Orientation

Sustainability Appraisal

Pattern ID: 
748
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
100
Nick Plant
University of the West of England, Bristol
Version: 
2
Problem: 

There are many limitations to the take-up and use of information and communications technologies (ICT) in non-profit organisations. Technical, social and management issues are frequently involved, but the complex, inter-connected mix of factors at work is often confusing. There isn’t a common language for understanding and modelling a particular organisation’s situation. Furthermore, until understanding is achieved, action-planning and change is even more problematic. However, ideas of sustainability drawn from the worlds of sustainable development, sustainable communities and environmentalism are familiar to many civil society activists and non-profits. Can these ideas be imported to form a holistic sense-making framework for understanding non-profit ICT use? More important, can the use of sustainability indicators also help inform action-planning and change, on the basis that diagnosis is half way towards a cure?

Context: 

This pattern has emerged from extensive research, development and consulting on ICT in non-profit organisations (Plant, 2003). Non-profit organisations are key to organised social action and increasingly reliant on ICT in pursuing their missions, especially as they move from internal, efficiency-oriented, applications to those that support service delivery externally. But small non-profits are frequently vulnerable to, yet dependent upon, external expertise due to limited internal knowledge. Outside support is, furthermore, often technically-biased and solutions-focused. There is a need to facilitate internal capacity development and learning, especially on the organisational and political, not just technical, factors associated with ICT. The notion of sustainability as imported into this field embraces a holistic range of organisational, social and technical factors. These affect success and autonomy in the use of ICT, as well as technological longevity. The application of sustainability indicators to appraise ICT use in non-profits should interest both non-profit staff and outside helpers committed to a facilitative approach. Those needing a holistic understanding of a particular organisational situation, and those looking to move towards action-planning for change and improvement in ICT use, should benefit.

Discussion: 

A sustainability model was originally constructed, as an analytic abstraction for research purposes, to model the suggestion that three main factors, each with sub-factors, might explain sustainability or its absence in non-profit ICT.
The top-level factors were inspired by the triple bottom line in sustainable development (Henriques & Richardson, 2004) combined with information systems theory. They are associated with longevity (technical factors which affect IT quality and life expectancy), success (management factors which affect the overall impact of ICT use on the organisation) and autonomy (empowerment factors which affect the extent of appropriate relationships with outside expertise). A three-segment graphical representation was created to summarise and integrate these factors visually.

A method of appraising sustainability operationally in any given non-profit was derived from the theoretical model. A questionnaire asks respondents to agree or disagree with assertions associated with sustainability in each of the three main areas, using a five-point Likert scale. Drawing on Bell and Morse's (1999; 2003) approach to sustainability indicators, these qualitative responses are plotted on a three-segment diagram similar to the theoretical model. This results in a visual impression of sustainability, as subjectively interpreted by the organisational stakeholder(s) taking part.

A full "Information Systems Healthcheck" service was then designed (Plant, 2001). The consultant first gathers and preliminarily analyses sustainability appraisal data from completed questionnaires. A face-to-face meeting then takes place, at which feedback is offered, and the situational diagnosis is discussed with client representative(s). The consultation then moves towards initial action planning and change. Possible areas for improvement are drawn directly from the graphical sustainability appraisal "plot" and respondents’ annotations.

Specific action-plans that might bring about change and improvement are identified, focusing on segments where sustainability appears to be weakest. The follow-up to this part of the process involves a wider cross-section of the client organisation's staff being canvassed if possible in order to confirm, enrich or challenge the situational diagnosis and the action-planning steps emerging.

Evaluation of the healthcheck service suggests that it leads to new insight for client organisations. Key phrases appearing on evaluation questionnaires emphasise the strengths of a “completely outside perspective” that “forces the issue” to give participants an “understanding of context” and “make recommendations” from an “unbiased viewpoint” following “critical review”.

Insight appeared to be based largely on bringing to the surface ideas that were already latent within the organisation, newly articulated and legitimised as a result of the engagement. It was therefore argued that internal capacity can be unlocked by employing the external facilitator in the role of a ‘sounding board’. Drawing out multiple perspectives through this participative approach appeared particularly important.

The crucial requirement for the client to take ownership of the process cannot yet be taken for granted. For this reason and others, further action research is needed to confirm or challenge the findings. Follow-up work is time-consuming and demanding for clients, particularly if, as suggested during the healthcheck, the consultant’s definitions of ‘health’ and ‘sustainability’ are to be challenged, reviewed and appropriated to suit local conditions and culture.

The qualitative basis of this work also leads to its own challenges. The most effective sustainability appraisals have been those involving questionnaire responses from multiple stakeholders that express divergent views. Productive outcomes have resulted from the debate and discussion over the multiple subjective interpretations of sustainability that have emerged. Focusing on disagreement as well as agreement can of course generate conflict instead of consensus, so requires sensitive facilitation and careful management.

Furthermore, given that as follow-up clients are encouraged to engage organisational stakeholders at all levels (a move that could generally be considered ‘healthy’), such conflict can be problematic for those in less powerful positions. More generally, the process may influence the existing power balance; this could either be positive or negative in any given organisation. As a minimum, this possibility must be taken into account.

Solution: 

Sustainability ideas were originally imported into the non-profit ICT field in order to construct an explanatory model for research purposes, but their utility goes beyond this. The use of sustainability indicators has led to a practical grounded tool for understanding real-world non-profit ICT situations.

A common language for making sense of and modelling the organisational, social and technical factors involved in ICT sustainability in individual non-profits is now available.

But it has not only been used successfully to achieve situation diagnosis and understanding, it has also led non-profits towards practical action for change and improvement in ICT use. Although there is more work to be done, the core method, an "information systems healthcheck", involves a visual representation of sustainability that promotes accessibility, and a facilitative approach that can lead to empowerment and organisational learning. Furthermore, researchers concerned with industrial or other sectors have observed similarities with ideas such as capability maturity modelling, and this work may well have application beyond the non-profit sector.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The adoption and use of information and communications technologies (ICT) present critical challenges to small non-profit organizations. The complex, interconnected mix of factors is often confusing. The idea of sustainability can be used to orient a holistic sense-making framework. Sustainability Appraisals promote inclusion and collaboration, and the facilitative approach can lead to empowerment and organizational learning.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Nick Plant

Appreciative Collaboration

Pattern ID: 
741
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
99
Stewart Dutfield
Marist College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Collaboration toward a shared goal is not always an uplifting experience; sometimes the problem is that there always seem to be problems. People can become discouraged in their work toward some common good. They suffer a dissonance between, on one hand, their enthusiasm for an uplifting cause and, on the other, the gritty reality of bringing it about. What seems at the outset to be a life-enhancing enterprise can produce frustration, burnout and turnover of group members.

Context: 

To pursue a shared goal is to seek a positive impact on the world: what David Cooperrider (1990) describes as a heliotropic movement, toward the light of a positive image of the future. As long as the group visualizes the positive contribution that its work will make, it will approach its work with optimism and hope. If pursuing the goal appears as the remediation of a deficit rather than movement toward a positive image, over time a focus on the negative will emerge.

Discussion: 

Conflict can affect a group of people positively or negatively; it can be functional or dysfunctional. Some level of conflict can lead to creativity, responsiveness to change, and learning from experience. Conflict becomes dysfunctional when it produces feelings of hostility, interferes with honest communication, and distracts from the shared goal. People become frustrated when conflict prevents them from achieving what they want to achieve. They may react through aggression, compromise or avoidance; each of these makes the situation worse than it was. The result is a diversion of the group’s attention to perceived problems with the collective enterprise: a language of deficit in which not merely the shared goal, but the group itself becomes a problem to be solved.

Geoffrey Bellman writes of the commitment, passion, and “aspiration for a larger life” (2000, p. 68) which energize people who seek to change the world for the better. If we can see the beauty in our collaborations, we can release the creativity that comes from a compelling vision of a future worth working for.

Human beings, the groups and organizations we work in, and the world we inhabit all contain the potential for this larger life. Through consistent attention to what is alive, and to what can be alive in the future, we can become more alive. The belief that that people are good and that they respond positively to being treated accordingly is well-grounded in research on the Pygmalion effect (Cooperrider, 1990). We respond to positive images of ourselves by regarding others more positively: by noticing their successes, remembering their strengths, and seeing challenges from a positive aspect.

An appreciative approach adopts a fourfold cycle of discovery, dreaming, design and destiny (Cooperrider & Whitney, 1999). It starts not by identifying a need or deficit, but by discovering the best of the current situation. It dreams or envisions what a better future might be, rather than analyzing what caused the deficit. In place of planning how to redress a deficit, it collectively constructs a design for a better future. Instead of acting to resolve a problem, this approach enacts a better future as its destiny.

To enact a better future suggests that a life-affirming end is a natural outcome of life-affirming means; we aspire to larger life in the world through larger life in ourselves and in our collaborations. If we learn to be drawn together by a positive image of each other, our collective effort “enhances the potential for creative, fresh human action toward a life-enhancing purpose” (Srivastva & Barrett, in Srivastva & Cooperrider, 1990, p. 386).

This can succeed if we continually revise our expectations of what we can achieve: to open new possibilities for ourselves, for those we collaborate with, and for the world we hope to improve. This requires that we continually learn by developing and revising “the norms, strategies and assumptions which specify what work gets done and what work is important to do” (Dixon, 1999, p. 48). We need to maintain a dialogue, with ourselves and others, about our individual and shared assumptions.

To better understand the value of others, we must suspend our own assumptions. People are seldom malicious or idiotic, but they often work from different assumptions; once we can understand these assumptions we can appreciate their value. For this reason, appreciating differences is critical to collaboration. Once we appreciate others’ concerns (Spinosa et al., 1997), we can embark on a dialogue about how to work together.

Appreciative collaboration assumes that differences are valuable, and focuses attention on what is positive in any situation; in place of a vocabulary of deficit, it offers a forward-looking language of hope. Combined with a clear shared vision, appreciative collaboration allows us to achieve life-affirming goals through life-affirming means.

Solution: 

Positive images of the future lead to positive actions. Consistently build positive expectations for the future on the basis of positive attributions to what has been achieved in the past. Constantly learn the value of others, and be prepared to change cherished assumptions if they undermine the larger life of the group.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

People working toward some common good can become discouraged when they experience the gritty reality of bringing it about. When the group visualizes the positive contribution that its work will make, it will approach its work with optimism and hope. Appreciative Collaboration encourages us to see the beauty in our collaborations, so we can release the creativity that comes from a compelling vision of a future worth working for.

Pattern status: 
Released

Informal Learning Groups

Pattern ID: 
757
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
98
Justin Smith
The Public Sphere Project & St. Mary's University
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Overemphasis upon formal education can lead to an oversight of alternative learning methods that could be more appropriate within certain contexts. Particularly, for adult populations looking to increase their understanding on relevant subjects, the option of pursuing formal training is not conducive due to the investment in time and extra resources it takes. As a result, people find it difficult to acquire the skills necessary for them to address a radically changing global economy, and thus many capable people continue to remain behind.

Context: 

In cities, in villages, in the work place, or an internet cafe, even in a coffee shop amongst friends, learning can and does take place. Individuals and groups of people can come together to share their knowledge in structured or non structured ways to actively engage one another to mutually build each others understandings. When other methods of learning are not available, and yet the skills necessary to gain better employment, or the building of awareness on specific issues facing a community are needed for achieving greater livelihoods; informal learning processes can serve as an effective alternate route to meet the needs of communites and individuals.

Discussion: 

In a variety of settings from the workplace to village level development initiatives, informal learning through group interactions and individual self-teaching can be an effective tool for developing new skill sets, alternative ideas and even new approaches to advancing livelihoods.

What is informal learning? There is a hot debate among many educators as to what it really is, especially since its practice has become more common place within developed countries as businesses and employees attempt to stay abreast with the latest developments in technologies, and management practices so that they can collectively and individually remain competitive in a market driven environment.

Definition:

  • Informal work-related adult education activities that take place without an instructor. Examples of such activities include on-the-job demonstrations by a supervisor or coworker; on-the-job mentoring or supervised training; self-paced study using books, videos, or computer-based software; attendance at brown-bag or informal presentations; and attendance at conferences, trade shows, or conventions related to one’s work or career (nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/glossary/i.asp).
  • Occurs in everyday life and may not even be recognized as learning by the individual. For example, using a television guide may not be equated by an individual as having learned how to use a table. Related concepts/terms include: incidental learning (www.nald.ca/adultlearningcourse/glossary.htm).

To better illustrate, here is a visual aid used to describe informal learning processes based upon information need.


It has been cited that, "Many times we can find the answer in the world around us, through either people, or formal courses, or bits of information. When it's not found (whether it doesn't exist or a search is incomplete), we go into a problem-solving mode. Then we need data, and analytical frameworks. If we do it in conjunction with others, we need collaboration and/or communication tools. Finally, if we solve it, we (should) close the loop by either adapting the materials to account for this problem in the future, or to create new material (Quinn, 2002)".

In the developing country, informal learning has gained a reputation as a tool for meeting a number of goals that not only include skills training, but also civic and health related education that can be acquired through individual inquiry, as well as through group interactions. Similarly, adult literacy projects that utilize an informal education approach (predominately among women populations) have gained increasing prevalence. In fact, women participants of local self-help groups often support one another through imparting knowledge to one another, they can help to tutor each other in their homes for building up literacy and educating each other on personal finance.

When done in a group context an informal learning project can consist of a number of group led demonstrations that relate to managing one’s personal finances, to starting a business, as well as how to use a computer for e-mail and even how to access your political representatives. The learning spaces are as dynamic and varied as the topics and the people often involved in them. Sometimes these groups are started through simple conversations among neighbors, or the group is seeded with support by an outside agency that brings some structure to the initial group development but after time allows the groups to be autonomous and define its own interests and pursuits.

Similarly, online learning groups can assist its members in learning new software, or computer programming. Take for instance the number of user forums dedicated to asking and answer technology related questions. This exchange among participants constitutes an informal learning group in which information is shared that ultimately builds upon the skills of the participants. In this online dialogue, individuals bring to the group their own experiences and expertise to share with other members of the group to help support a mutual sharing of knowledge. Even those not openly communicating with the group can benefit from finding answers to their own questions. As new doors are opened through this process new levels of curiosity emerge that can aid in the further participation in the group.

While these types of learning communities are contingent upon access to information technology; in other contexts these groups can meet within their geographical proximity. Community animator can act as a facilitator by asking participants questions that help them ask new questions or find answers to question that they may have not known how to answer before.

Regardless of how a group is organized the informal learning group serves two basic functions to provide access to information and knowledge creation as well as evoking a deeper level of individual curiosity among participants and to prompt them towards greater levels of self-enrichment, whether that be for financial gains or merely inner personal gains.

Though informal learning has gained greater focus over the years within development related education and beyond, technologies and access to information resources can make this pattern difficult to effectively utilize. While usage of these groups in development initiatives is high its difficult to ascertain whether or not they have had the level of benefit being represented through the increased effectiveness among employees with the corporations of more highly developed countries. While, this does not mean that informal learning groups are inadequate but it perhaps highlights the acceleration of learning possessed by those who have greater access to information on a larger scale. For this reason this pattern could be made more effective within a development related context through the linking with other patterns that emphasize technology infrastructure an alternative access to information for groups.

Solution: 

As an approach to improving the capacities of peoples involved in any number of development schemes designed to address local livelihoods, informal learning groups can provide an alternative avenue for supporting life-long learning spurring individual curiosities and the acquisition of new skills.

Community leaders, self-help groups, development agencies and local employers can all act as initiators in the upstart of informal learning groups and encourage and overall culture of participatory learning geared to meet the interests and needs of the community. All of these can be done through communities meetings, general or directed interactions during tea/coffee breaks, these opportunities can be pursued and developed at the local internet cafe or even time can be set aside by employers who realize the benefits of supporting a more educated and curious workforce.

Overall, the pattern tends to be mutually reinforcing as knowledge is created curiosity tends to be ignited furthering greater levels of self and group directed investigations. It's up to individuals, groups, communities and businesses to promote these endeavors, and thereby increase the intellectual capabilities of its local residents.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Overemphasis on formal education can overshadow more appropriate learning methods. This is especially true for adults with time and money constraints. Informal Learning Groups can support life-long learning, skill-building, and curiosity. Community leaders, self-help groups, development agencies, and local employers can help launch educational projects that encourage a culture of participatory learning to meet community needs.

Pattern status: 
Released

Community Building Journalism

Pattern ID: 
745
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
97
Peter Miller
UMass/Boston
Version: 
2
Problem: 

How do activists, would-be activists, and those interested in learning about and participating in any movement or community of practice get a sense of what the best practices are, what the underlying philosophies are, who the leadership is and what they're thinking, what the key institutions and organizations are and how they're developing, what the most useful resources and tools are, and what's going on in other communities? How do people learn how to participate with a critical and reflective perspective?

Context: 

The journalistic pattern and communication tools noted here can be used in any field, narrow or wide, where public education and outreach as well as discussion and information sharing among key contributors and other participants are important to the vitality and development of the field.

Discussion: 

There are many ways of speaking to this family of problems/issues/concerns: face-to-face get-togethers, from conversations to conferences; email/discussion lists, blogs, web sites and bulletin boards; books and articles; faxes and radio—are all useful approaches. Tying into all of these, regular publications have come to serve a key role in movement-development and community-building. Tom Paine's Common Sense at the beginning of the American Revolution, arousing the colonists in a radically new "common sense" way, and The Federalist Papers, the country's first major newspaper op-ed series, designed to convince people to support the newly drawn up Constitution—these crucial works of popular journalism that helped set our country's founding are indicative of what can be found in any social and political movement, large or small, specialized or general. Regular publications that cover the events and developments of a movement are indicative of the depth of thought and commitment that people have to their work and their interest in sharing it and learning from one another. Movement/community-building journalism and their publications are most often written and produced by the actors and participants in the movement and provide reflections on the roots and meanings of specific contributions to the field; they tie particular events and achievements, programs, institutions, and actors to a wider field of interconnected activities that together point toward renewed possibilities for people creating a healthier and more democratic common world. Consider professional academic disciplines, how they all have their many journals (international, national, regional) and their growing on-line availability and distribution, and their importance to developing cohesion and direction in their respective communities of practice. Consider the situation among artists, social workers, leftists, conservatives, citizens of any size viable community. In American political life, consider the longevity of key political journals and how they have not only reflected trends and movements but helped define the movements themselves and provided an arena for its participants to learn about and from one another—that strand of radical liberalism that has characterized The Nation from its inception as a vocal anti-slavery voice, the descent from progressive liberalism to neoconservatism represented by The New Republic, the development and fracturing of the radical political culture and politics of eastern European Jewish immigrants as found in The Partisan Review, Dissent, and Commentary.

In the field of community media and technology, the Community Technology Review (www.comtechreview.org) reflects several useful pattern features of current community-building journalism:

• CTR has served as the formal and informal publication of both the Community Technology Centers' Network, www.ctcnet.org, the country's oldest and largest association of nonprofit and community organizations dedicated to providing emerging technology resources for those who don't ordinarily have effective access, and of the Association for Community Networking (www.afcn.org), the affiliation of institutions and individuals interested in developing community-wide information resources and tools. CTR has covered key directions and issues of its two prime organizational partners by placing them within the developments of the wider field of community media and technology. Thus, for example, the fall 1999 issue was a joint production of CTCNet, AFCN, and the Alliance for Community Media (ACM, www.alliancecm.org), the national association of community cable public, education, and governmental (PEG) access centers; ACM and community cable access center development receive on-going coverage. CTR has maintained close relations with the Community Media Review, ACM's official publication; with the fairly-recently established Journal of Community Informatics (http://ci-journal.net), the international journal of what is emerging as the emerging academic discipline of the field, especially outside the United States; with the Digital Divide Network, the online communication environment (at www.digitaldividenetwork.org) that has done so much to address issues involving the problem identified in its name; and with the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (www.nten.org), the association of nonprofit technology assistance providers, and has offered ongoing coverage of NTEN, Circuit Riders, CompuMentor/TechSoup and other organizations/developments in this part of the field. To the degree it is a model, CTR suggests that coverage of key organizations in a field provide a useful map that can be of assistance to both the experienced actor and the new participant looking for information and guidance.

• CTR is published simultaneously on-line and in hard copy, using state-of-the-art tools most appropriate to each environment. The developing on-line environment has been designed with open source publishing tools (Movable Type/Drupal) that provide a large number of embedded hyperlinks for readers to easily explore special areas and references in depth, extensive searching capacity throughout the archives (www.comtechreview.org/issue.php), interactive options for reader comments/additions and communication with authors and editors. Desktop publishing is tied to appropriate printer and print-on demand options for hard copy production and distribution, providing a tangible publication for those readers and occasions where hard copy availability is especially appropriate and useful. With the growing number of links to community-produced audios and videos, CTR provides an integrated multi-media platform that models a variety of approaches that can be used.

• Articles are written by a combination of recognized leaders in the field and first-time authors who have worked on innovative projects and new resources. With first-time authors, editorial staff have expended substantial time in providing writing and editorial assistance. Overall, the tone and approach towards the reader is one that assumes an interest and some familiarity with the field but one that seeks to provide explanations and meanings when technical or field "jargon" or acronyms are used; in general the CTR seeks to welcome the reader into an on-going conversation among some of the major practitioners and leaders in the field (hence the inclusion and important role of photos of authors and individuals who are participants in the events covered). In contrast to so-called "objective" or "neutral" journalism and reportage, movement building journalism engages both the producers and readers in a way that builds and strengthens their communities.

Solution: 

Develop journalism and communication venues that present news, events, and developments in a field in-depth, covering key organizations and institutions to offer a map and guide, using the most appropriate communication tools for participant leaders and actors. For those interested in using hard copy or on-line tools for community-building in a field that does not currently make use of them, discuss the situation with your colleagues and compatriots and find an associated field where such tools are used. Those who have developed them will almost always provide useful advice and even volunteer assistance.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

How do activists and those interested in movements or communities of practice get a sense of best practices, underlying philosophies, strategies, leadership, key institutions and organizations, useful resources and tools, and current work? Developing journalism and communication venues that present in-depth news, events, and developments in a field is essential. And covering key organizations and institutions can help offer a map and guide.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Peter Miller

Citizenship Schools

Pattern ID: 
788
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
96
Lewis A. Friedland
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Carmen J. Sirianni
Brandeis University, Dept. of Sociology
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Some of the the skills of citizenship, like basic communication and cooperation, grow from skills we learn in daily life. Others, like deliberating with others, defining problems, collaboration on common projects, and organizing are not so basic: they, often, need to be learned. Not long ago, associations and intermediary institutions–social and professional clubs, religious congregations, neighborhood schools–rooted in local communities were the main places where these skills were learned. Today, there are fewer contexts in everyday life to learn them. People are less connected in and to local communities and often learn about what's important in the media. Increasingly, general discussion about political and civic issues is occuring on and through the Internet. But it is easier to find information on the Net than to learn reflexively with others. The Net only partly lends itself to learning collaborative citizenship skills. Further, many lower-income people, in the U.S. and around the world, still lack access to the Net. Therefore citizenship schools are needed to build civic skills in both local communities and on the Net.

Context: 

In order to act effectively, people need to learn and apply the skills of citizenship. Everyone who wants to find a democratic and lasting solution to deep and complex problems needs these skills and they are open to anyone to learn and teach. But there are also experts-civic practitioners, government officials and civil servants, teachers and scholars, civic and community organizers

Discussion: 

Citizenship Schools originated in South Carolina in 1959, and quickly spread throughout the South through the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee. In the late 1950s many Southern states had literacy tests, that required people to be able to read and write, and sometimes answer "citizenship" questions (generally designed to exclude blacks from voting). Teaching large numbers of African-Americans in the South to read, write, and learn about citizenship was critical in the larger struggle for civil rights, including the right to vote. According to Andrew Young and Ella Baker, movement leaders, the Citizenship education program was the "foundation on which the entire movement was built." (1) But communities with Citizenship Schools had few ways to make connections with other communities that lasted over time. Eventually, as the early fights for civil rights were won, the schools faded.

The spirit of the schools lived on through the decades that followed in hundreds of civic training programs conducted by organizations and local communities. Faith-based community organizations like the Industrial Areas Foundation train local clergy and lay organizers who learn to conduct campaigns and forums to build consensus on issue agendas like housing, school reform or job training. Environmental watershed, forestry, eco-system restoration and justice movements and others, teach citizens and youth to collect data and monitor environmental quality while building skills of civic trust and cooperation. And new civic movements to build a new model of the public and civic university are growing, like the Council on Public Engagement at the University of Minnesota .

Citizenship Schools have also beeen tried online. In 1994, the American Civic Forum met to try to address a widely perceived crisis in political life and civic culture in the U.S. The Citizenship Schools were an imoprtant model and a Civic Practices Network (CPN) was built, to use the newly emerging technology of the Internet to build skills of citizenship. CPN, launched that year, sought to facilitate broad and multimedia sharing of best cases, civic stories, mutual evaluations, and mentoring opportunities. Other independent civic networks also emerged around this time, including LibertyNet in Philadelphia, and Civic Net. Despite the growth of the Internet, however, no broad network connected and nurtured these activities.

As the web matured beginning around 2000 finding information on many topics of civic interest-public deliberation, the environment, youth, education, health care, communication-became relatively easier for individuals. But the new problem was how to link these groups together to not only provide information in their own specialized subfields, but to create an active environment for teaching, learning, and collaboration while also building a larger sense of solidarity in citizenship. National civic portals to aggregate the growing number of civic sites and discussions on the Net were one proposed answer. But by 2003 or so with the emergence of the blogosphere, the topology of the web itself suggested that distributed links among widely dispersed civic sites might lead to new kinds of collaboration in which a great deal of the work of gathering and connecting is done by sites in the mid-range. This is the level most appropriate for new citizenship schools on the web.

Therefore to build Citizenship Schools in local communities and institutions it is necessary to build a framework that can support many local organizing efforts with curricula and training routines that are distributed, shared, inexpensive, flexible, and sustainable. These can be done in local communities, through institutions like schools and universities, and on the web.

Local citizenship schools would necessarily be the result of pooled efforts among many active local civic organizations across different areas. Many could benefit from local government support. In Seattle, for example, the Department of Neighborhoods provides leadership and skills training to many neighborhood, environmental, and other civic groups.

Citizenship Schools through university extension and outreach could train new expert practitioners rooted in local communities. For example at the University of Minnesota, the Council on Public Engagement reaches out to both scholars and academic staff to redefine the teaching and research mission of the publci university. Potentially, certificates and university credit through university extension services and community colleges could provide individuals valuable learning resources that also support and reinforce the extended investment of time, attention, and civic commitment.

New Citizenship Schools on the web could allow collective learning in a distributed, asynchronous environment; help frame a broad civic agenda collaboratively through distributed discussion; and form a mid-range network of portals to focus attention without the intial high costs of building national space. Schools on the web could support and integrate both local and statewide efforts. The CPN is one online model indicating that there is significant demand online for serious learning material about civic practice. Deliberative-Democracy.net demonstrates how key blogger-editors can be recruited for a civic site and distribute the labor of a serious, ongoing conversation. The Liberating Voices Project [check best name] is also a key example of a distributed learning collaborative.

For the pattern to be realized online, moderate-sized hubs with committed editors will need to be seeded and a few models created. Possibly, Citizenship Schools on the web could ally with university partners, particularly in civically oriented extension programs, to provide credentials and a modest flow of support. Their life-cycle is potentially renewable. If a network of citizenship schools succeeds, it could become self sustaining, using commons models with relatively little ongoing external support.

The biggest challenge in building Citizenship Schools on a commons model is sustaining energy and collaboration, and maintaining a high quality of information. As noted, a commons model requires moderate levels of commitment from a wide core. Many of the contributers will be citizens, academics, policy makers and administrators with other jobs and commitments. Rewards will be instrinsic. A second challenge is to get citizens to commit time to learning, not to just "graze" for information.

The main critics of the concept might say that Citizenship Schools are an anachronism and depend on communities of face-to-face solidarity that are less relevant by the year. Learning doesn't take place this way anymore, despite the fact that the Citizenship Schools would be on the web. Further, getting individuals to make long-term commitments at adequate levels will be nearly impossible.

Solution: 

There are five basic steps to promoting this pattern: (1) Build Citizenship Schools in local communities, institutions and online that can aid collaborative learning; (2) Develop a sites (local and virtual) that include active learning and civic curricula that can be widely shared. (3) Find citizens (lay leaders and experts both) who can serve as teachers and editors who can make minimal but real commitments; (4) Build templates to aid the spread of learning; and (5) Create new forms of civic credentials that provide value to both individuals and communities.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Finding lasting, democratic solutions to deep and complex problems requires citizenship skills. Some are learned in daily life. Others, like deliberating, defining problems, collaborating on projects, organizing, and understanding public institutions and processes are not basic. We need Citizenship Schools in local communities and on the Internet in which citizens can come together with each other and with skilled practitioners and learn from each other.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Septima Clark Public Charter School

Patient Access to Medical Records

Pattern ID: 
876
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
95
Amir Hannan
Tameside & Glossop PCT, UK
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Patients and the public traditionally have very poor, if any, access to information in their medical records. Unless they are with a personal doctor who knows them well, many patients have great difficulty describing their condition accurately. At the same time, the clinician whom they are seeing is expected to provide excellent care without having up-to-date information about their patient's health. To compound the problems further, medical records often contain inaccuracies of which neither patient nor medical providers are aware.

Context: 

Over many centuries, medicine has identified and studied diseases, and developed treatments that now benefit individuals and societies. However, the more treatments there are, the more they need careful monitoring for serious side effects or interactions with other treatments or conditions a patient may have. Patients therefore need increased contact with the medical profession, and this contact is increasingly fragmented among many practitioners and disciplines. This complexity creates unnecessary tests and clinician appointments, as well as an increasing risk of litigation. Patients and the public see rising costs, more demands on their time, and decreasing understanding of their health.

Discussion: 

As healthcare in developed countries becomes more complex, more sophisticated and expensive systems are being put in place, with no proof that delivery of care is improving. Inasmuch as these systems succeed in reducing costs, they tend to benefit the large public and private healthcare providers who sponsor them. They constitute ever more effective electronic filing systems for information about patients, but which those patients neither see nor use.

We live in a world of choice, and if there is little access to information about patients there is plenty of other information for them. More and more, the public seeks information so as to choose among their options for treatment. At the same time, more and more is available on the Internet (e.g. www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk) for those who want high quality information about health and well-being.

Simply providing information is a job half-done. Until patients can work with their own health indices, such as blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and diabetes status, for example, they will find it difficult to relate information they find on websites to their own health. Secure systems already exist for patients to add blood pressure and blood sugar data to their records (“UK Doctors”, 2003). Clinicians welcome such information when determining a patient’s treatment management plan, especially if it can be easily found in one place. Clinicians who have experienced patient-maintained personal health records in become enthusiastic about the practice (Protti, 2005).

Traditionally, the medical practitioner has provided a bridge between medical knowledge and the patients themselves. If a treatment plan did not perfectly match the patient’s needs, or if the patient was challenged by changes or crises, then the practitioner would take responsibility. Nowadays, there is seldom a single clinician involved in any patient’s care; no single person is in a position to mediate between the complexities of medical technology and the real-world experience of the patient. Patients themselves are willing to contribute to this role; they are clamoring for access to their full electronic health records so as to see for themselves what clinicians have written about their individual consultations, the results of tests they have undergone, letters that have come back from specialists, and what medications they have been prescribed both in the present as well as in the past.

Fulfilling the goal of active patient involvement in healthcare through access to medical records offers many opportunities and challenges. Patients could verify the accuracy of their medical records (Cross, 2005), and access their medical records wherever in the world they travel. Given proper controls for privacy and confidentiality, patients could share their information with others if they so wish. Given professional protocols between medical practices (the lack of which has led to bad outcomes for patients in the past), availability of information on patients should be protected at all points of healthcare service delivery. Some patients may find some information in their records upsetting, while equivalent information may help in the treatment of other patients or other conditions. Patients may need protection from seeing some information about themselves before a clinician has discussed it with them, and this may limit a patient's choice to access to full information. Information about a patient gleaned from a third party requires careful treatment before it is entered into the record.

The clinician’s role as mediator between medical expertise and the patient’s experience will never go away, but it will change. Some of the opportunities of patient access to medical records may save clinician time, and others may not. Some patients will thrive on the ability to combine health information on the Internet and elsewhere with information about themselves from their medical records; others will not. With the right of online access to medical records comes the responsibility to deal with the information presented on a computer screen. The informed and responsible patient, comfortable with interpretive tools for making sense of medical data, has greater trust and confidence in the medical profession. Such changes in health behavior cannot be left to the technology and the information; they may require emotional support that depends upon some degree of human intervention.

Online recording of medical information by patients is already being done (www.ihealthrecord.org; www.healthspace.nhs.uk). Online patient access to medical records is beginning (www.paers.net; Bos, Fitton & Fisher, 2006), and it presents a cutting-edge challenge for practical trust between patient and clinician, and amongst medical providers. Medical records are being put online anyway, and over time they will become increasingly interoperable; the challenge is to make record access not merely a cost reduction measure for administrators and providers, but a tool for patients and their families to participate in their own healthcare.

Solution: 

Use patient access to online medical records as a bridge between the precise art of medical science and its practice as the patient experiences it. Let the public, patients, clinicians and other healthcare providers have up-to-date access to accurate medical information, regardless of location. Develop robust systems to protect privacy and confidentiality. Above all, educate and encourage practitioners and the public in patients’ use of online medical records to actively manage their health.

Categories: 
orientation
Categories: 
products
Categories: 
resources
Themes: 
Research for Action
Themes: 
Education
Themes: 
Policy
Themes: 
Case Studies
Verbiage for pattern card: 

Patient access to medical records can bridge between medical science and its practice as the patient experiences it. Let the public, patients, clinicians, and other healthcare providers have up-to-date, interactive access to accurate medical information. Use robust systems to protect privacy and confidentiality. Above all, educate and encourage practitioners and the public in patients' use of online medical records to actively manage their health.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Wikimedia Commons

Mirror Institutions

Pattern ID: 
583
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
94
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

There are millions of organizations and other institutions that are responsible for important decisions and policy development on behalf of the public trust. There are also organizations and other institutions that violate the public trust or who otherwise wield illegitimate power. Unfortunately these two types often overlap. Some wield enormous power while some are impotent and irrelevant. At any rate, both types must be monitored closely — persistently and non-superficially — to encourage them to exert their powers appropriately. Moreover, both of these groups (and, indeed, all of us) are faced with millions (basically uncountable) of problems (and problems in the making) within the environment that are not well understood within a useful framework. The institutions that civil society establishes are often too diffuse or too narrow to face these problems effectively, while many seem to be "reinventing the wheel." Institutions of government and business can be too powerful or politically beholden to perform their duties responsibly; they can also be conceptually or administratively misaligned with their mission for many reasons.

Context: 

There are many sets of problems / situations / contexts that can be addressed with the same pattern. "Institutions" in the sense of people who are organized around certain goals in a persistent way are ubiquitous.

Discussion: 

The world of mirrors — and, hence, any discussion of them in a metaphorical way — leads to reflections and reflections of reflections and reflections of reflections of reflections and so on. So be it.

Mirrors reflect, but not perfectly. At the very least they reverse the image that they're reflecting. We're only using mirrors, however, as a metaphor for reflection or replication.

Due to the size and complexity of most of these mirroring endeavors, formal or informal organizations are established to tackle the job. For many reasons organizations that mirror to some degree the area within the overall environment that they are focused on are likely to have more success than those who don't. An institution is society's attempt to make a "machine" whose output is of a desired type. It reflects (however imperfectly) the desires of its creators and maintainers and its "products" are "mirror images" of each other (or at least have the same "family resemblance.") "Mirror Institutions" are those institutions that reflect or reflect upon other institutions or other realities. As such this pattern covers a very wide range. To cover this wide range we've identified four important facets: the reflective mirror institution, the critical mirror institution, the alternative / generative mirror institution, and the flattering mirror institution. The boundaries between these different institutional mirror types aren't clear. It's hard in other words, to know where one ends and another begins. And the "mirror" itself (at least the metaphorical mirror we're talking about) is a constructed object whose object is implicitly or explicitly what it's set up to be and what it has come to be (while realizing, of course, that the characteristics are not completely knowable either but are subject to interpretation themselves — via another mirror. And, like all mirrors, the reflections can be seen from many angles.

The reflective mirror institution is used to help us understand without bias some aspects of the "real world." This institution needs to reflect the most salient aspects of its object back to the people who need to understand the object. Scientists ideally employ this type of mirror institution when they endeavor to understand the complex and intricate relationships within the physical environment.

James A. Wilson in his essay "Matching Social and Ecological Systems in Complex Ocean Fisheries" states that the "mismatch of ecological and management scale makes it difficult to address the fine-scale aspects of ocean ecosystems, and leads to fishing rights and strategies that tend to erode the underlying structure of populations and the system itself." He goes on to state that "This is likely to be achieved by multiscale institutions whose organization mirrors the spatial organization of the ecosystem and whose communications occur through a polycentric network."

Problems can result arise if people believe that they're using a reflection that has perfect fidelity or if they're work is overly influenced by ideology.

The critical mirror institution is used to uncover, analyze and expose the failings of another institution. Using the explicit philosophy, goals, and practices of the institution itself to show the stark contrast between their often noble rhetoric and what they're actually doing is a common approach. In the U.S., for example, the OMB Watch organization performs a "watchdog" function on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) within the U.S. government. The Bretton Woods project uses the decisions made by global economic powers at the 19__ Bretton Woods meeting as the basis for its critique of international capital and its institutional handmaidens.

The alternative / generative mirror institution is used to develop — and propagate — alternatives to existing institutions. Governments in exile are one use of this pattern, as are community banks, whether they're in Venezuela or other countries. Sometimes the alternative is then mirrored into multiple versions of itself. Federated institutions that are loosely connected to each other and more-or-less the same type of species represent a good way to develop strength globally while maintaining local control. This was used in the realm of independent, non-commercial communication, including community access television, community networks and the Independent Media Centers movements.

The World Social Forum is a blend of two mirror institution facets: the critical and the alternative / generative; it established itself as a counter-forum to the World Economic Forum which promotes alternative ideas and visions. The World Social Forum is also being mirrored in the form of regional and thematic forums.

The flattering mirror institution is an existing mirror, sometimes called an infinite mirror that is self-referential, often self-indulgent, self-deceiving, self-reinforcing, and sycophantic. That is, to a large degree, the state of the media today, endlessly reflecting upon itself like an echo chamber.

[Note that media reflects society — however incompletely — back to itself. As Israeli journalist Gideon Levy of the Haaretz newspaper pointed out "The Palestinians know what the Israelis are doing."]

There are several ways by which to look at any mirror institutions — especially when setting one up.
   The object or environment — What is standing in front of the mirror?
   The reflection — What is being reflected?
   Reflecting on the reflection — What are you seeing in the reflection? Should you be looking for other things?
   The audience — Who is (or should be) peering into the mirror institution?

Does relying exclusively on "reflections" mean that wholly new institutions can't be devised? Although brand new institutions can be created through a series of partial changes, this argues for more of an intelligent (or pragmatic, efficient or opportunistic) design, rather than creation. Decentralized Intelligence Agency?!

Challenges: Adopting and realigning when necessary. Maintaining a network with like-minded organizations — mirror or not. The "mirror" approach is ecological — but who's doing the "higher level" work?? Governments exists to (or should exist to) sort out (or at least assist with the sorting out process) issues related to rights and responsibilities — who (and what) can do something and who (and what) should do something. Associated with this is the task of developing (and exercising) incentives to encourage people to do the right thing and penalties for those who don't.

This is a pattern for conscious adaptation. A pattern transformation, since culture is propagated by its institutions. This is very much an analogy to basic evolutionary theory. Mirroring implies copying -- but generally copying with changes made to one or more aspects of the original in the process. Liberating Voices is a mirror of A Pattern Language.

Solution: 

Although this pattern is may be a bit heavy on abstractions, we believe that the institution-as-mirror metaphor can be very useful primarily due to the questions it brings to the surface. The German playwright, Bertolt Brecht told us that "art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it." The mirror institutions that we create must also to a large degree be put to the same purpose.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Organizations and other institutions that are responsible for important decisions and policy development can violate the public trust or otherwise wield illegitimate power. Mirror Institutions are those institutions that reflect or reflect upon other institutions or other realities. Mirroring implies copying — but generally copying with changes made to one or more aspects of the original in the process.

Pattern status: 
Released

Citizen Journalism

Pattern ID: 
805
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
91
Lewis A. Friedland
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Hernando Rojas
University of Wisconsin
Version: 
2
Problem: 

For democracy in a complex society to work well, journalism is necessary. Citizens need information about the political, economic, and cultural systems that structure their lives in order to act on them effectively. However, traditional news institutions have had major failures in their ability to adequately cover new

Context: 

Distributed information on the web opens new possibilities for citizen information. Some say that we at the

Discussion: 

The magnitude and interest in Citizen Journalism is quite new, although forms of it have existed through much of modern history. The pamphleteers of the American Revolution were, in their way, citizen journalists. Many of the newspapers that cropped up in the 19th Century were started by non-professionals, who saw a need in local communities and began publishing a mix of news, advertising, and gossip. Newspapers were professionalized in the 19th Century, leading to a relatively independent corps of journalists oriented to fact-based "objective reporting.” But professionalization also discounted the underlying truth claims on one side or another and led to a decline of independent judgment and, sometimes, support for the status quo.

Beginning in the 90s, public or civic journalism constituted a major reaction to this state of affairs. The movement grew from the principle that while news organizations could and should remain independent in judging particular disputes and advancing particular solutions to problems, they ought not to remain neutral on democracy and civic life itself. About of a fifth of all American newspapers and some television stations experimented with civic journalism from the early 90s to the early 2000s, but other pressures subverted it.

By the mid-1990s, the web began to offer a different alternative. Blogging offered new networks of opinion writing, as well as criticism of traditional media outlets. Some considered it journalism, others editorializing or soapboxing. But, what was clear was that the new writing could carve out its own space of attention on the web (although it remained dependent on the reporting of the mainstream media).
Citizen journalism as a distinct movement emerged in early 2000s. Journalists like Dan Gilmor, left the San Jose Mercury News to start Bayosphere, an independent journalism blog. . At the same time, political blogs grew rapidly in number and influence on both left and right sides of the political spectrum.

The emerging practices of citizen journalism run the gamut from new forms of audience participation in traditional media to citizen expression in the blogosphere In terms of content they alternate fact-oriented reporting of locally based participants in the context of a global network, to self-expression of opinion. What defines citizen journalism, then, is not specific content, a given business model or a form of reporting, but rather a networked structure of storytelling that is based on the following premises: a) openness of information; b) horizontal linkage structures rather than vertical flows of information; c) blurring lines between content production and consumption; d) diffused accountability based on reputation and meaning, rather than on structural system hierarchies.

One of the best examples of a mainstream media institution practicing citizen journalism is the Spokane Spokesman Review (www.spokesmanreview.com/) which systematically incorporates the views of Spokane’s citizens in every aspect of its reporting, from hard news to sports. The Review has even put its morning news meeting on the web.

Another strand of citizen journalism is a hybrid, in which professional and citizens interact in the production process. The exemplar in this realm is Ohmy News (www.ohmynews.com) from South Korea whose motto is “Every Citizen is a Reporter.” Ohmy News has a paid editing and reporting staff that works on 200 plus daily submissions from citizens. More than 40,000 citizens overall have contributed to the site. U.S. Sites like the Twin Cities Daily Planet (www.tcdailyplanet.net) and the Voice of San Diego (www.voiceofsandiego.org) are seeking to replicate its success, and Ohmy News is investing in its International site. Recently, Jay Rosen in PressThink (http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/) has proposed New Assignment, a hybrid model in which citizens will submit issues and topics they want to see reported on, and professional editors will pursue the story along with citizen journalists.

The Madison Commons project in Wisconsin has developed another type of hybrid model. The Commons project trains citizens to do neighborhood reporting and gathers reporting from mainstream media aggregates it on a local web site. (www.madisoncommons.org). Another good example of academic/citizen partnerships is represented by Mymissourian (www.mymissourian.com), in which journalism students serve as editors for citizen journalists.

Finally, the blogosphere emerges as a massive example of citizen journalism as part of a large conversation that either makes or comments on the news. Of course blogs, their content, their significance and recognition vary widely, from general blogs of professional journalists like Gilmore’s to pundits on the left and right, to community level aggregators to more personal expressions (www.baristanet.com/).

Citizen journalism allows anyone who wants to contribute to public debate as an active participant. There are a number of relevant motives: the intrinsic enjoyment of interviewing, reporting and writing. The civic rewards of contributing informed knowledge to a larger public discussion and debate. And the reward of building an alternative institution, whether local news alternative or worldwide public.

First, citizen journalism offers the ability to collaborate to make many small contributions to what is essentially an ongoing conversation among many people, most of whom do not know each other than through the common project. Second, the so-called "wisdom of crowds," holds that many people know more than a few, that even experts only have limited knowledge, and that a broad open domain with many contributors will produce useful and valid knowledge.

Third, and closely related to these, is the idea of "the people formerly known as the audience." (Rosen and Gilmore). This is to say that the audience for news media (media in general) is no longer passive. Rather it is an active group that will respond in a continuum to the news, ranging from simple active reading, linking and sending stories to friends via email and lists, and commenting on stories, to contributing factual knowledge that can flesh out or correct a story, to actual writing as citizen journalists. Across all these levels of activity citizens become more engaged with their communities.

An active and engaged citizenry can expand the range of topics discussed, and improve the quality and extent of information about any given issue, by opening it up to anyone involved. Citizen journalism creates the possibility for civic action to be deliberative instead of hierarchical. By participating directly in the production and dissemination of journalism citizens help, even in small ways, to set the news agenda.

Alternatives to citizen journalism such as face to face community level deliberation exercises and electronic dialogues are both important and complimentary to citizen journalism, but they lack the fact-based component which is critical to democracy and that should not be solely in the hands of traditional media.

For citizens to use this pattern, there are a number of things they can do. They can go to websites like www.j-lab.org to find out how to begin doing citizen journalism themselves, and have access to many tools and examples. The best overall resource for thinking about citizen journalism is Press Think (www.pressthink.org) which also links many layers of citizen journalists, mostly in the U.S. Those interested in the international movement can go to Ohmy News International (http://english.ohmynews.com) or Wikinews (www.wikinews.org). There are also web resources such as the News University that where originally conceived to enhance the training of journalists, but that can also improve the journalistic skills of citizens (www.newsu.org).

There are three main challenges to citizen journalism: sustainability, inclusion and traditional journalism. Probably the biggest challenge to doing citizen journalism is sustaining a distributed enterprise that requires time, attention, and skill, from both producers and contributors/readers. A second challenge is to avoid ending up in many small communities of group monologue rather than in a broader community dialogue. And finally, citizen journalism may accelerate the erosion of traditional journalism without replacing it with a new model powerful enough to center attention on core social problems, in a society that is already highly distracted.

Nevertheless, is appears that a pattern that brings together the networked discussion of citizens in the blogosphere with fact oriented reporting will be a more fitting model to build a vibrant public sphere than the centralized and hierarchical model of the printed media and mass television that we have now (Maher, 2005). Benkler (2006) has made a powerful argument that the baseline for our evaluation should be the mass media model that has, in many ways, failed to report on the most critical issues of our day, not an idealized model of citizen journalism. Further, for the foreseeable future, they will continue to complement each other, willingly or not.

Solution: 

Build new models of citizen journalism, nationally, internationally, and locally to create new forms of reporting and public accountability. In local communities, build information commons to support the active learning and participation of citizens in changing the traditional media ecologies to ones that blend the best of citizen and traditional media. For individuals, learn new skills of reporting via the web, and become an active reader, commenter, and contributor.

The citizen journalism pattern is already being realized world-wide. Its beauty is that is only takes a sufficient number of citizens with access to technology and an interest in some story. Citizen journalism is growing daily as the increasing number of projects worldwide and the expanding blogosphere attest. Whether it will continue to grow will depend upon the solutions posed by these projects to the challenges of sustainability and inclusion. Although it is early to asses the impact of citizen journalism it would appear that in Korea it has served to open the political spectrum and in the United States to redefine the news agenda. It remains to be seen, whether, and how, citizen journalism can develop in non- democratic countries. At least in theory it could represent an important pathway in the development of a networked civil society that brings about democratization change.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Citizens need information about the political, economic, and cultural systems that structure their lives. This is usually produced by journalists — but citizens can be journalists. The beauty of Citizen Journalism is that it only requires: citizens with dedication, skills, and access to networks, and an audience for the news they produce. Citizen Journalism represents an important opportunity for the realization of democratic change.

Pattern status: 
Released

Service-Learning

Pattern ID: 
428
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
90
Norman Clark
Appalachian State University
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The people who are the most affected by the digital divide typically need to access information from nonprofit organizations. However, most NPO's do not have the time, personnel, and/or skills to create and maintain web sites. Thus, the service-oriented information needed the most by lower income community members is often not online. In addition, many lower-income community members lack the skills necessary to effectively use web sites. Finally, data supporting the local impact of the digital divide is often insufficient or even non-existent.

Context: 

This problem has a unique solution in regions surrounding college campuses with service-learning programs.

Discussion: 

The groups most likely to be impacted negatively by the digital divide are paradoxically the groups that need access to basic service-related information the most. Quite often, members of these groups also lack the skills needed to use the Internet effectively. In addition, nonprofit organizations (NPO's) often have the information needed by these disadvantaged groups, but also paradoxically are unable to make this information available online. The needs of both groups are in conflict, and create a context in which it is extremely difficult for either group’s needs to be met. Digital Divide Impacted Groups’ Needs: * easily accessible and up-to-date information * interaction with service providers * appealing design * intuitive navigation systems * training NPO's Needs/Lacks: * personnel to put information online while still meeting clients' needs * additional time to create and maintain web pages * knowledge and skill to create effective web sites * funds to pay for server space or a webmaster One possible solution is for the NPO's to rely on a volunteer from the community to create and maintain a website. However, relying on volunteer labor for web sites is risky, due to the turnover rate and varying skill levels of volunteers. What is needed is a pool of skilled, but cost-free, assistance. One place to find this pool is on college campuses with service-learning programs. Service-learning is a pedagogical method designed to link course content with external experiences. Students learn the course-related materials through traditional learning in the classroom and through practical projects in and with the community, as well as about the reality and significance of the social issues faced by the community; while simultaneously providing a service to the community by meeting specific needs of the agencies or the populations with which they work. A service-learning class intentionally links the content of the course to a relevant NPO's goals. Students benefit from the chance to apply their skills to a real problem, and to learn about the needs of the community; while the NPO's benefit from the chance to have some of their goals and needs met, and to influence the next generation of leaders. In the long run, research has shown that students who take part in service-learning courses feel a greater sense of connection to their local communities, as well as an understanding of their interdependence with their neighbors. Connection and interdependence are building blocks of responsibility, and responsible citizens are in turn the building blocks of strong communities. The initiative for a service-learning course can come from a number of different places. Individual professors can choose to use this pedagogical method in their courses, universities may require service-learning in certain classes, or community agencies may propose projects that fit with the learning objectives of a class. Regardless of the source, effective service-learning requires collaboration between the members of the community and the academic institution: it should be done WITH the community, not ON the community. The goals and needs of the community must be combined with the goals and needs of the course. This process of collaboration is often facilitated by offices on the campus specifically designated to assist with service-learning. The service can take one of three forms. 1) Direct service: students work with the community members served by local agencies. In the case of the digital divide, students in a wide range of courses could train local community members to access and evaluate online information. This training could be done at the local library, senior centers, retirement homes, elementary schools, and any other locations with the necessary facilities (connected computers). 2) Indirect service: students work with the local community agencies to provide them with some needed assistance, which indirectly benefits their clients. In the case of the digital divide, students in web design courses can be required to create and/or update web sites for local NPO's, or run workshops training agencies representatives to maintain their own sites. 3) Community-based research: students (with faculty support) conduct research for and with a local community agency. In the case of the digital divide, people trying to change the existing systems sometimes lack the hard evidence needed to prove that a problem exists. Students in a wide range of research-methods courses could conduct survey research into the impact of the digital divide at the local level. But most importantly, the impact of a service-learning course goes beyond the immediate project: it results in changed lives. This is because a critical component of any service-learning course is reflection. Research shows that we don't really learning anything from experience (we often make the same mistakes repeatedly); we learn from thinking about our experiences. Students in service-learning courses are required to reflect on their experience in rigorous, thoughtful, and evaluated ways. This process drives the learning home, increasing the integration of knowledge they have gained in the present course with the way they live their lives in the future. For example, to create web sites, students must understand the agency, which means they must research the role that the NPO plays in the community, the populations that it serves, and the social issues that underlie its mission. This research helps students understand how critical access to the right information is for everyone, and how information is always related to power. Putting students in contact with members of the local community can also help dispel stereotypes. Students' easy access to computers often leads them to mistakenly believe that the digital divide is just a "Mercedes divide." Requiring students to work with underfunded and understaffed non-profit agencies, who are themselves working with disadvantaged groups, can open their eyes to the very real informational needs in the communities in which they live.

Solution: 

Service-learning provides a way to use the resources of a college or university to meet real community needs, such as designing web sites for NPO's or training community members to effectively access and evaluate information online. Students can create valuable resources for the community while simultaneously becoming more aware of the social issues in that community. This ensures that once people are able to cross the digital divide, they will find the local information that they need, and not just more places to shop. This also creates the possibility for the next generation of leaders to have a better understanding of the information needs of their local community.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

While many important community issues are ignored, higher education often focuses on abstractions. It can miss the myriad issues that are everywhere. Service-learning connects learning and research to practical projects. In relation to the online world students could maintain web sites for non-profit organizations, train agency representatives to maintain their own sites, and train community members to access and evaluate online information.

Pattern status: 
Released
Pattern annotations: 

Future Design

Pattern ID: 
441
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
88
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

By acting as though the future will never arrive and things never change, we are subconsciously creating the future with the seeds that we are unwittingly sowing today. Whether by actively embracing the conventional "wisdom" that has created these socially and environmentally precarious times or by succumbing to the dictates of habit, instinct or necessity, humankind seems to sleepwalking into the future. Indeed it is quite plausible that we are creating the ideal conditions today for unspeakable disasters tomorrow.

Context: 

This pattern can be used in a million situations, especially when people feel strongly that the directions they're following aren't the directions that they think they ought to be following. Employing this pattern often takes the form of a collaborative envisioning exercise with a variety of stakeholders.

Discussion: 

Looking at the future with open, imaginative and critical eyes can open up the possibility of — if not the demand for — fundamental social change. After all, why would anybody bother to contemplate the future if there were no possibility of change; if every step taken was an echo of some past step.

The purpose of this pattern is to get people actively engaged envisioning better futures and making plans on how to get there. Through "rehearsing for the future" we hope to create a wealth of possible scenarios that could become the positive "self-fulfilling prophecies" of tomorrow, rather than the violent and exploitive scenarios that seem to rule today.

Educational settings are not the only setting for introducing and advancing a rich future-oriented agenda but they may be the best. Unfortunately, however, current educational practices seem to be oblivious to the future. Schools present topics such as mathematics or science with no historical context. History, on the other hand, though based on human events, becomes an "authoritative" recounting of past facts while the future is a "mere abstraction" (Slaughter & Beare, 1993). And since everything seemingly and inexorably unfolded in an inevitable way, the sequence of human events appears largely unalterable.

One failing of a non futures-oriented educational approach is the lack of inquiry into the causes of the world's problems (Slaughter & Beare, 1993). Nor is there any effort to develop or consider that could help alleviate these problems. Beyond a cursory look at history, where the impact of people who aren't elites is never evident, many people worldwide live in an eternal now, a temporal cocoon which cultivates amnesia of the past and ill preparedness for the future. Both elites and "ordinary people" seem unwilling to acknowledge that they have roles in shaping the future. Forgetting that fact in the face of immense 21st Century challenges strips humankind of its fundamental capacity to consciously make plans (Slaughter & Beare, 1993).

Future Design helps surface the internal models of the future that have been ignored, repressed, or deliberately kept from view, and attempts to understand how they play out and how they came to be. At the same time, and somewhat independently, Future Design builds new models that help liberate us from dangerous inertia and help us be more effective in our thinking about and acting on the future.

There is an endless variety of exercises, games, workshops, and other activities that we are calling "Future Design." Many of these could be organized and convened in just about any setting. Lori Blewett and Doug Schuler recently used a "Design a Society" workshop to organize a large team project in our "Global Citizenship" program at The Evergreen State College. Schools, of course, should not be the only place where Future Design can be pursued. Future Design activities are needed that could be done individually (and, hopefully, shared), on the job (government, NGOs, business, etc.), with activists, and as broad-based, possibly phased, longer-termed projects — with or without government involvement and support.

The current project, Open Space Seattle 2100 to develop a "comprehensive open space network vision for Seattle's next 100 years" contains elements (including the need for participants and resources — even if it's just time) that could be considered typical of Future Design activities. Since the Seattle plan is ambitious it requires broad support and ample resources. The University of Washington and the City of Seattle are key players as are a variety of environmental, civic, neighborhood, professional and other groups. Many of the Future Design projects that have civic goals are participatory and inclusive. At the same time that the community is developing a collective vision, the organizers also aim "To catalyze a long-term advocacy coalition and planning process for Seattle's integrated open space."

The Seattle project consciously invokes the visionary park and landscape work of the Olmstead brothers in the early 1990's that contributed to Seattle's livability. The timeline for this project which is longer than standard planning horizons, frees participants from a variety of constraints on their thinking. By encouraging people to think beyond what's considerable immediately do-able people are more likely to be creative. On the other hand, if the timeframe is too far in the future participants are likely to feel detached from the enterprise. The Seattle project gets around this by including tasks for the short-term as well as visions for the long-term.

In order to strike a balance between the real and the imagined, designers of Future Design projects must provide a structure for less-structured activities to take place within. The projects must provide prompts — scenarios, instructions, props, etc. — that encourage people to imagine a future without forcing them down certain paths. Since people can't simply be instructed to "be creative," these "prompts" are used to promote futures thinking among the participants. This pattern can be used in many settings, but research has shown that Future Design needs a supportive atmosphere, and, as Open Space Technology literature suggests, participants need to participate with passion, commitment and an open-mind. A broad spectrum of community groups needs to be represented, or at least recognised, or the outcome can reaffirm prejudices and help perpetuate old conflicts.

Future Design processes often provide a variety of participatory opportunities. The 7-10 person teams that addressed open space issues in one of the neighborhoods outlined on the Seattle Charrette Map (see image at end of this pattern) are key to the effort but organizers have organized a lecture series and a blog (http://open2100.blogspot.com) to encourage alternative ways to participate.

Massive challenges await this vain undertaking at every turn. How effective is Future Design? How do games and other Future Design approaches translate into action How do future designers from one group build on the results of others? Interestingly a project whose recommendations aren't implemented can still be a success. Margaret Keck describes the "Solucao Integrada" (Integrated Solution), a plan for sewage treatment and environmental restoration in Brazil, which, although shelved by the government, lived on in the public's eye as an example of sensible large-scale solution in the face of other ill-conceived projects. "Success" must be judged in a variety of ways and this includes inclusivity and richness of the Future Design process, its immediate impacts and its indirect contributions to the overall imagination and civic culture of a community.

Finally, as John Perry Barlow's email tagline reminds us: "Man plans, God laughs." Human history is full of twists, enlightened and macabre, tragic and heroic. The future is unlikely to come out the way we think it will or want it to, but that shouldn't prevent us from trying to work towards the goal of a more just and healthy future.

Solution: 

Develop participatory activities that addrdess these four major objectives: (1) Develop visions of the future and ideas about how to achieve them; (2) Bring into the light and critically analyze the current models of the future that people, society and institutions are employing both explicitly and implicitly; (3) Help instill feelings of empowerment, compassion, hope and courage in futures thinking and action; and (4) At the same time, cultivate humility in regards to the unknowability of the future and the limits to human reason and understanding.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

By acting as though the future will never arrive and things will never change, we are creating the future with the seeds that we are sowing today. The purpose of Future Design is to get people actively engaged envisioning better futures and making plans on how to get there. Through "rehearsing for the future" we hope to create possible scenarios that could become the positive "self-fulfilling prophecies" of tomorrow.

Pattern status: 
Released
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