Deep Throat was the mysterious character who said Follow the money! in All the Presidents Men, a movie about the Watergate scandal. 30 plus years since Watergate and now that Deep Throat has revealed his true identity few still remember this scandalous political event. This gives us good cause to carry the torch for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and against the corrupt powers of money that can subvert our democratic freedoms. However, carrying the mantra Follow the money! can be a double edged sword if we are not careful how Deep Throats message is applied.
The US Congress passed HR3163, the `Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) Act of 2001'. This act expanded government powers to
Following the money is a valuable technique to trace corruption and is used by political parties, religions, the military, social activists, farmers, the health care industry, education, the federal government, local governments, science, corporations and just about everyone who wants to track what their opponents are doing. Money is liquid and powerful. The trail of a corrupt operation can be determined by tracking the source and use of money.
In the case of Watergate, an investigation of the links between James W. McCord, Jr and the CIA, determined that McCord received payments from the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP). McChord was one of the burglars discovered and arrested for breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel. The money trail quickly suggested there was a link between the burglars and someone close to the President. Richard Nixon was later impeached as the president of the United States because of the Watergate scandal.
Corruption is a general concept describing any organized, interdependent system in which part of the system is either not performing duties it was originally intended to, or performing them in an improper way, to the detriment of the system's original purpose. Corruption happens in government when money is going to the wrong people or for the wrong reasons. This happens with both political contributions and federal subsidies. Watchdogs groups in Washington D.C. and around the country "follow the money" of political campaigns and lobbyist groups to determine if corruption exists. One such group called Follow Your Money, http://www.followyourmoney.com/, has political giving information reporting that Wal Mart is the 9th largest contributor to the republican party giving three and one have million dollars. On the flip side government subsidies are also watched by activist organizations to determine if the system is being abused. Good Jobs First, http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/, a Washington-based subsidy watchdog group found that one billion dollars of government subsidies have gone to Wal Mart over the years helping it become the world's largest retailer. You can determine for yourself if you feel the information points towards any link between political contributions and government subsidies.
Being personally informed about who benefits from the flow of money in political campaigns, lobbying efforts by business, or supply chains, for example, can help individuals see the corrupt influence of money on outcomes that affect our own lives. This does not mean becoming mistrustful of everyone. Instead of nourishing a negative spirit, promote a healthy perspective by staying informed about facts related to the flow of money by accessing various websites or other information that helps you form an opinion about financial influences. Some links that might be helpful to you in following the money are: http://www.followthemoney.org/, and http://www.opensecrets.org/.
Informed voters in the State of Maine proactively passed a clean elections referendum in 2003 which encourages politicians not to follow the money. "Clean Elections is a practical, proven reform that puts voters in control of elections. Rather than being forced to rely on special interest donors to pay for their campaigns, candidates have the opportunity to qualify for full public funding which ends their reliance on special interest campaign cash. Being freed from the money chase means they have more time to spend with constituents, talking about issues that matter to them. When they enter office, they can consider legislation on the merits, without worrying about whether they are pleasing well heeled donors and lobbyists." (http://www.publicampaign.org/clean123)
"When the Maine legislature passed the Dirigo health care law, which would provide near-universal health care coverage for Mainers, a majority of legislators had won their offices under the Clean Elections system. "No private money meant no campaign contributions from hospitals, or insurers, or from any other big-money interest that might want to scuttle the Dirigo plan. Publicly funded legislators were free to support this legislation without any concern for the big-money special interests that might oppose such a law, wrote Rep. Jim Annis, a Republican, and Rep. John Brautigam, a Democrat, in a piece for the Hartford Courant in October 2005." (Nancy Watzman, Yes Magazine, 2006)
Following the money is an effective tool to detect corruption and terrorism. However, not following the money seems like an even better tool to accomplish positive goals like clean elections and universal health care without giving up important constitutional rights like the right to privacy.
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"Deep Throat" was the mysterious character who said "Follow the money!" in All the Presidents Men, a movie about the Watergate scandal in the United States. The trail of a corrupt operation can often be determined by tracking and publicizing the source and use of money. Following the money is a simple, valuable, and sometimes dangerous approach to uncovering corruption.
Powerful people and organizations tend to abuse their power. Without understanding who has power, how the power is wielded, and how that power can be kept within legitimate boundaries, people with less power can be ignored, swindled, lied to, led into war, or otherwise mistreated.
This pattern should be considered in any situation in which institutionalized power is a strong influence.
The powers of ordinary men are circumscribed by the everyday worlds in which they live, yet even in these rounds of job, family, and neighborhood they often seem driven by forces they can neither understand nor govern. — C. Wright Mills
In 1956 sociologist C. Wright Mills' The Power Elite provided an in-depth examination of power in the United States. About a decade later, in 1967, G. William Domhoff wrote Who Rules America? which was followed by Who Rules America Now? in 1983. As one might expect, these books contained a detailed analysis of who has power, how the power is exercised and through what routes the powerful came to their positions. To some degree, the who of "who has power" is not as relevant as what they do with it and how they came to possess it. Their routes to power were so uniform as to suggest that specific, repeatable social mechanisms were at work to ensure that the same type of person, with the same ideologies would be elevated to these positions — and that other people from other circumstances would be denied entrance.
That social mechanisms are at play is of course not news to sociologists who make it their business to understand these mechanisms. The rest of us have vague suspicions but little concrete knowledge. Although the powerful may be visible to some degree the representations that we witness in the media are likely to be sanitized, scrubbed clean of improprieties, stereotyped and otherwise rendered useless for thoughtful consideration. This knowledge is vital to all participants in a democratic society. Knowing who and how people who occupy the seats of power wield the levers of social control is key to positive social change.
While the work of Mills and Domhoff have uncovered the processes of the maintenance of power in America, it is undoubtedly the case that similar processes are being played out every day around the world. For that reason, it's imperative that these studies be undertaken throughout the world. The point of gaining an understanding of these processes is not to insert different people into the process (although in many cases this is desirable). Nor do we gain this understanding in order to derail the entire system or to just "throw the bastards out." (After all, in some cases the people holding power may not be scoundrels!) An understanding of the process will help us adjust the system as necessary, know where the points of intervention exist and, in general, increase the level of awareness thus making it more difficult for the people with less power to be bamboozled by those with more.
There are many exciting examples of this pattern. One particularly compelling one is based on the Reflect theory. It combines adult learning and social change using the theories of Paulo Freire integrated with participatory methodologies. Their report on Communication and Power describes how written and spoken word, images and numbers can be used by villagers in India (see figure below) in analyses of caste power.
Research power — what it is, how is it organized and applied, who has it. Although it is important to make the findings freely available. It is at least as important to disseminate the ideas and techniques that help people initiate their own power research projects. This pattern particularly applies to government and corporations but other people, institutions, and groups (such as hate groups, militias or organized crime families) need to be thoroughly investigated as well.
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Powerful people and organizations tend to abuse their power. Without understanding who has power, how the power is wielded, and how that power can be kept within legitimate boundaries, people with less power can be ignored, swindled, lied to, led into war, or otherwise mistreated. Research power — what it is, how is it organized and applied, and who has it. Make the findings available and share the techniques that help people initiate their own power research projects.
People rely on search engines to find the information they need on the web. The motivation, however, of the groups providing search engines is securing profits for their owners; other motives necessarily and inevitably take a back seat. The negative implications of relying solely on commercial search engines, though vast, are generally not recognized. If the enormous gatekeeping potential of commercial search engines is not balanced with open and accountable public approaches, the ability to find non-commercial information including that which doesn't appeal to broad audiences or is critical of governments and other powerful institutions could conceivably disappear. The privatization of the means to access information could also lead to a situation where advertisements and other "sponsored" information could crowd out non-commercial information.
People in their daily lives need, search for — and find — a tremendous amount of information. Increasingly, they are looking for this information in cyberspace. While Internet technology has opened up an unbelievably vast amount of information and opportunities for communication for millions of people worldwide, the very fact that we are relying on technology which is out of our control is cause for concern — if not alarm. Although the application of this pattern is relevant to any system that people use to find information, our immediate attention is drawn to the Interne which is poised to become increasingly dominant in the years ahead.
Access to information can be made easier; barriers to obtaining the information that people need can, at least in theory, be anticipated and circumvented. But, like the chain whose ultimate strength is determined by its weakest link, access to information can be thwarted at many levels. Although non-public (commercial and otherwise) providers of information and communication services can be "good citizens" who prioritize the needs of their users, the temptation to become less civil may prove irresistible if and when the "market" suggests that uncivic behavior would result in higher revenue. In circumstances such as those, they may decide to relax their current high standards accordingly. Big web portals are, for example, becoming increasingly cooperative with the Chinese government, presumably because of the huge market which potentially exists there. One approach to addressing this problem, an open source / public domain classification system similar to that used in the public libraries in the U.S. and other places coupled with open source, community owned and operated search engines, is simultaneously defensive and forward looking. Defensive, because it could serve as a hedge against information deprivation and commodification. Forward looking, because this approach could help usher in an exciting new wave of experimentation in the era of access to information. As the development of the Internet itself has demonstrated, the "open source" nature can help motivate and spur usage in terms of the complementary tasks of classifying information and retrieving it easily. Existing classification approaches like the Dewey Decimal System also have limitations (Anglo-centrism, for example) and approaches like Dewey are not strictly speaking in the public domain (although Dewey is readily licensable). Nevertheless the Dewey system might serve as at least a partial model. Schemes that are well-known, such as the Dewey Decimal system allow everybody to communicate more quickly and with less cost. It is the open protocol nature of the Internet that has allowed and promoted easy and inexpensive ways to not only get connected, but to develop new applications that relied on the underlying, no license fee, protocols. Computing and the potentially ubiquitous availability of online environments provide intriguing possibilities that older approaches didn't need or anticipate. The Dewey Decimal system, for example, tacitly assumes a physical arrangement of books — the code assigned by the librarian or technicians using the system declares both the book's classification and the location it will occupy in the library. Although having a single value is not without advantages, an online environment opens the door for multiple tags for a single web page — or for finer-grained elements (a paragraph, for example, on a web page or the results of a database query) or, broader-grained collections of elements. A federated collection of link servers (Poltrock and Schuler, 1995) could assist in this. As far as search engines are concerned, civil society can hardly be expected to compete with Google's deep pockets and its acres of server farms. Yet, it may be possible to distribute expertise, knowledge, and computational capacity in such a way that a competitive "People's Google" ("Poogle?) becomes conceivable. The idea of a single organization within civil society that can even remotely approach Google's phenomenal computing resources is of course absurd. But so in general is the idea of civil society "taming" the most powerful and entrenched forces and institutions. The problem here, though chiefly technological, is very similar to the one that civil society faces every day: How can a large number of people sharing similar (though not identical visions) work together voluntarily without central authority (or centralized support), undertake a project and succeed with large, complex undertakings. The "answer" though diffuse, incomplete and sub-optimal is for the "workload" — including identifying, discussing and analyzing problems to devising responses to the problems — to be divvied up — as "intelligently" as possible — so people, doing only "pieces" of the whole job can be successful in their collective enterprise. This strategy is much easier to define and implement in the technological realm. One very successful example of this is the SETI@home project that employs the "idle" cycles of user's computers all over the world to analyze radio telescope data in a search for extraterrestrial intelligence. If, for example, one million computers working together on the people's search project, could devote some amount of processing power and storage to the project, the concept might suddenly become more feasible. Although it would be possible for every participating computer to run the same software, breaking up the tasks and distributing them across a large number of computers (thus allowing us to "divide and conquer") is likely to provide the most suitable architecture for a People's Search Engine. For one thing this allows dynamic re-apportioning of tasks: Changing the type of specialization that a computer is doing to make the overall approach more effective. At the beginning of "Poogle's" life, for example, half of the computers might be devoted to finding (or "spidering") and indexing websites while the other half might work on identifying which web sites meet the users' search criteria and presenting a list of pertinent results to the user. After a week or so, it may become clear that the first task (identifying and indexing sites) may require less attention overall while the second task (handling user search requests) desperately needs more processing power. In this situation, some of the computers working on the first task could be re-assigned to the second task. Of course this situation might become reversed the following week and another adjustment would be necessary. In a similar way, the contents of indexes could be shifted from computer to computer to make more effective use of available disk space more efficiently while providing enough redundancy to ensure that the entire system works efficiently even though individual computers are being shut down or coming online all the time and without advance notice. The People's Search Engine (PSE) would make all of its ordering / searching algorithms public. Google's page-ranking algorithm is fairly widely known, yet Google has adjusted it over the years to prevent it from being "gamed" in various ways by people who hope to increase the visibility of their web pages by "tricking" the algorithm to gain a higher page rank than the Google gods would bestow. Ideally the PSE would offer a variety of search approaches of arbitrary complexity to users. Thus people could use an existing, institutionalized classification scheme like the Dewey Decimal System or a personalized, socially-tagged "folksonomy" approach, a popularity approach a la Google, a social link approach like Amazon ("People who searched for X also searched for Y") or searches based on (and/or constrained by) "meta-information" about the pages, such as author, domain, publisher, or date last edited.
The development of "open source," public domain approaches to information access is essential for equity and progress among the people of the world. The possibility of credible competition will serve as a reminder to for-profit concerns that access to information is a sacred human right. It would also help to maintain and extend the patterns of innovation that open protocols have made possible. Among other things, researchers and members of civil society need to work on classification systems for Internet resources. It is imperative that civil society focuses attention on open source approaches to searching, archiving and other information access needs. For many reasons, this will help in the evolving process of opening up the world of information to people everywhere.
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If the gatekeeping of commercial search engines is not balanced with open and accountable public approaches, the ability to find non-commercial information or that which is critical of governments and other powerful institutions could disappear. Open source, public search engines using open classification systems could solve this problem. This could open a new wave of experimentation and remind us that access to information is a sacred human right.
Natural or manmade disasters reveal the fragile nature of our social infrastructures, including our most advanced technologies, and require us to draw upon our own essential resourcefulness. Given the destruction or significant compromising of basic civic infrastructureselectrical power, water and sewage, natural gas, roadways and communications systemsindividual and local capacities as well as external supports at every level must be prepared and effectively implemented to ensure personal and collective survival and wellbeing.
Disasters require the attention of every level of society, from individuals, families, and neighborhoods to city, state, and national agencies as well as international organizations. The content and flow of information is critical at every stage, from policy development to preparation, search and rescue, recovery and the reconstruction of vital infrastructures. Therefore, to some extent, everyone may be called upon to participate in various the aspects of this pattern, not only in the area of immediate impact but in the formal development of policies, procedures and systems as well as informal, voluntary emergency responses that help to extend the safety net for those directly affected.
In the space of one year, 2005, the world witnessed three major natural disasters: the Southeast Asian Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina in the Southeast United States, and the Pakistani earthquake, and all were reminders as to how quickly even the most basic and essential structures can literally be swept away in a matter for moments. A spotlight was also cast on pre-existing environmental conditions, policy decisions, inadequate preparation, and either dysfunctional or non-existing communication systems that either led to or intensified the extent of damage and loss of life. This pattern encompasses three different periods that focus upon emergency situations: (1) the pre-existing conditions and preparations prior to the occurrence of any disaster, (2) the actual disaster and immediate response, and (3) the longer term recovery and reconstruction of physical and social infrastructures. While all levels of society are involved, the particular focus of this pattern is on the initiative and actions of civil society. In the period prior to any disaster, the focus is on advocacy for effective policies, including the remediation of social and environmental conditions that might prevent or at least moderate the damage of a disaster and the establishment of evacuation, response preparations, and the storage of food and medical supplies as well as the setting up of emergency communications networks and facilities. For example, Seattle Disaster Aid & Response Teams (SDART) calls for neighborhoods to be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least three days by organizing teams that draw upon local resources and skills. The program trains neighborhood teams and sponsors functional drills to rehearse roles and responsibilities.. In terms of advocating for improved communications systems and facilities, the World Dialogue on Regulation for Network Economies has compiled a special dossier on the role of regulators and policymakers in ensuring that adequate emergency communications are available. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, the delivery of food, shelter and medical care can be hours, days, even weeks away. Tasks that must be handled by the stricken residents, as outlined and assigned to teams under the SDART model, include damage assessment, first aid, safety & security, light search & rescue, and providing sheltering & special needs. Communications responsibilities include monitoring emergency radio broadcasts, keeping neighbors informed of relevant information, relaying information about damage via amateur radio operators, satellite radio, cell phones, signs, or whatever means are available. In the longer period of reconstruction following a disaster, when additional external resources can be brought into play, it is vitally important to ensure close coordination. The very young and very old, as well as the poor face the greatest risk, in the short and long-term aftermath of catastrophe, often related to the worsening of already existing conditions of poor health and nutrition and inadequate housing. UNICEF studies of groups hit by warfare and famine show it is critical to provide the correct mix and balance of relief services and providing not only food but public health assistance to prevent massive outbreaks of infectious diseases. Civil society is capable of organizing large-scale efforts in the wake of disasters as demonstrated by the Katrina PeopleFinder Project and the Southeast Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog SEA-EAT blog associated with the East Asian tsunami. Other projects to assist in the reestablishment of communications systems include the Center for Neighborhood Technologys (CNT) Wireless Community Network project and supportive efforts by the Champaigne-Urbana Community Wireless Networks for both developed and developing nations. One of the most common approaches for alleviating at least part of the challenge of communications around emergency situations is the idea of open, non-proprietary protocols, the "secret ingredient" behind the Internet's phenomenal success. The Common Alerting Protocol is one such data interchange protocol and the Partnership for Public Warming (2006) is working on a wide variety of efforts to resolve national standards, protocols and priorities. Even areas far distant from the disaster must also be prepared to handle a mass displacement of populations, possibly for extended periods of time.
Therefore, individuals, public agencies, environmental advocates, and international relief organizations needs to continually reassess their level of preparedness and coordination in response to humanitarian emergencies. This means thinking and planning for the short-, medium- and long-term as well as continuing to address persistent issues of poverty and debilitating economic conditions. Information and communication technologies can play important roles in this area — but in order for the technologies to be useful, the people in areas where emergencies do or might occur and people outside of those areas must both assume leadership for genuine progress to be made.
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Disasters require the attention of every level of society, including individuals, families, and neighborhoods as well as city, state, national, and international agencies and organizations. The content of Emergency Communication Systems and the dynamic and flexible flow of information through them are critical at every stage, including policy development, preparation, search and rescue, recovery, and reconstruction of vital infrastructures.
Individual capacity among poor peoples in the developing world, particularly women to establish credit and develop self-sufficient businesses is problematic. Lack of assets, and stable employment lends a view that these peoples are not credit worthy, thus they are barred from a variety of economic opportunities.
Organizing groups to support collective and individual credit acquisition, as well as formal and informal skills training can assist peoples in accessing the capital necessary to initiate small businesses and ultimately help build livelihoods for families and communities.
A very basic description of the Self-Help Group (SHG) has been summarized by the Rural Finance Learning Center. According to their definition: " Self-help groups are usually informal clubs or associations of people who choose to come together to find ways to improve their life situations. One of the most useful roles for a self-help group is to provide its members with opportunities to save and borrow and it can act as a conduit for formal banking services to reach their members. Such groups can provide a guarantee system for members who borrow or they may develop into small village banks in their own right. In rural areas self-help groups may be the only way for people to access financial services " (2006).
The structure of the SHG is meant to provide mutual support to the participants by assisting one another in saving money, opening up cooperative banking accounts that help women and other peoples to build credit with a lending institution. The SHG also functions to support members through maintaining consistent contact among group members to aid the individuals savings goals, to help support the creation of these micro-enterprises. Often the SHG helps in the conception of these businesses and even the implementation of these enterprises upon receipt of the micro-loan.
The SHG also supports accountability for ensuring that the loans are paid back and the SHG can continue to include other members and support greater access to credit and capital to those within their community. SHGs also provide a space which facilitates the discussion of many issues pertaining to the communitys socio-economic, educational and health status. Thus, the formation of this group provides a forum to initiate many participatory activities (including training and awareness camps).
This process has also shown to increase confidence among participants, and help support greater levels of decision-making status in their society, particularly within South Asia. This hopefully will encourage members to participate and contribute in general social and political matters in their respective villages.
As peoples are supported in building their credit they in turn are able to apply for micro-loans geared towards a number of self-sufficiency based business ventures. Many of the business commonly financed consist of seamstress shops, beautician parlors, and in the rural areas these business can be as diverse as natural healing clinics, chicken farms and aqua-culture projects, to silk weaving or any number of handcraft based ventures.
While a great number of SHGs have been initiated by communities themselves, many of the SHGs are implemented through the help of an NGO that can provide the initial information and support to establish these groups. Such information and support often consists of training people on how to manage bank accounts to include deposits, withdrawals and balancing of the cooperative and individual accounts. Similarly informal education regarding a number of possible trades can take place in order to build up the capabilities of the participants to function as business owners.
But the SHG has some instances shown problems that must be addressed when considering their use as a pattern of community empowerment. For instance, many of these people are in absolute poverty and the little that they do save can put a family in an already precarious financial situation in a worse of place.
Other issues revolve around the nature of work and the family in developing countries where the women are often the primary householder while the male is involved in work outside the house. The creation of these businesses often adds greater levels of work upon women as they are committed to the SHG and the creation of their business to support their income and yet their household duties are still expected to be met by their husbands. In these situations the pressures can be immense to juggle the business, household chores and the rearing of children.
However, in response to some of these problems many NGOs have sought to play a critical role in lessening that burden by offering school to children and thereby giving women members the ability to pursue their career goals by providing a place for their children to go while simultaneously providing education to those children that would otherwise be working at home. Despite some of the draw backs the role of the SHG is still a vital and growing component of bottom-up development, and hopefully eventuating self-designed development in the future
Despite the problems some of the participants have faced due to the changing nature of their socio-economic status; the SHGs offer one approach to create associations of support for some of the most economically marginalized groups within society. Through the desire of women and other members of the community these SHGs can provide an organized structure for providing employability and ownership for peoples otherwise left out.
Overall, communities themselves can act to develop similar groups (or with the aid of NGOs working in the area), as these programs can be realized with relatively little resources from the outside.
It should also be noted that the SHG is not a panacea to social and economic development, and should only be one part of a larger solution to addressing poverty in communities. Other patterns must be called in to address some of the social consequences that can arise from the creation of an SHG.
Careful attention must be paid particularly to women as they are often the primary benefactors of the SHG and yet the amount of work involved is no less stressful and difficult for them. Other steps might also be taken to addresses these issues to pursue and integrated approach to supporting development.
Individual capacity among poor peoples in the developing world (particularly women) to establish credit and develop self-sufficient businesses is often unrealized. Organizing groups to secure collective and individual credit, and skills training, can help in accessing the capital needed to build businesses and livelihoods. Self-Help Groups offer one approach to create associations for economically marginalized groups.
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 isnt a common language for understanding and modelling a particular organisations 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?
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.
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 consultants 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.
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.
How can we improve public consultation between citizens and their public servants? How can we facilitate the participation of groups who currently don't take part, and use their input to find policy consensus?
Formal public consultations initiated by government agencies.
Informal communications between representatives (MPs, councillors, ...) and their constituents.
Community and voluntary organisations attempting to consult their members and clients to determine their response to a policy initiative or government consultation.
Media or community sponsored discussions on a local issue.
Mediation between anatogonistic communities who have conflicting interests.
Note that the pattern applies most strictly to the final context, where a government body is mediating between competing interests (e.g. in a planning inquiry). It is one of a number of patterns that can be followed in the other situations.
Current public consultation is deficient in a number of ways. Few people have the time or language skills to respond in writing to 20-page consultation documents. It is mainly professionals with a financial interest who do so. Rarely are public meetings attended by more than a few local retired people. The language of the documents is often obscure and couched in public sector jargon. The questions asked are the ones the officials feel safe asking, not the ones local communities would ask. The style is not one that engages the interest of anyone who is not a committed activist, let alone young people.
This has become very clear in places, such as devolved regions of the UK, where public consultation has suddenly grown very fast. In Northern Ireland, equality legislation forced 120 public authorities to consult on how they were planning to measure the equality impact (gender, race, religion, age, class) of each of their policies over the next 5 years. This led to 120 long documents being sent to the same 80-120 voluntary organizations, with 8 weeks to reply. Their choice was to ignore them (whereupon the officials could continue to do what they had done before) or to spend every day drafting replies, with very little time to talk to the people who would be directly affected.
Contrast this with experimental use of ICTs in public consultations in the Netherlands, the use of Internet chat to hold discussions between young people in East Belfast (the only neutral venue at the time) on human rights, and research into on-line mediation support systems in Germany (for planning disputes).
Can we design an appropriate use of software to support electronic public consultation that improves both its effectiveness in reaching different people, and its efficiency in controlling information overload and consultation fatique?
Consider consultation as an inter-organizational learning process. Knowledge is transfered between citizens and government, as they learn from each other. In particular, the policy makers need to better understand the needs, life experiences, and preferences of different actors in civil society (sometimes called stakeholders). In doing that, they act as both apprentices, learning from citizens, and mediators, managing disputes between different groups of citizens.
When there are strong disagreements between different groups, a mediation or negotiation model is appropriate, based on what we understand about dispute resolution in communities that have been affected by conflict. This can be used to build a pattern of the process, and identify technologies to support different stages in that process.
Considering public consultation as a series of mediation and negotiation processes, it should be possible to participatively design software that supports these human processes, in the stages identified in the table below.The technologies that can be used at different stages are described in more detail in a guide to e-consultation.
Verbiage for pattern card:
In good public consultations knowledge is transferred between citizens and government as they learn from each other. E-Consultation can be seen as a Mediation process which is run in stages. At the beginning issues and needs can be collected from stories in forums and social media. Policymakers need to better understand people's needs, life experiences, and preferences in order to participatively design solutions to social problems.
People suffering from chronic medical conditions need both information about their condition and the support of others who share their problems. How can such groups of people use the Internet to address their needs, and how can they design and operate a website for the best possible outcome?
The Internet allows us to become content providers as well as users. A medically based Web community can become a powerful source of collective intelligence about a particular medical condition, with thousands of people sharing research results, articles, and personal observations with each other, thus breaking down the monopoly that doctors once held on medical information. Such a community also can be a source of comfort, wisdom, new friendships and material assistance. However, the nature of the medium also allows for casual, even abusive use of the information space.
Breast Cancer Action Nova Scotia's (BCANS http://www.bca.ns.ca) interactive site is the world's largest and oldest breast cancer discussion site, indeed one of the oldest medical mutual-help sites in existence, dating from 1996 when it was started by a volunteer. The site began a period of fast growth in 1998 and in 2002 was reported to have about 400 closely involved "regulars", a wider circle of people who drop in now and then, and an unknown number of lurkers, some of them long-term. Not only women but a few men with breast cancer post to this group, as well as husbands, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, and friends. Although the majority of users are American, with about one-fourth Canadian, the site also hosts visitors from all the other continents, notably a large and active contingent from Australia and New Zealand, numerous Europeans, and participants from Turkey, South Africa, India, Hong Kong, and elsewhere.
Participants in the website can give and receive:
• reassurance and caring;
• informal advice to cope with the myriad sub-acute problems that arise;
• encouragement to stick with medical treatment regimens;
• professional medical information, such as details of new clinical trials;
• support for questioning conventional medical wisdom;
• material goods such as cards, gifts, and funds.
The site also includes tributes to those who have died; a collection of links to specific breast cancer topics; and a glossary of more than 400 breast cancer-related terms.
Since its launch with a single discussion forum, an interactive calendar for local (Halifax, Nova Scotia) activities, and a mission statement, BCANS has grown into a community that has written books, given conference presentations, appeared on TV and radio, launched a fundraising arm, and formed numerous in-person friendships.
To account for the success of BCANS, Patricia Radin turned to social capital theory, which analyzes the elements of beneficial social networks. According to the literature, trust is at the heart of a "virtuous circle" of activity wherein people voluntarily help each other, receive benefits in return, and again reach out to provide assistance. Although social capital theory was developed by looking at networks of people working face-to-face in bounded situations, it appears applicable to any context where mutual assistance is being rendered, such as an online medical mutual-help group.
Some specific features of site design and operations help to move visitors progressively toward a state of greater trust and reciprocity.
• An alert webmistress fiercely protects the community from hurtful messages, spam, and exploitation, thus promoting a high level of trust and goodwill.
• As well as the main forum discussing breast cancer issues, there are now additional sub-forums: e.g. one to accommodate groups planning get-togethers and one to allow for the swapping of recipes, jokes, and so on.
• A "prayer chain" section is available for users to post spiritual messages.
• Chat rooms are open 24 hours a day, but particular times are specified when a ‘host’ will be available to welcome newcomers to the chat room.
• There are two ways for participants to post permanent self-introductions (including photos): by filing a profile, which is then automatically linked with each message; and by posting an autobiography in a password-protected section accessible only to others who have filed a "biog." Many personal friendships have been formed and some community members visit the discussions as often as three times a day.
These features allow new visitors to size up the costs/benefits of participation in a risk-free environment; it allows longer-term users to stage their level of self-disclosure; choose from many ways to contribute and receive from the group; and to take part in shared experiences, both virtual and face-to-face; and it gives the more established community members chances to develop personal relationships and initiate projects of mutual benefit.
This pattern is in memory of Patricia Radin who is the original author.
Seek to build trust in stages:
1. Attract and reassure new visitors by giving visual messages explaining why the website was built and who for. Avoid advertising and show sponsorship from individuals clearly. Provide messages from others who share the condition.
2. Allow users to choose when and how to give out personal information. Separate publicly available profiles, from password protected areas where more personal information might be shared. Chat rooms can allow a more ephemeral form of "conversation". Sites should also permit people to send personal responses to posted comments, instead of posting to the whole forum.
3. Be alert to the potential problems of lurkers or abusive material. Active editors are needed to edit out abusive material, to act as hosts in chat rooms, and to maintain the site as a safe space.
4. Seek to build "thick trust," by supporting joint activities - doing things together, this gives people the opportunity to size up each other in a variety of situations.
Verbiage for pattern card:
People suffering from chronic medical conditions need information and the support of others who share their problems. A web community can be a powerful source of collective intelligence, of comfort, wisdom, friendships and material assistance. Trust must built in stages through communication, privacy, and planning. Moreover, the organizers and the community itself should work together to build "thick trust" through collaborative activities.
Trauma and destruction are common results of war, religious conflict, gender oppression, and natural disaster. Unfortunately the way that societies deal with these issues can make a bad situation worse. Traditional systems of blame and punishment and even reparations all too often simply create additional harm.
In the 21st Century formal judicial systems centered on a national government and the courts are losing ground to new models of adjudication and problem-solving. Some communities are reverting to long-standing traditions for healing, cleansing and restoring community balance. Others are taking up a more modern idea, the creation of a Truth Commission to take testimony from the victims and perpetrators in a conflict. These bodies range in scope and scale from the famous South African hearings covering thousands of cases spanning thirty years, to the Greensboro NC (USA) hearings about a single local catastrophe. Commission hearing rooms offer a forum for contact across previously insurmountable barriers of hostility, which can inspire a traditional enemies to build a newly shared investment in the future.
Community organizations dealing with local traumatic events, families with a personal story of injustice, even an entity as large as the United States with its dark history of slavery can consider creating a Truth, Reconciliation and Amnesty Commission. A Commission holding hearings will allow the actual history to be revealed by taking testimony from a wide variety of perspectives, and will also become a forum in which adversaries can approach each other without insisting on punishment or revenge. Perhaps surprisingly, a narrative, anecdotal yet full recounting of painful truth contributes substantially to restoring the harmony and vitality of the community for the future.
South Africas is the most famous Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but there have been dozens of others.Many have played an important role in repairing community rifts without furthering the suffering for most people. In South Africa, an indigenously inspired and funded project, heard thousands of testimonies and disposed of over 3000 requests for amnesty. Guatemalas TRC was more centralized and UN sponsored. A key outcome of the latters work came in an apology from the United States for its abusive interventions Guatemalan affairs.
TRCs offer a substitute for traditional disaster adjudication systems, which usually take one of the following three forms: insurance payments/liability law suits, government investigations/hearings, criminal trials and punishments. While each of these has its place, all three are concerned above all with blame for the past. Furthermore, legal and official procedures traditionally depend on arcane jargon and they tend to be expensive, long drawn out and highly centralized. Since they are dominated by experts, traditional dispute forums tend to marginalize the ordinary people who actually experience traumatic events. UN War Crimes Tribunals for Rwanda and Bosnia, which refuse to consider amnesty, have been bedeviled by the failings of court-based systems.
TRC style hearings are quite different. They are relatively informal so they are commensurately cheaper and can take place anywhere in an affected area. If they follow the South African model, hearings are not adversarial, they do not assign guilt or innocence and they are carried out in the local, natural language. In 2004 in Greensboro NC, hearings about 1979 slaughter of four civil rights activists offered an opportunity for people to continue on with a process that had actually been cut off in the courts.
TRC Commissioners need to attend openheartedly to the voices of suffering, to ask probing questions about responsibility and action so as to determine if the truth has indeed been told. Their success depends on the integrity of these commissioners. It also depends on careful recording and distribution of the testimonies. Participation, both for witnesses and those accused of doing harm has traditionally been voluntary, in the sense that no-one faces additional legal sanctions from their society for failing to appear, though community hostility can be hard on those who reject the Commissions request to appear.
The strongest argument against TRC proceedings is precisely the strongest argument in favor of them that such hearings are not the forum for punishing a perpetrator. Victim opponents of TRCs fear being deprived of justice. Perpetrators worry that the hearings are merely fishing expeditions to search out the guilty who will then be punished. Theorists are concerned that perpetrators who are not prosecuted under such a system will find they can act with impunity In South Africa some victims remained critical to the end, but many discovered that the new knowledge they gleaned at the hearings about what happened and why proved much stronger in easing their hearts than the had expected. And nothing about these hearings need prevent judicial action. Indeed in recent years there have been examples of re-opening judicial proceedings with a similar intent, for example the 2005 recreation and new trial of Chief Leshi leading his exoneration in Washington State, a hundred years after his execution.
Establishing a successful commission depends on preparing the groundwork on many issues. The factors identified by the Truth Commission Project (see below) include
By whom/under whose name the commission is established
When the commission is established and how far back it reaches
Prevailing focus on healing or justice
Public support for a truth commission
Geographic horizon for Investigation
Legal Powers of Investigation
Rejecting anonymous and confidential testimonies
Visibility of Hearings
Degree of Formality of Hearings
Whether or not to offer Amnesty
Completion, Publication and Distribution/ Accessibilityof report
While most actual TRC hearings have been conducted in former war zones, it is easy to discern other issues which could benefit from this process:
1) The United States government and the American people could people re-examine the costs of the slave trade and the centuries of slave labor and yet minimize the likelihood that the acknowledgement of history becomes the basis furious revenge.
2) Or the people and the different levels of government could investigate the events of the New Orleans 2005 catastrophe without focusing narrowly on blame and thereby prompting an onslaught of liability law suits.
3) Or the residents and former residents of Hanford-Washington, Chernobyl-Ukraine, and Ukraine, and Bikini Island and other nuclear sites could craft public history out of the secrecy which surrounded the nuclear programs of the 20th century. At the same time they would create a forum for dialogue with the builders of the weapons and power plants who have left behind a radioactive legacy that will last for millennia.
This pattern links to Memory and Responsibility, Witnessing, Transparency, Community Inquiry, International Law
Therefore, faced with a festering historical trauma in a specific community, create a Truth, Reconciliation and Amnesty commission, using either informal or official channels. A commission can hear victim testimonies about past suffering as well as explanations from those responsible and it can provide a forum in which adversaries can meet without fear of further harm or punishment.
Verbiage for pattern card:
Societies recovering from wars and other traumas, can make a bad situation worse by focusing on blame or punishment. New models of adjudication and problem solving are emerging. Some communities are restoring long-standing healing and cleansing traditions. Truth and Reconciliation Commissions can help provide contact across previously insurmountable barriers of hostility and can inspire former enemies to build a shared investment in the future.
Information about introductory graphic:
A world map showing all the truth and reconciliation commissions in Museum of Memory and Human Rights, Santiago, Chile.
The characterization of inadequate information technology resources in disadvantaged communities as a "digital divide" was a useful wake-up call. At the same time, this metaphor is often taken to imply a problematic solution: the one-way bridge. The one-way bridge sees a technology-rich side at one end, and a technology-poor side at the other end. The one-way bridge attempts to bring gadgets to a place of absense, a sort of technology vacuum. This view can have the unfortunate side-effect of making local knowledge and expertise invisible or de-valued.
One of the alternative approaches which avoids the one-way assumption is that of Culturally Situated Design Tools: using computer simulations of cultural arts and other pracitces to "translate" from local knowledge to their high-tech counterparts in mathematics, computer graphics, architecture, agriculture, medicine, and science. Current design tools include a virtual bead loom for simulating Native American beadwork, a tool based on urban graffiti, an audio tool for simulating Latino percussion rhythms, a Yupik navigation simulation, etc. Each design tools makes use of the mathematics embedded in the practive--for example the virtual bead loom uses Cartesian coordinates, because of the four-fold symmetry of the traditional loom (and many other Native American designs such as the "four winds" healing traditions, the four-pole tipi, etc). Applications are primarily in K-12 math education, but they also can be applied to design projects such as architecture, or used as a research tool in investigations such as ethnomathematics.
Although we have had some strong success with these tools, their deployment--particularly in the field of education--has not been easy. In the educational context, we first have to work with community members to find a cultural practice that can be simulated. In the case of Native American practices some of the best examples in terms of ethnomathematics turn out to be sacred practices that cannot be simulated (eg Navajo sand painting, Shoshone whirling disks). Second, we have to make sure the cultural practice is recognized by the youth -- several African examples were questioned because by teachers who said African American children would see them more as dusty museum artifacts than as something they had cultural ownership of. Third we have to satisfy the requirements of standard curricula -- many interesting examples of ethnomathematics (Eulerian paths in pacific Islander sand drawings, fractals in African architecture, etc.) are difficult to use because they are outside of the standard curriculum. Fourth the software support must be easy for teachers to use -- many math teachers (particularly those serving large minority populations) do not have ready access to good quality computers for their students, and do not have good technolgical training. The students must be provided with cultural background information and tutorials, and the teachers must be provided with lesson plans and examples of use.
Our first design tool was developed for the "African Fractals" project (Eglash 1999). Mathematics teachers with large African American student populations reported that they could not use fractals -- there was too much pressure to conform to the standard curriculum -- and that they felt that many of the examples were too culturally distant from the students. They all felt that the examples of hairstyles would work well however. Thus our first tool focused on the hairstyles, and used the term "iterative transformational geometry" rather than "fractals." The graphic above shows the result, called "Cornrow Curves." Each braid is represented as multiple copies of a Y shaped plait. In each iteration, the plait is copied, and a transformation is applied. The series of transformed copies creates the braid. In the above example, we can see the original style at top right, and a series of braid simulations, each composed of plait copies that are successively scaled down, rotated, and translated (reflection is only applied to whole braids, as in the case where one side of the head is a mirror image of the other). One of the interesting research outcomes was that our students discovered which parameters need to remain the same and which would be changed in order to produce the entire series of braids (that is, how to iterate the iterations). The cultural background section of the website is divided into how to (for those unfamiliar with the actual process of creating cornrow hairstyles) and an extensive cultural history of cornrow hairstyles. We have found that many students, even those of African American heritage, will tell us that cornrows were invented in the 1960s. The history section was developed to provide students with a more accurate understanding of that history, starting with their original context in Africa (where they were used to signify age, religion, ethnic group, social status, kinship, and many other meanings), the use of cornrows in resistance to the attempt at cultural erasure during slavery, their revival during the civil rights era, and their renaissance in hip-hop. Most importantly, we want students to realize that the cornrows are part of a broader range of scaling designs from Africa (Eglash 1999), and that they represent a part of this African mathematical heritage that survived the middle passage. As noted previously, we have since developed a wide variety of design tools, ranging from simulations of Mayan pyramids (see image below) to virtual baskets. Our evaluations have been based on pre-test/post-test comparisons of mathematics performance, average grades in mathematics classes (comparing a year with the tools to the previous year without), and scores on a survey of interest or engagement with IT (specifically computing careers). All three measures show statistically significant increase (p < .05 or better) with use of these tools. In summary, we note that any attempts to re-value local or traditional knowledge in the face of oppressive histories will be challenging, and all the more so if the re-valuation has to compete with current mainstream global practices. But we feel that Culturally Situated Design Tools offer an important new position in which to engage that struggle.
Verbiage for pattern card:
Bridging the “digital divide” often means that the technology-rich side brings gadgets to the technology-poor side. This can have the unfortunate side-effect of devaluing local knowledge and expertise. Culturally Situated Design Tools can use computer simulations of cultural practices (such as cornrow hair styling, urban graffiti, beadwork, breakdance, and Latino drumming) to "translate" local knowledge to their high-tech counterparts in math, computing, or media.