Archives For Change

Upward spiral

Jerry —  November 13, 2011 — Leave a comment

About a year ago, I watched two videos within days of each other. Their cumulative effect gave me an important aha! moment.

The first was recommended by Arthur Brock during a really interesting conversation. He warned me that the video quality was poor, and boy, is it ever: picture bad VHS with weak sound, and the content is a bearded fellow who is waxing philosophically about nature. I almost tuned out, till I tuned in. Then I started hearing how Paul Krafel went around the Northern California hills near his home with a trowel and some awesome groundrules, which helped him heal the landscapes with simple, steady effort. Here’s that video.

The second video I happened across a few days later. It was a ten-minute segment of an hour-long documentary about the Loess Plateau, a part of inland China the size of Belgium and composed primarily of a fertile but very erosive soil called Loess.

The documentarian, John Liu, visited this area over a ten-year period. At the start, the area is dusty and brown; its residents are poor and leaving. Then, at a scale completely different from Paul Krafel, the local government uses principles similar to Krafel’s to heal the countryside. Here’s the whole documentary, so you can see for yourself how that story ends.

Seeing the second film got me to understand the first. Both together got me thinking two big things:

  1. What are the groundrules they were using, and can they be generalized?
  2. What would it be like to work in the world that way all the time? To create upward spirals wherever you go?
That’s the inspiration for this notion of Upward Spiral, which we’ll be revisiting here often.
Then I started noticing more initiatives like those that had inspired me.

John Holt‘s book Instead of Education is a 50:50 proposition. Half of it is hopelessly outdated. The Internet has made possible (and insanely cheap and easy) so many of the things that Holt describes as flimsy shoots of possibility in 1976. Educational materials are now abundant; getting together to do stuff, virtually or in person, just keeps getting easier. I wish Holt had lived to see what we have at hand now.

The other half of Holt’s book has great insights, starting with the difference between what he calls S-chools and s-chools, as well as T-eachers and t-eachers. The capitalized versions are compulsory. They are coercive. They tell, they require, they compel. And in doing so, they begin to stamp out the freedom and curiosity that are natural in kids.

The point I had missed that Holt makes elegantly is that small-S schools can be highly structured and demanding. You just have to opt into them of your own free will. Think of a martial-arts dojo. The work is likely to be grueling, but you’re there because you want mastery in that art. Lower-case schools and teachers are essential parts of the educational landscape.

It’s coercion that breaks the system’s natural beneficial powers.

Seeing Abundantly: Education

Jerry —  October 15, 2011 — 2 Comments

We tend to assume the school system as it is and proceed to try to fix it.

I went through it, half public, half private. I survived, and I’m pretty curious. Surely this is the only way to organize education.

But it isn’t. Once you start to look at the system we’ve built and the assumptions it contains, it’s a bit of a mind-blower how off it might be. The particular angle I take on it in this video is about scarcity and abundance.

I’m not surprised kids cause trouble in school and grades aren’t rising. The system is broken.

For a video from a teacher who is working wonders inside the system, watch this.

For some history on how we got this school system, I recommend John Taylor Gatto‘s The Underground History of American Education.

And for a lot more context and background, browse my Brain around this topic:

Continue Reading…

Lessons from Wikipedia

Jerry —  July 3, 2011 — 6 Comments

Remember the monolith at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey? Wikipedia is a bit like that. Seemingly overnight, this gleaming monolithic being has sprouted in our midst.

It’s the seventh most viewed site? It has over 3.6 million pages in English? All done without venture capital? Crazy!

Wikipedia tells us a few things about where we are as a society. Here’s my take; I’d love to hear yours.

Many thanks to Jay Cross for the video work!

The genesis of my Relationship Economy thesis was a realization, back around 1994 when I was writing Esther Dyson’s monthly tech newsletter Release 1.0, that the word “consumer” made me really uncomfortable.

I followed that energy, and it proved invaluable. Ideas kept unfolding from that initial premise. I began to notice the consumerization of so many spheres of human activity, from how we educate our children to how we elect our governments and how we pray to our Gods. I paid attention to the language of marketing to consumers, to the metaphors and business models that had spun out as a result.

Like the REXcast I posted just before, this is a look at what started me down my current path.

Again, even more gratitude to Jean Russell for the camera work.

The Creator’s Dilemma

Jerry —  December 15, 2010 — 6 Comments

Creative people (and I mean all sorts of creative people, from sculptors and choreographers to inventors and mathematicians) are stuck in a dilemma: they would like to share their creations openly, and they need to make a living.

No wonder many of them freak out at peer-to-peer file sharing systems and other technologies and movements that are about open sharing. They see these movements as existential threats.

Imagine an infrastructure that makes it easier for them to make a living, so they might contemplate releasing their works more openly. This post builds toward that goal.

The links I mention in the video:

What WikiLeaks wrought

Jerry —  December 12, 2010 — 1 Comment

The WikiLeaks case shines a bright light on all sorts of relationships, such as those between journalism and activism, secrecy and transparency, government and the media, national security and freedom of speech (not again!), and watchdogs and terrorists. The Times, they are a-changin’.

Some of the questions that leap out:

You can find all these articles in context in my online Brain (takes a moment for app to load):
Continue Reading…

Venessa Miemis and Gabriel Shalom recently interviewed a bunch of people concerned with what money is and where it might be going (including me). The result is a quick, useful, vibrant tour of how society sees wealth, value and the mechanisms for making those concepts useful in the world — today and on the horizon.

The Future of Money from KS12 on Vimeo.

Scales of change

Jerry —  April 3, 2010 — Leave a comment

You can get a degree in futurism, social ecology, psychology and strategic planning, i want changeall of which are about change at different levels, but I don’t think anyone offers a degree in change itself.

I’ve long been fascinated by change, at all scales. Here are some examples, ranging from the intimate to the galactic:

  • What causes an individual to shift a strongly held belief? What causes someone, sometime, to soften up enough to consider the possibility of trying to imagine giving up that belief? What role do social dynamics play in individual change?
  • How can two people resolve a conflict? What forms of dispute resolution work best? How does that inform two companies, or two countries in conflict?
  • What are the dynamics of small groups?
  • How do you create successful teams inside organizations? How do you change their mission or direction? What are the most productive leadership dynamics?
  • Do large organizations inevitably resist change? Which have shifted successfully?
  • Why are we often blind to change? Why are leaders so often unethical?
  • How does technology change society? How does society change technology? We went from the parlor piano to three TV stations to a vast (exciting) wasteland. What makes some technologies propagate lightning-fast (mobiles, IM, email, Facebook) and others chug along? Are we finding new ways to get together to change things that matter? Is it collective intelligence?
  • More importantly, how does technology change social structures and governance systems? From the printing press to the fax and the Internet, right to recent “Twitter Revolutions,” whom do we hear from? (and not?) Whom can we trust?
  • Should one culture change another? Can it? What kinds of “development” projects work? Which don’t?
  • Does the truth help cultures get over trauma? Can we apply those models at other scales?
  • Why are all cultures so afraid of anarchy? Isn’t there a big shift toward self-governance?
  • Is there a global consciousness shift afoot? Wouldn’t you want to be part of it?

Of course, I have my own theories about all of these, which I’ll dive into in subsequent posts. one-way signsAnd if we were doing the full “Powers of Ten” zoom here, we would go inside the individual to the physical system, the organ, the cell, then back out to the Big Bang (or not)…. But let’s hold off on that.

One tangent that does interest me a lot is more metaphysical: what are the emotional, spiritual, energetic (and often unmeasurable) forces at work during change?

+20 is about identifying change, being prepared for change, helping others change, leading change (if that’s indeed not impossible). We’d love to hear about your own models of change, as well as your opinions about these various scales of change.