social critique

Mirror Institutions

Pattern ID: 
583
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
94
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

There are millions of organizations and other institutions that are responsible for important decisions and policy development on behalf of the public trust. There are also organizations and other institutions that violate the public trust or who otherwise wield illegitimate power. Unfortunately these two types often overlap. Some wield enormous power while some are impotent and irrelevant. At any rate, both types must be monitored closely — persistently and non-superficially — to encourage them to exert their powers appropriately. Moreover, both of these groups (and, indeed, all of us) are faced with millions (basically uncountable) of problems (and problems in the making) within the environment that are not well understood within a useful framework. The institutions that civil society establishes are often too diffuse or too narrow to face these problems effectively, while many seem to be "reinventing the wheel." Institutions of government and business can be too powerful or politically beholden to perform their duties responsibly; they can also be conceptually or administratively misaligned with their mission for many reasons.

Context: 

There are many sets of problems / situations / contexts that can be addressed with the same pattern. "Institutions" in the sense of people who are organized around certain goals in a persistent way are ubiquitous.

Discussion: 

The world of mirrors — and, hence, any discussion of them in a metaphorical way — leads to reflections and reflections of reflections and reflections of reflections of reflections and so on. So be it.

Mirrors reflect, but not perfectly. At the very least they reverse the image that they're reflecting. We're only using mirrors, however, as a metaphor for reflection or replication.

Due to the size and complexity of most of these mirroring endeavors, formal or informal organizations are established to tackle the job. For many reasons organizations that mirror to some degree the area within the overall environment that they are focused on are likely to have more success than those who don't. An institution is society's attempt to make a "machine" whose output is of a desired type. It reflects (however imperfectly) the desires of its creators and maintainers and its "products" are "mirror images" of each other (or at least have the same "family resemblance.") "Mirror Institutions" are those institutions that reflect or reflect upon other institutions or other realities. As such this pattern covers a very wide range. To cover this wide range we've identified four important facets: the reflective mirror institution, the critical mirror institution, the alternative / generative mirror institution, and the flattering mirror institution. The boundaries between these different institutional mirror types aren't clear. It's hard in other words, to know where one ends and another begins. And the "mirror" itself (at least the metaphorical mirror we're talking about) is a constructed object whose object is implicitly or explicitly what it's set up to be and what it has come to be (while realizing, of course, that the characteristics are not completely knowable either but are subject to interpretation themselves — via another mirror. And, like all mirrors, the reflections can be seen from many angles.

The reflective mirror institution is used to help us understand without bias some aspects of the "real world." This institution needs to reflect the most salient aspects of its object back to the people who need to understand the object. Scientists ideally employ this type of mirror institution when they endeavor to understand the complex and intricate relationships within the physical environment.

James A. Wilson in his essay "Matching Social and Ecological Systems in Complex Ocean Fisheries" states that the "mismatch of ecological and management scale makes it difficult to address the fine-scale aspects of ocean ecosystems, and leads to fishing rights and strategies that tend to erode the underlying structure of populations and the system itself." He goes on to state that "This is likely to be achieved by multiscale institutions whose organization mirrors the spatial organization of the ecosystem and whose communications occur through a polycentric network."

Problems can result arise if people believe that they're using a reflection that has perfect fidelity or if they're work is overly influenced by ideology.

The critical mirror institution is used to uncover, analyze and expose the failings of another institution. Using the explicit philosophy, goals, and practices of the institution itself to show the stark contrast between their often noble rhetoric and what they're actually doing is a common approach. In the U.S., for example, the OMB Watch organization performs a "watchdog" function on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) within the U.S. government. The Bretton Woods project uses the decisions made by global economic powers at the 19__ Bretton Woods meeting as the basis for its critique of international capital and its institutional handmaidens.

The alternative / generative mirror institution is used to develop — and propagate — alternatives to existing institutions. Governments in exile are one use of this pattern, as are community banks, whether they're in Venezuela or other countries. Sometimes the alternative is then mirrored into multiple versions of itself. Federated institutions that are loosely connected to each other and more-or-less the same type of species represent a good way to develop strength globally while maintaining local control. This was used in the realm of independent, non-commercial communication, including community access television, community networks and the Independent Media Centers movements.

The World Social Forum is a blend of two mirror institution facets: the critical and the alternative / generative; it established itself as a counter-forum to the World Economic Forum which promotes alternative ideas and visions. The World Social Forum is also being mirrored in the form of regional and thematic forums.

The flattering mirror institution is an existing mirror, sometimes called an infinite mirror that is self-referential, often self-indulgent, self-deceiving, self-reinforcing, and sycophantic. That is, to a large degree, the state of the media today, endlessly reflecting upon itself like an echo chamber.

[Note that media reflects society — however incompletely — back to itself. As Israeli journalist Gideon Levy of the Haaretz newspaper pointed out "The Palestinians know what the Israelis are doing."]

There are several ways by which to look at any mirror institutions — especially when setting one up.
   The object or environment — What is standing in front of the mirror?
   The reflection — What is being reflected?
   Reflecting on the reflection — What are you seeing in the reflection? Should you be looking for other things?
   The audience — Who is (or should be) peering into the mirror institution?

Does relying exclusively on "reflections" mean that wholly new institutions can't be devised? Although brand new institutions can be created through a series of partial changes, this argues for more of an intelligent (or pragmatic, efficient or opportunistic) design, rather than creation. Decentralized Intelligence Agency?!

Challenges: Adopting and realigning when necessary. Maintaining a network with like-minded organizations — mirror or not. The "mirror" approach is ecological — but who's doing the "higher level" work?? Governments exists to (or should exist to) sort out (or at least assist with the sorting out process) issues related to rights and responsibilities — who (and what) can do something and who (and what) should do something. Associated with this is the task of developing (and exercising) incentives to encourage people to do the right thing and penalties for those who don't.

This is a pattern for conscious adaptation. A pattern transformation, since culture is propagated by its institutions. This is very much an analogy to basic evolutionary theory. Mirroring implies copying -- but generally copying with changes made to one or more aspects of the original in the process. Liberating Voices is a mirror of A Pattern Language.

Solution: 

Although this pattern is may be a bit heavy on abstractions, we believe that the institution-as-mirror metaphor can be very useful primarily due to the questions it brings to the surface. The German playwright, Bertolt Brecht told us that "art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it." The mirror institutions that we create must also to a large degree be put to the same purpose.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Organizations and other institutions that are responsible for important decisions and policy development can violate the public trust or otherwise wield illegitimate power. Mirror Institutions are those institutions that reflect or reflect upon other institutions or other realities. Mirroring implies copying — but generally copying with changes made to one or more aspects of the original in the process.

Pattern status: 
Released

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

Future Design

Pattern ID: 
441
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
88
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

By acting as though the future will never arrive and things never change, we are subconsciously creating the future with the seeds that we are unwittingly sowing today. Whether by actively embracing the conventional "wisdom" that has created these socially and environmentally precarious times or by succumbing to the dictates of habit, instinct or necessity, humankind seems to sleepwalking into the future. Indeed it is quite plausible that we are creating the ideal conditions today for unspeakable disasters tomorrow.

Context: 

This pattern can be used in a million situations, especially when people feel strongly that the directions they're following aren't the directions that they think they ought to be following. Employing this pattern often takes the form of a collaborative envisioning exercise with a variety of stakeholders.

Discussion: 

Looking at the future with open, imaginative and critical eyes can open up the possibility of — if not the demand for — fundamental social change. After all, why would anybody bother to contemplate the future if there were no possibility of change; if every step taken was an echo of some past step.

The purpose of this pattern is to get people actively engaged envisioning better futures and making plans on how to get there. Through "rehearsing for the future" we hope to create a wealth of possible scenarios that could become the positive "self-fulfilling prophecies" of tomorrow, rather than the violent and exploitive scenarios that seem to rule today.

Educational settings are not the only setting for introducing and advancing a rich future-oriented agenda but they may be the best. Unfortunately, however, current educational practices seem to be oblivious to the future. Schools present topics such as mathematics or science with no historical context. History, on the other hand, though based on human events, becomes an "authoritative" recounting of past facts while the future is a "mere abstraction" (Slaughter & Beare, 1993). And since everything seemingly and inexorably unfolded in an inevitable way, the sequence of human events appears largely unalterable.

One failing of a non futures-oriented educational approach is the lack of inquiry into the causes of the world's problems (Slaughter & Beare, 1993). Nor is there any effort to develop or consider that could help alleviate these problems. Beyond a cursory look at history, where the impact of people who aren't elites is never evident, many people worldwide live in an eternal now, a temporal cocoon which cultivates amnesia of the past and ill preparedness for the future. Both elites and "ordinary people" seem unwilling to acknowledge that they have roles in shaping the future. Forgetting that fact in the face of immense 21st Century challenges strips humankind of its fundamental capacity to consciously make plans (Slaughter & Beare, 1993).

Future Design helps surface the internal models of the future that have been ignored, repressed, or deliberately kept from view, and attempts to understand how they play out and how they came to be. At the same time, and somewhat independently, Future Design builds new models that help liberate us from dangerous inertia and help us be more effective in our thinking about and acting on the future.

There is an endless variety of exercises, games, workshops, and other activities that we are calling "Future Design." Many of these could be organized and convened in just about any setting. Lori Blewett and Doug Schuler recently used a "Design a Society" workshop to organize a large team project in our "Global Citizenship" program at The Evergreen State College. Schools, of course, should not be the only place where Future Design can be pursued. Future Design activities are needed that could be done individually (and, hopefully, shared), on the job (government, NGOs, business, etc.), with activists, and as broad-based, possibly phased, longer-termed projects — with or without government involvement and support.

The current project, Open Space Seattle 2100 to develop a "comprehensive open space network vision for Seattle's next 100 years" contains elements (including the need for participants and resources — even if it's just time) that could be considered typical of Future Design activities. Since the Seattle plan is ambitious it requires broad support and ample resources. The University of Washington and the City of Seattle are key players as are a variety of environmental, civic, neighborhood, professional and other groups. Many of the Future Design projects that have civic goals are participatory and inclusive. At the same time that the community is developing a collective vision, the organizers also aim "To catalyze a long-term advocacy coalition and planning process for Seattle's integrated open space."

The Seattle project consciously invokes the visionary park and landscape work of the Olmstead brothers in the early 1990's that contributed to Seattle's livability. The timeline for this project which is longer than standard planning horizons, frees participants from a variety of constraints on their thinking. By encouraging people to think beyond what's considerable immediately do-able people are more likely to be creative. On the other hand, if the timeframe is too far in the future participants are likely to feel detached from the enterprise. The Seattle project gets around this by including tasks for the short-term as well as visions for the long-term.

In order to strike a balance between the real and the imagined, designers of Future Design projects must provide a structure for less-structured activities to take place within. The projects must provide prompts — scenarios, instructions, props, etc. — that encourage people to imagine a future without forcing them down certain paths. Since people can't simply be instructed to "be creative," these "prompts" are used to promote futures thinking among the participants. This pattern can be used in many settings, but research has shown that Future Design needs a supportive atmosphere, and, as Open Space Technology literature suggests, participants need to participate with passion, commitment and an open-mind. A broad spectrum of community groups needs to be represented, or at least recognised, or the outcome can reaffirm prejudices and help perpetuate old conflicts.

Future Design processes often provide a variety of participatory opportunities. The 7-10 person teams that addressed open space issues in one of the neighborhoods outlined on the Seattle Charrette Map (see image at end of this pattern) are key to the effort but organizers have organized a lecture series and a blog (http://open2100.blogspot.com) to encourage alternative ways to participate.

Massive challenges await this vain undertaking at every turn. How effective is Future Design? How do games and other Future Design approaches translate into action How do future designers from one group build on the results of others? Interestingly a project whose recommendations aren't implemented can still be a success. Margaret Keck describes the "Solucao Integrada" (Integrated Solution), a plan for sewage treatment and environmental restoration in Brazil, which, although shelved by the government, lived on in the public's eye as an example of sensible large-scale solution in the face of other ill-conceived projects. "Success" must be judged in a variety of ways and this includes inclusivity and richness of the Future Design process, its immediate impacts and its indirect contributions to the overall imagination and civic culture of a community.

Finally, as John Perry Barlow's email tagline reminds us: "Man plans, God laughs." Human history is full of twists, enlightened and macabre, tragic and heroic. The future is unlikely to come out the way we think it will or want it to, but that shouldn't prevent us from trying to work towards the goal of a more just and healthy future.

Solution: 

Develop participatory activities that addrdess these four major objectives: (1) Develop visions of the future and ideas about how to achieve them; (2) Bring into the light and critically analyze the current models of the future that people, society and institutions are employing both explicitly and implicitly; (3) Help instill feelings of empowerment, compassion, hope and courage in futures thinking and action; and (4) At the same time, cultivate humility in regards to the unknowability of the future and the limits to human reason and understanding.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

By acting as though the future will never arrive and things will never change, we are creating the future with the seeds that we are sowing today. The purpose of Future Design is to get people actively engaged envisioning better futures and making plans on how to get there. Through "rehearsing for the future" we hope to create possible scenarios that could become the positive "self-fulfilling prophecies" of tomorrow.

Pattern status: 
Released

Strategic Frame

Pattern ID: 
408
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
86
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The complexity of the world and multiplicity of perspectives can often stymie people's attempts to interpret it in ways that make sense and that suggest meaningful action. People often can't see the connection between their own thinking and the situation they wish to address. Groups seeking to work together in some broad arena may not identify a common basis for doing so effectively. Sometimes groups can't even agree on what they'd like to accomplish much less how to go about accomplishing it. At other times their efforts may not resonate with the people and organizations they are trying to influence. A similar problem arises when people reactively base their interpretation on some prior and frequently unconscious bias or stereotype. In all of these cases, a poor understanding of strategic frames hinders their ability to make progress.

Context: 

This pattern can be used whenever people and groups need to interpret complex information or develop approaches to communicating with other groups or the public.

Discussion: 

The concept of frames was initially developed by anthropologist Gregory Bateson (1972) and was further popularized by Erving Goffman (1974). More recently, based on the work of Berkeley linguist George Lakoff, framing has taken a prominent position in progressive political discourse (2004). On a general level, a frame is a story distilled to its basic elements. It could be related to a loving family, a protective father, fairness, fatalism, laziness, freedom, the local sports team, nostalgic for the past, or fear of the unknown — the possibilities are limitless.

People all over the world are confronted with events and information that they find overwhelming. Without "frames" people quite literally wouldn't know how to interpret the world. A frame provides a link between information and data and the way that the information and data is interpreted. Seen this way, frames of one sort or another are necessary for every aspect of daily life. Human brains don't have the processing power to interpret each new situation "from scratch." Recognizing the ubiquity of frames and the fact that multiple frames can be employed by different people for different reasons to describe the same story or event has lead to a strong interest in frames.

When frames are acknowledged as independent entities, people who are interested in persuasion can begin asking such questions as: What frames do people use? How do frames work? How are they initially constructed or modified? What is the outcome when two or more frames compete?

Why does a frame work? It suggests action and shapes interpretation. When frames are shared with people or organizations they promote group action and similar interpretations — while acting to discourage disputes and incompatible interpretation. This discussion leads to types of frames, how they are formed, and how they are reshaped. Strategic frames work in two directions — they can channel action but can also constrict thought.

The framing lens can be turned around and focused on the elites and the powers-that-be as well. Mass media systems are an important subject of this. What frames are generally employed by, for example, local television news stations. A “strategic communication terms” web sites (cite) cites an example from Charlotte Ryan’s Prime Time Activism (1991) of three ways in which a news story of a child in a low-income neighborhood getting bit by a rat can be covered. Who, for example, should be blamed for this — if anybody? Is the child’s mother the culprit or should the apartment manger be held responsible or, even, society at large?

A strategic frame is a specific type of frame that has been developed as an important element within an overall strategy to encourage people to see things in a certain way. In this sense, the concept is neutral. In fact Susan Niall Bales stated that her approach to “Strategic Frame Analysis” could be used to promote tobacco use, but added that she probably wouldn’t.

When developed collaboratively, a strategic frame can also be a useful tool for groups. When people respond without reflection to an externally imposed strategic frame, they are being exploited. Different frames can be constructed for any given story, message or event. How well those frames resonate with people and what they choose to do with the ideas contained within the frame is of interest to people who are trying to influence other people. Opposing forces will employ different frames with different people to win the particular battle they’re engaged with. This is reflected in the title of a recent New York Times article entitled, “Framing Wars” (Bai, 2005)Unfortunately many strategic frames that are available to the public serve to reinforce existing stereotypes, thus preventing people from developing effective agendas for the future.

Solution: 

It is important to note that frames don’t really do the work by themselves. In addition to the important task of understanding frames that influence our actions and behavior, activists are interested in specific types of frames which have specific functions of interest, such as frames that help build coalitions; provide useful interpretations; “frame transformation” (Tarrow)] These frames must connect. In other words, the new frames must not reach too far beyond the capability of people to grasp and shape them.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The complexity of the world with its multiplicity of perspectives can confuse our attempts to interpret it. A Strategic Frame is a word, phrase, or slogan that encourages people to see things in a certain light. When developed collaboratively, a Strategic Frame can also be a useful tool for groups. In addition to understanding frames that influence thoughts and actions, activists are interested in frames that help build coalitions or otherwise motivate useful mobilizations.

Pattern status: 
Released

Voices of the Unheard

Pattern ID: 
479
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
83
John Thomas
IBM Research Hawthorne
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Despite the significant effort and thought that goes into decision making and design, bad decisions and designs are frequently conceived and implemented primarily because a critical and relevant perspective was not brought to bear. This is especially true if the missing perspective represents that of someone who holds a stake in the outcome.

Context: 

Complex problems such as the construction of new social institutions or the design of multifaceted interactive systems require that a multitude of viewpoints be brought to bear. Unfortunately, this is all too often not the case. One group builds a "solution" for another group without fully understanding the culture, user needs, extreme cases, and so on. The result is often a technical or social system that creates as many problems as it solves. This process is often exacerbated when those building the "solution" interact more intensely with each other than with those affected by the solution.

Discussion: 

The forces at work in the situations requiring this pattern include:

* Gaps in requirements are most cheaply repaired early in development; for this reason, as well as the need to gain acceptance by all parties, all stakeholders must have a say throughout any development or change process. This is an ethical issue as well.
* It is logistically difficult to ensure that all stakeholder groups are represented at every meeting.
* A new social institution or design will be both better in quality and more easily accepted if all relevant parties have input.

The idea for this pattern comes from a Native American story transcribed by Paula Underwood entitled, "Who Speaks for Wolf?"

In brief, the story goes as follows. The tribe had as one of its members a man who took it upon himself to learn all that he could about wolves. He became such an expert that his fellow tribes members called him "Wolf." While Wolf and several other braves were out on a long hunting expedition, it became clear to the tribe that they would have to move to a new location. After various reconnaissance missions, a new site was selected and the tribe moved.

Shortly thereafter, it became clear that a mistake had been made. The new location was in the middle of a wolves’ breeding ground. The wolves were threatening the children and stealing the drying meat. Now, the tribe was faced with a hard decision. Should they move again? Should they post guards around the clock? Or should they destroy the wolves? Did they even want to be the sort of people who would kill off another species for their own convenience?

At last it was decided they would move to a new location. But as was their custom, they also asked themselves, "What did we learn from this? How can we prevent making such mistakes in the future?" Someone said, "Well, if Wolf would have prevented this mistake had he been at our first council meeting." "True enough," they all agreed. "Therefore, from now on, whenever we meet to make a decision, we shall ask ourselves, "Who speaks for Wolf?" to remind us that someone must be capable and delegated to bring to bear the knowledge of any missing stakeholders."

Much of the failure of "process re-engineering" can be attributed to the fact that "models" of the "as is" process were developed based on some executive's notion of how things were done rather than a study of how they were actually performed or asking the people who actually did the work how the work was done. A "should be" process was designed to be a more efficient version of the "as is" process and then implementation was pushed down on workers. However, since the original "as is" model was not based on reality, the "more efficient" solution often left out vital elements.

Technological and sociological "imperialism" provide many additional examples in which the input of all stakeholders was not taken into account. Of course, much of the history of the U.S. government's treatment of Native Americans reflects a refusal to truly include all the stakeholders.

A challenge in applying the "Who Speaks for Wolf" pattern is to judge honestly and correctly whether, indeed, someone does have the knowledge and delegation to "speak for Wolf." If such a person is not present, we may do well to put off the design or decision until such a person, or better, "Wolf" himself can be present.

As a variant of this, a prototype creativity tool has been created. The idea is to have a "board of directors" consisting of famous people. When you have a problem to solve, you are supposed to be reminded of, and think about, how various people would approach this problem. Ask yourself, "What would Einstein have said?" "How would Gandhi have approached this problem?"

Solution: 

Provide ways to remind people of stakeholders who are not present. These methods could be procedural (certain Native Americans always ask, "Who speaks for Wolf"), visual (e.g.,diagrams, lists) or auditory (e.g., songs).

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Despite the significant effort that goes into decision making and design, bad decisions and designs are often made because a critical and relevant perspective was not heard. This is especially true if the perspective is that of a stakeholder. Remind people of voices that aren't present through procedures, diagrams, or, even, songs.

Pattern status: 
Released

Open Access Scholarly Publishing

Pattern ID: 
880
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
76
John Thomas
IBM Research Hawthorne
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The cost of journals and books has risen to the point where libraries, let alone individual scholars, can barely afford them. This is not because the payments to authors have risen dramatically. Far from it. Nor have publishing costs skyrocketed. Instead, there has been a dramatic consolidation in the publishing industry along with skyrocketing profits, far faster than, for instance, the general rises in the cost of living. In addition, with the consolidation in the retail bookstores as well as publishers, the publishes concentrate their efforts disproportionately on textbooks that will have large markets. Moreover, even if publishing profits were driven to zero, there would still be many people in the world who would not be able to gain access to important scientific and scholarly information in the form of paper books and journals.

Context: 

There are many scholars, scientists, and teachers in a wide variety of fields. Only a very small percentage gain a significant amount of income from the publication of their scholarly works. In fact, in many cases, authors have to pay page charges to have their work published. Publishing companies make a lot of money. Yet, people who could gain greatly from the knowledge in books and articles cannot afford them. Not only do most scholars receive little, no, or negative income for publishing their work; the amount of work that they are expected to do has increased, Not too many years ago, authors sent in a paper manuscript and the publishing companies were responsible for typesetting and copy editing. Today, most publishers require computer-readable files completely formatted and expect the author to carefully check for typos, grammatical errors, word usage, etc.. In other words, the author now does much of the work that publishers used to do, but all the resultant reduction in costs have been added to the profits of publisher rather than to any benefits to the authors.

Discussion: 

Probably the best introduction to the important concepts in Open Access (OA) Scholarly Publishing can be found at Peter Suber's website:
http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/overview.htm
Among other important points, he debunks some important myths about OA. OA is not cost-free, for instance, although clearly, it can be less expensive than traditional use of a paper publishing company. Even if not completely cost-free, it can still be free to the readers. There are a number of different models of funding. In some cases, the authors pay a small fee; in others, institutions pay; in still others (e.g., NSF), granting agencies make OA a condition of acceptance. It is also pointed out that there is no necessary relationship between quality and whether something is paper published. OA journals support peer-review, high standards and editing (at least) as easily as paper media. OA archives typically permit researchers to post non-reviewed white papers, drafts, etc. OA projects do well to use the OAI metadata standards so that others may search works seamlessly across organizational boundaries.

Perhaps the best-known current example of open access scholarly publishing is the cooperative project known as the "Wikipedia" but there are many others. MIT is making all its course material available online; MERLOT is a cooperative project across many universities in the United States to share course materials. There are similar projects in Europe and Canada.

One example illustrating some of these concepts is the Global Text Project. THE GLOBAL TEXT PROJECT - Engaging many for the benefit of many more. While even individuals and libraries in the United States find it difficult to afford books and journals, these items in many in the developed world are completely beyond reach. In many countries, the price for the textbooks equivalent to the requirements for a single year of undergraduate college is higher than the median gross net income. The Global Text Project website (http://globaltext.org) states their goal as the provision of a library of 1000 free electronic textbooks for the developing world. These would comprise all the texts needed for undergraduates in every major. Many of the participants have experience with creating a free textbook about XML. The next two planned projects are for texts on management and on Information Technology.

The project seems feasible. Most scholars in the developed world are relatively wealthy compared with the developing world. Contributing to the education of other parts of the world can ultimately help developing countries lower disease rates and improve economic conditions, lower the probability of civil war, corruption and starvation. In turn, this increases the chances for more education in a virtuous cycle. In addition, contributing to such projects offers scholars the opportunity for enhancing their reputation and getting valuable feedback from other colleagues.

There are some advantages to print media. It is nice to be able to "own" an actual book or journal and annotate it. In some ways, the distinctive covers and form factors of books can serve as a helpful retrieval cue to the material inside in a way that websites typically do not. However, having books and journals online also has distinct advantages over and above the tremendous difference in costs. On line books allows one to search for keywords, put related passages on the screen side by side, apply automatic summarization techniques, run software to check spelling, grammar, difficulty level and easily reformat. On line books can also contain hyperlinks to other scholarly (or non-scholarly) work and websites.

There are other significant advantages to Open Source Publishing. Because the overall price is so much less (less cost and less concern with profit) publishing in a multitude of languages becomes feasible. In addition, for the same reason, a much wider variety of materials may be published. By way of contrast, textbook publishers tend to focus their efforts on books for very popular and required courses.

While this discussion has focused so far on the benefits of open source scholarly publishing to potential readers and society generally and has argued that there is little financial disincentive for most scholarly authors, a study by Antelman (2004) indicates that they may actually be substantial benfeits to authors as well. In her study of citations for articles in four fields (philosophy, political science, electrical engineering and mathematics) she found in each case a highly significant difference in favor of open source articles.

Solution: 

Provide ways (e.g., via Wikis) for scholars to jointly create and improve scholarly materials, have them peer-reviewed and disseminated to those who can learn and critique the information without always engaging the additional costs and gate-keeping properties of traditional paper publishers.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Due to industry consolidation and skyrocketing profits, the cost of journals and books has become outrageous. But even without profits, many people would still not be able to gain access to needed information. We need to create and improve online materials that are freely available and avoid the costs and gate-keeping of traditional publishers.

Pattern status: 
Released

Positive Health Information

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

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

Context: 

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

Discussion: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solution: 

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

Verbiage for pattern card: 

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

Pattern status: 
Released

Powerful Remittances

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

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

Context: 

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

Discussion: 

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

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

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

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

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

Solution: 

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

Verbiage for pattern card: 

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

Pattern status: 
Released

Transaction Tax

Pattern ID: 
590
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
72
Burl Humana
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Transaction taxes have been proposed on both international and national levels as a development tool to help groups of people with less financial strength. An international cash transaction tax could help the global good by raising substantial funds to support the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations. This tax also has the potential of stemming damaging speculative attacks on the currencies of middle-income developing countries aiding in their financial stability. National transaction taxes have also been suggested to create even handedness and fairness by allowing the wealthy to carry the larger share of the tax burden.

Context: 

The implementation of transaction taxes are seen as a way to broaden the tax base by the collection of tax on the voluntary exchange of money that is not currently taxed. Primary examples of this are the purchase and sale of stocks, bonds, and foreign exchange transactions. Transaction taxes have been proposed on both national and international levels for various reasons.

Discussion: 

Many support the idea of an international currency transaction tax (ICTT) on voluntary currency transactions as an innovative financing tool to raise money for international development. One of the most urgent local problems that needs to be addressed is starvation in the sub-Sahara region of Africa, though The United Nations has defined several areas of need around the world with the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s). "The MDG's are as follows: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and, develop a global partnership for development." (Spratt 2005) The G8 have also pledged money for the achievement of the MDG's by the year 2015. Whether the G8 money becomes a reality or not, there is still a huge need for funding to help implement these important goals.

The idea of a transaction tax has been around for a long time and was presented in London in 1936 by James Maynard Keating. However, a transaction tax is commonly known as a Tobin Tax, named after Nobel laureate James Tobin. In 1970 James Tobin recommended the use of a transaction tax to discourage speculation in the foreign exchange (FX) market. Reducing speculation has the expected result of lowering market volatility. This volatility can be very damaging to developing countries when their currencies are unstable. In this way the transaction tax has a second development function in bringing mid-income countries in line with underlying fundamentals that promote long term investment in their country. India has already implemented its own national transaction tax on securities trades as a means to simplify the tax regime and to reduce speculation in Indian financial markets.

Even in wealthier nations like the USA the idea of instituting a transaction tax is floated as a means to broaden the tax base, delete the marginal tax, and overhaul a complex tax system. This type of national transaction tax allows the wealthy to carry a larger share of the tax burden based on their easy access to financial markets and the less fortunate to carry a smaller burden in relation to their lower income and assets.

There are many critics of the Tobin tax. Some economists say the reduction of speculation also means the reduction of liquidity which can have its own damaging effects. Other economists have produced studies to show that curbing speculation does not reduce currency volatility. Often critics are those who would be most effected by paying the new tax and their criticisms feed their own selfish interests. However, there are many around the world, including wealthy people who would be affected by the tax, that like the charitable development that could be funded by this type of financing.

New technology and communications systems along with the internet make it possible to collect a transaction tax with efficiency and make avoidance extremely difficult. Electronic technology of the bank clearing system already in place could be digitally fitted with a financial equivalent of the EZ pass that is now used to speed traffic through toll booths on highways. International payment and collection systems like the CLS (continuously linked settlement) Bank already link automated domestic LVPS (large value payment systems) making the collection of a transaction tax a realistic idea.

Solution: 

By allowing a transaction tax at either a national or international level, disparities between the rich and poor can be mitigated to some degree. The poor won't bare an over proportionate amount of tax in relation to their incomes. Needs of people in developing countries can be served by taxes reaped from the wealthiest who perform large national or international transactions. Financial markets can also be strengthened in developing countries creating a win win situtation.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

An international Transaction Tax could help the global good by raising substantial funds to support the Millennium Development Goals set by the UN. New information and communications technology would make it possible to collect tax efficiently and make avoidance difficult. Disparities between rich and poor could be reduced and the poor would bear a smaller tax burden relative to their incomes.

Pattern status: 
Released
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