About to graduate? Don't get the post-graduation blues. The flowchart below is from Shareable's free online book, Share or Die (#ShareOrDie on Twitter), which offers life-changing strategies to ease the transition from college to the real world.
Got a blog? Embed the flowchart with the below code and get a free Share or Die paperback (just e-mail neal at shareable dot net with the link & your address).
POST THE FLOWCHART ON YOUR BLOG WITH THIS EMBED CODE:
<p><img alt="" src="http://www.shareordienews.com/images/img2.jpg" style="width:490px;border:0;" /> <p>From "<a href="http://www.shareable.net/blog/post-college-flow-chart-of-misery-and-pain">A Post College Flowchart of Misery and Pain</a>" on <a href="http://www.shareable.net/">Shareable.</a></p>
So how did an off-season, collaborative campaign for nonprofit journalism raise almost $80,000 for 24 participating nonprofit news organizations in one single day?
Simple. They did it in February.
"The first quarter is usually very quiet; the donors are pretty exhausted," says Jo Ellen Kaiser, executive director of the Media Consortium, which sponsored the event.
This meant that a collaborative February campaign would be unlikely to threaten the fundraising calendars of the news nonprofits in her network, which she describes as "progressive and interested in impact and solutions journalism."
Yet that serendipitous timing still had its challenges. Could news organizations safely share donors, and not freak out over sovereignty issues?
Yes, it turns out — given the right conditions. Support Your Media Day's ultimate success was in a collaborative planning process that built up trust between participants.
"Having a strong strategic framework for this kind of event is vital," notes Erin Polgreen, the Media Consortium's former interim director. "You can't just say it's going to happen without doing the legwork to seed personal connections and identify common threads."
Another concern was whether Consortium members could overcome post-holiday donor torpor. Bigger still is the issue of whether people even like to donate to journalism in the first place.
"No, they don't. Journalists are right behind lawyers on the hate list," said Jason Barnett, executive director of The Uptake in Minneapolis, and an early Media Consortium advocate for a one-day fundraising event. "Of course, Congress has low numbers; but when people are asked about their congressman, they tend to have significantly higher ratings. So they also might like their local nonprofit news organization."
This, he said, is an opportunity to "cross pollinate" the donor rolls of all Media Consortium members, by building on the links of affinity and affiliation between donors and their preferred nonprofit news outlets, and rolling it all into a larger, combined marketing campaign.
Ultimately, on February 15, 2012, Support Your Media Day inspired 1,408 acts of individual giving to nonprofit journalism, of which about 25 percent were second, third, or even fourth gifts by donors who crossed over to give to other news organizations beyond their first choice.
The haul wasn't so bad, either — $79,924, an admirable sum even if it was short of what Kaiser describes as an "ambitious" goal of $150,000.
Also worth noting is that the lion's share of the funding — $52,226, about 65 percent — went to just eight news outlets, including heavyweights of the advocacy press such as Mother Jones, Truthout and GRITtv. Almost all of the rest raised three figures or less.
"A lot of the folks that participated didn't draw in a lot of money," said Kaiser. "They thought, 'If you announce it, they will come.'" She described it as a "great learning experience" for those Consortium members that were surprised to discover they didn't have very good lists.
Beyond any financial goals, Support Your Media Day also was a high-water mark for Media Consortium efforts to inspire collaboration between its membership of likeminded but otherwise competitive news outlets
"The Consortium had spent years building relationships and connective tissue between the organizations," says Polgreen. "We were able to build on a strong history of organizations working together."
The inspiration for Support Your Media Day itself came from GiveMN's Give to the Max Day — a daylong fundraising campaign and event aimed at supporting Minnesota nonprofits and schools.
Give to the Max Day's launch event in 2009 raised $14 million for more than 3,000 participating nonprofits in one day, says GiveMN's executive director Dana Nelson; in 2012 that number approached $16.4 million for 4,381 organizations.
The Uptake's Barnett had participated, and later proposed a variant on Give to the Max Day for news organizations at a Media Consortium revenue-generation lab.
The notion took hold, and prep for the big day progressed throughout 2011. Members chose the online-fundraising platform Razoo for donations mechanism, and followed the GiveMN script closely.
That meant an emphasis on community, and fun. Donations were driven through a hub website hosted by Razoo, which kept a running tally of individual goals for participating news outlets, amounts raised, and diverse promotional opportunities and competitions between participants.
This carnivalesque atmosphere, complete with prizes and sponsors, inspired fascination, participation, competition, and cooperation.
Some donors, fired up by brand loyalty and monitoring the campaign's progress on the Razoo hub page, would rally to help their favorite news outlets meet their fundraising goals.
Some news outlets, having hit their fundraising goals early on, would promote other participating news organizations that were shy of the mark and needed a boost.
The lesson was not lost on Kaiser.
"When you know the work someone is doing is extraordinary," she said, "don't worry about telling your loyal supporters about something else they may like. If they like Yes! Magazine, why not Earth Island Journal?"
Despite the successes of Support Your Media Day, the Media Consortium is taking a year off to cultivate sponsors and build the infrastructure.
It's also time to let the network of news outlets continue to cultivate their budding collaborative potential.
"Once a couple outlets started promoting the work of their peers, it started to spread. After the fundraiser, that really good feeling continues," Kaiser said. "It's much easier to create editorial and business collaborations, because that feeling of trust that started with that collaborative fundraiser has extended and continues.
"In some ways it's the most magnificent outcome of the fundraiser."
by Hillete Warner
Global Innovators is a 10-part series that celebrates the remarkable work of social innovators from outside the English-speaking world. Twice a month we profile the stories of inspiring community pioneers from across three broad cultural clusters: change enthusiasts from Italy, France and the Spanish-speaking world. The series, inspired by the multilingual editions of the Enabling City toolkit, focuses on a rich variety of themes that explore 'enabling' frameworks for participatory social change.
Tactical urbanism. Urbanismo tàctico. Urbanisme tactique. The term is the same in many languages, but the way the practice translates on the ground is just as diverse as the people (and the places) behind it. Javier Vergara Petrescu is a seasoned ‘translator’ whose projects have been inspiring citizens and practitioners both at home and abroad. As the founder of Ciudad Emergente, he has worked in three continents to improve the quality of urban life through creative community involvement. We spoke to him today to learn more about his current projects, his travels, and what brought him back to Chile to experiment with tactical urbanism.
Enabling City: You have studied in London, lived in New York, worked in Germany and Brazil, and are now back to your native Santiago de Chile. What brings you home?
Javier Vergara Petrescu: I was a Lecturer in Urbanism at the Universidad Católica de Santiago when I was awarded a full scholarship to pursue graduate studies at the London School of Economics. With my MSc in City Design fully funded by the Chilean government, I committed to returning home after my studies to work in the country. Today, more and more young Chileans are studying abroad and are coming home with fresh ideas and a new way of doing things. For Chile this is important because we are a remote country, and this helps us challenge close-mindedness in a very tangible way. I hope this means that the young Chileans absorbing new ideas today will become the progressive decision-makers of tomorrow.
EC: You have been involved with the Tactical Urbanism team in the US for some time and now you are mainstreaming the practice in Chile. Have you noticed any major differences between North and South American approaches to tactical urbanism?
JVP: Yes. It all started in 2011, when I was living in New York. I was starting up Ciudad Emergente and kept meeting a great number of people working on amazing participatory planning projects, people like Mike Lydon of Street Plans Collaborative and Aurash Khawarzad of Change Administration Studio.
But tactical urbanism is not entirely new to Chile. The basic premise – implementing short-term actions to respond to urban challenges –reflects a way of doing things that is deeply rooted in South American culture. Ciudad Emergente simply introduced a new term to capture the spirit of this growing practice and to raise awareness about its transformative potential.
One of the main differences I see between North and South America, though, is the culture of participation. In the North, people are more inclined to have a say in decision-making processes, whereas in the South civic engagement is something that began to flourish after the fall of dictatorships and the emergence of new economic opportunities. It’s only in the past few decades that we have collectively become aware of the importance of civic education. Latin American societies are still influenced by a ‘paternalistic’ approach where disadvantaged people are turned into passive receivers of public support rather than being seen as active agents of change. At the same time, those who are better off tend to embrace individualism and personal success, and don’t quite trust institutions or see them as possible partners. We might already be active on the ‘short-term action’ side of things, but we are missing a long-term vision – and for that you need a confident and empowered citizenry.
EC: You started Ciudad Emergente to work on urban livability and high-impact participatory projects in South America. What are some of the key lessons you have learned along the way?
JVP: What I’ve noticed so far is that, regardless of a community’s overall social capital, people really connect with the “lighter-quicker-cheaper” model. It’s a ‘capacity-building-by-example’ approach that works really well here. I have learned that urbanism isn’t just the domain of urban planners, and that the everyday and the DIY spheres matter, too. Some of the best examples of great public spaces are the ones that are shaped by the people themselves.
EC: You have lived and worked in many countries. What kinds of opportunities for knowledge-sharing have you found between Chile and the rest of the world?
JVP: We are a remote country that has been catching up to the developed world through digital literacy. Chile is ranked 10th in the world for Twitter users and over 80% of Santiago’s population is on Facebook. This means that more and more people are sharing their experiences and coming together at events like Buenos Aires’ CityCamp. That said, we have a long way to go to effectively connect local actors with groups both inside and outside the country!
This is why we have brought the popular Tactical Urbanism Salon format to Chile’s XVIII Architecture Biennale, and why Ciudad Emergente and Street Plans Collaborative have partnered to launch a Latin American version of the Tactical Urbanism toolkit. We will be featuring initiatives from Colombia, Chile, Perú, and Argentina in the hopes of sparking a debate on participatory urbanism from a South American perspective.
EC: You are also the founder of Citisent and a Professor. Is the tactical urbanism model well received by academics?
JVP: Yes. Introducing tactical urbanism into academia has allowed us to go deeper into research and debate. Engaging with that world gives us a chance to tune up our projects with the help of dedicated students, and to organize national and international seminars to get more urban planners familiarized with the model of ‘short-term actions for long-term change.’ Universities can be great partners for that.
EC: What else have you been working on lately?
2013 continues to be an exciting year for Ciudad Emergente!
The Chilean Council of Culture and Arts commissioned a large, pop-up recycling plaza for Valparaiso’s Urban Festival, a city where there is no recycling system or recycling culture. We built a temporary roof structure made out of 12,000 plastic bottles brought to us by the people of Valparaiso. Then we launched a city-wide campaign and partnered with grassroots organizations to install four stations for the collection of PET bottles. The idea was to demonstrate that people are willing to recycle if there is the political support for it. Thanks to the project, we were able to successfully install recycling stations that are now 100% operative!
We are also working on a project called Malòn Urbano, a kind of urban potluck where residents come together to discuss solutions for their neighborhoods. We have four planned in Antofagasta City this year. Because of the mining industry, Antofagasta is the wealthiest city in Chile. It has the GDP of Toronto but performs poorly in areas like education, green spaces, and social capital. Malòn Urban will serve as a tactic for community-building and neighborhood improvement, as well as to develop a set of indicators on subjective wellbeing (such as happiness, life satisfaction, etc.) that will be used to complement data from the OECD. Malòn Urbano is also being used by the Ministry of Housing and Urbanism in Chile as part of a heritage zone master plan at Barrio Yungay in Santiago.
Other projects include an international seminar with Universidad Católica de Santiago and Monash University to prototype mobility strategies for Santiago; ‘tactically’ extending the bike lane network of the Municipality of Providencia; transforming neglected spaces near shopping malls into areas for urban agriculture… and more!
My hope is to share what I have learned from my international practice and to do my part in improving the quality of life in our cities. There is no shortage of ideas or opportunities in South America... This is just the beginning!
Hello Dhaval! We met several years ago when you asked me in as an advisor for Cria, the first shared-value branding group in Brazil. Last year you implemented the first startup incubator in Brazil, Pipa. Did Pipa evolve out of Cria naturally?
Yes, Pipa came out of my experiences with Cria, but is much broader than that for good reason. Pipa has been founded by a group of individuals and companies with complimentary experience in a diverse range of fields, including social sciences and impact, futurism, technology, venture capital, strategy, consulting, branding, design, UX, and more. The founding companies are Engage, Tátil, and Cria. In addition, Pipa’s team consists of experienced entrepreneurs and venture capitalists that have managed some of Brazil’s leading funds, including IdeiasNet and Warehouse Investimentos. Google, Singularity University, and Endeavor also support Pipa, among other partners.
On the board are: Fabio Coelho, Country Director at Google, Brazil; Michael Nicklas, Managing Partner at IdeiasNet; Marcelo Cardoso, Founding Director at the Integral Institute of Brazil, ex-VP at Natura; José Cesar Martins, CEO at Paradoxa; and Ivo Godói, Executive Director at Grupo Promon.
The same thing that motivated me to start up and work with Cria motivates me to work with Pipa. It is no longer a mystery – the way we live, do business, consume, and organize is no longer sustaining our future world. It is an imperative to re-imagine our relationship to ourselves, to others, and to the living environment. A new awareness has emerged, principles and behaviors can be shared at massive scale through social media channels and new ways of doing things can be implemented through new global technologies. Cria created and supported Pipa to help accelerate this transition to a new way of doing business focused on shared-value branding and living.
How is this playing out in your teachings within the incubator?
We believe strongly that successful companies of the future are ones that create value by having relevance in the lives of people. As a result, we look for startups that are:
- Purpose driven and transformational, driven by entrepreneurs that want to make positive impact regenerating communities and the natural environment.
- Ambitious and huge, driven by entrepreneurs that have scalable ideas that can impact millions of people.
- Disruptive and innovative, driven by entrepreneurs who are making breakthroughs and solving problems in radically new ways.
These entrepreneurs and their companies might be focused on healthcare, education, bottom of the pyramid, sanitation, energy, solid waste, empowerment or other sectors; they are usually powered by digital and/or other technologies. More importantly, they are founded and led by visionary entrepreneurs with a strong commitment to building a better future using business as a vehicle.
What are the companies that Pipa is currently accelerating?
We have an amazing group of companies working with us with entrepreneurs from four different countries. Two of the companies were founded at Singularity University’s Graduate Studies Program, one was already invited to the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2012, another to TechCrunch Disrupt, and another is profitable already. Despite maintaining a very low profile, the first selection process at Pipa attracted 173 companies from more three continents, and the current class consists of entrepreneurs from France, Spain, Israel, and around Brazil. The businesses that Pipa has invested in include:
Nanopop: A microwork application based on photographs that allows users with cellular telephones to make money just by taking pictures. Think of a world in which Instagram would pay you for your pictures. This allows low-income populations to increase their monthly income by as much as 30 percent.
Simbio: An open-source management software for small and medium businesses that adds a social layer. Think Facebook for small businesses and micro entrepreneurs. Combining an educational focus with a simple user interface, Simbio seeks to help small businesses improve efficiency, create more jobs and increase the success rates of small businesses, which are the backbone of the local economy.
Nativoo: An artificial intelligence-based system that provides you with a customized and complete sustainable travel solution. Nativoo sources content from multiple partners such as Trip Advisor and understands user behavior through social networks and experience, providing customized itineraries that can be updated in real time and promote sustainable travel.
WPensar: An ERP software for schools to manage their operations, administration, resources, and people better. WPensar is already being used by more than 200 institutions and 16,000 students around Brazil.
We did a previous article on Pipa when you first began the accelerator. Can you tell us what Pipa is today and how you have evolved this unique Brazilian social innovation incubator?
After a successful test drive, Pipa is launching its first global selection process which runs through the 15th of May. Pipa is hoping to attract around 400 companies from more than 10 countries in this selection process -- companies that dream big and want to pioneer a global transformation. Pipa was selected as part of Startup Brasil, a program of the Brazilian government to receive $1 million in funding to invest $100,000 in 10 startups this year. And we are proud to say that two of our startups already have seed funding, one of them from a leading impact investing fund in Brazil.
Pipa is unique due to its focus on impact- and equity-based business models. Accelerators around the world today either tend to focus on digital technology and take an equity stake in the companies they support (such as Y Combinator, Tech Stars, or 21212 in Brazil), or focus on social or environmental impact, but do not take an equity stake (such as the Unreasonable Institute or Artemisia in Brazil). In addition to our focus on creating impact, we believe that being business partners with the accelerated companies aligns our financial interest and propels our efforts to support them further.
We are interested not just in accelerating companies and entrepreneurs, but in helping the entrepreneurs grow spiritually and emotionally. Through our deep ties with the Integral Institute of Brazil, we deploy methodologies that are intended to promote lasting and holistic growth and development in the participants, as well as the companies and their outcomes. This is quite unique and is what Brazilians are known for.
Fantastic. You are always evolving. Do you have any thoughts for the future of Pipa or other groups/concepts you wish to ignite?
At Cria, we are looking to move more into shared-value corporate ventures and not just consulting. At Pipa, we talk loosely about raising more capital to make larger investments. The purpose is constant, but we are always evolving and adapting to the changing context, looking to create ever more impact at scale. This is our overriding focus.
Jody Turner is founder of Culture of Future, a brand anthropology consultancy. Client engagements include and have included IDEO, Nike Foundation, trendwatching.com London, BMW Europe, Baumann Foundation, and others.
Dhaval Chadha is a founding partner at two companies focused on creating shared-value business. The first is Cria, a strategy and innovation consultancy, and the second, Pipa, an accelerator program for entrepreneurs. Clients at Cria include Coke, Whirlpool, Natura, and the Olympic Games. Strategic partners at Pipa include Google, Singularity University, and Endeavor.
An assessment by Paul Gilding that John Abrams discusses in his blog is more than dramatic. I don't know anything about Paul Gilding, but I do know that John Abrams is rock solid in reliability within the US worker co-op and workplace democracy movement.
Obamacare is changing the game of private health insurance, but private health insurers are still in it to make profit. And while they are in the game, they will do their best to rig the game in their favor. Ask anyone who has had a significant health problem. So why do we continue to give control over health care and our money away to companies that don't have our interests at heart in a matter that is literally life and death?
I wanted to look at alternative, community-based models and see if they actually work. One model is the Ithaca Health Fund, operated by the Ithaca Health Alliance since 1997. This nonprofit, inspired by the Canadian health system and the Amish Church Aid self-insurance program, runs several health-related programs. The Ithaca Health Fund reimburses medical costs for certain categories of preventive and emergency health care and its free clinic provides conventional and complementary primary care visits to the uninsured, as well as classes and a newsletter on preventative medicine. They rely on member fees and grants for funding and local college students to fill the many needed volunteer roles.
The Ithaca Health Fund was challenged by the New York State government as an noncompliant health insurance provider but restructured to work around the laws partly by making “grants” to uninsured patients, rather than reimbursements and restricting their boundaries to New York State. They are still struggling to get official nonprofit status from the federal government even though they are a charitable organization that depends significantly on grants to meet the needs of its low income clients while maintaining fee levels that they can still afford.
Even more intriguing was my encounter with PEACH (Preservation of Equity Accessible for Community Health) at Sandhill Farm in rural Missouri. On a visit there, I asked the residents of this intentional community how they made it without health insurance and they glowed about the benefits and low cost of PEACH. I recently interviewed PEACH's initiator, Laird Schaub, about this little known program to get the inside scoop.
The Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC) started PEACH as a group, self-insurance plan for income-sharing communities in October 1987, based on a program offered by Coop America at the time (now discontinued) with similar premiums and deductibles but managed by a commercial carrier.
FEC started by asking for monthly contributions of $10 per person per month (now $15/month) for several years before taking claims, after which time the FEC figured they'd have enough money to start reimbursing participating communities for major medical expenses, including natural medicine. Built in was a high $5,000 deductible that the intentional community would pay on behalf of its members' claim before PEACH would kick in and pay the rest. The deductible sounds like a lot, but the average premium for just one person was $5,615 in 2012 and that doesn't include a deductible.
The program was started when members of newly formed intentional communities were still relatively young. They started thinking ahead about how they would pay for healthcare while still trying to live a mostly self-sufficient, sustainable lifestyle, separate from the dominant economic system. This allowed them to save up a bit and invest the small monthly fees to grow the fund. Many of the FEC communities have their own sustainable enterprises and purchasing commercial insurance would be too great of a financial burden. Founder Laird Schaub said, “It was pretty easy to get buy in since these communities didn't have health insurance already and didn't want to buy into that system anyway on principle.”
Investments include socially responsible investing funds and loans, which have grown the fund far beyond the member contributions. The fund is now at $500,000 with eight to ten short to medium-term loans out at any given time to cooperative ventures and intentional communities that are in line with FEC values of social justice, sustainability and cooperation. Unlike commercial insurance companies, where money paid in premiums is gone forever, PEACH has a policy of paying back communities that drop out of the program 90% of what they paid into the program minus what they received as reimbursements on claims.
Another unique aspect of the program is that PEACH does not insure individuals, only the communities that they are a part of. That means claims are agreed on and filed by the community on behalf of its members' medical expenses. "PEACH is an agreement among communities and extends no right per se to individuals. Thus, it only works for groups that take primary responsibility for the health care of members, as is true in the income-sharing communities that participate," says Schaub. The community pays everything upfront and then gets reimbursed for the 90% beyond the first $5,000 and up to a pre-established limit for claims in that year, which is determined by a formula based on net income realized in the previous year. Communities agree to not seek reimbursement for using heroic measures to save a member, such as life support when the chance of survival is low or for unnecessary surgeries.
This system creates two layers of trust - trust between the individual and the community they live in and trust between member communities of PEACH. “Trust”, Schaub says, “is key to the system working. I am not sure it would work with people who don't know each other or share values.” Besides trust, they also have well defined rules and democratic decision-making processes that govern the program, its administration, finances and claims. PEACH is overseen by a body comprised of one representative of each participating community
Another reason for its success may be that all members are all sustainable, income-sharing communities or at least communities that take primary responsibility for their members' health care, meaning that members intend to care for each other when ill. They also tend to live healthier lifestyles, exercising more than the average person, usually living in cleaner and less stressful than average rural environments and eating homegrown, organic food. Schaub noted that the emotional support alone probably leads to less illness. All these factors might make this a special case not applicable to regular folks. Mainstream people might get chronically ill too much, file too many claims and sink the fund if the premiums stayed as low as PEACH's. Low premiums are the equalizer for living a healthier but less economically profitable life, a factor generally not calculated into conventional health insurance other than for nonsmokers.
Member communities are also taught how to negotiate medical bills with providers to lower costs. Schaub stated that, "Hospitals charge uninsured people 50% more than they charge insurance companies for the same bills simply because they can negotiate." I learned first hand this reality of discriminatory pricing against the uninsured when working in a hospital billing department at a hospital in Irvine, CA.
Corporate health insurance companies have been known to deny valid claims. PEACH on the other hand, in its 23 years of insuring, has paid every claim in full (except one vasectomy reversal), which has only been approximately one per year, currently serving 200 people in eight communities. One member I overheard was able to use a PEACH claim to buy an infrared sauna to treat her Lyme disease, an alternative treatment that is gaining popularity in alternative medicine, but would never be covered by conventional health insurance. This kind of choice is crucial to managing chronic illness, which conventional medicine often has few answers for. All treatments including herbs, however, must be prescribed by some kind of licensed health care provider, which reins in high experimental costs.
According to Schaub, “The biggest challenge for PEACH is knowing how much claims will increase with a covered population that approaches a more typical demographic age mix, compounded by health care costs that are spiraling out of control.” They have considered reaching out to new communities that don't income-share for sustainability through more members, but there is hesitation about trust and liability for communities that may lead a more unhealthy, and less interdependent and caring lifestyle. Their first step was branching out to nearby Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, which has a health care coop that manages health care for members, but they've put further membership outreach to communities that don't income-share on hold for now.
I was surprised to learn that even my partner's employee-owned, yet conventional engineering company in Kansas is self-insured up to a certain claim level, leading me to believe it's not just an ideological choice, but a good business decision. According to CNN’s analysis of the Fortune 500, “The star of 2009 is undoubtedly health care. The sector's earnings jumped to an all-time high of $92 billion. Health-care earnings rose by $23 billion, or 33%...from two groups, one surprising - medical insurers - and the other more predictable, pharmaceuticals.”
Health insurance companies are clearly skimming a lot of wealth off the top. If groups self-insured, that wealth could instead be reinvested back into their communities in the form of loans, preventative medicine education, clinics, healthy food access and more. Add in some community-based mutual aid and you might just have a winning venture for a healthier future. To start your own community health program, read Shareable's Healthy Rebellion post.
During a recent Shareable editorial meeting, we were tossing around article ideas and Mother’s Day came up. Seth Schneider told us about a sign he saw that said, “Nothing tells mother I love you like a steak.” We laughed at the ridiculousness of it, but it brought up some questions, the biggest one being: Is Mother’s Day broken? Is steak the appropriate way to honor the woman who made us? What about the mimosa and brunch ritual? Wouldn’t mom prefer to get some help on a day-to-day basis?
It’s nice to treat mom to a white tablecloth meal, but it feels like a relic of 1950s-era mothering. Many moms are overwhelmed these days. Between kids, work, and trying to squeeze in some semblance of a personal life, the moms I know would probably feel a lot more appreciative to get some extra help, or a day off, or a stronger circle of support.
Family dynamics are evolving. No longer are women expected to hop into a mold of domesticity that reads: marriage, house, kids, clean, consume, die. We have new freedoms, looser gender roles, and access to more helpful information than our parents could have dreamed of. And we can connect to our neighbors in new ways to build community around our children.
In the spirit of community-supported mothering, we offer the following ideas for lightening mom’s load. After all, the old adage that it takes a village to raise a child sticks with us because it’s true. Yes, a coupon for a hug is nice and will surely be appreciated, but throw a part-time, shared nanny into the mix and see how happy mom becomes.
Home-pureed vegetables for baby? Beats the stuff in jars hands-down. But, it also requires some elbow grease...and the ever-elusive time. But what if you could, at one gathering, get an abundance of different baby foods made and ready to serve, by loving moms? Welcome to the babyfood swap. You make a big batch of one thing and invite a bunch of moms over who have all made a big batch of one thing and you swap. Done. Puree for days.
Like the babyfood swap, the idea behind MamaBake is sharing big-batch food. But in this case, the moms all cook together in the same space (generally someone’s house), and we’re talking full meals, not pureed vegetables. It’s a great way to pick up food that can be served all week and build a supportive community made up of moms who know how demanding raising children can be.
Share a Nanny
Hiring a full-time nanny can be a huge expense. But, what if several families share one nanny. It’s a nifty way to provide consistency for the kids, use resources wisely and free up time for mom.
Just because you have kids doesn’t mean you stop wanting to create stuff. The catch is that those things take time...and childcare. What to do? Check out what the women behind Mothership Hackermoms are doing. A space for craft, design, entrepreneurship and creativity, this super-cool project dubs itself the first women’s makerspace and is all about supporting moms in their creative pursuits. And, yes, they provide childcare. Love this idea but want to start smaller? A casual craft night with childcare included is a good place to start.
Too much stuff makes anyone feel overwhelmed. Pare down the clutter with a toy exchange. Kids can get rid of toys they’re not interested in and find something new. And you can clear a little physical and mental space in the house for mom.
Maybe you already have a hand-me-downs chain in your community of neighbors and relatives to keep the kids clothing moving. If not, try hosting a clothing swap. You can get the kids into their current sizes without spending a dime and freshen up your own wardrobe in the process.
These are just a few ideas to help moms draw more support from their communities. Please share in comments any ideas or resources for community-supported mothering.
Global Sharing Day, June 2nd, arrives in less than a month. The People Who Share, the hosting organization for this celebration for global sharing, held a launch event to illuminate their food and mealsharing initiatives at the House of Commons this past Friday.
MP Caroline Lucas of Brighton and Hove hosted the event. She believes deeply in the cause of food and mealsharing as part of a more sustainable Britain. Lucas spoke admiringly of food and mealsharers, whom she believes help their communities by combatting hunger and excess food waste.
Also in attendance was Jay Savsani of the Chicago-based Mealsharing, a platform for finding mealsharers across the world. Mealsharing is simple; create a profile on the Mealsharing site, accept invites, cook, and enjoy a meal with people from your neighborhood or travelers exploring your city for the very first time.
Shaun Butler, advisor to Prime Minister David Cameron, Peter Stewart of the Eden Project and Big Lunch, Joey Tabone of Start, Business in the Community, Chris Mould, chairman of the Trussell Trust, Lindsey Boswell of FareShare, Andy Dawe of WRAP, and Matt Skinner of FutureGov and Casserole also spoke.
Mealsharing is developing a strong following across North America and Western Europe, and hopes to expand ever farther into new communities and regions of the globe. The launch event also spotlighted Global Sharing Day’s mission, to break a world record for sharing food.
Across much of the world, food is thrown out for, oftentimes, superficial packaging discrepancies or inaccurate sell-by date printing. This places an enormous burden on landfills and garbage dumps, while also adding insult to the billions across the world stuck in the cycles of famine and malnourishment.
Casserole, a London-based social enterprise, allows members to share food with neighbors, with an emphasis on the elderly. When a Casserole Club member cooks some food, they make some extra for a neighbor in need of a meal and some company.
Thanks to this event at the House of Commons, three trolleyloads of food was donated to the Westminster Food Bank by the over 160 attendees. This event hopes to inspire people from across the world to be more active in their foodsharing and to seek out avenues through which they can share more with their neighbors and friends.
Global Sharing Day will only be successful if people are willing to respond to the call. Foodsharers, mealsharers, carsharers and all sharers do wonderful things for their community and the Sharing Economy in general. The greater number of sharers, the more sustainable a future we can promise to the next generations.
As resources get scarcer and scarcer, sharing becomes the only option to maintain vibrant communities. Economic globalization cast a wider net in which to bring in resources and commodities. What was forgotten was the innateness of human kindness and the transformative powers of sharing. Simply put, there are no problems that cannot be met by sharing time, knowledge, meals, advice, and ourselves with our neighbors, friends, family, and complete strangers. From sharing, comes hope. From hope, comes change. And from change, a world in which we are proud to live in is created.
It might seem ironic that the only place you can’t practice your 5th amendment right would be a federal courtroom, considering its just such a place the amendment was designed for. It might seem ironic that a process designed to protect people accused of serious crimes can be used to imprison people for up to 18 months who have committed no crime without bringing charges against them. It might, unless you know about grand juries.
Grand juries are an old feature of the English common law, and were originally designed to make sure that prosecutors couldn’t bring cases about serious crimes against people without evidence. The grand jury determines, before the trial, whether the prosecuting attorney has enough evidence to continue with the case. Since it is an evidentiary hearing that could effect the outcome of the trial, the grand jury is completely secret, usually just with the prosecutor, the jury and the witness giving testimony in the room.
But throughout the 20th century, grand juries were used to bully political “enemies” of the state. From union organizers to Communist Party members to Black Panthers to enivronmental activisits, federal grand juries have been used by the government as a tactic of harrasment and information gathering. Witnesses subpeonaed to the grand jury cannot have their lawyer with them, and cannot refuse to testify. Despite fifth amendment rights, refusing to speak to the grand jury can result in contempt of court charges and the resister spending the length of the grand jury in jail, which can be as long as 18 months.
Thus, by acting on one of your most basic and core rights, in a room with no judge and no council present, you can be de-facto convicted of contempt (the prosecutor would need to bring you in front of a judge to rubberstamp the contempt charge) and thrown in jail to languish for the duration of the grand jury process.
Just such a prospect is facing a New York City legal activist and anarchist: Gerald Koch is being subpoenaed regarding a bombing in 2008, a bombing that broke a window and hurt no one, and that he was subpoenaed for once before, in 2009. Not because they suspect him of being involved, but because they think he may have overheard information about it in a bar. As Jerry has put it in a public statement:
“Given that I publically made clear that I had no knowledge of this alleged event in 2009, the fact that I am being subpoenaed once again suggests that the FBI does not actually believe that I possess any information about the 2008 bombing, but rather that they are engaged in a ‘fishing expedition’ to gain information concerning my personal beliefs and political associations.”
Last year, four anarchists in the Pacific Northwest faced a similar grand jury over vandalism on May Day 2011: two spent five months in jail, a third spent seven, all of them spending much of that time in solitary confinment, despite the fact that they committed no crime. Jerry faces a similar possibility of jail time. By refusing to speak to a grand jury, they stand up for the safety of their friends and for their rights, and they face serious consequences for doing so. What does it say about our “free society” when it jails citizens for asserting their rights in a completely closed process absent a judge or a lawyer?
If you're in the New York area, Jerry's subpoenae date is 10:00am on May 16th, and people are going to pack the court room at 500 Pearl St. You can learn more about Jerry’s case, and how you can support him, at Jerry Resists.
A conversation between Silke Helfrich, an author and independent activist of the commons, and Gustavo Soto Santiesteban, a writer, semiotician, and consultant on indigenous rights at various universities in Bolivia.
Silke Helfrich: Gustavo, Buen Vivir (or Vivir Bien) is an expression that has made its way into the constitutions of Ecuador and Bolivia, and has become an expression that would summarize an alternative project for civilization. Portuguese sociologist Boaventura da Souza even took up the slogan, “China or Sumaj Kuasay,”1 which is not self-explanatory. Can you help explain it?
Gustavo Soto: Suma Qamaña, Sumaj Kuasay and Sumak Kwasay are Aymara and Quechua expressions that translate into Spanish as Buen Vivir/Vivir Bien. They are reused in the construction of a discourse that speaks of a horizon of purposes alternative to the current state of affairs, one that is neither “21st century socialism”2 nor “Andean-Amazonian capitalism.”www.bolpress.com, May 10, 2009.">3 I think Buen Vivir is a proposal aimed at making visible and expressible aspects of reality that are ignored by the dominant paradigm. It is a proposal from a radical and spiritual perspective of ecology, and is logically incompatible with development and industrialization. It speaks of the possibility of living in common, for which the very concept “development”4 is not only insufficient but mistaken.
Javier Medina, a philosopher dedicated to Andean studies, writes: “There is always more in reality than one can experience or express at any given moment. A greater sensitivity to the latent potential of situations, assumed as a sort of broader social paradigm, may encourage us to think about things not only as they are, in the Newtonian paradigm, but also in terms of where they are heading, what they may become” (quoted in Soto 2010). El Buen Vivir/Vivir Bien is the name given to something that is like a new principle of hope grounded in ancestral practices of indigenous communities in the Americas.
Helfrich: So, it is not surprising that Bolivia and Ecuador are the two countries where the debate on el Buen Vivir is most alive. In Ecuador, 35 percent of the population self-identify as indigenous, and in Bolivia, 62 percent. In a take on the topic, Bolivia’s ambassador in Germany, Walter Prudencio Magne Veliz, his country’s first indigenous ambassador, said: “An indigenous person thinks more like a ‘we’ than as an individual ‘I’.” What does that “we” encompass?
Soto: Suma Qamaña implies several meanings manifested in community life: the fact of animals, persons, and crops living together; living with Pachamama (“Mother Earth” – the water, the mountains, the biosphere) and finally living together with the community of ancestors (w’aka). It is a community practice that finds organizational expression in the ayllu, which articulates this “economy-life” in the chacra – the rural agricultural space where reciprocity predominates. It is evident that these enunciations are made from the commons, from the community, from the first person plural, and not from “me,” from the individual. Strictly speaking, the “individual” without community is bereft, orphaned, incomplete.
Women and children around the Cathedral dressed in traditional clothes. La Paz, Bolivia. Photo credit: Dennis Jarvis. Used under Creative Commons license.
Helfrich: We find these ideas in many different cultures. It’s not just one or the other. Things are not separate, but interrelated. Therefore, Javier Medina, a Bolivian philosopher who is one of the most literate interpreters of the idea of Buen Vivir, says it is a display of intelligence that “we Bolivians want to have the State and also want to have the ayllu, though they are two antagonistic magnitudes….” And he continues: “Our problem is that in not picking up on the civilizing nature of both, we confuse them, provoking the inefficiency of both.… At this point…, let’s not have any more real State: follow the liberal Third World simulation, nor more real Ayllus: in their place, docile social movements.”5 In your opinion, does the ayllu persist in contemporary Bolivia? Do they have like a “physical-social embodiment”?
Soto: The indigenous ayllu, at the “micro-level,” at the local level, persists in the Bolivian altiplano. It is founded on reciprocity more than on the market; on cultural identity more than on homogenization; on decision by assembly more than the electoral mechanism; on itsde facto autonomy and its relationship with the “territory,” which is not the “land” – factor of production – but rather precisely the totality of the system of relationships.
Helfrich: Your description of the ayllu is reminiscent of the concept of commoning, which is discussed so much in this book and which expresses much better than the term commonswhere the heartbeat of the debate lies. Both el Buen Vivir and commoning can only be thought of in their specific social context and as a social process. Indeed, it seems to me that both are more systems of production in community and at the same time they produce community.
Soto: Yes, the ayllu is much more than a “unit of production”; it is a system of community life which, if you will, “produces” community first. This has been possible precisely because the successive projects of the nation-state have, relatively speaking, failed to assimilate them.
Helfrich: In essence, what’s the difference between the Andean conception of el Buen Vivirand Western thinking?
Soto: Medina situates it in a schema which of course generalizes and is disjunctive, thus it is far from being an adequate case of complex thinking; it’s like a map, which should never be confused with what happens in the territory itself. Between the poles there is obviously a long continuum.
Helfrich: Homo mayeuticus?
Soto: It refers to that way of living engaged in dialogue with the complex system of relations that is Nature. Nature is conceived of as a living being and not as a thing of which to make other things, and so it demands great interpretive skills. The interpretations are transmitted through oral expression, everyday experience, the creativity of textiles, ceramics, musical instruments, festive ritual – in sum, through an integral technical/cultural system.
Helfrich: What is the sociopolitical reality of the country in which this debate is unfolding?
Soto: Even though the new Constitution of the Plurinational State of Bolivia has been printed, that doesn’t mean that the practices and meanings described previously will be carried out. To the contrary, the horizon of popular expectations is set forth in the 2010–2015 program of the Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS, which won the 2009 elections with 64 percent of the vote. That program continues being neodevelopmentalist and extraactivist. It articulates the Bolivian economy to the global capitalist interests of the 21st century (USA-EU+BRICS) expressed in megaprojects6 of energy, road-building and extractive industries. This agenda is encapsulated in the IIRSA (Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America), recently relaunched in its second phase by the BNDES, the National Development Bank of Brazil.
Helfrich: ... an initiative that relies on what Eduardo Gudynas, the director of the Centro Latinoamericano de Ecología Social (CLAES), calls “neo-extractivism.”
Soto: Exactly. And this strategy fosters the violation of the rights of Pachamama and of the indigenous peoples – and the democratic citizen rights of informed participation in decision-making. El Buen Vivir is not by any means a public policy that takes us towards that alternative horizon. Nonetheless, the complaints and resistances of indigenous communities against mining7 and oil projects, and mega-infrastructure projects geared to global and not local interests, suggest that not everything is lost in the process of change that Bolivia is undergoing. The communitarian logic that also exists in the Bolivian Amazon region is keenly expressed in the current eighth Indigenous March led by the communities of the TIPNIS (Indigenous Territory and National Park Isiboro Sécuro) and supported by the entire Bolivian indigenous movement (Amazonian and Andean).8 The goal is to save a unique ecosystem of the region, a way of life, to shine a light in practice on the post-developmentalist horizon for the 21st century, and which gives content to el Buen Vivir.
A silver mine. Potosi, Bolivia. Photo credit: Ross Huggett. Used under Creative Commons license.
Helfrich: In the debate on the commons, I generally defend the slogan “beyond the state and the market,” which does not necessarily mean “without state and market” – for we need a state that expands our spaces for community life.9 How would a state act whose mention ofSuma Qamaña were more than symbolic? What do you expect of the state in relation to el Buen Vivir?
Soto: I think that the expectation of a new Constitution of the “plurinational” state was precisely an expectation that the principles of Vivir Bien would be translated into public policies. Nonetheless, the obstinate illusion of modernity10 continues to be the dominant grammar of the exercise of power in Bolivia. Indeed the concept of Vivir Bien has even become trivialized in official propaganda: “Oil exploration to live well , hydroelectric plants in the Amazon to live well ,” etc.
It is not a “betrayal” by the Morales administration but the expression of a historic mentality. Let me try to explain: The “revolution of 1952”11 promoted the transformation of theindígenas into campesinos, through mixing, the use of Spanish, individual land ownership and the market, and the state-peasantry pact (1952–1974). That process had advocated modernization and national development by diversifying production and the industrialized exploitation of the natural resources in the hands of the state. The failure of that nationalist process led to the modernist neoliberal period, which was defeated by the popular insurgency of 2003. Nonetheless, in the last five years, the increase in international raw materials prices has given new life to the illusion of development based on the old nationalist extractivism.
Helfrich: Buen Vivir seems to me both strange and familiar. Foreign because of the innumerable references born of a different culture and history. And familiar because it makes me think of commoning. Massimo De Angelis writes: “To turn a noun – commons – into a verb simply grounds it in what is, after all, life flow: there are no commons without incessant activities of commoning, of (re)producing in common. But it is through (re)production in common that communities of producers decide for themselves the norms, values, and measures of things.”
Louis Wolcher also reminds us that speaking of the commons is not the same as speaking of conflicts over property rights. Rather, it is about “people expressing a form of life to support their autonomy and subsistence needs.” In brief, “taking one’s life into one’s own hands, and not waiting for crumbs to drop from the King’s table.” Or from the table of the nation-state. At the same time, he fears that in the western world we are in an unlucky position, because “we no longer have cultural memory of another way of being.”
Soto: This (re)surgence of social theories and horizons that engage in dialogue with the alternative initiatives and quests of the “first” world is very interesting for Latin America. During the 20th century, for example, the discourse, organizational forms, strategies, and vision of progress or “change” – if you want to call it that – drew on the “lessons” of European social and political processes. Now, on this Amerindian side, they drink from the communitarian fountains of the Americas which, we always forget, also inspired the first European utopians. Yet, as you say, it is not just a question of discourses but of practices which, for different reasons, have withstood centuries, and that are the condition that makes it possible to build another truly inclusive social order, one that is for everyone. It is not at all simply a question of Indigenous Areas or Protected Community Areas. What is needed is a change in paradigm.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of the Commons and is republished with permission.
- Soto, Gustavo S. 2010. “La espuma de estos días,” April 21, 2010, available at http://outrapolitica.wordpress.com/2010/04/21/la-espuma-de-estos-dias.
- 1.Boaventura da Souza Santos. “Diversidades y cambios civilizatorios: ¿la utopía del siglo XXI?” FEDAEPS, FSM Belem. 2009.
- 2.Editors’ note: “21st century socialism” is a political expression that gained currency ten years ago, particularly in the context of the World Social Forum. It is also frequently used in Venezuela by the administration of President Hugo Chavez.
- 3.Álvaro García L., Interview with Miguel Lora, www.bolpress.com, May 10, 2009.
- 4.See Vinod Raina’s essay criticizing the concept of “development” in Part 2.
- 6.See Gerhard Dilger’s essay on the Belo Monte mining operation in Part 2.
- 7.On the consequences of mining in Latin America, see also the essay by César Padilla in Part 2.
- 8.Editors’ note: The eighth Indigenous March was brutally broken up by the Bolivian police. This led to the immediate resignation of the Secretary of Defense and huge social protests and criticism of Evo Morales. Several days later, construction of the road through the TIPNIS region was stopped.
- 9.See Gustavo Esteva’s essay in Part 2 and Nikos A. Salingaros and Federico Mena-Quintero’s essay in Part 5.
- 10.See Ugo Mattei’s essay on a “phenomenology of the commons” in Part 1.
- 11.The Wikipedia entry, “The History of Bolivia,” notes that the 1952 revolution “introduced universal adult suffrage, carried out a sweeping land reform, promoted rural education, and, in 1952, nationalized the country’s largest tin mines.”
Streets, in theory, belong to everyone. But in most instances, cars dominate them, leaving cyclists and pedestrians to make do with what little space cars aren’t using. The Complete Streets movement works to change that.
A transportation policy and design approach, Complete Streets ensure that streets are safe and accessible for all users, including cyclists, public transportation, pedestrians of all ages and abilities, and cars. In a nutshell, Complete Street have features including pedestrian sidewalks and crosswalks, traffic calming infrastructure, protected bike lanes, and mass transit accommodations such as bus pullouts and shelters.
A recent study, conducted by the National Complete Streets Coalition, found that in 2012, nearly 130 communities adopted Complete Streets policies. 488 Complete Streets policies are now in place across the U.S., at all levels of government. The Coalition looked at all the new Complete Streets policies and scored them based on factors including vision and intent, usability, inclusion of all users, design, and implementation. Their findings are available in the report, The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2012. Here are the top scoring communities:
1. Indianapolis, IN
2. Hermosa Beach, CA
3. Huntington Park, CA
4. Ocean Shores, WA
5. Northfield, MN
6. Portland, ME
7. Oak Park, IL
8. Trenton, NJ
9. Clayton, MO
10. Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Most of the Complete Streets policies are written in policy-speak (Resolution No. 2083-11, anyone?) and completely glaze over the eyes of the uninitiated, but the idea is that they all illustrate a commitment by government officials to adhere to Complete Streets guidelines. Here are some examples:
The Department of Public Services and the Department of Planning and Urban Development shall adapt, develop and adopt inter-departmental policies, urban design guidelines, zoning and performance standards and other guidelines based upon resources identifying best practices in urban design and street design, construction, operations and maintenance.
The City shall measure the success of this Complete Streets policy using, but not limited to, the following performance measures:
- Total miles of bike lanes
- Linear feet of new pedestrian accommodation
- Number of new curb ramps installed along city streets
- Crosswalk and intersection improvements
- Percentage of transit stops accessible via sidewalks and curb ramps (beginning in June 2014)
- Rate of crashes, injuriesand fatalities by mode
- Rate of children walking or bicycling to school (beginning in June 2014)
Huntington Park, CA
The City of Huntington Park will design, operate and maintain a transportation network that provides a connected network of facilities accommodating all modes of travel… will actively look for opportunities to repurpose rights-of-way to enhance connectivity for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit…will require new developments to provide interconnected street networks with small blocks.
Do you have Complete Streets in your community? We’d love to hear your experience with them. Would you like to learn more about the movement? Here are some resources to get you started, including a link to download the complete report and a video on the Complete Streets movement.
- National Complete Streets Coalition
- Best Complete Street Policies of 2012 Study
- Complete Streets Local Policy Workbook
- Complete Streets at Wikipedia
To judge by OuiShare Fest, the future is going to be collaborative--and a whole lot of fun.
A crowd of 600 mostly 20-somethings from across Europe gathered to network, learn, and party, I think in that order, although the distinctions were at times blurry. Several keynotes, for example, which were held in the deep red circus tent interior of the music venue Cabaret Sauvage, were introduced by a moppet in red rainboots dancing on a stage rendered cloudy by a smoke machine, her words barely audible over Daft Punk/Pharrell's hit "Get Lucky." We elders in attendance (anyone born before 1980, that is) strained to hear over the disco and rubbed our eyes at the Twin Peaks flashback. But this too seems to be the future, this hybrid festival-conference where keynotes and panels mix with bar camps and Maker Faire-style hands-on activities; healthy veggie meals combine with inebriants; all of it topped off with music and dancing into the wee hours.
Credit: Stefano Borghi*
It turns out Play/Fun is one of the core values of the OuiShare network, alongside inclusivity, transparency, permanent Beta, and my favorite, MPRL (meet people in real life). And what, I asked myself, is there not to like about Fun? Pieter from Amsterdam, whose Master's thesis involves a citywide survey asking residents what keeps them from participating in sharing, gave voice to the main concern: that the sharing movement won't be taken seriously. Exactly, curmudgeon-me thought with satisfaction: if we need to compete with the corporate and governmental powers-that-be, we need to come across as grown-ups. Serious. Sober. Suits.
Or maybe we don't. Doc Searls' presentation on Friday morning, kicking off Day Two, reminded us of our power as an inevitable disruptive force in the world. He outlined the revolution we are living through: the rise of the differentiated-but-connected individual. The Industrial Era made us think we were all the same. It needed us to be interchangeable cogs of production and cookie-cutter consumers, and so our systems supported that. But in the new era you'll have your personal cloud, your customized health plan, your bespoke education, everything based on and catering to your unique genetic makeup, interests, identities, experiences, communities... Even "business is discovering that individual empowerment is good for it," Searls noted, but, yes, it's still very much in process.
For now, the tension between old and new ways makes for a sometimes bumpy ride. Older folks are looking at Sharers and wailing: what about the jobs? what about a home? what about retirement security?, while the younger ones just shrug and trust in their networks. The first person I spoke to at length at OuiShare Fest was Pavlik ("Elf"), who has no fixed coordinates and moves around like a modern day minstrel offering his IT services to those in need. He reminded me of my juggler and circus friends (indeed, later I caught him juggling) who rely on their (tech-linked) communities to shelter and feed them as they traverse continents swapping skills and busking. They are getting by and having fun in a brave new world--with trust, interconnectedness, and reputation making it work.
Credit: Stefano Borghi*
And what about the regulatory obstacles to Sharing that have been receiving almost gleeful mainstream press of late? During the most impressive panel of the conference (that I saw), four whipsmart women talked about the intersection of the collaborative economy with government: Molly Turner, Director of Public Policy for Airbnb, April Rinne of Collaborative Lab, Helen Goulden from Nesta, and Anne-Laure Brun Buisson from Sharelex. They recommended a collaborative, non-oppositional relationship with policymakers and regulators, and pointed out that most governments are in crisis, already unable to provide basic services and facing more cuts. In other words, government has never been more open to ideas like a skillsharing platform that supports employment; transportation-sharing programs that enable mobility; a time-dollar system that provides care to fragile elderly, etc. In one example of public-private partnership, peer accommodation site Airbnb is working with the city of Rio in preparation for the World Cup: this will help distribute the benefits from the influx of tourists, so it's not just big hotel chains that profit. Also, as cities struggle to plan for resilience in the face of increasing disasters, sharing enterprises can be key partners.
The main challenge right now, said the panelists, is proving to governments and officials the capacity, durability, and efficacy of the sector's mostly still small and developing enterprises. Lining up that proof is an important next step. Airbnb's Turner said it's going to take a coalition of millions of users, not just the businesses; and (unsurprisingly) she's already begun organizing.
What proof has already been gathered--as in Day One's introductory snapshot of sample metrics-- is even now fairly impressive: 300,000 rooms made available by Airbnb globally in 5 years of development, as compared with 600,000-700,000 hotel rooms built over 60+ years. By 2020 there will be 31 million members of carsharing programs worldwide. Four to five new coworking spaces open every day, adding to the existing 2,500 sites currently in operation. In 2012, 2.7 billion dollars were raised via crowdfunding in the US, while two billion dollars were lent person-to-person, sidestepping US banks, in the last two years. The wikispeed project enabled 100 volunteers to protoype a car in three months, as compared to the four to seven years it takes a commercial manufacturer. Although these numbers are still weighted towards the US, sharing is exploding globally, with the hotspots in Seoul, Korea, Rio, Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre, Brazil frequently mentioned at OuiShare Fest.
Research on the collaborative economy was the subject of another panel. The current bible is that hefty 350-page report "The Synthetic Overview of the Collaborative Economy" by Michel Bauwens of the Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives, which handily depicts the spread and clout of Sharing, factoring in things like cooperatives, crowdsourced achievements like wikipedia, and open software. The charts at the back map the burgeoning subsectors of open and distributed manufacturing (e.g. fablabs, the Maker movement, threadless); distributed finance (e.g. alternative currencies both virtual and local, microlending); distributed learning (e.g. wikiversity, TEDucation); and personal fabrication (e.g. desktop 3D printers). Bauwens' closing presentation highlighted some of the missing pieces in the sector, like a global dividend currency and an international foundation to support the commons.
The conference did its best to dip into all the above subsectors, even if real depth was understandably lacking; overall I was pleased to see almost as much space/time devoted to the (oft-neglected) production side as the consumption side.
Kudos to the OuiShare team, credit: Stefano Borghi*
In its best moments, OuiShare Fest had me believing that Sharing is the answer to every problem we face, from sustainability (more sharing = less waste, less consumption of resources, less C02) to loneliness (it was striking to me how tech folks, once the most socially-awkward and sun-deprived of species, are so lovingly integrated here) to economic opportunities. What about the abysmal prospects for Millennials? OuiShare's rather genius co-founder Antonin Leonard praised microentrepreneurship and the online platforms that make it possible to benefit from sharing any skill you can imagine, from carpentry to coding to Cantonese. Riffing off Seth Godin, who apparently recently said: "My dad had one job in his lifetime. I'll have seven in mine. And my kids will have seven jobs at one time," Leonard noted: "I already have seven jobs at one time."
In other moments, things seemed more scattered and divisive than collaborative. There were tensions between those who see this as a space to create a profitable business to rival industry, those who herald an anti-establishment world of cooperative-ownership and equal distribution of resources, and a few who would prefer to keep the whole phenomenon free of politics and economics, more in the space of morality and values.
One panel that was titled "Creative Networked Communities" but was really about movement building and organizing--how to stay united and non-competitive as the Collaborative Economy sprawls--reminded me of the tragic self-governance processes of the Occupy camps in the U.S. My response: the collaborative economy has enough reinvention on its hands: where and when it can ride on the shoulders of others, like seasoned community-organizing experts, it should.
Dale Dougherty, credit: Stefano Borghi*
In my favorite presentation, Dale Dougherty, the founder of Maker Faire, brought things back to the heart and soul. With the Maker movement exploding, clearly this jolly man has figured out something essential about us humans, something that is resonating with people regardless of age, background, class, ability, politics, etc. "I want to live in a world where we're all producers, where we are each contributing value," he said. Makers, said Dougherty, are amateurs, the root of that word being to love. It's not about selling or consuming: it's about finding joy and meaning in the process of creativity itself. It's about fun.
And with that, curmudgeon-me-- granted, only a small part, overshadowed by the me that hula-hoops and works with real life superheroes-- withered to the size of gnat. I left OuiShare Fest feeling optimistic about the capacity of this new generation to make the collaborative vision a reality, and humming Daft Punk: We've come too far / to give up who we are/ so let's raise the bar / and our cups to the stars.
credit: Stefano Borghi*
*A postscript on the talented photographer, Stefano Borghi. Last December, thieves stole some 15,000EU worth of his equipment. He's crowdfunding in order to replace it, figuring insurance will take a while and not cover everything, calling in chits with all the folks for whom he's done free or low-cost work. Naturally he was OuiShare Fest's official photographer! Read about and contribute to his campaign here.
This article orignally appeared in YES! Magazine and is republished with permission.
1. Green Worker Cooperative’s Co-op Academy, The Bronx, N.Y.
Ideas for co-ops may flourish, but few people understand exactly how to make theirs real. The Co-op Academy is providing answers. Founded four years ago by Omar Freilla (who recently made Ebony magazine’s list of the Power 100), the academy runs 16-week courses that offer intensive mentoring, legal and financial advice, and help designing logos and websites.
Run by the South Bronx-based Green Worker Cooperative, the academy guides up to four teams per session through the startup process and has graduated four organizations now thriving in New York City. These include Caracol Interpreters, which is raising the bar on interpreter wages, and Concrete Green, which focuses on environmentally sound landscaping. Six more co-ops are in the pipeline.
“I’m amazed at how little knowledge and information is out there for the average person about how co-ops function and how to start one,” says Janvieve Williams Comrie, whose mother-owned cooperative Ginger Moon also came out of the program.
“That’s one thing the Co-op Academy really provides, the hands-on know-how.” Even money for tuition ($1,500 per team) gets the treatment. Freilla is adamant that teams fundraise to cover that cost—even if they can foot the bill themselves. “By fundraising for the registration fee, you are promoting the vision for your cooperative, gaining supporters, and creating a buzz before the program even starts,” he says. “That is just the kind of support that will propel your business forward, and while you’re doing it you’ll be getting an early opportunity to see just how well you and your teammates work together.”
- Photo by Paul Dunn.
2. Red Clouds Collective, Portland, Ore.
They shared an active, outdoorsy lifestyle in the Pacific Northwest. They shared a talent for creative work. It seemed logical for the group of friends to leave their corporate jobs to form Red Clouds Collective, a Portland manufacturer of handcrafted canvas and leather gear. The worker-owner cooperative pools the talents of a variety of artists and allows them to make a living as craftsmen beyond what any of them could do individually. A percentage pay system benefits the original designer, the assembler, and the collective. After one year, business is great. What’s popular? theGOODbook™, a leather wallet/iphone case/sketchbook all in one. From left, Owen Johnson, Seth Neefus, Jason Thomas Brown, and Casey Neefus in their garage-turned-factory.
- Photo by Paul Dunn.
3. Seward Community Cafe, Minneapolis
It’s one thing to run a successful cooperative business, and quite another to lend a hand to the competition. But that’s exactly what the Seward Cafe in Minneapolis did, loaning $10,000 to Hard Times Cafe when the nearby worker-run restaurant was struggling through an extended closure due to repairs. “They’re like our little sister,” says Nils Collins, a worker at Seward, which is the oldest collectively run restaurant in the country. “We can’t function in an environment where everything is corporate-owned. It’s a lot more effective to have mutual support and solidarity.” The two businesses often help each other with tax-form preparation and even food delivery. “We call it a friendly rivalry,” said Hard Times’ bookkeeper Rozina Doss. “A worker-run business has its own set of difficulties, so our relationship is just a recognition that other people have the same commitment that we do to changing the way work is done.”
4. Patient/Physician Co-ops, Houston
Don McCormick, a former health insurance executive, opened a free, charity-funded clinic to better understand the problems in health care and stumbled onto something that surprised him: Uninsured people were willing to pay a nominal monthly fee—like $18—if it guaranteed access to medical care. Then McCormick learned that doctors actually earned more by billing patients directly—even at those nominal fees—than they did by going through Medicare, Medicaid, or HMOs. With that realization, McCormick founded the Houston-based Patient/Physician Cooperative in 2005, which now has 60 participating clinics. Members of PPC function as a group, which allows them to purchase health care at affordable prices. There are no co-payments or qualifications for those with pre-existing conditions, and the model has since spread to North Carolina and Portland, Ore. “This turned into a very practical solution,” McCormick says, “and it’s better than what anyone else is proposing.”
5. Community Food Forest , Providence, R.I.
The new plantings at Roger Williams Park hover around three feet tall. But in a few years, they’ll sprout leafy greens and medicinal herbs. All will be available to harvest for free, along with wild mushrooms, tubers, and fiber. The edible forestry project, which broke ground in April 2012, is a partnership between the University of Rhode Island Master Gardeners and city officials at Roger Williams Park. The location is no accident. More than 83 percent of nearby residents live in a USDA-declared food desert, with little access to supermarkets selling fresh produce. But in years to come, the edible forest, which sits adjacent to a community garden, will provide nuts, mulch, fruit, and fuel. Similar projects are popping up in other urban areas. The Beacon Hill Food Forest in Seattle—funded in part with a $20,000 grant from the city’s Department of Urban Neighborhoods—is the largest edible forest on public land in the nation.
- Photo courtesy of Quimper Mercantile.
6. Community-Owned Mercantile, Port Townsend, Wash.
“We live here, work here, invest here. We just want to buy some socks here,” reads the motto of Quimper Mercantile in Port Townsend, Wash. After the town’s general store closed in 2011, residents of this out-of-the-way town found themselves with few nearby options for buying basic goods, and they weren’t interested in inviting Wal-Mart to move in. Their solution? A dozen activists and business owners raised $50,000, formed a corporation, and began selling shares to friends and neighbors. To date, 1,008 folks have invested—a hundred-dollar share at a time—$570,000, and Quimper Mercantile opened for business in October 2012. When the bankroll reaches $950,000 investors can start trading their shares. “We’re a for-profit venture, not a co-op,” says Peter Quinn, CEO. “So it’s essentially buying stock in a startup, with all the usual possibilities and risks.” At this fledgling stage, participation is motivated less by profit-seeking than community-building. “A much more altruistic purpose,” Quinn says.
- Photo by Ben Guss.
7. Buying land as a cooperative, Duvall, Wash.
Mobile homes provide a source of long-term, low-income housing but, vulnerable to rate increases or eviction, it’s hardly stable. Last year, in Duvall, Wash., 24 mobile-home dwellers joined to create a cooperative and purchase their trailer park. Final price: $1.18 million. That sounds pretty steep, but Ben Guss, a facilitator with the Northwest Cooperative Development Center, linked the residents to funding through ROC USA Capital, which has made loans to 125 such communities across the country. For the Duvall project, ROC partnered with the Washington State Housing Finance Commission, and now for $475 a month—just $15 more than they were paying before—each member of the newly-named Duvall Riverside Village Co-op is an owner. “It’s great to change from having Damocles’ Sword in the air that you know can fall,” said Stewart Davidson, who lives there and serves as board president. “When I pass, my wife can live here and not be worried about having a knock on the door with someone saying, ‘Here’s your notice, you’re out.’”
Claudie Rowe wrote this article for How Cooperatives Are Driving the New Economy, the Spring 2013 issue of YES! Magazine. Claudia has been an award-winning social issues journalist for more than 20 years. Her work has appeared in Mother Jones, The New York Times, The Seattle Times, and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
2013 has been a breakout year for the sharing economy. It made the cover of Forbes and the Economist, was covered by Good Morning America and now, LeWeb, Europe’s largest tech conference, has made sharing the theme of its London event.
Boasting a who’s who roster of key sharing economy players including Joe Gebbia from Airbnb, Leah Busque from TaskRabbit, Lisa Gansky of Mesh Labs, Burning Man co-founder Larry Harvey, Chad Dickerson of Etsy and many more, LeWeb London, which takes place on June 5th and 6th, promises to be an accelerator, classroom and networking bonanza for those involved with the sharing movement. For those who aren’t already familiar with the sharing economy, this will be a star-studded introduction to it.
Here, LeWeb’s organizer, Loïc Le Meur, shares his thoughts on LeWeb London, the culture of sharing and how money is okay but greed is bad.
Shareable: Can you talk about your decision to spotlight the sharing economy at the upcoming LeWeb London?
Loïc Le Meur: The Sharing Economy is the most exciting technology trend these days with huge players such as Airbnb, Etsy, ZipCar. What matters even more for me is that it is a cultural change behind the technology. A new generation is growing up with new values: preserve the planet, waste less, doing good, money is okay but greed is bad. They would rather rent a car for a few hours than own it, they don't care about the status symbol a car was for their parents. It is a major shift.
Shareable: For some conference attendees, this may be their introduction to the sharing economy. What do you hope LeWeb London provides for them?
Loïc Le Meur: We have the key players at LeWeb on stage, and many large corporations are embracing the Sharing Economy, such as Walmart, so it will be an opportunity to understand who the players are and what needs to be done with your business to adapt to the sharing economy. For the culture shift, we could not dream to have a better speaker than the founder of Burning Man, Larry Harvey, who gathers 50,000 people in the desert every year on a pure gift economy model. I think there will be plenty of opportunities to be inspired and I hope the attendees will also have new business ideas, as they always do at LeWeb.
Shareable: What kind of feedback have you received on the decision to focus LeWeb London on the sharing economy?
Loïc Le Meur: We have seen excellent feedback on the program and an impressive traction as you can see on my keynote on the sharing economy I just released, which is approaching 30,000 views as I write this.
Shareable: What's your big-picture vision for LeWeb London? What would you most like to see before, during and after the conference?
Loïc Le Meur: London is a fantastic city and with Paris and Berlin one of the top three innovation centers in Europe. We see LeWeb London as becoming as big as LeWeb Paris eventually. We were thrilled with our first edition success last year as we gathered 1400 participants. This is great for a first edition, we are very excited about this year.
Shareable: Anything you'd like to add?
Loïc Le Meur: Apart from the fact that people can register at London.LeWeb.com, no. I’m excited to see you all in London on June 5-6. Thanks!
LeWeb London 2013: Digital Hippies and the Sharing Economy
This article originally appeared on Project for Public Spaces and is republished with permission.
The fact that Jane Jacobs’ name is so often attached to the idea of gentrification today seems a cruel irony. Jane’s writing was focused on how to create strong neighborhoods that fostered robust social networks; she was far from a “NIMBY” and her interest in preservation was more about economics than aesthetics. Unfortunately, the complexity of her ideas is often vastly oversimplified or taken out of context today by people looking to generate a bit of controversy. Reports that ‘Jane was wrong’ are greatly exaggerated, often by people who wind up making many of the same arguments that Jane, herself, made.
So it is always wonderful to see people gathering in communities across the country for Jane’s Walk Weekend. Over the next two days (May 4 & 5), thousands will meet their neighbors to explore, observe, and appreciate what makes their neighborhoods great. In honor of one of our very favorite Placemakers, we’ve rounded up several walks scheduled to take place this year that focus on the theme of resilience, a concern at the core of much of Jane’s work. She was a champion of complexity and flexibility in urban form because these qualities allow communities—and the people that inhabit them—to address challenges more nimbly and effectively. Or, in her own eloquent words:
“Vital cities have marvelous innate abilities for understanding, communicating, contriving, and inventing what is required to combat their difficulties … Lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves.”
And now, without further ado:
1.) Levee Disaster Bike Tour, New Orleans: The Crescent City’s comeback post-Katina, while far from frictionless, has been nothing short of miraculous. This bike tour will visit the sites of several levee breaches around the city, giving participants an opportunity to discuss what happened to their city, and how far they’ve come since.
2.) Not Your Typical Regent Park Walk, Toronto: This walk, in the city where Jane moved after her time in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, will “ a light on the capacity of local residents and Toronto’s negative ‘public housing’ narrative,” focusing on the importance of generating new economic opportunities from within local communities rather than attracting them from somewhere else.
3.) The Roots of Mack Avenue, Detroit: This tour will focus on an historic neighborhood commercial corridor in the Motor City, which recently played host to the Placemaking Leadership Council’s inaugural meeting. The tour will explore Mack Avenue’s economic decline, and look forward to the bright future outlined through the “Green Thoroughfare” revitalization plan.
4.) Hometown Security, The Bronx, NYC: Led by South Bronx-based advocate Majora Carter, this tour will examine the impact of the Spofford juvenile detention facility on the neighborhood. The tour will end with a performance by a group of people whose lives were affected by Spofford, and who have worked with the Theater of the Oppressed to tell their stories. Observations from the performances will inform how the 5-acre Spofford site will be re-developed in the future.
5.) Recycle Kingdom Walk, Calcutta: This year Jane’s Walk is making its way to several cities in India. This unique walk will meander through the East Calcutta Wetlands, providing an intimate look at the vital role that the site plays in the city’s ecological resilience. The wetlands “take in all the solid and liquid waste of the city and generates fish, rice and vegetables and sends it back.”
One last thing: if you’re in New York, the Municipal Art Society will be offering a host of free tours of neighborhoods affected by Hurricane Sandy last fall. You can check out the full list of related events by clicking right here.
Open source hardware could be a revolutionary tool for unlocking our shackles to profit motivated, proprietary innovation. It has a vision to alleviate poverty through empowering decentralized and affordable, small scale production. Participants anywhere in the world can use the internet to access, improve, or adapt designs for local manufacturing and drastically increase the rate of innovation.
Open Tech Forever (OTF) is emerging to become a new force in open source hardware development by building an open source factory where it will produce open technology. OTF recently launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise $50,000 to build the facility, and they need your support. As a cooperatively-owned social enterprise, all of its innovation will be transparently documented in writing, graphics and video, and released under a Creative Commons license.
OTF’s mission is to “facilitate cooperation among the communities that live on the frontlines of suffering throughout the world, so that we can build enduring solutions to poverty and the destruction of the environment.” OTF co-founder, Aaron Makaruk explains, “An entirely new economic frontier stands before us, a world where innovation and wealth are mass produced as easily as a file is downloaded to a computer. Our goal is to use local, open source factories to outcompete companies that import unsustainable products manufactured in inhuman conditions and put them out of business - one locally-owned, open source company at a time.”
Other open source hardware enthusiasts praise its emphasis on making DIY, easily constructed machines from as many locally available, sustainable, low cost materials as possible. They are designed from the start to be repairable by almost anyone, thereby rejecting the current profit-driven practice of planned obsolescence that leads to greater consumption.
Located on a 40 acre permaculture site near downtown Denver, Open Tech Forever was founded by former core members of Open Source Ecology (OSE), a pioneering organization in the emerging open hardware field. The team includes Thiel Fellow Yoonseo Kang, former Director of Development for OSE, Aaron Makaruk, and Tristan Copley Smith, OSE’s former Video Communications Director who previously worked with Wikileaks.
The land is owned by a permaculture specialist with a degree in soil science, and the group plans to create online agriculture training documentation, or ‘open source permaculture’ - videos, manuals, and business models. Also on the team is Rahul Dhinakaran, mechanical engineer and founder of Kalki Mechanical Prototypes, who has designed a number of open hardware prototypes including a 3-axis CNC Mill and a wheelchair.
Another exciting development is that OTF is launching an open source online collaboration platform called Co-Open, available for the first time this week on Github, that supports thousands of simultaneous online contributors. Inviting participants to collaborate on a project during its design phase can lead to significant cost reductions, as well as improvements in innovation. The first collaborative project for the platform is the OTF factory design, which is being worked on by people throughout the United States and India, including Marshall Hilton, a mechanical and architectural engineer who was previously OSE’s production manager.
OTF co-founder Yoonseo Kang explains, “Right now, on our online collaboration platform, thousands of people can easily co-design an open source factory. This means people from all over the world can spontaneously work together. So you might see earth building masters from India talking to engineers from the School of Mines about what soil mixtures work best to make earth blocks. The possibilities are endless - there is so much potential for our platform to be customized and improved. Together, we can create technology that is transparent and available for use by anyone in the world."
One of many opportunities ahead for the open technology movement is the ability to create machines that themselves make products. Given the much lower costs of these designs and the DIY spirit of the industry, new business models are expected to emerge. For example, OSloom is making a loom that is licensed under Creative Commons, and this allows people to make fabric and a limitless variety of clothing products. Within the paradigm of the open source economy, every aspect of the technology would be open: the design for the loom, the skills needed to harvest the materials, and even the patterns for the clothing and business models for the clothing company.
Relocalizing manufacturing is one of the most significant steps we can take to prepare for the destabilizing effects of climate change and to empower local communities to build resilient, self-sustaining economies. OTF, with its passionate team of skilled engineers and radical mission, will be an exciting project to watch as it grows over the next couple years and a great cause to support through its first phase of development.
The Empowerment Plan is a non-profit business innovation founded in 2011 by then 19-year-old Creative Studies design student Veronika Scott. One in 42 Detroit, Michigan, residents are homeless, in a city that experiences below-freezing temperatures or less throughout the winter months.
With this in mind, Scott’s Detroit Empowerment project had the dual purpose of making warm coats for the homeless population, while also helping to train and employ them. With support from the community and certain key organizations, Scott turned her school project into a fully viable business model. Since Scott officially founded The Empowerment Plan in 2011 (as a graduate in her early 20s), more than seven homeless women have been trained and employed in the production of what is now called The MPWR coat (The Empower Coat).
These empowered and expertly trained -- formerly homeless -- women were recruited through local shelters and placed in housing through local non-profit partners. As of this writing, 1,000 coats have been made and donated locally, nationally and via international disaster aid relief. The goal is to grow and evolve the company over time, with the support of the Detroit community, shelters, foundations, and local brands with a ‘care-and-share’ mission.
“Where else in the world, but Detroit? It’s the Wild West of creativity. If our job that we want isn’t here, and isn’t being offered, we make it here for ourselves. ... we can really drastically change our environment and the community around us, and here in Detroit, we’re doing that all the time.” - TED X Detroit speaker Veronika Scott
The Making of a Warm Coat: It Takes a Village
A wind-resistant, water-resistant coat that morphs into a long sleeping bag or rolls up sleek into an over-the-shoulder carry strap for those on the move seems to be a slam-dunk for Detroit. The Empowerment Plan receives support from numerous companies, including Carhartt, The Women's Foundation, and ACME Mills textile company, with innovative insulation materials donated by GM. The production studio in which they are currently housed is in Corktown Detroit at Pony Ride, an enclave of artists and entrepreneurs experimenting with and addressing the foreclosure problem by inhabiting and rebuilding empty spaces that they rebuild while they inhabit them.
According to Scott, during the creation of the project, she was told over and ovehttp://www.cultureoffuture.comr that this would never succeed. Not because the person running it had no business experience, but because the homeless women she hired would not be ‘capable.’ Says Veronika, "Everyday, I enjoy proving that the homeless women I hire are powerful and driven. I am so privileged to be a part of their lives.”
The Future is Bright
The Empowerment Plan is part of a nationwide local solutions movement looking to empower the disaffected with socially conscious business solutions. In the near future, Scott hopes to begin transitioning The Empowerment Plan from a nonprofit to a for-profit venture, using a "buy one get one" or "one-for-one" model, inspired by Tom's shoes. "But we want to make the model more transparent," Scott explains. Whereas consumers don't know anything about the pair of shoes that Tom's gives to needy children for every pair they purchase, purchasing a coat from The Empowerment Plan would come with a back-story.
In 2010, Veronika Scott was invited to the United Nations to speak as a young woman change maker and, in 2011, by the Clinton Global Initiative to speak on her drive to create The Empowerment Plan. In 2012, Veronika Scott was awarded the JFK New Frontiers Award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. She is the youngest person to ever have received the honor.
Jody Turner is founder of Culture of Future, a brand anthropology consultancy. Turner has consulted with clients from IDEO to Nike Foundation, from trendwatching.com London to BMW Europe.
I first noticed one in my neighborhood two weeks ago, but they quickly began appearing everywhere: bike-less bike sharing stations just waiting for their launch date. New York City's long-touted oft-delayed bike sharing system is finally coming to fruition. When registration opened on April 15, there were 5,000 yearly members within 24 hours.
Mayor Bloomberg, the city's ninth richest man, has hardly been a boon to New York's poor, or even middle class residents. He's pushed through massive cuts to schools, homeless shelters, fire stations, the MTA, and other vital services, even as the city had a surplus. He's has worked hand in glove with developers and landlords to gaurantee gentrification goes on without resistance, most infamously with the Atlantic Yards project, where a whole neighborhood was evicted by eminent domain in order to put the Nets stadium in downtown Brooklyn.
But perhaps the one thing Bloomberg has been good on is bike culture in the city. Bike lanes have sprung up all over Manhattan and Brooklyn, and even in the last four years that I've lived here, biking in the city has become much easier and safer. (Of course, along with the increase in bikers has come a massive increase in policing of minor bike infractions - more than twice as many summonses went to bikers as went to truck drivers in the city). The bike share is another part of this trend, and it's hard not to imagine the bike share will ultimately make the city that much more bike friendly.
As it's a public works project in New York (or really America) in 2013, the bike share is privatized. The project is sponsered by Citibank, and is called CitiBike. But the system will be provided by Bixi, and thus familiar to anyone who has used Montreal's bike share (or any of the Bixi based systems in Boston, London, D.C or elsewhere).
The program launches in early May, and so far locations are almost exclusively in the Downtown/Fort Greene/Clinton Hill/Bed Stuy areas of Brooklyn and lower Manhattan. But if the system is a success, it's easy to imagine the program will spread.
This article originally appeared on PPS.org and is republished with permission. It is part three of a three-part series on transformative Placemaking.
Imagine that you live in a truly vibrant place: the bustling neighborhood of every Placemaker’s dreams. Picture the streets, the local square, the waterfront, the public market. Think about the colors, sights, smells, and sounds; imagine the sidewalk ballet in full swing, with children playing, activity spilling out of storefronts and workspaces, vendors selling food, neighborhood cultural events and festivals taking place out in the open air. Take a minute, right now. Close your eyes, and really picture it.
Now, here’s the million dollar question: in that vision, what are you doing to add to that bustle?
If vibrancy is people, and citizenship is creative, it follows that the more that citizens feel they are able to contribute to their public spaces, the more vibrant their communities will be. The core function of place, as a shared asset, is to facilitate participation in public life by as many individuals as possible. Ultimately the true sense of a place comes from how it makes the people who use it feel about themselves, and about their ability to engage with each other in the ways that they feel most comfortable.
“There is an undeniable thing that each resident brings to the table,” says Katherine Loflin, who led Knight Foundation’s Soul of the Community study. “It has to do with the openness and feeling of the place; it’s not something that you construct, physically, it’s something that you feel. And it is us as humans that convey that feeling to each other—or not!”
“There is an undeniable thing that each resident brings to the table…It has to do with the openness and feeling of the place.” Photo credit: PPS. Used under Creative Commons license.
Getting Started: How You Can Make a Place Great Right Away
As Sustainable South Bronx founder and advocate Majora Carter famously put it, “You don’t have to move out of your neighborhood to live in a better one.” Each of us can participate, right now, in creating the city that we want to live in. If you think of enlivening a place as a monumental task, remember that great places are not the result of any one person’s actions, but the actions of many individuals layered on top of one another. It may take years to turn a grassy lot into a great square, but you can start today by simply mowing the lawn and inviting your neighbors out for a picnic.
In an essay for The Atlantic back in 1966, then-Vice President Hubert Humphrey touched on this when he wrote about his father’s public spirit, and his active participation in the life of the small town of Doland, South Dakota, where the family lived. Hubert Sr. was a pharmacist, and he strove to make his pharmacy into a community hub, a place where neighbors came to meet and discuss the issues of the day. “Undoubtedly, he was a romantic,” writes Hubert Jr. of his father, “and when friends would josh him about his talk about world politics, the good society, and learning, he would say, ‘Before the fact is the dream.’
When you think about making your neighborhood a better place, think Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper (LQC). In public space design, the LQC strategy is framed as a way for communities to experiment with a place and learn how people want to use it before making more permanent changes. That experimental attitude can be adopted by anyone. Just ask yourself: what’s one thing I already enjoy doing that I could bring out into the public realm?
Make it Public: Bringing Existing Activity Out Into the Streets
For some of us, there may be opportunities to take the work that we do in our professional lives and turn it into a way to engage with our neighbors. Perhaps there’s a certain activity we perform that could be moved to a nearby park, or a skill that we could teach at a local library. One graphic design firm in Cape Town, South Africa, has taken the idea of public work to a delightful extreme through their Holding Public Office initiative, where they move their office out into a different public space for one day each month and interact with curious passersby. “It keeps us on our toes,” says Lourina Botha, one of the firm’s co-directors. “It forces us to be aware of our role as designers and is a fairly stark reminder that what we design has a real effect on the world.”
In other words, this project illustrates how taking a LQC approach to work enriches not just the public space where the intervention takes place, but the work that the firm does, as well. This kind of activity blurs the line between private and public, and re-frames work as a mechanism for building social capital. According to Harry Boyte, director of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College, “We need professionals to think about themselves not narrowly disciplinary professionals, whose work is to simply solve a narrow disciplinary problem, but as citizen professionals working to contribute to the civic health and well-being of the community.”
“Holding Public Office” brings co-workers out into the streets, re-framing work as a mechanism for building social capital. Photo credit: Lisa Burnell, Graphic Studio Shelf. Used under Creative Commons license.
Many people may not have any particular job function that can become more public, for whatever reason, but there are still plenty of activities that mostly take place in private that can be used to enliven public space. Active citizenship needn’t be all work and no play, after all. “Any kind of community is not just going to be about the problems that residents want to solve,” explains Matt Leighninger, the director of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium. “It also has to be about celebrating what they’ve done, through socializing, music, food.”
Building off of that last point, the organizers of Restaurant Day have turned cooking into an excuse for a carnival, giving residents of Helsinki, Finland, a chance to showcase their creativity in the kitchen and turning the city’s streets into a delectable buffet in the process. Their idea to organize a one-day festival where anyone could open a restaurant anywhere (from living rooms to public plazas), started when Antti Tuomola was struggling through navigating the onerous process of starting up a brick and mortar restaurant in the city. Recalls Kirsti Tuominen, one of the friends who works with Tuomola on organizing the event, “We knew from the beginning that we wanted to do something that would be fun, easy, and social at the same time. Something positive. We didn’t want to go the protest route. That’s the not-so-efficient way of trying to make a difference; it’s often better to show a good example and then it’s harder for the opposition.”
The first Restaurant Day took place back in 2011; today, it has been celebrated in cities all over the world. The festival is a brilliant example of how a completely normal daily activity can totally transform a city’s public spaces when approached in a creative way. “The street experience itself was a joy to behold,” wrote City of Sound blogger Dan Hill after participating on one of the festivals. “It truly felt like a new kind of Helsinki. International, cosmopolitan, diverse yet uniquely Finnish…It felt like a city discovering they could use their own streets as they liked; that the streets might be their responsibility.”
Tuominen echoes this in her own reflection on the event, explaining that “ is so full of regulations that people tend to see regulations even where they don’t exist! That’s been hindering things for a long time, but Restaurant Day has encouraged people to use their public spaces in a new way. Sometimes people just need someone to show them, or give them a gentle kick in the butt, and things will start happening.”
Understanding this is key for citizens who want to take a LQC attitude toward activating their neighborhoods: public spaces have a way of amplifying individual actions. One thing from the above comments that is not uniquely Finnish is the tendency of people (particularly in the developed world) to see regulations where they don’t exist. After decades of society turning its back on public life in favor of the private realm of home, office, and car, a lot of people now feel that they need permission to use public spaces the way they’d like to. We can give that permission to each other.
In a wonderful example of triangulation, jazz musicians perform for the assembled crowds near a Restaurant Day pop-up eatery in Helsinki. Photo credit: Karri Linnoinen. Used under Creative Commons license.
Leading From the Bottom-Up: Work Fast, Work Together
If you are a change-oriented person, we need you to lead. Whether you want to move your office outside, organize a citywide cooking festival, or start small by making a concerted effort to engage directly with your neighbors every day, know that your own actions are an essential component of your neighborhood’s sense of place, by virtue of the fact that you live there. Explains Loflin: “If you don’t spend at least some time thinking about the state of mind of Placemaking—every decision, behavior, everything that we do as residents in our place every day—on top of the infrastructure that’s provided by the place itself, then you miss a really important part of the conversation, where everybody gets to have some of the responsibility.”
Whatever you decide to do, know that there will be bumps in the road. One of our 11 core Placemaking principles is that they’ll always say it can’t be done. But keep pushing. Meet your neighbors, and find your allies. Creating great places is all about getting to know the people who you share those places with. Thinking LQC doesn’t just mean experimenting with what you do, but with how you do it. Look for unconventional partners, and always be willing to consider doing things a bit differently.
In an interview for the Placemaking Blog late last year, Team Better Block co-founder Andrew Howard explained how his own LQC street transformations in cities around the US have caused his understanding of how people engage with places to evolve. “As a planner,” he explained, “I always thought that, if I made the best plan, that would attract the right people to come from somewhere elseand make that plan happen. What I’ve realized through Better Block is that every community already has everybody they need. They just need to activate the talented people who are already there, and shove them into one place at one time, and that place can become better really quickly.”
Great places are not created in one fell swoop, but through many creative acts of citizenship: individuals taking it upon themselves to add their own ideas and talents to the life of their neighborhood’s public spaces. The best news is that we seem to be living at a very special time, when people are once again realizing the importance of public life. It’s something we’ve seen first-hand in communities where we have worked around the world, and something we’ve heard from many others. “I think that these are the early first steps,” says Tuominen, “but I think we’re heading to something that is very good, and interesting. I love this time. You can feel it, it’s almost tangible: that things are happening and moving forward.”
Before the fact is the dream. Just a few minutes ago, at the beginning of this very article, you conjured up a vision of a better neighborhood. Go make it real.
Imagine what your community would look like if the vacant lots, patches of half-dead, boring old lawn, and sidewalk beds were thriving, beautiful gardens filled with veggies, flowers and herbs. Doesn't that sound nice? Want to get involved with making it happen? Welcome to the world of guerrilla gardening.
The practice of planting on land that does not legally belong to you, guerrilla gardening is, on the one hand, not as rebellious as its name suggests. We’re talking about introducing seeds and plants to neglected land; a pretty harmless act. On the other hand, however, a guerrilla garden can radically transform a junky lot full of trash into the showpiece of a neighborhood. It can provide food, create beauty where there was none, draw attention to areas that need cleanup and bring a community closer together. In times of isolation and concrete over-growth, this really is an act of revolution. Not bad for a few little plants, eh?
If you want to see neighborhood transformation in action, check out this video. In it, South Central L.A. guerrilla gardener Ron Finley shares his approach to guerrilla gardening and his thoughts on why community gardens are essential. Below the video is a short photo essay of guerrilla gardens to inspire you.
Guerrilla Gardening Photo Essay
Pop-up corn field in the middle of a busy Bronx intersection. Creative Commons photo by Kristine Paulus
Guerrilla Gardener in Belgium. Creative Commons photo by mathiasbaert
Guerrilla Gardening Meets Street Art in Newtown, New South Wales. Creative Commons photo by Newtown Graffiti
A Guerrilla Garden of Strawberries. Yum! Creative Commons photo by ubrayj02
Pansies Brighten Up a Vacant Lot in Edinburgh North, U.K.. Creative Commons photo by Denna Jones
A sandbox in Quebec is reimagined as a guerrilla garden. Creative Commons photo by solylunafamilia
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