2012: Crossroads for Humanity
I recently got these questions from a correspondent:
I’d like to know more about your co-op work and thinking. Is this to be a co-operative of multiple semi-independent business activities? Where are you doing this work?
In responding, I found myself giving them a history of my research and thinking. I’d like to share that here, particularly for new subscribers, and also to acknowledge those who have made key contributions along the way.
I’m more a writer/researcher/analyst than an on-the-ground activist. I started my work about 15 years ago, when I retired from the computer industry in California and moved to Ireland. For the first few years I was researching history, politics, geopolitics, and economics. I came to the conclusion, which has since been confirmed many times over, that we need a total social transformation from the bottom up, that there is no hope for the political process as it exists, or for reforming the current economic system as it exists.
I organized a gathering of activists in Berkeley, to talk about strategy, and that’s when I met Rosa Zubizarreta and learned for the first time about the importance of process. I then went on a tour, visiting again with Rosa, and meeting Tom Atlee, Tree Bressen, and Jim Rough. I was very impressed with what I learned, particularly as regards DF.
Then in 2002 I wrote a little book / pamphlet, The Zen of Global Transformation, whose thesis basically was that DF should be pursued wherever possible, in the hope this would lead to a transformation of consciousness, toward community and collaboration.
After that I returned to the West Coast to go on another tour, to learn more about process, and to have more in-depth discussions with the process people I had met. In particular, I wanted to talk to the folks who convened the Wisdom Council (WC) in the Rogue Valley. That led to another book in 2006, Escaping the Matrix, which among other things proposed that Wisdom Councils be convened with communities as the population. My strategy had departed from Jim Rough’s Society’s Breakthrough at that point, as I didn’t think WCs could have much effect on a very large scale, in the context of our societies as they are.
I then heard about the folks in Victoria, and their plans to convene a series of WCs in Victoria. So I returned for another tour, this time including BC, to visit some activists in Vancouver, Nanaimo, and of course Victoria. I wanted to encourage them in their project and learn more about their plans.
I then followed their progress remotely. After the first two WCs I concluded that Victoria was too large, and wanted to encourage them to pick a smaller community for the third WC. I went on another tour, made another visit to Victoria, and suggested that we hold a Dynamic Facilitation (DF) session to plan the final WC. The conclusion of that session was to focus on Fernwood. Also on that tour, I took the DF training, and I visited some folks who are active the localization movement.
My hopes were high for Fernwood, but again, the WC failed to lead to the emergence of We the People, even with the smaller target population. I came to the conclusion that there needed to be some kind of content in the activism, not just process alone. I was impressed with the localization movement, and I began thinking about how that movement might be combined with ‘wise process’.
I began researching the localization movement, and found that it wasn’t really succeeding anywhere, as regards making a significant difference in the local economy. I began analyzing why significant results weren’t being achieved, and found that it couldn’t be blamed on lack of good process. The movement, as it existed in its various threads, simply wasn’t offering enough substantive benefits to inspire an effective level of participation.
I began thinking about synergies within the localization movement, and realized that community development was the ‘natural’ unifying focus for the movement, combining the prosperity concept of the local currency thread, with the self-sufficiency / sustainability threads, in a synergistic way.
Instead of Transition Town’s ‘energy descent plan’, we need a ‘development plan’, in which reduction in energy usage would be only one of the objectives being pursued. And once I began thinking in terms of development plans, I thought of business plans as an analogy, and it became clear that investment needed to be part of the formula. Investment facilitates development, and it also provides an incentive for participation in the decision-making process. That then provides an opportunity for wise process to be introduced in an effective way, where local people will have a keen interest in the outcomes.
That is the story of how I came to study the ‘new money’ movement, and the co-op movement, and integrated the various threads of those movements into a synthesis, which is my ‘development framework’. I will be revising it quite a bit for my chapter 5, and it now exists in a first-draft form as a stand-alone piece. I won’t be sticking with coupons; I’ve learned about a cleaner approach since this was written:
Community development: The Co-op Coupon Model
While I’m working on chapter 5, I’d like to be learning more about large-group processes, in preparation for chapter 6. Such processes will be of central importance, as way to enable the community as a whole to take ownership of the development process.
2012: Crossroads for Humanity:
Climate science: observations vs. models