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.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Governance through Community

In the last post we took a look at Using Online Communities to encourage Direct Democracy for On-The-Ground Communities.  The underlying rationale being there has to be an on-the-ground community organization to bring about new community paradigms and not just a virtual group on the World Wide Web.  The specific online communities were chosen by Finding Resources and Connections to Create New Community Paradigms through the New Communities Paradigm Wiki.

This came about when we took a Second look at Making Cities Work.  One fairly obvious conclusion arrived at is that communities are going to have to cope with far more austere circumstances.  Another conclusion is that communities will have to depend to a great extent upon the sweat-equity of their community members.  The effort to create new community paradigms cannot work without this regardless of other circumstances such as whether or not City Hall is supporting or opposing the effort.

The more typical scenario is to have one part of a community organize and use resources to oppose other groups competing for the same resources.  This has usually been done by getting someone from a particular group elected to City Council or a similar legislative body.  The problem has been that in many cases policy shifts back and forth never getting fully implemented because different factions win and lose over time or some factions within the community are often marginalized.

While encouraging greater direct democracy based on resources that can now be found online is seen as an important step to bring about the type of paradigm change desired for a community, it needs to be done within an environment of open Community Governance.

Community Governance is a term that can be thought of as both a process and as a vehicle for the process.  People can approach governance through community interaction as in town hall meetings.  This means that Community Governance does not have to replace a community's current form of municipal government, it can supplement it.  City leaders can feel more confident that they are hearing the voice of the community rather than a few but vocal advocates of special interests.  People can also approach governance by community using it to directly seek input from all members of the community perhaps even diminishing the role of elected officials.  Either way, what is being sought is a means of deliberative decision making.  One organization providing resources on deliberative decision making is the Kettering Foundation, which asks the important question, What Does It Take for Democracy to Work as It Should?

The Kettering Foundation recognizes that as members of a community, We Have to Choose.pdf but does not see deliberative decision making as a means of usurping control from the majority of a community.
Democracy based on public deliberation is not direct democracy or an alternative to representative democracy. Choosing representatives requires the sound judgment that deliberation promotes.

The Kettering Foundation also recognizes that one of the biggest challenges facing communities is developing the capacity of Working thru Difficult Decisions.pdf
The Kettering Foundation has found that sound decisions are more likely to be made when people weigh—carefully and fairly—all of their options for acting on problems against what they consider most valuable for their collective well-being. This is deliberative decision making. It not only takes into consideration facts but also recognizes the less tangible things that people value, such as their safety and their freedom to act.
One suggested approach is Naming Framing Difficult Issues for Sound Decisions.pdf
The obvious question is, what would motivate citizens to invest their limited time and other resources in grappling with problems brimming with conflict-laden, emotionally charged disagreements? Generally speaking, people avoid conflict, and they don’t usually invest their energy unless they see that something deeply important to them, their families, and their neighbors is at stake. And they won’t get involved unless they believe there is something they, themselves, must do.
These differences don’t necessarily become divisive, however, especially when people recognize that although they don’t share the same circumstances, they share the same basic concerns. In deliberative decision making, people can see that they both agree and disagree. This encourages them to agree to disagree and lessens the likelihood of polarization.
This is likely the most significant step provided so far that can be taken in creating new community paradigms. People implementing it are fundamentally changing their and their community's approach to these issues.  This can make some fearful of attempting this because, as said in Working thru Difficult Decisions.pdf"Deliberation seems like neurosurgery or something only an outsider can do".

Fortunately, the same article makes the case that this is not true and there are organizations out there to help.  This help comes at three different levels.  The first is a community platform for working together with other members of your community.

The World Cafe Community - Hosting Conversations about Questions that Matter

World Cafe provides a space where practitioners and supporters can share their experiences and learn from each other, a place for those new to the World Cafe to ask questions, and a place for us all to experience deep and meaningful conversations about those things that really matter. The World Cafe cafetogo.pdf provides the Seven Principles of the Cafe that are also explained in the video.  The World Café is on Facebook


The second is a coalition of professionals and practitioners in the field of dialogue and deliberations that could be appealed to for further assistance.   The National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD), which can be found on the web at, actively promotes learning and collaboration among practitioners, public leaders, scholars and organizations involved in dialogue, deliberation, and other innovative group processes that help people tackle their most challenging problems.  A useful resource provided by the NCDD is the NCDD 2010 Resource Guide.  The NCDD is also on Facebook.

The third are professional organizations that set up these types of venues for specific communities. One such organization is AmericaSpeaks, a non-profit that through innovative deliberative tools such as 21st Century Town Meeting®, provides a platform helping people across the country and around the world  have an impact on their communities. By giving the right tools to citizens, it provides an opportunity to have a strong voice in public decision-making within the increasingly short timeframes required of decision-makers.  As a result, citizens can have an impact on decisions and those in leadership positions can make more informed, lasting decisions.  AmericaSpeaks also has a page on Facebook.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Using Online Communities to encourage Direct Democracy for On-The-Ground Communities

One of the greatest challenges facing anybody attempting to implement a new community paradigm within their own community will be how to organize venues that allow for decisions through direct democracy on behalf of the group or organization or even entire community. Usually this is left to the traditional political body but this effort would not be seen as necessary by the community if that was already happening to the full extent to which it needed to happen.

In this post, we are introducing other resources available through the New Community Paradigms Wiki related to Governance, particularly the Community Governance and People’s Governance wikipages.

People’s Governance wikipage offers some direct and indirect resources for direct democratic participation.  One of the issues with Direct Democracy which means having community members having direct impact on policy issues is logistically coordinating a large number of people and obtaining the votes. There are tools and resources to address this challenge.  With very large numbers, it may work better to use other methods of ascertaining the wishes of the community as long as the members of the community are comfortable with doing that.

The Center for Deliberative Democracy  which is housed in the Department of Communication at Stanford University does research on democracy and public opinion and developed the concept of Deliberative Polling® which makes possible what can be called Deliberative Democracy.

This concept was applied in the What's Next California? Deliberative Poll | that took place last year.  The project was a first state-wide deliberative poll in California and the 30 proposals presented were deliberated by a statewide scientific sample of 412 participants.
What's Next California is an unprecedented attempt to bring the people into the process in a new way—one that is representative and thoughtful. A scientific random sample of the entire state will be transported to a single place for a weekend of face-to-face discussions, in small groups and in dialogue with competing experts. In California's first statewide “Deliberative Poll,” the people will be supported by factual information and will consider the critical arguments on both sides of issues, then will articulate their priorities for fixing the state.
More can be learned from watching CDD: California State of Mind: PBS Special which features excerpts from the PBS documentary on the What's Next California Deliberative Poll® on governance reform which aired last year.  What's Next California is also on Facebook.

More recently on November 1, 2011 the PBS Newshour did an in-depth report about California and featured "What's Next California's Deliberative Poll" and some of its results in the story California Voters Fed-Up With Gridlock as Budget Crunch Lingers | PBS NewsHour.    

Jim Fishkin of Stanford University, who originated the concept of Deliberative Polling®,  wrote about 100 years of California ballot measures, highlighting findings from the What's Next California Deliberative Poll that could be applied to the challenge of how to Fix California’s Democracy Crisis

SPUR or San Francisco Planning + Urban Research Association will be holding a panel discussion on January 3, 2012 by three key organizers of the project — James Fishkin of the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University, Zabrae Valentine of California Forward and Lenny Mendonca of McKinsey & Company to discuss the project process and findings regarding the originally considered four basic areas: the initiative process, the Legislature, state/local relations and tax/fiscal issues.

MATT MISZEWSKI'S GLOBAL OPEN GOVERNMENT BLOG FIXING POTHOLES back in 2010 looked at the possible ties between Deliberative Polling and crowdsourcing.
The question I have is whether our newer social computing technologies and platforms can move this effort into a better set of outcomes. What if we utilized social media to crowdsource our deliberative polling efforts. The technology, and actually its constraints, can help policymakers better understand the effect of viral messaging within a population, a population that has self-selected interest in a particular topic via their profiles, tagging or other indicators built into new platforms. As a result the Social Deliberative Polling (should I trademark that ) would also be much quicker and provide much needed clarity within a much faster policy ecosystem.
This could allow a community to create a system that kept an eye on the community's vision on a fairly continual basis without being bogged down by endless meetings.  It is also possible though to have public input by all voting community members on very important issues in large American cities.  NYC Gives Citizens a Say in the Budget
"Participatory budgeting allows for citizens to get past that bureaucracy barrier and feel empowered about ideas and about making a difference in the community."
There is still though a need for Everyday Democracy and the organization of the same name, along with other organizations, works with both its website and the Everyday Democracy Facebook page toward the ultimate vision of local communities creating and sustaining a public dialogue for community problem solving believing that such strong local democracies can form the cornerstone of a vibrant national democracy.
Check out this TEDx video about civic empowerment beyond civic education. How do we reach untapped "domestic reserves of energy" - people who don't vote, don't volunteer, or don't talk with neighbors. It starts with participation, respect, and working together toward a common goal.
Completing “we”

There is no attempt to judge whether any particular community should want to use these resources to push for substantial change in their community.  The political body traditionally assigned the basic responsibilities of community building may be fulfilling this function so well that the issue never comes up. The political body may partner or help with the effort because it sees the potential benefit and realizes that it can no longer do it on its own or it may become more entrenched and oppose the effort to protect its squandered power.  This blog discusses only two communities, Parochialville and Innovattown and neither one of them actually exists.

This is not an effort that can be fully implemented by any individual alone. Individuals would have to gather as groups, groups would have to coalesce into a community-based organization and that community based organization would need to become integrated into the larger community of which they were all members by means of direct democracy, raising again other challenges.  Each level though can still be a catalyst to forming the next level of organization if the need is truly there.  What would also be needed is an environment conducive to dialogue and deliberation that would allow for  Community Governance  and that will be examined more closely in the next post.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Finding Resources and Connections to Create New Community Paradigms

The last post to this blog only began to look at the gap between the stated ideals that are the goal of creating new community paradigms and the more pragmatic means of achieving those goals.  It did recognize that some level of austerity was going to be imposed and that other means were going have to be found to enhance community wealth.  One suggested source of such community wealth is the people making up the community and realizing that resource through volunteerism.

There are, however, a number of challenges that still need to be addressed.  We have touched upon a number of separate components making up a community, placemaking, the health of a city to make sure it is livable, the economics of a livable city,  even peering into the soul of a community, and now can start looking from a more holistic point of view.  This combining of various vantage points brings up yet even more complexities and challenges. The purpose of this blog and the related wiki is to try to provide some assistance in addressing these challenges.

One of the foundational premises of this effort is that it has to be planted and grown from community, based in the traditional sense of place and on-the-ground social connections. It cannot be done solely online, even though a basic premise of this effort is that the Internet offers tremendous resources that can be used to help bring it about.

This will be a challenge for future organizers and has been for social media. While there has been successes to some degree with combining social media communities with physical locations, the connections were for the most part based online with no parallel connections between physical locations or by people based on those locations.  There are some online programs designed to do this but many are still in market beta.

The primary contribution that this blog will work to make is identify online resources that can be used for helping communities built their own vision.  The secondary contribution that can be made through the New Community Paradigms Wiki is providing the potential for connection with groups that have expertise in these areas. This may be a more valuable contribution though it does require a greater investment by whomever wants to take advantage of it.

The platform for finding relevant groups is Facebook. Both of the wikipages cited above also have links to Facebook sites featuring related organizations as do most of the New Community Paradigm wikipages. A listing of all the Facebook related sites is available through this blog on the righthand sidebar under New Community Paradigms Wiki icon, Facebook Connections for New Community Paradigms.

Facebook was chosen not only because it is the most popular online social media site and designed to be relatively easy to use, it was also chosen because if an organization decides to be on Facebook, it is making an effort to reach out to people and wants to connect.

These resources are not designed to be exhaustive rather they are a starting point for further exploration.  The benefit hopefully being provided is having them in one place in an organized and understandable format. In the next post, we will introduce more resources available through the New Community Paradigms Wiki dealing with direct democracy through Community Governance and People’s Governance wikipages.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Second look at Making Cities Work

It has been a while since there was a post to this blog.  The time has been spent working on the New Community Paradigms Wiki.  Although a few pages have been featured, it is still a work in progress both in design and development.

The end of the last blog post promised that this post would turn from ideal visions of creating a community environment to a more pragmatic perspective on what will be required in the way of changes to help bring it about.  To do this means going back to one of the first posts A Beginning: Working to create Liveable Cities through Liveanomics and "Liveanomics" EIU Livable Cities Studies wiki page.  In particular a second look at the video Making cities work: Delivering results in a downturn.  The observations found in this blog post were taken from the Diigo Annotated Link for the video and can also be found under the Diigo group page for this effort.  The Diigo connections, however, are still in beta.

The video is focused on economic development efforts taking place in England but there are still common lessons to be learned.  The notations in the Diigo sticky notes follow the video, the observations written here do not being that they are intended to assist in this effort not mirror it.

It is a hard reality that the future of communities promises to be more austere with less public funding available from either local, state or federal sources.  In part because the economy will not create the wealth necessary to generate the sought after public funds, but also because we are politically committing ourselves to this future austerity through political decisions being or attempted to be imposed now.  Regardless, it will be a reality that must be prepared for in terms of financing, budgeting and discovering alternative means of community support.  Not only to maintain and improve on existing beneficial community attributes but to keep from having those attributes degraded.

There is a danger of social disconnect being brought on by austerity measures, cutting people off from their community.  Other pathways will need to be found to help fund and support our communities.  It needs to be recognized that communities should do more than provide shelter, they should provide opportunities and more fundamentally economic opportunities, while at the same time create and maintain a livable community which respects the environment.

What is needed is a more holistic view, developing local competency, asking the private sector of our communities to work in totally different way from traditional ways, while respecting the desire of business wanting government to get out of their way.  The maintaining of this balance will be a challenge.

Any efforts to bring about new community paradigms will also need to involve outside agencies, both public and private in finding avenues of mutual benefit.  Having a cooperative government entity to work through can also be a plus.  It also needs to be recognized that in some cases government can be overly reactive and not supportive but right now we will assume that it is willing to cooperate.  The challenge is working with experts to create innovative ideas without being snared by ideas that are politically or economically motivated giving advantage to others or because they are expedient for the short term but not truly sustainable.

Working to bring about new community paradigms means creating an environment from which there is more social capital from which to draw.   This will require a good deal of volunteering from members of the community, as participants actively pursuing their role as the producers of democracy.  Volunteering is not limited though to formal volunteering in a community but all altruistic forms of social interaction. Volunteering at its best is a face to face proposition which means creating social connections within a community, helping to increase the democratic participation being sought.

There does need to be something beyond volunteering though in the effort to create a new community paradigm. The notion that a thousand flowers will bloom without government support is without merit.  One challenge is defining what will rise out of the act of creating a viable community paradigm shift.

In creating community paradigms outcomes are as important as outputs. Output is the metric by which an effort is judged and is usually quantitative.  Outcomes are the changes to the community that come from implementing the effort. Your work is meant to leave behind something sustainable in new partnerships, new ways of working, new ideas.  This mirrors the work that came out of Soul of the Community project, more at the wiki page Soul of a Community.  Among those organizations that are potential partners are universities.  Universities are changing their role in working with communities, especially concerning economic development. They can be a great resources without necessarily having an agenda in trying to establish political control. Students can also be a great resource for community change.

Different disciplines including design, technology and business can be brought together to help create innovative ideas. They can, as should community paradigm seeking organizations themselves, challenge the status quo. At the same time there is still a need for structure.  Another challenge is how community paradigm efforts can best achieve that structure?

The video on Making Cities Work suggests that any major community based effort will have three requirements to implement it, leadership, vision and funding.  While this blog post focused on funding or the need to find alternatives, leadership, and even more so vision are of primary importance.

Even when not seeking to institute something as comprehensive as a paradigm shift,  experience teaches that that any major change in an organization or a community must take hold in the first six months of its initial implementation or the existing organizational culture may attempt to put the brakes on the effort in self survival.

Past Posts