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A Constellation of Initiatives Approach to Overcoming the Ten Critical Challenges

(part 2 of a 3 part series An Introduction to Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability) (All 3 documents in the series are accessible at http://cpcsc.info/about-this-website/ )

by Stefan Pasti, Resource Coordinator Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability (www.cpcsc.info )

Introduction
In Part 1 of this Three Part series, I offered a List of Ten Critical Challenges, and provided references to more detailed documents for people who want to examine the evidence used to arrive at that list. We are going to need all the treasures of cultural evolution we have, and we are going to need to make best use of all the skills and knowledge each one of us has, if we are to achieve the necessary degree of problem solving (i.e. problem solving on a scale most of us have never known before) to overcome the those ten critical challenges. Here is Part 2 of the Three Part series, I describe elements of a constellation of initiatives approach which I believe is comprehensive enough to achieve the necessary degree of problem solving (i.e. problem solving on a scale most of us have never known before). I currently advocate for: a) a combination of preliminary surveys to 150 local leaders (as preparation for Community Visioning Initiatives) b) time-intensive Community Visioning Initiatives supported by many Community Teaching and Learning Centers (offering workshops suggested by the preliminary surveys) c) and sister community relationships as a way of creating local and regional specific constellations of initiatives responses to the challenges of our times. I am hoping that sharing details of this constellation of initiatives approach to overcoming the ten critical challenges might initiate some discussion on the topic of what readers believe are effective approaches for overcoming the most critical challenges of our times (whether they see a similar set of ten challenges, or another very different set). Such a discussion would be helpful, I believe, because people who are not sufficiently informed about critical issues are everywhere, and they are investing their time, energy, and moneyvotingall the time. If the challenges of our times were of a less serious nature, there would be less need for discussionmost of us would be aware of how such challenges could be overcome. Unfortunately, it appears, at least to my point of view, that the challenges of our times are unprecedented, and will require problem solving on a scale most of us have never known before. In such circumstances, there is a need for much more discussion about what kind of collaborative problem solving processes would be most helpful. I therefore encourage readers of this post to ask questions, offer comments, and share ideas and resources (in the comments section of the introductory post, through correspondence, etc) relating to collaborative problem solving processes I have mentionedor relating to collaborative problem solving processes I have not mentioned, but which may have much potential for overcoming the kind of

challenges they see as critical. Thus, a wide-ranging array of collaborative problem solving approaches might be accumulated for further consideration. As I mention further down in this document, I believe that a Community Visioning Initiatives Clearinghouse and a Community Teaching and Learning Centers Clearinghouse would be very helpful, and would provide locations for sharing best practices. For now, readers with best practices to share along those lines (and/or other questions, comments, suggestions, links, etc) can post discussion topics at one of the two Discussion Forums at www.cpcsc.info . I offer this post as Part 2 in a Three Part series under the heading of An Introduction to Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability. Part 1 of the series is titled A List of Ten Critical Challenges, and Part 3 of the series is titled The Treasured Wisdom of Religious, Spiritual, and Moral TraditionsIs it in the tool box? (All 3 documents in the series are accessible at http://cpcsc.info/about-thiswebsite/ ) There are three sections which follow the descriptions of the constellation of initiatives approach I advocate for: a) a List of 4 short documents which summarize my work up to this point b) a brief introduction to the Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability website, at www.cpcsc.info c) a Concluding Comments section. (Note: The same Concluding Comments section has been included at the end of the part 1 post, and will be included at the end of the part 3 post. Thus, I am giving much emphasis to those comments.)

About Community Visioning Initiatives


Community Visioning Initiatives can be described as a series of community meetings designed to facilitate the process of brainstorming ideas, organizing the ideas into goals, prioritizing the goals, and identifying doable steps towards those goals. One of the main goals of Community Visioning Initiatives is to maximize citizen participation in identifying challenges, and in solution-oriented activity. [For more about Community Visioning Initiatives, see The Potential of Community Visioning Initiatives (in 500 words).] My interest in Community Visioning Initiatives was inspired instantly when, in 1994, I watched a documentary titled Chattanooga: A Community With A Vision (13 minutes). The video documents two very successful Community Visioning Initiatives organized by the non-profit organization Chattanooga Venture (Chattanooga, Tennessee USA)one in 1984, and a follow-up in 1993. The 1984 Chattanooga Community Visioning Project (Vision 2000), attracted more than 1,700 participants, and produced 40 community goalswhich resulted in the implementation of 223 projects and programs, the creation of 1,300 permanent jobs, and a total financial investment of 793 million dollars. [Note: For a detailed look at the kind of Community Visioning Initiatives I advocate for, see A 15 Step Outline for a Community Visioning Initiative (28 pages).] The Community Visioning Initiative approach to collaborative problem solving and citizen peacebuilding (supplemented by many Community Teaching and Learning Centers) emphasizes personal and civic responsibility, maximizing citizen participation in identifying challenges and solution-oriented activity, 2

giving people an opportunity to become actively involved in a solution-charged environment, and minimizing the risk of transformation unemployment; and is especially appropriate to the building of close-knit communities of people communities with a healthy appreciation for each others strengths, communities with a well-developed capacity to resolve even the most difficult challenges and communities which demonstrate a high level of compassion for their fellow human beings.

Preliminary Surveys and Ongoing Questionnairesa Key Support Piece for Community Visioning Initiatives
And yet even with a well designed Community Visioning process, there will be a need for other supporting pieces. One supplemental piece I advocate for is preliminary surveys, and ongoing questionnaires. Why are preliminary surveys so important? One reason would be that responses to a preliminary survey would provide a baseline assessmentor starting pointfor where a community is on the subject of understanding the most critical challenges of our times. Another reason would be that in the preparation stages for a Community Visioning Initiative, well thought out preliminary surveys (circulated to at least 150 key leaders from a significant variety of fields of activity in the Larger Community) (see 15 Sample Preliminary Survey Questions) can create interest in the project, and set a tone that the project is seeking as much input from residents as possible. Then, when the results of a preliminary survey are posted in a local newspaper (and on a local visioning project website), the questions asked and the answers most often given will a) help residents appreciate the usefulness of gathering such input b) help residents understand that their input will help determine the workshops offered in the Community Teaching and Learning Centers (CTLCs) c) help residents appreciate the need for the many meetings which make up the Community Visioning process. In addition, organizations and communities of people often use questionnaires and surveys to build consensus for collective action. For example: if 140 of the 150 community leaders responded to a preliminary survey by identifying the same critical challengesand recognizing a need for unprecedented and urgent solutionssuch a response would do much to encourage citizens to participate, in some way or other, in the local Community Visioning Initiative. Regarding ongoing questionnaires, such snapshots of the Community Visioning Initiative process can help assess whether increased understanding, increased awareness, increased social cohesion, increased problem solving capacity, etc has been achieved or notso efforts can be made on the fly to make modifications to the process. One other reason for preliminary surveys and ongoing questionnaires might not be understood by some people at firstbut may be the most important reason of all. Consider the following observations: a) Some of the challenges of our times are at the very core of the difficulty of being human beings, and are challenges which people have faced since the beginning of time. 3

b) Some of the challenges are circumstantial: during times when there is much prosperity many people may not recognize these fields of activity as problematic. c) And some of the challenges may be considered the result of a kind of spiritual sickness: people with clear opportunities for walking on a Great Road are instead greatly delighting in tortuous paths. Were I to have the least bit of knowledge, in walking on a Great Road, its only going astray that I would fear. The Great Way is very level; But people greatly delight in tortuous paths.
[From Chapter 53 of Te-Tao Ching (by Lao Tzu) (possibly 6th Century B.C.E.) Translation by Robert G. Hendricks]

Because some of these challenges may be difficult to identify at first, and as a way of illustrating the need for Community Visioning Initiatives (and supporting Community Teaching and Learning Centers), preliminary surveys and ongoing questionnaires can be very helpful. At first, there may be only 10 or 15 people in a community who see some of the more difficult-to-see challenges. But if the results of the preliminary surveys and ongoing questionnaires are published in local newspapers, and made accessible in neighborhood Community Teaching and Learning Centers, observations that might have been ignored by many might quickly become very important in the Community Visioning Initiative process. In the same way, results from preliminary surveys and/or ongoing questionnaires might illustrate a consensus (like the example mentioned above) which many people did not know existed. [Note: In addition, evaluation questionnaires at the end of the Community Visioning Initiative can identify strong points of the process, weak points, and what are the most important lessons to be learned.] Hopefully, from the observations in this section, readers can see that there are many ways which preliminary surveys and ongoing questionnaires can be key support pieces for Community Visioning Initiatives.

About Community Teaching and Learning Centers


Consider carefully the following observations: The ways we invest our time, energy, and money have a direct impact on the ways of earning a living that are available. The investments of time, energy, and money that each of us make in our everyday circumstances becomes the larger economy. People who are not sufficiently informed about critical issues are everywhere, and they are investing their time, energy, and moneyvotingall the time. We will need to make best use of the knowledge and skills each person has to contribute to overcome the challenges ahead. Community Teaching and Learning Centers have the potential to be 1) a multi-purpose support center for implementing Community Visioning Initiatives 2) a neighborhood meeting place and workshop center and 4

3) a critical part of a low cost lifelong learning education system (part of a combination of questionnaires and surveys, neighborhood learning centers and neighborhood learning networks, and Community Visioning Initiatives). Creating the knowledge base and skill sets necessary to resolve the challenges of our times will require encouraging as much formal and informal meetings as possible between neighborsand people living in the same local community. Creating many Community Teaching and Learning Centers can provide placesin local neighborhoodsfor discussion, information sharing, mutual support and encouragement, fellowship and friendshipso that the exchanging of information and resources will also include the building of a close-knit community of people with a healthy appreciation for each others strengths. [For more about Community Teaching and Learning Centers, see The Potential of Community Teaching and Learning Centers (in 500 words).]

Local Currenciesand Minimizing Transformation Unemployment


In the context of neighborhood learning center workshops, and the re-training of people to fit jobs in a shifting employment landscape, it is worth highlighting the benefits of having a local currency. Making a just transition from dysfunctional systems which are very complex to functional systems which are much less complex can be accelerated by the practice of introducing local currency. One way a local currency can introduced is as payment to people (especially those who are unemployed) who deliberately rechannel how they use their time, and how they make their basic needs purchasesso that such investments support action plans identified as priorities by the local Community Visioning Initiative. Alsosince local currencies are only accepted within the communityits use would encourage the development of a mutually supportive network of locally based businesses. Thus, introducing a local currency can have a positive multiplier effect on the constellation of initiatives being generated by the Community Visioning Initiative process.

Many Community Service Opportunities for Local Newspapers


There are many opportunities for local newspapers to contribute very valuable community services in the planning, implementation, evaluation, and follow up stages associated with Community Visioning Initiatives. Here is a list of some of the community services local newspapers could contribute: 1) provide information about the potential of Community Visioning Initiatives 2) advocate for the implementation of Community Visioning Initiatives 3) be directly involved in making Preliminary Surveys accessible, provide in-depth coverage of the response compilation process to assure credibility, and provide a variety of summary and analysis of the responses 4) provide ongoing public access to details of each stage of the Community Visioning process 5) provide ongoing public access to details of workshops and other educational experiences at Community Teaching and Learning Centers 6) provide in-depth coverage of the all response compilation processes to assure credibility 7) provide a variety of summary and analysis of the responses at each stage of the process 8) provide follow-up coverage of the projects and initiatives which spin-off from the action plans receiving significant community support 9) encourage citizen input as a way of further evaluating the successes and failures of the process 5

Even further, a collective effort by a significant number of citizens in a local community, would easily identify, develop, and create enough --examples and descriptions associated with: energy descent pathways and sustainable community economies, community supported agriculture and community supported manufacturing, community land trusts and co-housing projects, community revolving loans, ecological tipping points, fair trade practices, cradle to cradle sustainable product practices, barter networks and local currencies, energy farms, zero waste projects, building collaborative problem solving and respectful dialogue skills, inspiring role models, service-oriented initiatives, right livelihood employment listings, accountability indicators and statistics, apprenticeship programs, workshop and conference information, volunteer work---examples of questionnaires that help build caring communities; sample preliminary survey questions exchange and commentary department; results at various stages of community visioning initiatives; examples of carefully channeling our investments of time, energy, and money towards priority solutions; examples of how we determine the markets that supply the ways of earning a living; statistics associated with ecological footprint analysis; best practices associated with Community Visioning Initiatives and Community Teaching and Learning Centers; best practices associated with evaluation and lessons learned relating to specific Community Visioning Initiatives--- commentary; essays; letters to the editor; community journal entries; resource reviews; links to service-oriented organizations, initiatives, and projects---and, thus, in general, enough things people can do in the everyday circumstances of their lives to contribute to peacebuilding, ecological sustainability, and community revitalization in their own local communityand around the world---to justify a weekly publication of a new kind of local newspaper. A Question: What would be the readers estimate of how many people in his/her local community would like the opportunity to discuss the contents of such a publication with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.? And what would be the readers reasons for a high, medium, or low estimate?

Sister Community Relationships


Sister Community relationships can provide whole communities with opportunities to assist other communities with the transition for dysfunctional systems which are very complex to functional systems which are much less complexor with the transition to functional systems, which provide for basic human needs. In addition, such community-to-community relationships create service work capable of uniting diverse communities of people, and a variety of opportunities for person-to-person peacebuilding. And there are many communities in the world who already have sister community relationships with communities in other parts of the world. The organization most responsible for developing the idea of sister communities, and the organization most experienced in facilitating and monitoring such relationships, is Sister Cities International. 6

About Sister Cities International


(from a Sister Cities International Fact Sheet which is no longer accessible online)

1) Our mission is to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperationone individual, one community at a time. 2) Sister Cities International is a nonprofit citizen diplomacy network that creates and strengthens partnerships between U.S. and international communities. As an international membership organization, we officially certify, represent and support partnerships between U.S. cities, counties, states and similar jurisdictions in other countries. 3) Sister Cities International represents more than 2,500 communities in 134 countries around the world. 4) Key program areas include: Sustainable Development, Youth and Education, Humanitarian Assistance, Arts and Culture 5) Services provided to communities joining Sister Cities International include: eligibility to apply for seed grants to support sister city projects access to information and how-to guides mentoring and staff consultation 6) Link to the Sister Cities International publication Building a Local Program: A Guide to Creating Successful Sister City Programs Ten Examples of Humanitarian Aid Which Can be Explored Through Sister Community Relationships Developing a sister community relationship could be a way for diverse people in any particular community to find common ground. And common ground associated with increasing compassion for our fellow human beings would be a very special kind of common ground. Exploring these possibilities could make it possible for many people to have first hand experience with bringing to the fore what is often hidden: how many good people there are, how many ways there are to do good, and how much happiness comes to those who extend help, as well as to those who receive it. Unfortunately, because there are often so many different activities which require our attention during the course of any given day, many of us simply do not know how much good can be done in the world with even minor contributions of time, energy, and money. To help increase awareness of how much good can be done through sister community relationships, I have included (below) the names of ten organizations (or fields of activity). There are countless numbers of organizations associated with these organizations and concepts, and these examples are only a sample of the many different kinds of positive outcomes could result from such sister community relationships. The Ten Organizations (or concepts) are: Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies World Food Programme Doctors Without Borders 7

Teachers Without Borders S3IDF (Small-Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Development Fund) IDE (International Development Enterprises) Heifer International Peace Corps Foreign Student Exchange Adopt a Child

Four short documents which summarize my work up to this point


Four short documents can serve as a summary of my past work (all accessible from http://cpcsc.info/key-documents/ ). 1) 2) 3) 4) A List of Ten Critical Challenges (1 page) New Approach to Collaborative Problem Solving and Citizen Peacebuilding (6 pages) The Potential of Community Visioning Initiatives (in 500 words) (1 page) The Potential of Community Teaching and Learning Centers (in 500 words) (1 page)

The Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability website (at www.cpcsc.info )


Many of the documents and resources I created in the past which have lead to the four summary documents above are now accessible at a new website (August, 2013) (www.cpcsc.info )under the heading of Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability. The website includes homebases for The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative, Community Visioning Initiatives Clearinghouse, Community Teaching and Learning Centers Clearinghouse, a homebase for my Returning to College Coursework search, two Discussion Forums, and a Key Links section.

Concluding Comments
I hope that this post might be a starting point for one of a very long series of periodic re-examinations of our moral compassas we will need many such re-examinations if we are to make the transition from dysfunctional systems which are very complex to functioning systems which are much less complex. There are many positive outcomes which might arise from such re-examinations. One would be that if there were more people who understood how very serious the challenges ahead of us are, they would (I believe) be less likely to demonize others (and thus perpetuate the us vs. them scenarios especially when its mostly all of us who have got us here anyway),and much more likely to participate in collaborative problem solving and citizen peacebuilding processes (like the kind of community visioning initiatives this writer advocates for). Another positive outcome which might arise from a long series of re-examinations of our moral compass is increased understanding of the value of collaborative problem solving and win-win solutions. The constellations of initiatives approach I advocate for (described in detail in part 2 of this 3 part series) is not a narrative or agenda hidden as a problem solving approachit is a way in which 8

narratives can be grown with no preconceived idea of which ideas will attract consensus, and which will not, and in contrast to a competitive match, with winners and losers. This kind of organic growth process is what the combination of preliminary surveys, Community Teaching and Learning Centers, Community Visioning Initiatives, sister community relationships, etc can offer, and it is appropriate to call such activity collaborative problem solving and citizen peacebuilding. Both the challenges to be addressed, and the solutions preferred, are grown from within the communityand by participating in such collaborative problem solving and citizen peacebuilding processes, citizens become stakeholders in that which is being grown. But what is being grown does not need to be named even before it is grown in fact, having a name before it is grown might stifle key elements of its growth. So, it could befor some communities, anywayenough that a majority of citizens know they are taking part in a kind of naming process. And it may be decades before the final outcome is well enough defined to be named. In the meantime, (in between now and a positive outcome some distance in the future), there will be more and more people becoming aware of the profound and unprecedented nature of this time, in the whole course of history. And as more and more people appreciate the profound nature of this time, more and more people (I believe) will understand that the idea of fighting over the naming of the narrative twenty or thirty years before a positive outcome is assured is really something to be avoided in favor of the more urgently needed collaboration on issues which are much more critical to our common welfare. There are times for resistance and opposition as a part of non-violent protests and non-violent dialogue, and as a part of movement towards non-violent conflict resolutionbut in our current landscape of multiple critical challenges, we would be better off exercising such forms of personal expression in the wider context of collaborative problem solving and peacebuilding processes in our local communities... where it would become clearer and clearer that all of us need to do better at constructive, civil, courteous, and respectful problem solving and peacebuilding at the local community level and where it would become clearer and clearer that all of us need to be helping each other more, so that our collective efforts are enough to make a positive tipping point possible.