Creating Space for Community

I was privileged to be asked by Kevin Magee to speak at Tweetstock5 in Brantford Ontario. It gave me an opportunity to update and refresh my Community talk that I’ve given off and on over the years.

Now that I’m moving into a new phase of my work, it feels good to at least attempt to summarize and share what I’ve learned over 5 years of work, distilled to the key ideas in about 25 minutes.

How to thrive in Zombie World

Step 1: Recognize that you’re in Zombie World.

I had a conversation with some friends, where we discussed recent events like the Arab Awakening and the triple disaster in Japan. I got a seed in my brain about the nature of 21st century life. Later, I tried to sum it up in a tweet:

I was of course referencing the William Gibson quote “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” Looked at in a certain way, we already live in a post-apocalyptic world, but many of us are too trapped in bubbles of privilege or zoned out by media pablum to see this with clarity.

Continue reading “How to thrive in Zombie World”

Hacking for Good

On the weekend of December 4th/5th, we saw a remarkable global movement of people come together in their communities to contribute their skills and precious free time to making the world a better place. In remarkable contrast to the controversy surrounding the WikiLeaks phenomenon, there was no controversy about what these developers, designers and storytellers were up to.

Random Hacks of Kindness and the International Open Data hackathons came together in Toronto, bringing together two global movements in one face-to-face gathering of community. There was great work by Heather Leson and the rest of the organizers of RHOKTO for creating this opportunity. Please check out the RHOK site for updates on the many projects created by this global event across 20 cities focused on helping communities mitigate and recover from the impacts of natural disasters.

I wanted to highlight a few Toronto-based projects that came out of the open data aspect of this event in Toronto. Please check out David Eaves post for a run-down of the immense success of the overall International Open Data Hackathon across 73 cities around the world. Have a look at the Toronto Open Data hackathon wiki page for a full run-down of all the project ideas.

odhd-map

Hackathon Winner: IsThisBikeStolen

A great app idea given life originally by John Taranu on the DataTO Google Group. This app accesses the CPIC database for stolen goods to help used bike purchasers to check whether a bike they’re looking at has been reported as stolen. By reducing the demand for stolen used bikes and improving the likelihood of recovery, this is an app that’s built to create real impact in the community.

Where Not to Rent

Find landlord baddies and bedbugs with this web app, also featuring a mobile-friendly version. Informed renters are able to make better decisions and hopefully help make deadbeat landlords more accountable.

City Budget Navigator

Still a work in progress, but I helped kick off this audacious team to do three things: 1) to liberate the city’s budget data out of its PDF report prison, 2) implement a web-service API to this data to support developers who want to provide visualization and analysis applications and 3) demonstrate some example visualizations. The power of these tools will be to enable a more informed electorate to improve understanding and community dialogue around this cornerstone of city policy and life. Many thanks to our London compatriots who inspired us with their own budget API project, which provided a great starting point.

Special thanks to sponsorship and participation of the City of Toronto CIO Dave Wallace and the City’s open data team. Also, a big thank you to GlobalNews.ca for sponsorship and for helping explain the hackathon phenomenon to a wider audience.

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles Sings ‘True Colors’ for the ‘It Gets Better’ Project

via Towleroad.com This gave me chills and made me weep. This is what my 15 year-old self needed to hear. But back then we didn’t have YouTube and Facebook. Share it and the kids that need the message today will find it. This is how social technolo…

via Towleroad.com

This gave me chills and made me weep. This is what my 15 year-old self needed to hear. But back then we didn’t have YouTube and Facebook. Share it and the kids that need the message today will find it. This is how social technology makes real impact in individual lives. Amazing.

2010 Ideas Festival, Nov 24-26, 2010

I will be attending the 2010 Ideas Festival in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick November 24th to 26th. I’ve been asked by the folks at Public Policy Forum to present a 5 minute talk on what keeps me up at night. I want to talk about the problem of bridging the industrial to the network age, which may be too much to chew in 5 minutes, but we’ll see what I can do to drop a couple of idea bombs into the mix.

More on the Ideas Festival:

Our communities and region are changing.  Our population is aging, the economy is slowly recovering, innovation is the main driver of economic growth, the war for talent intensifies, values are evolving and technology rapidly shifts.  The convergence of these effects demands knowledge, innovation and leadership that enables our organizations and communities to thrive in the 21st Century.

The 21inc Ideas Festival is the premier opportunity for business and government leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, artists and change-makers in Atlantic Canada and across the country to engage with the people and ideas shaping our world.

Interested in joining us? Register here: http://www.ppforum.ca/events/ideas-festival

UPDATE: My speaking notes for my brief “Reframe” talk is below the jump.

Continue reading “2010 Ideas Festival, Nov 24-26, 2010”

Is Humanitarian Design the New Imperialism? | Co.

Bruce Nussbaum writes: So where are we with humanitarian design? I know almost all of my Gen Y students want to do it because their value system is into doing good globally. Young designers in consultancies and corporations want to do humanitarian…

Bruce Nussbaum writes:

So where are we with humanitarian design? I know almost all of my Gen Y students want to do it because their value system is into doing good globally. Young designers in consultancies and corporations want to do humanitarian design for the same reason.

But should we take a moment now that the movement is gathering speed to ask whether or not American and European designers are collaborating with the right partners, learning from the best local people, and being as sensitive as they might to the colonial legacies of the countries they want to do good in. Do designers need to better see themselves through the eyes of the local professional and business classes who believe their countries are rising as the U.S. and Europe fall and wonder who, in the end, has the right answers? Might Indian, Brazilian and African designers have important design lessons to teach Western designers?

And finally, one last question: why are we only doing humanitarian design in Asia and Africa and not Native American reservations or rural areas, where standards of education, water and health match the very worst overseas?

It’s a good question. Change-making as mass movement enabled by Western hegemony and entitlement is problematic not only in the field of humanitarian design.

However, designers are perhaps better equipped than most international development professionals in shifting the lens towards the end-users and beneficiaries of innovation.

Innovators from developing countries solving first world problems, http://designforthefirstworld.com

via designforthefirstworld.com First stop – obesity in the United States. I love this design contest that flips the usual developing/developed dependency relationship on its head.

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First stop – obesity in the United States. I love this design contest that flips the usual developing/developed dependency relationship on its head.

John Ralston Saul – Canada as a Metis nation

I hadn’t read John Ralston Saul’s book “A Fair Country: Telling Truths about Canada”, so I was happy that Patrick brought this talk from TVO’s Big Ideas to my attention. Ralston Saul’s thinking resonated in me. In particular the idea of hybrid ide…

I hadn’t read John Ralston Saul’s book “A Fair Country: Telling Truths about Canada”, so I was happy that Patrick brought this talk from TVO’s Big Ideas to my attention. Ralston Saul’s thinking resonated in me. In particular the idea of hybrid identity resonates with me as a German-Canadian making sense of post-modernity.

To Ralston Saul, Canada was upon arrival of Europeans an aboriginal civilization of minorities, 2 million people coexisting in this land with many cultures and languages while contemporary Canada continues to exist as a country of 30 million as a mixed set of cultures and languages. This coherent sense of a polyglot civilization of complexity that Ralston Saul describes makes Canada not a new country, but a very old country. He claims that contrary to our mythology, we are not a child of Europe in the Americas, we are in our philosophy the most American country in North America while the United States is the largest experiment of European ideas that happens to be taking place outside Europe.

He claims that what works in the Canadian civilization can’t be traced back to Europe.  It is a country of aboriginal inspiration, where complexity and mixedness is more interesting than clarity and homogeneity. Newcomers, in order to survive in this harsh environment, had to aboriginize themselves. They mixed with aboriginals and created a new people, the Metis. It is the only place Europeans colonized where they abandoned European modes of transportation and adopted local modes, in this case the canoe. Champlain said “our sons will marry your daughters and we will make one people”. Hudson’s Bay Company employees were under instructions to arrange marriages with the daughters of local chiefs to create military and trade alliances.

Today, we live with complexity, with multiple levels of government, with accepting differences among us. We’re a nonmonolithic nation-state. We adore negotiating, living comfortably with unresolved questions of clarity, we are in a constant state of negotiation and renegotiation. We are constantly thinking about how we can comingle individual and group rights in our Charter of Rights and constitution. Our approach to belonging, our approach to immigration and our capacity to adapt. We have taken the idea of the aboriginal Great Circle and worked through how to bring people into it. The oral traditions of aboriginal treaty rights are integrated into our legal foundations.

Ralston Saul argues for an urgent need for the incorporation of true Canadian philosophy and mythology into our sociology and political science. Harold Innis and Marshall Mcluhan and theories of communication came from here but we think they’re less important than Rousseau.

Open Space, Social Media and Open Data

This video of a talk I gave at the wonderful Reboot conference in Copenhagen in June 2009. I’ve delivered different versions of this talk at a number of venues, and I think it’s the best synthesis of the theory of change that is the foundation of the work of the ChangeCamp project and community. I also think it needs a lot of work, but that’s life.

Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy h/t @adamschwabe

via youtube.com A movement isn’t created by the leader, it is created the first follower who shows others how to join.


via youtube.com
A movement isn’t created by the leader, it is created the first follower who shows others how to join.