Thursday, June 29, 2006

What am I thinking?

If the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a blog of a thousand thoughts begins with a single post. But it's heck of a lot easier to figure out which step comes first than which thought.

Well, I'll begin at the beginning. Or at least, a beginning. And at the bottom I'll answer the (easy?) trivia question: who are those folks in the profile photo?

I've wanted for years to participate in some active way (beyond simply sending checks, which my wife and I do) in making a better world. I've worked with Christmas in April, Habitat for Humanity and fed the homeless as part of our church program. Those are fine, and yet I wanted other ways to be involved.

I wanted something different in two ways:
  1. Scope of impact
  2. Lifestyle-based participation

Scope of Impact

By "scope of impact" I mean that my wish would be to move from a one-on-one or one-on-few kind of impact to a one-on-many or many-on-many. Along the lines of "teach to fish" rather than "provide with fish". I think this preference is part of my "system" perspective. (Systems aren't necessarily high tech: e.g. a bucket brigade.) I'm fascinated by systems that work, or mostly work. I like to make systems or tweak them to make them more effective. And so when I look at various problems in our world, I think about the systemic gaps that either foster the problems, or that create obstacles to solving the problems.

Lifestyle-based Participation

This lifestyle idea comes from the thought that the indirect effects of day-in, day-out activities may be larger scale than the direct effects of a one-day-a-year project. I see lifestyle-based participation as twofold: unintentional and intentional. First, I'm aware that my lifestyle has all sorts of unintentional and potentially undesired side effects, and I would like to understand what impacts I'm contributing to and potentially modify my lifestyle to change my impact. Second, I believe that I could have a fair bit of positive impact by consciously incorporating certain lifestyle changes...if I just knew what they were.

And that's how things got started. I spent a fair bit of time searching for opportunities and practical guidelines on how to align my behavior with my values, but didn't find what I was looking for. I found a lot of news-oriented sites, and several with editorial content, and quite a few that are interested in donations. But I did not find the expected collection of clearinghouses of info on how to support positive change through different behavior.

Maybe my imagination is getting the better of me? Perhaps the opportunities I had in mind really don't exist? Well, I'm convinced they do. And, by finding an internet information gap (the lack of clearinghouses), I indirectly found one of those opportunities I was seeking.

So that's where I came from. Less about me in the future, and more about the ideas. The "less about me, more about the ideas" angle is also behind the profile photo.

For the curious, the people in the images are: Mahatma Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel and the Dalai Lama, along with the anonymous tank stopper at Tiananmen Square. Most of the people are involved in human rights, which is not the only focus for this blog. I chose them because they worked (and in some cases continue to work) for systemic changes, and because the faces are recognizable (I hope). The Tiananmen man is particularly attractive because of his anonymity. Presumably he has a name, but I don't know it. He was able to make some impact without notoriety, at least prior to the famous photo. And that's the spirit I'm drawn to.

Maybe the photo will evolve. Up next, development economists and Bono? Suggestions welcome.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Bit of a rush

Hello, world.

A glimpse of my techie heritage in that first sentence... Despite (because of?) that, I'm a late adopter with respect to the blogging community. And today is the big step. Walking on stage with the footlights impairing the view. Anybody out there?

Ah, those opening night jitters. Best to get it done, break the ice and move on. Next post will bring the challenge of actual content. But not this one.