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Participatory Democracy

October 21, 2006

Riff on Michael Shuman

For thousands of people around the world each day the Google News Alerts service deposits the results of key word searches among the thousands of news sources in Google's global network in email inboxes, mine included. Among the terms I have setup for searches is "community currencies." This morning the following item appeared:

Candidates for Ward 1
Raise the Hammer - Canada
... His ideas of how credit unions, commercial banks and thrifts with community ownership structures, and local currencies can keep community wealth circulating in ...

The content trailer was intriguing, leading me on a two-hour surfing odyssey. The results are logged below in the event that others might be interested in some of the touch points I encountered along the way.

First, click to the article in "Raise the Hammer;" then, click to find out what kind of publication is "Raise the Hammer." It's about community action in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, which, according to Wikipedia is the 8th largest city in Canada with a population of slightly over 700,000.

Municipal elections are coming up and one of the candidates is a person named Brian McHattie. In a response to a request from "Raise the Hammer," Mr. McHattie stated the five most important steps he would take if elected; his fifth and final point was as follows:

"5) Develop a Community Economic Development Strategy. 'Recently, Environment Hamilton brought U.S. economist Michael Shuman to Hamilton to talk about a strategy where communities adopt a strategy of self-reliance with local production for local consumption.
His ideas of how credit unions, commercial banks and thrifts with community ownership structures, and local currencies can keep community wealth circulating in and working for the community must be investigated as a basis for Hamilton's economy, along with import substitution and directing City purchasing power to locally owned businesses, thereby keeping money circulating within the city - plugging the leaky bucket.'"

Enter the name, "Michael Shuman." So who is this Michael Shuman person?

Continue reading "Riff on Michael Shuman"

posted by Steve Bosserman on Saturday October 21 2006

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July 04, 2006

Declaring Independence

Last week when I was visiting friends in a small, rural German village, my host's eighteen year-old daughter, Lara, asked if I knew the "Declaration of Independence." "Of course," I quickly stated while punctuating that harrumph with the added self-assuring thought to myself, "What American doesn't know the Declaration of Independence." "We're studying it in school," she added. "Our teacher is making us memorize the introduction. Why do we have to do that? It's two-hundred thirty years old. This is stupid!" Silence. Hmmm. She asked me if I REALLY know it, not if I knew about it! "Do you know it from heart…can you say it right now?" I inquired incredulously. Without a moment's hesitation she blurted out the nearly 300 words in perfectly elocuted, well-delivered English. As she is reciting I am wondering, how many American kids her age can do this? My two at home are fourteen and fifteen and they don't have a clue! I want to think they are typical middle school / high school kids, so…hypothesizing from and "n" of two…American kids get a big "F" for failure on this one. But what about the larger question she asked, "Why do we have to do that?" that is the real bugaboo. Why, indeed.

Continue reading "Declaring Independence"

posted by Steve Bosserman on Tuesday July 4 2006

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February 19, 2006

Understanding Diversity as a Dynamic

Diversity is closely linked to organization effectiveness and feeds the dynamics associated with garnering social power, distributing authority, and exercising leadership. Ross MacDonald, introduced in previous blog postings here and here, and Monica Bernardo co-authored a recent paper published in the Journal of Developmental Education, Fall 2005, Vol 29, No 1 highlighting their research on "diversity" and "ground truth." Ross is warmly welcomed back to this blog to draw from his and Monica's paper about this key topic. Ross, the floor is yours...

In previous articles about ground truth, I highlighted the importance of attending to multiple perspectives. In this entry I consider the issue of how well we listen to and to what degree we value multiple perspectives by focusing on the catch phrase, diversity. Nearly every organization must consider issues of diversity. Weighing in on diversity are federal mandate, state law, judicial threat, moral authority, public pressure, and pressure from employees. Clearly, leadership in any organization must consider "diversity issues." Whatever that means. And that's the problem as I see it.

Too many discussions about diversity fail to consider what it is we are talking about. In so doing we make diversity issues an onus and not an opportunity. We have typically answered the call for diversity by attending to the most superficial features of skin tone and gender and by trying to up the numbers of the under-represented. In so doing, we delude ourselves and others that a "head counting" approach is both powerful and meaningful. After all, it is easier to vary the color of faces than to listen closely to their experiences and alter our thinking about the complex dynamics of difference that play out among us. An exclusive focus on placing people into a set of categories based on gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and so forth blinds us to the less visible and more complex dynamics of diversity of which we all are a part.

The problem is that this is a convenient kind of blinding; it allows us to assume that because we have satisfied a numbers requirement, we have achieved diversity. While adding people to the mix certainly has intrinsic value and moral force, we must consider what happens in that mixing. How are people interacting? How are those satisfying diversity numbers being positioned and perceived? Pursuing these questions in good faith and with open minds increases organizational capacity. Wouldn't that kind of understanding be immensely useful to any organization looking to enhance employee relations, heighten team productivity, and serve a broadening customer base?

Therefore I propose that we pursue diversity as a continually expanding knowledge about the dynamics of difference. Considering diversity as a dynamic of difference requires questioning how we perceive, value, and act on differences among us in our organizations and communities.

Continue reading "Understanding Diversity as a Dynamic"

posted by Steve Bosserman on Sunday February 19 2006

updated on Thursday January 26 2017

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January 25, 2006

Ground Truth and Multiple Truths

In Ross MacDonald's last entry, "A Richer Concept of Ground Truth," he discussed issues surrounding claims of truth and grounding as a way of opening up discussion about the concept of ground truth. In this entry Ross further explores the concept by discussing the related topics of multiple truths and their benefits, subjectivity and objectivity, and differences between open thinking and permissive processing of multiple truths. To help illustrate the ideas presented he will refer to the example of a developing ecotourism project in the spectacular mountains of Uttaranchal, Northern India. Take it away, Ross!

Uttaranchal Project
Uttaranchal, which translates as "Northern Mountains," is a small state in the far north of India, bordering Tibet and Nepal. Site of the Ganges headwaters, the region has attracted many Hindus on annual pilgrimages, but, despite its alluring mountains and interesting culture, it is far less known on the international ecotourism scene. I am working with Manor Bhatt, currently a Ford Fellow at Columbia University's Graduate School of International and Public Affairs while on leave from his senior position with the nongovernmental, environmentalist organization Shri Bhuvneshwari Mahila Ashram. Mr. Bhatt is a life-long resident of Uttaranchal.

The goal of the project is to support a sustainable, locally-owned and operated ecotourism industry based on a complicated formula of (a) building needed infrastructure of roads, water, sewer, reliable power; while at the same time (b) developing local capacity to provide eco-tourists with an enjoyable and stimulating experience; so as to (c) catalyze and support strong environmental and cultural protections; while (d) generating local income. Creating this synergy is expected to result in a sustainable tourist industry, reduction in resident's out-migration for income, a curtailing of deforestation, maintenance of existing cultural practices and identities, and increased social and economic opportunities for residents of the region especially including women. My task is to design an on-going evaluation of the project and enhance local capacity to gather data related to project goals, to make sense of that data, and continuously improve the fledgling industry.

Continue reading "Ground Truth and Multiple Truths"

posted by Steve Bosserman on Wednesday January 25 2006

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Riff on Michael Shuman
October 21, 2006

Declaring Independence
July 04, 2006

Understanding Diversity as a Dynamic
February 19, 2006

Ground Truth and Multiple Truths
January 25, 2006

A Richer Concept of Ground Truth
January 10, 2006

Ground Truth and Social Sensors
December 26, 2005

Keeping the Beat with Jump Rhythm Jazz Project
December 05, 2005

Changing Organizations
September 11, 2005

Integrity Expanded
September 01, 2005

Integrity and Ground Truth
August 31, 2005


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