tactics

Multi-Party Negotiation for Conflict Resolution

Pattern ID: 
759
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
79
Helena Meyer-Knapp
The Evergreen State College
Stewart Dutfield
Graduate and Continuing Education, Marist College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Any challenge to the status quo can lead to conflict, which raises a key problem: how to shift the conflict creatively to achieve real change. Even within like-minded social change communities, participants can find themselves in conflict with each other. To negotiate over disagreements on the basis that only one of the affected parties can gain at the expense of all the others is to perpetuate the status quo, and often leads to everyone involved feeling that they have lost more than they have gained.

Context: 

Organizations and communities dedicated to social change will encounter intense disagreements since they are working among people with strongly held beliefs and differing agendas. Many strategic action choices set up conflicts that do more to perpetuate the status quo than to change it: protests, negative media campaigns, lawsuits and regulation battles are time-honored tactics, but their win/lose dynamic tends to polarize opinions around longstanding hostilities. Problems can also arise when attempting to resolve conflicts by relying on a third party to mediate the issues, particularly if the dispute affects multiple divergent and distinct parties. Increasingly, social change actions are developed in settings at which participant decision-makers represent people from around the world. The UN Decade of the Women

Discussion: 

Starting in 1981 with the publication of the Ury and Fisher book “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In,” Americans, in particular, learned to imagine solutions to conflicts in which constructive win/win solutions replaced the win/lose model. Ury and Fisher centered on negotiation, and negotiation remains a critical conflict strategy. Their Program on Negotiation at Harvard University Law School, operates as a training and research center with a particular focus on large scale and international conflicts, using a fourfold process: (a) separate the people from the problem; (b) focus on interests, not positions; (c) invent options for mutual gain; and (d) insist on using objective criteria. Central to this process is the ability to recognize whether a proposed agreement is in one’s interest; the best alternative to no agreement (BATNA) is a clear understanding of what one will do if no agreement is reached.

Good communication skills and versatile approaches to problem definition are critical to negotiation and to conflict resolution in general. There is no single posture or style which connects across all cultures and power differences, but many people have found Marshall Rosenberg’s training useful for learning to listen effectively and learning to ask clearly. Michelle Le Baron’s book offers detailed descriptions of good practice for respecting specific cultural factors that will impact any negotiation. Meyer-Knapp’s analysis of attempts to end wars highlights some additional factors: secrecy can facilitate progress in difficult talks, key leaders must be involved and success often depends on all parties publicly agreeing to end retributive and punitive actions.

Some conflicts become so embedded in communities that it comes to seem impossible even to discuss them. Two programs illustrate options for opening up the dialogue. The Public Conversations Project has set up forums for private and extended dialogue on abortion in the United States. In the cities where they have worked there is an increasing willingness to reach across the divisions. The Health Bridge Project in the former Yugoslavia achieved a similar effect by setting up clinics and health care recovery projects staffed by professionals from among the hostile Serb, Croat and Bosnian Moslem communities. One particular peacetime derivative of military “gaming” uses an intensive negotiation/planning protocol in which the stakeholders are explicitly required to negotiate from the perspective of someone other than themselves.

Intra-organizational disputes can be softened if workers and board-members routinely engage in mediation and facilitation training. Then, should a disagreement arise, they can use the skills on their own behalf. However managers must remember that in US law and culture, once an organizational dispute has arisen, decisions that withstand leglistic challenges are based in well grounded due process. The essentials of due process are timely handling of complaints, neutrality of decision-makers in relation to the dispute, the right of appeal, and an opportunity for all sides to have their point of view heard.

This pattern links to Conversational Support Across Boundaries, Citizen Diplomacy, Peaceful Public Demonstrations, Collective Decision-Making, Appreciative Collaboration

Solution: 

Conflict can supply a positive impetus to improve the situation, often through negotiations among a variety of opposing parties. So, approach change prepared to acknowledge and actively deal with conflict. To generate lasting change, use an imaginative array of conflict strategies and skills including negotiation, multi-party process, and cross cultural dialogue. To enable constructive outcomes, negotiate with flexible and compassionate attitudes to opposing parties. Organizations should develop and regularly review their capacity for negotiation and dialogue, both internally and externally. Schools at all levels should be teaching skills in negotiation, conflict resolution, and communication. In complex situations, each participant must be willing to assume the responsibility of negotiating for themselves.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Is it possible to shift conflict creatively to achieve real change? Recently people have begun to imagine solutions to conflicts in which constructive win/win solutions replace the win/lose model. To generate lasting change, use an imaginative array of strategies and skills including negotiation, multi-party processes, and cross cultural dialogue.

Pattern status: 
Released

Positive Health Information

Pattern ID: 
746
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
74
Jenny Epstein
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Health information in the developed world exists in vast quantities, not only for the general public but also for health professionals. Much of this information depicts good health in terms of vigilance against the failings of our own bodies. This serves to create dependency on a high tech, commodity health system.

Context: 

The style of language and the content of information are very important in how information makes people perceive the world. Authors in many fields have noted patterns of communication that create distrust and enforce dependency by emphasizing danger from external, uncontrollable forces. If people have a sense of helplessness in the face of this threat, they do not act upon their own feelings and perceptions.

Discussion: 

Negative language has the effect of emphasizing threats, magnifying fears, and creating dependency. Reminding people of their mortality tends to make them hold more closely to traditional culture (Pyszczynski, Solomon, & Greenberg, 2003); this has implications for mental health, and can also be used to influence mass opinion and behavior. A recent example is the US administration’s use of language to create fear and mistrust among the public by creating the specter of a constant external threat (Brooks, 2003).

Much health information, especially advertising from hospital corporations and pharmaceutical companies, uses this technique. A paternalistic (doctor knows best) and commodity-driven medical system produces an endless stream of information that encourages the perception that natural processes, such as growing older or pregnancy, are fraught with danger. This inhibits the spread of health information that is not based on the treatments that this system has to offer.

Language may not only be negative; it can also be empty (Brooks, 2003); complex issues are broken down into broad statements with little meaning. In health care information, this pattern of communication places the cause of ill health on the individual. The complexity of individuals’ relationships to the world they live in and the effects on individual health of pollution, poverty, and unhealthy social norms and values are ignored. People come to construe healthy behavior in terms of dependency on a medical industry that constantly invents not only new cures, but new diseases for the cures it already possesses (Blech, 2006).

Empty language is like empty calories. It tastes good and you can eat a lot of it, but you don’t obtain much benefit. A great deal of health information tempts us to feel that we are well-informed. We are bombarded by advertising and public health campaigns that do little more than create mistrust of the inherent healthy processes we possess. To reduce complex health issues to taking a pill ignores people’s emotional needs and the complex connection between body and mind; instead it emphasizes the negative aspects of their health.

The use of estrogen replacement in post-menopausal women illustrates this. Estrogen replacement was pushed on women as a way if combating the “problems” of growing old such as osteoporosis, heart disease, memory loss and drying skin. The unspoken message was that there was something wrong with growing old that taking medication could correct it. Preventative approaches, that emphasized a lifetime of healthy behaviors and the inherent correctness of aging, were ignored.

In pattern 47, Health Center, Alexander et al. (1977) describe a medical system that emphasizes sickness over health. By contrast, they show the Pioneer Health Center in Peckham, an experiment from the 1930s, as an example of medical care that focuses on health instead of sickness. In the same manner, health information must distinguish between healing and medicine. We need to hear messages of what is right with us and what needs to be done to stay in touch with the inherent health of our bodies.

Many alternative health practices, such as yoga, polarity treatment, or acupuncture focus on the inherent healthiness of the body. In these practices, the underlying concept is on healing, the natural process by which the body repairs itself. The rise of alternatives to conventional medicine reflects, in part, the lack of substance people feel from the information they receive after a visit to a doctor. Health-related discussion forums, that include both lay and professional perspectives but avoid the disease-mongering (Marshall & Aldhous, 2006) influence of industry funding, offer a way to make sense of information from various health related sources without falling victim to negative language and information; people put information into the context of everyday life and validate positive perceptions of themselves. This type of information has substance to it, not only because it is active rather than passive; it has the positive effect of engaging people in independent, creative thinking.

Solution: 

Health information should emphasize the idea that people are inherently healthy. It must inspire trust in the body’s ability to heal itself, once a healthy path has been taken. Where information of this kind is insufficient, either create it or supplant it with participant-controlled interactive forums.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Health information in the developed world often depicts health in terms of vigilance against external, uncontrollable forces. This fosters distrust and dependency on a high-tech, commodity health system. Positive Health Information is built on the fact that people are inherently healthy. It inspires trust in the body's ability to heal itself, once a healthy path has been taken.

Pattern status: 
Released

Powerful Remittances

Pattern ID: 
785
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
73
Scott Robinson
Universidad Metropolitana
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The amount of remittances that people working in the developed world send home to their families is huge, estimated to approach US$232 billion in 2006. This figure surpasses by far the total of direct foreign investment and overseas development aid. Many countries, in fact, around the world, now rely on remittances as a major source of foreign exchange. World Bank technical reports fret about how best to leverage remittance income. While remittance transfers has become a growth industry (e.g. “banking the unbanked”), public policy has to date been reluctant to regulate this phenomenal resource flow apart from the usual concerns about money laundering. Remittance transfers grow annually, but this growth curve is not indefinite. Low-paid "guest workers" (many working "illegally", i.e. sans documents) in richer countries send a portion of their paychecks to their families back home. Their cheap labor allows many industries to remain competitive. In the recipient countries, this foreign exchange often represents a large percentage of GDP. While the amount of money is large, the percentage of funds siphoned off as commissions at various points during the transfer process is also significant, but steadily dropping. Five years ago the average transfer cost was often close to 15%, whereas today it is around 5.5%. Nevertheless, there is considerable room for further transfer cost reductions via innovative information technologies and regulatory reform. Remittance transfers from the migrant refugees from recent structural adjustment policies and "market failures" represent the flip side of global capital flows.

Context: 

The poor countries generally have few job opportunities and their "best and brightest" leave the country in what amounts to a new form of resource extraction (if not a new form of inverse "colonialism"). This process seems to be self-perpetuating, as the respective national Diaspora circuits become consolidated and young men and increasingly women as well migrate Northbound, to the United States or Europe, or Westbound to the Gulf States, upon reaching adulthood. Migration patterns may vary significantly within countries. Village cultures, family and ritual life has adapted to these new circumstances, often less than a generation old. Transnational communities are now the norm in many regions of Mesoamerica, Mexico to Nicaragua, the Caribbean microstates, regional pockets in northern South America and sub-Saharan Africa, amongst South Africa

Discussion: 

National elites quietly applaud these incoming resources; unfortunately, some would like to tax them as income as some US state legislatures also propose. This money is an aggregate of private, family funds that paradoxically provoke a positive multiplier effect for local merchants and economies, while reducing somewhat demands for social services from public funds and improving the balance of payments in national accounts. Remittance flows in hard currency reinforce central banks’ stock of foreign exchange, in effect reducing interest rates for the minority with access to credit. Banks and money transfer operators (MTOs to the financial community) now accept foreign government identification cards (e.g. Mexico’s Matrícula Consular ) thereby bypassing strict migration controls in some countries. Global remittance flows may be a contemporary form of social Darwinism whereby "remittances seem to be taking care of local needs." While in the job and remittance-generating host countries, workers from poor countries are often exploited, denied basic rights and services while paying local taxes, and increasingly, demonized by racist “seal the borders” ultranationalists.

Mexico has taken the lead in leveraging migrants’ remittances via a 3 for 1 program now operating in 16 states of its federal system. Begun in Zacatecas in 1992, for each dollar a migrant organization earmarks for investment in public improvements in specific locations back home, the municipal, state and federal governments contribute another dollar. Gradually, many municipios are paving their plazas, building sidewalks, refurbishing the churches, adding bathrooms to primary schools, etc. This program can be exported and other countries are discussing its implementation.

The emergence of these remittance economies is a function of emigration patterns that attest to the failures and limitations of the capitalist development model. Near monopoly MTOs (e.g. Western Union and Money Gram) dominated the early phase, but the profits to be made attracted many new players, including regional companies and most recently, commercial banks and credit unions. Workers deliver cash to a MTO receiving window, often in franchises located in small businesses and storefronts in migrant urban neighborhoods or small towns next to labor intensive industries (furniture, poultry and meat packing, fruit and vegetable farms). The licensed MTO moves the funds via their electronic network, situating the remittance at the assigned location on the receiving end in the migrant’s home country. Often the remitter is unaware of the foreign exchange rate used (US dollars or Euros to his/her local currency), and MTOs have been sued for offering exchange rates well below the market value on the day of the transaction. In addition to service commissions, exchange rate “spreads” are a major component of MTOs’ bottom line.

In the United States, undocumented workers often use a fake Social Security identification card and number. Employers accept them at face value and send obligatory salary deductions to the Social Security Administration that deposits these funds in a special Earnings Suspense Fund (ESF). This account now receives over USD$7 billion a year, a significant sum that will never be reclaimed by workers in the future. The ESF is a de facto migrant subsidy to the US social security capital budget. It remains an open question if this amount equals or is less than the value of social services non-tax paying migrants receive at the state and local levels.

This pattern of massive remittance transfers can be more transparent and cost efficient while leveraging resources for migrant families and organizations committed to growth back home. Information technology can substantially reduce remittance transfer costs and improve transparency if both financial and telecommunications regulatory reforms were in place. Experts in the field admit that commissions and exchange rate spreads totaling 2.5% of the amount sent home allows for a healthy profit for MTOs. Commercial and financial elites, both in the North and the South, at present profiting from the poor, are probably not going to willfully innovate in this fashion. Accelerating the citizenship process and then, mobilizing former migrant voter turnout may lead to immigration policy reforms in the North. Simultaneously, migrant organizations need to continue to fight for their rights, services’ access, job safety, and civic respect in the framework of each respective national "guest worker" policy. Also, there is immense potential in using the power that can be derived from the aggregated sums of small proportions of remittances to bring pressure to bear on political elites in the home countries. This is beginning to happen in Mesoamerica where returning migrants manage collective remittances, run for public office, win, often reconfigure local priorities and lobby for reforms at other levels. The power of leveraging this amount of money via political lobbying and policy reform will have impacts both in the North and South.

Solution: 

Non-profit foundations working with migrant organizations could set up alternative networks of cost plus transfer mechanisms and otherwise protect remittance transactions while lowering costs still more. Stored value cards will play a strategic role in this process. Voice over Internet Protocol free or low cost phone calls will contribute to lower communications costs, a significant aspect of each migration circuit. International financial institutions could offer matching funds for specific investments back home. There is room for innovation and experimentation for migrant organizations and their supporting transnational communities. Emerging remittance economies may reconfigure local politics over time.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

People leave poor countries in search of jobs. Village cultures and families have adapted to this and to the significant sums of money sent home. Information technology innovation can reduce remittance transfer costs and improve transparency. Financial institutions could offer matching funds for investments while non-profit foundations working with migrant groups could set up alternative transfer networks.

Pattern status: 
Released

Indigenous Media

Pattern ID: 
446
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
55
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Miguel Angel Pérez Alvarez
Colegio de Pedagogía, UNAM
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Lack of representation in media production results in reduced diversity of ideas and perspectives in the media. This often results in manipulation, lack of political participation and knowledge about rights. It lessens opportunities to engage in politics or to assume responsibilities in government. Indigenous people who are denied their voice will find it difficult to fight oppression, work with allies, or maintain their culture. Without the means to make their voices heard, communities become atomized within themselves and invisible to the outside world.

Context: 

Indigenous people in rural and urban areas in developing and developed countries around the world need to create

Discussion: 

This pattern could be applied in urban areas and in rural areas where communities have suffered years of economic and social stagnation. Indigenous media is different from media that is produced by and for other underserved groups such as ethnic and sexual minorities, women, and youth. For one thing, indigenous people often don’t know how to engage the media from their village far from electricity, telephones, press, or radio or television stations. For another thing, the knowledge that is intrinsic to their culture may be localized. It may be centuries old, embodied in stories or other non-written forms and endangered.

Information is essential for development and it is now urgent to empower indigenous people with media technologies and knowledge. There are many activities which indigenous farmers could undertake to help improve their lives with better access to media. If, for example, the farmers of Chiapas in Southeast Mexico could sell their products directly to the companies they could improve their economic situation. Currently intermediaries buy coffee in poor villages for a few coins which is then sold to big companies at great profit. Access to the market depends on knowledge and the technological means to capitalize on it.

We know that this is not only a problem for the poor. Many people around the world have problems related to lack of media access. The fact that large corporations control the media becomes a matter of life and death because the media is the de facto gatekeeper of important information related to health and safety. Indigenous people often lack the power, knowledge and technology to produce their own information and their own media. The Internet could provide a new way to communicate. For example, in the south and south-east areas of México, there are new Internet access centers but these are only for people who already know how to use computers and the Internet, knowledge that many indigenous people don’t have.

Indigenous Media simultaneously addresses many needs of marginalized indigenous groups. Thus embracing this pattern entails education and training, policy, resources (time, money, people, for example) in addition to access to the technology itself. An e-mail campaign or a panel discussion on a radio show can help organize a campaign against a group of intermediaries or to denounce bad legislators. In Mexico's rural communities such as Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca radio stations managed by indigenous farmers and satellite gateways to the Internet can make the difference between intimidation and free speech. Some notable examples from around the world include Radio Tambuli Radio Network in the Philippines, the Deadly Mob aboriginal organization of Alice Springs, Australia, and the Koahnic Broadcast Corporation in Alaska.

Non-indigenous people can play a role in support of this pattern. They can organize training programs in the 3,100 new access points are installed in the municipalities around Mexico and/or in Internet cafes. Many institutions and international agencies whose programs include technology in rural areas can donate equipment, access to the Internet (maybe via satellite gateways), and Internet streaming. NGOs with training and learning programs can work with indigenous farmers and others to learn how to apply media access technology. Mino of the Ashaninka native people in Peru who was instrumental in establishing Internet access for his people stresses that indigenous people must not allow non-indigenous people to monopolize information. For that reason, he and others in his group carefully observed every technical installation that was carried out in his village.

Unfortunately the pattern language and other educational tools are not available in native languages and are useless to most indigenous people. Many of these stakeholders have experience with ICT who can share their stories of success and failure, but they can't express their thoughts in English.

Radio, print media, television, all have potential to help shape public opinion. When rural farmers acquire Internet skills and can access media, they can apply this knowledge to create their own information and communication systems. Ultimately, indigenous people can promote success by communicating with other indigenous people around the world about their experiences.

Arts of Resistance, Alternative Media, Roles in Media, Influencing the Design of Information Technologies, Mobile ICT Learning Facilities for 3rd World Communities, International Networks of Alternative Media, Control of One's Representation, Solidarity Networks, Ordinary Protagonists and Everyday Life

Solution: 

Encourage the development of indigenous media that is controlled by indigenous people themselves. People outside the indigenous community can become involved — but only in consultation with the indigenous community.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The lack of participation and influence by indigenous communities in media production results in reduced diversity of ideas and perspectives. This can result in lack of political participation and knowledge about rights. It lessens opportunities to engage in politics or to assume responsibilities in government. Indigenous people who are denied their voice will find it difficult to fight oppression, work with allies, or maintain their culture.

Pattern status: 
Released

Alternative Media in Hostile Environments

Pattern ID: 
433
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
53
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Despots despise the visibility that a truly free press can provide. It is their unchallengeable iniquity that would receive the most intense airing. Under oppressive regimes, the circulation of information, literature, and other art forms can be dangerous. People can be harassed, beaten-up, imprisoned or even executed for possession of forbidden information — or the means to create, reproduce or distribute it. Journalists face even greater challenges and require an extensive collection of techniques to get the news out to all who need it.

Context: 

This pattern focuses on journalism during hostile conditions in which citizens have a greater need to engage with the forbidden knowledge and share it with members of their community. The future of reform often depends on the success of this collaboration between journalists and citizens. The ideas in this pattern (including new distribution practices, for example) also can be used in the US or other countries that have a nominally free press yet one that is dominated by a few strong voices with deep pockets.

Discussion: 

The world can be very hostile to independent and alternative journalists and to people who read and think. Even countries where there are no legal restrictions to a "free" press have major problems. The journal Index on Censorship and the organization Reporters without Borders regularly report on the barbarities visited upon journalists worldwide. Despots know that the truth can damage their reputations and ultimately their regime. Although the truth is difficult to hide forever, postponing its arrival, limiting its exposure, and casting aspersions on its accuracy may be adequate for their purposes.

A hostile environment is one in which coercion or force — either formally through laws and police — or informally through thugs or contract killers is employed to stifle the free flow of ideas. The most common form of choking off the flow of information that could be damaging to the government, corporations or wealthy individuals is distraction. Serbian media during the Milosevic years with its breezy lightweight confections of schmaltzy pop as well as nationalist songs and slapstick served up in many cases by scantily clad women, provides a good example of this.

One appendage of the unfree press (at least as conceptualized in the U.S.) is a ruthlessly efficient secret police that stomps out every aspect of alternative point-of-view the instant that it surfaces. This modus operandi seems to be uncommon in practice (and would no doubt be the envy of all the despots). The defenders of the status quo, though loutish and dangerous, are often capricious and incompetent, and they are generally stymied by insufficient resources. The ambiguity of the laws and the ambiguity of the presumed offenses also can work in favor of the journalist.

The former Soviet Union and its satellites provided the fertile soil for an independent press that operated on the margins of the law for several decades. This is the classic "samizdat" distribution in which readers painstakingly and secretly copied by hand or via typewriter and carbon paper, multiple copies of entire books which were then passed on to others who would do the same.

In the "developed world" journalists and other media workers are specialized: one person intones the news of the day, using video clips that another person edited which was shot by another person during an interview conducted by another person as ordered by another person. When the political climate turns nasty and journalists are beaten-up, threatened or killed by government soldiers, paramilitary troops or thugs, when resources dry up or when disaster or wartime situations erupt, journalists habituated to the strict division of labor may be unable to adopt the more flexible and improvisational mode of news production when that becomes necessary. Journalists with overspecialized, deep but narrow, skills will find that they are unable to respond quickly and flexibly when their tried-and-true practices fail due to unexpected circumstances.

Alternative news distribution involves a canny cat and mouse game between those who believe in the free distribution of information and those who don't. Living within an actively hostile environment, it will be necessary to keep changing the way that business is done to meet new challenges. Unlike journalists in the US or other developed countries, journalists must adept in many modes of reporting, many approaches to distribution, a variety of tactics and strategies and the inventive use of what's available to get the job done, as befits what B92 journalist Veran Matic calls a "universal journalist, not an encyclopedic polymath who is informed in different fields, but a professional familiar with print journalism, radio and television, online journalism and information distribution mechanisms." This is what I call a bricoleur-journalist who sends the sounds that accompany the scene at voting station in Africa can go directly over the air via a cell phone with an open line to the radio station. Audio cassettes, printed broadsides or, more commonly today, DVDs can be distributed when the plug is pulled on a radio station (as it was three times during B92's early years of confronting Milosevic). And bricoleur-journalists in different cultures and settings, such as Chinese pro-democracy or environmental activists, will assume any number of local variants.

An interesting, unexpected issue seems to surface from time-to-time by the underground media (and society in general) after the fall of an oppressive regime. (fate of art and literature) Ironically, many people who worked closely with clandestine media over the years now feel unsettled in the post-soviet environment. After communism fell the former trickle of information became a tsunami of mostly commercial offerings. When information was scarce and in danger of extinction possessed an almost sacred allure. Now the same type of information is lost in the flood, just more anonymous flotsam and jetsam in a torrent of images and sounds.

Samizdat or clandestine journalism doesn't always succeed of course. Translating the success of the samizdat or underground press to other regions under oppressive regimes is far from automatic. A potential audience that is interested in the material must exist — as with the media in any situation — and there must be some way to get the material to them. Some of these people earnestly want social change and believe there is some degree, however small, of hope that this outcome is achievable. Interestingly, and somewhat contrary to conventional wisdom, some people in the potential audience are motivated by their desire to know the truth whether it helps to actually change the situation or not. At any rate, the larger and more active and supportive the audience is, the more likely that the alternative press will succeed. On the other side of the equation are the journalists — potential and actually — and the absence of either audience or journalists can prevent the enterprise from being successful.

Although precarious, alternative media production actually builds civic capacity. According to Anna Husarka who worked for Poland's Solidarity Information Bureau in 1989, the journalism they practiced "was a political blueprint for the democratic struggles that dismantled communism." It is also important to note that traditional "news" is not the only "product" of an alternative media project. The B92 enterprise (which started as a college radio station in Belgrade) now includes Radio B92, Television B92, B92.net (Web site), B92 publishing (books and magazines), B92 music label, B92.Rex cultural centre, B92.concert agency, and B92.communications (Internet provision and satellite links) amply illustrates the rich potential of a "media" that chooses to embrace the widest range of outlets. One of their biggest and most successful projects was "Rock for Vote," the biggest rock tour in Serbia's history, "a traveling festival with 6 to 8 bands playing in 25 cities and towns throughout the country." The tour was organized while organizers and activists "were being molested, harassed and detained by the police on a daily basis." In spite of that 150,000 citizens attended the concerts. Most importantly the results of the 2000 elections demonstrated that their main objective was attained: "80% of first-time voters did go to the polls after all ... casting their ballots to bring about fundamental changes in the country."

As mentioned above, some media operations that developed during a period of hostility have had a difficult time making the transition from a post-war or post-oppressive regime. On the other hand, Gazeta Wyborcza, one of Poland's leading underground newspapers in the 1980s, which was started in a kindergarten classroom became one of the most influential and commercially viable dailies in Poland [Smillie, 1999].) B92, in least in the immediate aftermath of the troubles in Serbia, continued innovative programming that reflected their terrifying past. For example, they launched a Truth and Reconciliation process that included radio shows and a series of books about the wars (including the Srebrenica crimes) and disintegration of former Yugoslavia. They also convened a conference "In Search for Truth and Reconciliation" in 2000 that was attended by journalists, intellectuals and representatives of NGOs from all former Yugoslav republics took part and another conference "Truth, Responsibility and Reconciliation" the following year that featured experiences of other countries in similar processes. Radio B92 also set up a special documentation archive on the wars which included testimonies, documentaries, video footage, books and other documents. They also arranged "exhibitions, screenings of documentaries and public discussions on these topics are being organized throughout Serbia" (Matic, 2004).

Solution: 

Producing — and consuming — or other types of cultural or journalistic media with hostile societies can be hazardous to emotional as well as physical health. It is often a unrewarding enterprise at the same time it can be absolutely critical.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

People in oppressive regimes can be harassed, beaten-up, imprisoned or even executed for possession or circulation of forbidden information, literature, or drawings. Journalists face grave challenges and require an extensive collection of techniques to get the news out. Alternative Media in Hostile Environments focuses on journalism during hostile conditions in which citizens have a greater need to engage with forbidden knowledge and share it with members of their community.

Pattern status: 
Released

Truth and Reconciliation Commissions

Pattern ID: 
749
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
51
Helena Meyer-Knapp
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Trauma and destruction are common results of war, religious conflict, gender oppression, and natural disaster. Unfortunately the way that societies deal with these issues can make a bad situation worse. Traditional systems of blame and punishment and even reparations all too often simply create additional harm.

Context: 

In the 21st Century formal judicial systems centered on a national government and the courts are losing ground to new models of adjudication and problem-solving. Some communities are reverting to long-standing traditions for healing, cleansing and restoring community balance. Others are taking up a more modern idea, the creation of a Truth Commission to take testimony from the victims and perpetrators in a conflict. These bodies range in scope and scale from the famous South African hearings covering thousands of cases spanning thirty years, to the Greensboro NC (USA) hearings about a single local catastrophe. Commission hearing rooms offer a forum for contact across previously insurmountable barriers of hostility, which can inspire a traditional enemies to build a newly shared investment in the future.

Discussion: 

Community organizations dealing with local traumatic events, families with a personal story of injustice, even an entity as large as the United States with its dark history of slavery can consider creating a Truth, Reconciliation and Amnesty Commission. A Commission holding hearings will allow the actual history to be revealed by taking testimony from a wide variety of perspectives, and will also become a forum in which adversaries can approach each other without insisting on punishment or revenge. Perhaps surprisingly, a narrative, anecdotal yet full recounting of painful truth contributes substantially to restoring the harmony and vitality of the community for the future.

South Africa’s is the most famous Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but there have been dozens of others.Many have played an important role in repairing community rifts without furthering the suffering for most people. In South Africa, an indigenously inspired and funded project, heard thousands of testimonies and disposed of over 3000 requests for amnesty. Guatemala’s TRC was more centralized and UN sponsored. A key outcome of the latter’s work came in an apology from the United States for its abusive interventions Guatemalan affairs.

TRCs offer a substitute for traditional disaster adjudication systems, which usually take one of the following three forms: insurance payments/liability law suits, government investigations/hearings, criminal trials and punishments. While each of these has its place, all three are concerned above all with blame for the past. Furthermore, legal and official procedures traditionally depend on arcane jargon and they tend to be expensive, long drawn out and highly centralized. Since they are dominated by experts, traditional dispute forums tend to marginalize the ordinary people who actually experience traumatic events. UN War Crimes Tribunals for Rwanda and Bosnia, which refuse to consider amnesty, have been bedeviled by the failings of court-based systems.

TRC style hearings are quite different. They are relatively informal so they are commensurately cheaper and can take place anywhere in an affected area. If they follow the South African model, hearings are not adversarial, they do not assign guilt or innocence and they are carried out in the local, natural language. In 2004 in Greensboro NC, hearings about 1979 slaughter of four civil rights activists offered an opportunity for people to continue on with a process that had actually been cut off in the courts.

TRC Commissioners need to attend openheartedly to the voices of suffering, to ask probing questions about responsibility and action so as to determine if the truth has indeed been told. Their success depends on the integrity of these commissioners. It also depends on careful recording and distribution of the testimonies. Participation, both for witnesses and those accused of doing harm has traditionally been voluntary, in the sense that no-one faces additional legal sanctions from their society for failing to appear, though community hostility can be hard on those who reject the Commission’s request to appear.

The strongest argument against TRC proceedings is precisely the strongest argument in favor of them – that such hearings are not the forum for punishing a perpetrator. Victim opponents of TRCs fear being deprived of justice. Perpetrators worry that the hearings are merely fishing expeditions to search out the guilty who will then be punished. Theorists are concerned that perpetrators who are not prosecuted under such a system will find they can act with impunity In South Africa some victims remained critical to the end, but many discovered that the new knowledge they gleaned at the hearings about what happened and why proved much stronger in easing their hearts than the had expected. And nothing about these hearings need prevent judicial action. Indeed in recent years there have been examples of re-opening judicial proceedings with a similar intent, for example the 2005 recreation and new “trial” of Chief Leshi leading his exoneration in Washington State, a hundred years after his execution.

Establishing a successful commission depends on preparing the groundwork on many issues. The factors identified by the Truth Commission Project (see below) include
• By whom/under whose name the commission is established
• When the commission is established and how far back it reaches
• Prevailing focus on healing or justice
• Public support for a truth commission
• Geographic horizon for Investigation
• Legal Powers of Investigation
• Rejecting anonymous and confidential testimonies
• Visibility of Hearings
• Degree of Formality of Hearings
• Whether or not to offer Amnesty
• Completion, Publication and Distribution/ Accessibilityof report

While most actual TRC hearings have been conducted in former war zones, it is easy to discern other issues which could benefit from this process:

1) The United States government and the American people could people re-examine the costs of the slave trade and the centuries of slave labor and yet minimize the likelihood that the acknowledgement of history becomes the basis furious revenge.
2) Or the people and the different levels of government could investigate the events of the New Orleans 2005 catastrophe without focusing narrowly on blame and thereby prompting an onslaught of liability law suits.
3) Or the residents and former residents of Hanford-Washington, Chernobyl-Ukraine, and Ukraine, and Bikini Island and other nuclear sites could craft public history out of the secrecy which surrounded the nuclear programs of the 20th century. At the same time they would create a forum for dialogue with the builders of the weapons and power plants who have left behind a radioactive legacy that will last for millennia.

This pattern links to Memory and Responsibility, Witnessing, Transparency, Community Inquiry, International Law

Solution: 

Therefore, faced with a festering historical trauma in a specific community, create a Truth, Reconciliation and Amnesty commission, using either informal or official channels. A commission can hear victim testimonies about past suffering as well as explanations from those responsible and it can provide a forum in which adversaries can meet without fear of further harm or punishment.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Societies recovering from wars and other traumas, can make a bad situation worse by focusing on blame or punishment. New models of adjudication and problem solving are emerging. Some communities are restoring long-standing healing and cleansing traditions. Truth and Reconciliation Commissions can help provide contact across previously insurmountable barriers of hostility and can inspire former enemies to build a shared investment in the future.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
A world map showing all the truth and reconciliation commissions in Museum of Memory and Human Rights, Santiago, Chile.

Conversational Support Across Boundaries

Pattern ID: 
439
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
50
John Thomas
IBM Research Hawthorne
Version: 
2
Problem: 

As Herb Simon pointed out in the "Architecture of Complexity", a common heuristic for dealing with complexity is to break complex problems into smaller, more or less independent components. When a complex organization is broken down into smaller units (such as divisions, departments, teams) each unit specializes. People are selected, trained, and motivated to optimize the performance of that unit. However, there remains the necessity for coordinating across units to deal with changes, exceptions, and errors in organizational design. In these cases, it is necessary for human beings to solve problems across organizational boundaries. However, since people in different organizations have been selected, trained, and motivated differently, such conversations are often very difficult.

Context: 

Context: Organizations strive to become more efficient partly through automation and partly through specialization of function. Organizations train one group of people to perform a function and then "hand off" the process to another group trained to perform another function, etc. Integration often extends across formal organizational boundaries so that; e.g., various participants in supply chains attempt to coordinate their efforts. Such larger scale integration can result in greater efficiency. Systems are not designed, however, with complete knowledge of every possible contingency. When design assumptions break down, it is important for people on both sides of a functional boundary to have a cooperative conversation in order to solve the problem left by the gap between reality and the design assumptions.

Discussion: 

Forces:

Many processes are too complex to be understood in detail by one person.
Performance on a task is generally a logarithmic function of time on task.
A person's time is limited.
Complex systems are typically designed and built by decomposition.
Systems to automate, semi-automate, or coordinate are generally designed by people who are not the people who actually do the tasks.
Designs can never anticipate all contingencies.
Human beings can negotiate to solve novel coordination problems via conversation.
People find conversation in the service of finding and solving problems rewarding.
People are subject to forming "in-groups" and "out-groups."
If "in-groups" and "out-groups" are formed, rather than negotiating a solution to a problem that is globally optimal, each group will try to "win" by forcing the solution that is optimal for their subfunction.

Examples:

Historically, many organizations have recognized the need for such informal conversational ties and have provided both special places (Officer's Club; Traditional Pub; Company Cafeterias) and events (Company Picnics; Religious Retreats; Holiday Parties; Clubs) to facilitate such interchanges. As organizations attempt integration across ever wider scales however, providing appropriate venues becomes increasingly challenging.
In some cases, two related functions report to a single manager and the manager may serve as a communication bridge. Clearly, however, in complex organizations, formal management methods alone will be insufficient for coordination across all the boundaries.
When links in a processing chain do not converse, inefficiency results. For example, telecommunications company Customer Service Reps gave out credit card numbers to business customers. However, they had to get these numbers from the accounting department. The customer service reps were only allowed to make outbound calls between 12 and 1. The accounting department generally had lunch between 12 and 1. As a result, it was often many days before customers were able to begin using their business accounts. The accounting department and the customer service reps also disliked each other, had no informal contact, and when other coordination problems arose, generally blamed each other.

The same general difficulty arises in attempting to deal with any complex problem; e.g., attempting to voluntarily and democratically facilitate social change. For instance, in the pattern, "Community of Communities" it is possible for various communities to develop plans that inadvertently interfer with each other. That is why it is useful, on a regular basis, to have conversations that cross community boundaries.

At IBM Research, I used to play a lot of tennis with other IBMers including an inter-company league. Here, I met someone in the corporate tax department named Frank.
I also used a system which returned the abstracts of scientific and technical articles that contained key-words of interest. Such systems return many false positives. One in particular had nothing whatever to do with my interests; it was about a new federal program that allowed highly profitable companies to trade tax credits with companies that were losing money. Instead of throwing this in the trash, because I had had conversations with Frank, I forwarded him the abstract. He looked into this program and saved a lot of money for IBM. This case illustrates that ideally even people with no obvious process connection should be able to converse informally.
In planning the first Universal Usability Conference (ACM SIGCHI), it was necessary to delegate various functions to various parties. We attempted to plan ahead of time by standard tools such as budgets and project timelines. A weekly conference call proved crucial in allowing us to identify and solve unanticipated problems effectively and efficiently.
In WorldJam (an on-line 3 day company-wide electronic meeting for all IBMers), moderators and facilitators used Babble (an electronic blended synchronous/asynchonous chat) and Sametime (a synchronous chat system) as backchannels to collectively solve problems and coordinate information among jam topics.
In Hanna Pavillion, a children's psychiatric hospital, each change of shift is marked by a short joint staff meeting in which critical issues are discussed so that a continuity of knowledge persists across shift boundaries (common in most medical settings). In addition, at least some people work double or rotating shifts and get to know people from various shifts. There are ample opportunties for informal conversation during the day as well as special outings. Then, staff members can coordinate treatment for a specific child across the boundaries of profession and shift.

Additional Reviewers/Editors: Catalina Danis, Alison Lee, David Ing, Ian Simmonds
Image of Babble courtesty of: "Visual by www.PDImages.com"

Solution: 

At a minimum, Time, Space, and Means as well as Motivation must be provided for people who need to coordinate acoss units to carry on continuing informal conversation. People must have time to carry on such conversations. A space must be provided in which such conversations can take place. If a physical space convenient to both parties is not feasible, some means of support for informal distant collaboration and conversation is necessary. Payoffs must accrue to the parties across a boundary for jointly for solving problems, not for proving that the other party is to blame.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

We must often work together across organizational and other boundaries to solve problems. However, since other groups have different knowledge, norms, and expectations, conversations can be difficult. It is important for people on both sides to have cooperative conversations. Time, space, means, and motivation, must be provided. Payoffs must accrue to the parties for solving shared problems, not for proving that the other party is to blame.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about summary graphic: 

Berlin Wall; Wikimedia Commons

Culturally Situated Design Tools

Pattern ID: 
499
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
49
Ron Eglash
rpi
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The characterization of inadequate information technology resources in disadvantaged communities as a "digital divide" was a useful wake-up call. At the same time, this metaphor is often taken to imply a problematic solution: the one-way bridge. The one-way bridge sees a technology-rich side at one end, and a technology-poor side at the other end. The one-way bridge attempts to bring gadgets to a place of absense, a sort of technology vacuum. This view can have the unfortunate side-effect of making local knowledge and expertise invisible or de-valued.

Context: 

One of the alternative approaches which avoids the one-way assumption is that of Culturally Situated Design Tools: using computer simulations of cultural arts and other pracitces to "translate" from local knowledge to their high-tech counterparts in mathematics, computer graphics, architecture, agriculture, medicine, and science. Current design tools include a virtual bead loom for simulating Native American beadwork, a tool based on urban graffiti, an audio tool for simulating Latino percussion rhythms, a Yupik navigation simulation, etc. Each design tools makes use of the mathematics embedded in the practive--for example the virtual bead loom uses Cartesian coordinates, because of the four-fold symmetry of the traditional loom (and many other Native American designs such as the "four winds" healing traditions, the four-pole tipi, etc). Applications are primarily in K-12 math education, but they also can be applied to design projects such as architecture, or used as a research tool in investigations such as ethnomathematics.

Discussion: 

Although we have had some strong success with these tools, their deployment--particularly in the field of education--has not been easy. In the educational context, we first have to work with community members to find a cultural practice that can be simulated. In the case of Native American practices some of the best examples in terms of ethnomathematics turn out to be sacred practices that cannot be simulated (eg Navajo sand painting, Shoshone whirling disks). Second, we have to make sure the cultural practice is recognized by the youth -- several African examples were questioned because by teachers who said African American children would see them more as dusty museum artifacts than as something they had cultural ownership of. Third we have to satisfy the requirements of standard curricula -- many interesting examples of ethnomathematics (Eulerian paths in pacific Islander sand drawings, fractals in African architecture, etc.) are difficult to use because they are outside of the standard curriculum. Fourth the software support must be easy for teachers to use -- many math teachers (particularly those serving large minority populations) do not have ready access to good quality computers for their students, and do not have good technolgical training. The students must be provided with cultural background information and tutorials, and the teachers must be provided with lesson plans and examples of use.

Solution: 

Our first design tool was developed for the "African Fractals" project (Eglash 1999). Mathematics teachers with large African American student populations reported that they could not use fractals -- there was too much pressure to conform to the standard curriculum -- and that they felt that many of the examples were too culturally distant from the students. They all felt that the examples of hairstyles would work well however. Thus our first tool focused on the hairstyles, and used the term "iterative transformational geometry" rather than "fractals." The graphic above shows the result, called "Cornrow Curves." Each braid is represented as multiple copies of a “Y” shaped plait. In each iteration, the plait is copied, and a transformation is applied. The series of transformed copies creates the braid. In the above example, we can see the original style at top right, and a series of braid simulations, each composed of plait copies that are successively scaled down, rotated, and translated (reflection is only applied to whole braids, as in the case where one side of the head is a mirror image of the other). One of the interesting research outcomes was that our students discovered which parameters need to remain the same and which would be changed in order to produce the entire series of braids (that is, how to iterate the iterations). The cultural background section of the website is divided into “how to” (for those unfamiliar with the actual process of creating cornrow hairstyles) and an extensive cultural history of cornrow hairstyles. We have found that many students, even those of African American heritage, will tell us that cornrows were “invented in the 1960s.” The history section was developed to provide students with a more accurate understanding of that history, starting with their original context in Africa (where they were used to signify age, religion, ethnic group, social status, kinship, and many other meanings), the use of cornrows in resistance to the attempt at cultural erasure during slavery, their revival during the civil rights era, and their renaissance in hip-hop. Most importantly, we want students to realize that the cornrows are part of a broader range of scaling designs from Africa (Eglash 1999), and that they represent a part of this African mathematical heritage that survived the middle passage. As noted previously, we have since developed a wide variety of design tools, ranging from simulations of Mayan pyramids (see image below) to virtual baskets. Our evaluations have been based on pre-test/post-test comparisons of mathematics performance, average grades in mathematics classes (comparing a year with the tools to the previous year without), and scores on a survey of interest or engagement with IT (specifically computing careers). All three measures show statistically significant increase (p < .05 or better) with use of these tools. In summary, we note that any attempts to re-value local or traditional knowledge in the face of oppressive histories will be challenging, and all the more so if the re-valuation has to compete with current mainstream global practices. But we feel that Culturally Situated Design Tools offer an important new position in which to engage that struggle.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Bridging the “digital divide” often means that the technology-rich side brings gadgets to the technology-poor side. This can have the unfortunate side-effect of devaluing local knowledge and expertise. Culturally Situated Design Tools can use computer simulations of cultural practices (such as cornrow hair styling, urban graffiti, beadwork, breakdance, and Latino drumming) to "translate" local knowledge to their high-tech counterparts in math, computing, or media.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Ron Eglash
Information about summary graphic: 

Ron Eglash

Alternative Progress Indices

Pattern ID: 
777
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
46
Burl Humana
Richard Reiss
one-country.com
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Economic indexes of various kinds attempt to measure the well being of nations, markets, corporations, individual people, and society. Most of these economic indexes express return only in monetary format and risk is calculated on the standard deviation of this monetary expression. These economic indexes need to also include information that makes life worth living, natural and social capital (living capital), so non-monetary rewards are also included in the standard deviation and risks to human well being can be indicated more accurately.

Context: 

Trading on the benchmark of indices has become increasingly popular over the last few years. As indexes become more widely used than ever before they become easy indicators, for those they benefit, in measuring how our world is doing, according to them, and skew the honest reality for mankind that we hope to protect. It is imperative to accurately measure the well being of nations, corporations, individual people, and societies through indexes that adequately reflect the true costs and benefits contributing to the well being of our world.

Discussion: 

Indexes take on a market theory notion that the “efficient frontier” has all the information needed to calculate an accurate return (reward) versus risk (cost) index. Following this notion is the idea that filtering the market for certain criteria of a specialized index lowers the amount of return received for risk taken, because filtered information is inefficient. This raises questions about the “efficiency” of markets because active managers filter economic information everyday to create specialized portfolios to increase return. On this, it would theoretically stand that an index measuring the well being of society could filter for criteria rewarding the common good with little to no ill effect from lack of the so called “efficiency” imbibed by the market.

Around the globe, there is an increase in the number of sustainability and social responsibility indexes (SRI). These indexes came out of first generation socially conscious investing that excluded corporate stock from investment portfolios on the basis of particular activities deemed to be unethical. From this, a second generation has emerged and the focus of SRI has changed primarily to identifying social and environmental issues that are “material” to business performance. This is an increased attempt by companies to assess the materiality of sustainability issues on (stock) value creation. These indices paint a picture that socially responsibility is only important when a financial gain is made by corporations or stockholders. This is not exactly what we are looking for when we hope to use indexes to help measure the well being of our world. When individual investors purchase SRI traded securities/indexes they still have to deal with the reality that the costs to living capital are making life less valuable even while their portfolios grow.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)/Gross National Product (GNP) per capita has most lately been used as an index of standard of living in an economy. GDP/GNP only measures the populations ease in satisfying their material wants (an index of reward for risk taken) and all else that contributes to the sustainability of people and the environment is lost. "Adding up the monetary transactions in an economy and calling this prosperity obscures an honest account of the well being of nations." (Anielski, 2000)

Quality of life and standard of living should not be separate measurements in an index "A more complex index of standard of living than GDP must be employed to take into account not only the material standard of living but also other factors that contribute to human well-being such as leisure, safety, cultural resources, social life, mental health, and enironmental quality issues, to name a few." (Anielski, 2000)

Simon Kuznets' idea “…[in] favour of more inclusive measures, less dependent on markets..." (Anielski, 2000) rings true as a more realistic approach to well-being. "The eventual solution would obviously lie in devising a single yardstick of both economies [virtual wealth – money,debt, stock markets; and real wealth – human, natural and social capital]…that would perhaps lie outside the different economic and social institutions and be grounded in experimental science (of nutrition, warmth, health, shelter, etc.)." (Anielski, 2000) The business for this millennium is to take up this empirical economic challenge for a single bottom line index for national well-being.

“The U.S. Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) and its predecessor, the Index for Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) provide the basis for developing a new accountancy to address Kuznets’ challenge. The U.S. GPI released in 1995 and since updated…is one of the most ambitious attempts at calculating the total benefits and costs related to [economics for community] for the US. First developed by Clifford W. Cobb, GPI/ISEW remains one of the most important attempts to measure sustainable current welfare." (Anielski, 2000)

"The GPI adds a cost side to the growth ledger, begins to account for the aspects of the economy that lie outside the realm of monetary exchange, acknowledges that the economy exists for future generations as well as for the present one and adjusts for income disparities. The GPI begins with personal consumption expenditures as a baseline, the way the GDP does. Personal spending by households makes up roughly 65 percent of the US GDP. The GPI then make a series of 24 adjustments for unaccounted benefits, depreciation costs (for social and natural capital) and deducts regrettable social and environmental expenditures. Specific elements of the GPI include personal consumer expenditures, income, value and cost of consumer spending on durable goods and household capital, cost of household pollution abatement, cost of commuting, cost of crime, cost of automobile accidents, cost of family breakdown, value of housework and parenting, value of voluntary work, loss of leisure time, services of streets and highways, cost of underemployment, air pollution, ozone depletion, water pollution, noise pollution, cost of depletion of non renewable, loss of forests, long term environmental damage, loss of wetlands, net capital investment, net foreign lending/borrowing." (Anielski, 2000) The GPI has also set goals for itself "to improve its framework in the areas of human capital, technology, government spending, social infrastructure, natural capital and environmental accounts, ecological carrying capacity, genetic diversity, water projects, workplace environment, underground economy, and pollution and lifestyle induced disease." (Anielski, 2000)

The results of the GPI reveal that "…well being has declined while virtual wealth (debt, stock markets) have grown exponentially. One could say that while we are making more money we are effectively eroding the living capital which makes our lives worthwhile. “The primary benefit of the GPI is to provide decision makers with a more holistic account of the economic well-being of their community…." (Anielski, 2000)

"Any accounting system of well-being must be aligned with the values, experiences, and physical realities of the citizens of a community. The challenge in future GPI/ISEW accounting will be the ability of constructing accounts that are consistent with the held values, principles, and ethical foundation of a community or society." (Anielski, 2000)

Solution: 

Alternative indexes like the Genuine Progress Indicator that include natural and human capital can illuminate our world on the real picture of human well being that can be obfuscated by traditional economic indexes. "The ultimate utility of such measurement efforts is that the information provides evidence of trends in the welfare of society." (Aneilski, 2000)

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Economic indexes that measure the well-being of nations, markets, corporations, individual people, and society as a whole are expressed only in monetary terms and miss several important factors; they need to factor in information on positive factors such as volunteering and housework and negative factors such as pollution and crime.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Wiki Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schoolgirls_in_Bamozai.JPG

Open Action and Research Network

Pattern ID: 
775
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
45
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

As local — as well as global — problems become more numerous and more intractable, people and groups of people are working together to take appropriate action to address these urgent problems. Unfortunately, the increasing size and complexity of these problems and the corresponding "appropriate actions" that are required introduce a set of thorny issues that must be addressed for these actions to be effective.

Context: 

This pattern can be used in situations where a distributed, diverse, dynamic group of people are working towards complementary goals in complex, collaborative efforts.

Discussion: 

The ability of people to form effective "Open Action and Research Networks" is critical to the success of any attempt at significant social and environmental amelioration. It is also an approach that is only now being explored. For that reason, the concept — and this pattern — reflect the uncertainty and ambiguity that is inherent in the situation.

As we have said before, most of the daunting problems that we face today are large and complex. Grappling with large and complex problems is invariably best served when addressed by many people working together. Indeed this is often the case as each "stakeholder" in any situation can be said to be "working" on the problem. Yet each person and organization working on the problem has a unique orientation which can be at odds with others. "Orientation" is a broad term that includes reward structures; goals, tactics, and strategies; areas of interests; obligations and allegiances; values and norms, status, legitimacy, and power; and ultimately, the very language that the community uses to discuss the issues. Consider, for example, the wide range of people who are working to minimize the negative effects of global climate change, or what Margaret Keck calls an "ecology of agents." These people include scientists, activists, inventers, “green” business people, educators, politicians, and “ordinary” people among others, and these people are as often as not members of other organizations and networks with diverse goals and varying resources and abilities to influence others.

It is against and within this complex environment that the stakeholder players must act / interact. This diverse group of people — of continually shifting size, shape, orientation and modus operandi — can scarcely be called a "team" since teams (particularly in sports) have a single objective. It is clear that many of the "players" working in these new "open networks" have similar objectives, working for example, for social and environmental ameliorization, and these players will come from a multitude of communities: some are interested in research, some action, some the creation of policy, some physical or material changes right now, while others are interested in abstract goals to be attained in the indeterminate future. In the worst case, the diversity of the players destroys the team. Ideally the diversity is the source of its strength. (Indeed diversity of thinking is essential to effective strategy [See Strategic Capacity pattern].)

According to Ganz, "the task of devising strategy in complex, changing environments may require interaction among team members like the performance of a jazz ensemble. As a kind of distributed cognition, it may require synthesizing skills and information beyond the ken of any one individual, making terms of that interaction particularly important." Nearly opposite to the "ensemble" idea is the impossible vision of "herding cats" in which each "cat" is totally unconcerned about the doings of the other "cats."

The networks that this pattern must address vary tremendously. At one end of the scale there are networks with few members and resources, short duration, and informal procedures. At the other end are networks like the LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) Network that was started in 1980, involves 26 sites in the US, and over 1,800 scientists and students. Although the LTER Network is fairly well financed (by the National Science Foundation) and is more formal and less diverse than some groups, the networks on both ends of the scale do share many points in common befitting their structure as networks of semi-autonomous peers.

Some of the questions that this "network approach" should ultimately address are as follows:

  • How can differences of opinion be "managed" — i.e. encouraged to some degree, while not allowing them to become destructive?
  • How is coordination and cooperation accomplished without coercion?
  • How can we cooperatively evolve useful modes of organization and engagement that are especially suited for these new environments and ensembles?
  • How can people maintain respect for allies who have other perspectives and capitalize effectively on the diversity of the ensemble?
  • How do efforts survive personnel change by ensuring that relevant information, including facts, “lessons learned” and intriguing opportunities are made available to new members?
  • How can environmental scientists and other types of researchers (including social scientists) conduct research that meets the demands of their profession and the needs of the communities they are working with?
  • How are conflicts and misunderstandings over short-term and long-term goal reconciled?

Each organizational type (and each organization!) has its own orientation which encompasses its thinking and acting and it is this orientation which is likely to be challenged when working with others.

Shared concerns and principles help bring people together into groups, organizations and networks. Beyond that, however, other things are also critical. The individuals within the network should be able to work with other people to solve problems collectively and to help maintain cordiality and integrity within the group. Also because the membership of these networks is dynamic, there must be ways to bring in new members easily. Besides shared values and shared ideas about the roles, interests and constraints of the other players, there should be shared goals. Goals and other forms of collective, documented statements or plans, however symbolic they might be can provide coherence over time.

Margaret Keck's work in Brazil provides an excellent example of the power that these documents can have. In 1971, the Soluçãao Integrada (Integrated Solution) was included as the sanitation component of the metropolitan development plan. Although it was abandoned by the following government and replaced by a more expensive, less popular and more environmentally degrading plan called SANEGRAN. According to Keck, the very existence of the plan made it "possible for non-technical social and political actors to challenge public authority on water policy." In fact, in more striking terms, the plan, "Like a shadow government existing in counter point to sitting ones, the plan has functioned as a shadow sanitation plan for Sao Paulo for more than a quarter century, making critical action more possible" (Keck, 2001).

Girard and Stark (2006) point out the importance of agreeing on general philosophical aims among disparate groups without descending into micromanagement or debate. Sharing of ideas, documents and information was the also general aim of the Telecommunications Policy Roundtable, that met monthly in Washington, DC, in the 1990s to help build a general public interest policy for the Internet and other informaiton technologies. The LTER Network, as a body of researchers, places data in a central postion for their work and has developed specific formats to encourage the develop and sharing of data as well as policies for its use in a loosely coupled network configuration (Karasti and Syrjänen, 2004).

Today's phenomenon of creating movies with a team that was assembled for the purpose of making a single movie is instructive. Clearly reputation and "who you know" play some part in the selection of individuals. Once on the set, however, the person's skill-set, role in the enterprise, and ability to work with others in a dynamic milieu where unexpected events ma arise, is put to the test. While the "Open Networks" we discuss here are not identical, the agility, intelligence, and effectiveness that these groups can potentially manifest is huge.

Solution: 

Acknowledge the importance of this pattern and work consciously to identify the inherent dilemmas of the situation as well as the emerging wisdom that is to be learned from the practice. We must take note of the avenues that are likely to yield important and useful insights about working together as we move forward.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

As problems become more and more intractable, more—and more diverse— people much work together. While diversity is a necessity and can be a source of strength, it introduces problems that can worsen if we don't address them effectively. We must acknowledge the importance of Open Action and Research Networks while resolving the issues and building on the incipient wisdom.

Pattern status: 
Released
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