engagement

Citizen Science

Pattern ID: 
861
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
37
Stewart Dutfield
Marist College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The role of science in the modern world will become increasingly critical in the years ahead, as health care, energy, resources and the global environment become ever more problematic. Science can appear to serve powerful institutions, such as stock markets and the weapons industry, more that it serves the people most affected by these problems. Meanwhile, the resources of society's professional scientists are overtaxed by the amount of data to be collected and the need to distribute expertise over a wide area. Science needs greater participation from people at large, and people need a greater voice in science.

Context: 

Science is a human activity. Whether studying the physical world or society itself, it has tangible effects on society. Scientific knowledge is provisional, subject to revision. The scientific profession is inseparable from society as a whole; science requires funding and regulation, contributes expertise to official inquiries and investigations, and creates technological and social changes that affect us all. Citizen groups and individuals experience the benefits, hazards and missed opportunities of scientific development in the real world, not in the laboratory.

Discussion: 

Citizen Science has been with us for a long time. Since 1900, the Audubon Society has organized volunteers throughout the US to count birds at Christmastime and used their data to build a huge database of early winter bird populations ("History & Objectives," 2004). This is a clear-cut instance of Citizen Science as "a partnership between the public and professional scientists" (Citizen Science, 2003, para. 3); people benefit from learning about birds, the Society benefits from information it would otherwise lack the resources to obtain, and birds benefit from researchers' knowledge of which species require special attention ("Citizen Science," 2005).

Our relationship with science is not always so simple. Mistrust exists in public perceptions of science as offering scientific solutions to complex social problems, furthering various forms of social and environmental depredation, and inappropriately claiming certainty in judgments about risks associated with scientific and technological developments (Irwin, 1995). The drug industry's investment in treatments seeking diseases of the rich (Blech, 2006), for example, undermines the view of scientific development as "open-minded, skeptical and independent of institutional constraints" (Irwin, 1995, p. 109). Agents of public policy, too, can contribute to popular mistrust, though supposedly representing the public interest. For example, the 1977 Windscale Inquiry was less democratic decision-making than keeping up appearances of public participation in a decision that had already been made (Irwin, 1995).

At the same time, science has cause to be wary of the public; in the US, for example, the proportion of people overtly accepting the idea of evolution has dropped from 45% to 40% since 1985 (Miller, Scott & Okamoto, 2006). Popular media have a stake in public mistrust of science because they stand to profit from science-related scare stories (Cassidy, 2006).

What scientists learn under controlled conditions differs in important ways from what people experience in real life. For example, British government regulations on the use of the herbicide 2,4,5-T assumed circumstances unrecognizable as those under which farm workers actually used the substance (Irwin, 1995; Corburn, 2005). Local knowledge — public experience and intuition — is a different kind of knowledge, differently gained, from the professional knowledge of scientific research and regulation (Corburn, 2005).

Overcoming the rift between professional and local knowledge lies in "a constructive renegotiation between science and the needs of citizens" (Irwin, 1995, p. 110). In what Corburn (2005) calls Street Science, professional science and the people most affected by it combine to co-produce knowledge that benefits both. In the field of environmental health, this co-production reveals hazards and provides information that professionals may miss, reduces mistrust of science, empowers community members, and creates positive engagement with problems instead of entrenched and polarized positions (2005, p. 218).

Local knowledge can both amplify and stimulate professional knowledge. The Watchperson project in the Greenpoint/Williamsburg section of Brooklyn NY combined government datasets and conducted surveys to map sources of air pollution at greater detail than regulators' models (Corburn, 2005). Recent developments in wireless mobile sensors create possibilities for mapping pollutant levels at much finer detail than previously possible; one example using human volunteers is AIR (2006).

The scientific profession can further the co-production of knowledge by reaching out to individuals, communities and citizen groups. BirdSource (www.birdsource.org) uses an Internet-based tool to help more than 50,000 birdwatchers develop a deeper understanding of science and the environment while they accumulate data that helps to identify priorities for conservation. This extends the reach of science by providing knowledge that scientists would lack the resources to gather by themselves (Fitzpatrick & Gill, 2002).

Science Shops and Cooperative Extensions offer ground-breaking resources for the co-production of knowledge. Science Shops (such as www.scienceshop.org) provide university scientific expertise to the public, at the instigation either of students or citizen groups. The University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension (www.uri.edu/cce) Watershed Watch program works with government, tribal organizations and citizen groups to train volunteer water-quality monitors. Cornell Cooperative Extension (www.cce.cornell.edu) provides scientific expertise and conducts scientific research as part of a mission to extend the democratic process by helping people participate in their communities (Peters, O'Connell, Alter & Jack, 2006).

Citizen groups can further their own aims while extending the reach of science. For example, the Ocean Conservancy (www.oceanconservancy.org) conducts an international cleanup of marine debris on the third Saturday in September each year. While helping to clean the coastline, volunteers collect data that enables the Ocean Conservancy to learn about the causes of marine debris and to use this information in public education and advocacy.

Because mainstream scientific research does not pre-determine its conclusions, its use in advocacy is a double-edged sword. Activists may better spend their time in political lobbying than in scientific research whose results may not support their agenda. Just as the public mistrusts research funded by tobacco companies, for example, research by activist groups may appear suspect to policymakers and professional scientists. Despite this, many avenues are open for activists to initiate research that furthers their aims. Two examples follow.

Aiming to show a connection between pollution from incinerators, toxic waste storage and other industrial sources in the neighborhood and asthma in Greenpoint/Williamsburg, the El Puente group (www.elpuente.us) trained community members as community health workers and in conducting surveys. Their twofold process, of gathering information on asthma in surveys and then discussing the results in focus groups, uncovered knowledge about: (a) a link between women's occupations and asthma not directly related to environmental pollution, (b) differing levels of asthma amongst Hispanic groups, and (c) underreported asthma rates because people avoided treatment at the local hospital (Corburn, 2005).

The Centre for Science and Environment (www.cseindia.org) uses the results of its own scientific research to publicize problems and solutions. A recent achievement has been the research-based development of rainwater harvesting methods, combined with community outreach and advocacy to policymakers, offering a "politics of hope" to those whose water supplies are declining in quantity and quality (www.rainwaterharvesting.org).

Solution: 

Use and develop means of collaboration between science and communities. People benefit by bringing both scientific knowledge and local knowledge to bear on the problems that they experience. Citizen groups, policymakers and professional scientists all gain from proven ways to do this.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The role of science will become more critical in the years ahead, as health care, energy, resources, and the global environment become more problematic. Science needs greater participation from people, and people need a greater voice in science. Citizens, policymakers, and professional scientists all benefit by integrating scientific knowledge and local knowledge to bear on the problems that they experience.

Pattern status: 
Released

Participatory Design

Pattern ID: 
411
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
36
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

A large number of artifacts that people use every day are ill designed and they do not appropriately address the needs of the people for whom they are designed and produced. The problems range from the inconvenient (in setting an alarm on an unfamiliar alarm clock, for example) to the dangerous (an inadequately marked pedestrian crosswalk or scalding water from the tap when cold was expected). And in the design of groupware, software systems that facilitate group collaboration, developers can create systems that embed users in a system like cogs in a machine where a more human-centered system that was more humane — and more effective — could be developed.

Context: 

This pattern is intended to be used in any situation in which a service, policy, or other artifact is being designed. Those who will use the artifact and those who will be affected by it should be included in the design process.

Discussion: 

"The very fact of exclusion from participation is a subtle form of suppression. It gives individuals no opportunity to reflect and decide upon what's good for them. Others who are supposed to be wiser and who in any case have more power decide the question for them and also decide the methods and means by which subjects may arrive at the enjoyment of what is good for them. This form of coercion and suppression is more subtle and more effective than are overt intimidation and restraint. When it is habitual and embodied in social institutions, it seems the normal and natural state of affairs." — John Dewey (1939)

This "subtle form of suppression" that Dewey identified in the quotation above shows up in sociotechnological systems and in various arenas including the workplace. Without genuine participation in the design process, class, managerial, or other privileges become designed in. That is, sociotechnological systems often carry forward the perquisites and propensities of the designers, intentionally or unwittingly. Cases abound in both cases. Robert Moses, New York City's "construction coordinator," ensured that the bridges over the highways leading to the beaches from New York City were low enough to prevent buses from traveling under them (Caro 1975). This ensured that African Americans and other minorities who often had to rely on public transportation would, in large measure, be confined to the city while the more financially well-to-do could periodically escape to the seaside. There was no need to pass laws when a permanent physical structure could silently and invisibly enforce the color bar Moses preferred.

Frustrated by what they saw as unresponsiveness of software and the impending institutionalization of management prerogatives into software systems, Scandinavian researchers in the late 1970s conceived a new paradigm for software development called participatory design in which end-users worked as co-designers of the systems that they would ultimately use. They believed that adopting a participatory design approach would result in systems that better served users, initially workers in industrial settings. According to PD researchers Finn Kensing and Jeanette Blomberg (1998), "At the center of the critique was the neglect of workers’ interests – those most affected by the introduction of new technology. PD researchers argued that computers were becoming yet another tool of management to exercise control over the workforce and that these new technologies were not being introduced to improve working conditions (see e.g. Sandberg, 1979; Kyng and Mathiassen, 1982). The Scandinavian researchers and workers also worked on the legislative front to establish "codetermination" laws in Scandinavia that ensured that workers had the right to be involved with technological decisions in the workplace (Sandberg et al 1992). They promoted user empowerment through education and "researchers developed courses, gave lectures, and supervised project work where technology and organizational issues were explored (see e.g. Kyng and Mathiassen, 1982)" (Kensing & Blomberg 1988).

Participatory design is an integration of three interdisciplinary concerns that span research and practice: "the politics of design; the nature of participation; and method, tools and techniques for participation" (Kensing & Blomberg 1998). In their paper, "Participatory Design: Issues and Concerns," Finn Kensing and Jeanette Blomberg discuss two primary aspects to this work.

"Increasingly, ethnographically-inspired fieldwork techniques are being integrated with more traditional PD techniques (Blomberg et al., 1996; Bødker, 1996; Beyer and Holtzblatt, 1997, Kensing et al., forthcoming). The primary techniques of ethnography include open ended (contextual) interviews and (participant) observations, often supported by audio or video recordings. These techniques are employed to gain insights into unarticulated aspects of the work and to develop shared views on the work.

… Complementing these tools and techniques for work analysis are those focusing on system design such as scenarios, mock-ups, simulations of the relation between work and technology, future workshops, design games, case-based prototyping, and cooperative prototyping (Kensing, 1987; Ehn, 1989; Greenbaum and Kyng, 1991; Trigg et al., 1991; Mogensen, 1992, 1994; Blomberg et al., 1996; Grønbæk et al., 1997). These tools and techniques avoid the overly abstract representations of traditional design approaches and allow workers and designers to more easily experiment with various design possibilities in cost effective ways."

The nature of participatory design has changed over time. In the software world, for example, the focus has shifted from the development of site-specific software systems to the design of web applications and, perhaps more importantly, to the entirety of the information and communication infrastructure, including policy development. The idea shows up in many guises and even open source communities could be considered a type of participatory design.

Participatory design has been advocated in a number of areas besides software. Architects Lucien Kroll (1987), John Habraken (1972), Christopher Alexander (1984), Michael Pyatok (2000) and others developed a number of techniques for allowing people to design their own working and living spaces. Artist Suzi Gablick, writing in The Reenchantment of Art (1992_) describes a number of ways that the creation of art could be more participatory, while many others are advocating participatory approaches to media, policy development, citizen participation journalism (Gillmor 2004).

Several books, including The Design of Work Oriented Computer Artifacts (Ehn, 1988), Participatory Design: Principles and Practices (Schuler and Namioka 1993) and Design at Work (Greenbaum and Kyng) helped provide some early guides for the use of participatory design of software and the biannual Participatory Design Conference sponsored by Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility helps to foster its continued evolution.

Participatory design is not a panacea. People may not want to participate; in many cases they quite plausibly determine that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Participatory design can certainly be time-consuming and higher quality of the end product cannot be guaranteed. Participatory design projects can go awry in a number of ways (as do traditional and more orthodox software development efforts.) Software users using mental models based on the software are accustomed to using may enter a design session believing that they have already fully designed the system (down to the last key-stroke short-cut). Because of this possibility (and others reasons), many PD approaches focus on fairly general high-level exercises that are fairly far removed both conceptually and physically from computers.

In some cases, a participation trap may be said to exist. This could happen when people are being brought into an effort that will ultimately make matters worse for them. In cases like this a less cooperative, more confrontational approach may be more likely to bring satisfactory results. Participation gives rise to several issues that probably must be resolved on a case-by-case basis in practice. Potential participants understand this instinctively. If, for example, the participative arena is for show only, and no idea that originates with a participant has any chance of being adopted, people can't be faulted for being dubious of the process. Genuine participation should be voluntary and honest; the relevant information, rules, constraints, and roles of all stakeholders should be well-understood by all. (A person may still decide to participate even if any and all benefits would accrue to the organizers.) Ideally, the participants would be part of any decision-making, including when to meet, how to conduct the meetings, and other processes. Kensing (1983) and Clement and Van den Besselaar (1993) describe several requirements for effective PD.

PD principles, techniques, and methodologies will continue to improve and be better known over time. PD will likely continue to involve bricolage, the ability of the participants and the people organizing the process to improvise. Unfortunately, as Kensing and Blomberg (1998) point out, building on the work of Clement and Van den Besselaar (1993), "the experimental nature of most PD projects often leads to small-scale projects which are isolated from other parts of the organization." (See Eevi Beck's "P is for Political" for more insight on this important observation.) The best way for the process to continue to improve is to build on successes and create incrementally a culture of participation on the job and in society, that is both equitable and effective at designing systems, services, tools, and technologies whose design better meets the real demands and needs of the people.

Solution: 

There should be a strong effort to include the users of any designed system (software, information and communication systems, administrative services and processes, art, city plans, architecture, education, governance, and others) into its design process in an open, authentic, and uncoerced fashion. Participatory Design, according to Finn and Blomberg, “has made no attempt to demarcate a category of work called cooperative, but instead has focused on developing cooperative strategies for system design… PD is not defined by the type of work supported, nor by the technologies developed, but instead by a commitment to worker participation in design and an effort to rebalance the power relations between users and technical experts and between workers and managers. As such PD research has an explicit organizational and political change agenda.” (See Eevi Beck's "P is for Political" for more insight on this important observation.)

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Many artifacts and systems do not appropriately address the needs of the people for whom they are designed. This can be avoided if the users of the systems (such as information and communication systems, buildings, and city plans) and those who will be affected by the systems are integrated into a Participatory Design process in an open and authentic way.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishing, Inc.

Media Literacy

Pattern ID: 
463
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
35
Mark Lipton
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Bias free media may be impossible. For that reason people need to be able to identify and assess media bias. Some have argued that media has become so vivid, so ‘real’ that people can ‘live’ in them. Media literacy is the process of decoding and making sense of all media. It allows us to critically view media and to evaluate the role that media play in our lives. When someone is media literate, he or she has the skills to identify the ideological implications and manipulative means of media systems and practices. Unfortunately, exposure to media does not necessarily suggest that people have the critical skills to understand how media systems work or how they are relating to media messages. Further, there is very little training in media education. In most places in the world, public education resists the changing media environments. Also, teachers are not given specific instruction in the workings of media, nor are they trained in the methods of media practices. Of course, it must be mentioned that in some places in the world, media has a foothold in the curriculum of public education but rarely does this curriculum come with the pedagogical training educators need to reach their audiences. The study of media has developed into complex systems of understanding, analysis, and synthesis. Yet, media study is not thought of within the context of traditional academic ‘disciplines.’ As a result, we live in a world where ubiquitous media messages, without critical appraisal impact our world.

Context: 

Masterman, in particular, stresses the student's development of "critical autonomy" as a primary objective of media education. In Teaching the Media, he argues that the key task of media teachers is to "develop in pupils enough self-confidence and critical maturity to be able to apply critical judgments to media texts which they will encounter in the future" (24). Thus, the primary objective of media education is not simply to foster critical awareness and understanding, but to develop a student's awareness of his or her role as an active agent when engaged by all media, no matter the context. The "critical autonomy" approach to media education differs from its predecessors in three ways. First, the pedagogical practices of this approach stress investigative strategies; that is, teaching and learning are emphatically student centered and inquiry oriented. Second, the process of making meaning through critical investigation is emphasized; that is, strategies of decoding are stressed within pedagogy. And third, visual literacy and media literacy, rather than an exclusively "print-oriented" literacy, function as the criteria for evaluation of student work.

Discussion: 

Until very recently if somebody complained about the media, the typical response was to "turn off the TV." Suddenly it has become commonplace to think of media not as an autonomous system but as an important element in a cultural environment that, like the physical environment, needs to be monitored for degradation and corruption. We need to be able to recognize biases and other problems that we encounter with existing media systems. All messages are made with some sense of the people receiving them. People filter these messages based on their beliefs, values, attitudes, behaviors, and past experiences. Every media message is communicated for a reason — to entertain, to inform, and usually to persuade. Behind every message is a purpose and point of view. The advertiser’s purpose is more direct than a program producer’s, though both may seek to entertain. Understanding their purposes and knowing whose point of view is being expressed and why is crucial to being media literate. Yet the basic motive behind most media programs is profit through practices like the sale of advertising space and sponsorships. These reasons are also important to consider because all media messages are owned. They are designed to yield results, provide profits, and pay for themselves. All news and entertainment programming, including film and television, try to increase their audiences to attract advertising dollars. Understanding the profit motive is key to analyzing media messages. Messages are communicated through the use of elements like sound, video, text, and photography. But most messages are enhanced by the use of visual and technical elements– through camera angles, special effects, editing, or music. Analyzing how these features are used in any given message is critical to understanding how that message attempts to persuade, entertain, or inform. Because messages are limited in both time and purpose, rarely are all the details provided. Identifying the issues, topics, and perspectives that are not included can often reveal a great deal about the purposes of media messages. Because media messages tell only part of the story and different media have unique production features, it helps to evaluate multiple messages on the same issue. This allows you to identify multiple points of view, some of which may be missing in any single message or medium.

These are but some of the issues to be discussed when considering the problems and challenges associated with the term media literacy. Other approaches include concerns about monitoring ownership and the political economy of these systems in the global economy, about interpretation, evaluation and critique of media messages, about knowledge of how media impact and influence, and about how to address the changing needs of a world where media constantly evolves.

A critical autonomy approach to media education addresses these concerns within an educational context. As part of the school reform movement of the past decade, media education scholarship assumes a student centered pedagogical practice in which the student is viewed as an active, aware participant in learning, a lifelong learner, and a self-motivated and self-directed problem solver. This image of the learner is an essential consideration not only in the design of media education, but also within the larger pedagogical frame in which the curriculum is negotiated. According to Boomer (1992), negotiating the curriculum means deliberately planning to invite students to contribute to, and to modify, the educational program, so that they will have a real investment both in the learning journey and in the outcomes. Negotiation also means making explicit, and then confronting, the constraints of the learning context and the non-negotiable requirements that apply. (14) Masterman argues further that "if students are to understand media texts . . . then it will obviously be helpful if they have first-hand experience of the construction process from the inside" (26). To this end, media education includes media production, what Masterman dubs "practical work," as a pedagogical practice which enables students to create media products. Thus, students are actively engaged both with the production of media and the workings of the classroom.

As a result of their interest in student centered learning, scholars of media education aim to develop curricula which consider the forms and practices of education and of pedagogy. Curricula which are inquiry oriented tend to offer activities which stress critical strategies, and pedagogy centers around the creation of a dialogue -- i.e., not just discussion, but the kind of talk that leads to dialectical thinking. In this context, divergent readings of texts are positively valued for their potential to stimulate further analysis and thus growth in understanding. The aim of media education is to encouraged a heightened self-consciousness about the processes of interpretation and meaning making and provide people with an opportunity to recognize that everyone uses a selective and interpretive process to examine media texts. This process and the meanings obtained depend on psychological, social, cultural, and environmental factors. In this view, then, media education strives to enable people to understand how media texts come to have a range of meanings or readings ascribed to them, and to develop even richer, more critical readings.

Contemporary media educators are also beginning to challenge traditional notions of literacy. Literacy, by definition, refers to the ability to read and write. But scholars insist that there are "languages" other than print, such as those related to the mass media, which also need to be considered within the definition of "literacy." Visual literacy, for example, has been described by Messaris (1994) as "greater experience in the workings of visual media coupled with a heightened conscious awareness of those workings" (2). And Masterman has argued that since both print and visual literacy involve "the deconstruction of texts by breaking through their surface to reveal the rhetorical techniques through which meanings are produced" (127), any education for "literacy" should focus on that process, rather than on the symbolic form of a particular set of "texts."

Solution: 

Education and educational practices need to shift to address the changing media environments. We need to perform more public media criticism. We need to engage with media more closely to keep them in check and to be informed as to how we are responding and why. We need to be more serious about our media environments and foster greater awareness of the impact and influence media systems have on daily life. We must arm all people with the knowledge, skills, and values a media education program provides – granting people access to new technology and information about its workings and ideological implication. Finally, we need more alternative communication systems to counter these problems.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Media Literacy allows us to critically view media and to evaluate the role that media play in our lives. Media Literacy helps develop awareness of our roles as active agents when engaging media. We must arm all people with the knowledge, skills, and values that Media Literacy provides. We need to grant people access to new technology and information about its workings and ideological implications and to develop alternative communication systems.

Pattern status: 
Released

Democratic Political Settings

Pattern ID: 
491
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
31
Jonathan Barker
University of Toronto
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Democratic political action is difficult where social inequality is great. People low on the social scale are often barred, formally or informally, from political meetings. And in meetings women, poor people, and members of low status groups often fail to voice their views because they feel vulnerable to reprisals inside and outside the meeting. How can democratic political action be initiated under conditions of marked social inequality?

Context: 

Many governments that give some respect to the rules of electoral democracy silence the voices of people of low economic and social standing. Many meetings where people raise and debate matters of public importance are structured to block their effective participation and reinforce existing hierarchies of class and social standing.

Discussion: 

Even where most political settings are biased against certain people (the poor, women, youth, stigmatized groups, recent immigrants, disabled people) there are some some institutions and cultural values that support wider participation. It takes great energy, persistance, and strategic action to expand democatic practice. For example in fishing villages in southern India, the long-established Catholic church, newer fish-worker unions, and women’s associations contained values and practices that innovators could use to increase participation by disfavored groups, often by starting new political settings such as neighborhood assemblies. Trying to change formal and informal rules of participation in existing political settings usually runs up against entrenched elite power. New and reformed settings can establish a base of democratic experience for pressing change in older, powerful settings.

Solution: 

Strengthening already democratic settings and starting new democratic settings and organization are ways to sidestep the customs and practices that reinforce the existing social hierarchy. A new setting open to all offers people with little experience of expressing and advocating their ideas and interests an opportunity to gain experience and confidence.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

People low on the social scale are often barred from political meetings. And for many reasons women, poor people, and others may not voice their views in meetings. New and reformed settings can establish a base of democratic experience for change in older, powerful settings. New settings that are open and democratic can give people who have never been invited to express their ideas an opportunity to gain experience and confidence.

Pattern status: 
Released

Indicators

Pattern ID: 
412
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
29
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Citizens are often bystanders in their own lives. Research, even that which is putatively conducted in their behalf, is often irrelevant or even damaging to the livelihoods of "ordinary" people and marginalized groups alike. Since it is intended to promote academic aims, such as publication in an academic journal, rather than community goals the idea of actual benefit based on the results of the research often takes a back seat. This lack of genuine community involvement or connection helps lead to the self-perpetuating cycle of citizen disempowerment.

Context: 

This pattern could be used in any situation in which citizens need to come together to better understand complex dynamic situations and develop meaningful responses. This pattern can be used in focused or more distributed way; it can be used as the basis for a long-term project or for a project of short duration.

Discussion: 

"We view the process and product as interwoven and equally valuable. Part of our task is to practice and develop the skills of civic democracy and volunteer participation." - Richard Conlin, Sustainable Seattle co-founder

Doctors take a patient's temperature to get some understanding of the person's general health. Although this is only one measure among hundreds or thousands of other possible measurements it is judged to be important enough — and acquired easily enough — to be warrant its acquisition. An indicator is typically a single measure that can be acquired over time to help ascertain the general health or condition of a larger, more complex entity, like a lake, city, or society. It helps serve by being a stand-in or proxy for that whole.

Indicators are often devised and used by scientists, economists and other professionals to help inform them on the status of what's important to them. And just as the medical community has selected temperature as one indicator among many possibilities, these professionals have selected theirs. And, like other measurements, these can have far-reaching consequences which basically depend on they're interpreted, what meaning is ascribed to them, and what's done with them. Needless to say, communities — especially those that are struggling to stay alive — generally play no direct role in the development of these indicators, nor do they design their own.

In 1991, a group of social activists in Seattle launched an ambitious multiyear project around the idea of sustainability. Though many people today view sustainability as largely an environmental paradigm, it is one that can capture the long-term cultural, economic, civic, and educational health and vitality of a region as well. Because sustainability is a complex term and difficult to define and comprehend, the first goal was the development of a set of "critical indicators of sustainability" that would assist in defining the term and defining Seattle’s current status.

Since that time the project has matured into a community-wide program divided evenly into research and community action. One commendable aspect of their effort has been the patient, evolving, consensus-driven manner in which the project has taken shape and unfolded over time without being driven by set agendas.

When the project was launched, the "indicators of sustainability" were designed to form its intellectual as well as motivational foundation. Indicators are measurable values that accurately reflect and coalesce several factors that are deemed to be important. The selection of indicators as core constructs of the endeavor demonstrates the founders’ commitment to a long-term rather than a quick-fix effort, for it is only by examining how the values of the indicators change over time that an understanding of trends can arise. Examining changes over time may also bring to light relationships between indicators. Two indicators, for example, may actually bear inverse relationships to each other.

When people in the community identify indicators that are important to them, the indicators are more liable to carry personal and operational meaning than when social scientists in an ivory tower identify theoretical constructs that are significant only to an academic community. The indicators are carefully chosen to reflect activity within a community that is desired or not desired by that community. Furthermore, because the community identified the indicators, there is a feeling of ownership and confidence in them.

While Sustainable Seattle’s report on Seattle’s critical indicators presents a useful snapshot of several important aspects on the community’s agenda, it does not by itself create a sustainable society. According to their newsletter (Sustainable Seattle, 1994), ". . . understanding trends in our community is only the first step in the journey towards sustainability. The next step is to change the community." To that end, Sustainable Seattle initiated a Communities Outreach Project "to create measurable improvements in the behaviors and practices that drive the indicators, both on large and small scales, as a result of homes and organizations changing their behavior in response to this project." Their ambitious goal "is to enable and inspire people in the many different communities in greater Seattle to transform the values of sustainability into actions that will move Seattle, the region, and the planet towards long-term cultural, economic, and environmental health and vitality."

The Worldwatch Institute identified and assessed 50 social, economic, and environmental trends which they labeled the Earth's "vital signs" to help show the important role consumers can play in demanding environmentally friendly products. .Indicators can also be used in international or other large-scale collaborative projects. A new international effort between the US and Canada that monitors the health of Puget Sound Georgia Basin where salmon and orcas are endangered in Washington state and in the province of British Columbia shows another use of indicators (Stiffler, 2006). Of the nine indicators that the project has established five of them are declining (Urbanization and Forest Change; River, Stream and Lake Quality; Marine Species at Risk; Toxics in Harbor Seals; and Marine Water Quality) while the remaining four have not shown progress (Population Health; Solid Waste and Recycling, Shellfish; and Air Quality). Scott Redman from the US team stated that the indicator project "puts press then for us to catch up, or the other way around." There is a web site that includes data as well as a large number of suggestions for people and groups who want to help improve the situation.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists through its "Doomsday Clock" offers a variant on this concept. The clock measures the state of worldwide nuclear danger (not just from a US perspective) and graphically reports its findings in a clock whose hands are approaching midnight — nuclear apocalypse. Moving the hands is not taken lightly, "Because the Doomsday Clock is the world’s most visible symbol of nuclear danger, any decision to reset it is taken with great care and only after significant deliberation by the Bulletin’s board of directors, in consultation with the board of sponsors." It is interesting to note the infrequency within which the clock has been reset: 17 times in 56 years. The two boards reset the hands infrequently to demonstrate significant developments; the clock does not respond, "to every change in the global security environment. If it did, it would be in almost constant motion and would lose much if not all of its symbolic resonance. "

Many of the patterns in this pattern language — including this one — could be used as indicator generators. What indicators, for example, could be used to show whether humankind's Civic Intelligence is increasing or decreasing? Virtually any area, conceptual or actual, could be a source of indicators. And in any area, it will be important to think of what possible actions could comes after the indicators are developed before they're identified. What to do with information? Who could use the information? What resonance could the information have with various people and groups? 

Solution: 

Citizens need to construct community and civic indicators, publish them, discuss them, measure them, publicize them and develop policy and projects that address them. Indicator projects seems to be best coordinated through organizations and groups.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

When people in the community identify Indicators that are important to them, they are more likely to carry personal and operational meaning than when social scientists identify constructs that are significant only to an academic community. The real work begins after the Indicators have been identified. The Indicators must be measured, discussed, and publicized. Ultimately they can be used to develop policy and projects that address them.

Pattern status: 
Released

Big-Picture Health Information

Pattern ID: 
742
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
27
Jenny Epstein
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Health information cannot focus solely on individual change. Many detriments to health cannot be eradicated without changes to the physical and social world that people inhabit. If environmental and social changes are necessary to get well, individual patients cannot do so solely by seeking health care and avoiding health risks. Expert medical information and advice is inadequate to create a healthy environment that in turn creates healthy people.

Context: 

Poor people bear a disproportionate burden of global ill-health, such as diabetes, malaria, HIV/AIDS and TB. Health discrepancies between rich and poor will not be solved through better access to information alone. Good food, less stress, clean air and water, and a life with a purpose will increase health and healthy behaviors. Real change to improve health comes from a shift away from acknowledging only expert clinical opinion and toward a real-world awareness of the effect of environment on health: a shift from passive diagnosis and treatment to active engagement with the causes of and solutions to health problems.

Discussion: 

We are not, for the most part, born unhealthy. We become unhealthy. And even for those born unhealthy, a great deal of ill health may have been preventable. The campaign to find the cure for breast cancer is a good example of health information that neglects any causal connection between ill-health and the environment (in this instance, an environment which includes the use of estrogen in prescription medication), and ignores political or social change that might address environmental causes of the disease. This pattern of information, in which action comes only after the individual becomes ill but nothing has been done to prevent illness in first place, focuses on individual responsibility with no questioning of the established social order. The unspoken message is that breast cancer just happens. It is up to the individual to get involved with a screening program for early detection and treatment. Information on research that investigates environmental effects to the development of breast cancer is not part of mainstream health information.

Public health information about diabetes further illustrates the lack of emphasis on the connection between environment and health. Among Native Americans, diabetes (like most other non-infectious chronic diseases) was virtually unknown before World War II. Now, in some tribes, over 60% of adults have diabetes and the age of onset is decreasing with each generation. Much of the research on diabetes among Native Americans focuses on genetic causes or on molecular level differentiations of diabetic types. It gives short shrift to how the disruption in traditional diet and life style and the devaluation of traditional medicine correspond with the dramatic increase in the disease. The connection of indigenous people to the environment that they come from, the types of foods they eat, and activities they perform to prepare those foods are not considered an active component in their health. Diabetic health information focuses on what the individual can do to access mainstream diets and medicine. It does not validate traditional knowledge that prevented diabetes in the past, and ignores how the community as a whole can work together to recreate that knowledge. This does not mean trying to reestablish life as it was 60 years ago, but it does mean putting the current problem in a holistic context that includes history, indigenous knowledge, the interaction between diet and environment, and reasons for lack of access even to non-traditional healthy food.

In 1854, John Snow removed the handle from a London neighborhood water pump that was located a few feet from a sewer ("John Snow Pub," 2006). He believed that this sewage was causing the epidemic of cholera deaths in the neighborhood. Epidemiology textbooks emphasize Snow's connection of cause and effect as the first public health intervention of the modern era. They ignore an analysis of cause: industrialization and dislocation, poverty, over-crowding etc. What options for water did people in the neighborhood have without the pump? Seldom mentioned is that, due to the demand of a thirsty public, the handle was replaced six weeks after its removal.

Public health programs must include methods to share power with communities they hope to help. What are the contributors to ill health in their communities? What are the barriers to good health that the communities identify? Information needs to realistically address what is within the control of the individual and what will take groups of people working together to solve. Methods to improve health in disadvantaged communities must reflect the larger social change and shift in power needed.

Health information such as Fast Food Nation (Schlosser, 2002) needs to be the norm, not the exception. This book chronicles the entire environment that produces fast food, including social norms and values. Similarly, the documentary film “Life and Debt” (www.lifeanddebt.org) shows the destruction of healthy, local food production in Jamaica by the combination of multinational food businesses and international government policy.

Health information needs to do more than simply inform. What does not question the present state of affairs will not, for example, bring affordable nutritious food to poor neighborhoods. Nor will it create safe neighborhoods in areas where children cannot exercise. Better access to information may improve health care decisions to some extent; unless it also generates momentum and optimism for social change then it simply perpetuates a focus on individual behavior and treatment of symptoms that have already occurred. Health information needs to look honestly at the conditions that cause ill health, and engage not only those who suffer illness but the entire social and regulatory apparatus that can play a role in improving the conditions that people live in.

Solution: 

Demand and produce health information that identifies environmental and social causes of ill-health. Analyze the interconnection between these causes and their solutions, and bring individuals, communities and governments together in putting the solutions into effect. If the struggle with disease becomes a struggle with established power, you may be on the right track.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Real change in improving health means shifting away from expert clinical opinion only and towards awareness of the effect of environment. Demand and produce health information that identifies environmental and social causes of ill-health. Analyze the links between causes and solutions, and bring individuals, communities and governments together in putting the solutions into effect.

Pattern status: 
Released

Earth's Vital Signs

Pattern ID: 
620
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
26
Jenny Frankel-Reed
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Society’'s great scientific capacity to measure and interpret the world and the role of humans in nature has failed to translate into improved environmental stewardship. Modern environmental challenges are often difficult to see, distant in time and space from their sources, and threaten global consequences. The increasing complexity and chronic rather than acute nature of today's environmental problems requires a revolution of decision making — the systematic integration of earth’s vital signs.

Context: 

Signals detected by scientists about earth's natural patterns and processes and the impacts of humans on these processes are earth's signs - indicators of what can be seen as either ecological health or the capacity of the earth to accommodate human demands. The conditions of earth's systems tend to be worsening on a global scale, but vary dramatically from place to place. Human decisions about how to live on earth drive these trends and can potentially reverse their negative directions.

Policymakers, public interest organizations, universities, and governments can utilize earth's signs to better manage human and environmental well-being. Policymakers' decisions about sustainable practices in land- and resource-dependent sectors can be backed by scientific understanding about the effects of policies on resources. Citizens can demand better environmental stewardship from their leaders at local to global scales with improved access to and translation of relevant earth information at the proper scale. Governments and enforcement bodies can strengthen their monitoring capabilities and base development decisions on the latest information about trends in human impacts on earth.

Discussion: 

Three distinct approaches to integrating earth's vital signs come from the scientific community, public interest organizations, and enforcement bodies.

Scientific institutions can collaborate to reach audiences in need of earth-related information to solve problems. The work of earth observation agencies to collect and disseminate data and images to important users like humanitarian aid agencies provides one example. Disaster prevention, response, and rebuilding are information-intensive. This fact is illustrated time and time again in the wake of natural disasters. For example, in Asia in 2005, an immediate need emerged in tsunami-affected areas for earth observation and environmental data to help in assessing damage, reaching victims and rebuilding resilient communities. In response to this need, an alliance of European and International organizations is working with the humanitarian community to improve access to maps, satellite imagery and geographic information (The CGIAR-CSI Data Sharing Platform). This kind of effort by the scientific community to ensure that information actually comes back 'down to earth' opens a host of possibilities for more sustainable decisionmaking if scientists in other fields can repeat it. Scientists from communities researching water, pollution and future risks from global warming could create similar initiatives to ensure the information that they gather becomes integrated in decisionmaking in water-scarce areas, in clean water and air policies, and for promoting climate change adaptation in development strategies, to name a few.

Another way earth’s signs are integrated into decisionmaking is by concerned public interest groups and universities gathering, translating and communicating trends that reflect environmental sustainability to motivate improved environmental governance. The outcomes of resource and land management policies such as energy, fisheries, forests, water, urban planning and rural development can be extrapolated from existing environmental data. A key challenge however, is translating scientific information to connect to the public and policymakers. In examples from around the world, organizations locate data reflecting the condition of impacted resources, create indicators of stewardship or sustainability from these data, and translate their findings into insightful measurements, models and maps that are publicly available and understandable to broader audiences. Clarifying the connections between political and business decisions and environmental outcomes can promote environmentally sustainable decisions and reverse negative trends if decisionmakers are held accountable to these indicators. Scorecards of environmental performance (Environmental Performance Index), policy-wise ecological assessments (Hudson River Foundation), and regional indicators and indices of sustainability (Cascadia Scorecard) have the potential to become a systematic part of policymaking if leaders are held accountable for their performance on these measures of earth's vital signs. Currently, information is not available at the right scales and frequently enough for such assessments to be carried in every context, but an increase in reporting has been proven to stimulate better information gathering.

Earth monitoring information has also been used by enforcement agencies, environmental organizations, and governments to improve accountability for the environmental impacts of business practices. Satellite imagery and other sources of management practices can be used to monitor natural resources on public lands, in protected areas, human settlements, etc. One example comes from an initiative in Central Africa’s Congo Basin, an important wood products exporting region to Europe (Global Forest Watch). European procurement standards are the highest in the world, and buyers often demand legally and sustainably harvested wood from their suppliers. A system to monitor the legality and sustainability of forestry operations has emerged that utilizes satellite imagery, tracking whether harvested areas conform to legally-agreed boundaries and harvest rates. By making the findings publicly accessible, consumers use the information in procurement decisions and market pressure can promote better management by companies. Similar innovative applications of earth information can capitalize on market forces and encourage sustainable resource management if public concern is tangible.

Solution: 

Integrating earth's signs throughout decisionmaking requires that environmental information is widely available, connections between management practices and environmental outcomes are understood, environmental implications of policies are translated to the public and policymakers, and that the environmental performance of governments and companies is publicly disseminated. Replication of existing initiatives and further innovations can help to ensure that decisionmaking balances human impacts with the health of the planet.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

We need a revolution of decision making and awareness in order to tackle the complexity and urgent nature of our environmental problems. Earth's Vital Signs are indicators of ecological health or the earth's capacity to accommodate human demands. Human decisions about how to live on earth currently drive unsustainable trends. They can also help us change course.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Panamanian golden frog (Atelopus zeteki) exhibited at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD, USA; Photo: Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz) ; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.

Cyberpower

Pattern ID: 
829
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
25
Kate Williams
Dominican University
Abdul Alkalimat
University of Toledo
Version: 
2
Problem: 

In the age of the Internet, if someone can’t send an email or browse the web, they are much like the person in the age of print who had to sign their name with an X. Many people and communities are still catching up to the information age and what digital tools offer. One word for what they offer is Cyberpower—power in cyberspace.

The usefulness of this word can be understood in comparison to another useful word: e-commerce. E-commerce is a word that summed up what businesses, coders and consumers were doing. On the basis of that summation, many more people were guided in that direction, and e-commerce became more advanced as a result. Millions are now buying and selling online, with the goods delivered in the real world. Our experience with the word cyberpower is the much same: the word came into use based on practice; then it mobilized more people to exercise their cyberpower. As with e-commerce, when you wield cyberpower, the “goods”—power—are delivered in the real world, in a cycle from actual to virtual to actual.

Context: 

Digital inequality often impacts the same people as older inequalities such as poverty, oppression, discrimination, exclusion. But the new tools are so powerful that not using them sets individuals, groups and communities even further back. The hardware and software are still changing, and only the users are able to shape them and shape the future. And a global conversation is taking place every day online. They

Discussion: 

Even as technology changes, diffuses, and becomes cheaper, digital inequalities persist. For certain populations, access is impossible or is controlled, skills are lower, support isn’t there, or the tools and resources themselves are relatively irelevant. If the core conversations and the rich information sources are all online, yet not everyone is participating or even able to observe, how do we maintain democracy? Recent calls for a dialogue of civilizations, starting with the United Nations (1998), rather than a clash of civilizations (Huntington 1998) could be taking part online, but only if everyone can see, hear, and speak in cyberspace.

It is not yet well understood, but communities in crisis—be it from poverty, disaster, war or some other adversity—are known to turn to technology for response and recovery. Cellphones, impromptu cybercafés, the Internet, all helped in the Gulf hurricane recovery. Farmers on quarantined farms quickly mastered home Internet use during England’s foot-and-mouth-disease outbreak. The US armed forces now strategize in terms of land, sea, air, and cyberspace. Immigrants all over the world have created digital diasporas. (Miller and Slater 2000) Whatever language people use to describe it, cyberpower is the driver in all these cases.

Hiphop can be seen as a technology-based response to crisis and a cyberpower project. In a community-based seminar, we proposed to create a CD of original raps about IT. Students and community members were skeptical—one said, “We don’t know anything about computers”—but all the music making was digital, the tools were put together in bedrooms and basements, and the result was a compilation of 15 tracks. Sample these lyrics by S. Supreme:

Information technology
Skipping the Black community with no apology
Flipping the power off
On an already alarming deficit,
So please, please, PLEASE, PASS THE MESSAGE KID!
Ohh Umm Diddy Dum Dum
If he don’t turn his Ice off
And turn his head past the gas of Microsoft
He’ll really be lost like the tribe, ‘cause the time is now and that’s a bet
How you throwing up a set and you ain’t on the Net,
Yet you say you’re a G?
I said I’m not Chuck D, but welcome to the terror
If you ain’t ready to build in this information era
Survival of the fittest, our rights get diminished, cats be on their Crickets
But don’t know about Linux

In this track cyberpower is talking about cyberpower.

Another example of cyberpower is our experience with an auction of Malcolm X’s papers. The sale, planned for March 2002, was discovered online, then thousands protested online and the sale was stopped. The process began when monitoring eBay for items related to Malcolm X, we discovered that eBay’s auction house, Butterfields, was about to sell thousands of pages of Malcolm’s diaries and notes, recovered from a storage locker, for an expected price of $500,000. Using the listserv H-Afro-Am, this news was spread across multiple communities of scholars, librarians, activists, and others. The American Library Association then created a story on their online news site which is fed to more sites and individuals. The next day The New York Times did a story. On the third day The Guardian newspaper ran a story about the impending sale and the online groundswell against it. The listservs and the news articles alerted the family and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library, who wre able to negotiate the postponing of the sale, then its cancellation. An agreement was negotiated with the seller whereby the materials are now in the possession of the family, housed at the Schomburg’s archives. In sum, the important historical papers (actual) were being auctioned (virtual); thousands of people were mobilized (virtual); traditional media carried the story (virtual and actual); and ultimately the materials were withdrawn from sale and placed intact in a public library archive for scholars and the public (actual).

Another example of cyberpower is told by Mele (1999). Faced with a teardown of their housing project, tenants in Wilmington, Nouth Carolina wrangled the key to a long-locked community room, internet access for the lone computer (actual), and via email and listservs (virtual) recruited architects and planners to help them obtain, digest and answer developer and city plans. They won an actual seat at the negotiating table and, more important, key changes to the teardown plan that included interim and long-term housing for residents.

All sorts of new tools for exercising cyberpower are in wide usage at this writing, for example, MySpace, blogs, wikis, and the online video festival known as YouTube. Use of any of these tools locates you in a lively community. The idea from Putnam (2000) that we’re “bowling alone,” not connecting with other people in an atomized world, is, as Lin (2001) asserted, trumped by the fact that we are not computing alone.

Solution: 

Cyberpower means two related activities related to empowerment: 1) individuals, groups and organizations using digital tools for their own goals, or 2) using digital tools as part of community organizing. The general idea is that people can use cyberpower in virtual space to get power in the actual space. Cyberorganizers help get people cyberpower just as community organizers help get communities empowered.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Digital inequality often affects the same people as traditional inequalities such as poverty, oppression, discrimination, and exclusion. With Cyberpower individuals, groups and organizations use digital tools for their own goals. Cyberpower also means using digital tools as part of community organizing and development, when Cyberorganizers help people gain Cyberpower.

Pattern status: 
Released

Spiritually Grounded Activism

Pattern ID: 
786
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
24
Helena Meyer-Knapp
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Some social change agendas and strategies are derived from sacred texts, religious doctrines and traditional spiritual practices. Grounding ones public engagement in this way can lead to productive and insightful action but such efforts are often highly charged. Contemporary societies and communities vary widely in how well they receive such initiatives -- a martyr to one group will seem like a dangerous radical to the opposition. Intermingling politics and religion can taint both, leading to false pieties in politics and making mundane the prayers and rituals which were originally spiritual in purpose.

Context: 

Groups and individuals seeking to structure social agendas have to create a sense of their purpose, and spiritual convictions often offer constructive guidance. Activists can find allies in the public debate by framing their position in religious terms. Personal resilience can be sustained by strong religious belief.

Constitutional separations between Church and State in North America and Europe are decidedly ambiguous about whether and how particular congregations should participate in public affairs. Other societies, notably those Muslim ones which base their law and the state itself on religious dogma, can find secular ethical criteria offensive. Furthermore, activism motivated by religion is often denounced as extremist by those whose motivations are strongly secular.

Discussion: 

This pattern is illustrated by a series of historical examples intended to suggest its scope. The possibilities are many and varied. Read these stories while remembering that secular organizing can be just as powerful, legitimate and insightful.

Gandhi practiced and advocated "Ahimsa," the non-violent struggle for truth, inspiring an his part of the anti-colonist movement to center on that strategy. Derived from Hindu tradition, Ahimsa applied to all features of their lives, from confrontations with the British to the ways they lived and ate and worked together. Martin Luther King, working within the Christian tradition, was able to find the religious inspiration for a similar approach to non-violence in the US Civil Rights movement. Thich Nhat Hanh andhis fellow Buddhist monks used self-suffering in the Ghandian tradition to oppose the war in Vietnam. All three movements followed a religious injunction against doing violence, although in each it was recognized that they themselves might die. The strategy continues in use at the state level in the struggle between Tibetans under the leadership of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government.

For centuries Catholic nuns, monks and brothers have been engaged in providing health care, hospitality and basic succor to the poor and needy. In recent years that work gained world wide recognition as a result of Mother Theresa’s order in India. Their practice, like the non-violence movement is both a strategic imperative and an injunction for the activists to live a certain way, in this case sharing poverty and privation with those whom they help.

For the last 50 years, women’s reproductive systems and rights have been at the center of a wide range of conflicts. Papal Encyclicals and local health center policies are alike in their ability to stimulate confrontations about contraception and abortion. In parts of Africa, religious traditions have been the basis for both challenges to and support for female "genital mutilation" or "circumcision" as it is called, depending on ones perspective. Religion, life and birth have always been linked. The relationships between medicine and religion have become quite uneasy, as much at the end of life as at the beginning.

Debt and monetary interest payments mark another area where religions have guided and inspired action on the global scale. The Christian notion of Jubilee provided the doctrinal basis for groups around the globe to press the largest banks and richest nations to support debt relief for poorer nations in the Jubilee 2000 campaign. Meanwhile, working from the Buddhist perspective, writers and activists have begun to reconfigure the definition of wealth and materialism.

Sacred environmentalism is well rooted as well, both in the United States and around the world. Connected in the US to the Transcendentalists of the nineteenth century, this movement has found a responsive reaction in many areas since place and sacred experience are so often linked.

At their best, religious practices serve not only to shape the mission, but also to guide organizational behavior. Silent retreat or a prayer meeting -- either can offer respite from the mundane. Singing together, marching together, sitting quietly in Quaker meeting together -- all of these can strengthen the sense of community. Charitable giving, cooking for the poor, visiting prisoners -- all of these can feel like religious practices when inspired by a spiritually grounded activism. Priests, Imams and other religious leaders offering blessings over an action, can ease the qualms and concerns of their followers. In all these ways, organizational resilience gains support from adherence to a religious or spiritual path. Marshall Ganz reminds us to see religion "not only as a source of “understanding” about what was right - but also as a source of the solidarity, willingness to sacrifice, anger at injustice, and courage, and leadership to take action - in other words, not only of moral “understanding” but the capacity to act on that understanding. Or, as St. Augustine said, not only of "knowing the good", but also of "loving it" enough to act on it. "

The stories in this pattern were chosen to illustrate constructive work undertaken by adherents in a variety of traditions. These same traditions have of course often been the basis for cruel, intolerant and self-righteous oppression, government and justice.

Solution: 

Remember the hymns and prayers of the American Civil Rights Movement, which exemplify ways that a healing religious practice can build solidarity among activists while holding them to laudable ethical standards. The injunctions embedded in this pattern are: by all means ground your own work in the values, the mysteries and the heritage of a religious community. At the same time, hesitate to judge others whose motives and practices are different. If secular values justify and guide your actions assume the best of those driven to act by religious convictions and likewise, if you are religious, give credence to the secular. In either case remember that ritual, whether sacred or secular, can strengthen bonds among organizers and provide them with the respite necessary to keeping on with the work of change.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Some social change agendas and strategies are derived from sacred texts, religious doctrines and traditional spiritual practices. Grounding one's public engagement in this way can lead to productive and insightful action. Remember that ritual, sacred or secular, can strengthen bonds among organizers and provide the respite necessary to keeping on with the work of change.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Friends Journal

Anti-Racism

Pattern ID: 
783
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
23
Lori Blewett
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Perceived physiological and cultural differences are easily exploited by political elites for the purpose of gaining and maintaining social control. Discrimination and violence are a common consequence of perceiving one group of people as less trustworthy, moral, intelligent, or civilized (and ultimately less human) than another group. Imbalances of power are seen as reflections of individual strength and cultural merit rather than systemic injustice. Efforts toward creating a desirable society continue to be hindered by unquestioned privilege, fear, and prejudice across race, caste, and ethnic divisions.

Context: 

There are few cultures in the world that have not been affected in some way by European concepts of race. In some cases, European colonizers layered race on top of long- standing caste hierarchies or religious prejudices to further subjugate, divide, and control colonized people. In the United States, alliances between blacks and poor whites, for example, were intentionally subverted by elites who bestowed minimal advantages on lower-class whites to prevent class-based uprisings. The historical legacy of long-maintained racial divides and inequalities continues to affect any organization attempting to create a more just and sustainable society, even when racism is not the primary issue that an organization or movement wants to address. As with gender divisions, race, caste, and class hierarchies often intertwine to erode the effectiveness of organizations and their communication, especially when patterns of privilege and bias go unnoticed.

Discussion: 

This pattern has two major dimensions: Anti-Racist Awareness and Anti-racist Action.

Awareness begins with seeking a deeper understanding of the multiple ways that racism and race privilege operate in the lives of individuals and organizations. Anti-racist books, movies, workshops, lectures, discussions, and observation can all be useful tools for raising awareness. Multi-cultural history books (e.g., "A Different Mirror") or social/economic analysis (e.g., "Black Wealth White Wealth") can help us see beyond the myth of the melting pot, and understand how social structures maintain racial inequity generation after generation. Films like "Banking on Life and Debt" help us understand the international forces that maintain global inequalities built upon European Colonialism, and how those inequities reinforce domestic racism. Reflective essays like "White Privilege and Male Privilege" can help us see how privileges are bestowed upon whites on a daily basis, even when they do not seek racial advantage.

By analyzing social and historical dynamics of power and privilege, we understand why few people reach adulthood without internalizing social hierarchies that shape our unconscious perceptions of one another. At the same time it is important to become more aware of the possibilities for change and resistance. We must learn about the successes of communities of color that have struggled against racism, and we must learn about inter-racial solidarity that has aided anti-racist efforts at numerous times and places in history.

Armed with a better awareness of the dynamics of racism, members of an organization can become more reflective about their own practices. Developing and maintaining an anti-racist consciousness is an on-going process for most people, but it is especially challenging for members of dominant racial groups. Because information and communication represented in the dominant culture are likely to reinforce the racial status quo, whites in the U.S., for example, must take extra care to seek the perspectives of people of color who are critical of mainstream policy, discourse, and ideology.

Action begins with recognition that we are not powerless in the face of institutionalized or interpersonal racism, and that challenging racism is both an individual and collective responsibility. Examples of anti-racist action are plentiful --from individuals interrupting racist jokes to transnational organizations uniting against contemporary colonialism.
An anti-racist orientation can help guide many facets of an organization: out-reach practices, service providing, hiring, resource allocation, group communication, etc. With an anti-racist perspective, individuals can work to create organizations that both embrace ethnic diversity and model a commitment to racial justice. Organizations whose members are primarily from privileged communities can seek guidance from leaders that represent grassroots organizations in other communities. Groups can form alliances across racial or national boundaries making shared use of differing access to information, experiential knowledge, economic resources, and political power.

Organizations can promote anti-racist solidarity by investigating the racial dimensions of any issues that they are working on. For example, anti-racist environmentalists have exposed the disproportionate effects of toxic waste on communities of color. Information technology activists interested in racial justice have designed projects to accomodate differing needs in differing ethnic communities. Within the anti-war and anti-globalization movements, activists with an anti-racist orientation have drawn attention to the role that racist discourse and ideology play in maintaining public support for international policy.

The greatest challenge to anti-racism is the discomfort, defensiveness, and animosity that it often engenders among whites (or other racially privileged groups—depending on the context). Rejection often happens when individuals from privileged groups do not see themselves as responsible, in any way, for the conditions that other racial groups experience. Talking about race privilege and unconscious racial biases can seriously threaten people’s positive sense of self. Many people are more comfortable believing that innate characteristics of racial groups cause the problems or successes that each groups experience, and some people even perceive themselves to be discriminated against when members of other racial groups demand social change to alleviate injustices. Whites who are economically disadvantaged, (or who experience discrimination related to age, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, or other characteristic), sometimes see anti-racism as a denial of their own hardships. In extreme cases, oppressed whites may react so negatively to anti-racist critiques that they turn toward white supremacist or neo-nationalist ideologies to shore-up their low self-esteem (see Paul Gilroy for a critique of British anti-racist education of working class youth). People of color also sometimes oppose anti-racist perspectives when they have been convinced by the dominant culture that racism is no longer a significant, institutionalized problem. For people of color, becoming more aware of racism can be particularly painful and disempowering.

In order to be successful, anti-racists must recognize the strength of dominant racial attitudes and ideology. Anti-racist education and discourse should be geared toward the forms of denial and dismissal that are most common in a particular context. Educational activities should include follow-up support to help people process new, sometimes disturbing, ways of seeing the world. Resources that put a human face on the experience of racial oppression can be particularly useful. Focusing on the shared costs of racism (and the shared benefits of ending it) may be the best way to encourage inter-racial solidarity. When both whites and people of color recognize that ending racism is in their interests, they begin to see themselves as part of the long history of resistance to racism. This sense of solidarity across time and racial boundaries adds meaning and a sense of hope to the difficult, and sometimes emotionally painful, process of recognizing and challenging race privilege and racism.

Solution: 

Only by recognizing racism (personal and institutional) and actively challenging it, can we hope to overcome the racial divisions that inhibit effective problem solving and weaken progressive movements. An anti-racist orientation to social change can help organizations successfully challenge policies and practices that mask power, exploitation, and resource grabbing behind the guise of liberal individualism and national interests.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Efforts to improve societies are hindered by privilege, fear, and prejudice across race, caste, and ethnic divisions. As with gender divisions, other hierarchies intertwine to erode the effectiveness of organizations. Anti-Racism has two dimensions: Anti-Racism through awareness and Anti-Racism through action. An anti-racist orientation to social change can help organizations challenge policies and practices that mask power, exploitation, and resource grabbing.

Pattern status: 
Released
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