I felt a great disturbance in the Force-- Obi-Wan Kenobi
If you've been watching the precious metals closely – what a day! Both gold and silver plummeted in overnight trading. And by "plummet," I mean the gut-wrenching vertically-straight-down kind of free-fall (silver was down nearly 10% over a matter of minutes). Then, after a few hours of partial recovery and stabilizing, the precious metals went parabolic in the up direction.
The trial of Vernon Hershberger, an Amish dairy farmer begins today. He is on trial for selling raw milk to his private milk club members. Take note that the outcome of this trial will have far reaching implications for many of us and those who seek alternatives in what we eat and who we get our food from.
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Higher Ed’s in trouble, in case you hadn’t heard.
Burdened by runaway costs, unsustainable infrastructure, outrage over tuition increases, declining public dollars, and outmoded degree programs, colleges and universities are struggling to satisfy the needs of their current patrons, let alone cater to a global student population that is expected to double by 2025.
Built right in to a university’s DNA, however, is the key to its evolution and, ultimately, its survival: the sharing of knowledge, the sharing of resources, and the sharing of power.
“Traditionally, everything from the built environment to the ethos of universities speaks to public benefit and shared wealth,” argues Neal Gorenflo, co-editor of Share or Die. “It’s all about exchanging ideas and improving on ideas, and doing that together as a community. Scholarship is a community activity.”
In other words, sharing on campus is about more than just stuff: textbooks, bikes, used furniture, and cars. From student-run food cooperatives to waste recovery networks, peer-to-peer lending services to MOOCs, a radical reengineering is underway.
I call it Shareable U. It’s part campus sustainability, part new economics, part DIY, and part open education. What brings all these movements together on campus is a desire to create more value for less money via increased collaboration between people, departments, institutions, and communities. And this is how Higher Ed will ultimately save itself. Not through higher tuition fees, not by enrolling more wealthy international students, not by building bigger rec centers and football stadiums. But by allowing a beautiful ethic embodied in its core mission to guide the reformation of the beast it has become.
SHARING: A TEXTBOOK EXAMPLE
At its most visible level, the blooming of the sharing economy has resulted in a variety of campus-based businesses that to seek to capitalize on the exchange of day-to-day goods, information and services among students. This shouldn’t come as any big surprise; after all, sharing is something of a way of life on campus where a typical student wakes up in shared housing, eats breakfast in a shared kitchen, grabs a book from a shared library, and goes to class in a shared lecture hall.
Students on many campuses can now access a shared-use bicycle by the hour, or even rent a fellow student’s car through a service called Wheelz. Campuswall is a virtual bulletin board that allows users to buy, sell, and trade within their university networks. In Australia, Zookal has warehoused thousands of used textbooks, which it then rents out at less than half the cost of buying them new. Even appliances are now shareable; La Machine du Voisin connects French students’ dirty laundry to their neighbors’ washers.
Building participation among students can be a great strategy for start-ups looking to reach a critical mass of users. Many of the conditions required for successful peer-to-peer (P2P) businesses are present here in spades.
“First and foremost, it is already an existing community,” says Jeff Miller, co-founder and CEO of Wheelz. “It is a place where trust is sort of built in. How can I, someone who has a good to share, get comfortable with and trust the person who is looking for a good to share? When you focus on a college and university environment, that trust or sense of affiliation already exists – you live down the hall, you’re part of the same group.”
Targeting college students also is also a great strategy for establishing lifelong consumer habits. Zipcar may be banking on that strategy; the company has become one of Wheelz’ most important investors, despite the fact that they compete for campus customers. The point is to get students familiar with sharing as a lifestyle, and then allow them to choose the solutions that fit their needs as they age.
A number of other key factors make campuses fertile ground for sharing initiatives: Population density, widespread tech adoption, extensive social networks, homogenous needs, and cash-strapped citizens. With the price of a college education skyrocketing, penny-pinching has become something of a competitive sport.
“Honestly, I think the biggest driver for why someone actually uses these services is the financial savings,” explains Zimride co-founder Logan Green. “When we talk to our users, that’s always number one.”
But Green also sees the rise in popularity of shareable goods and services on campus as evidence of something more complex, more meaningful, ultimately far more profound.
“There are a lot of ways you can save a dollar, right? And people don’t always get excited about that,” says Green. “What makes this something that not only people do, but something that people get excited about is the idea of being able to live a better quality of life while using fewer resources. And it’s a fun opportunity to connect with someone else and have a unique experience. So, I think it’s that kind of trifecta of social, environmental, and financial benefits that makes it so exciting. It’s not like eating broccoli.”
OLD ROOTS, NEW REACHES
The idea that organized sharing could be both self-serving to participants as well as profoundly revolutionary is hardly news to the college crowd. Arguably, a good chunk of this type of activity on campus harkens back to the Sixties, when students inspired by communitarian values explored sharing as an alternative to mainstream consumerism. Campus groups spearheaded a wide range of what we might now call peer-to-peer (P2P) projects, like swap meets, housing and food co-ops, student-run courses, community gardens, and free stores.
In the past, universities did little to expand or accelerate these types of exchanges beyond providing a few kiosks and the occasional bulletin board. Today, many student-led sharing efforts enjoy administrators’ backing right from the get go – whether that comes in the form of access, facilities, or even start-up capital.
In June of his freshman year, Alex Freid and his roommates at the University of New Hampshire went dumpster diving for a few pieces of decent, usable furniture. What they found were massive amounts of high-value waste. That summer they hatched their plans for UNH Trash 2 Treasure, a student-run program that captures and stores discarded furniture, electronics, and appliances and resells them at a giant yard sale, all with the blessing of university administrators.
“In total, we had to get permission from about 40 administrators in 15 different departments to run the program,” recalls Freid. “And that was everything from setting up locations for drop offs inside the dorms to locations where we were going to be storing things to the location where we would be holding the yard sale.”
The proliferation of university-supported reuse and redistribution programs can be attributed in part to the increasing sway of the campus sustainability movement. Free bike-sharing schemes, online carpooling platforms, and farm-to-cafeteria projects have similarly benefitted because they help their institutions meet ambitious carbon and waste reduction goals.
The Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive (CoFED) trains student leaders across the U.S. to key in on local food purchasing commitments as means of securing support for student-run food co-ops. CoFED was founded in 2010 by a couple of UC Berkeley grads who launched a co-op after leading a highly public campaign to keep Panda Express off their campus.
CoFED’s Danny Spitzberg argues that one way to advance new economy projects on campus is to tap into “buzzy” concepts like sustainability, leadership, and entrepreneurship. But he stresses that it is also important to re-appropriate them in the process.
“For example, let’s start with leadership. CoFED is really emphatic about leadership as a cooperative approach where a leader is doing the best that they can do when they are creating new leaders though their work.”
In discussing his work, Spitzberg invokes many of the cooperative values unpinning the solidarity and occupy movements, which could be understood as the “deep” sharing economy. He rejects the notion that student-led projects such as his should be dismissed as idealistic or quaint. And he bristles at the characterization of campuses as utopian spaces, like eco-villages, with little relevance to the larger society.
“Throughout history, university life has been the center of cultural shift and change. And a lot of what you’ll see in the next few years will be a direct result of what students are socialized to think and feel and act on.”
OPENING THE GATES ON THE ACADEMIC COMMONS
The vision of the university as a model and living laboratory for a more shareable society is one that resonates right to the very core of the institution. Isn’t sharing ultimately what Higher Ed is all about? The open and unfettered exchange of commonly held knowledge, wisdom, and insights.
In a new twist on this age-old mission, universities are exploring ways to radically democratize access to the commons through Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs like those offered by Coursera and edX. By virtue of an Internet connection, hundreds of thousands of new students around the world are now streaming into the lecture halls of the most prestigious universities, often at no cost.
The movement for open access research is also steadily gaining ground, fueled in part by administrators’ frustration over skyrocketing subscription costs for academic journals. Harvard University caused quite a stir last year when it sent out a memo suggesting that professors go so far as to boycott traditional publications in favor of lower and no cost alternatives. Meanwhile, public activists both inside and outside Higher Ed are demanding access on behalf of the rest of us – particularly in cases when the rest of us paid for it in the first place. A recent White House directive to provide free access to publicly financed scientific research is being heralded as an important step in that direction.
“To the extent that public institutions are funded with state and federal tax money, people are coming to realize that we should share what we build with those public funds,” argues Cable Green, Director of Global Learning at Creative Commons.
Green and other proponents of Open Educational Resources (including UNESCO) want to take the concept of the shareable university to a whole new level. OERs are free and openly licensed courses, textbooks, exams, and other teaching materials that allow users to reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute at will – what Green calls the 4Rs. Think of it this way: If MOOCs and open access journals provide you with free tickets to the show, OERs actually let you take the sheet music and the instruments.
In his last job with the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, Green built out an entire general education curriculum (essentially all the 101 courses) as OERs. The benefits of this approach accrued on several levels: Students saved on textbook costs; faculty members were able to focus their development efforts on higher-level courses more likely to attract and retain students; and the courses themselves improved over time, thanks to a global intellectual labor force. In the first week that they were made available online, the materials were downloaded 20,000 times in 40 countries – and subsequently corrected, updated, and translated into several other languages, all at no additional cost to the public.
It could be decades before Higher Ed takes heed of these examples and begins to pursue sharing as modus operandi. The institutional inertia of universities has been known to cripple even the most promising and common sense reforms.
Will we stand back and watch that happen? Or will we break open the gates and let the people in?
This article originally appeared on OpenSource.com and is republished with permission. Author Mark Johnson is Development Manager for OSS Watch, the open source software advisory service. He contributes to the Moodle VLE though code contributions and plugins, as well as the Ubuntu community through the weekly Ubuntu Podcast.
While compiling OSS Watch's list of Open Source Options for Education, I discovered Koha, an open source Integrated Library System (ILS). I discovered, with some confusion, that there seemed to be several ILS systems called Koha. Investigation into the reason for this uncovered a story which provides valuable lessons for open source project ownership, including branding, trademarks, and conflict resolution.
Koha started its life in New Zealand (reflected in the name, which is a Māori word meaningreciprocal gift, or a gift with expectations). It was originally commissioned by the Horowhenua Library Trust (HLT), written by Katipo Communications Ltd, and released under the GPL. Crucially, Katipo held the copyright on the Koha code.
As one of the few open source options in a market dominated by proprietary systems, a community of libraries, companies, and developers grew around Koha. As its market became international, it came to the attention of Joshua Ferraro, who worked for a public library in the USA.
Ferraro left his job at the library to found LibLime, a company providing Koha development and support. LibLime was soon providing Koha to a number of libraries in the USA, and as its customer base grew, so did the company. LibLime bought Skemotah, a consulting firm with copyright over a lot of Koha's early documentation, and Katipo's Koha division.
With the purchase of these companies, LibLime became owner of a large proportion of the IP and related assets of the Koha project. Katipo also hosted the project's website, mailing list, bugzilla, and owned the koha.org domain name. Control of these now transferred to LibLime. LibLime also registered the trademark of Koha in the US.
At the time, LibLime was deeply engaged with the Koha community. Ferraro served as release manager, overseeing the flagship 3.0 release. However, soon after this LibLime's fortunes changed.
Another company who provided ILS systems in the USA, Progressive Technology Federal Systems, decided to change its portfolio to a fully open source offering. This included Koha, and another open source ILS called Evergreen. Ferraro viewed PTFS as a competitor and set to paint them as the bad guys in the community, in spite of their positive record of engagement. LibLime's influence over the community meant that many members from outside LibLime fell into rank against PTFS, creating bad blood between both parties.
Galen Charlton, a LibLime employee, was appointed as release manager for the 3.2 Koha release cycle. At the time, Koha had no fixed schedule for releases, and they were made only when the release manager deemed them to be ready.
During this release cycle, LibLime as a company drew back from the community, instead focusing its development efforts on a product called LibLime Enterprise Koha. This product was developed strictly to client specifications, behind closed doors. Despite Ferraro's arguments to the contrary, the community viewed this as a fork, and met the announcement with indignation. Several LibLime employees left the company. Galen Charlton moved to Equinox, who provided support for Evergreen. Another, Nicole Engard, was employed by LibLime as an Open Source Evangelist, and as the company's open source activity ceased, she moved to ByWater Solutions, another Koha provider.
At this point, things took a complex turn. Ferraro and the other founders of LibLime decided that it was time to move on and turn their attentions to other areas. They approached PTFS and offered to sell LibLime to them.
During this time, members of the community lost editing access to koha.org and set up koha-community.org as a community-owned home of the Koha project. After some uncertainty, the sale was agreed. PTFS now owned LibLime's collective assets, including the amassed Koha IP and the koha.org website.
Despite PTFS's record of engaging in the community, after the LibLime purchase was completed they too pulled back from the community project. As Galen Charlton now worked for Equinox, the time he could commit to the 3.2 release of Koha was limited. PTFS was unhappy with the speed of releases and forked the project internally, creating a product called LibLime Koha, with its home at koha.org.
Unfortunately, this only served to the detriment of relations with the Koha community. Koha.org was previously the home of the community Koha project, and now promoted a project which, while open source, was developed by a single company.
A further blow to the relationship was struck when it became apparent that just before the sale of LibLime, the company had filed a trademark application for the mark KOHA in New Zealand. As PTFS now owned all of LibLime's assets, the application was transferred to them. There was a fleeting chance at reconciliation as the Koha community put forward an agenda for a meeting with PTFS.
The CEO of PTFS attempted to schedule a conference call with members of the HLT Koha Subcommittee. While the committee was initially receptive to the idea, governance discussions typically took place on mailing lists and IRC channels, so they decided they would only be willing to have such discussions in one of these formats. Requests for discussions to take place in this way were unfortunately declined. PTFS recieved some flak from members of the community and responded with a press release indicating that the community wasn't serious about having discussions. The HLT Koha Subcommittee published a report from their point of view.
The application for the New Zealand trademark has been provisionally granted by IPONZ. Individuals from the community opposed the grant, which now awaits a final ruling.
We stand today with three brands using the name Koha.
- Koha is developed by a diverse international community.
- LibLime Koha is developed by PTFS to the demands of its clients.
- LibLime Academic Koha is developed by PTFS for a consortium of institutions.
Other companies on the Koha community use the name Koha, where their product is drawn from the community's codebase and may have local customisations.
I discussed the potential for community engagement in LibLime Koha with Patrick Jones, Director of Commerce-based Library Solutions and Services at PTFS. As far as they are concerned, all and sundry are welcome to take, use, and contribute to the LibLime Koha code base, which is still released under the GPL and is available on GitHub. They have recorded over a thousand downloads of the open source code on top of the deployments they manage for clients, and there are several forks by GitHub users. However, any changes made by these parties have yet to be contributed back to the LibLime codebase.
The LibLime Academic Koha project follows a different model. Parties must make a financial commitment to become part of the consortium governing the development, at which point they also get access to the product. The code is necessarily GPL, but not distributed outside the consortium. This is similar to the community source model employed by the Sakai project in its early stages.
One could argue it's not inherently bad for a project to fork, but there would be benefits if all versions of Koha drew from the same codebase. While it's certainly a healthy sign when an open source project is diversified and customised to individual requirements, this would ensure that the whole community benefited from the shared development effort. Where a party decides not to contribute their changes back for whatever reason, a shared codebase at least provides a known baseline for developers and for customers.
However, with codebases that have diverged as with Koha and LibLime Koha, there would need to be a considerable amount of effort to integrate the changes from each into a single codebase, and agreement over which codebase this should be. While PTFS and companies in the Koha community all have employees paid to work on the code, they all have to meet demands of their customers, so there would need to be a clear business case for dedicating the time to make this happen.
There would need to be compromises on both sides to heal the rift. The issue that the community has drawn most attention to in recent years is PTFS's pursual of the New Zealand trademark. This is viewed, particularly by HLT but also by other members of the international community, as an attack on the Koha project's identity. Withdrawing the application would go a long way to healing the current rift. PTFS's view is that since their acquisition of LibLime gives them copyright ownership over much of the Koha code, documentation, logos, and ownership of several Koha-releated websites, the community should acknowledge their position and right to use the Koha name.
There are some key lessons that can be learned from this story, both for open source projects and for companies engaging with existing projects.
The first is an issue of assets. Once a project is established, you may want to consider transferring ownership of assets to a non-profit foundation. There are a number of software foundations which exist for this purpose. Having your assets held in this way ensures that the buying and selling of companies doesn't lead to transfer of your project's IP.
You should work with the assumption (and indeed the intention) that commercial organisations will be interested in providing services around your product. Attracting companies to your product is a key path to sustainability, as it provides financial support for ongoing development.
It's perfectly sensible that these companies will want to do things like registering trademarks that pertain to their brand offering. To avoid confusion, it's wise to ensure the brand you wish to promote the project under is protected as widely as possible (e,g. by registering a trademark), and ensure there are clear guidelines governing its usage.
For a company to support your project, it will need to be able to provide a guaranteed service to customers. A predictable release cycle will help make this possible, as it allows a company to plan its services around a known schedule of releases.
If you do engage with an existing project, it always pays to approach the situation humbly. An established project will have a governance structure which the community have trust in. Work within the established structures, and once you've contributed to the project, you may be in a position to gain influence and use it to further your interests.
Ongoing conflict isn't good for any parties concerned. Never turn down an opportunity to discuss an issue and seek a resolution. If two parties can't agree on terms by themselves, it may help to seek mediation from a third party who can broker a compromise.
When emotions around an issue run high, it can be hard to stand back and take an objective view of a situation. Where there are past disagreements, personal apologies for comments published in anger may be a good place to start.
OSS Watch maintains a series of briefings and articles about project governance, sustainability and community engagement. If would like information and training on applying these to your project, please get in touch.
I'd like to thank Patrick Jones and Nicole Engard for taking the time to tell me the story of Koha. If you'd like to find out more, there is a reading list of news articles and blog posts about the project.
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In the lead up to Global Sharing Day, The People Who Share released the “State of the Sharing Economy” research in order to highlight the immense possibilities through living shareably. Some of the highlights from the study:
- 33 million Brits (65% of British adults) currently sharing, another 14 million willing to consider it.
- 15 million tons of food that could and should be shared, annually.
- £4.6 billion in savings accrued by the UK Sharing Economy legions.
- £330 billion value for the Sharing Economy, £22.4 billion in the UK alone.
- 10 million meals shared by Global Sharing Day partner, FareShare.
- 170% increase in food box recipients, as reported by the Trussell Trust.
- Typical Zipcar UK users save around £3000 annually
- 36% of Britons share transport, i.e. liftsharing or carsharing schemes. This is an increase from 25% last year.
This information was compiled by Opinium and made available by Marke2ing, both of London.
With Global Sharing Day arriving in just a few weeks, it is important to spread the word about the possibilities within the Sharing Economy. This study sought to articulate the vastness and depth of the Sharing Economy, while also showing how money can be spared by sharing.
Global Sharing Day 2013 will focus on foodsharing. Nearly 4 million Britons live in dire food poverty, with over 15 million tons of food going to waste each year. Organizations like FareShare, Mealsharing and Casserole Club seek to rectify this alimentary inequality in new and innovative ways.
Global Sharing Day 2013 seeks to honor these organizations and to provide them a platform for international press, while also extolling the benefits of the Sharing Economy and the aspirations already realized by its proponents.
Global Sharing Day, June 2nd, 2013, will be here soon. In the few weeks prior, learn what you can share with members of your community to make them, the Sharing Economy, and the world, a better place to live and a better place to share!
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In a country where insolvent states increasingly compete for Federal funds, Utah is bucking the trend. And in the process, it's showing the type of leadership this nation will need more of to deal with its national economic plight.
A recent slew of new legislation has been passed – collectively known as the Financial Ready Utah (FRU) initiative – to assess the state's greatest financial vulnerabilities and to identify the most promising programs for addressing them at the state, community, and household levels. As a result of its earthquake-prone geology, Utah has developed a robust statewide disaster-response system. The FRU initiative prudently asks: Shouldn't we also have a financial-earthquake preparedness program in case of another 2008-style (or worse) economic shock, which the math indicates is more than likely?
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Kicking off Mesh2013 at a niftty Airbnb rental in San Francisco. Credit: Kevin Krejci.
Imagine an event where every conversation is interesting, where everyone you meet wants to help you. That was Mesh2013. And because of this quality, it was a rare success as a social experience.
A two-day event held at the end of April, Mesh2013 did for the attendees what “mesh” used as a verb implies: It, to borrow a word from Marina Gorbis’ new book, The Nature of the Future, “socialstructed” a new community focused on accelerating the sharing economy.
While there were incredible speakers -- including Seth Godin, Paul Hawken, Steven Berlin Johnson, Dale Dougherty, and Robin Chase -- it was the many interactions with other attendees and the artfully crafted social experiences that made Mesh2013 so useful, memorable, and bonding for me.
If the medium is the message, then this says a lot about the messenger, Lisa Gansky and her MeshLabs, who hosted the event. The gestalt of the event effused love, care, humor, and fun. This is a welcome difference from many events which can feel steely and impersonal, and leave you feeling depleted. I left uplifted. And a little overwhelmed with all the good!
Steven Johnson and Robin Chase share laughs at Mesh2013. Credit: Lisa Gansky.
Below are the themes that spoke to me at Mesh2013, and some reflections on how Lisa Gansky pulled off a tour de force of socialstructing:
· What’s in a name? Everything, at least if you were at Mesh. All attendees agreed that there’s an important shift happening and that sharing and peer production are at the heart of it. As Nick Grossman wrote about Mesh2013, this change is “powered by us.” What attendees didn’t agree on is what to call this shift. (Sharing, peer, access, or collaborative economy? Take your pick.) People tended to use the sharing economy in discussion, but more as a placeholder. There were widespread doubts that "sharing economy" would play well in Kansas or Congress. People saw the lexical challenge as a practical barrier to such activities as advocacy and public awareness. This came up again and again in the plenary sessions, as well as the breakouts I was in. No solution emerged, but there was a consensus about the challenge.
· Resilience thinking. As much as sharing saves resources, this trend wasn’t couched in terms of sustainability. It seems we’ve moved on. But to what? Resilience, defined as the ability to bounce back from crisis. This says a lot about the times we live in. First, the shift from sustainability to resilience thinking is smart because it’s pointless to strive for stasis as the word “sustain” can imply. All systems go through cycles of growth, decline, and reorganization. We need to design our lives, organizations, cities, and societies with this with this complex adaptive cycle in mind. The focus on resilience at Mesh2013 and elsewhere tells me that systems thinking is penetrating more deeply into our consciousness.
Second, it says that we’ve truly grokked that we live in a time of profound crisis, and we’re actually identifying with it. The panel on resilience, and especially the presentation by Airbnb’s Molly Turner, showed how the sharing economy can increase the resilience of cities. She explained how Airbnb, their members, and New York City worked together to provide free housing for thousands of people left homeless by Hurricane Sandy. In this case, Airbnb leveraged the spare housing capacity at their fingertips to help people in need. It’s a fascinating model of resilience that could be duplicated in other areas of the sharing economy like ride- and car-sharing.
· Scale and acceleration. The whole purpose of Mesh was to build a community to scale and accelerate the sharing economy. So, as you’d expect, keynotes focused on this. Steven Johnson talked about themes from his new book, Future Perfect. What stuck with me was what he’s researching now – how "translational medicine" accelerates the diffusion of medical innovations into society. He related that attendees where translational economists working to smuggle the sharing economy into the mainstream. Robin Chase gave a convincing, data-packed presentation that showed the deep trouble we’re in with global warming (even the conservative World Bank is worried) and how open sourcing the solution is the only way to meet the challenge. She quoted Banny Banerjee of Stanford’s d. school: “You can’t solve exponential problems with linear solutions.” She urged people to design solutions that leverage excess capacity, foster participation, and result in cooperative gain.
And how did Mesh pull off such a good job at socialstructing? The first step was the intention to create a community rather than merely host an event. Mesh curated an accomplished group of people for this. They also did some thoughtful matchmaking. They brought together all the types of capital needed for innovation -- human, social, and financial. The people I met had substantial resources ready to be combined in useful ways with what others brought.
And Mesh kept it small, about 200 people, which is in line with the Dunbar number – the theoretical limit of a well-functioning face-to-face community. In addition, the organizers encouraged attendees to come as you are -- as people, not as roles. These basic ingredients set the stage for authentic connection.
Mesh built on this by creating many opportunities to socialize. The opening mixer was at an architect’s home on Portrero Hill in San Francisco rented from Airbnb. The informality of a house party, shareable-style, was a fitting way to start. After day one, there was a fabulous group dinner in a warehouse art gallery inspired by the Big Lunch with plenty of space and time to mingle.
The heart of each day was the breakout groups, also potent connectors. Everyone was pre-assigned to a session on a broad theme like power, which was my group. Skilled “docents” lead groups through two days of discussion on assigned themes. In my case, the theme presented the group a lot of ambiguity, which resulted in a more interesting discussion and better personal connections as people explored their positions together. In fact, I’d say that the personal connections trumped the impressive intellectual output, a surprising outcome for a conference breakout group.
My favorite socialstructing moment was when we each sewed a panel for a kimono in an example of flow state learning. There I was with Lisa Gansky, Robin Chase, and Mark Dwight (CEO of Rickshaw Bagworks) sewing a kimono together, bloodying my finger tips, and admiring the creativity of my peers. It was strange, refreshing, and memorable. And there’s nothing like making something together to bond people, whether it’s a kimono or a movement.
Check out the day one and two videos of Mesh2013:
Everyone knows the odds of winning in a casino are worse than 50% (often much worse depending on the game played). So who wouldn't rush to a casino, where instead, the odds were overwhelmingly in the gambler's favor?
That's the promise of today's stock market, which has been experiencing an aberrantly high percentage of up days all year. Toss your money into the market, and on any given day, you're much likelier to make money than not.
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A great summary and loads of information about how to dehydrate and store foods without power.
Also check out the WSID article on building a solar dehydrator for use harmonyguy: http://www.peakprosperity.com/wsidblog/80527/building-solar-dehydrator
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- Goldman Sachs hires particle physicist from the Large Hadron Collider
- Produce Industry’s Food Safety Push Takes Toll on the Environment
- Which way will the Alberta oil pipeline go after Christy Clark’s win?
- Commander Hadfield Shows Us What Science Communication Could Be. Visually.
- Maps show impact of overcutting old-growth forests, conservation groups say
Since I started delivering this message, I've held a vision of the day when it instead elicits knowing nods because its truths have become self-evident. My proudest day will be when there's no more need to communicate the core ideas in the Crash Course because they'll already be common knowledge.
I cannot wait for the day when, literally, I'll have talked myself out of a job.
Well, we're one very important step closer to that day.
Report on the Local Currency Gathering at Seville, Spain
The “Encuentro de Monedas Locales" (Local Currency Gathering) took place from Thu, 09th to Sun, 12th May 2013 at Seville, Andalusia, Spain. 136 people from Spain’s 9 autonomous communities (Andalus...
Imagine a gathering where people with different backgrounds listen to each other's specific challenges, then crowdsource a range of possible solutions. Now imagine this pool of knowledge being comprised of cities, bringing together key representatives to share information across boundaries, and you'd find yourself at the Living Labs Global Awards (LLGA) Cities Pilot the Future Summit.
This week, representatives from 22 cities gathered at Fort Mason in San Francisco to engage in a dialogue about the problems cities are facing and to come up with creative solutions to these problems. What sets the LLGA Cities Summit apart from the usual urban conferences is that the exchanges are all devoted to bringing about tangible, real world results through hands-on collaborations.
Inspired by last year's Rio+20 conference and the desire to turn that momentum into action, cities from London to Lavasa and from Sant Cugat to San Francisco committed to openly sharing their problems, which were presented through the Citymart platform to urban innovators from around the world who drew up 546 solutions over the last nine months. During Tuesday's Cities Dialogue session, the exchanges culminated in the announcement of the final match-ups that will be piloted immediately.
Here are three of them:
- Eindhoven in The Netherlands sought solutions to better share public facilities, link citizens with current activities, and help people share new initiatives. It found its solution in Connecthings' contactless tags bridging the real and virtual worlds that will be installed on street furniture and public spaces where people can find out anything from bus schedules to upcoming events in their neighborhood.
- The City of Maringá, confronted with the problem of rising car ownership among its residents due to a booming economy in Brazil, is looking for a new system of transportation that could replace the automobile, and in the words of former mayor Silvio Magalhaes Barros II, "make the city as comfortable as it was before people got so rich." Clever Devices’ Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), a comprehensive information streamlining system making existing mass transit more reliable, comfortable, and safe for people, is just what the city needed.
- Barcelona is looking for ways to revitalize vacant neighborhood spaces, with a particular focus on social inclusion and community involvement. UK charity 3Space's innovative, community driven empty shops projects, giving communities temporary use of empty properties until the landlord needs them for commercial purposes, is the perfect partner to bring theaters, art galleries, rehearsal spaces, and other creative projects to these neighborhoods, empowering local residents as well as helping property owners with building upkeep.
While leveraging new technologies plays an important role in connecting people and finding creative ways to use space and resources, Barcelona's Deputy Mayor Sonja Recasens pointed out the importance of community involvement and direct people-to-people interaction. The key question, as moderator Dr. Anthony Townsend of the Institute for the Future noted, is how to tap citizens to be service providers for each other.
Lavasa's (India) City Manager Scot Wrighton struck a similar note, saying that their challenge of integrating indigenous, low-income people into the social and economic fabric of the city called for more of an organizational than technological solution. He found LabourNet's experience with setting up training centers where local youth can develop business skills to be the perfect match for their need.
Citymart also connects cities directly with each other. By sharing their creative thinking and technologies, cities not only broaden the user base for their innovative ideas and speed up development, but they benefit from making new connections and forming lasting relationships with their fellow stakeholders.
Last year, for example, Cape Town selected the City of York's GeniUs community innovation platform, a mechanism to have conversations and co-develop solutions with businesses, academics and the community, and has since begun to develop its own pilot. Similarly, the City of Stockholm has been able to improve E-adept, an enabling solution to increase pedestrian accessibility for people with mobility challenges, by allowing other cities to "test-drive" it. Each addition to the collective knowledge base not only helps existing users refine their own application of these platforms, but makes it easier and cheaper for new adopters to launch and operate.
Back in San Francisco, the urban explorers from around the world gathered for a matchmaking summit on day two before going on field trips to marvel at some of San Francisco's most innovative urban solutions on the last day. The innovation workshop tour took visitors to local incubators like TUMML, wework, The Hub, and TechShop. The renewable energy tour included a potential wind power site on Twin Peaks and California’s largest urban solar installation at the Sunset Reservoir.
A third tour led through San Francisco's vast world of people-centered micro projects on public and vacant land. From the roaming food truck extravaganza of Off the Grid and on-street parking spaces converted into parklets to citizen-driven projects like Proxy, a shipping container environment turned retail space, and Hayes Valley Farm, a city-funded and volunteer driven 2.2 acre urban farm on a former freeway ramp, there were plenty of creative solutions to glean.
The lesson we can all take away from this ambitious experiment is that each individual and community holds a part of the solution. All too often these kernels aren't visible until they are thrown into a larger pot where they can find the matching pieces. It's through that exchange that an idea can grow into something larger and travel to where it's most needed. And when a good idea finally reaches its destinations, everybody wins.
As Detroit recovers from staggering unemployment due to the mass exodus of the auto industry, small business creation is now being touted by many locals as a better solution for resiliency, higher wages and employment stability than big business recruitment. But starting a new business from a dream with little business experience can be daunting, especially without the capital to carry you through early mistakes.
In the life of a new, start-up business owner, there are many hurdles, big and small. For a food entrepreneur who is trying to look beyond "profit, profit, profit" models of the past, hurdles can seem like mountains, especially if you're going at it on your own. From licensing and distribution channels to fair labor standards and nutritional quality, there are a myriad of challenging, technical issues to address.
In Detroit, food entrepreneurs have come together via an organization called FoodLab Detroit to share resources, experiences, and ideas in hopes of making new models of business more sustainable and just. Together we are working to create a diverse ecosystem of triple-bottom-line food businesses as part of a good food movement that is accountable to all Detroiters. Fair wages and democratic workplaces are on the agenda of many of the businesses as a part of the solution. Members participate by going through a start-up training program and supporting each other as they learn and grow.
For the past three months, FoodLab Detroit has run our second annual “Building Your Good Food Business” Bootcamp. Participants co-learned around five main topics- visioning, community ecosystems, triple bottom line accounting, sustainability tools, and relationship building. Throughout the sessions, over 25 expert community members contributed their skills and knowledge to the conversation, resulting in new ideas and collaborations. Many of the graduates appreciate the peer support network resulting from going through the program together, which helps nurture their businesses post-graduation and creates a feeling of solidarity.
On April 2nd, community leaders, established business owners, friends, family, and allies gathered for a celebration of our trainees featuring (of course) delicious food. Each of the 18 Foodlab graduates created a visual display of their business, incorporating their business vision and triple bottom line principles. Nearly 100 guests wandered through the space, asking questions and tasting samples of the businesses’ products.
The open-house celebration was a celebration of the greater FoodLab community that extends beyond just businesses. People who chatted with business owners got a better sense of how they are working to create social change through responsible and creative business practices. It allowed FoodLab graduates, many of whom do not have ready access to traditional means of capital, to make connections with potential supporters. One graduate who is hoping to open a small sliders restaurant said she “felt like a legit business” after getting encouragement from the community at the event.
Our April 2nd celebration also served as a recruitment/networking event for our "Kitchen Connect" project, developed in partnership with Detroit’s Eastern Market Corporation. For many of our businesses, the next step in development is becoming licensed in a commercial kitchen space. Kitchen Connect will be the management hub for a network of existing, licensed kitchen spaces in organizations across the city. We hope that sharing these spaces and making them more financially and physically accessible will help early stage businesses to succeed us and help us move toward greater equality in the food entrepreneurial community.
Although Greenpoint, Brooklyn, isn't known as a hotbed for sustainable agriculture, that's not stopping Gotham Greens from making a name for themselves. Using renewable energy sources to power their sterile greenhouses, Gotham Greens set up shop on the Greenpoint Wood Exchange rooftop a few years back with the goal of providing fresh, high-quality produce and herbs to local markets and restaurants.
Founders Viraj Puri and Eric Haley teamed with greenhouse expert Jenn Nelkin to develop the facility and protocols needed to grow year-round in New York City. Utilizing a combination of recirculating hydroponics and climate control systems, Gotham Greens has been harvesting bounties of lettuce, basil, chard, tomatoes, bok choy, and myriad other delights since 2011 -- and in quantities 20-30 times greater per acre than their field-based counterparts while using 20 times less water and producing no agricultural run-off.
Gotham Greens isn't the only savvy greenhouse farm on the proverbial block -- Will Allen's Milwaukee-based Growing Power also does amazing work. Still, Whole Foods Market was impressed enough with Gotham Greens to partner with the rooftop farmers on their new site in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The 20,000 square foot retail store and rooftop greenhouse is slated to open this Fall providing shoppers with access to truly local, sustainably grown produce. The partnership slashes the food miles and associate carbon footprint that normally comes with shipping food long distances from growers in California and Mexico. As Puri noted, "This project takes the discussion from food miles to food footsteps."
Christina Minardi, WFM Northeast Regional President, added, “We’re particularly excited to partner with a local organization with roots right here in Brooklyn and a mission in line with our own, in that we both care deeply about providing local, fresh and sustainably produced food.”
Gotham Greens from Dark Rye on Vimeo. Gotham Greens is the first commercial-scale rooftop hydroponic greenhouse in the world. By going vertical in the city, Gotham Greens is using less water, eliminating pesticides, putting an end to fertilizer runoff, and leading the way to a sustainable agriculture future in the sky.