Tipping Point Action: Citizen Participation in Times of Unprecedented Challenges by Tipping Point Action
Assist with creating 1000 Community Visioning Initiatives to maximize citizen participation and accelerate solution-oriented activity
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 kind of Community Visioning Initiatives advocated in this proposal is to maximize citizen participation in identifying challenges, and in solution-oriented activity.
The primary goal of the Tipping Point Action Campaign is to encourage citizens from every variety of circumstances to help create, become involved, contribute to, and participate in one or more of the thousands of Community Visioning Initiatives (or similar stakeholder engagement/collaborative problem solving processes designed to maximize citizen participation) which will be needed to exponentially accelerate solution-oriented activity at this critical time.
The investments of time, energy, and money (the “votes”) each of us make in our everyday circumstances become the larger economy. Through workshops at many Neighborhood Learning Centers (supporting the Community Visioning Initiatives), citizens can gain greater awareness of the consequences of our investments of time, energy, and money.
Naturally, different communities will “grow” their response-to-identified-challenges narratives in different ways, according to the leanings of the local residents, and the influences of environment, culture, and local economies.
One of the keys to appreciating the value this proposal: Community Visioning Initiatives can help people “become stakeholders”, with the faith that as they do so, and become involved in the education at the level of Neighborhood Learning Centers (and “voting” on priority challenges and priority solutions), they will discover for themselves just how much we all need to learn to make this transition, and how much we need each and every one of us to contribute their skills and resources towards solutions.
Category of the action
Changing public perceptions on climate change
What actions do you propose?
The Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability (CPCS) Initiative provides research for critical challenge alerts, and support for collaborative problem solving initiatives which seek to maximize citizen participation.
The CPCS Initiative believes that we—collectively—are at a critical point in the evolution of life on Planet Earth. As a way of helping the evidence “come through the mist”, this writer created the document “Invitation Package for Possible Board of Advisors (at www.cpcsc.info )” (589 p.; 3.65 MB) (alt. link-- "Invitation Package for Possible Board of Advisors") Many of the sections in the “Invitation Package” document are in a compilation of excerpts format—excerpts from articles, documents and websites—to help readers with “connecting the dots”, on both challenges and solution options [and there are many shorter supporting documents to the “Invitation Package”—“A List of Ten Critical Challenges” (1 p.) (Alt. link: "A List of Ten Critical Challenges"]. As a consequence of the research necessary to create that “Invitation Package” (and much previous research), this writer is aware of many sources for evidence on critical challenges, and many highly relevant and already established solution pathways.
The CPCS Initiative advocates for a combination of preliminary surveys to 150 key leaders in local communities, time-intensive Community Visioning Initiatives supported by many Neighborhood Learning Centers (offering workshops suggested by the preliminary surveys);sister community relationships for communities needing assistance with basic human needs; job fairs; local currencies; and community service (multi-faceted and ongoing coverage of local visioning initiatives) from local newspapers as a starting point for accelerating solution-oriented activity—and as a way of creating more “close-knit” communities (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).
Creating the knowledge base and skill sets necessary to drastically reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GGE), and mitigate other related challenges, will require encouraging as much formal and informal educational experiences as possible between neighbors—and people living in the same local community. Creating many Neighborhood Learning Centers can provide places—in local neighborhoods—for discussion, information sharing, mutual support and encouragement, fellowship and friendship.
All of us have important responsibilities associated with resolving a significant number of very serious challenges in the months and years ahead, as the ways each of us invest our time, energy, and money becomes the larger economy. Halting global warming before unprecedented negative feedback loops set in, and mitigating related challenges, will involve whole cultures needing to find contentment and quality of life using much less material goods and ecological services. Helping difficult concepts to “come through the mist” will require revitalizing the experience of working together with our neighbors for the greater good.
Visualizing the Potential of Community Visioning Initiatives
As a way of visualizing the potential of Community Visioning Initiatives to revitalize that working together experience, this writer recommends the 13 minute documentary “Chattanooga: A Community with a Vision”. The 1984 Chattanooga Community Visioning Project (“Vision 2000”) attracted more than 1,700 participants, and produced 40 community goals—which 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.
Two very important questions:
1) What would an educational curriculum look like—for preparing survey specialists, resource coordinators for Neighborhood Learning Centers, and organizers/facilitators for Community Visioning Initiatives (and other stakeholder engagement/collaborative problem solving approaches)—if it was to be delivered in training modules similar to the kind used when the Peace Corps was scaled up?
2) What if there needed to be a reversal of the urbanization trend, and a demographic shift from megacities to more ecologically sustainable and villages, towns, and small cities (with much more potential to achieve carbon neutral economies)? What kind of curriculum (in colleges, other learning institutions, and in Neighborhood Learning Centers) would be most appropriate to create the knowledge base and skill sets necessary to make such a transition?
Educational institutions, and other organizations, could increase their existing efforts, or take up the call, to develop educational curriculum and training in response to such questions.
A key to the kind of Community Visioning Initiatives advocated for here is affordable workshops in Neighborhood Learning Centers. Workshops—on topics suggested by the preliminary surveys to 150 key leaders, and on other topics related to local resident “voting” to identify priority challenges and priority solution options—need to be affordable enough to not exclude any part of local community. One way: two teachers can earn $50 apiece while facilitating a 2 hour workshop with 25 people (who paid only $4 apiece)(and had the option to pay it in local currency they could earn by contributing volunteer work to assist with the Community Visioning Initiative).
What We Need Now Are:
1) Less people who are worried that “the economy” will collapse if there is widespread movement from using material goods and ecological resources indiscriminately to discriminating carefully about the use of material goods and ecological resources.
2) More people who believe it is possible to create, support, and sustain communities which require much less materials goods and ecological services, drastically reduce GGE, maintain ecological sustainability, maintain a high level of compassion for fellow human beings—and which represent what a significant majority of community residents surveyed would describe as a high quality of life.
3) Collaborative problem solving processes which help citizens understand that the investments of time, energy, and money (the “votes”) each of us make in our everyday circumstances become the larger economy. And that wisely directed, such “votes” can result in countless ways of earning a living which contribute to the peacebuilding, community revitalization, and ecological sustainability efforts necessary to drastically reduce GGE (Greenhouse Gas Emissions), and minimize other related challenges. Citizens from every variety of circumstances can learn how to wisely cast such “votes”—through workshops and meetings at Neighborhood Learning Centers during a Community Visioning Initiative, and through other local learning experiences.
Putting All the Pieces Together
One of the comments in the “Comments” section of this proposal highlighted a key question, which is: “…this project does requires a lot of organization to manage all those stakeholders you're talking about. How are you going to put all the pieces together?”
1) First, what I’m proposing has many elements in it which have been done before (preliminary surveys, Community Visioning, Neighborhood Learning Centers, conference and training related workshops, etc)—they just haven’t been so comprehensively combined together for the purpose of maximizing citizen participation in resolving unprecedented challenges. In the most comprehensive summation of resources associated with this proposal—the document "Invitation Package for Possible Board of Advisors" (589 pages)—there are over 180 pages dedicated to identifying, and providing descriptions and biographical sketches for, 29 organizations and 272 practitioners who could be associated with this kind of project. These descriptions and biographical sketches are provided to help readers see how it would be possible to “assist with creating 1000 Community Visioning Initiatives”. The descriptions and biographical sketches illustrate how much potential there is for problem solving on a scale most of us have never known before.
Here is one example of the value of those descriptions and biographical sketches:
a) The “Stakeholder Engagement” section (of the “Invitation Package…” document) provides biographical sketches of 20 practitioners associated with 13 different organizations—including Dialogue by Design; Stakeholder Forum; University of California Extension’s Center for Cooperative Solutions; and D3 Associates. As one example, Philip Thomas of D3 Associates has “designed and facilitated hundreds of training programs across five continents and is recognized globally for his work in democratic dialogue and multi-stakeholder engagement processes”.
Thus, one of the most important goals of the campaign “Tipping Point Action: Citizen Participation in Times of Unprecedented Challenges” is to help people become aware that we have the experience, educational materials, and financial resources to carry out problem solving on this kind of unprecedented scale… to help people visualize that it is possible.
2) It is not so much a question of “managing stakeholders” at this point, but inviting people to “become stakeholders”. People who are not sufficiently informed about critical issues are everywhere, and they are investing their time, energy, and money—voting—all the time. These are people who are unaware (or don’t believe) that there is a need for culture change which will almost certainly affect their ability to be disengaged from actively evaluating (on a day to day basis) the consequences of their investments of time, energy, and money. While there are times when a confrontation approach is appropriate and will be constructive, what we need more of now is to greatly accelerate our capacity for collaboration. And achieving the level of collaboration needed to overcome global warming will, I believe, require a kind of faith and flexibility of agenda (a flexibility which certainly seems possible when there are so many challenges to overcome!)(see "A List of Ten Critical Challenges"). Thus, different communities will “grow” their response-to-identified-challenges narratives in different ways, according to the leanings of the local residents, and the influences of environment, culture, and local economies. However, once people experience how participating in a Community Visioning Initiative provides more and more opportunities for increasing solution-oriented activity, and once the educational networks associated with Neighborhood Learning Centers become more developed, such people will have an established system for realizing their highest potential for problem solving at this time of multiple converging crises. This writer believes they will choose to realize that potential.
Thus, one of the keys to appreciating the value of this proposal: Community Visioning Initiatives can help people “become stakeholders”, with the faith that as they do so, and become involved in the education at the level of Neighborhood Learning Centers (and “voting” on priority challenges and priority solutions), they will discover for themselves just how much we all need to learn to make this transition, and how much we need each and every one of us to contribute their skills and resources towards solutions.
In addition, as more and more Community Visioning Initiatives are carried out, Community Visioning Initiatives Clearinghouses and Neighborhood Learning Centers Clearinghouses can aggregate case histories and best practices.
1000 time-intensive Community Visioning Initiatives, in communities around the world, would create an exponential increase in solution-oriented investment, an exponential increase in solution-oriented employment, and an exponential increase in our collective capacity to overcome the challenges of our times.
Who will take these actions?
This writer believes we are going to need all the resources, knowledge, and skills each one of us has, and we are going to need to make the best efforts we can at working together to resolve the unprecedented challenges ahead. As a consequence, there will need to be widespread efforts to share valuable resources—among a profound variety of stakeholders—to realize the full potential of collaborative problem solving/stakeholder engagement processes.
At the same time, Community Visioning Initiatives of the nature this writer is advocating for would have a positive multiplier effect on the many businesses, educational institutions, organizations, initiatives etc involved in implementing solutions.
Specifically, educational institutions and non-profit humanitarian serviceorganizations could increase their existing efforts, or take up the call, to develop the educational curriculum and training needed to carry out 1000 Community Visioning Initiatives.
Here is a list of specific organizations and initiatives this writer believes would be most helpful to the start-up phase of a Tipping Point Action Campaign (and/or many similar projects):
Pew Research Center; Dialogue by Design; D3Associates; Participatory Local Democracy Program; TckTckTck; Stakeholders Forum; United Nations Human Settlements Programme; Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; Teachers Without Borders; International Development Training; Doctors Without Borders; The Hunger Project; ICLEI; Heifer International; Oxfam; Habitat for Humanity; Rotary International; Mercy Corps; CARE International; Religions for Peace; Peace Corps; Sister Cities International; Skoll Foundation; Gates Foundation; Tides Foundation; Women’s Funding Network; Save the Children International; Fairtrade International; Ashoka; Katerva; Gaia Education; La Via Campesina; Global Ecovillage Network; Permaculture Research Institute; International Biochar Initiative
Where will these actions be taken?
This writer is by far only one among many people who have arrived at an assessment that there are unprecedented challenges ahead. One other example:
“Achieving such a deep transformation of the energy, industrial, and agricultural systems over the next few decades will represent one of the greatest technical, organizational, and financing challenges that humanity has faced.” (from “An Action Agenda for Sustainable Development: Report for the UN Secretary-General”; p.20) (June, 2013)
Hopefully, then, this writer will not be misunderstood if he says that he hopes these actions, or projects of a similar nature, will be taken in communities around the world. That said, in the start-up phase it will be helpful for there to be pilot projects in communities which have many features in common with many other communities—and, if possible, in communities predisposed to such a time-intensive effort. Such pilot projects would have many relevant experiences to share with other communities considering such a process.
With character-space left here (and as a related comment), this writer would like to comment on the question “What obstacles may prevent the proposed actions from being taken?”
There are many cultural dimensions which contribute to making the challenges of our times unprecedented, and which seem to be underappreciated by many observers. Consider: there are many people in communities around the world who—regardless of the difficulties and urgencies associated with resolving multiple crises—choose to focus their attention of trying to make money by preying of people’s fears, manipulating people’s trust, and/or encouraging people to abandon hope in higher aspirations, and indulge in unhealthy, or immoral behavior.
Widespread cynicism that many of the critical challenges of our times will not be resolved could be a crippling factor affecting many projects, not just this one. What we need are efforts comprehensive enough to keep momentum on the side of “We can do it”.
How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?
A necessary prerequisite for reducing emissions is an increase the number of actively engaged citizens—regardless of what sector of the economy they work in, or are a part of.
Through workshops at many Neighborhood Learning Centers (support pieces for a local Community Visioning Initiative), citizens can gain greater awareness of how the investments of time, energy, and money—the “votes” each of us make in our everyday circumstances—become the larger economy. Wisely directed, such “votes” can result in countless ways of earning a living which contribute to the peacebuilding, community revitalization, and ecological sustainability efforts necessary to drastically reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and minimize other related challenges.
1000 Community Visioning Initiatives, in communities around the world, would integrate efforts across many sectors, and create enough actively engaged citizens to exponentially accelerate emission reduction and sequestering efforts.
What are other key benefits?
Even if there wasn’t a planetary emergency in progress, time-intensive Community Visioning Initiatives designed to maximize citizen participation can have many positive multiplier effects in a local community.
Time-intensive Community Visioning Initiatives:
emphasize asking for ideas
provide a collaborative problem solving approach which people with many different backgrounds and agendas can believe in
bring to light the many truly inspiring contributions of genuine goodwill in a community
create affordable life long learning systems with numerous associated local learning networks
provide opportunities for people to become involved in solution-charged environments
help revitalize residents sense of civic responsibility
impart valuable knowledge and skill sets relating to problem solving as a team
minimize the risk of “transformation unemployment”
and give local residents many more opportunities to encourage and support each other in the everyday circumstances of community life.
What are the proposal’s costs?
A very rough estimate by this writer for a time-intensive (year or more) Community Visioning Initiative (introduced by Preliminary Surveys, and supported by many Neighborhood Learning Centers) is $10 million.
Thus, 1000 Community Visioning Initiatives, in communities around the world, might cost near $10 billion.
Here are some observations (source refs in doc. “Invitation Package for Possible Board of Advisors”)(alt. link-- "Invitation Package for Possible Board of Advisors") to put such a cost in a wider context:
1) $10 billion is only .005% of the $207 trillion in personal wealth held by the richest 10 percent.
2) Ceres is a nonprofit organization mobilizing business and investor leadership on climate change, water scarcity and other sustainability challenges. Ceres directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a network of over 100 institutional investors with collective assets totaling more than $12 trillion. $10 billion is only .08% of $12 trillion.
3) $10 billion is only .57% (a little more than half of 1%) of $1,750 billion in military expenditures in 2012.
4) $10 billion is 1.8% of (est.) $557 billion in worldwide advertising spending in 2012.
5) $10 billion is 2.4% of the $419 billion of worldwide gambling revenues in 2011.
6) $10 billion is 6% of the $162 billion people in the United States spent on beer, wine, and liquor in 2011.
7) If 18% of cable TV subscribers in the United States unsubscribed from cable TV, they could re-direct that money to finance 1000 Community Visioning Initiatives.
8) Companies marketing cigarettes in the United States could use that $10 billion per year to fund the costs of implementing 1000 Community Visioning Initiatives.
The ways we “invest” our time, energy, and money (“vote”) has a direct impact on the ways of earning a living that are available. We—collectively—can direct such “votes” so that there are enough people and resources to carry out 1000 Community Visioning Initiatives in communities around the world.
Many cities and towns in the US have carried out visioning initiatives or strategic planning exercises, and many organizations have facilitated stakeholder engagement processes in many parts of the world, involving many stakeholders, and very complex issues. However, this writer does not know of any examples which have been initiated from a belief that there is a planetary emergency, carried out over a significant length of time (to maximize citizen participation, critical thinking and wise actions), and which (thus) appreciated the need to support the process with many neighborhood learning centers. The need for such a degree of problem solving has not yet become a well known fact.
So while this writer can contribute many pieces which can be helpful—evidence that it is needed, carefully curated ideas about how it could be done (Exs: “15 Step Outline for a Community Visioning Initiative” “15 Sample Preliminary Survey Questions”)—he cannot estimate a timeline for how this proposal might develop.
A Key point: the “Invitation Package…” (alt. link--"Invitation Package...") has a section “Descriptions of People Being Formally Invited to Join CPCS Initiative Board of Advisors (272)”. And the “Who will take these actions?” section (here) supplements that with a list of organizations which could be helpful in a start up phase. This proposal could gain momentum with even a tiny fraction of the above advisors and organizations. The resources exist to do it. In addition, the nature of what is being proposed is such that the more collaborations and partnerships which carry out Community Visioning Initiatives as a response to the challenges of our times, the more best practices can accumulate at clearinghouse/hub websites. Global warming is only one of many trajectories moving in a dangerous direction. There will need to be widespread efforts to share valuable resources to realize the full potential of collaborative problem solving/stakeholder engagement processes.
The closest proposal at CoLab to time-intensive collaborative problem solving designed to maximize citizen participation is “Building consensus, enabling adaptation: facilitating collective risk management”.
For this writer, arriving at the belief “We can do it” will require full consideration, with eyes wide open, of how ingrained and intertwined our challenges are in everyday cultural norms—and full consideration of other parts of our cultural heritage which could be helpful, but are now tragically marginalized. And eyes wide open should see: the overabundance of material goods in many communities, and the lack thereof in many other communities is not an example of wisdom or compassion—especially in the context of global warming. Finding a way forward on inner cultural change, and outer infrastructure change, may require decades of gritty, nuts and bolts grind it out do your homework and build trust in stakeholder engagement/collaborative problem solving processes.
1. “A List of Ten Critical Challenges” (1 p.) (this writer). Alt. link: https://worldpulse.com/files/upload/1111/a_list_of_ten_critical_challenges_2014.pdf
2. Many book and articles by Lester R. Brown (Earth Policy Institute) a) “…A strategy for eradicating poverty will not succeed if an economy’s environmental support systems are collapsing.” [Plan B 2.0 (2006)—Lester R. Brown] b) “Plan B…involves cutting carbon dioxide emissions 80% by 2020…We must move at wartime speed….” [Plan B 3.0 (2008)—Lester R. Brown] c) “Half the world’s people live in countries where water tables are falling as aquifers are being depleted.” [“World on the Edge’ (2011)—Lester R. Brown]
3. “Invitation Package for Possible Board of Advisors (at cpcsc.info)” (589 p.; 3.65 MB) (compilation of excerpts document) (alternative link--"Invitation Package for Possible Board of Advisors") The “Threat of Global Warming” section is, unfortunately, only one of many sections which provide evidence of trajectories continuing to move in a dangerous direction. Includes a 78 page section titled “A Constellation of Initiatives Approach to Collaborative Problem Solving and Citizen Peacebuilding”.
4. Video documentary “Chattanooga: A Community with a Vision” (13 minutes). Documents two very successful Community Visioning Initiatives. Many interviews and how-to details. 1984 Chattanooga (Tennessee) Community Visioning Project (“Vision 2000”)--more than 1,700 participants, produced 40 community goals—which resulted in implementation of 223 projects and programs, creation of 1,300 permanent jobs, and a total financial investment of 793 million dollars.
5. “The Potential of Community Visioning Initiatives (in 500 words)” (this writer)
6. “Gaia Education Design for Sustainability: Incorporating Transition Towns Training” (4 Oct. - 7 Nov. 2014) “Gaia Education curriculum draws on experience and expertise developed in a network of some of the most successful ecovillages and community projects across the Earth.”
7. "The Tipping Point Action Campaign: Maximizing Citizen Participation and Accelerating Solution-Oriented Activity" (6 p.) Press Release and Key Outreach Document. Excerpt: "It’s not like mobilizing for war, where there will be drill sergeants and basic training, but people should begin to realize: problem solving on a scale most of us have never known before means there is a lot of work to do.”
8. "Ten Steps for Long Term Culture Change" (30 p.) Sets out a “trellis” by which a careful transformation could “grow”, over a long period of time, and be carefully monitored and evaluated as it proceeded.
9. Community Centers for Meeting Basic Needs—“The Hunger Project’s (THP’s) Epicenter Strategy unites 5,000 to 15,000 people in a cluster of villages to create an “epicenter,” or a dynamic center where communities are mobilized for action to meet their basic needs…The Hunger Project has mobilized more than 121 epicenter communities in eight countries in Africa.”