social movement

Appropriating Technology

Pattern ID: 
500
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
108
Ron Eglash
rpi
Version: 
2
Problem: 

We usually think of technology as that which is designed by elite groups -- mostly male, mostly white, mostly upper class, etc. But the lay public can also be thought of as producers of technology and science. The "smiley face" emoticons we use in email, for example, were not designed by experts; it was ordinary people taking advantage of a flexibility in the system. Technology appropriation can be profound: Latino "street mechanics" for example created the Low Rider car which revolutionized their culture. Black teenagers created the "scratch" sound of rap by appropriating the turntable. Appropriated technology can help the disenfrachised gain social power. But there are three barriers. First, marginalized people often see science and technology as the enemy, a force to be resisted. Second, marginalized people often lack the education and physical resources for technology interventions. And third, designers (or at least the corporations they work for) do not necessarily see flexibility as something they should incorporate in their products. Of course not all cases of appropriated technology are happy stories: neo-nazi groups are also outside the centers of scientific production, and they too adapt and reinvent to gain power.

Context: 

Barrier 1: science and technology as the enemy. Social critics of often cite "technocracy" as the evil which perpetuates disparity in social power. Thus oppositional groups which subscribe to this theory will tend to desire less technology and not more. We see this in the 1960s counter-culture, in the conflation of technology with patriarchy, and in race-based movements that see an original "natural" or "pure" identity that was later defiled by colonialism.
Barrier 2: science and technology as unattainable. Our society tends to mythologize expertise, particularly that of science and technology, making lay interventions less attainable than they actually are. Many researchers suspect this serves to maintain elite priviledge and passive consumption.
Barrier 3: designing for rigidity: Corporations can increase profits by forcing consumers to use their products or engage in limited behaviors: for example Microsoft's operating system created barriers to competing internet browsers.

Discussion: 

In collecting the various case studies for our anthology (Eglash et al 2004), it became apparent that some examples made a stronger case for appropriation than others. Using that distinction, we developed the following three categories. You can think of these as being positioned along a spectrum from consumption to production (see figure above).

The weakest case, "reinterpretation," is defined by a change in semantic association with little or no change in use or structure. That is, the lay person has changed only the meaning of the artifact, not its physical make up. Graffiti tags are a good illustration: the physical and functional aspects of a building are essentially unchanged, but the semantic claim to ownership, as a form of either cultural resistance or criminal turf war,is not trivial. The next stronger case, "adaptation," is defined by a change in both semantic association and use. For example, the Bedouin society of Egypt, a relatively disempowered ethnic minority, found that cassette tape players, which were marketed for listening to music from the Egyptian majority, had an unused recording capability as well. They began to record their own songs, and this eventually led to the rise of a Bedouin pop star and the creation of new economic and cultural opportunities (Abu-Lughod 1989). Adaptation requires two technosocial features. First, an attribute of the technology-user relationship that Hess (1995) refers to as “flexibility.” For example, a calculator is less flexible than a word processor, which is less flexible than a personal computer. Second, it requires a violation of intended purpose. It is a mistake to reduce this to the intentions of designers; we also need to consider marketing intentions and “common-sense” or popular assumptions. In the case of Bedouin cassette players we have a pre-existing flexibility for recording that was intended by the designers, but this was obscured by the marketing focus on play-back only. Adaptation can be described as the discovery of a “latent” function, but that definition needs to be problemitized in the same ways that philosophers have debated whether mathematics is invention or discovery. The creativity required to look beyond the assumed functions of the technology and see new possibilities is a powerful force for social change, yet one that receives insufficient theoretical attention.

The strongest case for appropriated technology is "reinvention," in which semantics, use and structure are all changed. That is, if adaptation can be said to require the discovery of a latent function, reinvention can be defined as the creation of new functions through structural change. Low-rider cars (see figure below) provide a clear demonstration of this combination. Although automobile shock absorbers were originally produced for decreasing disturbance, Latino mechanics developed methods for attaching them to electrically controlled air pumps, turning shock absorbers into shock producers (the cars can move vertically as well as horizontally). Low-rider cars violate both marketing and design intentions, but the new functionality was introduced by altering the original structure, rather than discovering functions lying dormant in the original artifact.

Having studied appropriated technologies, what should we do with them?

First, it is important to understand that in distinguishing strong versus weak cases for appropriated technology, we make no evaluation of ideology or effectiveness. One might, for instance, find more political success with reinterpretation than reinvention in a given case. It is, rather, more a question of how much involment the lay public can have in production versus consumption.

Second, appropriated technologies do not have an *inherent* ethical advantage. Not all forms of resistance are necessarily beneficial in the long run. Aihwa Ong, for example, notes that Malaysian women using spirit possession as resistance to exploitation may be releasing frustrations that could have gone into collective labor organizing. And as we noted, white supremacist groups might well be described as marginalized people who appropriate the internet and other technologies. While free speech must be preserved at all costs, appropriation is not making a better society in the case of neo-nazi web sites.

Third, Insofar as science and technology appropriations do have potential contributions to stronger democracy (cf. Schuler 1996), we need to understand how these positive attributes can succeed. First, there are obstacles to appropriation on the design side; most obviously those created by totalitarian governments, but corporations can also dampen or discourage appropriation. The flexibility required to allow user adaptation, for example, is increasingly threatened in contemporary information technology marketing strategies. Encouraging designers to incorporate appropriation as a positive virtue means reversing this trend towards inflexibility. Second, there are obstacles to appropriation on the lay public side. We need to not only overcome the ideology barrier, but also the barriers of education and access to physical resources.

Solution: 

In terms of the designer barrier, we can train engineers and designers to think about approapriation as a positive goal. In terms of the ideology barrier, we can encourage marginalized groups to strive towards positive conceptions of hybridity rather than relying on notions of purity. And in terms of the resource barrier, we can encourage the creation of community technology centers, among other efforts.

Finally, we should examine each case of lay/professional relationship in terms of the dependence or independence fostered by various appropriated technology strategies. A "consumer ombudsman" offers more independence than a marketing survey, participatory design offers more than the ombudsman, and appropriating technology offers a maximum of independance. But again this is not an ethical spectrum -- there are cases in which groups are better off with an ombudsman than an act of appropriation. Increasing independence can free up new possibilities, but decreasing it can facilitate institutionalization. Rather than romanticize independence, both users and designers should strive towards the lay/professional relationship that will move toward strong democracy in their particular context. In conclusion: we can encourage, inspire, and incite the use of appropriated technologies for opening new possibilities in the relations of culture and technoscience.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

"Ordinary people" can produce science and technology. Latino "street mechanics" created the Low Rider car and Black teenagers created the "scratch" sound of rap. Appropriating technology can help the disenfranchised gain social power. We can encourage marginalized groups to explore positive "hybridity," create community technology centers, and train engineers and designers to think about appropriation by users as a positive goal.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Ron Eglash

Engaged Tourism

Pattern ID: 
766
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
107
Christine Ciancetta
Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Tourism has largely developed unhindered by environmental and community concerns. Its sole basis is economic growth, with the majority of profits funneled to already rich industrialized nations. At its worst, tourism devastates rich landscapes, displaces long-established and thriving communities, causes pollution, creates a culture of drug and sex-trafficking, abuses access to clean water, and eradicates culturally unique lifestyles and livelihoods.

Context: 

Individuals or organizations seeking to take part in travel and tourism that benefits local communities should investigate the many resources for Engaged or Responsible Tourism. The hallmark of Engaged Tourism is that it is community-determined, sustainable and draws on the existing people and environmentally centered resources of the community.

Discussion: 

The challenges to participating in responsible tourism are many. A westerner's perception of travel and vacationing are already formed to expect a certain kind of product. Swimming pools, air-conditioning, lavish meals, subservient staff, "staged" traditional activities and the like leave little room for discovering the many wonders of foreign cultures or experiencing the complexities of a different lifestyle. Foreign governments share in the global race to classify tourism as a national export, paving the way for multinational corporations to build a tourist infrastructure at the expense of whatever may be in its way.

Tourism Concern, an NGO based in the United Kingdom is a primary source of information about the social, environmental, and economic impacts of tourism at the same time that it advocates and provides information about alternatives. According to Tourism Concern's Web site, some of the main negative effects of tourism include displacement of people (particularly native peoples living on their traditional lands), environmental damage from uncontrolled development, and water abuse. In examining water abuse it's easy to find that "the presence of tourists naturally means a much higher demand for water. Local communities normally do not benefit, and in most cases, are not allowed access to infrastructure built to ensure safe drinking water. The development of golf courses and hotel swimming pools are responsible for depleting and contaminating water sources for surrounding communities; this is especially true in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. An average 18-hole golf course soaks up at least 525,000 gallons of water a day - enough to supply the irrigation needs of 100 Malaysian farmers."

Equations, an East Indian NGO promoting responsible tourism, documents several tourism projects that are moving ahead without local support. The mega Bekal Tourism Project plans to convert Bekal, a northern rural coastal fishing district, into Asia's largest beach tourism resort of 6500 units by 2011. As a consequence, four entire fishing communities would be destroyed, communities that are among the most sustainable in all of India. In addition, unique cultural practices are at risk: "The indigenous fishing community of Kasaragod is the last remaining community along the Keralam coast with traditional fishing techniques. They abhor over-fishing and adhere to sustainable harvesting practices. The community still practices the traditional 'sea courts' where the community heads assemble at the place of worship every day to hear and decide on issues within the community."

The Bekal project illustrates more. The government of Keralam has already begun acquiring land as cheaply as possible under "public purpose" and intends to sell the land to private and multi-national tourist organizations for this same price. To date, there is no Environmental Impact Assessment despite the fact that as planned it would violate national Coastal Regulation Zone rules. Local community members are being denied due process through hearings that are a sham.

Fortunately, there are organizations that are becoming involved in the process of re-vitalizing community efforts to direct tourism. An extensive list of responsible travel organizations can be found on Tourism Concern's Web site, (http://www.tourismconcern.org.uk/). Reference books also published by Tourism Concern include "Good Alternative Travel Guide: Exciting Holidays for Responsible Travelers" by Mark Mann, and the new, "Ethical Travel Guide" by Polly Pattullo, lists ethical and sustainable tourism in over 60 countries.

Global Exchanges is a model organization in creating opportunities for Engaged Tourism. Their Reality Tours operate give people "the chance to learn about unfamiliar cultures, meet with people from various walks of life, and establish meaningful relationships with people from other countries."

Solution: 

Engaged tourism represents a shift in both attitudes and activity. Tourists traveling to developing nations shift their attitudes from participating in inexpensive fun abroad to participating in meaningful experiences in international communities. Interestingly, it is exactly the presence of western engaged tourists that assists in re-establishing the values, culture, status of local people and communities adversely affected by commercial tourism.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

At its worst, tourism devastates ecosystems, displaces communities, causes pollution, promotes drug and sex-trafficking, restricts access to clean water, and degrades culture. A westerner's perception of travel often is oblivious to foreign cultures or different lifestyles. Engaged Tourism shifts from fun abroad to meaningful experiences. In fact, engaged tourists can help re-establish values, culture, and status of people adversely affected by commercial tourism.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b3/Puerto_Princesa_Underground_River.jpg

Self-Designed Development

Pattern ID: 
761
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
106
Justin Smith
The Public Sphere Project & St. Mary's University
Version: 
2
Problem: 

All too often development initiatives are designed and implemented by outside professionals, politicians and wealthy elites. Neither community empowerment nor fundamental sustainability plays a central role in many of these interventionist projects. And just as bad, they fail to honor the basic desires and knowledge possessed by these people. Thus displacement, increased unemployment and the overall degeneration of livelihoods becomes the normative result of mis-planned, mis-interpreted and thus, mis-implemented development. Similarly, even among the well-meaning development NGOs a culture of dependence tends to emerge with communities being perpetually tied to the expertise and monetary assets that these organizations bring with them.

Context: 

Before governments, international development agencies and corporate stake holders attempt to define the nature of development for a particular community or region (or for the world for that matter), peoples must proactively assert their own paradigm as a challenge to the problematic realties that have come from vertically planned development schemes, and to break out of dependency.

Discussion: 

Stepping away from the interventionist model of development, self-designed or autonomous development emphasizes at its core development designed and implemented by the people it is intended to affect. While on one hand this pattern presents an orientation towards the practice and approach of development at one level, at another it is meant to be translated into the direct actions of peoples pursuing the right to define the trajectories of their lives, the lives of their families and their overall communities. It tries to avoid the assumption that all peoples want to be developed, rather it does assume that peoples wish to enjoy a certain type of life defined on their own terms and the hope is that they have the opportunity to realize that desire in their life-time.

The words self-designed or autonomous are meant to address the fundamental notions of power, who has it, who uses, and how it’s used and to what end. As a pattern that values autonomy, but also a notion of development towards greater well-being traditional as well as modern knowledge must be acknowledged, understanding that they do not always have to be perpetually competing forces, but when approached carefully they can be utilized to promote viable path towards community transformation that honors the social, cultural and political realities a community exists within. Thus, the overall basis of the self-designed development places both the responsibility and power of change into the hands of those who have been historically disempowered through the processes of traditional ‘developmentalism’.

At the level of orientating this process, its necessary to re-frame development and stress a redefinition of the roles between peoples in communities seeking transformation and the various outside agents who are working for authentic social and economic change. Here we would emphasize facilitation over the management and design on the part of the part of the so-called professional, and community independence and autonomy over dependence.

Take for example, the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) (See: Action Research) so often thought of as the mainstay of the development practitioner seeking to design projects, becomes instead an awareness tool for community members themselves to guide their own decision making process on what steps are to be taken to better their livelihoods, and offer clear paths to achieving that. In fact this tool can be used by a community without the need for complex levels of understanding into social research and can be used in a relatively low-tech way within a variety of settings. Therefore, the role of the outside agent can be to act as observer and identify ways in which they can help a community realize their mutually defined goals.

At the level of implementation the pattern can guide specific actions to be taken up by communities to include any number of projects defined by a community. For example, projects can be anything from a system of check dams used to provide electricity to power a rural village; another project could be the construction of a primary school or health center for women. They can include the creation of farming cooperatives to ensure the community not only achieves the ability to provide sustenance, but can then also generate income by selling their products outside their geographical community.

Undoubtedly the use of this pattern at this level will be context specific and must be shaped by the various needs and desires, and including the capacities and capabilities of peoples seeking to pursue this pattern of development. This recognizes that not all communities possess the same needs or desires, nor do the posses the same levels of capacity or capabilities. Therefore in one community where the level of civic capacity is high, as well as a great deal of cohesion and participation among community members, then a more autonomous approach to development is going to be more easily realized.

Yet, to a community that lack a certain level of capacity and cohesion it may be necessary for the community to seek the assistance of an outside agent to facilitate in the process. This could include consciousness raising, financial support, transfer of knowledge and so forth, but fundamentally any such assistance must be a result of the wishes of the community and brought forth based upon the terms and desires of those these plans are meant to assist.

There may however, be situations in which such a pattern may not be at all viable, or only very minimally. This is particularly true in situations of displacement, through war, famine or other outside forces that breaks a necessary level of cohesion due to fissure in the very nature of their communal ties, and thereby fragmenting the people’s capacity to coordinate and act collectively. In these situations, the pattern may still be utilized but it will be much more of a goal to be actualized by development agents who are seeking to ameliorate the problems associated with fragmented communities. The pattern thus becomes a guiding force for the interventionist, and care must be taken not to cross the boundary of creating development dependence among peoples.

In these situations it can also be potentially problematic as it can be difficult for agencies to relinquish control over development initiatives as community reconstitute themselves and gain a level of independence and cohesion that would allow for them to participate in a process of autonomous development. And since its difficult to say when the work of an NGO is done in area there remains this tendency maintain a role of interventionism long after a community has acquired the capacity to define their own goals. It therefore begins to become the kind of development the outsiders envision and not that of the community.

Thus, this pattern not only becomes an orientation to community driven development but an orientation and guide by which NGOs themselves can pursue a process to empower communities by emphasizing any number of projects designed to empower peoples to regain control over their lives in the wake of a rapidly modernizing world.

Solution: 

First, those among the professional development community should not always assume that a community wishes to be or needs to be developed. Rather support to communities should be pursed based on invitation. For the communities themselves this is an opportunity to empower themselves and to project the ways in which they wish to interact and be defined in the process of modernization that is going on everywhere. It is an opportunity to exert their own sense of identity and influence their livelihoods as best and most effectively as possible in the face of so many outside forces that are consciously and unconsciously seeking to define their collective futures.

When pursuing a development project peoples must come together, discuss, plan and decide what they want. If the community chooses to maintain a traditional way of life it becomes up to them on how they will protect that. And in the event that a community does seek outside assistance it is up to them to define the nature and terms of that relationship to those working with them from the outside. And for those with a low-capacity for truly implementing such an approach any initiative must incorporate the necessity of capacity building for communities to achieve a level in which they can envision their own development. Ultimately, the realization of a community’s independence rather than dependence in this world should be at the fore in such circumstances.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Development initiatives are often designed and implemented by outside professionals, politicians and wealthy elites. Neither community empowerment nor fundamental sustainability plays a central role in many of these interventionist projects. Communities must take the opportunity to proactively assert their own paradigm and to exert their own sense of identity and influence in the face of outside forces attempting to define their collective futures.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Wikimedia Commons

Self-Help Groups

Pattern ID: 
762
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
105
Justin Smith
The Public Sphere Project & St. Mary's University
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Individual capacity among poor peoples in the developing world, particularly women to establish credit and develop self-sufficient businesses is problematic. Lack of assets, and stable employment lends a view that these peoples are not credit worthy, thus they are barred from a variety of economic opportunities.

Context: 

Organizing groups to support collective and individual credit acquisition, as well as formal and informal skills training can assist peoples in accessing the capital necessary to initiate small businesses and ultimately help build livelihoods for families and communities.

Discussion: 

A very basic description of the Self-Help Group (SHG) has been summarized by the Rural Finance Learning Center. According to their definition: " Self-help groups are usually informal clubs or associations of people who choose to come together to find ways to improve their life situations. One of the most useful roles for a self-help group is to provide its members with opportunities to save and borrow and it can act as a conduit for formal banking services to reach their members. Such groups can provide a guarantee system for members who borrow or they may develop into small village banks in their own right. In rural areas self-help groups may be the only way for people to access financial services " (2006).

The structure of the SHG is meant to provide mutual support to the participants by assisting one another in saving money, opening up cooperative banking accounts that help women and other peoples to build credit with a lending institution. The SHG also functions to support members through maintaining consistent contact among group members to aid the individual’s savings goals, to help support the creation of these micro-enterprises. Often the SHG helps in the conception of these businesses and even the implementation of these enterprises upon receipt of the micro-loan.

The SHG also supports accountability for ensuring that the loans are paid back and the SHG can continue to include other members and support greater access to credit and capital to those within their community. SHGs also provide a space which facilitates the discussion of many issues pertaining to the community’s socio-economic, educational and health status. Thus, the formation of this group provides a forum to initiate many participatory activities (including training and awareness camps).

This process has also shown to increase confidence among participants, and help support greater levels of decision-making status in their society, particularly within South Asia. This hopefully will encourage members to participate and contribute in general social and political matters in their respective villages.

As peoples are supported in building their credit they in turn are able to apply for micro-loans geared towards a number of self-sufficiency based business ventures. Many of the business commonly financed consist of seamstress shops, beautician parlors, and in the rural areas these business can be as diverse as natural healing clinics, chicken farms and aqua-culture projects, to silk weaving or any number of handcraft based ventures.

While a great number of SHGs have been initiated by communities themselves, many of the SHGs are implemented through the help of an NGO that can provide the initial information and support to establish these groups. Such information and support often consists of training people on how to manage bank accounts to include deposits, withdrawals and balancing of the cooperative and individual accounts. Similarly informal education regarding a number of possible trades can take place in order to build up the capabilities of the participants to function as business owners.

But the SHG has some instances shown problems that must be addressed when considering their use as a pattern of community empowerment. For instance, many of these people are in absolute poverty and the little that they do save can put a family in an already precarious financial situation in a worse of place.

Other issues revolve around the nature of work and the family in developing countries where the women are often the primary householder while the male is involved in work outside the house. The creation of these businesses often adds greater levels of work upon women as they are committed to the SHG and the creation of their business to support their income and yet their household duties are still expected to be met by their husbands. In these situations the pressures can be immense to juggle the business, household chores and the rearing of children.

However, in response to some of these problems many NGOs have sought to play a critical role in lessening that burden by offering school to children and thereby giving women members the ability to pursue their career goals by providing a place for their children to go while simultaneously providing education to those children that would otherwise be working at home. Despite some of the draw backs the role of the SHG is still a vital and growing component of bottom-up development, and hopefully eventuating self-designed development in the future

Solution: 

Despite the problems some of the participants have faced due to the changing nature of their socio-economic status; the SHGs offer one approach to create associations of support for some of the most economically marginalized groups within society. Through the desire of women and other members of the community these SHGs can provide an organized structure for providing employability and ownership for peoples otherwise left out.

Overall, communities themselves can act to develop similar groups (or with the aid of NGOs working in the area), as these programs can be realized with relatively little resources from the outside.

It should also be noted that the SHG is not a panacea to social and economic development, and should only be one part of a larger solution to addressing poverty in communities. Other patterns must be called in to address some of the social consequences that can arise from the creation of an SHG.

Careful attention must be paid particularly to women as they are often the primary benefactors of the SHG and yet the amount of work involved is no less stressful and difficult for them. Other steps might also be taken to addresses these issues to pursue and integrated approach to supporting development.

For an in-depth guide to SHGs see: A handbook for trainers on participatory local development: The Panchayati Raj model in India.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Individual capacity among poor peoples in the developing world (particularly women) to establish credit and develop self-sufficient businesses is often unrealized. Organizing groups to secure collective and individual credit, and skills training, can help in accessing the capital needed to build businesses and livelihoods. Self-Help Groups offer one approach to create associations for economically marginalized groups.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Image: Justin Smith

Sense of Struggle

Pattern ID: 
436
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
104
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

There are myriad forces in the world. Some of them are working to change it, to create an alternative future while some of them are working to preserve the status quo and to perpetuate injustice and privilege. Many of the forces that are the strongest are the ones that must be challenged: A casual response is inadequate: a sense of struggle is necessary to meet those challenges.

Context: 

This pattern is applicable to any person or group that is working towards the solution of a seemingly intractable social or environmental problem.

Discussion: 

Social change is not easy. Effecting change is long term and not trivial. The change that is needed may not occur until long after the deaths of the people who first seek it. A sense of struggle can bind together a group dedicated towards positive social change.

A sense of struggle emerges from the realization that the problem is very deep and the appreciation that there will be setbacks over the long-term. A sense of struggle lies midway between unwarranted optimism and helpless despair and cynicism.

A sense of struggle which is often necessary in social activism can change over time into something less desirable. Sometimes, a too grim sense of struggle can result in not acknowledging a genuine opportunity when it comes along. A sense of struggle unrelieved by humor, cameraderie, etc. can even give way to dogmaticism, paranoia or messianic thinking. Being flexible and open to new approaches and to new people who share your concerns is the best way to avoid these problems.

"If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without ploughing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the awful roar of its mighty waters. Power concedes nothing without a demand!"
    —Frederick Douglass

Solution: 

We need to cultivate a sense of struggle and, at the same time, make it easier for those who do struggle.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Many of the strongest forces in the world must be challenged. A Sense of Struggle can unite a group striving for positive social change. A Sense of Struggle lies between optimism and despair. We need to cultivate a Sense of Struggle and, at the same time, make it easier for those who are involved in the struggle. According to Frederick Douglass, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress."

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Gandhi, Salt March; Wikimedia Commons

Online Anti-Poverty Community

Pattern ID: 
743
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
103
Penny Goldsmith
PovNet
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Anti-poverty advocates and activists are isolated in their own communities. They often do not have the communications and education and training resources they need to do their work. Poor people do not have the information they need to exercise control over their lives and get the resources to which they are entitled or to advocate effectively for themselves.

Lack of access to communication severely limits opportunities for building communities where poor people can help themselves access the resources they need and for advocates and activists in the anti-poverty community to be involved in organizing for social change locally, nationally and internationally.

Context: 

The players in this online movement include poor people and advocates involved with community advocacy groups, settlement workers, multicultural groups, seniors organizations, disability groups, legal aid, test case interveners, labor organizations, public libraries, women

Discussion: 

Poverty is a debilitating worldwide problem that affects poor people directly as well as society at large. Although access to information and resources is critical to overcoming poverty and alleviating the problems of people living in poverty, poor people and anti-poverty advocates traditionally have less access to the Internet and other communications technologies.

Although poverty and computers do not make for an obvious alliance, it is clear the two worlds must connect unless we want to have a society where access to information and resources is only for those who can afford it.

Public access sites are rarely adequate to satisfy public need; users need people to help them do online research and free printers to print out forms and information. Hosts of public access sites need funding to keep equipment up-to-date and tech support to keep computers and Internet connections running smoothly. Lack of access to communication makes it difficult to connect communities in the anti-poverty world outside their local regions.

PovNet is a non-profit society created in British Columbia, Canada in 1997. It is an online resource for anti-poverty advocates and poor people, created to assist poor people and advocates involved in the communities identified above through an integration of offline and online technology and resources.

PovNet works with advocates and activists across Canada involved in direct case work and social action and justice. Some of these groups include:

* The National Anti-Poverty Organization (http://www.napo-onap.ca/), a national voice for poor people, working to eliminate poverty in Canada

* The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (http://www.policyalternatives.ca/), a left-wing think tank doing research for change in social policy

* Canadian Social Research Links (http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/), an all-inclusive resource for social policy information about poverty in Canada

* DisAbled Women's Network of Ontario (http://dawn.thot.net/), an online inclusive community fostering virtual activism and individual empowerment locally and globally

* The Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) (http://www.fafia-afai.org/home.php), a coalition of over 50 Canadian women’s equality-seeking and related organizations organized to further women’s equality in Canada through domestic implementation of its international human rights commitments.

* The Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC) (http://www.tdrc.net/), a group of social policy, health care and housing experts, academics, business people, community health workers, social workers, AIDS activists, anti-poverty activists, people with homelessness experience, and members of the faith community who provide advocacy on housing and homelessness issues and lobby the Canadian government to end homelessness by implementing a fully funded National Housing Program.

PovNet has become an online home for advocates in BC and across Canada. Its Web site provides regularly updated information about issues and policy changes.

Using PovNet resources is an interactive process. Advocates learn the tools because they find them useful in order to do the social justice and case work that they care about; poor and otherwise marginalized people find the Web site when they need information that is relevant to their lives.

For example, PovNet email lists have grown over the years into invaluable resources for specific campaigns (for example the Raise the Rates campaigns in both Ontario and British Columbia to raise welfare rates). They also provide an online support network for advocates working in sometimes quite isolated areas in British Columbia or in other parts of Canada.

As one advocate put it: "I love the PovNet list - on the lighter side there's the kibitzing going on amongst the subscribers which often brings me to laughter - always a good thing in this job. On the serious side - the exchange of ideas and generous sharing of experience is a huge boon to those of us who often don't have time to pick up the phone to seek advice from our colleagues."

Another subscriber says: "The lists that I am a subscriber provide me with first-hand current information on what issues are affecting BC residents and/or newcomers. I am able to provide useful information and referrals to some of the requests coming through PovNet lists. They are an invaluable and efficient resource for community advocates, settlement and family workers, especially those issues that are time-sensitive and need an immediate response."

Other PovNet tools include a Web site which is updated once a month with new information, online education and training courses (PovNet U) for poor people (for example the course, "Be Your Own Advocate") and for advocates ("Introduction to Advocacy," "Disability Appeals" and "Tenants' Rights"), as well as an online space for anti-poverty community groups to have their own Web spaces, calendars, and discussion boards.

PovNet is a flexible in that it can adapt to needs as specific campaigns emerge. For example, we set up an email list for a new campaign to raise welfare rates, and created an online hub for papers and press releases when a group of anti-poverty activists traveled to the United Nations in Geneva to speak on behalf of the social and economic rights of poor people in Canada.

Building a successful online movement in anti-poverty communities includes, first and foremost, the people. Start by finding local community workers who want to broaden their connections, getting together key people (without computers) to talk about what is needed and identify the technological limitations, communicate with advocates and activists in diverse anti-poverty communities, both urban and rural, First Nations, aboriginal, different cultural communities, disability groups, women, youth, seniors, workers, human rights and anti-poverty workers, and international anti-poverty workers.

Then identify the barriers, which could include access to the technology (education, money, literacy, language), how to share information, resources and skills between "have" and "have-not" advocacy communities (e.g. community advocates and advocates in funded agencies, etc.), researching how to provide online resources in languages other than English and how to provide an online space for poor people to communicate and access information via public access sites and interactive Web-based resources.

Barriers for advocates and activists using PovNet tools have changed over the years. Initially, fear of technology was a big factor. But as advocates observed its use as a communications tool, they taught and continue to teach each other. Money for computers and printers is an ongoing problem; as the technology demands higher-end equipment. For example, advocates in rural communities with dialup access get frustrated with attachments that take up all their dialup time. The anti-poverty work becomes harder as governments slash social services; the advocates have fewer resources to do their work. Technology cannot address such needs.

Despite the difficulties, the network continues to grow, establish links with other organizations both in Canada and internationally, and exchange ideas and strategies for advancing social change.

Solution: 

The most effective online anti-poverty communities are constructed from the bottom up rather than the top down. Their resources are defined and created by advocates and poor people to address the need for online anti-poverty activism as it arises. Electronic resources can provide additional tools, but they are activated and made useful by the underlying human and locally based networks where the work of advocacy is actually being done.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Because anti-poverty advocates and activists often don't have the education and training resources or communications they need, their opportunities for building communities are limited. At the same time, poor and marginalized people don't have the information they need to exercise control over their lives or get the resources they need. The most effective online anti-poverty communities are defined and created by advocates and poor people to address needs as they arise.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
PovNet

Citizen Diplomacy

Pattern ID: 
476
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
93
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

When countries are antagonistic to each and have ceased diplomatic relations or are otherwise cultivating other distrustful or threatening attitudes the countries may drift into war either by accident or by design. When this antagonism becomes institutionalized, through policy, public attitude, or propaganda, warfare or other violence becomes a natural consequence. The unique powers of individual people to help overcome these rifts by calming tempers, building ties, promoting reason and dialogue, or healing wounds is rarely acknowledged or promoted. Sometimes, as a matter of fact, the efforts of the rare person who strives to develop personal connections with "the enemy" is demonized by people on both "sides."

Context: 

This pattern can be applied whenever a country's stance towards another country is antithetical to the needs and values of civil society. This can happen before, during, or after a war or other period of hostility and mistrust.

Discussion: 

The use of the concept of "citizen diplomacy" was apparently first applied when US citizens journeyed to the former Soviet Union in the 1980s and met with activists, educators, scientists, health professionals and "ordinary" citizens. These citizens — and their Soviet counterparts — did not want to accept the "inevitability"of war, either hot or cold, and sought to find common ground on which to build a more peaceful future for everybody. Citizen diplomacy offers the promise of (world?) peace by building on actual, hopeful and optimistic face-to-face encounters by citizens of the designated enemy states.

The idea for this pattern, like others in the language, arose in a specific historical context, namely in the late 1980's during the protracted "cold war" between the Warsaw Pact nations (most notably the Soviet Union) and the NATO countries (most notably the USA). Although the information reported here is based on experiences from that time, it is expected that this pattern will be applicable in a great variety of situations in which two (or more) states or other large groups are enemies. Several antagonistic dyads come to mind — India and Pakistan; Israel and the Arab States; the US and Cuba or Venezuela — and each situation contains its own unique opportunities and risks.

People who engage in projects along these lines certainly fit Richard Falk's description of a "citizen pilgrim" who is willing to go on a quixotic journey for a seemingly improbable goal.

Interestingly, especially in a pre-Internet era, many of the collaborative efforts (described in Citizen Diplomacy: Progress Report 1989: USSR) were related to the use of information and communication. Some of the projects include Children’s Art Exhibit and Book, US-USSR State Bridge Citizen Diplomacy, Moscow-DC Live Broadcast: Soviet Citizen’s Summit, Peace Lines: Computer Supported Net-working, US Kids to Siberian Computer Camp, Electronic Peace Mail Project, Video Conference: Doing Business with USSR, and World Civilization and Education Centers.

The collaborative projects themselves are subject to enormous challenges. Simply meeting with people from "the other side" presents great obstacles (including financial costs, legal restrictions on travel to — and within — the other country, privacy of communications, and access to people). Furthermore, any collaborative project, unless it is done clandestinely, will exist "at the pleasure" of the powers-that-be. In fact, one of the ultimate risks inherent in a project like this is that individuals being used or manipulated by the powers-that-be (such as the media, state power, think-tanks, political parties, or religious institutions) in ways that simply overwhelm the hopes and energy of the citizen-diplomat.

Since the unraveling of the Soviet Union in the early 1990's, the global situation as noted above has changed considerably. The rough parity of power (exemplified to some degree by the size of their nuclear weapon stockpiles) between the Warsaw Pact countries and the NATO countries and the promise of "Mutually Assured Destruction" (or MAD) helped prevent direct confrontation and led to numerous "proxy conflicts" which were sponsored in part by the combatant's respective superpower allies. The military parity has now largely dissolved and the arms race between the US and the USSR has given way to a one-sided arms race where the US appears now to be competing with the rest of the world; its military expenditures (including several new nuclear weapons) now amounts to nearly half of the world's military expenditures.

Finally it must be said that it's not obvious that collaborative projects like these will yield any long-lasting benefits. An interesting example is that when the US media entered the Soviet Union after Glasnost, they followed the routes that the citizen diplomats has established. While it's true that relations were finally normalized between the two countries, the citizen-diplomat may be well-advised that setbacks may outnumber the gains.

Solution: 

Establish contacts and develop collaborative projects between individual citizens and groups in countries or regions where relations are severely strained or non-existent.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The unique powers of individuals to help overcome antagonism between nations by calming tempers, building ties, promoting reason and dialogue, or healing wounds is rarely acknowledged or promoted. Citizen Diplomacy offers the promise of peace by building on actual, hopeful and optimistic face-to-face encounters by citizens of the designated enemy states.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Code Pink, http://www.codepink.org/

Citizen Journalism

Pattern ID: 
805
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
91
Lewis A. Friedland
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Hernando Rojas
University of Wisconsin
Version: 
2
Problem: 

For democracy in a complex society to work well, journalism is necessary. Citizens need information about the political, economic, and cultural systems that structure their lives in order to act on them effectively. However, traditional news institutions have had major failures in their ability to adequately cover new

Context: 

Distributed information on the web opens new possibilities for citizen information. Some say that we at the

Discussion: 

The magnitude and interest in Citizen Journalism is quite new, although forms of it have existed through much of modern history. The pamphleteers of the American Revolution were, in their way, citizen journalists. Many of the newspapers that cropped up in the 19th Century were started by non-professionals, who saw a need in local communities and began publishing a mix of news, advertising, and gossip. Newspapers were professionalized in the 19th Century, leading to a relatively independent corps of journalists oriented to fact-based "objective reporting. But professionalization also discounted the underlying truth claims on one side or another and led to a decline of independent judgment and, sometimes, support for the status quo.

Beginning in the 90s, public or civic journalism constituted a major reaction to this state of affairs. The movement grew from the principle that while news organizations could and should remain independent in judging particular disputes and advancing particular solutions to problems, they ought not to remain neutral on democracy and civic life itself. About of a fifth of all American newspapers and some television stations experimented with civic journalism from the early 90s to the early 2000s, but other pressures subverted it.

By the mid-1990s, the web began to offer a different alternative. Blogging offered new networks of opinion writing, as well as criticism of traditional media outlets. Some considered it journalism, others editorializing or soapboxing. But, what was clear was that the new writing could carve out its own space of attention on the web (although it remained dependent on the reporting of the mainstream media).

Citizen journalism as a distinct movement emerged in early 2000s. Journalists like Dan Gilmor, left the San Jose Mercury News to start Bayosphere, an independent journalism blog. At the same time, political blogs grew rapidly in number and influence on both left and right sides of the political spectrum. The emerging practices of citizen journalism run the gamut from new forms of audience participation in traditional media to citizen expression in the blogosphere In terms of content they alternate fact-oriented reporting of locally based participants in the context of a global network, to self-expression of opinion. What defines citizen journalism, then, is not specific content, a given business model or a form of reporting, but rather a networked structure of storytelling that is based on the following premises: a) openness of information; b) horizontal linkage structures rather than vertical flows of information; c) blurring lines between content production and consumption; d) diffused accountability based on reputation and meaning, rather than on structural system hierarchies.

One of the best examples of a mainstream media institution practicing citizen journalism is the Spokane Spokesman Review (www.spokesmanreview.com/) which systematically incorporates the views of Spokane's citizens in every aspect of its reporting, from hard news to sports. The Review has even put its morning news meeting on the web.

Another strand of citizen journalism is a hybrid, in which professional and citizens interact in the production process. The exemplar in this realm is Ohmy News (www.ohmynews.com) from South Korea whose motto is "Every Citizen is a Reporter." Ohmy News has a paid editing and reporting staff that works on 200 plus daily submissions from citizens. More than 40,000 citizens overall have contributed to the site. U.S. Sites like the Twin Cities Daily Planet (www.tcdailyplanet.net) and the Voice of San Diego (www.voiceofsandiego.org) are seeking to replicate its success, and Ohmy News is investing in its International site. Recently, Jay Rosen in PressThink (http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/) has proposed New Assignment, a hybrid model in which citizens will submit issues and topics they want to see reported on, and professional editors will pursue the story along with citizen journalists.

The Madison Commons project in Wisconsin has developed another type of hybrid model. The Commons project trains citizens to do neighborhood reporting and gathers reporting from mainstream media aggregates it on a local web site. (www.madisoncommons.org). Another good example of academic/citizen partnerships is represented by Mymissourian (www.mymissourian.com), in which journalism students serve as editors for citizen journalists.

Finally, the blogosphere emerges as a massive example of citizen journalism as part of a large conversation that either makes or comments on the news. Of course blogs, their content, their significance and recognition vary widely, from general blogs of professional journalists like Gilmore’s to pundits on the left and right, to community level aggregators to more personal expressions (www.baristanet.com/).

Citizen journalism allows anyone who wants to contribute to public debate as an active participant. There are a number of relevant motives: the intrinsic enjoyment of interviewing, reporting and writing. The civic rewards of contributing informed knowledge to a larger public discussion and debate. And the reward of building an alternative institution, whether local news alternative or worldwide public.

First, citizen journalism offers the ability to collaborate to make many small contributions to what is essentially an ongoing conversation among many people, most of whom do not know each other than through the common project. Second, the so-called "wisdom of crowds," holds that many people know more than a few, that even experts only have limited knowledge, and that a broad open domain with many contributors will produce useful and valid knowledge.

Third, and closely related to these, is the idea of "the people formerly known as the audience." (Rosen and Gilmore). This is to say that the audience for news media (media in general) is no longer passive. Rather it is an active group that will respond in a continuum to the news, ranging from simple active reading, linking and sending stories to friends via email and lists, and commenting on stories, to contributing factual knowledge that can flesh out or correct a story, to actual writing as citizen journalists. Across all these levels of activity citizens become more engaged with their communities.

An active and engaged citizenry can expand the range of topics discussed, and improve the quality and extent of information about any given issue, by opening it up to anyone involved. Citizen journalism creates the possibility for civic action to be deliberative instead of hierarchical. By participating directly in the production and dissemination of journalism citizens help, even in small ways, to set the news agenda.

Alternatives to citizen journalism such as face to face community level deliberation exercises and electronic dialogues are both important and complimentary to citizen journalism, but they lack the fact-based component which is critical to democracy and that should not be solely in the hands of traditional media.

For citizens to use this pattern, there are a number of things they can do. They can go to websites like www.j-lab.org to find out how to begin doing citizen journalism themselves, and have access to many tools and examples. The best overall resource for thinking about citizen journalism is Press Think (www.pressthink.org) which also links many layers of citizen journalists, mostly in the U.S. Those interested in the international movement can go to Ohmy News International (http://english.ohmynews.com) or Wikinews (www.wikinews.org). There are also web resources such as the News University that where originally conceived to enhance the training of journalists, but that can also improve the journalistic skills of citizens (www.newsu.org).

There are three main challenges to citizen journalism: sustainability, inclusion and traditional journalism. Probably the biggest challenge to doing citizen journalism is sustaining a distributed enterprise that requires time, attention, and skill, from both producers and contributors/readers. A second challenge is to avoid ending up in many small communities of group monologue rather than in a broader community dialogue. And finally, citizen journalism may accelerate the erosion of traditional journalism without replacing it with a new model powerful enough to center attention on core social problems, in a society that is already highly distracted.

Nevertheless, is appears that a pattern that brings together the networked discussion of citizens in the blogosphere with fact oriented reporting will be a more fitting model to build a vibrant public sphere than the centralized and hierarchical model of the printed media and mass television that we have now (Maher, 2005). Benkler (2006) has made a powerful argument that the baseline for our evaluation should be the mass media model that has, in many ways, failed to report on the most critical issues of our day, not an idealized model of citizen journalism. Further, for the foreseeable future, they will continue to complement each other, willingly or not.

Solution: 

Build new models of citizen journalism, nationally, internationally, and locally to create new forms of reporting and public accountability. In local communities, build information commons to support the active learning and participation of citizens in changing the traditional media ecologies to ones that blend the best of citizen and traditional media. For individuals, learn new skills of reporting via the web, and become an active reader, commenter, and contributor.

The citizen journalism pattern is already being realized world-wide. Its beauty is that is only takes a sufficient number of citizens with access to technology and an interest in some story. Citizen journalism is growing daily as the increasing number of projects worldwide and the expanding blogosphere attest. Whether it will continue to grow will depend upon the solutions posed by these projects to the challenges of sustainability and inclusion. Although it is early to asses the impact of citizen journalism it would appear that in Korea it has served to open the political spectrum and in the United States to redefine the news agenda. It remains to be seen, whether, and how, citizen journalism can develop in non- democratic countries. At least in theory it could represent an important pathway in the development of a networked civil society that brings about democratization change.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Citizens need information about the political, economic, and cultural systems that structure their lives. This is usually produced by journalists — but citizens can be journalists. The beauty of Citizen Journalism is that it only requires: citizens with dedication, skills, and access to networks, and an audience for the news they produce. Citizen Journalism represents an important opportunity for the realization of democratic change.

Pattern status: 
Released

Experimental School

Pattern ID: 
837
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
89
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Steve Schapp
United for a Fair Economy
Thad Curtz
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Schools can become institutionalized and non-responsive to the real needs of their students, the community or, even society at large. Schools with static and immutable assumptions and values are unlikely to meet society's changing needs. This is particularly unfortunate at a time when the need for public problem-solving is the most acute. If schools aren't innovative and if people don't seriously think about how education can play new roles in new ways, it's unlikely that the society will be innovative in cultural, technical, scientific, or civic thought or action. Schools also tend to assist privileged subsets of society. Typically, older people can't attend school, nor can poor people, working people, or rural people. Many colleges and universities (at least in the US) are more becoming commercially-oriented, thus promoting economic aggrandizement of individuals and corporations while ignoring the common good.

Context: 

Any situation where education or some type of "schooling" is necessary. This pattern has almost universal coverage because learning is a universal phenomenon. Humans are built for learning!

Discussion: 

For this pattern we can define an experimental school as a school that broadly attempts to accomplish certain aims (such as social and environmental amelioration) while adopting experimentation as an abiding and guiding orientation. This implies that the school is not perfect and it affirms that the school will at least try to adapt to changing societal circumstances and needs (while maintaining its values). Moreover, it will work towards its goals through a thoughtful experimentation that involves careful and ongoing evaluation of the approaches that the school is trying.

School according to John Dewey should be an experiment in collective action and it should break down walls between academia and practical work. Although this pattern is quite broad (and actually contains several patterns in their own right), several themes or trajectories stand out that support Dewey's contentions whether the student is ten years old or eighty, or whether the student is classically educated or illiterate. Adopting an "experimental" orientation reflects a belief in meliorism — that things can improve through directed effort — and an acknowledgement that nothing is perfect; the need for adjustment is an unavoidable and normal fact of life. Beyond that, the general orientation is compassionate engagement and integration with the world. In a general but non-dogmatic way, an Experimental School would be concerned with the common good, it would stress solidarity and activism. It would be much more permeable — the boundaries between the institution, between teacher and student, between theory and practice and between the academic disciplines themselves and the disciplines and the other systems of knowing that people have devised, would all be less distinct and more forgiving. Additionally there would be more variety as to when and where the educational setting would be and who was eligible to take part. Costs would be as low as possible to encourage everybody to attend. Education is not just for some small segment of the population who are destined for power, prestige and money. The following table, admittedly over-generalized, highlights some of the ways in which a "modern" university can be contrasted with an Experimental School.


  University Model Experimental School
Site Centralized, stationary, and formal Various locations, movable, informal
Student body Elite, all same age Open to anybody, life-long learning; mixed classes
Assessment Defined by faculty, etc. consists of tests, grades Self assessed by student as well as by faculty member through oral and written narrative evaluation.
Curriculum University-directed, discipline-based, disciplines kept separate Student-directed, inquiry-based, discipline boundaries blurred and broached
Role of teacher / role of student Authoritative / receptive ("empty vessel") Teachers and students are both co-learners
Costs Expensive for middle and lower income people Free
Instruction mode Lecture Peripatetic, seminar, group work
Credential granting Often the most important reason for attending Doesn't necessarily grant credentials. Learning is primary.
Focus On the individual On the group or community
Goals Learning facts, getting degree Learning how to learn, thinking across the curriculum
Faculty Credentialed with PhD Knowledge, skill, values, commitment, and values are as important as credentials
When 2 semesters or 3 quarters per year; no summer with established beginning and end dates for unit of time, Weekdays, 9:00 to 5:00 Weekdays, evenings, anytime
Theory and practice Kept separate ("practice is for trade schools") Integrated

Walter Parker believes that "Idiocy is the scourge of our time and place" (2004). Idiocy was defined by the ancient Greeks to mean the state of being "concerned myopically with private things and unmindful of common things." Idiots are like "rudderless ships" that are not grounded in either the local or the global community. Unable to see beyond their parochial interests, they're likely to do damage to themselves and to the communities in which they live. In his consideration of how idiots come about their idiocy, Parker asks whether our public "schools marshal their human and material resources to produce idiots or citizens? Does the school curriculum, both by commission and omission, cultivate private vices or public virtues?"

Parker proposes several important remedies: "First, increase the variety and frequency of interaction among students who are culturally, linguistically, and racially different from one another. Second, orchestrate these contacts so that competent public talk—deliberation about common problems—is fostered. In schools, this is talk about two kinds of problems: social and academic. Social problems arise inevitably from the friction of interaction itself (Dewey’s “problems of living together”), and academic problems are at the core of each subject area. Third, clarify the distinction between deliberation and blather and between open (inclusive) and closed (exclusive) deliberation. In other words, expect, teach, and model competent, inclusive deliberation."

It's also important for students to take some responsibility (and interest) in their own education early. People with these attitudes and capabilities can undertake their own ongoing education (even in the absence of schools and teachers) and work with others to get them involved. One of the best ways to do this and to help install the sense that the student is part of the process is self-assessment of learning at all levels.

If the point of evaluating students' work were only to rank them, or to give faculty a lever for encouraging their efforts, or even to describe the strengths and weaknesses of what they had produced, then it would seem clear that teachers should do it by themselves. The deepest reasons, however, for asking students to formally assess their own work pertain to the students' development over the long run. For one thing, the student may have learned some things which are relevant to learning which the teachers don't know about. If students have learned how to write a paper without agonizing over the first paragraph for hours, or pay a new kind of attention to the clouds when they go for a walk, or think about the late Roman Republic when they read the papers, these changes may say more about their education in literature or physics or history than their essays or exams do, yet be invisible to the teachers.

The practice of self-assessment is a central way for students to acquire the reflective habits of mind which are essential to their ongoing capacities to do good work, and to progressively improve their work over time. Growth in intelligence, or thinking, is precisely growth in the capacity for ongoing reflective self-assessment. This point is the center of Dewey's analysis of the difference between mere activity and educational experience in Democracy and Education (1916): "Thinking …is the intentional endeavor to discover specific connections between something which we do and the consequences which result, so that the two become continuous."

But formal education is considered complete at a certain age. Does this mean that people who have missed this one chance or who are otherwise interested in additional education are simply out of luck? Popular education, developed in the 1960s and ’70s by the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire helps to answer that question positively. Popular education is a non-traditional method of education that strives for the empowerment of adults through democratically structured cooperative study and action. It's carried out within a political vision that sees women and men at the community and grassroots level as the primary agents for social change. It aims to enable ordinary people to define their own struggles and critically examine and learn from the lessons of past struggles and from concrete everyday situations in the present. It is a deeply democratic process, equipping communities to name and create their vision of the future for which they struggle.

The popular education process begins by critically reflecting on, sharing, and articulating with a group or community what is known from lived experience. It continues with analysis and critical reflection upon reality aimed at enabling people to discover solutions to their own problems and set in motion concrete actions for the transformation of that reality. In Freire'’s model, the teacher becomes a facilitator, the traditional class becomes a cultural circle, the emphasis shifts from lecture to problem-posing strategies, and the content, previously removed from the learners’ experience, becomes relevant to the group.

Popular education has always had an intimate connection to organizing for social change. In the early 1960s, Freire, began his work in this area by using the principles of dialogue and critical consciousness-raising—fundamental to popular education—to teach literacy to peasants struggling for land reform in Brazil. Freire argued that action was the source of knowledge, not the reverse, and that education, to be transformative, involved a process of dialogue based on action and reflection on action.

Although starting a new — or supporting an existing — Experimental School might be the best use of this pattern, the concepts of an Experimental School can be useful to anybody who is establishing new programs in a traditional school or involved in virtually any way in the education of themselves or anybody they know. The key concepts are respect for learning, reflection, and a faith in the importance of reasoning and, especially, reasoning together.

Solution: 

Integrate the ideas from this pattern into educational settings that exist or can exist. We can think about how we think and we can learn about how we learn.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Schools with unchanging assumptions can't meet society's changing needs. This is unfortunate now when the need for public problem-solving is most acute. An Experimental School attempts to accomplish positive aims while adopting experimentation as a guiding orientation. The key concepts are respect for learning, reflection, and faith in the importance of reasoning and, especially, reasoning together.

Pattern status: 
Released
Pattern annotations: 

Civic Capabilities

Pattern ID: 
756
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
85
Justin Smith
The Public Sphere Project & St. Mary's University
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Peoples can often find the path to social and economic empowerment blocked to them due to any number of circumstances whether they be lack of literacy and information, limited access to health care, a low-level of durable assets, political marginalization and so forth.

Context: 

From the grassroots level up towards the international sphere peoples are seeking ways to encourage and develop capability of both individuals as well as communities to actively engage in creating the life they desire to live through promoting access to health, higher literacy and ability to collectively engage in public political action.

Discussion: 

Taken from the work of Amartya Sen and his thesis on capabilities or substantial freedoms it is asserted that the, “expansion of basic human capabilities, including such freedoms as the ability to live long, read and write, to escape preventable illnesses, to work outside the family irrespective of gender, and to participate in collaborative as well as adversarial politics, not only influence the quality of life that the people can enjoy, but also effect the real opportunities they have to participate in economic expansion.” (Sen, and Dreze, 1999)

In essence such a statement highlights both the ends we seek to achieve in the process of development and similarly the path by which we achieve that end. If people do not have access to health how will they be able to rightfully participate in society or of the civic life of their geographical community? Also, if they can not participate, how is that they are to ensure that they will encourage and generate a level of action necessary for developing the access to health they need?

In taking a closer look at Amartya Sen's and Jean Dreze's statement above Jan Garret believes that there are important freedoms that have an instrumental role in making positive [substantial] freedom possible.

  • Political freedoms-- "the opportunities that people have to determine who should govern and on what principles, and also include the possibility to scrutinize and criticize authorities, to have freedom of political expression and an uncensored press, to enjoy the freedom to choose between different political parties, and so on. They include . . . opportunities of political dialogue, dissent and critique as well as voting rights and participatory selection of legislators and executives."
  • Economic facilities— "the opportunities that individuals . . . enjoy to utilize economic resources for the purpose of consumption, or production, or exchange." The quantity of income as well as how it is distributed is important. Availability and access to finance are also crucial. (Not being able to get credit can be economically devastating.) (See: Micro-Finance, Coopertive Micro-Enterprise or Durable Assets)
  • Social opportunities--arrangements society makes for education, health care, etc.
  • Transparency guarantees--these relate to the need for openness that people can anticipate; the freedom to deal with one another with a justified expectation of disclosure and clarity. These guarantees play a clear role in preventing corruption, financial irresponsibility, and violation of society's rules of conduct for government and business.
  • Protective security--a social safety net that prevents sections of the population from being reduced to abject misery. Sen refers to "fixed institutional arrangements such as unemployment benefits and statutory income supplements to the indigent as well as ad hoc (temporary) arrangements such as famine relief or emergency public employment to generate income for destitutes."

As a pattern of development the idea behind Engaging Capabilities can exist as both an approach as well as map for distinct and concrete implementation of development projects and empowerment campaigns whether they be economic, political, health and gender-centric or an integrated collection of all of the above. In regards to the term engaging it is meant to refer to the normative stance that these are fundamental aspects of enabling individuals to lead lives worth living.

It is a call to both peoples who are blocked from realizing these capabilities in their day to lives to engage and work to actualize these in their lived experience, similarly it is a call to those social activist, community animators, government and international organizations working to help better their society to pursue not only the economic betterment of peoples, but to address the more holistic reality that makes up a persons lived experience.

While Sen's work has placed much emphasis upon the individual, capabilities also naturally points to the civic or community sphere in which groups of participants are able to engage in the process of not only achieving such substantial freedoms but also collectively enjoying and exercising such freedoms.

While much development may in an indirect way encourage the creation or realization of such freedoms; the purpose of engaging these capabilities as a pattern is meant to emphasise awareness of such fundamental freedoms and promote their centraility to a consiusly constructed pattern language that seeks to empower individuals and communities at all levels of society.

This means identifying and pursuing direct interaction with local, as well as national-level officials to engage in cooperative and advesarial politics. Ideally bringing about accountability, or achieve steps towards a responsiveness from of government. Affiliation with regional and transnational advocacy groups can assist accessing leverage for marginalized groups. Through engagement and a direction towards freedoms and capabilities peoples can prioritize their political battles that pressure government to pursue policies that actually equate to results in education, health and economic opportunity for those who lack these building blocks.

Solution: 

Ultimately, the idea of engaging capabilities is a critical component to almost any pattern language we might wish to construct. Therefore, when constructing a pattern language that is meant to address development in anyway it is necessary to consider the ways in which these projects will utilize the individual as well as collective capabilities of a community (and associated development partners) and how they will be utilized to support and encourage the further realization of these freedoms in peoples lives.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Illiteracy, lack of information, poverty, and political marginalization can block social and economic empowerment. To overcome this we must encourage and develop the Civic Capabilities of individuals and communities to actively create the lives they hope to live. Direct interaction with officials, engagement in cooperative and adversarial politics, and affiliation with other advocacy groups can bring about accountability and increased governmental responsiveness.

Pattern status: 
Released
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