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.

Friday, October 3, 2014

NCP + VSI = A Potential Path for Meaningful Community Change

In recent posts, the need and development of Virtual Systemic Inquiry or VSI as a means of collaborative team effort has been made through participation in the STW/STiA Systems Thinking Certification course in developing Systems Thinking as a potential resource as part of a Community's Management and Technology.

The goal now is to extend the concept into a larger community context developing a flexible system that incorporates a broader-based Community VSI approach (Kumu map) integrating the concerns of on-the-ground, community-based groups and the community-at-large and begins the process of establishing new community paradigms.

The VSI concept has similarities to a program featured back in 2009 through a blog supporting the Millennium Development Goals. The ICCO, an interchurch organization for development cooperation working towards a world without poverty and injustice that allows people to live in dignity and well-being, had developed a similarly structured platform. The ICCO Alliance, its partners and sponsors were focusing on the ground efforts in aid relief, seeking to extend their reach and effectiveness by using Web 2.0 tools, do-gooders looking for help from the computer geeks. The result then was a platform named ComPart (Communications Partnership), since then they have opted for their own internal Portal with the needed features built in.

Back then this approach was in line with the more academic ideas behind concepts on the Integration of Collaborative Information Systems in Web 2.0 (pdf), but from a pragmatic field operative perspective, it was a matter of needing to communicate and collaborate with other aid organizations separated by continents. The inclusion of a VSI approach maintains the virtual component and adds a systemic inquiry component, potentially providing greater leverage for addressing wicked challenges. The expansion into a community setting puts the process into the hands of those most affected and closest to the problems.

Community-based VSI would promote extended engagement by the community to address seemingly intractable problems. As discussed in “Still Looking for Non-Experts to Create New Community Innovations? Look outside City Hall", the ‘public’ or ‘community’ is not an extension of city hall or the studio audience for city council meetings. The public or the community is more properly classified under civil society which can be understood, as can community paradigms, as a set of community relations. This makes it a complex system as opposed to a more complicated one that could be successfully manipulated through management by a few at city hall.

The direction suggested by Della Rucker was to more fully utilize the community's resources. Della believes that “(We) have an enormous supply of non-experts who can, approach challenges with a clean lens, bringing together diverse experiences, knowledge and opportunities. We call them the Public. They know stuff. They’ve done stuff. ” This requires expanding beyond the usual cadre of public sector professionals and finding new avenues for people-powered innovation through the inclusion of whom Charles Leadbeater calls pro-amateurs into a process of Enabling Generative Interactions and Integrating Interactions as discussed in the last blog post.

There is a need then to connect to the community but at a deeper level. A metaphor that has been applied is endowing communities with a soul, undoubtedly a more abstract concept not captured by most standard government metrics. “Finding the soul of your community and the reason to create your own community paradigms”, one of the earlier posts for this blog, had not only a poetic perspective but an economic basis with a positive impact on the community.

It does not require top-down complicated oriented leadership from city hall to attach people to their community as was demonstrated by the study's focus on Long Beach, California which reflected that neither the economy nor the perception of local leadership was a key driver in attaching its residents to their community. Good economics and finance are essential to the sustainability of a city but they are not the soul of the community and do not make up all of that community's wealth. The objective then is to be more adept at capturing the community's insight, wisdom and wealth assisted through community-based VSI which could be a means of establishing new community paradigms.

As might be expected from the preambles of the New Community Paradigms wiki and blog, the establishment of such a New Community Paradigms VSI team would be designed to have access to online resources and advocacy communities, using those resources to write new rules for their community that are chosen directly by the community itself rather than imposed by entrenched institutions. The reality is that such a team has not as of yet come into existence. This effort started off as a set of conceptual inquiries examining a series of 'why not' propositions, basically subsumed under the question, "Why not a different form of community governance?" and so far has remained conceptual.

The proposed NCP/VSI team could be seen as an internally based community Virtual Systemic Inquiry team, made up of a certain number of diverse community members, who could be expanded upon to collaboratively incorporate others both inside and outside the community.

Community members could be part of the local NCP/VSI team and be connected to other local community groups, be working with outside advocacy organizations, having connections with or as an expert, either professional or pro-amateur, with an outside Virtual System Inquiry team serving as go-betweens between the outside VSI team and their own Community-Based NCP/VSI team (Kumu map).

These groups could also work with both a Systems Thinking Facilitator and with community government staff. The use of systems thinking with community governance would be a transformational process so the utilization of someone or some organization help guide that process until participants are more comfortable is seen as important. City staff would still be seen as responsible for assisting in realizing the goals established through community sponsored studies or strategic plans.

Another alternative means of integrated community interaction and establishing a framework for deliberative and participatory democracy was suggested by the World Future Society in an article Building and Connecting Communities, in their Futurist magazine, was a "Mobile Networked Governance for the Creative Molecular Economy, to serve as an avenue through which community building ideas, originating from the community”.

The blog post, The Problem with the Future is Getting There and It will need Disruptive Innovation, raised some philosophical issues with the overall article. Disagreement with an unstated or unexamined assumption that we will be able to passively transition from a materialistic economy into a transformational society as a matter of inevitable evolution rather than purposeful decisions and disagreement with putting the community into a passive role, either implicitly or indirectly by omission. New community paradigms does not presume to merely develop citizens into a “Future Forward Workforce” as if they were a passive commodity. Any redefinition of economic development through community building will have to involve the community, not as passive recipients but as active creators.

Predicting the future is hazardous enough, but claiming the future will be delivered gift-wrapped with a bow, no assembly needed or that it is a foregone conclusion, merely accept the new world order, calls for looking for alternatives to use in the creation of new paradigms for our communities. Systems thinking is one possible resource as systems thinking's primary purpose is to enhance understanding and connection, not prediction.

A process of Community Based Virtual Systemic Inquiry could be potentially seen as a catalyst for a community-based system of deliberative and participatory democracy facilitated by systems thinking. This will be discussed in more detail in the next post.

Past Posts