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MAX GAIL: RUNNING LAPS PART II

In Running LAPs part 1 I shared the story of the evolution of a vision that I have been in service to for the last seven years. I call it the community LAP. It grew out of my education in science, economics and business; my employment in teaching, acting and directing; and my involvement with Native Americans and social and environmental activism.

 

Of course, I can't repeat the whole article, but here's some of how I presented LAP to Vice President Gore when I joined Chet Cooper and the ABILITY staff at the VP's campaign announcement at Crenshaw High School in South Central Los Angeles:

"For the last six years I have been working on the notion of the community LAP. As a metaphor, like the Information Super Highway, the community LAP is a way to open hearts and minds to a new phenomenon. We all have a lap. It's an environment we can form to tell stories. It's a safe place to teach and learn. It's our realm of care, charge, control and responsibility. How can a community create a lap?

As an acronym, LAP stands for the many components of itself all producing and transforming the others as happens with all living systems be they organisms, social systems or ecosystems. Some of these components are Local Access Places, Local Access Platforms, Local Access Portals, Local Access Programs, Local Access Principles, Local Access Participants and, the Local Access Philosophy (or Prayer)‹Bringing the fulfillment of needs and aspirations that enhances the chances for new generations.

LAP is about what can e-merge from the convergence of media. It is about the "e-merging C's": Community, Collaboration, Care taking, Care giving, Consensus, Creativity, and Compassion.

I have followed closely the work you have done with Access America, the Blair House papers, and the many different programs in HUD (Neighborhood Networks, EZ), Justice (COPS, NIJ-restorative justice, Maryland Report), Education (CTC's) Agriculture (4-H, AARC), Interior (BIA), Commerce, Labor (One Stop, Disabilities), GSA, and your Reinvention office. I've met with many of the leaders, both policy and IT, as I have been Œrunning LAPs' on the learning curve around the common good. I have also spent time with state, county and local counterparts and grass roots efforts from the inner cities to the reservation.

Shortly after the tragedy happened in Littleton, Colorado, I received e-mail from Curt Lavarello, head of the National Association of School Resource Officers. I was a keynote speaker at their conference last year so we were already on the learning curve together. The school resource officers there, along with the local police and others (even my friends here in LA at the Simon Wiesenthal Center/Museum of Tolerance), had all tracked individually that something was off with those kids. But there was no way for them all to connect. Craig had one remark for me‹ŒTalk about your need for community LAPs!'"

This is not meant to be a political endorsement. Governor Bush, whose father was in office when the ADA was enacted, recently made a very strong statement for furthering that agenda. Although I do have my own opinions, the purpose of LAP is to raise the level of dialogue regarding policy and practice amongst all parties.

My starting point with LAP was the possibility of creating Local Access Places and a television show that could model and facilitate the concept. It was the purchase of my first computer and exposure to Mosaic, the precursor to the World Wide Web, that really opened my mind to the possibility of a program that could exist on air, on line and on land. By "on land" I am referring to the vast array of grass roots visual and performing arts, storytelling, mentoring, learning, independent living, recovery, and other programs that are being created and continued in communities everywhere that too often go unrecognized and under supported.

Once on the learning curve, I found people at all levels already creating components of the Local Access Phenomenon. I spoke at the National Congress of American Indians, a leadership organization of people who easily related to the value of a "storytelling" nexus of community oriented around the relationship of all life and the wellness of future generations. After all, it was my years on the learning curve in that community that helped form the Local Access Philosophy. Ironically, that talk connected me to the Youth@ the CrossRoads Media Literacy Conference hosted by Paramount Studios in Hollywood where I met secretaries Cisneros of HUD and Riley of Education as well as Toni Stone, founder of the CTCNet (Community Technology Center Network). That conference was organized by Garth Sheriff, then president of ADPSR (Architects, Designers and Planners for Social Responsibility) and Peter Waldheim, founder of AIM (Association of Interactive Media not the American Indian Movement with whom I have worked for years).

So many acronyms representing so many organizations piloted by so many individuals who I now count as friends and mentors. In his book Virtual Community, Howard Reingold relates a ponder by John Perry Barlowe. John Perry is a co-founder, with Mitch Kapor, of EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) which has been a champion of first amendment rights and other openness in cyberspace. The question was, "Is there prana (meaning breath or life) on the Internet?" If "PRANA" were an acronym it would likely be "Personal Relationships and Networked Affiliations." Whatever relationships are created between organizations, it is people who collaborate. It's a paradox.

Community Technology Center Network, Neighborhood Networks, Association for Community Networking, On Line Community Facilitation, One Stop employment centers, 4-H Youth Technology program, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, Global School House, ThinkQuest, JobAccess, Federation of Government Information Processing Councils, American Library Association, American Association of People with Disabilities‹the list goes on. But it's not a list really. It's a great circle of overlapping circles.

In just the last few months, I have been helping to "lap" leaders from the National Recreation and Parks Association with these others. I have also been to the DEED (Disabled, Enabled, Empowered and Determined) Conference and to Alaska with the Alaskan Federation of Natives and Commonwealth North, a "lap" of Native, commercial and political leadership that develops policy and practice around inclusive solutions for the future in that region. At issue immediately is subsistence hunting and fishing rights for Native Alaskans, which has ecological, economic, social and spiritual implications that affect everybody. Turns out one of their leaders in this critical subsistence struggle, Mike Williams, has been active in disability issues for decades and is part of the reason Alaska has been a leading state in that regard. Mike also races in the famous Iditarod dog sled race every year and dedicates his effort to recovery programs. Mike has been "running laps" for years.

During these years, enormous resources in financial capital have been poured into the dot-com world exploring every niche and, in many instances, burning through cash with parties and advertising to create an image of success. Meanwhile, other people have created enormous resources in social capital in the overlapping circles of community technology organizations and cultural creatives who have concentrated on social and environmental wellness.

More and more people, either directly or through pension and other funds, have supported the making of millionaires who have indeed paid more taxes enabling some of the government programs addressing what has come to be called the Digital Divide. Many of those millionaires, from large companies and small, are emerging from their side of that divide to address the wellness of the larger community in which they exist. Cisco has created a system of academies, starting in schools and now moving into community technology centers. Candle Corporation is another that has created a mentoring program that has proven of great value to all involved. Announcements like the following are becoming more common:
For Youth, a Tech Power Surge
By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 9, 1999; Page E02
"Arch rivals America Online Inc. and Microsoft Corp., sports-snack maker PowerBar Inc. and General Colin Powell may seem like unlikely allies. But yesterday they and others joined together to announce a multi-million dollar initiative to combat a problem they say concerns everyone: the growing gap between the digital Œhaves' and Œhave-nots.'

The private-public partnership aims to bring computer access to every child in the nation by creating thousands of technology centers in poor communities over the next few years. It is the largest such program to date.

"There's no single solution to bridging the digital divide," said Steve Case, AOL's chief executive. ŒIt's going to take all of us working together to make a difference.'"

The first round of Power Up grants included the National Congress of American Indians and the Watts Labor Community Action Committee. They were the hosts and partners in a recent LAP "Net.Work.Shop" which we have been doing monthly in Los Angeles with the Community Technology Opportunities Consortium.

Last year, Harvard Business Review ran an article by Rosabeth Moss Kanter titled From Spare Change to Real Change: the Social Sector as Beta Site for Business Innovation. The same issue contained an article by Paul Hawken, A Road Map for Natural Capitalism. A decade before these articles might have been considered seditious.

That big business is perhaps awakening is cause for hope, the last to leave Pandora's box. But most business is small and local by comparison, so there is a need for a way these many varied yet interrelated efforts can work together without creating another command and control hierarchy. My friend John Sibert is Director of Technology Transfer for the California State University system (among many caps he wears). He puts it this way:

"The players in the creation of wealth and diffusion of the benefits of a growing economy have important and complementary roles‹roles which are changing in recognition of regional needs. This evolution of regional economic assistance strategy and demand-side driven, multi-pronged programs can be appropriately labeled Œ4th Wave' economic development, evolving from the first three ŒWaves' of economic development strategies as described by the Corporation for Enterprise Development."

Of course, those waves are lapping.

There is a shadow side to the media convergence of cable and broadcast, TV and radio, Internet and phone and other "mega-mergent" phenomena. Recently Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility held a wonderful conference on the Future of the Public Sphere in Cyberspace. After a community networking workshop, one of the participants sent me this e-mail:

"Technology and social design decisions are not being made primarily of, by and for the needs and interests of families, communities, and ecosystems.

Instead they are being driven by the profit motive needs and interests of ever fewer and bigger corporate conglomerates who control both communication systems, advanced technology, and to a large extent government policies. This growing imbalance in economic and political power and misplaced design priorities is rapidly escalating the gap between haves and have-nots and endangering the life support capacities of the Earth."

I would summarize the collective responses in the question, "How can Œwe the people' democratize communications, learning, governance and economic systems so that they are truly ours?"

I applaud the LAP emphasis on drawing from the diverse and creative capacities of the human spirit to evolve healthy whole system relationships. I would very much like to talk with you about more specifics - particularly regarding Local Access Philosophy, Purpose, Principles and Participants. (I just had to leave that plug in.)

In January on CNN, Gerald Levin, Head of Time Warner, said: "Global media will be and is fast becoming the predominant business of the 21st century, and we're in a new economic age, and what may happen, assuming that's true, is it's more important than government. It's more important than educational institutions and non-profits.

So, what's going to be necessary is that we're going to need to have these corporations redefined as instruments of public service because they have the resources, they have the reach, they have the skill base. And, maybe there's a new generation coming up that wants to achieve meaning in that context and have an impact, and that may be a more efficient way to deal with society's problems than bureaucratic governments. It's going to be forced anyhow because when you have a system that is instantly available everywhere in the world immediately, then the old-fashioned regulatory system has to give way."

I agree with futurist Alvin Toffler (Future Shock, Third Wave) that business has been the fastest sector to move into the Information Age, way ahead of government, education, and foundations (although some, like Benton, Markle, and Kellogg foundations, demonstrate great leadership). The second fastest, he says, is the public sphere. Are these two spheres in combat? This is what the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto had to say:

"From the day the first packet moved across a TCP/IP network, economic power has been shifting steadily from supply to demand. Wars and marriages between giant suppliers still make great stories, but those stories have little or nothing to do with what's really going on. Hackers‹the programmers, inventors, developers and architects who are building out this new world‹have been trying to make sure the stuff that matters most is what works for everybody because it belongs to nobody. They do it by making markets what they were for thousands of years before industry turned "market" into a verb: places where people gather, talk about what matters to them and do business together."

Well, I have a lot of quotes and ideas strung out here. Where am I going? I want to introduce another way of thinking about organization that applies to all sectors. The following is a review of Birth of the Chaordic Age by Dee Hock, founder and CEO Emeritas of Visa International. The reviewer is identified at the end:

Over the years, in my work with communities and technology, it has become increasingly obvious to me that as communities struggle to come to grips with the changes being wrought by the Information Age, something else is going on.

That something has nothing to do with technology, per se, but technology has become a flash point for exposing a community's thoughts and dreams (or the lack of them) to the larger world. Until the advent of the automobile in the early part of the twentieth century, I think communities functioned largely unchanged for centuries, especially small and rural communities. In industrialized countries, the notion of community was completely and utterly transformed by the automobile and its offspring like paved roads, suburbs, and the interstate highway.

And amidst all the changes brought by the Automobile Age, communities somehow fell into a long sleep, lulled by (mostly) increasing standards of living, more "stuff" to distract us (consumerism), and the increasing pace of our lives.

But the Internet has changed all that. Communities are no longer bound by geography‹a constant in the life of communities since the dawn of humanity. Technology is forcing communities to wake up and ask themselves, in Dee Hock's words,

"Where have we been?"
"Where are we now?"
"Where are we going?"
"Where ought we to be going?"

It is this last question that, in some sense, defines "Birth of the Chaordic Age." Hock, using the context of his experiences (some good, some not so good) in trying to build the VISA credit card empire, tackles some very difficult questions successfully.

In this book, Hock discusses the rise in influence of transnational corporations and the parallel decline in influence of governments, communities, and individuals (and why). Hock provides a clear and concise explanation of how technology has transformed not just banking but the concept of money itself.

Hock discusses at length what communities must do to begin waking from this long slumber. He proposes a new kind of organization, founded upon chaordic principles (a word combined from the words "chaos" and "order"). Chaordic alliances spurn rigid hierarchies in favor of equal participation in decision making and mutual respect for all points of view‹the very opposite of our current political and corporate practices of relying on power, intimidation, and single interest agendas.

This book should be read by anyone involved with community development issues. Hock lays out, by the end of the book, a series of guidelines and principles that can be used to help transform communities.

Andrew Michael Cohill, Ph.D. http://www.bev.net/cohill/ cohill@bev.net Adj. Prof. of Architecture, Virginia Tech

Here is some of what Dee has to say:

Our obsession with numbers and measurement brings into being the phenomenon of accounting, a profession and practice that plays a dominant role in our present societal structures. In the deepest sense, there is no such thing as "accounting." Accountants are merely a modern version of the tribal storyteller, whose role was to accurately portray their tribe as it was, as it is, as it might become, and as it ought to be, thus informing its evolution and future. That the tribes are now called corporation, nation, university, church, partnership, or any other appellation is irrelevant. The primary language used to inform those tribes is now mathematics, and accounting is relevant only to the degree it accurately explains how the tribe was, how it is, how it might become, and how it ought to be.

The language of financial accounting merely asserts answers, it does not invite inquiry. In particular, it leaves unchallenged the worldview that underlies (the way) organizations operate. Thus, management accounting has served as a barrier to genuine organizational learning‹Never again should management accounting be seen as a tool to drive people with measures. Its purpose must be to promote inquiry into the relationships, patterns, and processes that give rise to accounting measures.

In more precise terms, in the years ahead we must get beyond numbers and the language of mathematics to understand, evaluate, and account for such intangibles as learning, intellectual capital, community, beliefs, and principles, or the stories we tell of our tribe's value and prospects will be increasingly false.

We must understand, evaluate, and account for wholly new, non-monetary forms of ownership, assets, and liabilities of great value that have extraordinary effect but no tangible market price or mathematical means of measurement, such as participatory rights, alliances, systemic interdependence and defined relationships, or the stories we tell of our tribe will be increasingly archaic and misleading.

We must understand, evaluate and account for the full cost of everything removed from or returned to the earth, the biosphere or the atmosphere, including reversion to natural elements in the original proportions and balance, or our stories will result in increasing environmental catastrophe.

We must conceive of and help implement wholly new forms of ownership, financial systems and measurements free of the bottom line, gross maldistribution of wealth and power, degradation of people and desolation of the ecosphere, or the stories will be increasingly immoral and destructive.

And we must interconnect our stories with those of all other tribal storytellers in order to integrate them into a new, intelligible, larger story to inform the global community now emerging, or our stories will continue to set tribe against tribe in ever accelerating economic, social and physical combat.

We are not helpless victims in the grasp of some supernatural force. We were active participants in the creation of our present consciousness. From that consciousness, we created our present internal model of reality. From that internal model, we created our present concepts of organization. With those organizations, we must do better. We know that we can do better. We know it must be done together. And we know that "together" must transcend all from the smallest form of life to the living earth itself. It is not a journey. It is an Odyssey. It will take time. It will require great respect for the past, vast understanding and tolerance of the present and even greater belief and trust in the future. It calls out to the best of us, one and all.

That means the best of you and of me. Perhaps my best close is the following song lyric:

"THERE'S A HEART"

(Chorus) THERE'S A HEART . . . AND IT IS BEATING . . .
IN U ën I-VERSE
A HEART BEAT BEATING EVERYWHERE IN TIME.
WHEN THE MIND . . . CAN JUST SEE THINGS . . .
CAN JUST GO BAD TO WORSE
THE HEART . . . WILL BEAT AWAY . . .
BEYOND THE REASON AND THE RHYME.

THE SACRED PIPE CAN BE ABUSED
SAME AS THE SAVIOR ON THE CROSS
WHEN THE MIND OF MANKIND GETS CONFUSED
HE SEES HIS WORLD A TOTAL LOSS.

FOR ANY TRUTH TO TRULY MATTER
MIND OVER MATTER PLAYS ITS PART
SCIENTIST AND SAVAGE CHATTER
BUT THEY ARE JUST THE SAME AT HEART.

(Chorus)
SO MANY WAYS TO LOOK AT LIVIN'
SO MUCH TO KNOW ëBOUT WRONG AND RIGHT
SO MANY SACRED WAYS WE'RE GIVEN
THROUGH THE DARKNESS AND THE LIGHT.

BELIEVE IN ANY ONE RELIGION
HAVE FAITH IN ANY WAY THAT CALLS
YOU ARE A PARROT OR A PIGEON
ëTIL YOU FLY HIGH ABOVE THE WALLS.

(Chorus)
SO MANY WAYS TO PRAISE CREATOR
SOME SAY IT'S TRUTH, SOME SAY IT'S LOVE
SOME SAY IT'S ART, SOME SAY THEATER
SOME SING A SONG TO RISE ABOVE.

SOME SAY IT'S SOUL, SOME SAY IT'S SPIRIT
SOME TURN TO SCRIPTURE FOR A CHART
BUT YOU DON'T EVEN HAVE TO HEAR IT
TO FEEL THE BEATING OF THE HEART.

MAX GAIL 1988

A post script:

I have had lots of support in this effort even though it is not a typical for profit or non-profit story, the standard paths for raising financial support for enterprises. Many of my peers have agreed to be Life Guards in the Talent Pool: Craig Nelson, Edward James Olmos, Robert Urich, Emelio Esteves, John Savage, Ed Begley Jr., Linda Hamilton, Ed Asner, Sam Elliot , Floyd Westerman, Vincent D'Onofrio, A Martinez, Stacy Keach, Reiny Weege-creator-Night Court. Some of them and others have loaned me support in times of need. I won't name them now, but I appreciate their helping me stay on this path.

Now forming is the Key Board Ensemble.

Local Access Plan
OPEN SOURCE
My idea/intention is that the basic concept of LAP is the SEED of an open source language and process just as LYNUX has a kernel. I have a caretaker commitment to that SEED.
By "basic concept" I mean the metaphor/macronym concept and the rhymes such as LAP App, LAP Cap, LAP Map, etc. as well as the organizational and graphic design elements. These will belong to the participants. Local Access Participants are individuals who affirm the Local Access Purpose and Local Access Principles.
OPEN GAME
The notion of "co-opetition," is based on the concept of an open game as opposed to a zero sum (I win/you lose) game. War and tennis are zero sum games. Open games can have outcomes of win/win, win/lose, and lose/lose.
Enterprise, understood as an open game, involves customers, suppliers, competitors AND complimentors. LAP is a full circle of complimentary relationships. Remember, it's easier to say WinWinWin than double u double u double u.
OPEN SPACE
This has a number of useful meanings. One is the ecological notion that relates to public space. Another is the notion of self-organization of meetings and conferences.
OPEN HEART
OPEN MIND

Max Gail

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More stories from Art Metrano issue: 1999

Max Gail: Running LAPs Part II

Interview With Art Metrano

Harris Wofford: A Leader In Community Service

Click here to read Max Gail's first article Laps

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