Personal newsPosted to: Linda Nowakowski (230) by Linda Nowakowski (230), 3 years ago
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Ethical Business Works.
Linda Nowakowski describes the upsurge of new sustainable businesses in the US, and argues Economics needs to expand its epistemological base if it can embrace the systemic and connected models that are emerging.
Traditional Economics tells (or at least tries to tell) us how things work and what we need to do to make good businesses: how much product to produce; how to price it; when to stay in business; when to get out of business; how many people to employ and how much to pay them; how to maximise profits by externalising costs. It confidently advises that businesses MUST grow. Economics has theories and models to provide us with all of this information needed in the world of markets. And what is fascinating to me is that it is based on a model where every transaction is done by individuals acting alone in self-interest; furthermore actions are based on the rational evaluation of each situation, weighing of the costs and benefits of all options in order to determine the resultant action. A simpler model has never been proposed. This model has resulted in a reductionist approach that would indicate that the whole is a simple sum of its parts. In this model, a person’s work life is deemed to be separate from their home life which is also separate from their spiritual life. However, there are different ways of determining how we lead our lives. In this article, I am exploring the upsurge of new companies, and the principles that help them flourish. I am more concerned here with the systems in which they operate rather than with the reductionist aspect, and with how economics may need to change in order to adapt to these new systems
Undoubtedly, human beings are complex creatures. Indeed, we can view people as complicated systems wrapped up in flesh and bounded by skin. As a complicated system, we have many simultaneous roles in our lives and routinely accomplish complicated tasks balancing obligations, relationships, and time among other things.We have a psychological, emotional, spiritual aspects to our being and these determine the actions that we take. Just like any other system however, any small change, anywhere in the system, can have disproportionate effects elsewhere. Just as an indiscriminate action caused by a short ‘bad’ mood can lead to possible divorce, in a different system, the sub-prime mortgages in US has created a world-wide crisis. To view the world and ourselves in it as systems gives us an alternate view of our existence and relationship to other systems. However, Economics, that cornerstone of business, is predicated upon a more limited view.
So that leaves us with a challenging question: if we are complex systems, is this model of homo economicus deep enough to provide us with viable Economic analysis and practice? Has Economics itself become split off from the reality it is supposed to describe?
Such a difference between the old and the new can be seen when we look at traditional as opposed to new emergent businesses. The traditional ( and still largely current) business climate is one in which businesses maximise profits by externalising costs, minimising expenses, growing increases in the bottom line or dying, and developing new products that are advertised in order to develop needs from wants. But today in business we can also see growing numbers of businesses that are not based on this old model. These businesses are not primarily motivated by a maximisation of returns. They are driven by very different motivations such as : their environmental and social impact; the people they work with are enabled to live full and growing lives;; organisations that the goods and services they provide satisfy real human needs. Such enterprises are not concerned with size particularly. They may simply stay small.
What are the characteristics of the people starting these new businesses? What kind of people are they attracting to participate with them? In this complex system of economic engagement, and using the language of chaos and complexity what is/are the strange attractor(s) that ensure that these businesses flourish?
I recently spent two months in the Denver, Colorado area studying a number of businesses. I talked to founders, co-workers, sub-contractors, suppliers and clientele. I did in-depth work with five businesses all less than five years old.  I also interviewed people from three other companies.  The most mature of those companies was a brewery that is now 18 years old and has approximately 350 employees. The youngest company is an organic landscape design firm that is less than a year old and still only one person. The businesses are large and small, service, manufacturing, retail, wholesale, and education.
Traditionally, I would talk to you about how much money they are making, but actually, this would not be in keeping with what these businesses are about. Using a systems lens, however, is how these companies “feel”, how they interact with the larger systems of which they are part, and how they evolve and grow ( which may not be measured in terms of the bottom line). Each of these eight businesses was established by a person (or persons) who was (were) passionate about the work of the business. The work done by these businesses is quite varied.
Braden Organic Landscape Design  is a permaculture gardening business that was set up to provide a real-life proof of concept of an alternative/supplemental economic system that allows communities to thrive by providing additional transactions that can include people and other living species that are not valued in the current economic system. This has the additional benefit of also healing nature. This was started by forming a number of community organic gardens where the people participating owned the means of production. It progressed this fall to teaching people how to start to process the produce for future use either for self consumption or as an exchange product. It is now working to see how to accomplish vertical integration of businesses in order to achieve economies of integration. Possibilities for economies of integration here might be: Utilizing hoop houses to pre-start seedlings and then also be able to sell excess, teaching classes in permaculture, providing garden/landscaping maintenance, processing garden products for home consumption or sale, opening a restaurant to use produce, etc.
Hooked on Colfax  is a coffee bar in a Denver neighborhood that is working to revitalize after years of community neglect and deterioration. The owners decided to open the business in order to be a part of helping to bring the neighborhood back to what they had previously known. They not only provide a wonderful, high quality, retail product but they also work full time promoting the community. The people who work in the shop all live in the neighborhood. The businesses in the neighborhood blatantly promote each other and cooperate to encourage community development. Neighborhood meetings are held in the shop and the décor and entertainment celebrate local artists.
The owner of Moondance Botanicals  told me: “I wanted to help women, specifically women…helping them really nurture themselves on a really deep level because I feel like if we are nurturing ourselves, we are going to be able to nurture our kids and our partners and the earth and those we interact with.” She explained that she came to this realization as she was leaving a corporate management position because she had chosen not to deal with the stress anymore. The company has built a community that is geographically local but growing. It has expanded over its four years of business to provide massage therapy and classes in holistic health care among other offerings. It was this same woman who told me directly: “I don’t consider them (the people working here) employees, but I have about eight different women that are involved here.” This business encourages the women involved in it to develop products and services and the owner nurtures them and assists them to go out on their own.
Two women with a passion for hand-crafts, knitting and crocheting and a deep belief that the creativity that that kind of work develops brings mental and spiritual health came together to develop Fancy Tiger Crafts . They teach classes in sewing, quilting, spinning, knitting, crocheting, felting and embroidery. The teachers that they sub-contract with and most of the clientele are from the local neighborhood. Every employee indicated that they could not imagine leaving this workplace.
“ Blue and Yellow Logic  is a social enterprise founded and powered by wo(men) of color.” This social enterprise took two women who had been working in sustainability and turned them into social entrepreneurs providing educational services to train people of color in black and Hispanic neighborhoods in what it means to be “green” with the goal of moving these undervalued people into productive green jobs. Their belief is that until these people understand and embrace the value of a green lifestyle, they cannot value those potential jobs. Recently all of the “employees” were turned into sub-contractors due to the instability in the market. In interviewing some of these employees I didn’t find disgruntled employees, but rather I found people working on their own time continuing to develop the networks and programs that will help this business succeed.
Picture two brothers and their father starting a new international business, and making it a huge success and you will be imagining the history of Novo Coffee . One of the brothers is an inveterate traveller. He had made some contacts with a family of coffee growers in Ethiopia and wanted to help provide overseas markets for them. His brother and father joined him in the challenge and they have in a few short years, moved from nothing to being named the 21st best cup of coffee in the US in 2008 , and the best coffee in Denver in 2009 . Their fair trade coffee now comes from other countries than Ethiopia and helps more people around the world while providing their customers an excellent quality product.
SAME (So All May Eat) Café  is not like any restaurant you have experienced. There is no menu and there are no prices. Portions are small but seconds (and thirds) are encouraged. (This procedure minimizes the amount of food waste.) The organisational structure is as a non-profit providing gourmet, organic, whole food for the homeless and unemployed. Meal payment can be in service or financial donation. Much of the labor is provided by volunteers. The philosophy: “Everyone, regardless of economic status, deserves the chance to eat healthy food while being treated with dignity.”
The last business is New Belgium Brewing Company  in Fort Collins, Colorado. The oldest of the companies, founded in 1991, is also the largest of the companies with 348 employees as of August 25, 2009. This company is operated as an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) where the employees are expected to accept the responsibilities of ownership not just the benefits. The company has two full time sustainability officers, effectively recycles their waste stream, is the first wind-powered brewery and works diligently with community organisations where they are distributed as well as where they manufacture. They are actively working toward responsible beer consumption and work/corporate cultures. They have a written a vision statement and a strategic plan that are worked day in and day out.
The most striking common aspect of these organisations is their unflagging sense of community and the common good. The organisations themselves form a community and each one sees development of external community as one of its major goals and responsibilities. There is a sense of responsibility for each other. There is real caring in these businesses at every level.
This has been an initial state for each of these companies; it has been a part of the culture from the beginning. But there is no accepted definition of social enterprise or social entrepreneur. All of these businesses would qualify. And many other businesses that did not start out with these same ideals have functionally become social enterprises over years of operation. For example the local garage  that simply started out as a garage but over the years found that the community it worked in depended on its quality and integrity. The company found that making the community a part of its life benefited the company, the employees and the community. This view of the work of the company changes how you do things. Externalities are now seen as affecting your community, your friends, your family and yourself. They become unacceptable behaviour. 9 Linda, I don’t understand last two sentences) When you see your customer as more than an isolated third party, then you begin to treat them as persons rather than customers.
We are seeing an emergence or more likely a re-emergence, of personal attachment to and responsibility for our business actions as we find ourselves back in a community. Here, the lives of lives of employees, customers and other stakeholders are integrated within a business and social community, as opposed to distant third party and hierarchical relationships that exist in our larger companies, based on the traditional economic model. The change in our methods changes how we know and how we know changes our methods. Whereas traditional economics works from an abstract theoretical and rational model, we can see that these companies are thriving on a different type of ‘knowledge’ which comes from practice itself. Changing our Economics models
Traditional Economics theory uses an epistemology based on reason, logic and critical thinking. These examples cited above show quite clearly, that there are other ways of knowing which include trusting the source of the knowledge, intuition or personal inspiration, and personal experience. Rational choice theory would hold that knowing something by any of these other means would not be rational and therefore cannot be involved in or affect economics decisions. However, clearly decisions made in every other sphere of human life, are not only based on rational or self-interested choices. These thriving and committed companies were making decisions made on many different factors. This moves us on from thinking about businesses as clockwork mechanisms to ones in which the business is defined by the people who make them up but who are equally influenced and developed by the work they perform. It is much more an interactive dance than a static model.
If we consider homo economicus, then as a complex system, then we need new models of action and choice. Rather than reducing the complex system to component parts and analyzing those parts to understand the whole, in a complex system, we might look at the whole as a dynamic (living) interaction of subunits where the subunits help define the whole while they themselves can only be defined in terms of the whole.
What I saw in these emergent community businesses were the seeds of a post-industrial economy that is holistic, vibrant, ethical, and sustainable – based on community and focused on local production that is primarily for local consumption. It heralds a potential economic development model that can provide real integral development in local communities on a global scale. Even if traditional economists do not change their models, my observations suggest that action of the ground will eventually lead to a reevaluation of the epistemology and methodology of research in economics – if it is to exist as a viable source of guidance in the future.
|||Braden Organic Landscaping Company, Hooked on Colfax, Moondance Botanicals, Lucky Tiger Crafts, and Blue and Yellow Logic.|
|||Novo Coffee, SAME Café, and New Belgian Brewing Company.|
|||Digital City. http://www.digitalcity.com/2008/ 10/01/the-21-best-cups-of-coffee -in-america/|
|||Westworld. http://www.westword.com/bestof/2 009/award/best-coffee-beans-1053 480/|
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It is done!
Edited: 3 years ago
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|Anthropology||The study of human transactions||All human transactions|
|Archaeology||A study of the artifacts of ancient human transactions|
|Behavioral science||The study of the transactions among organisms|
|Communication studies||The study of how to enable transactions|
|Economics||Transactions that enable physical needs/development|
|..Political Economy||Regulates players and transactions in Economics|
|Education||A study of the transfer of knowledge||Transactions that enable intellectual development|
|Linguistics||Enable language development|
|Public administration||Enable groups to work together|
|Political science||The study of who gets what, when, how|
|Psychology||The study of mental transactions in organisms|
|Sociology||The study of transactions which promote social welfare||Transactions that enable social development|
(This is a list of areas referred to as social science from Wikipedia)
I want to build this table and I need help.
The first help I need is a discussion of general definition.
Are all social sciences studies of different kinds of transactions? Are some of them more a study of transaction enabling?
Worksheet for this table
Discussion on this table
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By: Margaret J. Wheatley & Myron Kellner-Rogers
We human beings have a great need for one another. As described by the West African writer and teacher Malidoma Some, we have "an instinct of community." However, at the end of the 20th century this instinct to be together is materializing as growing fragmentation and separation. We experience increasing ethnic wars, militia groups, specialized interest clubs, and chat rooms. We are using the instinct of community to separate and protect us from one another, rather than creating a global culture of diverse yet interwoven communities. We search for those most like us in order to protect ourselves from the rest of society. Clearly, we cannot get to a future worth inhabiting through these separating paths. Our great task is to rethink our understandings of community so that we can move from the closed protectionism of current forms to an openness and embrace of the planetary community.
It is ironic that in the midst of this proliferation of specialty islands, we live surrounded by communities that know how to connect to others through their diversity, communities that succeed in creating sustainable relationships over long periods of time. These communities are the webs of relationships called ecosystems. Everywhere in nature, communities of diverse individuals live together in ways that support both the individual and the entire system. As they spin these systems into existence, new capabilities and talents emerge from the process of being together. These systems teach that the instinct of community is not peculiar to humans, but is found everywhere in life, from microbes to the most complex species. They also teach that the way in which individuals weave themselves into ecosystems is quite paradoxical. This paradox can be a great teacher to us humans.
Life takes form as individuals that immediately reach out to create systems of relationships. These individuals and systems arise from two seemingly conflicting forces: the absolute need for individual freedom, and the unequivocal need for relationships. In human society, we struggle with the tension between these two forces. But in nature, successful examples of this paradox abound and reveal surprising treasures of insight. It is possible to create resilient and adaptive communities that welcome our diversity as well as our membership.
Life's first imperative is that it must be free to create itself. One biological definition of life is that something is alive if it has the capacity to create itself. Life begins with this primal freedom to create, the capacity for self-determination. An individual creates itself with a boundary that distinguishes it from others. Every individual and every species is a different solution for how to live here. This freedom gives rise to the boundless diversity of the planet.
As an individual makes its way in the world, it exercises its freedom continuously. It is free to decide what to notice, what to invest with meaning. It is free to decide what its reaction will be, whether it will change or not. This freedom is so much a part of life that two Chilean biologists, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela advise that we can never direct a living system, we can only hope to get its attention. Life accepts only partners, not bosses, because self-determination is its very root of being.
Life's second great imperative propels individuals out from themselves to search for community. Life is systems-seeking; there is the need to be in relationship, to be connected to others. Biologist Lynn Margulis notes that independence is not a concept that explains the living world. It is only a political concept we've invented. Individuals cannot survive alone. They move out continuously to discover what relationships they require, what relationships are possible.
Evolution progresses from these new relationships, not from the harsh and lonely dynamics of survival of the fittest. Species that decide to ignore relationships, that act in greedy and rapacious ways, simply die off. If we look at the evolutionary record, it is cooperation that increases over time. This cooperation is spawned from a fundamental recognition that one cannot exist without the other, that it is only in relationship that one can be fully one's self. The instinct of community is everywhere in life.
As systems form, the paradox of individualism and connectedness becomes clearer. Individuals are figuring out how to be together in ways that support themselves. Yet these individuals remain astutely aware of their neighbors and local environmental conditions. They do not act from a blinding instinct for self-preservation. Nor do they act as passive recipients of someone else's demands. They are never forced to change by others or the environment. But as they choose to change, the "other" is a major influence on their individual decisions. The community is held in the awareness of the individual as that individual exercises its freedom to respond.
When an individual changes, its neighbors take notice and decide how they will respond. Over time, individuals become so intermeshed in this process of co-evolving that it becomes impossible to distinguish the boundary between self and other, or self and environment. There is a continual exchange of information and energy between all neighbors, and a continuous process of change and adaptation everywhere in the system. And another paradox, it is these individual changes that contribute to the overall health and stability of the entire system.
As a system forms from such co-evolutionary processes, the new system provides a level of stability and protection that was not available when individuals were isolated. And new capacities emerge in individuals and the system overall. Members develop new talents and new abilities as they work out relationships with others. Both individuals and systems grow in skill and complexity. Communities increase the capacity and complexity of life over time.
These complex networks of relationships offer very different possibilities for thinking about self and other. The very idea of boundaries changes profoundly. Rather than being a self-protective wall, boundaries become the place of meeting and exchange. We usually think of these edges as the means to define separateness, defining what's inside and what's outside. But in living systems, boundaries are something quite different. They are the place where new relationships take form, an important place of exchange and growth as an individual chooses to respond to another. As connections proliferate and the system weaves itself into existence, it becomes difficult to interpret boundaries as defenses, or even as markers of where one individual ends.
Human communities are no different from the rest of life. We form our communities from these same two needsÑthe need for self-determination and the need for one another. But in modern society, we have difficulty embracing the inherent paradox of these needs. We reach to satisfy one at the expense of the other. Very often the price of belonging to a community is to forfeit one's individual autonomy. Communities form around specific standards, doctrines, traditions. Instead of honoring, as is common among indigenous peoples, the individual as a unique contributor to the capability of the community, instead of recognizing the community's need for diverse gifts, individuals are required to conform, to obey, to serve "the greater good" of the community. Inclusion exacts a high price, that of our individual self-expression. With the loss of personal autonomy, diversity not only disappears, it also becomes a major management problem. The community spends more and more energy on new ways to exert control over individuals through endlessly proliferating policies, standards, and doctrines.
The price that communities pay for this conformity is exhausting and, for its members, it is literally deadly. Life requires the honoring of its two great needs, not one. In seeking to be a community member, we cannot truly abandon our need for self-expression. In the most restrictive communities, our need for freedom creeps in around the edges, or moves us out of the community altogether. We modify our look and clothing, we create cliques that support our particular manner of being, we form splinter groups, we leave the physical community, we disagree over doctrine and create warring schisms. These behaviors demonstrate the unstoppable need for self-creation, even while we crave the support of others.
Particularly in the West, and in response to this too-demanding price of belonging, we move toward isolationism in order to defend our individual freedom. We choose a life lived alone in order for it to be our life. We give up the meaningful life that can only be discovered in relationship with others for a meaningless life that at least we think is ours. An African proverb says "Alone, I have seen many marvelous things, none of which are true." What we can see from our pursuit of loneliness is the terrible price exacted for such independence. We end up in deep, vacant places, overwhelmed by loneliness and the emptiness of life.
It seems that whenever we bargain with life and seek to satisfy only one of its two great needs, the result is a quality of true lifelessness. We must live within the paradox; life does not allow us to choose sides. Our communities must support our individual freedom as a means to community health and resiliency. And individuals must acknowledge their neighbors and make choices based on the desire to be in relationship with them as a means to their own health and resiliency.
At first glance, the World Wide Web seems to be a source of new communities. But these groups do not embrace the paradox of community. The great potential of a world connected electronically is being used to create stronger boundaries that keep us isolated from one another. Through the Web, we can seek relationships with others who are exactly like us. We are responding to our instinct of community, but we form highly specialized groups in the image of ourselves, groups that reinforce our separateness from the rest of society. We are not asked to contribute our uniqueness, only our sameness. We are not asked to encounter, much less celebrate the fact that we need one another's gifts. We can turn-off our computers the moment we're confronted with the discomfort of diversity. Such specialized, self-reflecting networks lead to as much destructiveness of the individual as any dictatorial, doctrine-based organization. In neither type of group are we asked to explore our individualism while being in relationship with others who remain different. In neither type of group are we honoring the paradox of freedom and community.
In human communities, the conditions of freedom and connectedness are kept vibrant by focusing on what's going on in the heart of the community rather than in being fixated on the forms and structures of the community. What called us together? What did we believe was possible together that was not possible alone? What did we hope to bring forth by linking with others? These questions invite in both our individuality and our desire for relationships. If we stay with these questions and don't try to structure relationships through policies and doctrines, we can create communities that thrive in the paradox.
In our observation, clarity at the core of the community about its purpose changes the entire nature of relationships within that community. These communities do not ask people to forfeit their freedom as a condition of belonging. They avoid the magnetic pull of proscribing behaviors and beliefs, they avoid becoming doctrinaire and dictatorial, they stay focused on what they're trying to create together, and diversity flourishes within them. Belonging together is defined by a shared sense of purpose, not by shared beliefs about specific behaviors. The call of that purpose attracts individuals, but does not require them to shed their uniqueness. Staying centered on what the work is together, rather than on single identities, transforms the tension of belonging and individuality into energetic and resilient communities.
In our own work, we have seen these communities in schools, towns, and organizations. They create themselves around a shared intent and some basic principles about how to be together. They do not get into a prescriptive role with one another. They do not found their community on directives, but on desire. They know why they are together, and they have agreed on the conditions of how to be together. And, very importantly, these conditions are kept to a minimum of specificity. One of the most heartening examples we've encountered is a junior high school that operates as a robust community of students, faculty and staff by agreeing that all behaviors and decisions are based on three rules, and just three rules. These are: "Take care of yourself. Take care of each other. Take care of this place." These rules are sufficient to keep them connected and focused, and open enough to allow for diverse and individual responses to any situation. (The fact that this worked so well in a junior high environment should make us all sit up and take notice!) The principal reported that after the building had to be evacuated during a rain storm, he returned last into the building, and was greeted by eight hundred pairs of shoes in the lobby. The children had decided, in that particular circumstance, how to "take care of this place."
We have also seen businesses and large cities rally themselves around a renewed and clear sense of collective purpose. A chemical plant becomes clear that it wants to contribute to the safety of the globe by its safe manufacturing processes; a city determines that it wants to be a place where children can thrive. These are clarifying messages to hold at the core of the community. This clarity helps every individual to exercise his/her freedom to decide how best to contribute to this deeply shared purpose. Diversity and unique gifts become a contribution rather than an issue of compliance or deviance. Problems of diversity disappear as we focus on contribution to a shared purpose rather than the legislation of correct behavior.
Other problematic behaviors also disappear when a community knows its heart, its purpose for being together. Boundaries between self and other, who's outside and who's inside, get weaker and weaker. The deep interior clarity we share frees us to look for partners who can help us achieve our purpose. We reach out farther and welcome in more diverse voices because we learn that they are helpful contributors to what we are trying to birth. The manager of the chemical plant mentioned above said that he no longer knew where his plant boundaries were, and that it was unimportant to try and define them. Instead, the plant was in more and more relationships with people in the community, the government, suppliers, foreign competitors, churches, and school childrenÑall of whom contributed to the workers' desire to become one of the safest and highest quality plants in the world, a desire which they achieved.
Today, so many of our communities and the institutions that serve them are lost because they lack clarity about why they are together. Few schools know what the community wants of them; the same is true for healthcare, government, the military. We no longer agree on what we want these institutions to provide, because we no longer are members of communities that know why they are together. Most of us don't feel like we are members of a community, we just live or work next to each other. The great missing conversation is about why and how we might be together.
But as lost as we are, there is great hope. Even in our fractured communities, people all the time are in conversations about "Who are we?" and "What matters?" The problem is that these are private conversations occurring around kitchen tables, water coolers, and in restaurants. Seldom do these critical, community-forming questions move into our institutions or the broader community. Yet these are the essential questions from which all our communities give birth to the institutions that are meant to serve themÑschools, agencies, churches, governments.
When we don't answer these questions as a community, when we have no agreements about why we belong together, the institutions we create to serve us become battle grounds that serve no one. All energy goes into warring agendas, new regulations, stronger protective measures against those we dislike and fear. We look for ourselves in these institutions and can't find anyone we recognize. We grow more demanding and less satisfied. Our institutions dissipate into incoherence and impotence. They do serve us, but only as mirrors that reflect back to us the lack of cohering agreements at the heart of our community. Without these agreements about why we belong together, we can never develop institutions that make any sense at all. In the absence of these agreements, our instinct of community leads us to a community of "me" not a community of "we."
Most public meetings, although originating from a democratic ideal, serve only to increase our separation from one another. Agendas and processes try to honor our differences but end up increasing our distance. They are "public hearings" where nobody is listening and everyone is demanding air time. Communities aren't created from such processesÑthey are destroyed by the increasing fear and separation that these processes engender. Such public processes also generate the destructive power dynamics that emerge when people feel isolated and unheard.
We don't need more public hearings. We need much more public listening, in processes where we come together and commit to staying together long enough to discover those ideas and issues that are significant to each of us. We don't have to interpret an event or issue the same, but we do have to share a sense that it is significant. In our experience, as soon as people realize that others around them, no matter how different, share this sense of significance, they quickly move into new relationships with one another. They become able to work together, not because they have won anyone over to their view, but because they have connected in a deeper place, a place we identify as the organizing center or heart of the community.
All of us can reach entirely new levels of possibility together, possibilities that are not available from soap box rhetoric. To achieve this, we need to begin these conversations about purpose and shared significance and commit to staying in them. As we stay in the conversation, people start to work together rather than convince each other of who has more of the truth. We are capable of creating wonderful and vibrant communities when we discover what dreams of possibility we share. And always, those dreams become much greater than anything that was ever available when we were isolated from each other. The history of most community-organizing and great social change movements can be traced back to such conversations, conversations among friends and strangers who discovered a shared sense of what was important to them.
As we create communities from the cohering center of shared significance, from a mutual belief in why we belong together, we will discover what is already visible everywhere around us in living systems. People's great creativity and diversity, our desire for contribution and relationships, blossom when the heart of our community is clear and beckoning, and when we refrain from cluttering our paths with proscriptions and demands. The future of community is best taught to us by life.
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As some of you know, I am mentoring Debrah Akello in Ben Parkinson's Butterfly Project. Debrah's father is ill and unable to work and this has meant that there is not enough money for school fees for all of the children in the family. I would like to get the money for Debrah's fees but unfortunately, right now, it is not available in my pocket or bank account. Her school fees are about 200,000 Ugandan Shillings (about $100 US) and are due in the next 2 weeks. If you are willing and able to help me gather this sum, please let me know ASAP.
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I have been reading about self-organization, complexity theory and chaos theory for months on and off. It was too complex! My mind was in chaos. I could not self-organize!
The other day I read a single example that brought order to my mind. The man was explaining how we have been easily capable of understanding very simple linear systems (like a pendulum) but complex systems (nature, interaction and organization of systems) have eluded us. In many cases we have simplified these non-linear systems to linear to understand them and as a result have missed the way to look at complex systems to begin to understand that in their own way they too are simple.
He then pointed out that computers have allowed us to look at intermediate systems. The system that he looked at was taking a random set of numbers and setting up very simple rules for their interaction. Say that you have an unlimited set of random numbers. You then take the first 2 numbers and multiply them. You take the right hand digit of the product and move it to the front of the string. What happens? You automatically create order!
Here is a quote from another article that feels to me like it is looking at the interaction on <Ned>:
Such models will also gain explanatory power when scholars take into account how a continuous injection of energy is necessary to sustain a pattern of interactions in a network. Most simulations abstract away the problem of how to energize the making, breaking, and maintenance of ties. They specify a particular pattern of interactions without assigning to each interaction a probability of occurrence related to the effort that agents allocate to it. Self-organization does not occur absent a continual flow of energy into a system, yet studies of how managers energize organizations have been divorced from inquiries into how pattern and structure emerge and evolve. The effort level of organizations waxes and wanes as managers propel them into new domains, bring new challenges and goals to the attention of members, make and break connections internally and externally, alter reward systems, and manipulate symbols. Understanding the causes and consequences of injecting energy into an evolving network of agents is an important topic for further research.
I need to think on this.
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I am coming to hate writing.
I have written the first 3 chapters of my thesis 3 times and am now working on the fourth. (First Gulu, second looking at a purely theoretical paper on faith and economics, third on looking at faith based organizations-Asoke,Amish and BALLE)
This time I am only looking at BALLE and looking at the three levels of structure - the national network, the local network and the individual entrepreneurs - and how they individually and corporately embed their values into their business organization and culture. I believe I have completed most of the library work now - whew. It has been a joy beyond imagining being able to access current literature and books but I am tired. I have read some 30 plus books and scores of journal articles in the less than 60 days I have been back. The systems nature of their values and goals makes it difficult to focus in on how to look at and measure their efficacy.
One and a half chapters down and one and and a half to go. Then it is looking like I will be needing to spend some more time in the Denver area.
Back to work. .
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Alas and alack! Thai New Year is back again.
Life has been so busy for the last 8 weeks that the arrival of Songkran this year was a rude shock.
In the last couple of months I have
- Finished the school year
- Written and defended my research proposal (the preface and first three chapters of my thesis)
- Written a last minute paper to present at the conference
- Completed the long awaited 2nd International Conference of the Buddhist Economic Research Platform
- Either thrown away, shipped, packed for storage or packed to go home, all of my earthly possessions
It has been too busy - WAY too busy! And it came to an end way too abruptly. The conference ended dramatically on Saturday when we started the day with a huge storm and breakfast at the Asoke community on campus. The vans and buses got stuck in the mud - I had walked from my apartment in the rain and landed up doing most of it bare footed in the mud. Obviously, there was no tour of the community. When we got to the lecture hall, the power was out so we proceeded and gathered close (to be able to hear) to the windows (for light) and had presentations without powerpoints. Not much later, it was announced that the Prime Minister had declared a State of Emergency but we had little information beyond that. Having had the December conference postponed because of another State of Emergency, it was a nightmare for me. Foreigners, a State of Emergency, the Songkran holiday and lack of transportation...arggghhh...
We did manage to get people on planes, trains, buses and cars and get them safely headed home. Then Monday was the beginning of the 3 day official Songkran holiday. And there was a storm that put out the power. With no one working there was no internet at the University so no work for me! Plus there were no songtows (truck buses) on campus so no going anywhere. Then there was the extension of the official holiday thru April 19th.... oh my. I managed to flag down an errant songtow this morning to get out since I also had no more money on my phone and no more food in the house - literally!
It is not good to go from 250 mph to 0 instantly but that has been my experience this week. Forced "do nothing".
I will leave Ubon on Friday next week to spend a few days in Bangkok before I fly out of Bangkok on the 29th: my birthday breakfast in Bangkok and my birthday dinner in San Francisco.
IF the State of Emergency doesn't get worse. This is Thailand.
Edited: 4 years ago
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The 2009 Parliament of the World's Religions to be held December 3-9, 2009 in Melbourne, Australia is the largest interfaith event in the world. The Parliament will bring together more than 8000 people of faith, spirit and goodwill from around the world.
The major speakers at the event this year will include:
Fr. Laurence FreemanDirector of The World Community for Christian Meditation, UK
His Holiness the Dalai LamaTibetan Buddhist Leader, India
Chief Oren LyonsNative American Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation, USA
Professor Joy Murphy WandinSenior Aboriginal Woman of the Wurundjeri People, Australia
Dr. Chandra MuzaffarPolitical Scientist and Founder of JUST, Malaysia
Rev. Dr. Ishmael NokoGeneral Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation and Convenor of the Inter-Faith Action for Peace in Africa
Rev. Dr. Shanta D. PremawardhanaDirector of Inter-religious Dialogue and Cooperation, World Council of Churches, Switzerland
Rabbi David RosenChairman of International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, Israel
His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi ShankarSpiritual Leader of The Art of Living Foundation, India
Dr. Karan SinghMember of Parliament, Former Minister for Education and Culture, India
Dr. M. Din SyamsuddinPresident of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia
The Program Committee for the 2009 Parliament invites program proposals to present a lecture, dialogue, workshop, panel discussion, religious or spiritual observance, workshop, training session or artistic performance. Full details are in the Call for Programs; This form begins the proposal submission; a second screen will ask for your bio and those of any co-presenters. Feel free to email any questions to program@parliamentofreligion s.org.
I am proposing to propose a panel discussion where I could invite people who are actively working in the field of faith based economics to discuss together how faith impacts the functioning of these economics systems and also address the importance of individual and community based actions.
The deadline for submissions is Friday so I am begging for your immediate assistance and feedback.
Thanks in advance.
Format: Panel Discussion
How does your program relate to the 2009 Parliament theme: Make a World of Difference: Hearing each other, Healing the earth?
In today's broken world, economics is one of the most tangible ways in which we are all connected. In order to heal our economies, our environment and each other, we need to see more right behavior. Right behavior is driven by the values that we hold and these values that we hold are birthed by the faith communities we participate in. It is a crucial time to talk about how all of these things fit together in a seamless whole.
How does your program relate to the following goals of the Parliament:
- In seeking justice and sustainable living, we actively express our commitment to a better world.
- In recognizing the humanity of the other, we create the conditions for community.
- In deepening our spirituality, we experience personal transformation.
Personal transformation is at the center of all of these points. A reawakening of our spirituality and the understanding of the human condition of inter-relatedness to one another and to the nature around us is perhaps the key piece required in establishing justice and sustainable living, recreating meaningful community and rediscovering the values required for all of them. All spiritual traditions I have looked at recognize the complex relationship between spirituality, individual, community and nature. All of our problems seem to arise as a decrease in personal spirituality upsets that balance and results in allowing the rise of the individual as separate from the whole and no longer responsible for personal action, community or the stewardship of nature. This imbalance results in the breakdown of community, the unsustainable lifestyles and economic practices, and the destruction of people, relationships and the environment in order to satisfy the new goal of "self-interest". It leads us to one of the paradoxes of all time that our ultimate "self-interest" lies in the subsumption of self-interest.
Only through this personal redevelopment can we ensure the future of humanity and our world.
How do the content, format and design of your program help to achieve these goals?
The participants of this assembly, coming from a wide diversity of faith backgrounds could, by speaking with one voice, provide the impetus to encourage communities of faith to urgently and diligently discuss and find the commonalities of values and community that need to be brought to the table in addressing economic issues.
Who do you predict your primary audience will be? Why?
I believe that this discussion has the potential of being of immediate interest to all participants. The economy affects each of us every day of our lives in some way or another, whether it is in the value of our currency in the marketplace, the stability of our livelihoods, or even just the secondary impact of the failing economy and the affect it has on our taxes and hence our income and ability to survive. Likewise, the solution to the problem is not and can not be left to the economists. Each of us are needed, through the values we bring into community and the marketplace, to return an ailing system that is destroying individuals, communities, livelihoods and the environment back to health. The primacy of our values to the proper functioning of the institutions of trust, justice, sustainability, and compassion (to name only a few) must be re-discovered.
Primarily, I would hope this panel would speak to those who have the power to initiate the viral growth in personal spiritual transformation creating a new thread of personal strength and responsibility in the overall fabric of right action and right thought which can lead to community revitalization, justice, sustainable practices, and the development of revitalized and more realistic economies resulting in the reduction or elimination of poverty.
25 Feb 2009: Edited to include changes recommended by Christina and David.
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Not long ago I got an email from Sinsia Kao of Taiwan. She said she had found me through NED. She had heard about Asoke and wanted to make a connection to them and asked if I could help her.
She arrived on Friday and we have made the connections and she is busy learning about sustainable development and living.
Sinsia is an elementary school teacher in Taiwan. She is in her m id 30's, single and looking for a life more in tune with the earth and with people. She had come to Thailand before and came back here about 2 months ago to get her certification in perma-culture in Chiang Mai. While she was there she heard about the Asoke communities and did a web search. When she left Chiang Mai she went to Laos to travel around for almost a month.
We talked about what drew her to return to Thailand. She said that here she finds real community in the small villages. She just wants to live a simple life in real community. She wanted to come here to learn about making soil houses, gathering seed, making soap... She has found much more. She was so excited to learn about growing mushrooms and seeing the installation of a small bio-diesel generator that will provide cooking fuel for the Ratchathani Asoke Community from the food scraps and agricultural garbage.
She will stay at Ratchathani Asoke with a couple of my fellow grad students and then on Wednesday they will take her to Srisa Asoke where she will get to see more and learn about alternative medicines. I will join her on Friday evening.
One of the first westerners to study the Asoke communities was Marja-Leena Heikala-Horn from Finland. She wrote one of the first books I read on the communities. She is now the head of the International College at Mahidol Salaya. She will be at Srisa Asoke for the week-end renewing old acquaintances. She and I are going to use the time to make an email friendship real.
I just got a notice from another friend of the Parliament of Religions 2009 to be held in Melbourne the beginning of December. It looks like a place I need to go to start a bigger conversation on how people of all faiths might be able to band together to turn around economics. Looks like I will shorten my trip to the US. Imagine my disappointment with missing the worst of winter!!!!
Gayle....can I sleep on your sofa?