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Learning from First Hand Accounts

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  • Andrius Kulikauskas
    I share my work with and for John Rogers and his colleagues at the Wales Institute for Community Currencies. We re developing an online learning environment.
    Message 1 of 1 , May 29, 2006
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      I share my work with and for John Rogers and his colleagues at the Wales
      Institute for Community Currencies. We're developing an online learning
      environment. We want to help people design their own community
      currencies. We are also applying this system to other subjects as well
      at http://www.findbetterways.info I share with our working groups:
      - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cyfranogi/ for community currency,
      participatory society, etc.
      - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/livingbytruth/ for conceptual
      frameworks, absolute grounds, etc.
      - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/backtotheroot/ for leadership
      development, also hosting our work on distance learning
      - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/learningfromeachother/ our new group
      lead by Pamela McLean for distance learning, it will take some time for
      us to get going, please join us by sending a blank message to
      learningfromeachother-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

      Learning is a risky, even dangerous endeavor. I think it is fair that
      we learn by experimenting on ourselves rather than experiment on
      others. Let us create a learning system where we are the first
      learners. I would like our system to explicitly show how we are
      learning. How have we variously come to believe what we do? Yet also,
      in order to share our learning, we do need to discover some basic
      invariables that are present in all that we learn.

      My major concern is that we be able to ground our learning in first hand
      accounts. Many of the subjects that we are interested in, such as
      community currency, are still in the early stages of development. Much
      of the "knowledge" that is circulating is second hand. It is often
      divorced from reality and spread by inculcating formulaic thinking.
      Such formulas sound logical but may fail in practice because they are
      incomplete. I wish us to focus our attention on first hand accounts.
      They often bring to light aspects that may be counterintuitive, but
      taken together, can help us understand how we can put together systems
      that actually work.

      My goal is to structure our online learning environment so that we might
      accumulate our first hand accounts, share and apply our knowledge, and
      build our intuition. John and I considered the trajectory of our
      learning. We bring forth our knowledge from out of our unconscious. We
      make it explicit in our conscious, where we can transform it to address
      our needs. We then name what we have learned in a way that lets us
      store it back in our unconscious, so that we have assimilated it as part
      of our intuition.

      My conclusion is that we access knowledge from our unconscious in the
      form of a story regarding what has us "stuck". We then consciously
      rework the story until it works for us. Then we capture the knowledge
      with a sign that we store back into our unconscious. This means that we
      are using our conscious mind to leverage the much larger knowledge of
      our unconscious mind.

      We can travel this path in two ways, forwards or backwards. We can go
      forwards and consider our own experience as learners, in practice,
      focusing on the particular matter at hand and resolving it. Or we can
      look backwards at all the solutions that have ever come up, and then
      select the one we prefer, theoretically. We might first ask: "Do you
      wish to address your particular challenge, or do you wish to overview
      all solutions?" In what follows, I will assume a particular challenge.

      At the heart of learning is a three-cycle:
      * taking a stand
      * following through
      * reflecting
      This is familiar by other names (such as plan, do, review). As we face
      challenges, we overcome them by choosing, applying and evaluating our
      principles. When we have learned a subject, then we are able to take up
      all manner of challenges and keep learning from them. At times, we may
      get "stuck", but then we grow by finding ways to overcome the
      obstacles. This is what I seek to document. We can make explicit the
      obstacles and the solution, and so we can share them.

      Different kinds of support are relevant for different modes in the
      three-cycle. When somebody is following through on their principles, it
      is not the time to ask them to reassess them. Instead, we should help
      them be true to their existing principles so that they might have truly
      put them to the test.

      It is therefore important to identify the mode in which the learner is
      at. We may focus on the case where they are stuck. If they are not
      stuck, then they do not need support! We can make this point by asking
      explicitly: "Do you want to consider changing what you are doing?" If
      they do not want to consider changing, then they are done, or we may all
      focus on another person who is willing to consider changing.

      Next, I believe it is important to tap into our feelings, for they are
      our guide as to what is real to us. My hypothesis is that our feelings
      reveal where we are stuck in the three-cycle. It is enough to ask the
      learner, regarding the matter at hand, such as community currency
      design, What kind of change do you most want?
      A) Do you wish to feel more sensitive, rather than insensitive?
      B) Do you wish to feel more positive, rather than negative?
      C) Do you wish to feel more calm, rather than riled?

      My hypothesis is that the choice of A, B or C will indicate the learning
      mode in which the person is stuck.
      A) If they feel insensitive, then they have trouble taking a stand, they
      need new principles.
      B) If they feel negative, then they have trouble following through, they
      need new solutions, patterns.
      C) If they feel riled, then they have trouble reflecting, they need new
      conclusions.

      They can feel where they are ask. So we can ask them to tell a story
      that relates to where they feel stuck. We can then ask them to take a
      step back within that story, back to where they were not stuck:
      A) If they are having trouble taking a stand, then have them go back to
      reflecting. What are the conclusions that are convincing? Then have
      them tell the story so as to shift onwards to a consensus regarding
      principles. They will thereby take a stand.
      B) If they are having trouble following through, then have them go back
      to taking a stand. What are the principles for which they have
      consensus? Then have them tell the story so as to shift onwards to
      constructing solutions (or "patterns") that resolve the tensions between
      the principles.
      C) If they are having trouble reflecting, then have them go back to
      following through. What are the solutions which they have constructed?
      Then have them tell the story so as to shift onwards to conclusions
      which they find convincing.

      This method can be applied to current challenges, but also to document
      how we have overcome earlier challenges.

      In this way, we will accumulate a set of stories, but also principles,
      solutions and conclusions that are grounded in these first hand
      accounts. We can then survey the knowledge that we are building.

      By making ourselves aware of the story that we are in, we can tease out
      the various dimensions and find ways to pull them together:
      A) principles that position us with regard to our conclusions
      B) solutions (patterns) that resolve tensions between principles
      C) conclusions that make clear the real value, if any, of solutions

      This is now conscious knowledge. In order to remember it, and be able
      to draw upon it in the future, we want to name it. We want to
      assimilate this knowledge and find a place for it in our intuition, our
      unconscious! Our idea now is to do this we create a sign by which we
      express our knowledge: an "integrated communicative unit". John noted
      Robert E. Horn's book "Visual Language" and suggested that, optimally,
      such a sign might include words, images, symbols, sounds and more, all
      integrated together to capture the meaning.

      My own hypothesis, which I will try to implement, is that we can
      identify an angle which helps us create our symbol. We started by
      identifying one of three modes where we were "stuck" in our learning:
      taking a stand, following through, or reflecting. Now consider at what
      level of knowledge did we manage to overcome the obstacle:
      - "Why we are learning": through clarifying our purposes and assessing
      our wishes
      - "How we are learning": through thought experiments and considering
      design issues
      - "What we are learning": through role playing and understanding
      different points of view
      - "Whether we are learning": through real life implementation and
      evaluation

      I think that by pairing the three modes and the four levels we get what
      I call the "twelve topologies" which I think of as the building blocks
      for the imagination. They are abstract concepts: be, do, think; one,
      all, many; object, process, subject; necessary, actual, possible. More
      about them at:
      http://www.patternlanguages.info/wiki.cgi?PatternLanguages/UniversalLanguage/Topologies
      I think that each topology matches with a pair of mode and level. So,
      for example, if we have a story about our experience with community
      currency, and we learn how to "take a stand", and this learning takes
      place through implementation, then I think the relevant pairing would
      lead us to the topology "necessary", where what's necessary in the story
      is the "unit of value", the particular currency. And so we might name
      and remember that story by virtue of that unit of value.

      In fact, I think that given a particular domain such as "community
      currency", we will find that the twelve topologies take on a more
      concrete form, as they seem to have in the "design feature matrix":
      http://www.findbetterways.info/wiki.cgi?FindBetterWays/Cyfranogi/DesignFeatureMatrix
      This is again something that I will be exploring. My main point for our
      purposes is that I think it is possible (given the mode and the level)
      to suggest what information to capture in order to recall the entire
      story.

      If this method is truly helpful, then it is I think describing a
      language of "verbalization" by which signs (names, words, images...)
      come to have meaning. This language has our minds move from stories to
      spaces for metaphor (what I call topologies), and thereby we "learn", we
      rely on old and new signs to navigate intuitively, without getting "stuck".

      So this is the process of learning, as John describes it, a "learning
      journey" as follows:
      * Unconscious Incompetence: "I don't know that I don't know about
      Community Currency - never heard of it."
      * Conscious Incompetence: "Someone told me about CC. I'd like to find
      out more."
      * Conscious competence: "Now I'm learning about and practising CC."
      * Unconscious competence: "Now I'm doing it and don't even think about it."

      This is a personal journey. We also considered how we might overview
      all of the knowledge. Certainly, we will accumulate knowledge bases of
      stories, principles, solutions and conclusions. However, if my
      hypotheses above are fruitful, then we will also be able to find
      families of currencies and design accordingly.

      In 2004, I had pulled together the knowledge of WICC on design features
      into a matrix of issues.
      http://www.findbetterways.info/wiki.cgi?FindBetterWays/Cyfranogi/DesignFeatureMatrix
      The matrix expresses how the issues arise as constraints that different
      roles (rulemaker, connector, giver, receiver) make on each other.

      Note that we may and do play all roles. I think of these roles as
      representing different levels of awareness, different kinds of economy,
      and applying different kinds of mental categories:
      - Rulemaker thinks in terms of Why, lives in the Casino economy, and
      experiences through "be, do, think". (Like a shareholder deciding where
      to invest.)
      - Connector thinks in terms of How, lives in the Market economy, and
      experiences through "one, all, many". (Like a shopper deciding where to
      buy.)
      - Giver thinks in terms of What, lives in the Core economy, and
      experiences through "object, process, subject". (Like a volunteer
      deciding what help to give.)
      - Receiver thinks in terms of Whether, lives in the Natural economy, and
      experiences through "necessary, actual, possible". (Like a child
      enjoying a gift.)

      We can design a currency by considering which relationships are most
      essential and starting with those. So, for example, if we want to
      emphasize the Rulemaker and the Receiver, then they restrict each other
      as follows:
      - The Rulemaker restricts the Receiver through the "unit of value" they
      have set.
      - The Receiver restricts the Rulemaker through the "validation of
      currency" they require.
      A currency that starts with this relationship may be simply a ration
      system, for example, between government and citizens, or between an
      event organizer and the attendees. Then we might add a relationship
      with a Connector (who may be considered a "scalper") and so now we have
      to add two more relationships:
      - The Rulemaker restricts the Connector through "taxation" (and trading
      rules, payment for administrative tasks, etc.)
      - The Connector restricts the Rulemaker through "governance" issues,
      such as future value, monitoring, evaluation.
      - The Receiver restricts the Connector through "demand for services".
      - The Connector restricts the Receiver through "range of services".
      Finally, we can add a Giver (perhaps somebody doing work for the
      tickets, such as an usher), and that adds three more relationships.

      I believe that in this way the laying down of the relationships
      determines the nature of the currency, where the emphasis is placed.
      For example, I think a "free market" system is one where we start with
      relationships between Giver and Receiver, then we add Connectors, and
      finally we introduce Rulemakers. In all, if you go through the
      combinations, there are 6 x 2 = 12 ways of laying down the constraints,
      which suggests that there are 12 familes of "community currencies".

      I have made quite a few hypotheses above, but they are testable. The
      important activity is to collect stories that show how in our lives we
      have overcome challenges in our thinking about money.

      We find such stories in Edgar Cahn's book "No More Throwaway People".
      He writes about how he took up various principles and then had to
      develop them further. Similarly, Stan Thekaekara's
      http://www.justchangeindia.com spirited talk at the BeTheChange
      conference http://www.bethechange.co.uk included many stories of how he
      and his fellows started out working on one issue (such as political
      rights) and then found this lead naturally to other issues (such as
      getting land for those without it) and then other issues (such as
      finding a market for their tea). It's easy to misrepresent other
      people's stories, so it's important to focus on our own, or to interview
      them carefully.

      I invite us to share our stories where we we felt "stuck" in our ways
      but overcame that. I and John will share our own stories from our
      lives. Also, I will be working with Jeff Buderer, Markus Petz, Benoit
      Couture and others who would like to learn how to interview people to
      document their stories. These are important skills that I will be able
      to include in our proposals to Hewlett-Packard and elsewhere. Together
      we will gradually build a collection of profound stories.

      Thank you to all for reading this far if you have! This all represents
      a set of conceptual breakthroughs for me. I am very grateful to John
      for working with me to figure this out. Now there will be a lot of work
      to collect stories, learn from them, and adjust the system above as
      warranted. Meanwhile, I will be organizing our wiki pages to present
      our stories and the principles, solutions and conclusions they contain.
      But we might start by sharing stories at our Cyfranogi working group
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cyfranogi/ Of course, we may try to apply
      this in other domains as well, not only community currency.

      I share below a few side notes.

      Peace,

      Andrius

      Andrius Kulikauskas
      Minciu Sodas
      http://www.ms.lt
      ms@...
      in Brussels, Belgium


      -----------------------------------------------------

      A side note: I think that generally that "getting unstuck" is a matter
      of distinguishing and living by "the truth of the heart" rather than
      "the truth of the world". Earlier, I had worked on "good will
      exercises" for situations where we are riled, and there is a conflict
      between what we believe and what is the case in the world. I set up
      more than forty exercises. I found pairs of truths pulling us in
      opposite directions. The truth of the heart and the truth of the world
      differed as follows:
      * the person who is riled is generally wrong as to which is the truth of
      the heart
      * the the truth of the world follows from the truth of the heart, but
      not the other way around
      * the truth of the world can be learned from examples in real life that
      we can point to, whereas the truth of the heart is tautological
      * the truth of the heart addresses the broader question, and the truth
      of the world address the narrower question, from among Why? How? What?
      Whether?, where Why? is the broadest and Whether? is the narrowest.
      More on good will exercises at:
      http://www.patternlanguages.info/wiki.cgi?PatternLanguages/UniversalLanguage/GoodWillExercises
      End of side note.

      A side note: We drew on John's distinction of "consensus, constructing,
      convincing" which he has found relevant in approaching community
      currency from different ways. We also can draw on the theory of
      narrative (and storytelling) which I had worked out some years ago.
      Here we find ourselves telling "a story about the story". My hunch is
      that in this special case we can have only three tones of voice that
      cause tension in a story (commanding, explaining, caring) as the fourth
      tone of voice (forcing) is not relevant because the story is about a
      story and thus exists only in the realm of signs, is not grounded in
      reality. Furthermore, I think that in a story about a story:
      * "caring" is understood as consensus
      * "commanding" is understood as constructing
      * "explaining" is understood as convincing
      And I think that three kinds of "stories about stories" are constructive:
      * shifting from consensus to constructing ("empowerment")
      * shifting from constructing to convincing ("taking up a calling")
      * shifting from convincing to consensus ("coming together")
      And three kinds of "stories about stories" are destructive:
      * shifting from constructing to consensus ("transgression")
      * shifting from convincing to constructing ("marking of the good")
      * shifting from consensus to convincing ("rescue")
      This is to say that we may be able to guide ourselves, more concretely,
      from consensus to constructing to convincing. This will become apparent
      as we consider particular cases.
      More on narration at:
      http://www.patternlanguages.info/wiki.cgi?PatternLanguages/UniversalLanguage/Narration
      End of side note.
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