Sustainable Design

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

Neighborhood based Community Health Workers

Pattern ID: 
913
Michael O'Neill
Healthy Living Collaborative
Version: 
1
Problem: 

Fragmented systems of service delivery that are intended to deliver health, social wellbeing, and safety are in need of course correction to address severe disparities in health and welbeing that exist.  The mandate of health care reform from the Affordable Care Act is to improve care, improve population health outcomes, and lower costs. In Washington State the timeline to accomplish this is five years.

 

How can organizations that have traditionally delivered units of care shift towards providing access to wellness for a population which creates health equity, increases local capacity, and transforms payment and delivery systems?

Solution: 

Community Health Workers are an emerging solution to this problem as shown by a case study of the Healthy Living Collaborative project in Southwest Washington and other similar projects which it is modeled after.  Community Health Workers (CHWs) are trusted community members among the people they serve who can fill a variety of culturally appropriate roles.  These roles increase access for the CHWs friends, family, neighbors, and peers to resources, knowledge, and skills that promote wellness.  CHWs are a credible voice for the lived experience of local needs and play a critical role in translating this information across cultural, social, and organizational boundaries.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Community Health Workers are an emerging solution to this problem as shown by a case study of the Healthy Living Collaborative project in Southwest Washington and other similar projects which it is modeled after.  Community Health Workers (CHWs) are trusted community members among the people they serve who can fill a variety of culturally appropriate roles.  These roles increase access for the CHWs friends, family, neighbors, and peers to resources, knowledge, and skills that promote wellness.  CHWs are a credible voice for the lived experience of local needs and play a critical role in translating this information across cultural, social, and organizational boundaries.

Pattern status: 
Draft

Pattern Languages for Public Problem-Solving

Resource name: 
Pattern Languages for Public Problem-Solving
Resource type: 
Preprints
Resource description: 

The pattern languages perspective for the design and development of the built environment was popularized by Christopher Alexander and his colleagues in the late 1970s. Although many people have adopted the pattern language philosophy and framework in a variety of design / problem domains, there is a small but growing awareness that this orientation could serve a much broader and influential function than it currently does: organizing around and with pattern languages could provide much needed support for addressing complex problems, by supporting direct and indirect distributed collective action with more flexibility and respect for local context. Eleven "seeds" that could help improve our public problem solving capacity with pattern languages are presented. These seeds promote better understanding of our work, enhanced sharing approaches, publicizing the work, and organizing and enhancing our own communities.

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.

Good Development

Prateek Trivedi
Preserving cultural and ecological integrity in the face of a rapidly approaching, uncompromising modern reality
Version: 
1
Problem: 

 'Less-developed' societies are faced with an imminent choice of how they will use their resources, particularly land itself, and 'develop'. For most, this choice does not present itself to them and they find themselves mere bystanders as the world around them is reshaped and exploited. External parties seem  at liberty to plan the exploitation of these lands as if the resident communities can have no effective aspirations of their own. There is an increasing pressure of modernization, which stresses individualization over communal ownership. This is particularly dangerous as it will result in a struggle that could leave most with a diminished quality of life as well as heightened tension and conflict. 

Context: 

Rangelands constitute approximately 70% of the world's land area. In Kenya and indeed much of Africa, these rangelands are predominantly inhabited by semi-nomadic pastoralists facing the fast approaching modern world. They find themselves with inferior opportunities to integrate themselves into the modern economy and are torn between the simple but beautiful struggle of their traditional livelihood and the elusive promise of modern prosperity.

Discussion: 

In the modern age of fiat money, everything is defined against imaginary and, ultimately , unrealistic standards. As the modern economic system of the world faces inevitable collapse, many in the 'developing world' are faced with a hard choice and a golden opportunity. We need not follow in the mistakes of our more economically-developed counterparts, but over all we should be prudent and intelligent in our definition of value. If one is to define 'value' as a monetary or immediate concept, as is the acceptable practice of the modern economy, these rangelands and communally-owned lands will be of low priority to the policy maker- eventually becoming an easy target for wanton exploitation. 'Exploitation' can also be defined as any implementation of a design that perpetuates the singularity in value. Communities should therefore objectify value in multiple-use and develop means of benefitting from this multi-faceted value, as opposed to getting carried away with the deceptive benefits of single-use value. 

Recognizing a community's resources and thus its leverage is the first step. There has been a surge of community conservancies in Kenya registering land as 'group ranches', something that emerged in the context of potential eco-tourism revenue. However, the definition of these resources was often narrowly confined to its wildlife populations, most of which traverse but are not confined to these areas. There was seen to be little else in the way of economic potential and the primary activity of wildlife tourism often comes into conflict with the existing livelihood of the majority, livestock husbandry. It is important to recognize that many areas lack sufficient wildlife presence to attract or support tourism on any significant scale. There is a need, therefore, to develop more diverse means of buffering these communities against the encroaching modern world, so that they can preserve ecological integrity and safeguard their most important resource, the land. 

Solution: 

The community conservancy concept is an example of how a community can organize itself to improve the management of its resources, as well as formally delineating an area of communal ownership. It serves as a filter for development as well as an economic arbitrator between the community and the modern economy. In this way it can encourage the preservation of cultural integrity. The objective is thus to develop the community conservancy into an organization that not only manages an area for environmental health, but acts as a bridge for economic opportunity originating outside an area. For example, economic activities with limited potential for scale, such as gum collection and agroforestry, can provide cumulatively significant benefit when managed centrally. Most importantly the conservancy serves to affirm the common objective of healthy land and allows a community to be selective in how it develops economically. 

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