Archive for the ‘politics’ Tag

An Invaluable Challenge in Unlikely Alliances: Cultural Nonprofit   Leave a comment

What can be more exciting in alliances than finding a significant opportunity for teaming in an unusual place, and with reluctant organizations?

The place: nonprofit organizations of a kind that thrived in many Western economies decades ago – research and popularization societies in history, politics, economics, and other social sciences.
These cultural organizations have been gradually starved of audience and funds during the late 20th century’s growing focus on market-driven approaches even for social and cultural progress.
The current financial, then economic downturn is providing them with a new lease of life: here opinion and consensus may be shaped with different mechanisms and results from those that market forces allow.

The reluctance: over decades of practical hardship, a few of these volunteer-based, academic-rooted, deep-thinking organizations have evolved a very, very keen awareness of what is special about each, and how different they are from each other.
This self-consciousness makes it difficult to perceive the value of cooperation with selected similar organizations, much like in a siege mentality.

The opportunity: such organizations generally stand a good chance of benefitting from alliances, since each may well hold unique and little known value, for each other and their common public.

The case in point:

  • Over the last few years some valued colleagues and I have had the opportunity to help few such organizations in their work, and to encourage them to engage others in an operating network.
  • Last year, one has developed a point of view that we believe is new and highly valuable both for the discipline they cultivate, and for the larger community they address.
  • This particular organization is set to benefit from significant complementary strengths other similar organizations have.

The invaluable challenge is now to engage some of these organizations into considering and forging cooperation and alliances with each other. These alliances can leverage their complementary strengths and make the value each contains more accessible to all of them and their common public.

Following public presentation of this new idea, the next few weeks will be essential to start this networked, alliances-oriented approach.


Finanza Etica – Ethical Finance: You Better Think then Act   Leave a comment

Naturalmente nel senso di – as in The Blues Brothers’ song by Aretha Franklin of course.
La discussione in italiano è oltre.

*** English commentary ***

Over January and February I had the opportunity to attend a valuable course (in Italian, as most of the discussion below will be), organized by Valori, a magazine about social economics, ethical finance and sustainability.

Two key lessons from that course: that free markets are good, yet most markets we see are barely free, and that people who want to learn more about this also want to involve friends and colleagues in discussing and practicing conclusions from the course.

I believe what we are trying to do, in this course and elsewhere, is reviewing after the 2007 “financial crisis” the balance each of us had achieved between different mental models of finance and business, with very different assumptions about the value and role of regulation in a market economy.

It will be interesting to watch how this effort will evolve after the course, as each of us who attended and taught grapples with change, individually and with others.
For instance, some of us are currently considering how to leverage our social networking tools and skills to support broader discussion and collaboration on these lines.

*** Discussione in italiano ***

Ho appena seguito il corso di finanza e finanza etica di Valori. Il corso ha toccato diversi temi con una utile varietà di punti di vista tra i vari docenti. Era naturalmente incentrato su una interpretazione della situazione finanziaria attuale, dopo la “crisi finanziaria” del 2007, che raccomanda di introdurre meccanismi di controllo significativi per i mercati finanziari – meccanismi peraltro di ispirazione ben più liberale che non socialista, marxista o comunque ostile al’economia di mercato in senso proprio.

E’ stato un corso sostanzialmente divulgativo, per non specialisti desiderosi però di applicare le conclusioni della discussione nelle scelte economiche e finanziarie quotidiane di ciascuno, e delle associazioni cui partecipiamo. Per questo, e grazie all’apertura e alla disponibilità dei docenti, la discussione è stata intensa.

In eventuali edizioni future credo sarà utile sfruttare questa impostazione dando più spazio alle dottrine (neo)liberiste e articolando meglio la loro critica. Molti dei partecipanti infatti vengono da una formazione fortemente critica nei confronti di aspetti importanti dell’economia di mercato e del ruolo recente della finanza nell’economia delle famiglie e delle aziende del mondo occidentale. La crisi del 2007 rafforza in chi di noi ha questo retroterra la spinta a schematizzare la valutazione dei meccanismi di mercato e dei mercati finanziari, almeno quanto chi di noi ha una formazione più liberista ha interiorizzato negli ultimi decenni una valutazione semplicistica della regolamentazione dei mercati.

Già durante il corso alcuni docenti e molti partecipanti hanno cominciato a distribuire materiali a complemento delle lezioni. E sempre durante il corso diversi docenti e insegnanti hanno proposto di coinvolgere anche altri nella discussione e nella comunicazione di questi temi.

Proprio in questi giorni con alcuni dei partecipanti stiamo cominciando a confrontarci su come utilizzare anche strumenti di social networking per favorire la comunicazione delle conclusioni raggiunte, e soprattutto la collaborazione tra persone e organizzazioni nell’applicarle alla pratica quotidiana. Cosa ne uscirà?

International Alliances: Whatever You Do, Wherever You Work, Find a Better Phrase than “Developing Countries” – Now   Leave a comment

First, go watch this. And I say “watch” as in “look at it moving”… click the “play” button and see the world unfolding.

Oh, I do hope you were sitting. With any luck, “comfortably” will come back soon.

See the huge red ball fluttering around and literally bouncing hard on the floor between 1958 and 1961?
Now, that’s really the best part of this world by some very significant measures, as we all know- today, that is.

If you watch closely it bounces up much before hitting the bottom of the chart – mercifully.
I shiver to the thought of what must it have been like, and I do so watching this graph much more than when I read gut-wrenching accounts of that story over the last few decades.

International alliances are probably among the easiest varieties of international work, and the lesson that Professor Hans Rosling’s  Gapminder drives here feels like applying to many of the most complex kinds too, from trade and manufacturing, to cooperation, to aid, to finance and diplomacy.

I start from alliances for a very personal combination of reasons. For now, let’s just say

  1. it was a long time alliances colleague and friend pointing me to this,
  2. surely alliances must be across borders and so international, or what are they? 
  3. it looks like Gapminder can help us see the limits of some myths shaping how we act – internationally.

In his donation request, professor Rosling calls them “devastating myths”.
If you find this a bit too strong, go to the link here at the top and just watch the ball pinball around, bounce hard, then float up left. Safely, I am sure we all hope, since the vertical axis is labeled “life expectancy”. 

There’s plenty more myths where this comes from, and plenty more devastation. I so hope alliances, too, can help improve on some.

How Do You Say “Freedom of Speech” in Social Media-ese?   Leave a comment

The Economist’s “Babbage” blog just posted a great introduction to a thoughtful Foreign Affairs feature by Clay Shirky on The Political Power of Social Media.

Time matters. Freedom of speech on the Internet before social media is different from of speech on the internet with social media. Freedom of speech before Wikileaks published quite a few confidential comments by members of diplomacies is different from the same after those comments were published.
Ask Mr. Shirky, who does point to Wikileaks as one of the places where valuable political conversation and coordination happens, likely before the recent highly visible wave of leaks.

Luckily, this coincidence fully supports Mr. Shirky’s very point: to determine how the Internet helps freedom and civil rights, and to help this process, focus on long-term (“environmental”) actions and effects, rather than short-term (“instrumental”) pressure to fight individual censorship acts such as tracking and punishing bloggers, or blocking access to international news.

Much better to support access to conversation than access to information: it allows long term mutual education and sharing, and it enables networked coordination, independent from hierarchies. Freedom of speech here is more about building an environment for civil organization and collaboration than individual tools. Conversation (“debate”) in these environments is what historically has shifted the balance of power between civil society and governments.

I find this notion a very effective simplifying tool to assess the value of media, including social digital media, for building freedom. Do check out the original article for much deeper and richer insight.

Update: for a likely more sobering view, see the Economist’s review of Evgeny Morozov’s book “The Net Delusion“. Based on the review, the book appears to support Mr. Shirky’s recommendation  mostly by highlighting how much the Internet can actually help authoritarian regimes track and crush opposers.

According to the review: <<“The internet”, Mr Morozov argues, “has provided so many cheap and easily available entertainment fixes to those living under authoritarianism that it has become considerably harder to get people to care about politics at all.”>> Perhaps even more importantly for how democratic governments and communities can contribute: <<Authoritarian governments are assumed to be clueless about the internet, but they often understand its political uses far better than their Western counterparts do, Mr Morozov suggests.>>

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