social

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

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

Document Centered Discussion

Pattern ID: 
856
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
92
Todd Davies
Stanford University
Benjamin Newman
Stanford University
Brendan O'Connor
Stanford University
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Supporting group interaction around a shared document is challenging for designers of two-dimensional interfaces and asynchronous, text-based groupware. The need to deliberate (collaborate, make decisions, or make comments) around documents appears to be one of the main reasons that groups that could otherwise interact virtually and asynchronously using the Internet choose to meet synchronously, either in person or online, often in a richer environment than text only (e.g., including audio, video, or a three-dimensional environment). When some or all stakeholders are unable to participate in synchronous meetings, distributed asynchronous interaction offers many advantages to groups deliberating about documents: more time for reflection, revision, and information seeking (cf. Holland and Stornetta 1992); the ability to accommodate people's conflicting schedules; flexible interaction modes through conversion of text to and from speech (e.g., for disabled or less literate users); the easier access, storage, and search afforded by digital archives; and the empowerment of those who are at a disadvantage when participation involves speaking in a live group (Price and Cappela 2002). But mapping in-person meetings onto an asynchronous interaction through distributed two-dimensional text displays entails several types of lost richness, including nonverbal grounding cues (Clark and Brennan 1991), spatial depth, the natural use of separate perceptual modalities for document (visual) and discussion (auditory), and the use of a shared temporal progression to guide attention.

Context: 

In our usage, a document can be in any format, including images, audio, and video, but our primary focus here is on digital documents in which most of the information is in text. Discussion that takes place around a document consists of comments that pertain to either the document as a whole or some part of it. The document may be fixed or evolving as the discussion around it proceeds, but the document assumes an elevated status over the comments made about it because, for example, it has been chosen for careful discussion, its final version will have governing consequences, or it will represent the outcome of a collaboration. In the latter cases, the group must somehow reach a decision relating to the document (e.g., whether to adopt it). This pattern focuses on interfaces for visually abled users. Adapting the analysis presented here for visually impaired users might be possible, but our feeling is that that will require quite a different approach, one we hope to investigate in the future.

Discussion: 

The projection of a three-dimensional, multimodality, co-located, synchronous deliberation experience (i.e., communicating face-to-face in a non-virtual place) onto a two-dimensional, primarily visual, distributed asynchronous interaction requires essential aspects of face-to-face deliberation to be remapped onto a screen interface. The needed mappings can be judged according to two broad goals:

  • Visible relationships. Relationships between comments and the texts they reference, between different comments, and between group members and the document and discussion should be as visible as possible.
  • Distinguishable boundaries. Separations between contextually related and unrelated text and comments and between individual authors of documents and comments should be as distinguishable as possible.

We first consider visible relationships. Exhibiting relationships between the components of document-centered deliberation (document, comments, and participants) implies a number of refinements of this goal. First, the document text that is the target of deliberation should be covisible (displayed simultaneously) with comments around it, and the identities of comment authors and document text, when relevant, should also be covisible with their output. Second, the referencing relationship between a comment and its target text should be visible, that is, the interface should incorporate ostensive pointing (meaning that a pointing relationship is displayed on the screen rather than being enacted through a peripheral device) and in-text placement of comments. Third, response relationships between comments should be visible through threading. And fourth, the reactions of deliberation participants should be visible through polling and decision features.

The other goal is distinguishable boundaries. Visible relationships can be inadequate, as anyone would know who has used a map with ambiguous place labelings. The interface should also mark boundaries between text that is and is not the reference target of a comment, for example, though text highlighting. Text authored by different people at different times should be distinguishable through textual boundaries. The topic of a text should be able to be viewed separately from its main body through headers. And obsolete comments (those made on a previous version) should be recognizable through pertinence markers which indicate which versions a comment pertains to, as well as those to which it does not apply, for example, because it has been addressed in the revision process.

The Deme environment for online deliberation is a tool for document-centered discussion, polling, and decision making that incorporates all of the elements derived above in a dynamically updating (no-page-reload) interface. The introductory image above shows the most recent design of the meeting area viewer in Deme. The shaded-in header of a comment in the discussion view pane on the right points to a shaded-in comment reference in the text of a document shown in the item view pane on the left. Deme provides covisibility between document and comments through an optional split-screen view. In-text comment references are transiently pointed to (the dotted-line arrow goes away as soon as the user scrolls) when clicked on, and comments are displayed in the context of hierarchical threads. Members can vote on documents under a variety of decision rules. Boundaries are provided through highlighting, text boundaries, headers, and a versioning system that remembers when comments become obsolete and marks them as such. The design takes advantage of no-page-reload web server calls to provide dynamic relationship visibility and boundary distinguishability.

Solution: 

Applying the principles of relationship visibility and boundary distinguishability in an integrated way puts online deliberators at less of a disadvantage relative to their face-to-face counterparts.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Groups need to deliberate around documents. Distributed asynchronous interaction allows more time for reflection, revision, and information seeking; the ability to accommodate conflicting schedules; and easier access, storage, and search of digital archives. Groups can discus the document as a whole or parts of it. The document may be fixed or evolving, but the document should remain central.

Pattern status: 
Released
Aaron Tam
Stanford University

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

Experimental School

Pattern ID: 
837
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
89
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Steve Schapp
United for a Fair Economy
Thad Curtz
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Schools can become institutionalized and non-responsive to the real needs of their students, the community or, even society at large. Schools with static and immutable assumptions and values are unlikely to meet society's changing needs. This is particularly unfortunate at a time when the need for public problem-solving is the most acute. If schools aren't innovative and if people don't seriously think about how education can play new roles in new ways, it's unlikely that the society will be innovative in cultural, technical, scientific, or civic thought or action. Schools also tend to assist privileged subsets of society. Typically, older people can't attend school, nor can poor people, working people, or rural people. Many colleges and universities (at least in the US) are more becoming commercially-oriented, thus promoting economic aggrandizement of individuals and corporations while ignoring the common good.

Context: 

Any situation where education or some type of "schooling" is necessary. This pattern has almost universal coverage because learning is a universal phenomenon. Humans are built for learning!

Discussion: 

For this pattern we can define an experimental school as a school that broadly attempts to accomplish certain aims (such as social and environmental amelioration) while adopting experimentation as an abiding and guiding orientation. This implies that the school is not perfect and it affirms that the school will at least try to adapt to changing societal circumstances and needs (while maintaining its values). Moreover, it will work towards its goals through a thoughtful experimentation that involves careful and ongoing evaluation of the approaches that the school is trying.

School according to John Dewey should be an experiment in collective action and it should break down walls between academia and practical work. Although this pattern is quite broad (and actually contains several patterns in their own right), several themes or trajectories stand out that support Dewey's contentions whether the student is ten years old or eighty, or whether the student is classically educated or illiterate. Adopting an "experimental" orientation reflects a belief in meliorism — that things can improve through directed effort — and an acknowledgement that nothing is perfect; the need for adjustment is an unavoidable and normal fact of life. Beyond that, the general orientation is compassionate engagement and integration with the world. In a general but non-dogmatic way, an Experimental School would be concerned with the common good, it would stress solidarity and activism. It would be much more permeable — the boundaries between the institution, between teacher and student, between theory and practice and between the academic disciplines themselves and the disciplines and the other systems of knowing that people have devised, would all be less distinct and more forgiving. Additionally there would be more variety as to when and where the educational setting would be and who was eligible to take part. Costs would be as low as possible to encourage everybody to attend. Education is not just for some small segment of the population who are destined for power, prestige and money. The following table, admittedly over-generalized, highlights some of the ways in which a "modern" university can be contrasted with an Experimental School.


  University Model Experimental School
Site Centralized, stationary, and formal Various locations, movable, informal
Student body Elite, all same age Open to anybody, life-long learning; mixed classes
Assessment Defined by faculty, etc. consists of tests, grades Self assessed by student as well as by faculty member through oral and written narrative evaluation.
Curriculum University-directed, discipline-based, disciplines kept separate Student-directed, inquiry-based, discipline boundaries blurred and broached
Role of teacher / role of student Authoritative / receptive ("empty vessel") Teachers and students are both co-learners
Costs Expensive for middle and lower income people Free
Instruction mode Lecture Peripatetic, seminar, group work
Credential granting Often the most important reason for attending Doesn't necessarily grant credentials. Learning is primary.
Focus On the individual On the group or community
Goals Learning facts, getting degree Learning how to learn, thinking across the curriculum
Faculty Credentialed with PhD Knowledge, skill, values, commitment, and values are as important as credentials
When 2 semesters or 3 quarters per year; no summer with established beginning and end dates for unit of time, Weekdays, 9:00 to 5:00 Weekdays, evenings, anytime
Theory and practice Kept separate ("practice is for trade schools") Integrated

Walter Parker believes that "Idiocy is the scourge of our time and place" (2004). Idiocy was defined by the ancient Greeks to mean the state of being "concerned myopically with private things and unmindful of common things." Idiots are like "rudderless ships" that are not grounded in either the local or the global community. Unable to see beyond their parochial interests, they're likely to do damage to themselves and to the communities in which they live. In his consideration of how idiots come about their idiocy, Parker asks whether our public "schools marshal their human and material resources to produce idiots or citizens? Does the school curriculum, both by commission and omission, cultivate private vices or public virtues?"

Parker proposes several important remedies: "First, increase the variety and frequency of interaction among students who are culturally, linguistically, and racially different from one another. Second, orchestrate these contacts so that competent public talk—deliberation about common problems—is fostered. In schools, this is talk about two kinds of problems: social and academic. Social problems arise inevitably from the friction of interaction itself (Dewey’s “problems of living together”), and academic problems are at the core of each subject area. Third, clarify the distinction between deliberation and blather and between open (inclusive) and closed (exclusive) deliberation. In other words, expect, teach, and model competent, inclusive deliberation."

It's also important for students to take some responsibility (and interest) in their own education early. People with these attitudes and capabilities can undertake their own ongoing education (even in the absence of schools and teachers) and work with others to get them involved. One of the best ways to do this and to help install the sense that the student is part of the process is self-assessment of learning at all levels.

If the point of evaluating students' work were only to rank them, or to give faculty a lever for encouraging their efforts, or even to describe the strengths and weaknesses of what they had produced, then it would seem clear that teachers should do it by themselves. The deepest reasons, however, for asking students to formally assess their own work pertain to the students' development over the long run. For one thing, the student may have learned some things which are relevant to learning which the teachers don't know about. If students have learned how to write a paper without agonizing over the first paragraph for hours, or pay a new kind of attention to the clouds when they go for a walk, or think about the late Roman Republic when they read the papers, these changes may say more about their education in literature or physics or history than their essays or exams do, yet be invisible to the teachers.

The practice of self-assessment is a central way for students to acquire the reflective habits of mind which are essential to their ongoing capacities to do good work, and to progressively improve their work over time. Growth in intelligence, or thinking, is precisely growth in the capacity for ongoing reflective self-assessment. This point is the center of Dewey's analysis of the difference between mere activity and educational experience in Democracy and Education (1916): "Thinking …is the intentional endeavor to discover specific connections between something which we do and the consequences which result, so that the two become continuous."

But formal education is considered complete at a certain age. Does this mean that people who have missed this one chance or who are otherwise interested in additional education are simply out of luck? Popular education, developed in the 1960s and ’70s by the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire helps to answer that question positively. Popular education is a non-traditional method of education that strives for the empowerment of adults through democratically structured cooperative study and action. It's carried out within a political vision that sees women and men at the community and grassroots level as the primary agents for social change. It aims to enable ordinary people to define their own struggles and critically examine and learn from the lessons of past struggles and from concrete everyday situations in the present. It is a deeply democratic process, equipping communities to name and create their vision of the future for which they struggle.

The popular education process begins by critically reflecting on, sharing, and articulating with a group or community what is known from lived experience. It continues with analysis and critical reflection upon reality aimed at enabling people to discover solutions to their own problems and set in motion concrete actions for the transformation of that reality. In Freire'’s model, the teacher becomes a facilitator, the traditional class becomes a cultural circle, the emphasis shifts from lecture to problem-posing strategies, and the content, previously removed from the learners’ experience, becomes relevant to the group.

Popular education has always had an intimate connection to organizing for social change. In the early 1960s, Freire, began his work in this area by using the principles of dialogue and critical consciousness-raising—fundamental to popular education—to teach literacy to peasants struggling for land reform in Brazil. Freire argued that action was the source of knowledge, not the reverse, and that education, to be transformative, involved a process of dialogue based on action and reflection on action.

Although starting a new — or supporting an existing — Experimental School might be the best use of this pattern, the concepts of an Experimental School can be useful to anybody who is establishing new programs in a traditional school or involved in virtually any way in the education of themselves or anybody they know. The key concepts are respect for learning, reflection, and a faith in the importance of reasoning and, especially, reasoning together.

Solution: 

Integrate the ideas from this pattern into educational settings that exist or can exist. We can think about how we think and we can learn about how we learn.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Schools with unchanging assumptions can't meet society's changing needs. This is unfortunate now when the need for public problem-solving is most acute. An Experimental School attempts to accomplish positive aims while adopting experimentation as a guiding orientation. The key concepts are respect for learning, reflection, and faith in the importance of reasoning and, especially, reasoning together.

Pattern status: 
Released
Pattern annotations: 

Strategic Frame

Pattern ID: 
408
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
86
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The complexity of the world and multiplicity of perspectives can often stymie people’s attempts to interpret it in ways that make sense and that suggest meaningful action. People often can't see the connection between their own thinking and the situation they wish to address. Groups seeking to work together in some broad arena may not identify a common basis for doing so effectively. Sometimes groups can't even agree on what they'd like to accomplish much less how to go about accomplishing it. At other times their efforts may not resonate with the people and organizations they are trying to influence. A similar problem arises when people reactively base their interpretation on some prior and frequently unconscious bias or stereotype. In all of these cases, a poor understanding of strategic frames hinders their ability to make progress.

Context: 

This pattern can be used whenever people and groups need to interpret complex information or develop approaches to communicating with other groups or the public.

Discussion: 

The concept of frames was initially developed by anthropologist Gregory Bateson (1972) and was further popularized by Erving Goffman (1974). More recently, based on the work of Berkeley linguist George Lakoff, framing has taken a prominent position in progressive political discourse (2004). On a general level, a frame is a story distilled to its basic elements. It could be related to a loving family, a protective father, fairness, fatalism, laziness, freedom, the local sports team, nostalgic for the past, or fear of the unknown — the possibilities are limitless.

People all over the world are confronted with events and information that they find overwhelming. Without "frames" people quite literally wouldn't know how to interpret the world. A frame provides a link between information and data and the way that the information and data is interpreted. Seen this way, frames of one sort or another are necessary for every aspect of daily life. Human brains don't have the processing power to interpret each new situation "from scratch." Recognizing the ubiquity of frames and the fact that multiple frames can be employed by different people for different reasons to describe the same story or event has lead to a strong interest in frames.

When frames are acknowledged as independent entities, people who are interested in persuasion can begin asking such questions as: What frames do people use? How do frames work? How are they initially constructed or modified? What is the outcome when two or more frames compete?

Why does a frame work? It suggests action and shapes interpretation. When frames are shared with people or organizations they promote group action and similar interpretations — while acting to discourage disputes and incompatible interpretation. This discussion leads to types of frames, how they are formed, and how they are reshaped. Strategic frames work in two directions — they can channel action but can also constrict thought.

The framing lens can be turned around and focused on the elites and the powers-that-be as well. Mass media systems are an important subject of this. What frames are generally employed by, for example, local television news stations. A “strategic communication terms” web sites (cite) cites an example from Charlotte Ryan’s Prime Time Activism (1991) of three ways in which a news story of a child in a low-income neighborhood getting bit by a rat can be covered. Who, for example, should be blamed for this — if anybody? Is the child’s mother the culprit or should the apartment manger be held responsible or, even, society at large?

A strategic frame is a specific type of frame that has been developed as an important element within an overall strategy to encourage people to see things in a certain way. In this sense, the concept is neutral. In fact Susan Niall Bales stated that her approach to “Strategic Frame Analysis” could be used to promote tobacco use, but added that she probably wouldn’t.

When developed collaboratively, a strategic frame can also be a useful tool for groups. When people respond without reflection to an externally imposed strategic frame, they are being exploited. Different frames can be constructed for any given story, message or event. How well those frames resonate with people and what they choose to do with the ideas contained within the frame is of interest to people who are trying to influence other people. Opposing forces will employ different frames with different people to win the particular battle they’re engaged with. This is reflected in the title of a recent New York Times article entitled, “Framing Wars” (Bai, 2005)Unfortunately many strategic frames that are available to the public serve to reinforce existing stereotypes, thus preventing people from developing effective agendas for the future.

Solution: 

It is important to note that frames don’t really do the work by themselves. In addition to the important task of understanding frames that influence our actions and behavior, activists are interested in specific types of frames which have specific functions of interest, such as frames that help build coalitions; provide useful interpretations; “frame transformation” (Tarrow)] These frames must connect. In other words, the new frames must not reach too far beyond the capability of people to grasp and shape them.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The complexity of the world with its multiplicity of perspectives can confuse our attempts to interpret it. A Strategic Frame is a word, phrase, or slogan that encourages people to see things in a certain light. When developed collaboratively, a Strategic Frame can also be a useful tool for groups. In addition to understanding frames that influence thoughts and actions, activists are interested in frames that help build coalitions or otherwise motivate useful mobilizations.

Pattern status: 
Released

Civic Capabilities

Pattern ID: 
756
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
85
Justin Smith
The Public Sphere Project & St. Mary's University
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Peoples can often find the path to social and economic empowerment blocked to them due to any number of circumstances whether they be lack of literacy and information, limited access to health care, a low-level of durable assets, political marginalization and so forth.

Context: 

From the grassroots level up towards the international sphere peoples are seeking ways to encourage and develop capability of both individuals as well as communities to actively engage in creating the life they desire to live through promoting access to health, higher literacy and ability to collectively engage in public political action.

Discussion: 

Taken from the work of Amartya Sen and his thesis on capabilities or substantial freedoms it is asserted that the, “expansion of basic human capabilities, including such freedoms as the ability to live long, read and write, to escape preventable illnesses, to work outside the family irrespective of gender, and to participate in collaborative as well as adversarial politics, not only influence the quality of life that the people can enjoy, but also effect the real opportunities they have to participate in economic expansion.” (Sen, and Dreze, 1999)

In essence such a statement highlights both the ends we seek to achieve in the process of development and similarly the path by which we achieve that end. If people do not have access to health how will they be able to rightfully participate in society or of the civic life of their geographical community? Also, if they can not participate, how is that they are to ensure that they will encourage and generate a level of action necessary for developing the access to health they need?

In taking a closer look at Amartya Sen's and Jean Dreze's statement above Jan Garret believes that there are important freedoms that have an instrumental role in making positive [substantial] freedom possible.

  • Political freedoms-- "the opportunities that people have to determine who should govern and on what principles, and also include the possibility to scrutinize and criticize authorities, to have freedom of political expression and an uncensored press, to enjoy the freedom to choose between different political parties, and so on. They include . . . opportunities of political dialogue, dissent and critique as well as voting rights and participatory selection of legislators and executives."
  • Economic facilities— "the opportunities that individuals . . . enjoy to utilize economic resources for the purpose of consumption, or production, or exchange." The quantity of income as well as how it is distributed is important. Availability and access to finance are also crucial. (Not being able to get credit can be economically devastating.) (See: Micro-Finance, Coopertive Micro-Enterprise or Durable Assets)
  • Social opportunities--arrangements society makes for education, health care, etc.
  • Transparency guarantees--these relate to the need for openness that people can anticipate; the freedom to deal with one another with a justified expectation of disclosure and clarity. These guarantees play a clear role in preventing corruption, financial irresponsibility, and violation of society's rules of conduct for government and business.
  • Protective security--a social safety net that prevents sections of the population from being reduced to abject misery. Sen refers to "fixed institutional arrangements such as unemployment benefits and statutory income supplements to the indigent as well as ad hoc (temporary) arrangements such as famine relief or emergency public employment to generate income for destitutes."

As a pattern of development the idea behind Engaging Capabilities can exist as both an approach as well as map for distinct and concrete implementation of development projects and empowerment campaigns whether they be economic, political, health and gender-centric or an integrated collection of all of the above. In regards to the term engaging it is meant to refer to the normative stance that these are fundamental aspects of enabling individuals to lead lives worth living.

It is a call to both peoples who are blocked from realizing these capabilities in their day to lives to engage and work to actualize these in their lived experience, similarly it is a call to those social activist, community animators, government and international organizations working to help better their society to pursue not only the economic betterment of peoples, but to address the more holistic reality that makes up a persons lived experience.

While Sen's work has placed much emphasis upon the individual, capabilities also naturally points to the civic or community sphere in which groups of participants are able to engage in the process of not only achieving such substantial freedoms but also collectively enjoying and exercising such freedoms.

While much development may in an indirect way encourage the creation or realization of such freedoms; the purpose of engaging these capabilities as a pattern is meant to emphasise awareness of such fundamental freedoms and promote their centraility to a consiusly constructed pattern language that seeks to empower individuals and communities at all levels of society.

This means identifying and pursuing direct interaction with local, as well as national-level officials to engage in cooperative and advesarial politics. Ideally bringing about accountability, or achieve steps towards a responsiveness from of government. Affiliation with regional and transnational advocacy groups can assist accessing leverage for marginalized groups. Through engagement and a direction towards freedoms and capabilities peoples can prioritize their political battles that pressure government to pursue policies that actually equate to results in education, health and economic opportunity for those who lack these building blocks.

Solution: 

Ultimately, the idea of engaging capabilities is a critical component to almost any pattern language we might wish to construct. Therefore, when constructing a pattern language that is meant to address development in anyway it is necessary to consider the ways in which these projects will utilize the individual as well as collective capabilities of a community (and associated development partners) and how they will be utilized to support and encourage the further realization of these freedoms in peoples lives.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Illiteracy, lack of information, poverty, and political marginalization can block social and economic empowerment. To overcome this we must encourage and develop the Civic Capabilities of individuals and communities to actively create the lives they hope to live. Direct interaction with officials, engagement in cooperative and adversarial politics, and affiliation with other advocacy groups can bring about accountability and increased governmental responsiveness.

Pattern status: 
Released

Voices of the Unheard

Pattern ID: 
479
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
83
John Thomas
IBM Research Hawthorne
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Despite the significant effort and thought that goes into decision making and design, bad decisions and designs are frequently conceived and implemented primarily because a critical and relevant perspective was not brought to bear. This is especially true if the missing perspective represents that of someone who holds a stake in the outcome.

Context: 

Complex problems such as the construction of new social institutions or the design of multifaceted interactive systems require that a multitude of viewpoints be brought to bear. Unfortunately, this is all too often not the case. One group builds a "solution" for another group without fully understanding the culture, user needs, extreme cases, and so on. The result is often a technical or social system that creates as many problems as it solves. This process is often exacerbated when those building the "solution" interact more intensely with each other than with those affected by the solution.

Discussion: 

The forces at work in the situations requiring this pattern include:

* Gaps in requirements are most cheaply repaired early in development; for this reason, as well as the need to gain acceptance by all parties, all stakeholders must have a say throughout any development or change process. This is an ethical issue as well.
* It is logistically difficult to ensure that all stakeholder groups are represented at every meeting.
* A new social institution or design will be both better in quality and more easily accepted if all relevant parties have input.

The idea for this pattern comes from a Native American story transcribed by Paula Underwood entitled, "Who Speaks for Wolf?"

In brief, the story goes as follows. The tribe had as one of its members a man who took it upon himself to learn all that he could about wolves. He became such an expert that his fellow tribes members called him "Wolf." While Wolf and several other braves were out on a long hunting expedition, it became clear to the tribe that they would have to move to a new location. After various reconnaissance missions, a new site was selected and the tribe moved.

Shortly thereafter, it became clear that a mistake had been made. The new location was in the middle of a wolves’ breeding ground. The wolves were threatening the children and stealing the drying meat. Now, the tribe was faced with a hard decision. Should they move again? Should they post guards around the clock? Or should they destroy the wolves? Did they even want to be the sort of people who would kill off another species for their own convenience?

At last it was decided they would move to a new location. But as was their custom, they also asked themselves, "What did we learn from this? How can we prevent making such mistakes in the future?" Someone said, "Well, if Wolf would have prevented this mistake had he been at our first council meeting." "True enough," they all agreed. “Therefore, from now on, whenever we meet to make a decision, we shall ask ourselves, ‘Who speaks for Wolf?’ to remind us that someone must be capable and delegated to bring to bear the knowledge of any missing stakeholders.”

Much of the failure of "process re-engineering" can be attributed to the fact that "models" of the "as is" process were developed based on some executive's notion of how things were done rather than a study of how they were actually performed or asking the people who actually did the work how the work was done. A "should be" process was designed to be a more efficient version of the "as is" process and then implementation was pushed down on workers. However, since the original "as is" model was not based on reality, the "more efficient" solution often left out vital elements.

Technological and sociological "imperialism" provide many additional examples in which the input of all stakeholders was not taken into account. Of course, much of the history of the U.S. government's treatment of Native Americans reflects a refusal to truly include all the stakeholders.

A challenge in applying the "Who Speaks for Wolf" pattern is to judge honestly and correctly whether, indeed, someone does have the knowledge and delegation to "speak for Wolf." If such a person is not present, we may do well to put off the design or decision until such a person, or better, "Wolf" himself can be present.

As a variant of this, a prototype creativity tool has been created. The idea is to have a "board of directors" consisting of famous people. When you have a problem to solve, you are supposed to be reminded of, and think about, how various people would approach this problem. Ask yourself, "What would Einstein have said?" "How would Gandhi have approached this problem?"

Solution: 

Provide ways to remind people of stakeholders who are not present. These methods could be procedural (certain Native Americans always ask, "Who speaks for Wolf"), visual (e.g.,diagrams, lists) or auditory (e.g., songs).

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Despite the significant effort that goes into decision making and design, bad decisions and designs are often made because a critical and relevant perspective was not heard. This is especially true if the perspective is that of a stakeholder. Remind people of voices that aren't present through procedures, diagrams, or, even, songs.

Pattern status: 
Released

Academic Technology Investments

Pattern ID: 
409
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
81
Sarah Stein
North Carolina State University
Version: 
2
Problem: 

New technologies have been making rapid inroads in higher education, and, in many ways, are changing methods of teaching, learning and research. Yet, strict segregation of academic disciplines, industrial-age concepts of technological ownership and control, and entrenched silos across institutions place limits on the kinds of innovation and extension of learning and research that computer-mediated communication networks can help facilitate.

Context: 

Institutions of higher education afford significant benefits to students and researchers within their walls as well as the broader public. At the same time, economic downturns have resulted in diminishing revenue streams for legislative support of higher education, and for-profit as well as international educational institutions offer increasing competition. Academic institutions need to explore the greater opportunities enabled by information technologies for inter-disciplinary and inter-institutional pedagogical and administrative partnerships, in order to revitalize their economic circumstances and re-establish their social relevance.

Discussion: 

Institutions of higher education play a critical role in the maintenance and advancement of a nation and a culture. They are also often mired in organizational fiefdoms and disciplinary rivalries arising from competition over scarce resources. In turn, opportunities for collaboration are neglected that can advance the education of students and the production of knowledge.

Information communication technologies (ICTs) enable faculty and students to interact with others in academies across the nation and around the world. Courses engaging other institutions are being taught through video conferencing and computer-based classrooms; groups activities for students using databases and computer-generated learning objects are revolutionizing large lecture courses in physics and other sciences; researchers are using high performance computing to conduct experiments with international colleagues, at the same time that the extra computing power is leveraged to make available to students at their desktops expensive software through virtual computing labs.

Yet, the rapid and continual development of ICTs leave administrative budgets and personnel at universities struggling to adapt to the constant rate of change. In an age of vastly distributed information networks that can speed data and news around the globe, transparency and accountability are still lacking at traditional universities and other academic institutions. Despite the proliferation of communication devices and channels, faculty, staff, and students too often feel that their needs and views go unheard. Though the complexity of technological advances make it impossible for any one person or group to know all that is needed to make the best implementation plans, for example, ICT investment decisions continue to be made without soliciting other viewpoints.

At the same time, academic communication systems such as email and electronic calendaring that have become inextricably interwoven with the day-to-day operations of universities are still being run by multiple units and departments who have developed a sense of distrust and distance from central operations. Educational institutions within the same region and state continue to run routine technology networks individually instead of investigating the significant cost-sharing possible through inter-institutional cooperation, and beliefs in the necessity of institutional branding outweigh the advantages to be found in inter-collegiate curricula and teaching.

Part of what hinders the realization of more of the collaborative advantages communication networks can offer is an administrative hierarchy that tends to favor corporate-style decision-making in the hopes of producing corporate-style efficiencies, especially in light of the huge costs and rapid change of educational technologies. Yet, Institutions of higher education are built on principles of peer-review of evidence, and communal sharing of knowledge. When the diverse constituencies of the academy—students, faculty, administrators, technical staff—are not consulted in top-down decisions, and have no forums in which to engage with each other, those foundational principles are discarded and progressive initiatives can be resisted and even sabotaged.

A Chronicle of Higher Education article titled "The Role of Colleges in an Era of Mistrust” lays out ten communication principles by which colleges can provide leadership and maintain good faith in the public eye. Reporting on a University of California controversy over the cancellation of an invited speaker by the university’s president without consulting faculty or students, the authors press for a process of communication that includes diverse perspectives: “When it is possible to make deliberations open and transparent, colleges must do so. When open-door meetings are not prudent or practical, colleges must be careful to ensure that all the affected parties have a place at the table. Just as important, they must emerge with a clear account not only of what was decided but of how that decision was reached.”

Multiplying communication channels do not necessarily yield greater communication. An inclusive environment that fosters transparency and accountability within all academic sectors can go a long way to eliciting the sense of mission and dedication that characterizes the motives of people in choosing to be part of an educational community. Collaborative learning opportunities, inter-institutional partnerships, and inter-disciplinary scholarship are all developments that are supported by ICTs; creating a climate of openness and engagement across the university enterprise will further their realization.

Solution: 

ICTs can facilitate the development of new models of teaching, learning and research that take advantage of inter-disciplinary and inter-institutional collaborations in higher education and contribute to the quality of an information society. Such developments can be hindered by the persistence of traditional top-down decision-making that excludes the voices of the wider academic community, and in turn perpetuates a climate of disciplinary rivalry and entrenched silos. The constructive realization of the network capacities of new communication technologies in higher education need to be guided by insights and perspectives from a diverse collective.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Segregation of disciplines and institutions hinder innovation, learning, and research in higher education. Institutions need to explore opportunities enabled by information and communication technologies for new partnerships. These incorporate interaction with others around the world via conferencing, learning objects, and high performance computing. Fostering transparency and accountability can encourage a dedicated sense of mission.

Pattern status: 
Released

Multi-Party Negotiation for Conflict Resolution

Pattern ID: 
759
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
79
Helena Meyer-Knapp
The Evergreen State College
Stewart Dutfield
Graduate and Continuing Education, Marist College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Any challenge to the status quo can lead to conflict, which raises a key problem: how to shift the conflict creatively to achieve real change. Even within like-minded social change communities, participants can find themselves in conflict with each other. To negotiate over disagreements on the basis that only one of the affected parties can gain at the expense of all the others is to perpetuate the status quo, and often leads to everyone involved feeling that they have lost more than they have gained.

Context: 

Organizations and communities dedicated to social change will encounter intense disagreements since they are working among people with strongly held beliefs and differing agendas. Many strategic action choices set up conflicts that do more to perpetuate the status quo than to change it: protests, negative media campaigns, lawsuits and regulation battles are time-honored tactics, but their win/lose dynamic tends to polarize opinions around longstanding hostilities. Problems can also arise when attempting to resolve conflicts by relying on a third party to mediate the issues, particularly if the dispute affects multiple divergent and distinct parties. Increasingly, social change actions are developed in settings at which participant decision-makers represent people from around the world. The UN Decade of the Women

Discussion: 

Starting in 1981 with the publication of the Ury and Fisher book “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In,” Americans, in particular, learned to imagine solutions to conflicts in which constructive win/win solutions replaced the win/lose model. Ury and Fisher centered on negotiation, and negotiation remains a critical conflict strategy. Their Program on Negotiation at Harvard University Law School, operates as a training and research center with a particular focus on large scale and international conflicts, using a fourfold process: (a) separate the people from the problem; (b) focus on interests, not positions; (c) invent options for mutual gain; and (d) insist on using objective criteria. Central to this process is the ability to recognize whether a proposed agreement is in one’s interest; the best alternative to no agreement (BATNA) is a clear understanding of what one will do if no agreement is reached.

Good communication skills and versatile approaches to problem definition are critical to negotiation and to conflict resolution in general. There is no single posture or style which connects across all cultures and power differences, but many people have found Marshall Rosenberg’s training useful for learning to listen effectively and learning to ask clearly. Michelle Le Baron’s book offers detailed descriptions of good practice for respecting specific cultural factors that will impact any negotiation. Meyer-Knapp’s analysis of attempts to end wars highlights some additional factors: secrecy can facilitate progress in difficult talks, key leaders must be involved and success often depends on all parties publicly agreeing to end retributive and punitive actions.

Some conflicts become so embedded in communities that it comes to seem impossible even to discuss them. Two programs illustrate options for opening up the dialogue. The Public Conversations Project has set up forums for private and extended dialogue on abortion in the United States. In the cities where they have worked there is an increasing willingness to reach across the divisions. The Health Bridge Project in the former Yugoslavia achieved a similar effect by setting up clinics and health care recovery projects staffed by professionals from among the hostile Serb, Croat and Bosnian Moslem communities. One particular peacetime derivative of military “gaming” uses an intensive negotiation/planning protocol in which the stakeholders are explicitly required to negotiate from the perspective of someone other than themselves.

Intra-organizational disputes can be softened if workers and board-members routinely engage in mediation and facilitation training. Then, should a disagreement arise, they can use the skills on their own behalf. However managers must remember that in US law and culture, once an organizational dispute has arisen, decisions that withstand leglistic challenges are based in well grounded due process. The essentials of due process are timely handling of complaints, neutrality of decision-makers in relation to the dispute, the right of appeal, and an opportunity for all sides to have their point of view heard.

This pattern links to Conversational Support Across Boundaries, Citizen Diplomacy, Peaceful Public Demonstrations, Collective Decision-Making, Appreciative Collaboration

Solution: 

Conflict can supply a positive impetus to improve the situation, often through negotiations among a variety of opposing parties. So, approach change prepared to acknowledge and actively deal with conflict. To generate lasting change, use an imaginative array of conflict strategies and skills including negotiation, multi-party process, and cross cultural dialogue. To enable constructive outcomes, negotiate with flexible and compassionate attitudes to opposing parties. Organizations should develop and regularly review their capacity for negotiation and dialogue, both internally and externally. Schools at all levels should be teaching skills in negotiation, conflict resolution, and communication. In complex situations, each participant must be willing to assume the responsibility of negotiating for themselves.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Is it possible to shift conflict creatively to achieve real change? Recently people have begun to imagine solutions to conflicts in which constructive win/win solutions replace the win/lose model. To generate lasting change, use an imaginative array of strategies and skills including negotiation, multi-party processes, and cross cultural dialogue.

Pattern status: 
Released
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