmental data. A key challenge however, is translating scientific information to connect to the public and policymakers. In examples from around the world, organizations locate data reflecting the condition of impacted resources, create indicators of stewardship or sustainability from these data, and translate their findings into insightful measurements, models and maps that are publicly available and understandable to broader audiences. Clarifying the connections between political and business decisions and environmental outcomes can promote environmentally sustainable decisions and reverse negative trends if decisionmakers are held accountable to these indicators. Scorecards of environmental performance (Environmental Performance Index), policy-wise ecological assessments (Hudson River Foundation), and regional indicators and indices of sustainability (Cascadia Scorecard) have the potential to become a systematic part of policymaking if leaders are held accountable for their performance on these measures of earth's vital signs. Currently, information is not available at the right scales and frequently enough for such assessments to be carried in every context, but an increase in reporting has been proven to stimulate better information gathering.

Earth monitoring information has also been used by enforcement agencies, environmental organizations, and governments to improve accountability for the environmental impacts of business practices. Satellite imagery and other sources of management practices can be used to monitor natural resources on public lands, in protected areas, human settlements, etc. One example comes from an initiative in Central Africa’s Congo Basin, an important wood products exporting region to Europe (Global Forest Watch). European procurement standards are the highest in the world, and buyers often demand legally and sustainably harvested wood from their suppliers. A system to monitor the legality and sustainability of forestry operations has emerged that utilizes satellite imagery, tracking whether harvested areas conform to legally-agreed boundaries and harvest rates. By making the findings publicly accessible, consumers use the information in procurement decisions and market pressure can promote better management by companies. Similar innovative applications of earth information can capitalize on market forces and encourage sustainable resource management if public concern is tangible.

Solution: 

Integrating earth's signs throughout decisionmaking requires that environmental information is widely available, connections between management practices and environmental outcomes are understood, environmental implications of policies are translated to the public and policymakers, and that the environmental performance of governments and companies is publicly disseminated. Replication of existing initiatives and further innovations can help to ensure that decisionmaking balances human impacts with the health of the planet.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

We need a revolution of decision making and awareness in order to tackle the complexity and urgent nature of our environmental problems. Earth's Vital Signs are indicators of ecological health or the earth's capacity to accommodate human demands. Human decisions about how to live on earth currently drive unsustainable trends. They can also help us change course.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Panamanian golden frog (Atelopus zeteki) exhibited at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD, USA; Photo: Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz) ; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.

Cyberpower

Pattern ID: 
829
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
25
Kate Williams
Dominican University
Abdul Alkalimat
University of Toledo
Version: 
2
Problem: 

In the age of the Internet, if someone can’t send an email or browse the web, they are much like the person in the age of print who had to sign their name with an X. Many people and communities are still catching up to the information age and what digital tools offer. One word for what they offer is Cyberpower—power in cyberspace.

The usefulness of this word can be understood in comparison to another useful word: e-commerce. E-commerce is a word that summed up what businesses, coders and consumers were doing. On the basis of that summation, many more people were guided in that direction, and e-commerce became more advanced as a result. Millions are now buying and selling online, with the goods delivered in the real world. Our experience with the word cyberpower is the much same: the word came into use based on practice; then it mobilized more people to exercise their cyberpower. As with e-commerce, when you wield cyberpower, the “goods”—power—are delivered in the real world, in a cycle from actual to virtual to actual.

Context: 

Digital inequality often impacts the same people as older inequalities such as poverty, oppression, discrimination, exclusion. But the new tools are so powerful that not using them sets individuals, groups and communities even further back. The hardware and software are still changing, and only the users are able to shape them and shape the future. And a global conversation is taking place every day online. They

Discussion: 

Even as technology changes, diffuses, and becomes cheaper, digital inequalities persist. For certain populations, access is impossible or is controlled, skills are lower, support isn’t there, or the tools and resources themselves are relatively irelevant. If the core conversations and the rich information sources are all online, yet not everyone is participating or even able to observe, how do we maintain democracy? Recent calls for a dialogue of civilizations, starting with the United Nations (1998), rather than a clash of civilizations (Huntington 1998) could be taking part online, but only if everyone can see, hear, and speak in cyberspace.

It is not yet well understood, but communities in crisis—be it from poverty, disaster, war or some other adversity—are known to turn to technology for response and recovery. Cellphones, impromptu cybercafés, the Internet, all helped in the Gulf hurricane recovery. Farmers on quarantined farms quickly mastered home Internet use during England’s foot-and-mouth-disease outbreak. The US armed forces now strategize in terms of land, sea, air, and cyberspace. Immigrants all over the world have created digital diasporas. (Miller and Slater 2000) Whatever language people use to describe it, cyberpower is the driver in all these cases.

Hiphop can be seen as a technology-based response to crisis and a cyberpower project. In a community-based seminar, we proposed to create a CD of original raps about IT. Students and community members were skeptical—one said, “We don’t know anything about computers”—but all the music making was digital, the tools were put together in bedrooms and basements, and the result was a compilation of 15 tracks. Sample these lyrics by S. Supreme:

Information technology
Skipping the Black community with no apology
Flipping the power off
On an already alarming deficit,
So please, please, PLEASE, PASS THE MESSAGE KID!
Ohh Umm Diddy Dum Dum
If he don’t turn his Ice off
And turn his head past the gas of Microsoft
He’ll really be lost like the tribe, ‘cause the time is now and that’s a bet
How you throwing up a set and you ain’t on the Net,
Yet you say you’re a G?
I said I’m not Chuck D, but welcome to the terror
If you ain’t ready to build in this information era
Survival of the fittest, our rights get diminished, cats be on their Crickets
But don’t know about Linux

In this track cyberpower is talking about cyberpower.

Another example of cyberpower is our experience with an auction of Malcolm X’s papers. The sale, planned for March 2002, was discovered online, then thousands protested online and the sale was stopped. The process began when monitoring eBay for items related to Malcolm X, we discovered that eBay’s auction house, Butterfields, was about to sell thousands of pages of Malcolm’s diaries and notes, recovered from a storage locker, for an expected price of $500,000. Using the listserv H-Afro-Am, this news was spread across multiple communities of scholars, librarians, activists, and others. The American Library Association then created a story on their online news site which is fed to more sites and individuals. The next day The New York Times did a story. On the third day The Guardian newspaper ran a story about the impending sale and the online groundswell against it. The listservs and the news articles alerted the family and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library, who wre able to negotiate the postponing of the sale, then its cancellation. An agreement was negotiated with the seller whereby the materials are now in the possession of the family, housed at the Schomburg’s archives. In sum, the important historical papers (actual) were being auctioned (virtual); thousands of people were mobilized (virtual); traditional media carried the story (virtual and actual); and ultimately the materials were withdrawn from sale and placed intact in a public library archive for scholars and the public (actual).

Another example of cyberpower is told by Mele (1999). Faced with a teardown of their housing project, tenants in Wilmington, Nouth Carolina wrangled the key to a long-locked community room, internet access for the lone computer (actual), and via email and listservs (virtual) recruited architects and planners to help them obtain, digest and answer developer and city plans. They won an actual seat at the negotiating table and, more important, key changes to the teardown plan that included interim and long-term housing for residents.

All sorts of new tools for exercising cyberpower are in wide usage at this writing, for example, MySpace, blogs, wikis, and the online video festival known as YouTube. Use of any of these tools locates you in a lively community. The idea from Putnam (2000) that we’re “bowling alone,” not connecting with other people in an atomized world, is, as Lin (2001) asserted, trumped by the fact that we are not computing alone.

Solution: 

Cyberpower means two related activities related to empowerment: 1) individuals, groups and organizations using digital tools for their own goals, or 2) using digital tools as part of community organizing. The general idea is that people can use cyberpower in virtual space to get power in the actual space. Cyberorganizers help get people cyberpower just as community organizers help get communities empowered.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Digital inequality often affects the same people as traditional inequalities such as poverty, oppression, discrimination, and exclusion. With Cyberpower individuals, groups and organizations use digital tools for their own goals. Cyberpower also means using digital tools as part of community organizing and development, when Cyberorganizers help people gain Cyberpower.

Pattern status: 
Released

Anti-Racism

Pattern ID: 
783
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
23
Lori Blewett
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Perceived physiological and cultural differences are easily exploited by political elites for the purpose of gaining and maintaining social control. Discrimination and violence are a common consequence of perceiving one group of people as less trustworthy, moral, intelligent, or civilized (and ultimately less human) than another group. Imbalances of power are seen as reflections of individual strength and cultural merit rather than systemic injustice. Efforts toward creating a desirable society continue to be hindered by unquestioned privilege, fear, and prejudice across race, caste, and ethnic divisions.

Context: 

There are few cultures in the world that have not been affected in some way by European concepts of race. In some cases, European colonizers layered race on top of long- standing caste hierarchies or religious prejudices to further subjugate, divide, and control colonized people. In the United States, alliances between blacks and poor whites, for example, were intentionally subverted by elites who bestowed minimal advantages on lower-class whites to prevent class-based uprisings. The historical legacy of long-maintained racial divides and inequalities continues to affect any organization attempting to create a more just and sustainable society, even when racism is not the primary issue that an organization or movement wants to address. As with gender divisions, race, caste, and class hierarchies often intertwine to erode the effectiveness of organizations and their communication, especially when patterns of privilege and bias go unnoticed.

Discussion: 

This pattern has two major dimensions: Anti-Racist Awareness and Anti-racist Action.

Awareness begins with seeking a deeper understanding of the multiple ways that racism and race privilege operate in the lives of individuals and organizations. Anti-racist books, movies, workshops, lectures, discussions, and observation can all be useful tools for raising awareness. Multi-cultural history books (e.g., "A Different Mirror") or social/economic analysis (e.g., "Black Wealth White Wealth") can help us see beyond the myth of the melting pot, and understand how social structures maintain racial inequity generation after generation. Films like "Banking on Life and Debt" help us understand the international forces that maintain global inequalities built upon European Colonialism, and how those inequities reinforce domestic racism. Reflective essays like "White Privilege and Male Privilege" can help us see how privileges are bestowed upon whites on a daily basis, even when they do not seek racial advantage.

By analyzing social and historical dynamics of power and privilege, we understand why few people reach adulthood without internalizing social hierarchies that shape our unconscious perceptions of one another. At the same time it is important to become more aware of the possibilities for change and resistance. We must learn about the successes of communities of color that have struggled against racism, and we must learn about inter-racial solidarity that has aided anti-racist efforts at numerous times and places in history.

Armed with a better awareness of the dynamics of racism, members of an organization can become more reflective about their own practices. Developing and maintaining an anti-racist consciousness is an on-going process for most people, but it is especially challenging for members of dominant racial groups. Because information and communication represented in the dominant culture are likely to reinforce the racial status quo, whites in the U.S., for example, must take extra care to seek the perspectives of people of color who are critical of mainstream policy, discourse, and ideology.

Action begins with recognition that we are not powerless in the face of institutionalized or interpersonal racism, and that challenging racism is both an individual and collective responsibility. Examples of anti-racist action are plentiful --from individuals interrupting racist jokes to transnational organizations uniting against contemporary colonialism.
An anti-racist orientation can help guide many facets of an organization: out-reach practices, service providing, hiring, resource allocation, group communication, etc. With an anti-racist perspective, individuals can work to create organizations that both embrace ethnic diversity and model a commitment to racial justice. Organizations whose members are primarily from privileged communities can seek guidance from leaders that represent grassroots organizations in other communities. Groups can form alliances across racial or national boundaries making shared use of differing access to information, experiential knowledge, economic resources, and political power.

Organizations can promote anti-racist solidarity by investigating the racial dimensions of any issues that they are working on. For example, anti-racist environmentalists have exposed the disproportionate effects of toxic waste on communities of color. Information technology activists interested in racial justice have designed projects to accomodate differing needs in differing ethnic communities. Within the anti-war and anti-globalization movements, activists with an anti-racist orientation have drawn attention to the role that racist discourse and ideology play in maintaining public support for international policy.

The greatest challenge to anti-racism is the discomfort, defensiveness, and animosity that it often engenders among whites (or other racially privileged groups—depending on the context). Rejection often happens when individuals from privileged groups do not see themselves as responsible, in any way, for the conditions that other racial groups experience. Talking about race privilege and unconscious racial biases can seriously threaten people’s positive sense of self. Many people are more comfortable believing that innate characteristics of racial groups cause the problems or successes that each groups experience, and some people even perceive themselves to be discriminated against when members of other racial groups demand social change to alleviate injustices. Whites who are economically disadvantaged, (or who experience discrimination related to age, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, or other characteristic), sometimes see anti-racism as a denial of their own hardships. In extreme cases, oppressed whites may react so negatively to anti-racist critiques that they turn toward white supremacist or neo-nationalist ideologies to shore-up their low self-esteem (see Paul Gilroy for a critique of British anti-racist education of working class youth). People of color also sometimes oppose anti-racist perspectives when they have been convinced by the dominant culture that racism is no longer a significant, institutionalized problem. For people of color, becoming more aware of racism can be particularly painful and disempowering.

In order to be successful, anti-racists must recognize the strength of dominant racial attitudes and ideology. Anti-racist education and discourse should be geared toward the forms of denial and dismissal that are most common in a particular context. Educational activities should include follow-up support to help people process new, sometimes disturbing, ways of seeing the world. Resources that put a human face on the experience of racial oppression can be particularly useful. Focusing on the shared costs of racism (and the shared benefits of ending it) may be the best way to encourage inter-racial solidarity. When both whites and people of color recognize that ending racism is in their interests, they begin to see themselves as part of the long history of resistance to racism. This sense of solidarity across time and racial boundaries adds meaning and a sense of hope to the difficult, and sometimes emotionally painful, process of recognizing and challenging race privilege and racism.

Solution: 

Only by recognizing racism (personal and institutional) and actively challenging it, can we hope to overcome the racial divisions that inhibit effective problem solving and weaken progressive movements. An anti-racist orientation to social change can help organizations successfully challenge policies and practices that mask power, exploitation, and resource grabbing behind the guise of liberal individualism and national interests.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Efforts to improve societies are hindered by privilege, fear, and prejudice across race, caste, and ethnic divisions. As with gender divisions, other hierarchies intertwine to erode the effectiveness of organizations. Anti-Racism has two dimensions: Anti-Racism through awareness and Anti-Racism through action. An anti-racist orientation to social change can help organizations challenge policies and practices that mask power, exploitation, and resource grabbing.

Pattern status: 
Released

Sustainable Design

Pattern ID: 
808
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
22
Rob Knapp
Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Human welfare depends on using the Earth’'s physical resources, material cycles, and biological processes, but present human techniques, understanding, decision-making, and perceptions of need are profoundly blind to their destructive effects on these essential functions of the Earth. The reverse is also a problem: present attempts to protect the Earth are often blind to how they impact human welfare.

Context: 

This pattern addresses people whose work involves direct or indirect interactions with the environment, i.e. with Earth's regenerative systems of all kinds.

Discussion: 

It is not news that Earth's environment is under assault at all scales, from the planetary (global warming, overfishing, ozone depletion, and the like) to the local (toxic waste sites, extinction of rare species, oil spills, and so on) and everywhere in between. Nor is it news that all of these assaults are intimately entwined with the welfare of human groups or even whole populations. Whether or not evil masterminds are making the basic decisions (probably negligence is much more often to blame than malevolence), present-day industry and agriculture, together with present modes of finance and organization, do provide the framework for billions of people to engage in livelihood, child-rearing, recreation, even spirituality. This framework cannot be simply abolished without great suffering.

Fortunately, the three decades since the first Earth Day have seen the linking of a mode of thinking—design—and a set of values—sustainability—to seek new ways of building, making products, and providing utilities and services with reduced or no destructive effects on the planet. Examples of this “sustainable design” include the "living machine" concept for sewage treatment, "green roofs" of soil and plants, and passive solar techniques for managing indoor temperatures.

In a green roof, hardy plants in a layer of soil form the first surface between the weather and the building. Underneath is an impervious layer which does the rest of the waterproofing and keeps roots from growing down into the building. Like a conventional, inorganic roof, this assembly protects the building interior from the elements, but it is better in some important ways. The presence of a large planted surface softens the building’s appearance, and brings nature much closer to hand. Evaporation from plants and soil keeps the roof much cooler in summer than normal surfaces, which benefits building occupants and reduces the heat island effect for the surrounding town. The planted layer also protects the impervious surface from solar ultraviolet light and swings of temperature, so it lasts longer.

In green roofs, one has a particularly clear case of sustainable design. The direct environmental effects, on energy, urban air quality, longer life of materials and the like are positive, and intangible effects such as contact with nature go in good directions, as well. Simultaneously, human welfare, at least as understood by the occupants of buildings, is also supported. Sustainability, as a set of values, accepts human purposes and an inevitable degree of human impact on the rest of nature, even while it hopes to minimize destruction and pollution. Sustainability is a compromise between environmentalism and economic development.

Design enters the picture because sustainability has never been conceived in terms that are both concrete and applicable everywhere, and it probably cannot be. The range of environmental and human situations across the planet is too wide, and each situation has too many delicately related variables for any general formula to apply. The discussion of sustainability has identified topics of attention, such as energy, toxic emissions, local production, and resource equity, but it can only voice ideals, not definite rules. To express sustainability in a specific time and place, one needs a mode of thinking which can synthesize general values like sustainability with local constraints and opportunities. Design is just such a mode. (See the DESIGN STANCE pattern for more on this point.)

Sustainable design is much like conventional design, but sustainable values replace novelty, fashion, and mastery of nature as priorities. There are also several important new emphases. Sustainable design is much more open to community involvement than the conventional expert-centered design approach, and it assumes that older traditional practices can contribute much to present designs. Finding ways to synthesize expert knowledge and community wisdom, and bring together traditional and innovative methods are active areas of experiment and investigation.
Sustainable design needs to be integrative in brand-new ways, because such a wide range of of environmental and human values in each project needs attention. Whereas an architect could previously draw a form and instruct engineers to find a way to build it and heat it, with everyone relying on cheap energy and industrial materials to permit a solution, sustainable design usually needs to be a team effort from the start, allowing a mutual influence of energy, materials, form, and other considerations. As a simple example, solar energy in the U.S. calls for southern orientation, while good access from roads at a given location may call strongly for northern. Sustainable design does not place one of these values automatically higher than the other: the right integration for the project and its users has to be worked out each time, with relevant voices represented from the beginning.

Taking nature seriously also guides the time perspective of sustainable design. Whereas architects or engineers have often conceived their work as timeless and independent of Nature’s processes, the sustainable designer understands the work as an intervention in the natural flows of the planet. It creates impacts, but also receives them. Even heroic engineering, like the New Orleans system of levees, cannot defy Nature indefinitely. And even the most profitable (or most humanitarian) project of the present can inflict enormous costs on the planet, including its people, in the future. Sustainable design does not regard the future as superior to the present, but it regards it as the involuntary heir to what happens now, for good or ill.

Solution: 

Consider each building or product as a double intervention—in the Earth'’s cycles and processes, and simultaneously in the human culture of needs and techniques. Make use of available understanding, both innovative and traditional, both natural and social, to gauge the proper balance of human and non-human effects for each intervention. Remember that present culture builds from the work of the past, and future culture will have to build from what the present provides. The ethic of sustainable design is not only that future existence should be possible, but that it should exhibit justice and beauty for humans and for the rest of nature.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Human welfare depends on using the Earth's resources, material cycles, and biological processes, but current approaches are blind to their destructive effects on the Earth. We need to consider each building or product as an intervention in the Earth's cycles and processes, and in the human culture of needs and techniques. The ethic of Sustainable Design suggests that future existence — as well as justice and beauty for humans and for the rest of nature —should be possible.

Pattern status: 
Released

Fair Trade

Pattern ID: 
787
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
21
Burl Humana
Anna Nakano
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Economic globalization is repainting the face of international trade. World trading has mushroomed into an unfair economic trend separating the developed and under-developed worlds. Around the globe, production, trade and retailing of most goods and services are increasingly concentrated under the control of a small number of corporations. To offset the steaming engine of this powerful global economic force fair trade associations made up of fair trade wholesalers, retailers, producers and consumers are needed to foster a more equitable and sustainable system of production and trade that benefits people and their communities.

Context: 

Fair trade means that trading partnerships are based on reciprocal benefits and mutual respect; that prices paid to producers reflect the work they do; that workers have the right to organize; that national health, safety, and wage laws are enforced; and that products are environmentally sustainable and conserve natural resources.1

Discussion: 

Backed by conventional economists, large corporations have convinced most of the world's governments that they should maximize global competitiveness through freer trade. Corporate and government officials often theorize that free trade will be beneficial for workers, whose wages and benefits can rise as foreign markets expand for their goods and for consumers who can buy cheap foreign imports. Following this theory, new regional trade agreements, like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) are reducing barriers to trade and investment for firms. These free trade agreements offer firms global protection for their intellectual and property rights but there are currently no equivalent enforceable global standards to protect workers and the environment. Furthermore, as barriers to entering local markets are removed, large scale manufacturers edge small businesses and local cooperative enterprises out of the market. Local economies suffer when these firms' profits are channeled out of the country rather than being reinvested locally. (FTF, 2006)

As a result of these trends, the gap between the rich and the poor has increased dramatically in recent decades. The benefits of trade are similarly concentrated among the wealthiest segments of the world's population and only a handful of developing countries. Even in many countries that are currently experiencing high growth rates from expanded trade, the benefits of growth are not trickling down to the poor. (FTF, 2006)

Another problem is that the bulk of exports from developing countries tends to be in primary product commodities, such as sugar, cocoa, coffee, etc., whose prices generally rise much more slowly than the prices of manufactured goods imports. Free trade agreements do little to enhance the trading positions and commodity prices of these poor countries. In many cases, the world market price for commodities such as coffee and cocoa falls below the cost of production, forcing farmers to sustain huge losses. Fair Trade organizations offer a crucial alternative by paying farmers a price that always covers at least production costs.

Deregulation allows corporations to benefit at the expense of the people in a nation or region with the relaxation of environmental rules, health and educational services including control of natural resources and energy. (Wikipedia, 2006) Meanwhile subsidies in developed countries allow producers to sell their products at discounted prices and make it difficult for producers in developing countries to compete in the global market place. Protectionism issues such as unreasonably high tariffs restrict developing countries from exporting their products to developed countries.

Market prices do not reflect the true costs of producing products because external economic factors like environmental and social costs are not figured into production costs. Fluctuations in commodity prices make it difficut for producers in developing countries to maintain a living wage, forcing them into debt. Marginalized workers and producers work from a position of economic vulnerability and insecurity. Unethical labor practices such as gender inequality, child labor, and sweatshop practices contribute to unfair profits.

Equitable trade relations need to be established between governments, non-governmental organizations, multi-national corporations, and international institutions that promote the principles and practices endorsed by alternative free trade organizations. Fairtrade advocates and associations support trading relationships by creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers. Fair trade is a strategy for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Its purpose is to create opportunities for producers who have been economically disadvantaged or marginalized by the conventional trading system. Fair trade involves transparent management and commercial relations to deal fairly and respectfully with trading partners. Fair trade promotes transparency and accountability throughout the business operation. Fair trade helps build capacity as producers’ develop their own independence. Fair trade relationships provide continuity, during which producers and their marketing organizations can improve their management skills and their access to new markets. (Wikipedia, 2006)

Payment of a fair price in the regional or local context should be agreed through dialogue and participation. It covers not only the costs of production but enables production which is socially just and environmentally sound. Fair trade actively encourages better environmental practices and the application of responsible methods of production. Fairtraders ensure prompt payment to their partners and, whenever possible, help producers with access to pre-harvest or pre-production financing.

Fair trade provides fair pay to the producers and takes into account the principle of equal pay for equal work by women and men. Fair trade means that women’s work is properly valued and rewarded. Women are always paid for their contribution to the production process and are empowered in their organizations. Fair trade means a safe and healthy working environment for producers. Worker safety and environmental protection are pursued diligently. The participation of children (if any) does not adversely affect their well-being, security, educational requirements and need for play and conforms to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as the law and norms in the local context. (Wikipedia, 2006)

The idea of labeling fairly traded products needs to be expanded into a more widely used standard in business. The easiest way to support Fair Trade is to purchase fairly traded products. Your actions as a consumer support or discourage actions by businesses, even large corporations. Even small acts like purchasing a cup of coffee from a business that is fair trade certified help move the world economy in a more positive direction.

Solution: 

Adhering to social criteria and environmental principles can foster a more equitable and sustainable system of production and trade that benefits people at the local level. Small as it may be the rapidly growing fair trade movement is setting standards that could redefine world trade to include more social and environmental considerations. Fair traders believe that their system of trade, based on respect for workers' rights and the environment, if adopted by the big players in the global economy, can play a big part in reversing the growing inequities and environmental degradation that have accompanied the growth in world trade. (FTF, 2006)

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Production, trade and retailing of goods and services worldwide are increasingly concentrated under the control of a few corporations. The growing Fair Trade movement is based on reciprocal benefits and mutual respect; fair prices paid to producers; workers have the right to organize; national health, safety, and wage laws are enforced; and products are environmentally sustainable and conserve natural resources.

Pattern status: 
Released

Teaching to Transgress

Pattern ID: 
763
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
20
John Thomas
IBM Research Hawthorne
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Obviously, good teachers try their best to teach what they believe to be correct. Yet, the world changes so that what was true is no longer true and what was once irrelevant becomes important, even vital. Further, even with respect to things that do not objectively change, new knowledge is continually created. It is natural for students to identify with good teachers and to value their knowledge highly. A possible side-effect of this basically good process, however, is that the student may become reluctant to “go against” the teaching of their mentor/hero/professor. This reluctance occurs, not just with respect to individual teachers, but also with respect to the society as a whole.

Context: 

The world is changing rapidly and critically. For example, the human population has exploded in the last few hundred years. The consumption of fossil fuels continues basically unabated despite the signs of global warming and the finite nature of these fuels. The incredibly destructive nature of modern weaponry means that fights for limited economic resources or over restrictive and doctrinaire religions can produce unprecedented levels of human misery. Yet, many individuals, groups, and societies seem just as conservative and rigid as ever.

Discussion: 

Living organisms have existed on earth for at least 10**9 years while modern human institutions like government have only been around for about 10**4 years. Living organisms all have the capacity to change with each new generation both through mutation and re-combination. We would do well to emulate what has worked.

The United States Consititution, although a best efforts work at the time it was created, also carries within it, provision for change through Amendment and many of these have been critical to the broadening of American democracy to a wider range of citizens.

The Walking People (Underwood, 1997) describes the journey of one branch of the Iroquois Tribe over several millenia. In the process, they were forced to learn to accomodate to different physical and cultural situations. They developed numerous mechanisms both for retaining learned wisdom and for challenging and changing when new situations arose.

The need for challenge and change has probably never been greater. Nonetheless, there are many mechanisms that tend to prevent change. At the individual level, change can be uncomfortable. Typically, a targeted change in one area or domain also has unintended consequences not only in that same area or domain but in others as well. If an individual changes, this may require compensatory changes in those close to the individual. Thus, there is often resistance to change at the level of family and friends as well. Furthermore, there is often institutional resistance to change. Institutions, including corporations, work to keep any and all advantages that they already enjoy. Governments and religions also often work to keep the status quo.

Given the numerous levels at which resistance to change occurs, it is necessary to have active mechanisms that work toward change. The impacts of change need to be carefully evaluated however because not all changes, even well-intentioned ones work well.

Solution: 

In order to help prevent stagnation of knowledge, one useful strategy is for the teacher, as an integral part of their teaching, to teach “transgression”; that is, to go against the “received wisdom” — to test and rebel against it. The scope of such transgression should be wide and include all of a society's rules, prejudices, and attitudes.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Students identify with good teachers and value their knowledge highly. This might mean, however, that students might be reluctant to “go against” the teaching of their mentor/hero/professor. Teaching to Transgress actively questions and tests society's “received wisdom.” Teaching to Transgress helps instill the idea that societies must change and that we all have responsibility for promoting that change.

Pattern status: 
Released

Transforming Institutions

Pattern ID: 
442
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
19
Brian Beaton
Keewaytinook Okimakanak
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Traditional management models used to develop and sustain institutions and their services are often based on the corporate concept of centralized and very controlled operations. They are lead by people who are often chosen for their position only because they fit easily within the institution. Institutions become focused on their own survival rather than their original and evolving missions and visions. Institutions and organizations replicate themselves through their hiring practices and competitive practices, preventing diversity and hence, innovation. Institutions become resistant to change, maintaining the belief (at least implicitly) that "who they are now is who they should remain".

Context: 

A distributed management and operational model for institutions is required to support and sustain remote and rural communities. Establishing innovation as a way of doing business to engage remote and rural communities in all regions requires an appreciation where people are employed, where they are producing valued products as well as delivering services that are an important part of the social and economic fabric of the region. In many cases, success in fulfilling the mission of an institution can actually mean the "death" or transformation of their organization. Institutions that have some specified lifespan to fulfill their mandate can either disappear or change to accommodate the next challenge that is identified from its work and services.

Discussion: 

Most institutions are positioned to deliver services from their operation center out to the region and the masses. Often, these institutions, their leaders and their corporate management models protect and maintain their existence without any regard for those they were intended to serve. Their development and sustainability strategies are built and maintained on the basic values of greed and exploitation of the people and regions they claim to serve. The exploitation and destruction of the environment, the people and rural communities is the long term result of these types of efforts by institutions.

Regional hospitals, colleges and universities are three examples of institutions that sustain their operation centers in larger urban environments. They sustain their operation by drawing people to their facilities under the myth that they will be better served if they move to these centers. The professionals who work with clients in these institutions create a level of dependency that people have grown to accept. These efforts protect their positions and create wealth for the institution while draining local and regional resources. The reality that these institutions and corporations depend on communities to supply the resources required for their existence challenges their traditional model.

The real costs of developing and sustaining centralized, concrete environments have never been incorporated into the balance sheets of the institutions. These real costs the costs to the environment, the costs of destroying forests and the earth to extract natural resources for creating man-made environments where people are "taken care of" so a few individuals can become rich and powerful. The artificial comforts that some experience as a result of these environments should reflect these real costs of producing the food and water that sustain the lives of the people who work within these institutions; the energy they consume to have these comforts; as well as the poverty that others must experience so they can be comfortable within these artificial environments. The list of “real” costs is long and requires significant research to reflect the real exchanges that occur between the different sectors of society.

Once these real costs variables are included in any true management system, institutions and governments will need to look outside their "glass bubbles" work with others to find truly sustainable and equitable solutions. Management and program developers will need to find creative strategies to accommodate, work with and sustain communities, cultures and environments that have always existed and have been struggling to survive.

Being able to look outside of their comfortable worlds to support innovation and development with their neighbors requires a new set of values and priorities. These institutional values and priorities will be different from those that are presently in place to protect and sustain artificial and temporary facilities and environments. Partnering with others, trusting other people, understanding others, respecting other environments, cultures and people are values that should become part of any modern institutional culture and environment.

This transformation will benefit the institution by creating new opportunities and relationships. But it will also probably require some short-term pain to establish long-term gains. Finding creative ways to purchase and support services and products from other groups outside of the institution also requires finding creative ways to pay the real price for these products and services. Learning how to value and respect people and environments in remote and rural communities helps create these new opportunities and relationships.

Working with existing institutions and supporting their required change is a challenge. Starting over to create new institutions is only an option when there are opportunities and support for innovative groups and organizations that are able to overcome or counter the traditional institutional management model. But for most existing institutions, the entrenched infrastructure and investments created over the years require that they remain in place.

Institutions located in most small urban centers are an integral and historical part of their environment. Over the years they have contributed jobs and significant investment in the communities where they are located. By their very nature, they will continue to exist; the question becomes, however, will they be able to make the necessary adjustments for successfully accommodating these real operational costs within their own environments?

This type of change, with its associated challenges and opportunities, requires a transformation at all levels within existing institutions. This transformative work needs to be lead by innovative thinkers and new leaders who understand and respect the impact of their institution at the local, regional, national and international levels. The global village demands this type of relationship within institutions. As these new institutions evolve from within existing institutions or as new institutions are started, the required transformations are facilitated and supported by factors and forces both within and outside the organization.

“Leaders of older organizations often selected in the past are constrained by institutional routines, and may have resources that allow them to operate in counterproductive insulation from the environment. As leaders persist, they form bonds among themselves, develop common understandings of ‘how things work,’ and select others like themselves to lead. Access to internal organizational resources can insulate them, in the short run, from environmental change. For a time, these resources may even give them the power to shape that environment – but only for a time. Changes in organizational structure that reduce leaders’ accountability to or need to mobilize resources from constituents – or changes in deliberative processes that suppress dissent – can diminish strategic capacity, even as resources grow. The strategic capacity of an organization can thus grow over time if it adjusts its leadership team to reflect environmental change, multiplies deliberative venues, remains accountable to salient constituencies, and derives resources from them.” (Ganz, 2003)

As Ganz and others note, there is a need for permeable organizations that are flexible, contain built in ‘reality checks’ and are able to accommodate and reward innovative thinking (Thomas, 2002, Tresser, 2002, Wortley, 2002, Michaelson, 2002, Brown, 2006 and Dutfield, 2006). Working with groups and constituents outside of the institution provide leadership with unique opportunities to adjust their goals and priorities. Providing appropriate reward structures for those within and outside of the institution provides the opportunity for building new relationships and collaborative development. Being able to respond to these changes and opportunities in a timely and appropriate manner requires a special team comprised of partners in development.

Solution: 

Institutions should begin to:
* develop innovative and sustainable relationships with remote and rural communities that are built upon the principles of trust, sharing, respect and strength to ensure an equitable and fair existence for all to support a sustainable, transformative institutional model.
* establish a transformative change within their environments to engage as well as effectively communicate and share with the region their products and resources. The resulting exchange becomes a model for cooperative and collaborative development across regions and elsewhere, as innovative strategies and creativity benefiting all become entrenched and commonplace in all relationships.
* Create flexible institutional management models that can adjust to the changing and evolving needs of people so everyone has the opportunity to become engaged in these transformative efforts.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Social institutions often deliver services from their operational center out to people in distant regions. In some cases these institutions protect and maintain their existence without regard for those they were intended to serve. This results in exploitation and destruction of the environment and communities. Institutions should develop new sustainable relationships; establish transformative change; and create flexible management models.

Pattern status: 
Released
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