Wednesday, August 13, 2014

MOVING FROM VISIONS TO ACTION In field of Futures Studies, practitioners usually focus on creating visions of the future. Futurists are beginning to talk more and more about how to bridge the gap between visions and actions. Well known Futurist, Richard Slaughter has devoted his book, The Biggest Wake-up Call in History, to this gap and French Futurist Thierry Gaudin, has written a Pledge to advocate taking action. Taking Action Activists, who want to start up new paradigm activities, also have visions. However, it is the action, the doing that is most important for them. Getting a group of like thinking individuals together is one step. They often form around a very generalized vision of sustainability, peace or a world without racism. Their actions, like the development of a community garden, a tool-sharing group, or a food cooperative, embody the generalized vision. After the project gets started there are inevitably different opinions between individuals in the group, which the initiator has to reconcile if the project is to be successful. While individuals can share a vision they each have a life situation that, while often similar has certain values differences. That will mean that there may be conflicting paths to that vision. For example, a group with a generalized vision of building community in an urban setting might have a vision of exchanging their competence or skills with one another in the community; a worthy goal when many people in cities don’t know or talk to their neighbors. However, problems can occur when one or more individuals decide that the vision can be fulfilled in different ways. Some might feel that the exchange could come in the form of currency instead of reciprocal service exchange. We are conditioned by the old paradigm to feel valued by how much money we get for our competence or skills. Receiving thanks is expected, but the true measure is how much the market pays. There are others, working out of a new paradigm and spread all over the world, who have come to the conclusion that each job or service should be imbursed equally, not in currency, but in points, or hours, in other words, alternative currencies. In that way, community members are valued by how much of their lives are currency free as opposed to how much money they earn, and the status between individuals is more equal. It is easy to mix paradigms when trying new things. In our example, we know what has worked in the past and of course it still is the dominant way of doing things. If our community is largely made of customers, who are tied to the community by the need of our products, then the strong individual paradigm applies. Others may see community as an extended family when traditional extended families aren’t available. Some may see community as their friends. Not just fair weather friends, but the basis of their social life. These views of community signal the beginning of a more communal based paradigm. Establishing new structures is where the move from the vision to envisioning comes into play. Once a general vision is presented, it is up to individuals to envision and articulate their own version in ways that comply with their personal situations and values. 1) One way to start is by using Basic Values Charts. Basic Values Charts are a two chart series of fourteen values spectrums. Chart I has to do with values of Human relations. Chart II contains values spectrums that have to do with how we see the world. You can find them by clicking here: Basic Values Charts. 2) To use them one works on one spectrum at a time, marking on the spectrum line where their values lie most of the time. It is best to start with the “people are basically good/evil” spectrum as our actions are linked to how we value one another. After a discussion of what extreme goodness and extreme evil might be, each participant stands on the spectrum line (a tape or chalk line on the floor) on the position that most represents their behavior on that value. They are asked to explain why they choose that particular spot. An interview technique makes this process fun. It is important for participants to listen to one another. Don’t do more than three spectrums at a time. Each person should mark on their Values chart where they stood and their rational for standing there. The spectrums can be presented three at a time over a period of time, making them more interesting and providing time to digest the experience and rethink choices. The intention of these processes is to help individuals articulate their values and to identify any possible differences in values orientation that might cause problems in futures visions. Values orientations are neither right or wrong, good nor bad, they just are. Next is by Envisioning. Envisioning allows one to play with the various possible consequences of a vision. Every vision has more or less desirable intentions in a generalized state, but unintended consequences usually occur and need to be considered in advance in more specific circumstances. It is difficult to know when all consequences are enumerated but important to be aware of as many as possible. 1. In small groups, agree on the vision’s major theme. For example, developing community. 2. Have individuals choose one or more standpoints and envision how the vision would play out from that perspective. Suggestions for standpoints are: children, parents, adults, city, county, regional authorities, tax collectors, doctors, layers, trades people, banks etc. 3. Start with “In this reality ….”. 4. Ask which standpoints they did not choose. 5. Suggest they all take notes and give them to one person. 6. Post the results under each standpoint on a wall. Go through each standpoint. Ask where things might go well and where problems might occur. This post gives some hints as to how we might move from visions to action. It means creating our own reality. The time is right and the grass roots are the right place to start. We have to know about ourselves and what we want and where we are willing to compromise. We also have to keep changing, fine-tuning and creating in order to make our visions and a new world-view reality.

Starting over

A number of my readers and those who have stumbled into this blog might think it it not worthwile to read "Signs of the Times" that are more than two years old.

However, keep in mind that they are signs and may or may not have actualized in a larger playing field. My Signs Comentaries are always at the cutting edge, many years may pass before they are mainstream. You can still learn from them.

In the past the signs I commented upon were connected to "Signs of the Times" . This blog represents a new start that will not be linked to the webpage. You will see it here first!

Now on to business... It is clear to many that a number of business have been started that offer a service or product that benefits the world and still makes money. Bombodill Publishing is one of those companies. By focusing on young authors, giving them an early start in publishing and helping to sell their books Bombadil Publishing also makes a profit. Imagine the joy of seeing your own work in print at the age of sixteen or twenty!

Benifit corporations aren't the typical business model where a large corporation donates to culture or sports as a form of good will and advertizing, while still earning for shareholders. The new model is a company commited to particular values and balances it's societal obligations with stockholder obligations.

New laws are being enacted to recognize and validate alternative in the U.S., not on the federal level, but at the state and city levels. Maryland was the first state to pass, so called, Benefit legislation which adds a new class of corporation to the list. Other states passing similar laws are California, Colorado, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington. Already passed benifit corporation laws are also in New Jersey and Virginia.

Other approach is to tweak the for profits model to allow for-profit corporations to pursue more than just shareholder wealth. They are being called called "flexible purpose corporations".

Many people are beginning to realize that the market economic model is outdated whether it is new liberal or traditional market economic. Even though most of us have to function within a system that is failing only a few of us are willing to admit that an economy built on growth has its limits.

The question is then the future. If the current system is breaking down, what will take its place? Chances are great that there will only be a sudden collapse of the current economic system when viewed in retrospect. Those of us living through the changes may not realize what is happening, but blame their own bad luck for their financial crisis. However, this change to the corporate structure while still dependent upon growth, address the only motivation that was legally demand, that is: to serve stockholders. Social and environmental well being is now being thrown into that mix.

Can this be a middle way? Will our current, growth dependent, financial structure evolve into something else, or will a new way of supporting a growing population on a limited planet just pop into being? Is this just the beginning of the evolution process or are we a part of a larger process that began with hunting and gathering and then slid into to barter and then profit making structures and now to contributing to global and social survival?
See Yes! Powerful ideas, Practical Actions” Spring and Summer 2011