Tuesday, July 25, 2017

How To Tell Good Stories And Why It Matters

by Zaid Hassan, The Social Labs Revolution: https://social-labs.org/how-to-tell-good-stories-and-why-it-matters/
My most profound learning over the last decade and a half is that making the rational case for change is never sufficient. Like many insights, this is one that I came across early on, but it didn’t really sink in until much, much later.
We make decisions for many reasons beyond the rational, because we like something or someone, because we’re afraid of getting left behind, because we want to be a part of something, or because we’re somehow inspired.
In starting to think about the non-rational narratives that cause us to act, I started thinking about the stories we tell about our work. I started by looking at the stories we tell about our work and quickly realized that one of the profound weaknesses of this movement is how bad we are at telling compelling stories.
Below is a list of “good” and “bad” videos. Each aspires to tell a story. Why are the good good and the bad bad?
The good each tell a human story – in some instances it’s the story of an individual. There is voice, agency and power to the stories told. In some ways it’s very simple, we are taken on a journey.
The bad tell no human story, they talk in abstractions, about un-human systems. The voice of the individual is reduced to mouthing platitudes about complexity, collaboration and how important it all is. There is little power to the stories, they come across as disembodied, technical…there is no human vulnerability, there is no journey the viewer is called to join.
Being a part of some of the efforts listed in the “bad” section, I know that the issue isn’t the actual work – which in many cases is extraordinary. The question is how we are talking about extraordinary work…in too many cases, badly.
Social labs, social innovation, the design thinking movement, are all collective responses to collective action problems. The individual is a little lost in the collective. So the challenge is how to tell stories of a collective, of a community, to give viewers some sense of what it means to be part of that community? What is the power of the whole? What does it mean to be part of this community? What is this way of life?
As long as these questions remain unanswered, the stories we tell will not be compelling. That in turn means that this movement will remain a niche movement, interesting and “cute” but not serious.
Fortunately or unfortunately, this is a community with no center, no buildings, no clear artefacts…and so no clear story. If we are telling the story of this community, or of a community of people who are striving to address complex social challenges, then what is the story of this community? This is the story we want to tell…this is the story we want to invite people into.
And if this is a story of revolution – then what is the art of this particular revolution, what is the music of this revolution? We need to give this revolution a voice, a face, a soundtrack and an aesthetic.
Of-course sports has its own poignancy.
This one is probably best forgotten given what happened but in many ways that makes it even more emotional:
Here’s a great one sent in by Andres Marquez-Lara:
This one from Nike is both genius and perhaps an example of cultural appropriation at its finest:
Not So Bad (but Still Not Great)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Re-Imagining Capitalism: The New 'Bottom Line'

by Jeff Mowatt, Management Innovation Exchange: http://www.managementexchange.com/story/re-imagining-capitalism-new-bottom-line



What do we mean by the statement: "P-CED takes the bottom line one step further: to people, past numbers" ? 
It begins in 1996 with the question of how the economy could better serve humanity.in a white paper delivered to the US President.describing a business with a primary social purpose.
Having established a working model we began researching and designing strategiesto tackle global poverty   From the paper 'Microeconomic Development and Social Enterprise - a 'Marshall Plan' for Ukraine 2006
' In order to understand the overwhelming critical need for social enterprise and a formal national center to facilitate social enterprise, an operational definition for social enterprise is essential.
'Enterprise is any organizational activity aimed at a specific output or outcome. Once the output or outcome – the primary objective – is clear, an organization operating to fulfill the objective is by definition an enterprise. Business is the most prominent example of enterprise. A business plan, or organizational map, provides a reference regarding how an organizational scheme will operate to produce a specific outcome: provision of products or services in a way to create profit. Profit in turn is measured numerically in terms of monetary gains, the “bottom line.”
This is the function of classic capitalism, which has proven to be the most powerful economic engine ever devised.
An inherent assumption about capitalism is that profit is defined only in terms of monetary gain. This assumption is virtually unquestioned in most of the world. However, it is not a valid assumption. Business enterprise, capitalism, must be measured in terms of monetary profit. That rule is not arguable. A business enterprise must make monetary profit, or it will merely cease to exist. That is an absolute requirement. But it does not follow that this must necessarily be the final bottom line and the sole aim of the enterprise. How this profit is used is another question. It is commonly assumed that profit will enrich enterprise owners and investors, which in turn gives them incentive to participate financially in the enterprise to start with.
That, however, is not the only possible outcome for use of profits. Profits can be directly applied to help resolve a broad range of social problems: poverty relief, improving childcare, seeding scientific research for nationwide economic advancement, improving communications infrastructure and accessibility, for examples – the target objectives of this particular project plan. The same financial discipline required of any conventional for-profit business can be applied to projects with the primary aim of improving socioeconomic conditions. Profitability provides money needed to be self-sustaining for the purpose of achieving social and economic objectives such as benefit of a nation’s poorest, neediest people. In which case, the enterprise is a social enterprise.'
In the conclusion, the paper says:
'This is a long-term permanently sustainable program, the basis for "people-centered" economic development. Core focus is always on people and their needs, with neediest people having first priority – as contrasted with the eternal chase for financial profit and numbers where people, social benefit, and human well-being are often and routinely overlooked or ignored altogether. This is in keeping with the fundamental objectives of Marshall Plan: policy aimed at hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. This is a bottom-up approach, starting with Ukraine's poorest and most desperate citizens, rather than a "top-down" approach that might not ever benefit them. They cannot wait, particularly children. Impedance by anyone or any group of people constitutes precisely what the original Marshall Plan was dedicated to opposing. Those who suffer most, and those in greatest need, must be helped first -- not secondarily, along the way or by the way. '
It was the major and final work of founder Terry Hallman whose efforts began with a seminal paper for the President of the United States and led to the creation of a business for social purpose which leveraged a community micro finance bank in Russia. P-CED established in the UK in 2004.as a business serving both private and public sector supply chains with it's software products and services.        ,
In You, Me, We, Ethics and People-Centered Economics, I relate how the concept evolved from an argument for the primacy of human beings over profit and numbers.      
In 2004, it had been introduced to British Government and the social enterprise community, saying:
Dealing with poverty is nothing new. The question became ‘how does poverty still exist in a world with sufficient resources for a decent quality of life for everyone?’ The answer was that we have yet to develop any economic system capable redistributing finite resources in a way that everyone has at minimum enough for a decent life: food, decent housing, transportation, clothing, health care, and education. The problem has not been lack of resources, but adequate distribution of resources. Capitalism is the most powerful economic engine ever devised, yet it came up short with its classical, inherent profit-motive as being presumed to be the driving force. Under that presumption, all is good in the name of profit became the prevailing winds of international economies — thereby giving carte blanche to the notion that greed is good because it is what has driven capitalism. The 1996 paper merely took exception with the assumption that personal profit, greed, and the desire to amass as much money and property on a personal level as possible are inherent and therefore necessary aspects of any capitalist endeavour. While it is in fact very normal for that to be the case, it simply does not follow that it must be the case.
Profits can be set aside in part to address social needs, and often have been by way of small percentages of annual profits set aside for charitable and philanthropic causes by corporations. This need not necessarily be a small percentage. In fact, there is no reason why an enterprise cannot exist for the primary purpose of generating profit for social needs — i.e., a P-CED, or social, enterprise. This was seen to be the potential solution toward correcting the traditional model of capitalism, even if only in small-scale enterprises on an experimental basis.
Enterprise for the primary objective of poverty relief, localized community economic development, and social support became the business model which guided P-CED’s efforts and development at a time in the US when terms such as ‘social enterprise’ and ‘social capitalism’ had not yet been coined.
Traditional capitalism is an insufficient economic model allowing monetary outcomes as the bottom line with little regard to social needs. Bottom line must be taken one step further by at least some companies, past profit, to people. How profits are used is equally as important as creation of profits. Where profits can be brought to bear by willing individuals and companies to social benefit, so much the better. Moreover, this activity must be recognized and supported at government policy level as a badly needed, essential, and entirely legitimate enterprise activity.”
Though some aspects of this recomendation were addressed by the introduction of the Community Interest Company in 2005 and the Social Value Act in 2013, two major components, localisation and human rights, were overlooked. See P-CED home page
The cencept of a business operating for the benefit of the community was first described in the 1996 white paper, which said: 
"The P-CED concept is to create new businesses that do things differently from their inception, and perhaps modify existing businesses that want to do it. This business model entails doing exactly the same things by which any business is set up and conducted in the free-market system of economics. The only difference is this: that at least fifty percent of profits go to stimulate a given local economy, instead of going to private hands."
"If a corporation wants to donate to its local community, it can do so, be it one percent, five percent, fifty or even seventy percent. There is no one to protest or dictate otherwise, except a board of directors and stockholders. This is not a small consideration, since most boards and stockholders would object.  But, if an a priori arrangement has been made with said stockholders and directors such that this direction of profits is entirely the point, then no objection can emerge. Indeed, the corporate charter can require that these monies be directed into community development funds, such as a permanent, irrevocable trust fund. The trust fund, in turn, would be under the oversight of a board of directors made up of corporate employees and community leaders. "
"It is only when wealth begins to concentrate in the hands of a relative few at the expense of billions of others who are denied even a small share of finite wealth that trouble starts and physical, human suffering begins. It does not have to be this way. Massive greed and consequent massive human misery and suffering do not have to be accepted as a givens, unavoidable, intractable, irresolvable. Just changing the way business is done, if only by a few companies, can change the flow of wealth, ease and eliminate poverty, and leave us all with something better to worry about. Basic human needs such as food and shelter are fundamental human rights; there are more than enough resources available to go around--if we can just figure out how to share. It cannot be "Me first, mine first"; rather, "Me, too" is more the order of the day."
The first action was to share this concept with the committee to re-elect the US President in 1996 and then publish online free to use. In 2009, at the international Economics for Ecology conference in Sumy, this point was made:
"Thus the issue of ecology economics is not only 'the third bottom line', it might be more aptly renamed the economics of survival of the human species.  That includes everyone, regardless of one or another economic hypothesis or theory they might prefer.  We can endlessly debate and discuss von Mises/von Hayek free market economics/capitalism which proved successful except for the times it failed, and then study why it failed – repeatedly, the most recent failure in September 2008.  We can endlessly debate and discuss opposing Keynesian government interventionist economics/capitalism,  which proved successful except for the times it failed.  That has been an alternating pattern for the past eighty years in Western capitalism.  We can discuss the successes and failures of various flavors of communism and fascism.  At this point, the simple fact is that regarding economic theory, no one knows what to do next.  Possibly this has escaped immediate attention in Ukraine, but, economists in the US as of the end of 2008 openly confessed that they do not know what to do.  So, we invented three trillion dollars, lent it to ourselves, and are trying to salvage a broken system so far by reestablishing the broken system with imaginary money.
Now there are, honestly, no answers.  It is all just guesswork, and not more than that.  What is not guesswork is that the broken – again – capitalist system, be it traditional economics theories in the West or hybrid communism/capitalism in China, is sitting in a world where the existence of human beings is at grave risk, and it's no longer alarmist to say so.
The question at hand is what to do next, and how to do it.  We all get to invent whatever new economics system that comes next, because we must."
P-CED began as a challenge to traditional capitalism and would lead on to challenge organised crime over human rights. It would finally challenge the governments and politicians who put personal benefit above that of "those in greatest need".    
The primary focus of P-CED became the removal of children from neglect in state institutions, for Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Danone, the 'bottom line' is the number of children removed from malnutrition.
Social business is "All about others, nothing about me"
In his speech Yunus also refers to the 47 million Americans without health insurance. P-CED founder Terry Hallman was one of them
Though we may have re-imagined capitalism, as Martin Luther King Jr once said 'our lives begin to end when we become silent about things that matter'  and when we are silenced by others, many lives are ended.      
Related articles

Friday, July 14, 2017

Platform Co-ops Offer Urban Communities a Bigger Say in Their Lives

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A Kolorob youth facilitator spreads the word in the Dhaka neighbourhood of Bauniabadh. www.kolorob.info
Liam Magee, Western Sydney University; David Sweeting, Western Sydney University, and Teresa Swist, Western Sydney University

This is one of a series of articles to coincide with the 2017 Ecocity World Summit in Melbourne.

Digital platform companies like Facebook, Uber and Google regulate our likes, updates, schedules, locations, photos, jobs and trips. In the “world of the platform”, the power and control of these proprietary systems commodify our habits, attitudes and movements. These platforms inundate our lives in many ways, delivering a daily deluge of data and applications.

Despite recent financial penalties and calls for regulatory oversight, the growth and reach of these platforms show few signs of slowing. Today, Facebook’s active user community of more than 2 billion is greater than that of any country.

In some cities, the statistic of “active Facebook users” seems to be a proxy for the urban population itself. Digital marketing company Hootsuite recently reported Bangkok registered 30 million such users, followed by Dhaka and Jakarta, with 22 million each.

While these counts include confounds – duplicate, dummy and visitor accounts – they register the daunting pervasiveness of Facebook in South and South-East Asian cities, as well as the scale of their digital populations.

This produces complex social effects. Patterns of inclusion and exclusion are both perpetuated and manipulated into new forms. Distinctions between urban infrastructures and new media platforms are rapidly collapsing.

Creating alternative platforms

The concerning power of platform companies has led some to seek alternative models, such as platform co-operatives.

Building on the successes of open source software, the co-operative model creates digital platforms in ways that directly benefit creators, members and users. If, for example, a platform co-operative sold advertising, any proceeds might be distributed equitably to its members, rather than to a much smaller group of company shareholders.

Such co-operatives are examples of new organisational forms that look to overcome inequities in the world’s megacities. We recently participated in an example, a Dhaka-based project called Kolorob, that has developed a small-scale platform for mapping services in informal settlements.

Kolorob has built a custom Android application and database of schools, legal centres, health clinics, government offices and commercial businesses in the northern district of Mirpur. Save the Children in Bangladesh funds and operates the project.

Kolorob aims to transform the lives of poor urban dwellers by improving their access to local services.

The need for directories and maps of services is growing. Digital maps deliver real-time information through front-end, consumer-focused services in global cities. Google Maps, for example, offers reviews of businesses, traffic updates and even warnings on parking availability in 25 US cities.

Meanwhile, informal settlements in many megacities lack basic information on essential services. These are expensive to map, and their communities represent limited markets for advertising and other services.

As spatial information tools to manage megacities increase, citizen participation and collaborative decision-making can help meet the need for access to services while deciphering the noisy complexity of unplanned urban settlements.

The Kolorob project began by recruiting young people to map services into OpenStreetMap, a freely accessible global database of locations. Using their local contacts, project staff collaborated with communities to co-ordinate the mapping of more than 2,000 local businesses and services.

To search and navigate the database, local developers built an Android app that has been downloaded more than 10,000 times.

Exploring co-operatives’ potential

We reported on the aims and progress of the project in 2016. We are now interested in how crowdfunding, volunteerism, hybrid business models, local partnerships and grant applications can sustain the project’s outcomes.

How can co-operative community platforms survive and compete against the global corporate giants? www.kolorob.info

At stake are wider questions. Can examples of platform co-operativism – community-led, owned and operated digital infrastructure – overcome urban information gaps? And how, in doing so, might they sustain themselves to compete against corporate alternatives?

These stakes involve long-term networks and commitments, well beyond the scope of NGO funding cycles. With the rise of an “innovation for impact” agenda in the NGO sector, agility, cross-sectoral collaboration and “shared value” partnerships with the private sector become essential components of this new orientation.

As community co-operatives begin to establish themselves as stakeholders in the digital infrastructure of cities, traditional project evaluation needs to move from the language of “success or failure” to a more calibrated understanding of their short and long-term effects.

Kolorob has highlighted some of these: greater participant learning, emergent citizen science, and political literacy and representation.

There are risks in ceding complete control of our cities’ digital lives to market or state interests. These include not only the monopolisation of information, but a shift in our roles from active citizens to the relative passivity implied in the term “user”.

Despite close scrutiny of the social erosion associated with “platform capitalism”, these platforms continue to proliferate. They already influence – in complex ways – city infrastructure developments and prospects for wider urban participation.

We need to build and sustain urban platforms that are no longer simply lock-in and proprietary. Instead, we should embrace open source software, participatory design and a more inclusive distribution of proceeds.

Even without fully realising their potential, platform co-operatives and allied models offer us new ways to think about who does – and who ought to – benefit from the labour and data we invest in city and digital infrastructure.

The ConversationYou can read other articles in the series here. The Ecocity World Summit is being hosted by the University of Melbourne, Western Sydney University, the Victorian government and the City of Melbourne in Melbourne from July 12-14.

Liam Magee, Senior Research Fellow, Digital Media, Western Sydney University; David Sweeting, Institute Associate, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University, and Teresa Swist, Engaged Research Fellow, Western Sydney University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Perceived Health Benefits and Willingness to Pay for Parks by Park Users: Quantitative and Qualitative Research


Park users are willing to pay for parks, as they highly value them for the physical, mental, and social benefits they provide

Research attests to a range of health and wellbeing benefits attributed to time in parks, but few studies have attempted to assess the related economic value of parks. This study used both quantitative and qualitative measures to assess not only park users’ perceptions of the health and wellbeing benefits they received from visiting parks but also the monetary value they placed on parks.
The researchers invited visitors to three neighborhood parks in Victoria, Australia to complete a short survey about their level and extent of engagement with the park, their enjoyment of parks, their perceived health-related outcomes, and the economic value they assigned to parks. The survey also included an assessment of the park users’ mental health (measured with the Perceived Stress Scale) and wellbeing (measured with the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale). One hundred and forty park users completed the surveys. Seventeen of the respondents then agreed to participate in a follow-up semi-structured interview allowing them to expand on their survey responses.
Five key themes emerging from an analysis of the data included (1) health benefits, (2) access, (3) urban density, (4) children, and (5) safety. Health-related benefits included physical, mental/spiritual, and social benefits. Of these, the physical benefits were cited most often and the social benefits less often. Most of the respondents felt they had “good access” to parks and felt such access was vital to the health and wellbeing of people living in an urban environment. Some participants said they were more likely to visit parks when they had young children and where child-friendly amenities were available. They noted the developmental benefits of children spending time in parks. Most of the participants said that they felt safe in the parks they visited, but that this depended on the time of day. Some indicated that they would not visit their nearby parks during the evening, as they would be concerned about their safety. Many respondents also agreed or strongly agreed that parks provide an opportunity to value the environment.
Park users were generally willing to pay for parks and would “very much” miss parks if they did not exist. The most frequently reported monetary amount they were willing to pay was $100 (AUD) per year. How often they visited the park and having children did not significantly influence the amount of money park users were willing to pay for parks. Almost all participants considered parks to be at least as important as other local services and were willing to pay higher amounts to keep parks.
Overall, these findings suggest that park users are willing to pay for parks, as they highly value them for the physical, mental, and social benefits they provide. These findings provide park managers, public health advocates, and urban policy makers with evidence about the economic value park visitors place on parks as a resource for exercising, socializing, and relaxing.


Henderson-Wilson, C., Sia, K-L., Veitch, J., Staiger, P.K., Davidson, P., Nicholls, P., (2017). Perceived health benefits and willingness to pay for parks by park users: Quantitative and qualitative research. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Nature Therapy Is a Privilege

by Julie Beck, CityLab: https://www.citylab.com/environment/2017/06/how-to-harness-natures-healing-power/531453/

I am in the mountains and they are healing me. It is like the miracle pool at Lourdes except it’s not a miracle and we’re not at Lourdes. We’re at Maroon Bells, which depending on which website you ask, are the most photographed mountains in Aspen, in Colorado, or in North America. I photograph them some more, to help them hold onto their title.

The mountains, and their attendant plant life and water features, are helping to lower my blood pressure, and my stress hormones, and keeping my heart rate variability normal. These are just some of the health benefits of spending time in nature that studies have found in recent years. But this beautiful, soothing environment is fairly remote—its nearest neighbor is the wealthy enclave of Aspen. Back home, I don’t see anything like this on a regular basis. And neither do most people.

“Intuitively, many of us believe this to be true, that we feel better in nature. But it’s only recently that we’ve been able to see biomarkers of this change,” says Florence Williams, author of The Nature Fix. She is a member of the panel that is currently holding forth on nature’s health benefits, fittingly, in an outdoor amphitheater right by the Bells, as part of the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic.

As the empirical evidence mounts, nature-as-medical-treatment is catching on. “Ecotherapy” is a burgeoning field, and some doctors even write prescriptions for time spent in parks, as my colleague James Hamblin wrote in 2015.

In some ways, this is a return to an 18th- and 19th-century understanding of what the body needs. Old-timey therapies that suggested patients go for walks outside or “take in the sea air” were on to something. The pioneering nurse Florence Nightingale advocated strongly that patients be exposed to fresh air and sunlight. As she wrote in her 1859 Notes on Nursing, it is the unqualified result of all my experience with the sick, that second only to their need of fresh air is their need of light; that, after a close room, what hurts them most is a dark room. And that it is not only light but direct sun-light they want… People think the effect is upon the spirits only. This is by no means the case…Without going into any scientific exposition we must admit that light has quite as real and tangible effects upon the human body.

The light certainly feels tangible here, snuggled in the bosom of the Rockies. There are still stripes of snow on the mountains, which are peppered here and there with fistfuls of pipe-cleaner pine trees. There is a sparkling lake in the valley, and the rushing sound of a hidden waterfall off to our right. The morning mountain air is thin and cold, but fresh, and the smell of pine is so strong that it seems fake. It smells like someone has strapped a got-dang Yankee Candle to my nose. I discreetly sniff the woman next to me to be sure she’s not just wearing a really strong perfume.

All of this is distracting, Williams says, from any ruminative, negative thoughts I might otherwise be having. She references a study that had people take a 90-minute walk either in a natural environment, or in an urban environment, scanning their brains before and after. The people who went on a nature stroll had decreased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, which is associated with rumination—the sort of negative thoughts that you return to over and over, picking at a scab. And the participants reported feeling better, as well.

Williams says she copied Michael Pollan’s “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” axiom for her own prescription: “Go outside, go often, go with friends, or not.”

But the problem is that this rash of research showing how wonderful nature is for you is coinciding with a decrease in the amount of time people actually spend in nature. “Our culture tells you that watching Netflix or eating ice cream will make you feel great, and those things are great, but many of us in our society are very disconnected from nature,” Williams says.

A 2008 study found that the percent of Americans who participate in outside activities like camping, fishing, or hunting has been decreasing by about 1 percent a year since the late 1980s. A survey done in the U.K. found that 70 percent of adults remembered doing most of their “adventurous play” outside, while only 29 percent of kids said the same. And, at least in 2001, when the Environmental Protection Agency did its National Human Activity Pattern Survey, adults spent 87 percent of their time indoors in buildings, and another 6 percent of their time in vehicles.

“That goes to this issue of who has access to nature, and who can gain access,” says Michael Dorsey, the senior program officer for sustainability at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. “The decline is differential, based on socioeconomic differences, on race, and on class.” As more people move to urban areas, nature gets farther away. And it’s easier to get to the nature if you have the money to pay for the gas to drive there, for the park entrance fee, for camping gear. When coming up with prescriptions for nature, Dorsey says, “we also have to do that in a political economic context.”

That means making nature available for people who can’t trek to the mountains—making it part of people’s day to day lives. Williams brings up Frederick Olmsted, the designer of Central Park. “His greatest lasting legacy,” she says, “is what he understood about how human communities really need nature, not just to make us feel better. We need these green spaces for democracy. It becomes a ground for the mixing of different classes, different ethnicities. It wasn’t just about the aesthetics—it was about what it meant for the way we socialize with each other, the way we live together.”

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.

About the Author

Julie Beck
Julie Beck is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where she covers health and psychology.