How (not) To Build a Team

Good to Great by Jim Collins I realized this semester that many of my ideals and ideas are often ahead of the curve of where many people are at. In the past I’ve operated as a solo entrepreneur so it didn’t much matter as I didn’t have to worry about merging my ideas together with anyone else’s. Now that I’m getting into a space where I want to work on larger projects that can make a difference in the world, I need to do it with others. To borrow a metaphor from Jim Collin’s book Good to Great, I would benefit from ensuring that the right people are on the bus and in the right seats before starting out. I’ve tended to go ahead without building this team and consensus first which means shouldering the brunt of the work if something is going to get done. This approach comes with a host of problems – problems and lessons I no longer want nor need to repeat. Next semester I hope to find or create the “right bus” and a seat that works for me during my last 6 months at BGI.

BJ Fogg nailed it when he said that “savoring hope is more pleasing than facing reality“. It’s time to face the reality if people aren’t ready to get on the bus.

Regenerative Communities: How big should they be?

Bill Mollison's Permaculture Design Manual I was reading some more of Chapter 14 in the Permaculture Design Manual and found some useful insight on village size. I’ve been asked many times and have thought about ideal sizes for intentional communities for some time. Some prefer small and others’, myself included think a larger group is more compelling. The Dunbar Number is often pulled into this conversation as Robin Dunbar theorized that there is an upper limit to the number of people we can maintain stable social relationships with. It is not an exact number but an approximate one – roughly 150.

Bill Mollison reasons it this way:

  • At about 100 income-producing people, a significant financial institution can be village-based
  • At about 500 all people can know each other if social affairs are organized from time to time
  • At 2000 people theft and competitiveness is more common and sects are set up in opposition

He goes on to add:

Perhaps we should start small at about 30 or so adults, build to 200-300 people, and proceed slowly and by choice to 500, then “calve” into new neighbourhoods or new villages

He supports this reasoning with the Mondragon Cooperative example from Spain which:

at first grew large (3,000 – 5,000), but later reduced to 300-500 to preserve the identity of every individual

This reasoning seems sound to me. Obviously, village-scale needs to be matched to the local environment’s ability to supply food, energy, water and other resources as well work for the citizens of the community.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you know of any communities that have followed this development path?

Copyright and Fair Use

This week’s Using the Social Web for Social Change class at BGI had my classmates and I digging into legal stuff concerning: copyright, patents, trademarks and fair use.

Many of my classmates are working on videos for their social change projects. If you, like those in my class are interested in creating in this medium it is essential that you take a few hours and familiarize yourself with the terminology and legal constraints associated with producing and distributing video. First off, start with these three concise and readable posts:

IP & Copyright, Copyleft & Trademark, and Patents, Trade Secrets & Licenses

Next you want to get a handle on “Fair Use”. Check out Fair Use & Copyright by the Center for Social Media. In a nutshell, “Fair Use” lets you, as a creator of video use bits and pieces of others’ copyrighted works without permission if your work follows several best practices:

  • One: Employing copyrighted material as the object of social, political, or cultural critique
  • Two: Quoting copyrighted works of popular culture to illustrate an argument or point
  • Three: Capturing copyrighted media content in the process of filming something else
  • Four: Using copyrighted material in a historical sequence

There is some fine print for the above situations. I recommend reading the very concise: Best Practices in Fair Use Guide, Recut Reframe Recycle and visit the Center for Social Media for more info.

Happy filmmaking!

Help: Regenerative Communities Questionaire

Hello friends! I’m working on a school project exploring the idea of regenerative communities from a real estate developer perspective. My group is curious to know if there is a place in the market for real estate development infused and guided by the ethics and principles of permaculture. We are trying to validate our gut sense that there is latent demand for living in patterns of community that allow people to realize a fully regenerative lifestyle.

Most of the questions are close-ended so I don’t think it will take you more than 10 or 15 minutes of your time.

in gratitude

Social Web: Google Wave

Google WaveMy friend Bob just hooked me up with a Google Wave account. After watching a few intro videos it looks like it will be a really powerful, real-time collaboration tool that allows you to mix text, rss feeds, photos and video in a rich, web-based interface. The current drawback is that the user base is very restricted. Since Wave is meant to be a collaborative tool its usefulness is constrained until my classmates can get access.

Ethical Basis of an Alternative Nation

Bill Mollison's Permaculture Design Manual
I started reading the final chapter of Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual with the hope of gleaning insight into how to create resilient and regenerative communities. The title of the chapter is: Strategies for an Alternative Nation.

It is basically about how we must develop an ethic and practice that places care for the earth at an equal footing to care for people. By doing so we can avoid the perpetual destruction of the global commons and bring about a sustainable society.

Here are some of the highlights from my reading so far:

Continue reading “Ethical Basis of an Alternative Nation”

What is Community Resilience?

How will our communities adapt to global warming, peak oil and the confounding influence of global-scale resource depletion, pollution and continued economic upheavals? It will be different everywhere but the successful communities will share one thing in common: they will be resilient. What exactly is community resilience? Glad you asked. The Oxford Concise English Dictionary defines resilience as:

readily recovering from shock, depression, etc

When considered in the context of community, the definition becomes more specific. The Canadian Centre for Community Renewal (CCCR) defines community resilience as: [an] intentional action to enhance the personal and collective capacity of its citizens and institutions to respond to and influence the course of social and economic change. I would also add environmental change to the mix as well.

According to CCCR, resilience can be understood through four dimensions, each with their own unique characteristics:

  1. People
  2. Organizations
  3. Resources
  4. Community Process

Continue reading “What is Community Resilience?”

Social Web: How to Influence People

Yes - 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be PersuasoveMy social web class had to watch a 15 minute video by Robert Cialdini called How to Influence Others this week. It is basically about getting people to say yes. Like all skills, the understanding of how to influence others can be used for both good and evil. Let us hope the majority of the readers of his book are oriented toward the light. The six principles his research uncovered are:

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Scarcity
  3. Commitment and Consistency
  4. Consensus (social proof) is the idea that people want to follow the lead of similar others
  5. Authority
  6. Liking (how similar we feel to another person)

His talk is pretty thoughtful. I appreciated that he clarified how we must develop the subtle awareness to know when people are using the techniques in the book disingenuously. When used for authentic reasons they can be very beneficial. I think I’ll check out Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive after school wraps up.

Finally Getting into Video

I bought a video camera off of a guy whom I met via last year with intent to start sharing my adventures with a larger audience. I hope to utilize the user-generated, on-demand video services available to add energy to realizing a just and regenerative civilization. No minor undertaking! Like most of my new ambitions, there has been a lag time of about a year between the original idea and when I actually got down to it. This particular endeavor got a boost from my Using the Social Web for Social Change class at BGI. To get our feet wet, we each had to produce a short video introducing ourselves and blog to the world. Here is take 1 and rolling…

iMovie made it waaaay simple to actually pull this off. It was about a 5-hour endeavor with quite a bit of fumbling and trial and error to get the timing of the clips, transitions and text to flow well. iMovie’s feature set is a bit limited but this also makes it pretty painless to jump into. It integrates with iPhoto and iTunes so it is really easy to pull in media from those channels. Fortunately, I had shot some video this past summer so I had something to work with. Most of my finished product is actually not video because I didn’t have that much usable footage. This forced me to figure out how to use stills, transitions, text overlays and background audio – pretty much all the features iMovie had to offer. I pinched the audio clip from a live Ravi Shankar recording that I love. It’s copy written material but I think the way I have used it counts for “Fair Use“. This means I will probably not run into problems with YouTube and their Terms of Use police. The specific legal jargon relevant in this scenario is that my work could be considered: transformative. The relevant part being:

Repurposing a work to aid identification of the base work is also generally transformative.

I gave credit to Ravi Shankar at the end so I think I am essentially aiding the identification of his base work with the use of his audio. Hopefully YouTube is cool with this. We’ll see.

Feedback and comments are welcome!