Friday, July 20, 2012

The Collaborativist's Cookbook

Note: This post is really just a short, practical version of the previous post. I do think it adds to the conversation though—it connects the failure of government and big business to the need for collaborative solutions, mixes in the idea of "civil society", and gives some practical ideas of how to contribute. Do any of you know of a list of collaborative projects easily accessible on the web? Thx.

Throughout history, humans have banded together to diminish threats to human life and comfort. As simpler threats were largely eliminated (death by other apex predators, exposure to the elements), more complex human organizations arose, eliminating more complex threats. The institutions we currently rely upon to reduce these threats are beginning to fail in their duties.

Currently, the only organizations that are powerful enough on the whole to manage these threats are governments and corporations. While these have managed to produce protection against a litany of long-standing threats, they have begun to fail at tackling very complex threats: global economic collapse, public education in a service economy, and other problems. Though these issues are most often “first world problems”—issues of happiness or social and economic progress that don’t affect those in the developing world, the idea that they are unimportant is deceptive and incorrect.

The system is shot through with mediocrity, and it will not be easily fixed. It’s not even clear right now what a corrected system would look like (although reduced lobby influence in government is almost certainly part of it), or what measures need to be implemented. To wit: fixing society is going to be a long road.

When people realize this, they often get depressed or jaded. It doesn’t need to be that way. Allow me an illustration. Imagine your car has broken down, and for some reason, you need to repair it yourself. You’re hardly a natural-born mechanic (if you are, pretend you’re not), and the problem lies in the engine somewhere. The repair is going to be nasty, and you can’t take time off of work to do it. You’ll be forced to work on the car in the evenings and on weekends, and you still have to figure out how to get around town.

In the long term, you’re going to need to consult manuals, call friends, and work long hours to fix your car. It’s not going to be easy.

In the short term, you’re going to have to solve a more immediate problem—how do you get from point A to point B?

While this seems daunting, you really have to work on both items. Thankfully, in the end you’ll have a car you can use, as well as perhaps a bike, a carpool, a knowledge of the bus routes, and maybe better cardiovascular fitness.

The Long Game

I’m not going to spend much time on this, because you know what to do. Act directly to move government and corporations: voting reform (alternative voting), lobby reform, disclosure, and transparency are the biggest things on the table. Please do these things, however you feel best.

The long game is important, but working in the garage all day is doing nothing for you in re: getting the groceries. Hence, the short game:

The Short Game

This is the part people are afraid of, because it requires immediate and significant changes. Fear not, though, you only have to do stuff you want to do anyway.

The only ironclad rule here is to build collaborative parts of the “civil society”, organizations outside the corporate-political sphere that advance common interests. The reason for this is simple—the broken “system” of government and large moneyed entities provides services generally too slowly, too expensively, or with serious negative side effects. For example, the city comes to take away your trash, and they do it quickly and cheaply, but they don’t do it effectively. No one goes through your trash to see if someone else might like that pretty good TV you’re just throwing away. That’s why there’s freecycle. The new civil society is collaborative, which means it can solve a lot of problems without centralized planning.

There are a LOT of collaborative projects out there, and they chip away at all sorts of problems, from world hunger to finding a couch to crash on. It doesn’t matter who you are, how much time you have, or what limitations you face, you can help something awesome grow...awesomer.

You can be collaborative in a few different ways:

1. Start Something. If you’re finding difficulty in getting something you need in order to be happy, and you can think of a way that a new collaborative movement could fix that, make it your personal project. Find existing online communities to enlist help.

2. Be a Gnome. If you love an existing collaborative project, contribute to it. There’s plenty of organizational, editorial, clerical, publicity, and other work in every project, and there’s usually no barrier to entry. So get crackin’, and make your favorite projects better, a step at a time.

3. Enlist in a Cause. This is more than just going gnome. Become active and visible in an online community or collaborative project. Help plan meetups and hangouts, volunteer at conferences and workshops, and help resolve disputes if necessary.

4. Preach it. Tell your friends about the awesome project that you’re working on. When someone you know complains about a problem that you know has a collaborative solution on the internet (even if you’re not involved in that project), point them to that project.

A Parting Piece of Advice

Keep your Long Game out of your Short Game. That is, if you’re creating and contributing to collaborative societies, you must keep them as open as is reasonable. You don’t want people opting out because they disagree with you politically, religiously, or philosophically. You may think this is bland, or that this is selling out, but major collaborative projects almost universally have rules against bias. And that’s for a good reason.

No comments:

Post a Comment