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Helping Samwel and George help us and our principles

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  • Andrius Kulikauskas
    I am thinking about our research fellows, Samwel Kongere (Kenya) and George Christian Jeyaraj (Lithuania). For about half a year we have provided Samwel with
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 17, 2006
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      I am thinking about our research fellows, Samwel Kongere (Kenya) and
      George Christian Jeyaraj (Lithuania). For about half a year we have
      provided Samwel with a small stipend, about $60 per month (including
      fees). His participation has meant great progress for our lab as we
      build connections with those working on-the-ground in Kenya. He has
      been very sick and although I have made no further commitment to him,
      yet I am concerned how we might not abandon him. Indeed, this is an
      every day example of the kind of situation that we might all be in if we
      face a global emergency such as a bird flu pandemic. I need four things:
      * money - about $60 per month (including fees) - which I personally
      don't have (but would if I had more work)
      * rationale - Samwel can help with all manner of projects if he is well,
      but even if he is sick, we can still leverage his extensive network
      which he has documented - I will ask George to put up this information -
      and thereby pay for his care
      * leadership - we need a researcher who might work with Samwel or his
      counterpart because this takes a bit of energy and time and I am lacking
      and need help
      * verification - Henry Migingo has met with Samwel and so I am not too
      worried about oversight as we can arrange for some modest degree and in
      fact leverage the social network he himself has documented.
      Meanwhile, I have made a personal commitment to George Christian Jeyaraj
      so that he could cut back his work as a high school security guard from
      60 hours per week to 40 hours per week. I am providing him about $80
      per month (including taxes). George is a Tamil refugee who has lived
      here now seven years and speaks also English and Lithuanian. His key
      concept is "helping others". He is able to help in many useful ways
      including web programming, data entry and some organizing. However, it
      is also very time intensive and so I need help both here in Lithuania
      and also beyond, so that he could be serving particular projects for
      people in our lab.

      So you see, we have enormous assets - investigators who can make real
      our efforts to make a difference on-the-ground, as well as online
      investigators with thoughtful projects who can provide direction. We
      have real costs. We also need real leadership - somebody who can
      contribute focus as they link the costs and assets and benefits. I
      invite us to consider what we might make of this opportunity! There is
      a lot of room for triangulation - for example, somebody could hire
      George for help on a project, and then that would free up my money to go
      to Samwel, etc.

      This is also a real life example where I (and perhaps not only I) have
      an obligation to care about others. In fact, we have behaved so as to
      have such an opportunity. And so this is a learning experience of the
      most valuable kind.

      These last few weeks I spoke with John Rogers, Geoff Thomas, Jeff
      Buderer, Miguel Yasuyuki Hirota and others about their principles in
      life. My idea was to document our principles, illustrate them with
      examples from our lives, and then study those examples to show the
      underlying patterns that make them work. I assumed that there would be
      patterns that resolve tensions between principles. (This is for our
      Online Learning Environments for designing community currency.)

      All of that may be true, but I am realizing that there's often a
      disconnect between principles and examples. (I add that all who I spoke
      with are more principled and self-aware than I imagine most people
      are.) Here are some examples:
      - Miguel told me about his principle "Close contact among actors" as the
      reason why he started an eight language community currency discussion
      group (he knows this many languages!) to help people exchange ideas
      beyond language barriers. ( More about Miguel at:
      http://www3.plala.or.jp/mig/ ) The French, for example, know about
      community currency in Quebec and Algeria but not in Germany or the UK.
      So he acted on his principle, and yet it's hard for me to say that he
      succeeded in illustrating it, because at this point there may not have
      been any "actors" who have actually had "close contact" because of his work.
      - Another of his principles is "Improve my surroundings". He therefore
      volunteered for an NGO for crosscultural relationships and suggested
      some ideas. At that time he tried to help them and himself. However,
      again, it's not clear that he thereby actually improved his surroundings.
      - Geoff told me "If we thank people for the work they are doing, then we
      will accustom people to giving." I don't think we came up with examples
      of that in real life (although I think we planned to come back to that
      later.)
      - Jeff told me "We should talk honestly about our feelings and not be
      ashamed and keep them inside". He related this as a story in his life
      when he lived and worked at Arcosanti. He and Neutopia spoke out about
      issues that they thought needed to be addressed openly through the
      website, but others thought would be airing dirty laundry. They were
      overruled and the website was taken down. What was the outcome? Jeff
      took the chance to stand up for what he believed in. He was able to
      transcend his fears, do what he felt was the right thing, and live
      closer to his ideals of living in a just world. He got his feelings off
      his chest and they were all able to debate in a civil way in their
      community. Is there an underlying pattern at work? Perhaps that if we
      talk honestly with others about our feelings, then we are living them
      out in society, and even if others do not share our feelings, but still
      they get included in the shaping of our shared world.
      - I gave a principle "Live where its convenient to be with the
      disadvantaged". This is one reason behind my moves to live in Marquette
      Park with my grandmother, or in Englewood with David Ellison-Bey, or at
      the Folk Creativity Club "Atzalynas". An outcome of that principle is
      that I got involved in all kinds of experiences that exposed me to what
      other people deal with and helped me grow: engaging gangs, organizing
      block clubs in conditions where there is a lack of leaders or even
      dependable people, racism (white on black, black on black, black on
      white, white on white), poverty, the pros and cons of police, and what
      David calls "the caste system". I can point to the outcomes (my
      naturally getting involved, my meeting other people, my taking action
      and my subsequent growth). I can look at concrete examples where that
      happened (getting attacked on my way home from work lead me to respond
      by organizing block clubs so I would feel safe). Or going jogging in my
      neighborhood (and more dangerous ones) helped me transcend my fears and
      also gave me opportunities to engage violent or angry people while
      contributing to a sense of security (and even a "hi, officer"). A
      related principle is "have a little slack in your schedule for the
      unexpected chance to do good" and that meant I could fit in all kinds of
      instructive adventures. All of this without having to dedicate or
      manage time to "volunteer". So there seems to be an underlying pattern
      which says that you eliminate the psychic overhead of managing your
      conscious efforts to help by simply positioning yourself where you can
      be directly responding to all that comes your way.

      My conclusion so far is that it's harder for us than I thought to find
      connections between our principles and real life consequences. I
      started to doubt if people follow principles and even if they should.
      Do principles simply constrain us for no good purpose?

      However, Jeff talked about "transcending my fears" and that phrase came
      to my mind now, too. Principles enable us to act - they are constraints
      that we choose instead of those that fear would have us heed.

      Also, it is clear that often we live by principles and yet we can't
      explain what we have to show for them. We're not used to thinking about
      them in terms of their outcomes. And the outcomes may not be related to
      the principles. I am looking at a diagram which I made a few years ago
      of the principles that helped shape our laboratory:
      http://www.openleader.com/index.php/MinciuSodas/ConceptualEvolution
      For example, my principle "Do not depend on others for providing for
      myself" has arguably caused me to overextend myself and ultimately
      depend on others more than I would have otherwise. Or my principle "Be
      open to falling in love, marrying, having children" is actually a
      constraint (helps keep me from being a priest!) but it hasn't lead to
      any outcome in that regard, except perhaps to open up channels of my
      personal creativity, which may not be very relevant.

      What I did notice was that four kinds of statements are relevant in this
      logic:
      * Personal principles. Those are reasonings that might not apply to
      other people, but seem to be fixed in my life, they are the defintion of
      who I am. I'm morally bound to be true to them, to the extent that they
      express my person.
      * Personal opinions (or "outcomes"). They are the conclusions I have
      drawn from my own experiences in my own situation. They might actually
      be wrong, but I live with them as the best that I can draw from my real
      life experience so far. They are practical observations about the world
      I live in.
      * Personal decisions (or "patterns"). They are the choices that I have
      made to try to solve the pressures and conflicts of my principles and
      opinions. Usually it's the only positive choice that I can think of. But
      it's a choice that is optional, it's a step that I could have simply not
      taken.
      * Personal inspirations. They are the extra ideas that weren't necessary
      but I wanted to throw into my life. They are the ideas that represent
      the most freedom that I exercise.

      Somehow this logic comes out in "stories". I'm thinking that we might
      ask for stories where we dealt with personal challenges and "transcended
      our fears". These are stories that will have "morals", which is to say,
      "principles" which they illustrate through "outcomes" that are results
      of "decisions" (which represent "patterns") with an "inspiration" thrown
      in here and there to keep things interesting.

      These "stories" are the kinds of personal "legends" that we build
      ourselves around.

      John is a story-teller and so I'm happy we might turn in this
      direction. Indeed, it is one that he has suggested.

      I propose that we write letters about the personal challenges that we
      have faced or are facing, especially with regards to making a living and
      anything related to our "money mind" (this will help us build our Online
      Learning Environment for community currency design). Then we can make
      diagrams as I have for my own experience. This helps us share our
      knowledge and apply it thoughtfully.

      I think that we can learn the value of "inspirations" - creative
      constraints that we introduce which allow for fresh solutions. Here are
      some that shaped our laboratory:
      * My business can serve independent thinkers like myself.
      * My business can harness the value of the Public Domain.
      * Challenges around the world are resources.
      * My business is a vehicle for bringing my ideas to life in society.
      * I can have my base in Lithuania, and work in other countries, too.

      These are indeed the kinds of "inspirations" that will change the kinds
      of "decisions" (=patterns) that we can make. Let's consider what
      creative constraints might help us (or me) respond to Samwel's and
      George's struggles to get by and contribute.

      Thank you!

      Andrius

      Andrius Kulikauskas
      Minciu Sodas
      http://www.ms.lt
      ms@...
      +370 (699) 30003
      Vilnius, Lithuania
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