This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.

It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.

It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Why is this so hard? It's complicated and it's complex but that's OK

The Economic Intelligence Unit, which did the research on Liveable cities | BUSINESS RESEARCH for the Philips Company, also did research on complexity in the business world (featured here at the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki) focusing on the shift businesses are going through on a global basis, transitioning from the industrial age to the information age. This is seen as a change evolving from being formal structured bureaucratic rule bound organizations based on policies and processes to ones more based on a networks of collaboration among individuals. The key word is transformation in terms of cause but the key result is complexity.  It was the conclusion of the Economic Intelligence Unit that this is one of the major challenges for businesses in the twenty-first century.

Can the same be said of public institutions and if so are they up to the challenge? People are more likely to think of government as being more bureaucratic than business, but there may not be an internal recognition by government institutions for the need to change which means that without outside influence it will never come. With businesses it comes down to adapting to ensure a chance to survive, for local governments it may come down to maintaining the politically convenient status quo and an opportunity for needed change that is ignored.

This challenge can also apply to community-based governance by members of the community. This is the biggest challenge to an effort to create new community paradigms for a community.  The members of the community will either depend upon information which is feed to them by City Hall and interact through a process that is largely defined by City Hall or it will develop its own resources and uses its influence to guide City Hall.

There has been an unstated assumption throughout the posts of this blog that City Hall has failed to adequately address the need for an economically and environmentally sustainable and livable community. That is obviously not going to be true for all cities and the degree to which it is will be different from city to city.  In some cases the effort will find a willing partner and the collaboration will create a new more expansive form of community governance.  In other cases there will be push back from the incumbent institutional government.  The key issue is whether City Hall truly represents the community as a whole or only special interests or privileged key community members.  If it is the later, then there are pathways that can be taken to weaken and subsequently disrupt that control in a sustained and innovative manner.   These will be explored in the future.

In deciding to form one's own community paradigms, it is very important to keep in mind that complexity is different than complicated. Transversing government institutions themselves will be complicated but the issues they deal with are instead complex.  Embracing complexity as a pathway to new community paradigms can lead to an actual greater simplicity in dealing with the community challenges. This aspect of community paradigms will need to be revisited but for now here is a short TED video by Eric Berlow: How complexity leads to simplicity.

Community groups organized around a principle of community paradigms have some advantages over entrenched incumbent city governments.  The move to globally networked connections is easier for individuals working in community groups than for governments. This still leaves though a number of questions that will need to be addressed.

Do our existing political organizational structures bring an increased level of complexity for community members who have to navigate them to the same degree as what the report spoke to for businesses? According to the report, a majority of firms have an inherent organizational structure that may be adding to the complexity faced by the organization. If the same is true for our governmental institutions or the political processes supporting those institutions, how is this to be addressed?

Of particular significance, the report says that the challenges of complexity cannot be addressed from a top down approach for businesses, calling for the empowerment of employees. How much more applicable is this then to the empowerment of citizens centered on a common communal task or community principle through a process of direct deliberative democracy?

The report recognizes that the single biggest cause of business complexity is greater expectation by the customer. This also applies to the public sector as people often see themselves as consumers of government service rather than having any meaningful role in its planning or policy determination. This blog takes and encourages an alternative perspective.

So far this blog has had three posts to talk about community paradigms and creating livable cities and it has only touched the surface of these issues. Ok, we are talking about creating communities or more to the point finding ways of changing the paradigms that define our communities. We are talking about what we want our communities to provide us including a proactively healthy place to live and not one that just doesn't kill us too quickly. We also talked about how economics will play a significant role in defining how we bring this about.  All of this means talking about how we change our current form of local community governance.

We alluded to other components of creating new community paradigms though we didn't speak about them explicitly. One is the role of usually non-governmental or quasi-governmental organizations that work to redefine one aspect or another towards creating community paradigms. A number of these are currently listed in the right hand column of this blog under PARTICIPATION, PLANNING & POLICY. These will be replaced over time by the new Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki.

These are resources that can be utilized in creating new community paradigms. We have also featured online tools that can be used to create change. One example was Healthy City at, another was the Vimeo video which explained How to use Healthy City California. These components work together as these organizations are accessible online and are the ones who created the community based tools that can be used by anyone willing to put in the effort. A number of other online community-based tools are listed on the right hand column of this blog under TECHTOOLS FOR GOVERNANCE.

Another important question is whether these technical solutions are really fostering community inclusion effectively? Businesses are focusing on technological solutions to tackle complexity but for businesses though technology in itself is not seen as one of the major sources of complexity. How this works for community-based governance still needs to be explored more fully. This leaves us with the still pressing question that will be the continuing focus of this blog. In a complex world where and how do we find opportunities to create value as and for our communities?

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