Month: 2017-11


dzn 06:35:43
interesting thoughts on heterarchy —

Heterarchy: An Idea Finally Ripe for Its Time

People are talking about "the American Century," or "the Chinese Century," as if it is perfectly natural that some nation must be number one. I was invited to give a talk at Rand a few years after the fall of the Soviet Union. The concern at Rand was how to manage a "unipolar world" now that the bipolar order of the Cold War had come to an end. I tried to tell the researchers at Rand about heterarchy ... but they were not interested.


itsmisscs 06:00:30
@darshana enjoyed reading this and thinking about some of the techniques used to tell the story. i think it would be nice to bring in more dialogue. we have good material.


Palo Alto nonprofit Benetech wins a $42.5M Dept. of Education grant, a nod to founder Jim Fruchterman’s quest to help the blind

Jim Fruchterman, founder of Palo Alto-based nonprofit Benetech, was very relieved when, at the end of September, he received an email from the U.S. Department of Education. With one day left to go in the federal fiscal year, the department had renewed funding for a longstanding reading program for the disabled, and it had chosen Benetech for the third time to run the five-year, $42.5 million project. That meant Benetech could continue to operate Bookshare, which provides digitally materials to 500,000 students with reading disabilities, including blindness and dyslexia, and Fruchterman could forget about planned October layoffs at Benetech. No less important for Fruchterman, a buoyant, 58-year-old Caltech graduate with a more or less constant grin, his frequent trips to Capitol Hill are over for now. “It’s been a huge distraction to have to keep going back to D.C. and say, ‘Hey, we’re the largest program that serves blind and dyslexic kids. We’re 10 times more cost-effective than what you were doing before. Isn’t that great? Both Democrats and Republicans like kids with disabilities, right?” Fruchterman rolls his eyes and laughs at his own frustration. In Silicon Valley’s hyper-competitive startup scene, Fruchterman is a highly unusual figure, and not just because he spends a lot of time in D.C. or likes to work on social good projects. Back when no one had heard of social entrepreneurship — the idea that the energies and skills of entrepreneurs can be used for social good instead of investors’ profits — Fruchterman was one of the very early pioneers. And unlike wealthy techies in the philanthropic ranks, like Bill Gates or Pierre Omidyar, Fruchterman didn’t wait to do good until he made billions. In fact, he has never made a fortune, and he intentionally dropped out of the Silicon Valley race-to-riches. Fruchterman instead took a page out of the Silicon Valley playbook to address persistent social challenges, like helping the disabled to read. His approach is to use money from philanthropists in the same way founders use venture seed rounds to get concepts off the ground, and then, if they work out, raise more funding to drive to a self-sustaining, nonprofit revenue model. Bookshare followed this model to the T, starting with foundation grants to deliver reading tools — by instantaneous, digital means — for the blind and dyslexic who formerly depended on physical products like Braille books and the U.S. mail. Today, the U.S. Department of Education underwrites the service for students, and adults can also subscribe on their own for $75 a year. Yet Benetech is about much more than Bookshare alone. Fruchterman created the organization to house a number of ongoing projects, including around human rights, the environment and other fields. In fact, Benetech houses an incubator for new endeavors, like a current initiative to make social services as easy to discover as the closest pizza joint, as well as a consulting service for nonprofits in need of technology help. “No one else does what Jim does with such focus and dedication,” says Sally Osberg, president and CEO of the Skoll Foundation, which has granted nearly $2.6 million to Benetech in the past decade, “His ability to bridge the commercial world of tech innovation and the potential for social impact is his real strength in the field of social entrepreneurship.” Winning the Skoll Award. Sally Osberg is on the left. The model works, too. Eighty percent of the $13.4 million annual revenue the 70-employee outfit enjoyed last year came from operating projects like Bookshare. The balance came from donors, most of them in Silicon Valley. And in total, Benetech projects have taken in $9 million in nonprofit risk capital and have since attracted nearly $107 million in either follow-on grants or revenue. I started from single-enterprise entrepreneur, to portfolio-of-enterprises ringleader, to guy who wants to help the entire Silicon Valley software and data ecosystem transform the world of disadvantaged communities and the social sector that serves them.   Fruchterman has accumulated lots of laurels for his work, including a MacArthur Fellowship and the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, but in a series of interviews with Fruchterman over the past year those accolades never come up. The conversation inclines to what he’s learning as he  “plays CTO for an hour” to other nonprofits, which provides endless fuel for his key insight: the poor or non-existent use of technology in much of the nonprofit sector. In a recent piece, Fruchterman called for a “software revolution for the greater social good” to address the fact that “the social sector has not fully benefitted from what Silicon Valley does best: Using software to achieve scale and using the data inherent in software solutions to continuously improve services, identify new opportunities and demonstrate impact.” That’s the Silicon Valley thinker in Fruchterman: The market opening he’s after today isn’t simply helping the blind read, it’s marrying the good intentions to hard technology. “This is part of my career evolution,” says Fruchterman. “I started from single-enterprise entrepreneur, to portfolio-of-enterprises ringleader, to guy who wants to help the entire Silicon Valley software and data ecosystem transform the world of disadvantaged communities and the social sector that serves them.”   Thirty-six years ago, the young Caltech graduate was no less ambitious, though his main interest then was rockets, or maybe winning a Nobel. It was the early 1980s, in a universe far, far away, when the Reagan administration made it legal for private companies to develop rockets and defense spending boomed thanks to “Star Wars” missile defense programs. Fruchterman was enrolled at the time in the PhD electrical engineering program at Stanford. He and his friends liked to host entrepreneurs for dinner, and one evening Gary C. Hudson, founder of rocketry startup GCH, Inc., joined them at the Stern dormitory. Hudson was looking for engineers, and he had a simple screening test. He asked Fruchterman two questions: “Who is your favorite science-fiction author?” “Poul Anderson,” Fruchterman replied, citing the author of A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows, among many others. Hudson approved and asked, “Who was your favorite Poul Anderson character? Fruchterman replied that it was Ensign Flandry, the starship pilot-turned-James Bond of the late Terran Empire, in Anderson’s Technic History series. Hudson shook his head. The right answer, in his view, was Nicholas van Rijn, the libertarian-minded adventurer, another figure in the same series. 1981 Hudson gave Fruchterman a pass on the second question and offered him a job on the spot. Fruchterman couldn’t resist. What sci-fi loving engineer could? In 1981, he took a leave of absence from Stanford and went to work in Sunnyvale for GCH, which had backing from Space Services of Houston, and a real estate investor named David Hannah. Soon after, on August 5, 1981, GCH tried to test-fire its innovative rocket-engine design, Percheron, on a launch pad in Matagorda, Texas. The countdown reached ignition, but the engine blew apart on the launchpad. Fruchterman picked up part of a rocket fin — a better startup memento than most — then he and a couple of his colleagues headed back to Silicon Valley to try to raise $200 million for a new rocket company. There were no takers, but Fruchterman decided nevertheless that he would not be returning to the PhD program. “Gosh,” says Fruchterman, sitting in his Benetech office on leafy California Street, roughly a mile from Stanford’s campus. “I realized I found what I wanted to do; I liked…

itsmisscs 06:02:22
also, i enjoyed Micah’s snark here

Civic Hall

First Post: Sucking the Joy | Civicist

How WeWork is making child labor cool again; did Twitter commit securities fraud?; and more.

itsmisscs 06:02:42
3rd bullet point from the bottom



itsmisscs 23:52:32

Knight Foundation

Seats at the table: Community conversations create solutions to common problems

Lilly Weinberg – As a national foundation with deep local roots in 26 Knight communities, we look to learn from the best ideas around the country. We have seen across our cities the power of breaking bread. Sharing a...


dzn 05:04:33
I really REALLY like the Santa Fe Institute for Complexity Science
dzn 05:04:34

Projects: Emergence of complex societies | Santa Fe Institute

We seek to define universal patterns in the emergence of complex societies

dzn 05:05:16

Projects: The co-evolution of individual behaviors and social institutions | Santa Fe Institute

Our institutions change how we think and live. How we think and live, in turn, changes our institutions. We want to understand when this cycle can be virtuous, and how it can also turn vicious.


itsmisscs 08:12:19

Security in a Box - Digital security tools and tactics

Security in a Box - Digital security tools and tactics


dzn 07:39:50
good ol’ Zizek..
dzn 07:39:51


Ideology Is the Original Augmented Reality

Released in July 2016, Pokémon Go is a location-based, augmented-reality game for mobile devices, typically played on mobile phones;…

sylin 10:37:52
tracking millions of stories published online

Media Cloud

Welcome to media cloud

An open-source platform for studying media ecosystems.

finally poked around this project. super cool! thank you for posting. feels very relevant as we think about to talk to project. v neat that they have an api. 💅🏾
oh sands fish is part of the team! so neat
met hit at eyeo. he had a nice talk


patcon 05:01:08
@patcon has joined the channel


itsmisscs 08:09:02
oldie but what a tour de force! love the ideas!! so cool. underscores the importance of bold actions to get citizen attention and action

Harvard Gazette

Academic turns city into a social experiment

One of former Bogotá Mayor Antanas Mockus’ many inspired strategies for changing the mindset – and, eventually, the behavior – of the city’s unruly inhabitants was the installation of traffic mimes on street corners. (Photo courtesy of El Tiempo)Antanas Mockus had just resigned from the top job of Colombian National University. A mathematician and philosopher, Mockus looked around for another big challenge and found it: to be in charge of, as he describes it, “a 6.5 million person classroom.” Mockus, who had no political experience, ran for mayor of Bogotá; he was successful mainly because people in Colombia’s capital city saw him as an honest guy. With an educator’s inventiveness, Mockus turned Bogotá into a social experiment just as the city was choked with violence, lawless traffic, corruption, and gangs of street children who mugged and stole. It was a city perceived by some to be on the verge of chaos. People were desperate for a change, for a moral leader of some sort. The eccentric Mockus, who communicates through symbols, humor, and metaphors, filled the role. When many hated the disordered and disorderly city of Bogotá, he wore a Superman costume and acted as a superhero called “Supercitizen.” People laughed at Mockus’ antics, but the laughter began to break the ice of their extreme skepticism. Mockus’ seemingly wacky notions have a respectable intellectual pedigree. His measures were informed by, among others, Nobel Prize-winning economist Douglass North, who has investigated the tension between formal and informal rules, and Jürgen Habermas’ work on how dialogue creates social capital. (Staff photos Jon Chase/Harvard News Office)Mockus, who finished his second term as mayor this past January, recently came to Harvard for two weeks as a visiting fellow at the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics to share lessons about civic engagement with students and faculty. “We found Mayor Mockus’ presentation intensely interesting,” said Adams Professor Jane Mansbidge of the Kennedy School, who invited Mockus to speak in her “Democracy From Theory to Practice” class. “Our reading had focused on the standard material incentive-based systems for reducing corruption. He focused on changing hearts and minds – not through preaching but through artistically creative strategies that employed the power of individual and community disapproval. He also spoke openly, with a lovely partial self-mockery, of his own failings, not suggesting that he was more moral than anyone else. His presentation made it clear that the most effective campaigns combine material incentives with normative change and participatory stakeholding. He is a most engaging, almost pixieish math professor, not a stuffy ‘mayor’ at all. The students were enchanted, as was I.” A theatrical teacher The slim, bearded, 51-year-old former mayor explained himself thus: “What really moves me to do things that other people consider original is my passion to teach.” He has long been known for theatrical displays to gain people’s attention and, then, to make them think. Mockus, the only son of a Lithuanian artist, burst onto the Colombian political scene in 1993 when, faced with a rowdy auditorium of the school of arts’ students, he dropped his pants and mooned them to gain quiet. The gesture, he said at the time, should be understood “as a part of the resources which an artist can use.” He resigned as rector, the top job of Colombian National University, and soon decided to run for mayor. The fact that he was seen as an unusual leader gave the new mayor the opportunity to try extraordinary things, such as hiring 420 mimes to control traffic in Bogotá’s chaotic and dangerous streets. He launched a “Night for Women” and asked the city’s men to stay home in the evening and care for the children; 700,000 women went out on the first of three nights that Mockus dedicated to them. Bogotá’s women enjoy the fruits of a Mockus idea, a ‘Night for Women,’ when the city’s men stayed home and women police kept the night secure. (Photo by Martin Garcia/El Tiempo)When there was a water shortage, Mockus appeared on TV programs taking a shower and turning off the water as he soaped, asking his fellow citizens to do the same. In just two months people were using 14 percent less water, a savings that increased when people realized how much money they were also saving because of economic incentives approved by Mockus; water use is now 40 percent less than before the shortage. “The distribution of knowledge is the key contemporary task,” Mockus said. “Knowledge empowers people. If people know the rules, and are sensitized by art, humor, and creativity, they are much more likely to accept change.” Mockus taught vivid lessons with these tools. One time, he asked citizens to put their power to use with 350,000 “thumbs-up” and “thumbs-down” cards that his office distributed to the populace. The cards were meant to approve or disapprove of other citizens’ behavior; it was a device that many people actively – and peacefully – used in the streets. He also asked people to pay 10 percent extra in voluntary taxes. To the surprise of many, 63,000 people voluntarily paid the extra taxes. A dramatic indicator of the shift in the attitude of “Bogotanos” during Mockus’ tenure is that, in 2002, the city collected more than three times the revenues it had garnered in 1990. Another Mockus inspiration was to ask people to call his office if they found a kind and honest taxi driver; 150 people called and the mayor organized a meeting with all those good taxi drivers, who advised him about how to improve the behavior of mean taxi drivers. The good taxi drivers were named “Knights of the Zebra,” a club supported by the mayor’s office. Yet Mockus doesn’t like to be called a leader. “There is a tendency to be dependent on individual leaders,” he said. “To me, it is important to develop collective leadership. I don’t like to get credit for all that we achieved. Millions of people contributed to the results that we achieved … I like more egalitarian relationships. I especially like to orient people to learn.” Taking a moral stand Still, there were times when Mockus felt he needed to impose his will, such as when he launched the “Carrot Law,” demanding that every bar and entertainment place close at 1 a.m. with the goal of diminishing drinking and violence. Most important to Mockus was his campaign about the importance and sacredness of life. “In a society where human life has lost value,” he said, “there cannot be another priority than re-establishing respect for life as the main right and duty of citizens.” Mockus sees the reduction of homicides from 80 per 100,000 inhabitants in 1993 to 22 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2003 as a major achievement, noting also that traffic fatalities dropped by more than half in the same time period, from an average of 1,300 per year to about 600. Contributing to this success was the mayor’s inspired decision to paint stars on the spots where pedestrians (1,500 of them) had been killed in traffic accidents. ‘Knowledge,’ said Mockus, ’empowers people. If people know the rules, and are sensitized by art, humor, and creativity, they are much more likely to accept change.’ (Photo by Gerardo Chaves/El Tiempo)“Saving a single life justifies the effort,” Mockus said. The former mayor had to address many fronts simultaneously. In his struggle against corruption, he closed down the transit police because many of those 2,000 members were…


thebestsophist 12:25:10


Taiwan's JOIN platform (or the online public policy participation platform) has become extremely popular, according to The Journalist, cites proposals to change Taiwan time zone, and re-introduce corporal punishment. #Taiwanpoli <;i=TXT20171115163528B95>

I heard about the time zone proposal from @sylin 🙂 One more step to distance from China. So brilliant.
@sylin was join in place before vtaiwan platform?
After. Join was launched on 10th Feb 2015
And it is so popular that Participation Officers can work on public participation as a full time position, officially.
@sylin why was join launched when vtaiwan existed? was it usability or was it because gov could own it?
@itsmisscs in the "fork the gov" presentation, audrey says it was essentially so that the gov could discuss non-digital issues that vtaiwan wasn't interested in. (she jokes that they created it to discuss gay marriage 🙂 )
ah. do those issues get deliberated in vtaiwan process, too?
if they come from join, that is. or is vtaiwan strictly only going to discuss join platform issues that affect netizens
i don't _think_ so, but that's just my sense of what would be consistent with their MO, not something i've heard said outright
hm. oh! i am not sure how join works. i assumed it was a whole analogous process, not one that fed into vtaiwan (i should investigate though)
join was inspired by wethepeople. vtaiwan was inspired by regulationroom.
one day there will be something made in taiwan inspired by vnyc 🙂
k. different base models to guide how they work. it seems join has taken off more though? do all join cases that get 5000 votes go through vtaiwan, @sylin?


itsmisscs 00:55:16
@patcon thread you may want to follow ^^
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