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
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
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
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
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"
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
Andrew Michael Cohill, Ph.D. http://www.bev.net/cohill/
firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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,
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.
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.
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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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