SOCIAL ENTERPRISE & COOPERATIVES.

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE | We are going to start featuring more frequently, the emerging social enterprise and the cooperative sectors in our city, province/country. Our aim is to spotlight creative, empowering and new economic development initiatives that are incrementally contributing to the well-being of individuals and communities by creating meaningful employment, a sense of dignity-of-labour and deep belonging.

COMMUNITY ECONOMICS | Some may be related to new technologies, others to goods & services, and so forth. What they have in common is the remarkable enthusiasm, resilience and in some cases visionary calling among those leading and/or participating in such endeavours. No venture of such nature is without risk of failure – yet, those actively engaged in this path towards economic self-reliance show an incredible level of tolerance to risk, and extraordinary stamina – it is indeed a powerful calling!

THE ORGANIC BOX: https://www.theorganicbox.ca/ | If the old saying that “you are what you eat” is true, it would just make sense to try to find the best quality food that you can for you & your family. The Organic Box has grown in a few short years to become Edmonton’s largest organic food delivery service. The family-owned company serves thousands of families and businesses in this city each week, delivering everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to baked goods, milk and hundreds of other pantry items – all of it certified organic.

VERTO LABOUR SERVICES: http://www.youcan.ca/programs/verto | Companies that hire Verto Labour Services are looking for a good day’s work – and that is exactly what they get. Eager young workers, trained in basic worksite rules, showing up on time, supported by a crew leader and ready to do whatever needs to be done. Verto is an off-shoot of YOUCAN Youth Services, an organization that has provided programs for at-risk youth in Edmonton for over a decade.  

EQUI-TEA MULTICULTURAL CATERING: http://mchb.org/programs/equi-tea-multicultural-catering/ | Equi-tea is a social enterprise operated by the Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op. For the past year, The Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op has truly enjoyed serving you all with the food we most love ourselves through Equi-tea Catering. Delicious food, excellent service and very much worth of your support.

SERVICE & COMMUNITY | As usual, we remain at your service. YOU and the individuals & communities we serve remain at the center of what we do. We thank you for your support and welcome your feedback; if we can be helpful, don’t hesitate to get in touch. And, if you appreciate this BLOG “like it” “follow it” or “share it.” – Many thanks!

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FYI | Shootings at Quebec City Mosque.

FYI | Message from Robert Philp, Queen’s Counsel,
Chief of the Commission and Tribunals | Alberta.

Re: Shooting at a Quebec City Mosque | “I am shocked and extremely saddened about the violent attack on the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec that took place in Quebec City this past Sunday. That this terrifying act happened in this country, in a place of innocent worship, counters everything that we are and that we stand for as Canadians. A mosque is a sacred place of worship where all Muslims and all people should feel safe and protected. In Alberta, and in Canada, we uphold the fundamental principle that all persons are equal in dignity, rights and responsibilities without regard to religious beliefs. It is our diversity, including our diversity of beliefs that makes us stronger and unites us as people. During this dark time, hate, violence and intolerance have emerged in their most horrific form. We must unite and reach out to one other with love and support. Collectively, we mourn for those lost and we mourn with their families, friends and communities. Together we stand in our common humanity.” – (January 31, 2017) | https://albertahumanrights.ab.ca/media_room/Pages/January_31_2017_chief_message.aspx

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2016: A COMPLEX GLOBAL CIVILIZATION

My grandfather, Ben Garside, died in 1970 when I was 15 years old. Born in 1880, he had lived nearly his entire life in one house or another with no insulation, no furnace, no phone, no electricity or running water. He was a farmer-turned-market-gardener. He didn’t see an automobile until he was over 35 years of age, yet he lived long enough to see astronauts land on the moon. He taught me one important thing; that it is possible to live with very little, as our ancestors did for thousands of years, and find genuine happiness.

New Energy | Around the time my grandfather was born, there was a flurry of inventions based on the cheap new energies of fossil fuels and electricity. My grandfather’s uncle worked with Nicola Telsa on the first power generating station at Niagara. My wife’s great-great uncle Melville Bissell came up with the Bissell electric vacuum cleaner. The telephone was quickly invented and you could then connect by telephone to relatives in a distant city. Oil was discovered, pumped out of the ground and soon put to use in diesel engines in trains and ships. Cheap shipping made the world a much smaller place.

Literacy | Aside from the abundant cheap energy there was something else even more catalytic to the perfect storm of 20th century progress. Just a couple of decades before Ben was born there was a popular movement to provide a general education for all children. In the back woods of St. Joseph Island in Lake Huron, Ben was going to get to read and write. I have a copy of the same primer from which he learned to read. He would be able to read newspapers and magazines and keep informed of events and trends across the country and around the world. But more than learning information, schools taught us how to make meanings by deliberately connecting events and processes into a myriad of repeating recognizable patterns.

Modernity | In 1921, American sociologist named William Ogburn coined the term ‘cultural lag’. Cultural lag captured the idea that hard technologies, like ploughs, guns and automobiles, can be adopted at a much faster rate than the values, beliefs and behaviours associated with the use of those technologies. Today we have billions of smart phones in use and thousands of people still die in traffic accidents when using them while driving. These lags don’t close before new ones are added. The lags are often cumulative.

New Foundations | My graduate thesis advisor, Richard Jung, worked with Ludwig von Bertalanffy, the founder of general systems theory. Von Bertalanffy was one of a handful of scientific genius giving birth to the esoteric sciences of information theory, operations research, systems theory and cybernetics beginning a decade before I was born. This science would not only give rise to the computer, but to the artificial intelligence that promises to one day soon make humans irrelevant. They also form the foundation for the management science that makes global corporations possible. This same science helps explain life itself so we can manipulate it in genetic engineering and even make new synthetic life forms. It may yet help us simplify our world and save ourselves, but for now, few people know anything at all about cultural lag associated with the science and technology boom.

Back to the Future | The year my grandfather died, American journalist Alvin Toffler published his book called ‘Future Shock’. In it he chronicled the rapid expansion of complexity in the modern world. Toffler stated that there was as much diversity and change in the current lifetime as there was in the previous 800 lifetimes put together. And he was right! Not only are there more things but there are more people, more ideas, travel, publications, and relationships. Knowledge was expanding exponentially in every direction! In 1920, just one long lifetime ago, atoms were just a theory and there was only a handful of known galaxies. We now know about sub-atomic particles smaller than quarks, that there are thousands of identifiable planets, and billions of galaxies filled with billions of solar systems. We may already be suffering from future shock and not even know it!

Small Planet | Cheap transportation, electrical appliances, public education and mass communication brought us globalisation. Globalization quickly brought us closer together than ever. There is a global brain drain going on as people with credentials move to industrial gravitational poles around the planet. They gather in giant metropolises. Moreover, there is growing exposure to variety, diversity and complexity in everything from science and disciplines, to races, religions, cultures, education, entertainment and political views. We really don’t know how long it takes for people to effectively acclimatize to these changes. We shouldn’t be surprised by popular upheavals.

Zeitgeist | There is now a general background uncertainty and anxiety. Alleged facts and logical arguments do not validate hopes. We don’t know which scientists to believe. Political pundits argue with different sets of facts. Meanings are apparently so complex and interdependent that anyone can spin them to get whatever results they want. Lies are easily disguised as someone’s truth. People search the workplace, lifestyles and other religions for a sense of meaning and purpose. They feel busy, but in a moment of reflection they realise they’re spinning their wheels and going nowhere. There is little time to analyse and deliberate so people more frequently depend on quick intuitive assessments. Less time spent in deliberation means deliberation skills get weaker.

Media | What people really know is what they feel day in and day out. TV showcases the lives of the rich and famous. “Why not me?” The psychological reactions to cumulative stresses are feelings of powerlessness, frustration, envy, anger, fear, suspicion, anxiety and depression. People talk of information overload, change fatigue, choice fatigue, apathy and disengagement. There is nostalgia for the past when times were simpler and you knew who you could trust. Conspiracy theories and post-apocalyptic dystopias are popular entertainment. Now “get off the grid, prep and hunker down.”

Planetary Paradoxes | Though apparently history repeats itself, we also live in unprecedented times. The familiar rhythm of life is becoming chaotic, unrecognizable. Aside from climate change, the death of the oceans, extinction of many species, and over-population, what else is happening that we have not even identified? Scientists are calling our times the Anthropocene Period because of the dramatic impact our population is having on the planet. Never in 3.6 billion years of life on the planet has there been anything like what we humans are doing in this lifetime.

Underlying all that is happening in our global mono-culture and its proliferating sub-cultures is the compounded exponential growth of complexity, acceleration of change, and convergence of multiple cumulative cultural lags. Cultural ideas, not genes, are the medium of civil evolution. It’s not slowed by the need for hundreds of generations. What systems science tells us is that this growth pattern, with mathematical certainty, will come to an end one way or another. We had better put our little heads together and figure out what we want and how we’re going to get it. How shall we define humanity in the 21st Century? – RBA © 2016

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AMERICA: November 09, 2016.

November 9th presents an opportunity to start a new kind of dialog in America. Not only is it an opportunity, but respectful dialog is an imperative for our cousins across the southern line. The unbridled sibling rancor cannot be allowed to escalate. We have no alternate parental recourse to intervene.

If good Americans do not raise their quiet voices in numbers against the formation of war camps and deliver the sage wisdom that formed much of the American way, then, violence will eventually have its way. There are always two things that can happen in nature – things come together or they come apart. Humans can choose to work together or they can kill each other. In today’s crowded planet, avoidance is not an option.

Angry strategic and tactical name-calling is not what made America great. The great nation is built on calm deliberative contemplation and a fundamental respect that the opponent is not evil. I have seen and heard with my own senses how some people will manipulate the thoughts and feelings of others for personal or tribal gain. By ‘tribal’ I mean any kind of camp – ethnic, religious, political, socio-economic class or other.

I am seeing this pattern of behavior being played out on the big screen, played out with tens of millions of innocent victims. It is easy to play on fears and doubts and tribal differences. Those instincts are often close to the surface in all humans.

But in today’s complex world in which you don’t know what or who to believe, when you barely have a moment alone with your thoughts to figure out what you really want for yourself… it is too easy to play on the worst of our inner demons.

It has always been easier to destroy than to build. That is written in the physical code of nature. It may seem impossible to set a stage for reconciliation. It will be easier on November 9th and the days to follow than it will be if the disrespect and conflict are allowed to fester. I, too, am guilty of getting in on the mob-behavior online. Though it is tempting to join the mob, it really is not helpful.

We are going to have to dig deeper into the human psyche and retrieve some forgotten fundamental skills to rebuild trust in a big way. Viral anger can escalate with incredible speed and leave us all wondering what happened. Before it is too late: let’s call for Respect, Wisdom, Dialog and Reason. –

© 2016 Randal Adcock

Canada – Winter 2016

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FINDING OUR WAY AROUND AI

By Randal Adcock | There have always been Pollyannas and Chicken Littles, Idealists and Dooms Day Prophets. We can characterize optimists and pessimists as one or the other and discount their words and deeds. Dreamers and Doomsayers, like Boys Who Cry Wolf, are radical outliers. We are conditioned to ignore them. We naturally expect the truth to be found somewhere in the middle, neither myopic nor defeatist. So what is the truth about the coming of full artificial intelligence? And how should we respond?

Science fiction has spun many fascinating stories about future possibilities. The tech-topias feed our hopes and dystopias and feed our fears. But we know its fiction and we treat it as great entertainment. Otherwise we are comfortably bored. There is no real and present danger.

For decades AI experts told us “don’t worry, we’re decades away from true AI. When we discover the essence of intelligence we will control it to make all human suffering come to an end and we will live in a world where we won’t have to work again. Nothing to fear here.” Never mind that our self-esteem comes from being productive at one thing or another. Don’t we all secretly hope to retire early and live on an equatorial beach under the palms, with robotic servants?

Now we would normally never label Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking (love him or hate them) as conspiracy theorists, or doom-sayers, and we  certainly wouldn’t expect them to be down on science and technology. But there has been an attitude shift lately. You can find these world leaders and others talking about the great caution that is needed to deal with our accelerating pace of techno-change. Are we getting ahead of ourselves, especially in regard to the ultimate in technology – artificial intelligence?

This Sam Harris TED Talk https://youtu.be/R_sSpPyruj0 is the most succinct articulation I have heard on the subject. Harris is well qualified and trying to deeply comprehend and respond appropriately to the impending risks inherent in creating something that can make itself not only smarter than us, but progressively smarter than itself in rapid succession. As others have pointed out, the human brain has serious trouble comprehending non-linear, or exponential rates of change.

Another thinker, Yuval Harari http://www.ynharari.com/ points out that many companies are already deploying forms of AI in algorithms at an accelerating rate. This intelligence gathering activity puts those companies at an accelerating greater advantage — not because they’re evil, but because they can, and it’s good for business. This has been done gradually enough, and relatively invisibly, that we haven’t really taken notice of the longer term social, cultural, economic and political impacts.

So what is to be done? The speakers have no final answer, of course. But they agree we need to be thinking long and hard about this as thousands of AI experts around the world continue making ever greater progress in a race to the finish line. A hundred years ago an American sociologist, Wm Ogburn, came up with the idea of ‘cultural lag‘. Hard technologies are systematically adopted at a faster rate than softer technologies such as methodologies or the public policies needed to incorporate these technologies successfully into civil society. Today, a hundred year later, we still have not caught up with that notion of ‘cultural lag‘ in any significant way.

I suggest we synthesize our best available personal, organizational, collective and computational intelligence to address this question. But first we have to build that platform — a Wayfinders ® platform — starting with the issues that people already recognize and solutions they immediately appreciate. And we should do this anyway. It’s the smartest thing to do. No one has a monopoly on truth and no one should have a monopoly on intelligence. – RBA © 2016

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BUILDING a CULTURE of SOLIDARITY.

SUMMER 2016 | In the past few weeks we have been watching with perplexing interest the election cycle unfolding in the United States. Among colleagues and friends we have also conversed about the topic of masculinity and politics; the challenges faced by women when running for public office and the rather disturbing patterns, self-evident for anyone paying attention, shown by some men running for office in America. No doubts there’s complexity involved here, for to become an elected official to any office, whatever level it may be, let alone the highest one in a given country, candidates must possess certain essential qualities, values and world-views that thoughtful and reasonably intelligent people can relate to, and of course some competency skills that would be critical in the performance of their duties, if elected.

AMERICA | It would appear that on this electoral cycle, our neighbours to the South face some stark choices; but then, in such a diverse country of 350 million people, choices have been on the menu for a long time. What is worrisome however is the candidates running for the presidency; neither one particularly compelling, yet, each one offering a deeply contrasting platform. One that is rather dark and apocalyptic, and the other one, a positive, uplifting and pragmatic path to move the country forward. The tone of this electoral cycle in America has been seasoned with lies and deceptions – and a tendency to exaggerate what may or may not be true, in some instances, in a rather hateful atmosphere, occasionally reminding us of entities such as Mussolini, Pinochet and other unsavory historical characters. Indeed, men and politics; perhaps we should say, men & power, its use, its purpose and its abuses. One would hope in November Americans choose wisely.

A CULTURE of SOLIDARITY | We believe that our times demand a strong dose of generosity, and a consistent effort to right the many wrongs facing our world these days; whether you are in the so called “Rust-Belt” in the United States, or the inner cities of Edmonton, Toronto, or Vancouver, or the shanty towns of Rio, Calcutta or Harare. Too many of our fellow humans are suffering the neglect of an economic system that haven’t put people at the centre of its endeavours, and as it has been well demonstrated, benefit few, creating grotesque inequalities, and savage pockets of poverty and misery.

LEADERSHIP | In our opinion; what’s the moment demands from our leaders is a bold new vision of a more just, fair, democratic and humane society. A society that in the words of Rev. William Barber requires a “moral revolution of values” https://youtu.be/gPuK1QG6Rsg … A renewed society that has at its very core, an inclusive, diverse and strong “we” – for, if our societies and our planet is to have a future at all, that’s where we must begin; caring for one another, showing respect for one another; valuing one another and tirelessly working to create the essential conditions that foster healthy individuals and communities.; in short, a village, many villages that actually care, not just by saying they do, but, by showing they do. First Lady Michelle Obama also spoke eloquently https://youtu.be/4ZNWYqDU948 last week on this very topic; we believe as we do with Rev. Barber, we need to listen carefully to their words, and pay close attention to their journey and deeds.

THE FUTURE | As Americans continue on their march to E-Day November 08, 2016, climate change remains one of the most pressing issues of our times. Resilience and adaptation is gradually becoming the “new normal” … In our province, notwithstanding the economic challenges and perhaps because of it, our Premier Rachel Notley leads with grace, clarity and creativity http://edmontonjournal.com/news/politics/one-year-in-power-albertans-overwhelmingly-voted-for-change-has-rachel-notleys-ndp-government-delivered towards a better future for Albertans – not an easy task at the best of times. We remain convinced that her perseverance and transparent leadership will win the day, for gradually many of her electoral promises are becoming a reality. The next provincial election is in 2019 – we hope by then, the new chapter Premier Notley started on May 2015 with her remarkable election victory becomes a refreshing inspiration for a new generation of our fellow citizens, to take her dreams, further.

SERVICE | Meanwhile, we remain at your service. YOU and the individuals & communities we serve remain at the center of what we do. We thank you for your support and welcome your feedback; if we can be of assistance don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Leo Campos Aldunez, Creative Director
The Community Networks Group © 2016

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RECLAIMING the POWER of COMMUNITY.

  1. Our understanding of power has been shaped by the mechanistic worldview which sees power as an attribute of limited quantity which is distributed unevenly to isolated individuals. Power is something which someone or some group has. It is something that can be seized, taken, given, or “put in its place.” This static view of power emphasises the separation between those who “have” power [the power-full] and those who don’t [the power-less]. Because there’s only so much power to go around, one can only have more power by taking it away from someone else [a win-lose situation where their gains is another’s loss], or by persuading those with power to give some of it up [in which case they continue to depend on the goodwill of the powerful who can always “take it back”]. And of course those with more power are free to use it as they wish, constrained only by their own morality and sense of right & wrong. Although we need to understand the workings of power in our society, analyses which focus solely on the ways in which the powerful exercise “power-over” others contribute to our own sense of powerlessness and victimization. It gives us the sense that domination over us is so total that resistance is futile.
  1. A more dynamic understanding of power focusses on the connections between the individuals involved. Power, as a relation, flows from “sender” to “receiver.” The effectiveness of the exercise of power by the “sender” depends on the degree to which the “receivers” consent to the relation. Orders, to be effective, must be obeyed. In this view, power is neither positive nor negative. The form it takes depends on the nature of the relationship through which it flows. Starhawk in Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority and Mystery distinguishes between three forms of power: power-over, power-with, and power-from-within. The exercise of “power-over ranges from the overt use of force and violence to more subtle forms of persuasion. For “power-over” to flow effectively, there has to be some element of submissiveness, dependency, or fear on the part of the receivers of this power.
  1. In exchange for our obedience we get that which is not directly or easily available to us – we get that which we fear losing. In agreeing to this exchange we fail to realize that the powerful need what we agree to give them [our labour, our resources, approval, etc.]. Our consent is also obtained through mechanism which persuades us through the manufacture of a “truth” which serves the powerful. This “truth” defines the ways in which we should “see” and “be” in the world. There are no alternatives. Other truths, other ways of seeing and being are overshadowed, devalued and discredited. But the power to define, like all power, is a relation. It depends for its effectiveness on the existence of others who are willing to “believe” their truth. To accept this truth is to deny our own experiences, strengths and power.
  1. As individuals, we exercise “power-from-within” when we choose to act from our inner sense of integrity and “truth.” The strength of “power-from-within” does not come from external authority nor from possession of the means of coercion. It emerges from within us; it comes from our willingness to act from, and to protect, the deep bonds that connect us with each other and with the Earth. It is “power-from-within” that gives us the strength to speak out and to join with others in withdrawing our consent for relations of “power-over.” As receivers of “power-over,” we have the option of refusing to act as a vehicle for the exercise of someone else’s power. It is at the point of reception that we’re presented with the opportunity of refusal – the exercise of our power-from-within. It is then in our resolve, willingness and readiness to exercise this power that the authority of “power-over” is weakened. When the number of individuals who are prepared to exercise their power-from-within increases, that “power-over” begins its conversion to “power-with.”
  1. In joining with others we exercise “power-with” – the collective side of “power-from-within.” Moreover; “power-with” is the “power not to command, but to suggest and be listened to, to begin something and see it happen. The source of power-with is the willingness of others to listen to our ideas. We could call that willingness respect, not for a role, but for each unique person.” This form of power is exercised within the limits of community – the net of relations which sanctions the ordered use of our individual and collective powers. It is a fluid, constructive and creative form of leadership which “retains its strength only to restraint. It affirms, shapes, and guides a collective decision – but, it cannot enforce its will on the group, or push it in a direction contrary to community desires.” To do so, would be to exert “power-over” – the form of power normally exercises within hierarchical positions of authority. The linking of “power-from-within” and “power-with” offers us a clear alternative to the dominant form of “power-over.” It is through the exercise of these powers that we recover our capacity to act, resist, create and change what needs to be so. © Pricilla Boucher
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