Indicators

Recent Doings in Seattle and Beyond

On November 7, Shelly Farnham and others organized a lively meeting of 40 or so Seattleites who are interested in using technology for social engagement and social change. Speakers included Kate Starbird (Disaster Events and Digital Volunteerism), Seth Vincent (Civic Hacking), Shelly Farnham (Social Media and Hyper-local Community Well-being), David Keyes (Community Technology: Adoption and Inclusive Community Engagement), Luis F.

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Towards a New Public Infrastructure

Resource name: 
Towards a New Public Infrastructure — preprint
Resource type: 
Articles
Resource description: 

This is a preprint of an article that will appear in the ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society Newsletter.

Adapting Change

David Hubert
CIRAL/CIRAN
Problem: 

Heraclitus of Ephesus wrote that of all the things in the world, "change is the only constant." As time goes on, circumstances beyond controlling will occur and and communities will be required to adapt to new conditions, but the nature of some types of change and/or how rapidly the transition occurs isn't always our favor. There also usually exists a correlation between the speed with which change occurs and the amount of supporting systems disrupted by this change, most often to their detriment. Many factors and situations are beyond our individual control while the end-state of change is uncertain at best, so when we recognize the process of change beginning to occur we do what we can to influence the factors we actually can control. If it is decided that action is needed to mitigate change then the nature of that action must be determined first; as Kwama Nkrumah wrote "action without thought is empty, [and] thought without action is blind.” Great care must be taken to avoid unnecessary disruption, and a balance must be found between planning and execution, ensuring that appropriate steps are taken while ensuring they are taken before control of a given situation is lost. 

Context: 
This pattern applies to any community engaged in a decision-making process. Many issues and possible changes are not time sensitive per se, but situations can easily occur at many scales where foregone or even delayed action would be detrimental to the community. Recognizing this type of situation falls on the members of this community, but this comes with the caveats that not all situations are as time- sensitive as they may appear, and that predicted end-states and rates of transition may not reflect reality. 
Discussion: 
Wikipedia defines time as "the indefinite continued progression of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future." From that, the process of change begins with the past, the staging and valuing of variables, then moving through the present by interacting with one another, then unfolding into their end-state in the future. The Hopi saw time as an environment that one moved through, like riding down a river winding through a constantly changing countryside, but thus far both science and philosophy have failed to produce a working model of time.
 
Also much like being swept down an unknown river, change is as unpredictable as it is inevitable. This vagueness makes change a very two-sided coin, offering either hope, or, more often then not, dread, for, as H.P. Lovecraft wrote, "the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." Numerous studies have shown that the brain operates very differently under different circumstances. Hunger, sleep deprivation and sex all affect our decision-making processes differently, but few drives cause more irrational behavior then fear. When faced with change, especially at larger scales, it can be very easy to slip into an emergency mindset, to lose sight of the bigger picture in lieu a seemingly large detail, but it is usually impossible to  truly say what changes would be good or bad for us just as we cannot accurately say what changes would be good or bad for others. This stems from the simple facts that "good" and "bad" are relative to the observer and that we cannot truly predict the range of consequences from our actions. Returning to the "time as a river" perspective, it is also important to note that it is not really a river, especially in terms of where it might take one. It seems to operate much more like a river delta: broad, steady, and filled with possibilities. 
 
However, this fear of change is not without reason. Any type of change, any adjustment of variables within a given system, inherently causes disruption among adjacent entities. Most often the scale and/or intensity of this disruption is proportional to the rate at which this change occurs, i.e. c=vtc being the change occurring to a given system, v being the disruption of adjacent/interdependent systems, and t being the duration of time this change takes to occur. For example, if one were to dig a hole, one would have many options to achieve this end. The obvious solution would be to use a shovel, causing minimal collateral damage but taking a fair amount of time, where a diesel-powered excavator would certainly be faster but would tear up a lot of other ground. Moving further towards the extremes, an archaeologist can use brushes and trowels to carefully remove dirt over months or years, but with some artfully placed explosives you can have a hole dug in seconds. The perfectly valid concern held by those worried about change is ultimately over exactly which adjacent systems will be affected.
Solution: 

Changing times will require communities to change with them, but top-tier objectives, e.g. ensuring basic survival, rarely change, if ever, and what constitutes top-tier objective(s) must be identified by the community in question. That said, communities must remain flexible in their goals and be willing to adjust for new information and situations, e.g. recognizing when a lower tier objective is no longer feasible or when one method can achieve an objective better than another. Additionally, communities may often identify critical points of failure or obvious challenges within their own system(s) and develop contingencies accordingly. Intentional avoidance of "load-bearing" positions, e.g. having one person without whom the system cannot function, goes a long way towards ensuring stability, as do maintaining standardized communications, including documentation, language and data formatting, to ensure that the correct information can be found by those seeking it. Perhaps most importantly, communities must adopt the mindset of survival, of finding a balance between flexibility to go with some change and the rigidity to resist other, the willingness to "make it happen" in spite of external influence.Solution: Changing times will require communities to change with them, but top-tier objectives, e.g. ensuring basic survival, rarely change, if ever, and what constitutes top-tier objective(s) must be identified by the community in question. That said, communities must remain flexible in their goals and be willing to adjust for new information and situations, e.g. recognizing when a lower tier objective is no longer feasible or when one method can achieve an objective better than another. Additionally, communities may often identify critical points of failure or obvious challenges within their own system(s) and develop contingencies accordingly. Intentional avoidance of "load-bearing" positions, e.g. having one person without whom the system cannot function, goes a long way towards ensuring stability, as do maintaining standardized communications, including documentation, language and data formatting, to ensure that the correct information can be found by those seeking it. Perhaps most importantly, communities must adopt the mindset of survival, of finding a balance between flexibility to go with some change and the rigidity to resist other, the willingness to "make it happen" in spite of external influence.

Categories: 
orientation
Categories: 
organization
Themes: 
Education
Themes: 
Globalism and Localism
Themes: 
Community Action
Themes: 
Case Studies
Verbiage for pattern card: 
 Determining which steps to take is just as important as actually taking them, but in a time-sensitive environment, action and thought must be carefully balanced. Communities must be able to recognize where change is occuring/will occur as well as which rates of change are favorable, which are not, and which ones can be regulated or negated.
Pattern status: 
Released

Invitation to Join the Collective Intelligence for the Common Good Community / Network

Invitation to join the Collective Intelligence for the Common Good Community / Network

We would like to invite you to participate in a new research and action community network that focuses on Collective Intelligence for the Common Good. We hope that our collaborative efforts will help address our shared challenges.

Project Goals: 
Develop collaborative tools, policies, etc. — and links between them — that have a positive influence in addressing local and global challenges.

Civic Data Challenge

Organization's slogan: 
The Civic Data Challenge turns the raw data of “civic health" into beautiful, useful applications and visualizations, enabling communities to be better understood and made to thrive.

The Civic Data Challenge turns the raw data of “civic health" into beautiful, useful applications and visualizations, enabling communities to be better understood and made to thrive.

Civic health data has been collected for years, and we now have an opportunity to make this trove of community insight more valuable and accessible to decision makers and the public. The Civic Data Challenge will bring new eyes, new minds, new findings, and new skill sets to the field of civic health.

Designers, data scientists, researchers, and app developers are especially encouraged to join the challenge.

Challenge participants will be provided civic health data, as well as data on health, safety, education, and the economy.  Participants will analyze the data, identify connections and correlations, and create visual representations and applications to showcase their findings. These may include infographics, apps, animations, videos, or other innovations.

Judges will evaluate entries based on the quality of the analysis and design, the compelling nature of the finding, and the utility of the product. Winners will be chosen in the categories of health, public safety, education, economy, and “Best in Show.” Challenge Judges will also choose a “Wild Card” winner.

The Challenge opened on April 3 and entries must be received by July 29. Winners will be announced at the 67thAnnual National Conference on Citizenship on September 14 in Philadelphia.

The Challenge is presented by NCoC (the National Conference on Citizenship) in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. NCoC and Knight Foundation hope the Challenge will uncover new findings on why community engagement and attachment are critical to building thriving communities.

For more information, please visit www.CivicDataChallenge.org.

Organizational engagement: 
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