community action

Intermediate Technologies

Pattern ID: 
758
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
57
Justin Smith
The Public Sphere Project & St. Mary's University
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Often technologies used in development or transfered to poor communities do not fit the needs of the community that these technologies are designed to help. Instead these tools go unused or are not properly utilized to maximise their benefits due to a lack of knowledge about their use or more commonly their relavance to peoples needs.

Context: 

Often the simplest and most benign level of technology that can effectively achieve the intended purpose in a particular location will be the most relevant. These Intermediate Technologies are particularly useful to underdeveloped rural areas, which may lack the specialised expertise or infrastructure to operate and maintain high technology.

Discussion: 

Intermediate technology, as asserted in the book Small is Beautiful by E. F. Schumacher, tends to promote values such as health, beauty and permanence.

The idea of intermediate technology or "appropriate technology" is meant to highlight an approach to the concrete tools pushed in development practice. For example in a rural area, where literacy is low, where there is a lack of communication lines and even electricity it would not make sense to implement a tele-center to promote information awareness, rather a small local radio station by which people could obtain information through battery operated radios would be much more relevant to transfer information.

In essence the role of an intermediate technology is meant to allow peoples to take advantage of technology but in ways that don't drastically disrupt the cultural integrity of the community. It is ultimately respectful and mindful, to the fact that a treadle-pump for accessing water over walking 2 miles to the river 5 times a day is going to be more relevant to rural woman raising a household than a computer. In fact, there are no shortage of reports of technology transfer programs that failed miserably due to inadequate assessment of community needs. Instead, tools that were perceived to be most relevant based upon a variety of biases were given and yet when later evaluated where found to be dysfunctional or not in use.

Again, that was because they lacked relevance to the lived experiences of the peoples it was intended to help. Unfortunately, it is difficult to produce a list of appropriate technologies since by their very nature require their deployment to be context specific. So in some cases a rural wireless network may be very relevant and yet in others a underground water collection stations for use during the dry season will be most applicable.

Solution: 

Therefore when seeking to promote the livelihoods of peoples through the process of technology transfer it is important to be careful and creative in mapping out projects and types of technologies to be placed in a community to reach maximum use and benefit to those it is intended to support. Consultants and development advocates must ensure that proper measures are taken to ensure relevance and usefulness. In these cases it would seem appropriate for communities and technologists to come together in a participatory process for mapping out needs, infrastructure and culturally relevant solutions.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Often the simplest level of technology that can achieve the intended purpose in a particular location will be the most relevant. Intermediate Technologies are particularly useful to underdeveloped rural areas, which lack the expertise or infrastructure to operate and maintain high technology. Communities need to collaborate with specialists to map out needs, infrastructure and culturally relevant solutions.

Pattern status: 
Released

Indigenous Media

Pattern ID: 
446
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
55
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Miguel Angel Pérez Alvarez
Colegio de Pedagogía, UNAM
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Lack of representation in media production results in reduced diversity of ideas and perspectives in the media. This often results in manipulation, lack of political participation and knowledge about rights. It lessens opportunities to engage in politics or to assume responsibilities in government. Indigenous people who are denied their voice will find it difficult to fight oppression, work with allies, or maintain their culture. Without the means to make their voices heard, communities become atomized within themselves and invisible to the outside world.

Context: 

Indigenous people in rural and urban areas in developing and developed countries around the world need to create

Discussion: 

This pattern could be applied in urban areas and in rural areas where communities have suffered years of economic and social stagnation. Indigenous media is different from media that is produced by and for other underserved groups such as ethnic and sexual minorities, women, and youth. For one thing, indigenous people often don’t know how to engage the media from their village far from electricity, telephones, press, or radio or television stations. For another thing, the knowledge that is intrinsic to their culture may be localized. It may be centuries old, embodied in stories or other non-written forms and endangered.

Information is essential for development and it is now urgent to empower indigenous people with media technologies and knowledge. There are many activities which indigenous farmers could undertake to help improve their lives with better access to media. If, for example, the farmers of Chiapas in Southeast Mexico could sell their products directly to the companies they could improve their economic situation. Currently intermediaries buy coffee in poor villages for a few coins which is then sold to big companies at great profit. Access to the market depends on knowledge and the technological means to capitalize on it.

We know that this is not only a problem for the poor. Many people around the world have problems related to lack of media access. The fact that large corporations control the media becomes a matter of life and death because the media is the de facto gatekeeper of important information related to health and safety. Indigenous people often lack the power, knowledge and technology to produce their own information and their own media. The Internet could provide a new way to communicate. For example, in the south and south-east areas of México, there are new Internet access centers but these are only for people who already know how to use computers and the Internet, knowledge that many indigenous people don’t have.

Indigenous Media simultaneously addresses many needs of marginalized indigenous groups. Thus embracing this pattern entails education and training, policy, resources (time, money, people, for example) in addition to access to the technology itself. An e-mail campaign or a panel discussion on a radio show can help organize a campaign against a group of intermediaries or to denounce bad legislators. In Mexico's rural communities such as Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca radio stations managed by indigenous farmers and satellite gateways to the Internet can make the difference between intimidation and free speech. Some notable examples from around the world include Radio Tambuli Radio Network in the Philippines, the Deadly Mob aboriginal organization of Alice Springs, Australia, and the Koahnic Broadcast Corporation in Alaska.

Non-indigenous people can play a role in support of this pattern. They can organize training programs in the 3,100 new access points are installed in the municipalities around Mexico and/or in Internet cafes. Many institutions and international agencies whose programs include technology in rural areas can donate equipment, access to the Internet (maybe via satellite gateways), and Internet streaming. NGOs with training and learning programs can work with indigenous farmers and others to learn how to apply media access technology. Mino of the Ashaninka native people in Peru who was instrumental in establishing Internet access for his people stresses that indigenous people must not allow non-indigenous people to monopolize information. For that reason, he and others in his group carefully observed every technical installation that was carried out in his village.

Unfortunately the pattern language and other educational tools are not available in native languages and are useless to most indigenous people. Many of these stakeholders have experience with ICT who can share their stories of success and failure, but they can't express their thoughts in English.

Radio, print media, television, all have potential to help shape public opinion. When rural farmers acquire Internet skills and can access media, they can apply this knowledge to create their own information and communication systems. Ultimately, indigenous people can promote success by communicating with other indigenous people around the world about their experiences.

Arts of Resistance, Alternative Media, Roles in Media, Influencing the Design of Information Technologies, Mobile ICT Learning Facilities for 3rd World Communities, International Networks of Alternative Media, Control of One's Representation, Solidarity Networks, Ordinary Protagonists and Everyday Life

Solution: 

Encourage the development of indigenous media that is controlled by indigenous people themselves. People outside the indigenous community can become involved — but only in consultation with the indigenous community.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The lack of participation and influence by indigenous communities in media production results in reduced diversity of ideas and perspectives. This can result in lack of political participation and knowledge about rights. It lessens opportunities to engage in politics or to assume responsibilities in government. Indigenous people who are denied their voice will find it difficult to fight oppression, work with allies, or maintain their culture.

Pattern status: 
Released

Mutual Help Medical Websites

Pattern ID: 
778
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
54
Andy Dearden
Sheffield Hallam University
Patricia Radin
Formerly, California State University-Hayward
Version: 
2
Problem: 

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?

Context: 

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.

Discussion: 

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.

Solution: 

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.

Pattern status: 
Released

Alternative Media in Hostile Environments

Pattern ID: 
433
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
53
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Despots despise the visibility that a truly free press can provide. It is their unchallengeable iniquity that would receive the most intense airing. Under oppressive regimes, the circulation of information, literature, and other art forms can be dangerous. People can be harassed, beaten-up, imprisoned or even executed for possession of forbidden information — or the means to create, reproduce or distribute it. Journalists face even greater challenges and require an extensive collection of techniques to get the news out to all who need it.

Context: 

This pattern focuses on journalism during hostile conditions in which citizens have a greater need to engage with the forbidden knowledge and share it with members of their community. The future of reform often depends on the success of this collaboration between journalists and citizens. The ideas in this pattern (including new distribution practices, for example) also can be used in the US or other countries that have a nominally free press yet one that is dominated by a few strong voices with deep pockets.

Discussion: 

The world can be very hostile to independent and alternative journalists and to people who read and think. Even countries where there are no legal restrictions to a "free" press have major problems. The journal Index on Censorship and the organization Reporters without Borders regularly report on the barbarities visited upon journalists worldwide. Despots know that the truth can damage their reputations and ultimately their regime. Although the truth is difficult to hide forever, postponing its arrival, limiting its exposure, and casting aspersions on its accuracy may be adequate for their purposes.

A hostile environment is one in which coercion or force — either formally through laws and police — or informally through thugs or contract killers is employed to stifle the free flow of ideas. The most common form of choking off the flow of information that could be damaging to the government, corporations or wealthy individuals is distraction. Serbian media during the Milosevic years with its breezy lightweight confections of schmaltzy pop as well as nationalist songs and slapstick served up in many cases by scantily clad women, provides a good example of this.

One appendage of the unfree press (at least as conceptualized in the U.S.) is a ruthlessly efficient secret police that stomps out every aspect of alternative point-of-view the instant that it surfaces. This modus operandi seems to be uncommon in practice (and would no doubt be the envy of all the despots). The defenders of the status quo, though loutish and dangerous, are often capricious and incompetent, and they are generally stymied by insufficient resources. The ambiguity of the laws and the ambiguity of the presumed offenses also can work in favor of the journalist.

The former Soviet Union and its satellites provided the fertile soil for an independent press that operated on the margins of the law for several decades. This is the classic "samizdat" distribution in which readers painstakingly and secretly copied by hand or via typewriter and carbon paper, multiple copies of entire books which were then passed on to others who would do the same.

In the "developed world" journalists and other media workers are specialized: one person intones the news of the day, using video clips that another person edited which was shot by another person during an interview conducted by another person as ordered by another person. When the political climate turns nasty and journalists are beaten-up, threatened or killed by government soldiers, paramilitary troops or thugs, when resources dry up or when disaster or wartime situations erupt, journalists habituated to the strict division of labor may be unable to adopt the more flexible and improvisational mode of news production when that becomes necessary. Journalists with overspecialized, deep but narrow, skills will find that they are unable to respond quickly and flexibly when their tried-and-true practices fail due to unexpected circumstances.

Alternative news distribution involves a canny cat and mouse game between those who believe in the free distribution of information and those who don't. Living within an actively hostile environment, it will be necessary to keep changing the way that business is done to meet new challenges. Unlike journalists in the US or other developed countries, journalists must adept in many modes of reporting, many approaches to distribution, a variety of tactics and strategies and the inventive use of what's available to get the job done, as befits what B92 journalist Veran Matic calls a "universal journalist, not an encyclopedic polymath who is informed in different fields, but a professional familiar with print journalism, radio and television, online journalism and information distribution mechanisms." This is what I call a bricoleur-journalist who sends the sounds that accompany the scene at voting station in Africa can go directly over the air via a cell phone with an open line to the radio station. Audio cassettes, printed broadsides or, more commonly today, DVDs can be distributed when the plug is pulled on a radio station (as it was three times during B92's early years of confronting Milosevic). And bricoleur-journalists in different cultures and settings, such as Chinese pro-democracy or environmental activists, will assume any number of local variants.

An interesting, unexpected issue seems to surface from time-to-time by the underground media (and society in general) after the fall of an oppressive regime. (fate of art and literature) Ironically, many people who worked closely with clandestine media over the years now feel unsettled in the post-soviet environment. After communism fell the former trickle of information became a tsunami of mostly commercial offerings. When information was scarce and in danger of extinction possessed an almost sacred allure. Now the same type of information is lost in the flood, just more anonymous flotsam and jetsam in a torrent of images and sounds.

Samizdat or clandestine journalism doesn't always succeed of course. Translating the success of the samizdat or underground press to other regions under oppressive regimes is far from automatic. A potential audience that is interested in the material must exist — as with the media in any situation — and there must be some way to get the material to them. Some of these people earnestly want social change and believe there is some degree, however small, of hope that this outcome is achievable. Interestingly, and somewhat contrary to conventional wisdom, some people in the potential audience are motivated by their desire to know the truth whether it helps to actually change the situation or not. At any rate, the larger and more active and supportive the audience is, the more likely that the alternative press will succeed. On the other side of the equation are the journalists — potential and actually — and the absence of either audience or journalists can prevent the enterprise from being successful.

Although precarious, alternative media production actually builds civic capacity. According to Anna Husarka who worked for Poland's Solidarity Information Bureau in 1989, the journalism they practiced "was a political blueprint for the democratic struggles that dismantled communism." It is also important to note that traditional "news" is not the only "product" of an alternative media project. The B92 enterprise (which started as a college radio station in Belgrade) now includes Radio B92, Television B92, B92.net (Web site), B92 publishing (books and magazines), B92 music label, B92.Rex cultural centre, B92.concert agency, and B92.communications (Internet provision and satellite links) amply illustrates the rich potential of a "media" that chooses to embrace the widest range of outlets. One of their biggest and most successful projects was "Rock for Vote," the biggest rock tour in Serbia's history, "a traveling festival with 6 to 8 bands playing in 25 cities and towns throughout the country." The tour was organized while organizers and activists "were being molested, harassed and detained by the police on a daily basis." In spite of that 150,000 citizens attended the concerts. Most importantly the results of the 2000 elections demonstrated that their main objective was attained: "80% of first-time voters did go to the polls after all ... casting their ballots to bring about fundamental changes in the country."

As mentioned above, some media operations that developed during a period of hostility have had a difficult time making the transition from a post-war or post-oppressive regime. On the other hand, Gazeta Wyborcza, one of Poland's leading underground newspapers in the 1980s, which was started in a kindergarten classroom became one of the most influential and commercially viable dailies in Poland [Smillie, 1999].) B92, in least in the immediate aftermath of the troubles in Serbia, continued innovative programming that reflected their terrifying past. For example, they launched a Truth and Reconciliation process that included radio shows and a series of books about the wars (including the Srebrenica crimes) and disintegration of former Yugoslavia. They also convened a conference "In Search for Truth and Reconciliation" in 2000 that was attended by journalists, intellectuals and representatives of NGOs from all former Yugoslav republics took part and another conference "Truth, Responsibility and Reconciliation" the following year that featured experiences of other countries in similar processes. Radio B92 also set up a special documentation archive on the wars which included testimonies, documentaries, video footage, books and other documents. They also arranged "exhibitions, screenings of documentaries and public discussions on these topics are being organized throughout Serbia" (Matic, 2004).

Solution: 

Producing — and consuming — or other types of cultural or journalistic media with hostile societies can be hazardous to emotional as well as physical health. It is often a unrewarding enterprise at the same time it can be absolutely critical.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

People in oppressive regimes can be harassed, beaten-up, imprisoned or even executed for possession or circulation of forbidden information, literature, or drawings. Journalists face grave challenges and require an extensive collection of techniques to get the news out. Alternative Media in Hostile Environments focuses on journalism during hostile conditions in which citizens have a greater need to engage with forbidden knowledge and share it with members of their community.

Pattern status: 
Released

Truth and Reconciliation Commissions

Pattern ID: 
749
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
51
Helena Meyer-Knapp
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

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.

Context: 

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.

Discussion: 

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 Africa’s 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. Guatemala’s TRC was more centralized and UN sponsored. A key outcome of the latter’s 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 Commission’s 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

Solution: 

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.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
A world map showing all the truth and reconciliation commissions in Museum of Memory and Human Rights, Santiago, Chile.

Citizen Access to Simulations

Pattern ID: 
744
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
48
Alan Borning
University of Washington
Version: 
2
Problem: 

It can be difficult to understand and bring into public deliberation the long-term consequences of major public decisions, for example, the consequences of building a new rail system or a freeway in an urban area. Simulations can help illuminate these consequences (for example, a simulation of the long-term effects on land use, transportation, and environmental impacts of different choices). To be compelling and useful, the simulation results should presented in a way that they can be understood and used by a range of interested citizens. Further, ideally not just the results, but access to running the simulation, should be available to the public, to allow experimentation with alternatives. To aid in understanding and credibility, the simulation should be constructed in a transparent fashion, so that its operation is open to inspection and discussion.

Context: 

This pattern is potentially useful to advocacy groups, other community organizations, business associations, and local and regional governments. Using this pattern depends on a suitable simulation and data being available. Another factor (less important but useful) would be the existence of a community indicators program that tracks current trends using indicators, so that the *same* indicators can be used to both track current trends and to present the simulation results. (Doing this is particularly useful in applying the Reality Check pattern [link to Reality Check pattern], in which simulation results are compared with observed, real-world data.

Discussion: 

Community Indicators [link to Community and Civic Indicators pattern] can provide an important tool for monitoring current trends in a community. However, we will usually be interested in the values of these indicators in the future, not just the present - and which actions will result in more desirable outcomes as measured by the community indicators. Simulation and modeling can provide a powerful tool for informing such discussions, particularly if the results from the simulation can be presented using the same indicators as selected in a participatory Community and Civic Indicators project. For example, the summary graphic for this pattern shows the population densities in the Puget Sound region in Washington State in 2025 given the current land use and transportation plans, as projected by the UrbanSim simulation system. The results of the work should be made available using the web or printed reports. Using the web has the advantage that definitions of indicators, documentation, and related information can be conveniently linked together. Supporting public access to running the simulation, as well as the results, might be provided in several different ways, depending on the complexity and size of the simulation and input data. Particularly for complex simulations, with substantial data requirements, accessing a simulation hosted on a server via a web interface is a good technique. Smaller simulations might be downloaded and run on individual's computers. This is in general not an easy pattern to use. In addition to developing the set of indicators (including careful definitions and documentation), a simulation of the phenomenon of interest must exist or be developed, including the necessary data and calibration to apply it in the given community. For the example used here (land use and transportation), this typically requires that the local or regional government agency in charge of land use and transportation planning either undertake the simulation work itself, or be willing to work closely with another organization that does so. The game SimCity demonstrates that many people -- including grade school children -- can be highly engaged by what might have been thought to be a dry topic, namely urban planning. While games such as SimCity can provide valuable inspiration and interaction ideas, there are key differences between such games and the simulations suggested in this pattern. First, this pattern is concerned with producing simulations of actual phenomena, for example, simulating a specific, real, urban area, with the intent of producing useful forecasts of its long-term development to inform public deliberation and debate. Second, the interaction techniques available to its users should expose only the actions and "policy levers" available to real citizens and governments (for the urban simulation example, such as building light rail systems or changing zoning). Users of these simulations can't simply declare that an area will be redeveloped (or bring in Godzilla); rather, all they can do is change relevant policies in a scenario in hopes of influencing people in the simulated environment to redevelop the area and residents to move there. Potential challenges to the result include challenges to the accuracy and reliability of the simulation.

Solution: 

Develop a simulation of the system of interest (for example, of urban land use and transportation), and make the results of the simulation accessible to interested stakeholders using indicators. When possible, make running the simulation accessible to the public as well.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Simulations can help illuminate long-term consequences of major public decisions on land use, transportation, and the environment. Citizen Access to Simulations can provide powerful capabilities for informing community discussions, particularly if the results are presented using the same indicators that were used in a participatory community and civic indicators project.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
UrbanSim

Meaningful Maps

Pattern ID: 
779
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
47
Andy Dearden
Sheffield Hallam University
Scot Fletcher
Handspring design, Sheffield, UK
Version: 
2
Problem: 

People are often unaware of the state of the world around them — especially "invisible", second-order or abstract relationships. Many of the important issues for the community, the environment and for humanity are difficult to see. To improve the world, we must understand the current situation, highlight the important factors, and help others to understand the issues. How can we collect up to date information and present it in a way that people find easy to understand?

Context: 

This pattern is useful for community groups, advocacy groups and campaigns that are working to improve the world around them. This might be about local environmental quality, promoting international respect for human rights, basic needs such as clean- water or nutrition, or access to opportunities, in a neighbourhood, city or country. Groups need to target their resources carefully to achieve the maximum impact. They also want to communicate their concerns and encourage others to support their work. To be effective they need to reveal hidden relationships.

Discussion: 

To act effectively to improve a situation, we need to understand that situation. Using a map can act both: as a way of monitoring the current situation in an area and showing how this is changing; and as a way of presenting the issues to other people to raise their awareness and encourage them to support the work. The image above is based on the Green Apple Map of New York City http://www.greenapplemap.org

Examples of using maps in this way include: Green Maps (www.greenmap.org) of cities which can show information about local open space, green transport options, pollution problems, renewable resources, sustainable or fair-trade businesses, or cultural facilities; the State of the World Atlas (Kidron et al., 2003) which includes a large set of global maps covering topics such as political systems, transnationals, climate change, biodiversity, human rights, war and peace, malnutrition and life-expectancy; locally produced maps such as the Sheffield Food Map (Fletcher et al. 2005), which shows locations of community cafes, healthy and socially responsible eating places, opportunities to grow food, buy seeds or get advice on growing, and places to get advice on healthy nutrition, cooking and health.

It is important that the map is easy for readers to understand. Distinctive icons, graphs and other visual features should be designed to represent the key topics. The Green Maps project (www.greenmap.org) provide a set of icons that can be used for maps concerned with environmental issues. Displaying such icons on a map can make inequalities between different areas easy to see. The image below shows the tip of Manhattan on one of the Green Apple Maps.

It may be helpful to make the map available on the Internet, but in giving the information away freely, you need to consider how the funding to keep the map up to date will be sustainable.

It is important that the map is seen as a reliable source of information. The project needs to define a clear set of criteria for what is / is not to be included on the map. These criteria should be publicly available.

The map also needs to be kept up to date, so the project will need to identify a person or group of people who will be responsible for assessing items against the criteria and revising the map on a regular basis. On-line versions can be made database driven.

To ensure that the map is seen as unbiased, the mapping project must be careful to remain independent of political or commercial interests that might be interpreted by a reader as influencing the content. This can make it difficult to use advertising as a source of funding for the project. Alternative sources of funds may be selling the printed version of the map, providing the map to schools or education centres in return for a fee, funding from local government or planning authorities.

Solution: 

Create a map that displays the information you care about in the area where you are working. Design easily readable icons and visual features to make the map interesting to look at, and the facts easy to see. Establish a group of people to maintain the map so that information is up-to-date, and you can monitor how things change over time. Ensure that this group are able to give unbiased reports, independent of pressure from interested parties.

Categories: 
orientation
Categories: 
organization
Categories: 
engagement
Categories: 
resources
Themes: 
Research for Action
Themes: 
Education
Themes: 
Globalism and Localism
Themes: 
Policy
Themes: 
Social Critique
Themes: 
Community Action
Themes: 
Social Movement
Themes: 
Case Studies
Verbiage for pattern card: 

To improve the world, we must understand the situation, highlight the important factors, and help others to understand the issues. Meaningful Maps can provide a clear focus for relevant information. Groups need to use their resources carefully to achieve the maximum impact. They also want to communicate their concerns and encourage others to support their work.

Pattern status: 
Released

Alternative Progress Indices

Pattern ID: 
777
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
46
Burl Humana
Richard Reiss
one-country.com
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Economic indexes of various kinds attempt to measure the well being of nations, markets, corporations, individual people, and society. Most of these economic indexes express return only in monetary format and risk is calculated on the standard deviation of this monetary expression. These economic indexes need to also include information that makes life worth living, natural and social capital (living capital), so non-monetary rewards are also included in the standard deviation and risks to human well being can be indicated more accurately.

Context: 

Trading on the benchmark of indices has become increasingly popular over the last few years. As indexes become more widely used than ever before they become easy indicators, for those they benefit, in measuring how our world is doing, according to them, and skew the honest reality for mankind that we hope to protect. It is imperative to accurately measure the well being of nations, corporations, individual people, and societies through indexes that adequately reflect the true costs and benefits contributing to the well being of our world.

Discussion: 

Indexes take on a market theory notion that the “efficient frontier” has all the information needed to calculate an accurate return (reward) versus risk (cost) index. Following this notion is the idea that filtering the market for certain criteria of a specialized index lowers the amount of return received for risk taken, because filtered information is inefficient. This raises questions about the “efficiency” of markets because active managers filter economic information everyday to create specialized portfolios to increase return. On this, it would theoretically stand that an index measuring the well being of society could filter for criteria rewarding the common good with little to no ill effect from lack of the so called “efficiency” imbibed by the market.

Around the globe, there is an increase in the number of sustainability and social responsibility indexes (SRI). These indexes came out of first generation socially conscious investing that excluded corporate stock from investment portfolios on the basis of particular activities deemed to be unethical. From this, a second generation has emerged and the focus of SRI has changed primarily to identifying social and environmental issues that are “material” to business performance. This is an increased attempt by companies to assess the materiality of sustainability issues on (stock) value creation. These indices paint a picture that socially responsibility is only important when a financial gain is made by corporations or stockholders. This is not exactly what we are looking for when we hope to use indexes to help measure the well being of our world. When individual investors purchase SRI traded securities/indexes they still have to deal with the reality that the costs to living capital are making life less valuable even while their portfolios grow.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)/Gross National Product (GNP) per capita has most lately been used as an index of standard of living in an economy. GDP/GNP only measures the populations ease in satisfying their material wants (an index of reward for risk taken) and all else that contributes to the sustainability of people and the environment is lost. "Adding up the monetary transactions in an economy and calling this prosperity obscures an honest account of the well being of nations." (Anielski, 2000)

Quality of life and standard of living should not be separate measurements in an index "A more complex index of standard of living than GDP must be employed to take into account not only the material standard of living but also other factors that contribute to human well-being such as leisure, safety, cultural resources, social life, mental health, and enironmental quality issues, to name a few." (Anielski, 2000)

Simon Kuznets' idea “…[in] favour of more inclusive measures, less dependent on markets..." (Anielski, 2000) rings true as a more realistic approach to well-being. "The eventual solution would obviously lie in devising a single yardstick of both economies [virtual wealth – money,debt, stock markets; and real wealth – human, natural and social capital]…that would perhaps lie outside the different economic and social institutions and be grounded in experimental science (of nutrition, warmth, health, shelter, etc.)." (Anielski, 2000) The business for this millennium is to take up this empirical economic challenge for a single bottom line index for national well-being.

“The U.S. Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) and its predecessor, the Index for Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) provide the basis for developing a new accountancy to address Kuznets’ challenge. The U.S. GPI released in 1995 and since updated…is one of the most ambitious attempts at calculating the total benefits and costs related to [economics for community] for the US. First developed by Clifford W. Cobb, GPI/ISEW remains one of the most important attempts to measure sustainable current welfare." (Anielski, 2000)

"The GPI adds a cost side to the growth ledger, begins to account for the aspects of the economy that lie outside the realm of monetary exchange, acknowledges that the economy exists for future generations as well as for the present one and adjusts for income disparities. The GPI begins with personal consumption expenditures as a baseline, the way the GDP does. Personal spending by households makes up roughly 65 percent of the US GDP. The GPI then make a series of 24 adjustments for unaccounted benefits, depreciation costs (for social and natural capital) and deducts regrettable social and environmental expenditures. Specific elements of the GPI include personal consumer expenditures, income, value and cost of consumer spending on durable goods and household capital, cost of household pollution abatement, cost of commuting, cost of crime, cost of automobile accidents, cost of family breakdown, value of housework and parenting, value of voluntary work, loss of leisure time, services of streets and highways, cost of underemployment, air pollution, ozone depletion, water pollution, noise pollution, cost of depletion of non renewable, loss of forests, long term environmental damage, loss of wetlands, net capital investment, net foreign lending/borrowing." (Anielski, 2000) The GPI has also set goals for itself "to improve its framework in the areas of human capital, technology, government spending, social infrastructure, natural capital and environmental accounts, ecological carrying capacity, genetic diversity, water projects, workplace environment, underground economy, and pollution and lifestyle induced disease." (Anielski, 2000)

The results of the GPI reveal that "…well being has declined while virtual wealth (debt, stock markets) have grown exponentially. One could say that while we are making more money we are effectively eroding the living capital which makes our lives worthwhile. “The primary benefit of the GPI is to provide decision makers with a more holistic account of the economic well-being of their community…." (Anielski, 2000)

"Any accounting system of well-being must be aligned with the values, experiences, and physical realities of the citizens of a community. The challenge in future GPI/ISEW accounting will be the ability of constructing accounts that are consistent with the held values, principles, and ethical foundation of a community or society." (Anielski, 2000)

Solution: 

Alternative indexes like the Genuine Progress Indicator that include natural and human capital can illuminate our world on the real picture of human well being that can be obfuscated by traditional economic indexes. "The ultimate utility of such measurement efforts is that the information provides evidence of trends in the welfare of society." (Aneilski, 2000)

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Economic indexes that measure the well-being of nations, markets, corporations, individual people, and society as a whole are expressed only in monetary terms and miss several important factors; they need to factor in information on positive factors such as volunteering and housework and negative factors such as pollution and crime.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Wiki Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schoolgirls_in_Bamozai.JPG

Open Action and Research Network

Pattern ID: 
775
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
45
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

As local — as well as global — problems become more numerous and more intractable, people and groups of people are working together to take appropriate action to address these urgent problems. Unfortunately, the increasing size and complexity of these problems and the corresponding "appropriate actions" that are required introduce a set of thorny issues that must be addressed for these actions to be effective.

Context: 

This pattern can be used in situations where a distributed, diverse, dynamic group of people are working towards complementary goals in complex, collaborative efforts.

Discussion: 

The ability of people to form effective "Open Action and Research Networks" is critical to the success of any attempt at significant social and environmental amelioration. It is also an approach that is only now being explored. For that reason, the concept — and this pattern — reflect the uncertainty and ambiguity that is inherent in the situation.

As we have said before, most of the daunting problems that we face today are large and complex. Grappling with large and complex problems is invariably best served when addressed by many people working together. Indeed this is often the case as each "stakeholder" in any situation can be said to be "working" on the problem. Yet each person and organization working on the problem has a unique orientation which can be at odds with others. "Orientation" is a broad term that includes reward structures; goals, tactics, and strategies; areas of interests; obligations and allegiances; values and norms, status, legitimacy, and power; and ultimately, the very language that the community uses to discuss the issues. Consider, for example, the wide range of people who are working to minimize the negative effects of global climate change, or what Margaret Keck calls an "ecology of agents." These people include scientists, activists, inventers, “green” business people, educators, politicians, and “ordinary” people among others, and these people are as often as not members of other organizations and networks with diverse goals and varying resources and abilities to influence others.

It is against and within this complex environment that the stakeholder players must act / interact. This diverse group of people — of continually shifting size, shape, orientation and modus operandi — can scarcely be called a "team" since teams (particularly in sports) have a single objective. It is clear that many of the "players" working in these new "open networks" have similar objectives, working for example, for social and environmental ameliorization, and these players will come from a multitude of communities: some are interested in research, some action, some the creation of policy, some physical or material changes right now, while others are interested in abstract goals to be attained in the indeterminate future. In the worst case, the diversity of the players destroys the team. Ideally the diversity is the source of its strength. (Indeed diversity of thinking is essential to effective strategy [See Strategic Capacity pattern].)

According to Ganz, "the task of devising strategy in complex, changing environments may require interaction among team members like the performance of a jazz ensemble. As a kind of distributed cognition, it may require synthesizing skills and information beyond the ken of any one individual, making terms of that interaction particularly important." Nearly opposite to the "ensemble" idea is the impossible vision of "herding cats" in which each "cat" is totally unconcerned about the doings of the other "cats."

The networks that this pattern must address vary tremendously. At one end of the scale there are networks with few members and resources, short duration, and informal procedures. At the other end are networks like the LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) Network that was started in 1980, involves 26 sites in the US, and over 1,800 scientists and students. Although the LTER Network is fairly well financed (by the National Science Foundation) and is more formal and less diverse than some groups, the networks on both ends of the scale do share many points in common befitting their structure as networks of semi-autonomous peers.

Some of the questions that this "network approach" should ultimately address are as follows:

  • How can differences of opinion be "managed" — i.e. encouraged to some degree, while not allowing them to become destructive?
  • How is coordination and cooperation accomplished without coercion?
  • How can we cooperatively evolve useful modes of organization and engagement that are especially suited for these new environments and ensembles?
  • How can people maintain respect for allies who have other perspectives and capitalize effectively on the diversity of the ensemble?
  • How do efforts survive personnel change by ensuring that relevant information, including facts, “lessons learned” and intriguing opportunities are made available to new members?
  • How can environmental scientists and other types of researchers (including social scientists) conduct research that meets the demands of their profession and the needs of the communities they are working with?
  • How are conflicts and misunderstandings over short-term and long-term goal reconciled?

Each organizational type (and each organization!) has its own orientation which encompasses its thinking and acting and it is this orientation which is likely to be challenged when working with others.

Shared concerns and principles help bring people together into groups, organizations and networks. Beyond that, however, other things are also critical. The individuals within the network should be able to work with other people to solve problems collectively and to help maintain cordiality and integrity within the group. Also because the membership of these networks is dynamic, there must be ways to bring in new members easily. Besides shared values and shared ideas about the roles, interests and constraints of the other players, there should be shared goals. Goals and other forms of collective, documented statements or plans, however symbolic they might be can provide coherence over time.

Margaret Keck's work in Brazil provides an excellent example of the power that these documents can have. In 1971, the Soluçãao Integrada (Integrated Solution) was included as the sanitation component of the metropolitan development plan. Although it was abandoned by the following government and replaced by a more expensive, less popular and more environmentally degrading plan called SANEGRAN. According to Keck, the very existence of the plan made it "possible for non-technical social and political actors to challenge public authority on water policy." In fact, in more striking terms, the plan, "Like a shadow government existing in counter point to sitting ones, the plan has functioned as a shadow sanitation plan for Sao Paulo for more than a quarter century, making critical action more possible" (Keck, 2001).

Girard and Stark (2006) point out the importance of agreeing on general philosophical aims among disparate groups without descending into micromanagement or debate. Sharing of ideas, documents and information was the also general aim of the Telecommunications Policy Roundtable, that met monthly in Washington, DC, in the 1990s to help build a general public interest policy for the Internet and other informaiton technologies. The LTER Network, as a body of researchers, places data in a central postion for their work and has developed specific formats to encourage the develop and sharing of data as well as policies for its use in a loosely coupled network configuration (Karasti and Syrjänen, 2004).

Today's phenomenon of creating movies with a team that was assembled for the purpose of making a single movie is instructive. Clearly reputation and "who you know" play some part in the selection of individuals. Once on the set, however, the person's skill-set, role in the enterprise, and ability to work with others in a dynamic milieu where unexpected events ma arise, is put to the test. While the "Open Networks" we discuss here are not identical, the agility, intelligence, and effectiveness that these groups can potentially manifest is huge.

Solution: 

Acknowledge the importance of this pattern and work consciously to identify the inherent dilemmas of the situation as well as the emerging wisdom that is to be learned from the practice. We must take note of the avenues that are likely to yield important and useful insights about working together as we move forward.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

As problems become more and more intractable, more—and more diverse— people much work together. While diversity is a necessity and can be a source of strength, it introduces problems that can worsen if we don't address them effectively. We must acknowledge the importance of Open Action and Research Networks while resolving the issues and building on the incipient wisdom.

Pattern status: 
Released

International Networks of Alternative Media

Pattern ID: 
810
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
43
Dorothy Kidd
Dept. of Media Studies, University of San Francisc
Version: 
2
Problem: 

A key challenge facing movements for social change is the global commercial media. A handful of western-based trans-national media corporations, working in tandem with regional companies, control most programming, emphasising entertainment to recruit urban consumers, and circulating news primarily framed by the interests of corporate business and western foreign policy. Public programming to encourage dialogue and debate of public issues has withered. Stark inequalities are increasing, in both poor and rich countries, between those with the full means to produce communications and those without, especially if we factor in the violence of poverty, illiteracy, and patriarchal, racial, and caste oppression.

Context: 

A global network of communications activists, advocates and researchers is emerging to address these problems. This network of networks operates simultaneously on at least three planes, the construction of alternative communications media, the reform of the mainstream corporate and state media, and the support of trans-national communications networks for social change movements. Alternative media projects (zines, radio, video, television and internet sites and blogs) not only serve people seldom represented in the corporate media; they also demonstrate what democratic media might look like in their alternative content, modes of operation and overall philosophy. Communication reformers campaign to make existing local, national and global communications systems more accessible, representative, accountable and participatory.

Finally, media activists work in support of social change movements whose transnational communications networks also provide additional links for the movements to democratize media.

Why now? This is due to at least three inter-related global trends. First, the global shift to neo-liberalism presents people all over the world with a complicated, but very clear set of common problems. Secondly, the communications networks first emerged as links among social justice movements to address these common problems. Finally, the network of communications networks began to take its own shape, as groups everywhere inventively adapted the glut of consumer hardware and software from the transnational corporate market.

Discussion: 

A New World Information Communications Order (NWICO)
The trans-national movement to transform communications predates the shift to global neo-liberalism. During the 1970s, led by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a coalition of national governments of the global south, mobilized to challenge the old imperial status quo in which news, information and entertainment media were controlled by western governments and corporate powers. They called within the UN System for a New World Information and Communications Order (NWICO), for an end to the dominance of the western colonial powers, the equitable distribution of the world’s information resources, the right to communicate, and the support of alternative and community based media in democratizing communications. Rejecting this multilateral consensus, the US and UK Governments withdrew from the Commission, arguing with the commercial media industry that any measures to limit western media corporations or journalists represented state censorship of the “free flow of information.”

The US instead shifted to what we now call neo-liberalism, or the Washington agenda. They called for market rules (privatization of public resources and deregulation of government oversight of corporations) at home and abroad. The Reagan Government successfully gutted anti-trust and public interest rules, as well as public support programs at home, and pushed for the implementation of similar policies in other countries through their powerful voice in the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Bank (WB). However, the US Government was still unable to win in the multilateral arena, failing to get culture (AV services) onto the trade block in the General Agreement on Trades and Tariffs (GATT), the precursor to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Instead, they decided to work on the less powerful countries one or two at a time, and began unilateral free trade talks with Taiwan, Canada and Mexico.

During the same decade, the number and sophistication of alternative media projects and networks grew around the world. These networks emerged both from the confluence of links between social movements, primarily from the countries of the south, mobilizing against the Washington agenda; and alternative media groups inventively seizing the newly available consumer production media. Primarily based in local geographic communities, media activists began to link across their own countries, national and regional boundaries to share resources, and campaign for greater access to radio, cable and satellite, and the newly emerging computer-linked systems. They also began to support one another on common issues, including the massive cuts in public spending and state-run services, the growth in global media conglomeration, and the US, Japanese and European calls for global standards in digital systems and copyright rules.

The trans-national networks begun in this era include the World Association of Community Radio (AMARC) , and the Association of Progressive Communicators (APC ). AMARC now operates via regional organizations, programme sharing through special theme-connected collaborations (against, for example, discrimination against women, and racism) and global media reform coalitions. Formed to support the global network of women, labour, ecologists, indigenous peoples, and of activists organizing against free trade and corporate globalization, APC continues to build on the idea of communication rights, prioritizing the capacity building of women, rural and poor people, and the media reform efforts of member groups.

During the 1990s, a new set of activists demonstrated the more tactical use of the technologies and networks in political change. In 1989, the pro-democracy activists of Tienanmen Square in Beijing China used fax machines to get their message out to the world . In 1994, the Zapatista National Liberation Army built on what Harry Cleaver called the emerging trans-national “electronic fabric of struggle,” employing old and new media, and global media networks, to challenge the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Then, in 1997, the Korean labor and social movement activists use highly sophisticated broadband media to demonstrate against the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and also opened Jinbonet, the first Web-based interactive peoples’ news service. This alternative vision of communications took another leap forward in 1999 when the first Independent Media Center (IMC) formed in Seattle to support the protests against the World Trade Organization (WTO). Drawing from the Zapatistas, the IMCistas created a global news network. Building on the existing networks opposed to corporate globalization, and providing easy-to-use open-publishing software, the global IMC quickly grew to over 150 centers around the world.

International Network for Communications Reform
In the last five years, the network of networks has begun to flex its collective muscles to reform the dominant global media system. Coalitions of activists, often in tandem with progressive government representatives, are calling for more democratic communications at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) (); against the US push for the free trade of culture, with a Convention on Cultural Diversity, adopted by UNESCO in 2005 (http://www.cdc-ccd.org>); and for the protection of the global knowledge commons with a Development Agenda and a Treaty on Access to Knowledge and Technology at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Solution: 

More than a coalition of “Nos,” this new network of networks demonstrates that another communications is possible and already happening. Its strength is based in cooperation via social movement organizing, media reform campaigns and the adaptation of information and communications for the greater use of all. Almost all are severely challenged by their lack of sustainable funds and technical resources, and continuing inequities between members of racialized and gendered class differences and of cultural capital. However, faced with the stark realities of neo-liberal immiseration, the network continues to build, creating a complex lattice of local-local, regional (especially south-south), and trans-national links that circumvent the old colonial north-south linkages and power dynamics. If there is one glaring structural vacuum, it is the lack of involvement of US activists, and particularly those based in US communities and social justice movements. In the next five years, one of the key challenges will be for US activists to bring together efforts for media justice in the US, recognize the leadership of the rest of the world, and assist in mobilizing against the Washington agenda at home.

What can people do to help build this network? In their own area, they can help support or produce programming for their local alternative communications media. They can also find and support the existing local, national and global campaigns to reform the mainstream corporate and state media. This is especially crucial in the US, whose media and media policy affect so much of the world. Finally they can educate themselves about what’s going on in their own communities, national and especially internationally, and then help link the work of the local and global justice networks.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

A handful of Western-based transnational corporations control most media programming. They emphasize entertainment and news acceptable to business and Western foreign policy. A global network of communications activists, advocates, and researchers is working to reform the mainstream media and to construct alternative media. Alternative media projects not only serve people; they also demonstrate what democratic media might look like.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
March of Indigenous Peoples, Colombia 2008. Tejido (social fabric) of communication was key to mobilization, Victoria Maldonado, Waves of Change
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