With the challenges and opportunities afforded by the Internet and other information and communication technologies at this historical juncture, the development of a broader community or network becomes more-or-less necessary if civic society is to establish and hold any influence over the establishment and governance of information and communication systems, resources, and policies that are open, allow unhindered access to information, and encourage civic problem solving. Our goals include advancing research and more action-oriented approaches in a number of relevant directions at the same time.
As members of civil society who are not coordinated directly through government or business dictates, indirectly through the market, or through coercion, we recognize that informal associations, sharing, and responsibility, will be necessary if we are to organize effectively in the face of challenges to the health of the planet and the people that inhabit it.
Beyond conducting research and developing tools, services, policy, and the like, we are hoping to build the circumstances that help promote this work and the orientation in the world. For one thing, this perspective compels us to think about the inclusive community that this work requires, one that will necessarily be more focused and integrated and organized than currently exists.
Our hope is to consciously and organically nurture this community / network. One approach would be to proceed largely through the actions of members inviting potential members. (One research issue introduced here for our own edification is whether this approach could help instill and reinforce the norms and values that hopefully propel this project.) The intent of this conscious community development is of course not to build a gated community, but to help focus attention on relevant issues including how best to engage the “outside” world and maintain porous borders.
In a general way, a member of the community would agree to:
Emphasize work that is explicitly and conscientiously intended to advance the common good*;
Think about how their work complements other work of the community — and consciously work to integrate or complement that work and extend its effectiveness in the real world (some examples are listed in the next paragraph);
Engage in online and other conversations with the rest of the community on a regular basis;
Focus on the organization and processes of the community in addition to the specific areas in which you specialize; and
Endeavor to use the tools and systems developed by people in the community both as part of our community obligations and and as a way to help improve the functionality and effectiveness of the tools and systems, and hence our potential effectiveness.
We envision the work that falls into the heading of “Collective Intelligence for the Common Good” in an extremely broad way: it includes research and action and products such as deliberative systems, research enterprises and case studies, think tanks, model policy documents, curricula, ruminations and epistles, thought experiments, art works, and many others.
The Journal of Community Informatics provides an opportunity for Community Informatics researchers and others to share their work with the larger community. Through the Journal's application of a rigorous peer review process, knowledge and awareness concerning the community use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is being brought to a wider professional audience.
Civic Organization Disclaimer:
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This is the handbook for the Civic Intelligence Research and Action Laboratory (CIRAL) at The Evergreen State College. It is still (always?) a work in progress but it still should be useful for students working this area or faculty planning new projects or programs.
(note that the Problem Statement is still in work.....)
Music, including singing as well as the playing of instruments, has been a key element of the human condition for millennia. Unfortunately -- at least in the United States -- music has become more of a commodity, to be enjoyed passively and non-interactively.
The rise of mass media is probably at least one of the culprits.
(note that the Context Statement is still in work.....)
(note that the Discussion is still in work.....)
Street Music blurs the distinction between producer and consumer of music as well as the distinction between formal and informal venues for music production and consumption.
Although street bands, including many of those found at Honk Fests, can be found at protests (including the Infernal Noise Machine (image below) that supported the demonstrations against the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999), their actions are often political to a large degree by virtue of their publicness in an era of electronic or other formalized or mediated forms of music consumption.
As the means of communication have changed over the course of American history, so has the way public discourse has been carried out. National radio was a revolution that could put the voice of the president in every living room across the nation for fireside chats. With the rise of television, the firm jaw of Walter Cronkite could relay the facts as millions of viewers tuned in every night.
Development professionals often find it difficult to adequately assess the broad spectrum of problems a community faces, as well as grasp and utilize the various assets the community has to work with. The lack of grassroots knowledge has proven problematic in that development schemes are often mismatched in scale and relevance to the communitys needs, abilities and liabilities. Thus the conceived solutions for encouraging community capacities and livelihoods fall short of their objectives.
Through their lived experience, community members trained in assessment techniques and information gathering can provide contextual understandings of the assets and liabilities a community possesses that would otherwise go unnoticed to the outside professional. Similarly they can act as agent for the process of conscientization and subsequent mobilization for peoples to pursue change and empowerment.
In response to the failures of 'top-down' approaches to development, a shift towards emphasizing participation and empowerment have begun to make their way into the mainstream of development practice. This move toward "bottom-up," "farmer-to-farmer," and "grassroots" communication has been a fundamental reorientation. Following, the 70s and 80s, years often associated with the dark ages of development a new light has come about through alternative practices that seek to employ the communitys themselves in defining their needs, mapping out there assets and coming to terms with their own liabilities.
Through a variety of participatory processes both community members and development professionals have had the opportunity to jointly design community improvement schemes that are both appropriate to the community's needs and wants, as well sustainable and empowering.
As a result of relative success, the role of the community animator has become an increasingly important component for enabling this process of cooperation and participation between the development practitioner and the community members themselves. In some ways the animator acts as both initiator and on-going advocate for his or her community's development through regular open communication with both community members and the representative staff working in the area.
In the past highly educated teams of researchers and development field workers would enter a community and employ any number of assessment tools to identify community needs. Some of which were participatory in nature (see Power Research pattern). Upon return to their offices these assessments would be used to design various projects ranging from indoor lavatories, to treadle pumps, to community telecenters. In many cases it was shown that these projects failed to support the kind of long-term growth in peoples livelihoods they were thought to bring. Rather than looking at what the community wanted or needed from their cultural and social point of reference; these professionals designed projects relative to their point of reference.
Instead of persisting with this paradigm, NGOs such as the Institute for Integrated Rural Development (IIRD) have pursued vigorous development campaigns in Bangladesh. In this example the community animator has become a central agent for helping to identifiy and express the needs and desires of a community, as well as initiating and supporting change to include, informal education, ideas for micro-enterprise, and even supporting the creation of womens self-help groups that have enable a number of women in rural areas to gain access to credit and thus empower them to pursue economic generating activities.
Here organizations such as IIRD would send exploratory panels out to the communities, as a "get to know you" campaign. Over a period of time they would identify predominately young men and women that they would sponsor for further education. The pool of students would often serve as the primary group that would go on to perhaps become powerful community animators.
Not only were they given a valuable education they still retain those familial bonds to their community that often gives them an immediate advantage in having the lived experience of their particular area, as well the rapport of being a community member.
However, problems of jealousy and apprehension can be potentially problematic and it is important that groups and agencies that do seek to draw advocates from the field they seek to assist find ways to mitigate the potential social conflict that might arise. Unfortunately, it may not be possible to completely eliminate it. But it is perhaps a far better approach than previous alternatives
The community animator can act as a critical link between the community and any NGO Collaborator. It should be noted that by those in the field for social change that local citizens and activists can often better activate a communitys sentiments and bring about awareness for the possibility to realize change than an outsider who may be perceived to have little understanding of the real issues at stake.
Beyond the processes of concientization that a community animator can bring to the process; NGOs can also assist these community members in training for information gathering and needs assessments to help refine the basic kinds of projects and programs that might be of benefit to a community.
Verbiage for pattern card:
Development professionals often find it difficult to adequately assess the broad spectrum of problems a community faces — or the various assets the community has to work with. This often means that development schemes are mismatched with the community's needs, abilities and liabilities. Community Animators can act as critical links and local citizens can often better activate a community to realize change than an outsider.