Thursday, September 28, 2006

Hockey stick

Several interesting things have been going on the last two weeks. Appropedia has been moved to a much faster server, due to tremendous efforts of Lonny and others in the community. This has given rise to a fun emotional lift, because of the visible improvement. I've also joined the San Francisco Professionals chapter of Engineers Without Borders, though I have not had a chance to attend a meeting. (EWB-SFP is my closest professional chapter, but about an hour away, making for a challenge on weeknights.) I ordered and got personal cards (yay!) which I'm very happy about; now I can easily connect with people and give them my personal email and the Resolution blog address instead of my business info. Finally came across two great international volunteer sites: World Volunteer Web and UN Volunteers.

One of the cool things about joining EWB-SFP is gaining access to their wiki and learning about their long term project in Ngelenge, Tanzania in collaboration with NGEDEA. From what I know so far, the effort began in 2004 with assessment, and this summer included a multi-week onsite project effort. Much of this is documented on the wiki, which unfortunately requires membership even for viewing.

(I don't yet understand why the wiki is hidden. Membership for editing is common, though Appropedia as chosen the open route. I hope to grok that soon, in part because Appropedia aspires to support any and all interested EWB chapters, and it would be great to see it through the eyes of EWB itself. The privacy of other project partners in the development effort is a factor, which may be addressable.)

I also found the Millenium Indicators chart, which gives an easy-to-read glance at where things stand in various regions in the world.

Somehow the convergence of these events has been very exciting for me. I can see the pieces (EWB, volunteer webs, Appropedia) growing on their own in noticeable ways. The Indicators are not all encouraging, and yet I look at it this way. We are at 2006, roughly 5 years into the MDG effort. 2015 is 9 years off. Awareness of the MDG is building, and the infrastructure, including the volunteer sites, EWB efforts, Appropedia, etc are growing. Progress and results are likely to be much higher in the coming 9 years than in the past 5 years. How steep will the hockey stick be? Well, that's up to us and how well we can coordinate.

All together now!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Whose job is it anyway?

Well, you know the answer to this one, of course. There's a quiz coming, but you're gonna ace it.

The answer is: it's your mom's job. You were right. That's the answer. Just like when we were kids and there was some problem, the clothes weren't clean or the fridge was empty. "Mom! Fix the problem!" Yep, it's Mom's job. For some folks it might be Dad's job. But between the two of them, Mom and Dad, they better get busy because the world has got some problems and it's high time that those problems were fixed.

Granted, some will be dissatisfied with this answer. For example, some folks have lost their moms and dads; my own mom and dad are both gone. Furthermore, I've got kids. Are they supposed to be pushing this on their mom and dad? Hmm. Okay, here's my position on that: Moms, yes; Dads, no. Clear? Still not satisfied?

Maybe we should assign the problem to politicians. They are, as we know, all powerful and omniscient. Or perhaps it's those other people in other countries who really own the solution. (This is a wee bit disturbing that the industrialized West would consider such a thing.) Better yet, it's the UN's assignment, since they control everything. If only they weren't corrupt. Or it's the big businesses, that's who it is! The Exxons and the Daimlers and the ADMs of the world! Or it's the philanthropists, Bill and Warren, they're in charge and will sort it out.

Sigh. None of these answers are very satisfactory. And we've exhausted all the answers, right?

Well, no, we didn't exhaust the list. And one answer was close: Bill and Warren. That answer is close because those individuals are acting on their own behalf. They are not beholden to anyone else, such as shareholders or electorate or member nations. They can take certain matters into their own hands, and make a difference. Because they believe it is worth some sacrifice on their parts. Sure, they can maybe squeak by on the crumbs that are left over. But which of us are so squeezed that we could not sacrifice some tiny fraction of our time or financial wherewithal to make a difference? As a point of reference, a single percent (1%) of US GDP in 2005 alone would have been over $120B. The actual Official Development Assistance for the US in 2005 was 0.22%, or about $27.5B. That's rather less than Warren Buffett's bulk gift, though that will be spent over time. (It's also bit less than 1/3 of the 0.7% of GNP that each industrialized nation has agreed, more than once, to deliver.)

Now, of course, we can all say, with some fair justification, "hey, we gave at the office!" That is, our taxes, withheld from our take-home pay, is supposed to cover these things! Well, yes, true enough. And it highlights the problems with relying on the government to solve these problems when the voters want other things. Separately, we could also argue that we don't feel like we're getting 1/3 of the problem solved with the 1/3 of 0.7% that we're spending. And that highlights the problem that simply throwing money at the problem doesn't necessarily work. Of course, we're not just "throwing money," are we?

So here is the quiz: Whose job is it?
Here is the answer: Ours.

Alright, here's your sermon homework:
Please grade your own quizzes. Submit quizzes and homework to the comment section of this blog by next Monday.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Plumbing? Or People? Yes.

I had another great meeting with Della this week. Her efforts at the Institute of Infinite Peace are making good progress, and it was great to learn more about where it's headed and what she and the others involved want to accomplish. I won't steal their thunder by mentioning their plans here, except to say that I believe their first event will be in November.

As I spoke to Della about my interest bridging realized something about the Spirituals and the Engineers (my labels for two important "bridge-able" groups), and it's this: Spirituals focus on helping people change; Engineers think in terms of the physical infrastructure. Bam! Right in the middle of our conversation it struck me (an Engineer of long standing) that fixing the "stuff" won't solve the problems if people don't change their behaviors. It seemed so obvious. I gamely maintained the conversation for several minutes while voices in the back of my head said "It doesn't matter how much infrastructure you build, if everyone behaves the same! Am I'm working on the wrong problem?" "Yes! No! Wait!" I ignored the back of my head for a while.

My external conversation with Della passed through a handful of topics, and came around to the Human Forum coming in December in Puerto Rico. The Forum is managed by the Alliance for a New Humanity, which I think of as mostly Spirituals. I'm planning on attending, in part to "network" with a bunch of positive-minded people, and to practice building bridges (in this case, the human relationship kind, not the physical infrastructure kind). It was a good point in the conversation to check back in with the discussion going on in the back of my head. Good progress had been made.

It's true that changing infrastructure won't solve problems like intolerance, prejudice and tendency for industrialized nations to use unfair trade policies that impact poor nations. It's also true that changing how most people think about what's possible will have a big impact on what is possible. But that's not the whole story either. Here are several additional thoughts.

  • Changing infrastructure doesn't, in itself, change world dynamics, but it can improve the quality of life for the people that get to use the infrastructure.
  • Working on infrastructure construction projects is a great way for one group of people to demonstrate to a second group that they are valued.
  • Traveling to project sites in developing countries is a good way for people in the industrialized world to get familiar with lifestyles and challenges (including WTO policies) in other regions. Travelers can share their experiences after returning home to broaden the impact.
  • People who are shifting their attitudes about the future may desire to take action. Participating in projects is one way that they can act.
  • Improving quality of life and reducing inequity ultimately does involve improving infrastructure.
  • Establishing seeds of sustainable infrastructure in developing areas can help a sustainable approach take root. Sustainability leverages technology, often developed in wealthy countries, that allows the developing world to skip past the long path of development through destructive approaches. Taking a short cut to sustainability helps everyone.

The upshot: How people think needs to change in order to shift the dynamics toward a global Win-Win. Efforts to improve infrastructure are useful and ultimately necessary activities.

People matter. Infrastructure matter. Both are true. Spirituals are right. And Engineers are right.

How cool is that?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Appropedia / Omidyar Vortex!

I have just escaped (perhaps only temporarily) from a hybrid wiki / social networking vortex! Many exciting things are going on. Working closely with Chris Watkins, and just met Lonny, both of whom are Wiki-types extraordinaire, working diligently on Appropedia! (Side note: I had begun to refer to Chris and Lonny as "wikians", then learned that "Wikians" is specific to Wikia. That's where I started WinWinWiki, but it's not where Appropedia lives, so the label is inappropriate. But I digress...)

Related news is that, thanks to Chris' suggestion and Lonny's openmindedness, Appropedia has opted to expand its scope to include (most? maybe all?) of the content that I was looking for with WinWinWiki! Yay! So I'll be focusing on that fine effort in two ways. First is to actually make wiki changes myself (I've been quite remiss in that department, kinda like I've been a blog-slacker lately). Second is to snoop around for contributors to Appropedia. The first angle will be useful to create some good framework for new content at Appropedia. The second effort will likely result in more content than I can provide (though I hope contribute there as well).

It was part of my poking around that I came across the Millenium Development Goals Wiki and Mark Grimes. The MDG Wiki is a great concept, exactly what I want to do! Unfortunately, MDG Wiki seems to have stalled a little bit (oh no!), but fortunately we can now replicate the idea at Appropedia (yay!). In addition, finding Mark led me to, an excellent networking site for entrepreneurial world changers. I joined up promptly and Chris was right behind me. There is a wealth of great people, great ideas and discussions going on there, and I spent a bit of time in that direction. I hope to pull some folks there into the wiki vortex :-)

Another area, which hasn't been quite such a diversion, has been learning about Engineers Without Borders (US site, International site). These folks are doing exactly the kind of projects that Appropedia wants to document for the benefit of other efforts. I signed up with the San Francisco Professionals chapter. Turns out that they have a wiki also :-). I need to learn more, but perhaps there is an opportunity to join forces there as well! And looking into EWB helped me find Water for People, another great organization!

In addition to all this great stuff, my good friend Laura pointed me to Global Volunteers, another organization that may be able to leverage/contribute to wiki such as Appropedia. Or maybe it is Global's affiliate groups, like Amizade, which is Portugese for "friendship."

So, I've been enjoying the Vortex. This one, at least, is a good place.

Oh, and couple of minor notes: I changed this blog template to make for a wider content column. If that is painful for many of you, leave a comment (come on, it's easy!) and I'll make it narrower again. And I am in the process of migrating my preferred email address to gmail. See my profile for the address. The Yahoo address will continue to work, though.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Time for a Bridge

Wow! Another busy week, and again in a very positive way. First (yeah?), there's the whole real life thing: my much-better half was on a much-needed retreat, so little Drew (yeah, that's him in the picture at right from Father's Day) and I were minding the store. And then there's the day job that expects a certain level of attention.

But passion space is where the real action has been. In several ways, I've been bumping up against this particular aspect of reality: there are at least two big communities of people interested in making World Peace a reality. The two communities that have high profiles in my experience are: the spiritual/awareness/consciousness community, and the project/engineering/technology community. Now, when I say it like that it sounds like there is zero overlap, but that's overstating the case. Still, the two communities seem mostly separate. And that's the problem/opportunity. Because I'm convinced that both crowds are vital to a truly successful peace movement. And that's going to require building a bridge.

I've run into this a several ways. Here's the thing: as my profile suggests, my background (and comfort zone) is in the engineering/project space. This context can help explain my wiki bias. I believe that because that's typically the kind of folks (techie/engineering/project) I see in wiki space. And in the related "Engineers without Borders" space. But when I do blog searches for "world peace" or "better world", I am more likely to encounter social networks like Zaadz and Alliance for a New Humanity. These groups are more communicative, better at linking and connecting with a broad audience, and seem to resonate with a broad community.

Now, the techie/engineering/project group is full of great problem solvers, but they don't tend to be quite as good at inspiration and communication. The spiritual community is more inspirational and great at visioning. They may tackle practical problems, but often this sort of topic is not a core subject of discussions. Consequently, the two groups don't interact that much, and it's a shame.

Just this week, I've had some great connections both ways. I've been connecting with Chris Watkins, a serious Wikian and world-changer. In terms of language style and usage, I put Chris in the engineering/project manager/techie group, and if you follow his link you'll get a sense for what I mean by that style and usage. At the same time, I've also connected with Celine (many thanks to Morgan for that). Celine seems to me to be firmly in the mid-space between the two groups. as you can tell from her highly cross-cultural web site, Peace in Practice.

To cap it off, my wife returned from her retreat with a copy of a very interesting magazine: Ode. This seems like a great example of a bridge. That's a risky place to be from a marketing perspective, since members of each group might be more inclined to read publications that are more in their own space. Ode is going to connect with the intersection (okay, the Math minor is coming out now) of these groups, and that intersection is smaller than either group. I'm likely to sign up and work on learning the language of bridging. Expect a post on that. Please help out with a comment if you're ahead of me on the bridging thing!

This post has been a bit rushed, and I don't feel I've captured the tremendous value I've been getting from my connections with Chris and Celine. But stick with us and it will come through. There are several others (like Della and Paul) who are helping this whole thing come together. One pretty interesting thing is how Australia is disproportionately represented, with Morgan, Celine and Chris all hailing from there (for the moment, anyway...Chris is getting itchy feet).

Check in. Join the fun. I'll do my best to keep posting in real time, but there's a lot of activity in email space as well. Drop a note to me at curt_beckmann at yahoo dot com.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Another wiki on the right track!

In scouring the web, I finally discovered Engineers Without Borders recently. Not surprisingly, this is a very project "build it" sort of organization, with national and regional organizations (including, of course, EWB-USA). Again, why does it take so long to find these? Anyway, that discovery was very cool... But while reviewing EWB, I came across Appropedia, which is a wiki for many kinds of solutions (water purification, solar energy, etc) that captures a major piece of what I've been thinking about for WinWinWiki. Translation: now I've got to figure out (again) what gaps exist and how to work toward filling them. What if ANHwiki could be bridged with Appropedia? Is there a "gluewiki" that's needed? Hmmm.

What seems pretty clear is that there is a lot going on! I feel there is a critical mass of people and resources and spiritual readiness coming together. To do what? Well, to create a movement toward worldwide support and sustainability. Once the tipping point is reached, it won't take a willing person (like me) such a lot of work just to connect up with the movement! I can see how various organizations reach out to specific groups (students, other organizations), but the broader population is still rather unaware. That will change soon.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Why does it take so long?

I've been digging around the web fairly diligently for several months, and only just found World Changing. Great stuff! But why does it take so long to tumble to these resources?

If you can't tell that this is going to work its way back to WinWinWiki, then you don't know me very well!

My thinking is that, World Changing, while very broad, is angled a bit more toward sustainability than toward my recent diggings, which are more angled toward World Peace, but there is a bunch of overlap in several areas. That, indeed, is how I finally fell across it, in doing a search for clean water supplies for third world countries.

One of the cool things about World Changing (and other resources, of course) is the ability to get an RSS feed, in order to remain plugged in. Well, that works for the web-engaged among us. Probably includes you, or you'd never be reading my blog.

Anyway, cool site. Tons of content there (or referenced there) which would be appropriate for WinWinWiki (first tag!). The second tag I want to make to WinWinWiki is that a broad well-structured wiki (as WinWinWiki aspires to be) would provide a good linkage between the World Peace and World Changing worlds.

Also: I got some great feedback from Paul about WWW's Main Page. He pointed out how hard it is to find the other pages. I'll make a twiddle there. Thanks, Paul!