Archive for the ‘Civic Entrepreneurship’ Category

The Humanities Institute at the University of Texas at Austin offers funding for non-profit staff members to take a “paid time-out” to research an issue or question of value to their work.

Three individuals will receive grants of $5000, be paired with UT Austin faculty who will guide them in their research, receive full access to UT Austin library resources, and participate in an intellectual community of other independent scholars, non-profit professionals, and UT faculty and staff. Applications are now available for the 2008-9 academic year at www.humanitiesinstitute.utexas.edu.

The deadline for applications is Friday, May 30. Please email Kritika Agarwal at community@humanitiesinstitute.utexas.edu

or call the Humanities Institute at 471-2654 for more information.

If you are interested in researching issues of interest such as, public deliberation, community engagement, civic entrepreneurship, social networking tools for civic engagement, contact Taylor Willingham about your research interests and we’ll explore partnership opportunities.

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[Cross posted]

The recent Public Library Association Conference featured a session titled, “The Dangerous Ideas”. The idea behind the session was to stimulate a conversation about adaptation and change by posing the question, “What if…?”

The presenters began by introducing Ten Dangerous Ideas:

1. What if we stopped cataloging?
2. What if we participated fully with the FBI in all criminal investigations that involved the use of library resources?
3. What if librarians individually and as a profession promoted, used and helped to develop Wikipedia?
4. What if we accepted open source software as a way of being more in control of the customer experience?
5. What if we embraced our iner geek and created immersive games that prompted cults of library junkies?
6. What if we required all library staff to have expertise using technology?
7. What if mistakes were expected and embraced and all librarians became mistake masters?
8. What if we didn’t make decisions based on fear or scarcity?
9. What if we stopped being passive/aggressive?
10. What if we didn’t make our customers work so hard?

I did not attend this session, but have been following the aftermath on the Transforming Texas Libraries Blog and the Web Junction Blog. Some of the provocative questions raised and documented on the Web Junction Blog are:

What if librarians would promote and participate in the development of Wikipedia?
What if we made decisions that are not based on scarcity?
What if libraries large and small invest together to adopt open source solutions?
What if teens in the library were our partners instead of our problem?
What if we learned to advertise the allure of libraries as successfully as soft drinks and junk food?

This discussion is continuing on “whatiflibs” wiki posted on wetpaint, a very easy to use wiki.

The question, “What if?” calls upon us to use our imagination and to push our thinking into uncomfortable territory.

Recognizing this, the presenters had follow-up questions for the workshop participants:

  • Why does this thought make me uncomfortable?
  • What are the opportunities in this idea?
  • What actions can be taken to pursue the opportunities?

I teach Change Management and Civic Entrepreneurship to graduate library students. I thrive on uncomfortable thoughts because that is where opportunities hide. Too many people retreat when confronted with uncomfortable thoughts. We don’t like ambiguity. We may feel threatened. We may feel insecure about what change will demand from us. But all of these are just the flip side of opportunity.

I’m sorry I missed this workshop. I would love to see this thinking brought into the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation Conference taking place in Austin, TX October 3-5, 2008. The conversation starter could be a “What if…” related to the D&D community or democracy itself and how D&D impacts democracy.

How about it D&D-ers? Are we ready for some Dangerous Ideas?

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Lareese Hall is a student in the Civic Entrepreneurship in Public Institutions course that I teach at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Graduate School of Library Information and Sciences. While the rest of the class was on campus for a full-day session (this is a distance ed class that meets in person for one day during the semester) Lareese was off to a three-day Community Problem-Solving workshop designed and taught by faculty at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

When she was selected for this prestigious program that teaches teams of civic leaders the skills they need to effect deep change, how could I refuse her request to be excused from the on-campus session? But in my classes, everyone is expected (and does so enthusiastically!) to share what they are learning so Lareese has agreed to guest blog here and share her learning with Texas Forums and the students in LIS 590 CEL.

We look forward to hearing more from Lareese. In the meantime, here’s her bio:

Lareese HallLareese Hall is the Eco.Experience Project Manager at Carnegie Science Center, where she is working to develop new visitor experiences and educational programs related to ecology and the environment. Hall has worked in non-profit, community-based programs for more than 15 years, including as Design Manager with the Riverlife Task Force here in Pittsburgh. A native of Philadelphia, she has lived in a number of urban areas including Boston, Albuquerque, Charlottesville, and Florence, Italy, and has a diverse work background in areas related to urban planning and design, conservation, and education. She holds an undergraduate degree in English from Oberlin College in Ohio and an MFA in Writing and Literature from Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. She is currently a part-time student in the Library and Information Science graduate program at the University of Pittsburgh. She also has studied architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design at the University of Virginia School of Architecture. She currently serves as a member of the City of Pittsburgh Arts Commission. In her spare time she writes fiction, paints, and is restoring an old house.

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The Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility and UC Berkeley School of Information are hosting a conference on Online Deliberation. This from the announcement:

At the dawn of the 21st century humankind faces challenges of profound proportions. The ability of people around the world to discuss, work, make decisions, and take action collaboratively is one of the most important capabilities for addressing these challenges.

Researchers, scholars, activists, advocates, artists, educators, technologists, designers, students, policy-makers, entrepreneurs, journalists and citizens are rising to these challenges in many ways, including, devising new communication technologies that build on the opportunities afforded by the Internet and other new (as well as old) media. The interactions between technological and social systems are of special and central importance in this area.

DIAC-08 combines CPSR’s 11th DIAC symposium with the third Conference on Online Deliberation. The joint conference is intended to provide a platform and a forum for highlighting socio-technological opportunities, challenges, and pitfalls in the area of community and civic action. Technology enhanced community action ranges from informal communities of practice to democratic governance of formal organizations to large social movements. We are especially interested in technology development that is already being tested or fielded. We are also interested in theoretical and other intellectual work that helps build understanding and support for future efforts. In addition to exploring social technology, we must at the same time understand and advance the social context of technology, including its design, access, use, policy and evaluation, as well as intellectual frameworks and perspectives that inform technological as well as social innovation including requirements, case studies, critique and self-reflection, and infrastructures for future work.

Our areas of focus include but are not limited to: deliberative and collaborative systems, e-democracy and e-participation, mobilization and organization, negotiation, consultation, sustainability, community support systems, open source models, human rights, ecological awareness, conflict resolution, justice, transparency systems, media and civic journalism, media literacy, power research, citizen science, economic development and opportunity, peace and reconciliation, infrastructure development, policy, education, community networks, research and development for civil society, social software, virtual communities and civic intelligence.

Read more…

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Rod Amis sent me a podcast interview with Silona Bonewald, our wonderful partner who founded the League of Technical Voters, the visionary of the Transparent Federal Budget, architect of our “We Are All Actors” weekend August 10-12, and the woman who has dragged me to two code-a-thons.

In this interview conducted by Tom Parish and produced by Rod, Silona talks about the Transparent Federal Budget, the results of our We Are All Actors weekend, Net Neutrality, the importance of transparency, creating online identities, supporting online dialogue, “hot babes” of open source, SXSW, Women in Open Source technology, open source social networking and open standards, Lawrence Lessig, taking control of our own information, and having a vision so powerful that you can’t NOT follow it. (She’s a civic entrepreneur!)

And she talks about Texas Forums!

Editor’s note about the podcast.

Listen and be inspired!

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This weekend, Texas Forums and the League of Technical Voters are co-sponsoring a gathering of technologists, citizens, non-profits organizations to work on the Transparent Federal Budget Project. The theme of the weekend is “We Are All Actors“. The goal of this project is to increase the transparency and accountability of our political processes. It will consist of a community-built legislation database, an intuitive web-based database UI, and a social network to tie each database contribution to the author’s identity and reputation.

We intend for this project to have a substantial, positive impact on this country, and this means knocking down as many barriers to participation as possible. To this end, a key proposal of ours is to create a social networking open standard, allowing users of existing social networking sites to participate in the TFB social network and community using their existing identities. We are enjoying tremendous support from former Senator Bill Bradley who wrote about the need for greater transparency in federal budgeting and legislation.

In the spirit of transparency, the entire event is being webcast at: mms://

Throughout this weekend, I’ll enlist volunteers from our gathering to reflect on their experiences.

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28 June 2007: This evening I’m reporting from the LBJ Library at the University of Texas (UT) on Tavis Smiley’s Public Broadcasting System (PBS) forum with the candidates for the Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States. Like many other Bloggers here tonight, I’m suppose to be an ear to what our community thinks about the pols and their policies. The difference, at least for me, from some of the other Bloggers is that I’m a working journalist and a former political hack. I know this game. So I’ll try to share with you what is meant by what is being said, instead of being a parrot.

In the process, I’ve brought along a few friends, included my Gen Y Personal Assistant, to look over my shoulder, take some digital photos of this crowd, and correct my impressions when I tend to act like an old curmudgeon.

The citizens at the each table were asked to have a Blogger like me write write about what they think. Live blogging is an interesting exercise in that we, the bloggers, should act as the ears of the people.

What I find interesting is that people at my particular table are talking about Dick Cheney, global corporations and corporate greed – compared to personal sacrifice – and nothing NOTHING about Tavis Smiley’s “Covenant for African-Americans” which is about what this forum was set up to look at. This Reporter walks around to a few of the tables at this meeting to ask if anyone had heard about Smiley’s initiative. Even the few Black people here have ever heard about it.

My Personal Assistant, Bonnie, is snapping people in the crowd right now. We’ll upload them later.

The issue is being brought up that most people didn’t know, in the pre-forum discussion that most of the attendants were ignorant to the fact there was a “Convenant to Black America.” So we have an audience who doesn’t know why they came here. They are learning that during this discussion.

7:47 p.m.: It’s gettting touchy-feely now. People are talking about how the even here in Austin we are becoming a *very* segregated community, all acknowledged. Now we’re going to hear from the Democratic Presidential candidates and Tavis Smiley.

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From The Harwood Institute

Monday, April 2, 2007
(The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation)

The Harwood Institute and the Charles F. Kettering Foundation have entered into a learning agreement to focus on how people who initiate civic action in communities decide to step forward, overcome resistance and barriers in their work, and engage in community politics.

This innovation work will consist of a series of interviews with a number of public innovators, paired with Harwood tools and frameworks, and distributed online so that other innovators across the country can learn from their personal experiences as they attempt to promote change in their communites.

The Harwood Institute will take material from the interviews to create an online series that makes use of mulitmedia content in order to:  a) portray the experiences of real-life initiators; b) use this portrayal as a mean by which to engage other initiators in an ongoing conversation about their own experiences, and c) spark people to move along their own path of fully engaging as initiators.

Along with the online series, The Harwood Institute will:

  • Create online personal learning spaces where people can document their own journey of discovery and then generate questions and ideas to generate feedback
  • Engage in online dialog about the initiators and the implications for themselves and their communities;
  • Create collaborative online workspaces that will allow people across the country to create a body of their collective experiences
  • Create online surveys to gauge what triggers people’s imagination and engagement
  • Hold periodic webcasts and teleconferences to dig deeper into understanding people’s experiences and engagement

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Well, I’m thrilled and humbled to announce that I’ve received a fellowship from the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. I teach courses on Fund Development and Change Management via distance education for the Graduate Library and Information Sciences program (aka LEEP) for UIUC.

The purpose of this fellowship is to develop a new core course for the Community Informatics Corps. LIS 490/590: Civic Entrepreneurship and Public Institutions will prepare students to be civic innovators in libraries, other public institutions and community-based organizations. This course content will come primarily from the civic and social entrepreneurship literature and case studies of innovative and entrepreneurial librarians who are redefining the role of libraries in relation to the civic and social life of their communities. Students will gain a new understanding of how entrepreneurial public institutions can build the civic capacity needed to develop new approaches to public problems. Students will contribute to a new stream of research on civic entrepreneurship within the professions of the library, nonprofit, community-based, and public institutions, and civic-minded individuals.

In addition to the course, I will be publishing research and findings here on this blog and on the University and Texas Forums web site. I will also extend my work to the community at large through workshops, guest presentations, and conversations using the Texas Forums Online Room and other technologies. These events will be announced in the Texas Forums newsletter and the NIF News from the Net electronic notice so sign up if you are interested. You can also access the resources I am developing by checking out my del.icio.us page where I’ll bookmark web sites about civic entrepreneurship and track books I’m using in my research on my LibraryThing page.
You can get more details from the press release that the LBJ Library sent out and even more details from my full proposal.

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