For Shared Challenges and Shared Situations, We Need Networked, Proximity-Oriented Approaches

Do you think that many of our most critical challenges these days are shared challenges? I do. I’m talking about challenges shared by groups of people, from small groups to regions to humanity itself. I think our dominant mental frameworks are not as robust or as effective as we need them to be for shared challenges. And, our dominant mental frameworks don’t leverage our current technologies well enough. I think there are better approaches for our critical shared challenges, and using them could boost not just our survival prospects, but our health, happiness and sustainability too. In addition, these approaches can be used for more everyday shared situations, including shared situations in businesses, communities, organizations, schools, governments, churches, homes and elsewhere. I’m looking for adventurous early adopters to try out these approaches. But let’s think about tools for a minute.

Using the right tool for the job, or a better tool, usually helps. There are many kinds of tools, including physical tools, software tools and also conceptual tools. Conceptual tools may be some of our most important tools. Using conceptual tools to change how we conceptualize or conceive of problems and situations can make big differences in how we deal with them. Not only can they make possible different approaches, but different conceptual tools can generate very different results. Also, an interesting thing about conceptual tools is that often, the more general they are, the better. When you have general concepts that apply to a broad range of situations, you have powerful tools that can be used more often.

I’ve developed some new conceptual tools for shared challenges and shared situations. These leverage the concept of proximity, including the idea that proximity also means nearness in relationship. Proximity thinking is a very general proximity-oriented framework that as a whole is a conceptual tool. And, the ProxThink framework becomes a set of multiple conceptual tools when you get to know it. I developed the framework over many years, integrating my diverse background in the arts, sciences, design and business. It’s a framework for creativity, innovation, problem-solving, sustainability and living, and a significant part of it is for people who share a proximity, challenge or situation. A situation is whatever a person or a group is dealing with or considering. A challenge is a type of situation.

From a proximity thinking point of view, some of the conceptual tools and approaches we use for shared challenges and shared situations could be better. I can’t go into everything here, but for now remember that we can consider situations, in a very general way, with just three terms: element, relationship and proximity. And, that the proximity consists of elements related or potentially related to a situation, in physical, mental and other ways. With these terms in mind, we can begin to see that many of our approaches for dealing with challenges tend to be more element-oriented and/or relationship-oriented, in contrast to being proximity-oriented. For example, element-oriented and/or relationship-oriented approaches like markets, politics and hierarchies can work well in some situations, but they are often also used less effectively in situations which are more proximity-oriented. Now consider more proximity-oriented shared challenges like climate change, sustainability, shared projects, shared spaces, shared resources and shared events. In these kinds of challenges, it helps if the group with the shared situation can relate more directly to the proximity of the situation. Networked technologies, when combined with some proximity-oriented approaches I’ve developed, help groups relate more directly to proximities. How? By deploying the ProxThink growth model processes of RelatePoints, ProxMonitors, Vadi Agreements and ProxRewards (proxri) on a collaborative, networked, mobile platform. Not only does this help a group better deal with a shared situation, but the proximity of their shared situation can become a kind of living thing.

Not relating well to proximities may explain the persistence of some of our challenges and some of the dysfunctional situations in our lives. Using proximity-oriented approaches for some of our shared challenges and shared situations could make a difference. And at the same time, using them could be more healthy, fun and enjoyable. I think it can also create more sustainable proximities and what I call sustainable variety. However, we need to be somewhat careful in transitioning to proximity-oriented approaches, since our “muscles” for relating to proximities are weak. Also, just as there are limits to element-oriented and relationship-oriented approaches, there are limits to proximity-oriented approaches. So element-oriented and relationship-oriented approaches will still be valuable. Life then becomes more a matter of choosing, combining, and even overlapping the most appropriate approaches. In other words, using the right tools for the right jobs.

A longer introduction to these proximity-oriented approaches, including links to the collaborative, mobile Shared Situation Guide that you can use now, is a piece I wrote called Some Situations Call for Proximity-Oriented Approaches Like the Shared Situation Guide, Leading to More Sustainability and VarietyKeep in mind that the Shared Situation Guide is a preliminary implementation of proximity-oriented approaches, and more will need to be done to integrate the processes it uses into our systems and lives.

If you’re interested, you might try one or more of these non-sequential options: Read the piece mentioned above. Start using the Shared Situation Guide immediately on your mobile with your associates, friends, family or neighbors (no cost, offered via proxri). Schedule an online or in-person guide workshop. Dive into the ProxThink framework at proxthink.com. To explore and use the Shared Situation Guide, to contact me, or to collaborate with others using the guide, visit: sharedsituations.wordpress.com.

Advertisements

Letter of Introduction for ProxThink

Hello,

Consider climate change, conflict, innovation, creativity, problem-solving, financial turmoil, the recession and other challenges. Further, consider the challenges of coordinating, collaborating, managing resources and dealing with change.

For the above challenges, on personal to global scales, more breakthrough solutions, innovations and creations are possible.

They can and do spring from ProxThink.

They can even be more fun.

We’re not missing some solutions, innovations and creations because we don’t want them. But we may be missing them because of our conceptual frameworks. Different concepts can lead to different outcomes.

For years, I’ve focused on the hardest problem I could tackle: to develop new ideas and processes for these and other tough challenges, ranging from the personal to the global. The result is some integrated approaches that make sense from conceptual soundness to practical feasibility. It turns out these general ideas and processes apply to a wide range of situations, from climate change to financial turmoil to business to conversations to parties. Further, I believe some of the approaches are real breakthroughs, and potential paradigm shifts.

Together, the new ideas, tools, models and standards are called ProxThink, short for proximity thinking. They boost thinking, creativity, growth and sustainability in the proximity of situations. You can start using ProxThink quickly and advance as you go. The three primary ProxThink innovations include: 1) a new thinking structure, 2) new patterns and tools for innovation and creativity, and 3) a new sustainable growth model.

The thinking structure provides new conceptual frameworks for dealing with challenges, situations and opportunities. The patterns and tools for innovation and creativity use the new thinking structure, and are actually a huge and useful part of the ProxThink website. Taken together, the patterns and tools provide ways of generating and evaluating ideas for very diverse proximities and situations. Areas to apply the patterns and tools range from ordinary to social, to business, to community, to creative, to theoretical and to physical situations. ProxThink Hints are a group of interactive tools which leverage the patterns and work with words and phrases you enter to generate hint questions that can generate ideas, possibilities, options, consideration and action. The growth model, built with a focus on the proximity, has the potential to be sustainable, flexible, healthy, fun and efficient. “Sustainable,” in addition to the green meaning, includes the idea that diversity and complexity can persist, adapt and change as needed, and in this sense, sustainable also means lively. The growth model has four proximity-focused processes for connecting people, proximity awareness, sustainable agreements, and rewards called “proxri” which relate elements in the proximity.

Why a proximity focus? The proximity is a useful concept since the meaning of proximity includes nearness in relationship, allowing consideration of any elements related to a situation. So the proximity may include people and other elements related to a situation in physical, mental, emotional, temporal, intuitive, technological, historical, social and many other ways.

Our new reality is that we live in an increasingly networked, participatory and transparent world, and that presents both positive and negative possibilities. ProxThink provides ways to think about, relate to, and make more of this new reality. The ProxThink growth model in particular, and the open standards it proposes, provides opportunities to solve, in an evolutionary way, some of the problems that can trip us in this historical transition. Networks shift the focus from elements, such as objects, people, businesses and governments, to proximities. The ProxThink growth model was designed with networks and proximities in mind. The growth model presents opportunities for greater stability as well as greater variety and vitality, leading at the same time to greater sustainability. The growth model allows for the growth of proximities and people by allowing more direct relationships between individuals and proximities, a strategy used successfully by democracy, markets, and other processes. In essence, the idea is that proximities become things people can have relationships with by means of democracy and markets. The growth model provides new more sustainable and integrated, yet flexible, processes by which proximities become things people can have relationships with, and these processes are greatly enhanced by networks. The next two paragraphs go further into this line of thinking, and provide several examples.

The biggest breakthrough ProxThink makes possible is the creation of more sustainable proximities, by combining the Internet (and related technologies) with the ProxThink growth model. Specifically, this combination provides new ways to deal with climate change and evolve democracies, legal systems and market economies. More generally, it can help us coordinate, collaborate, create, innovate, solve problems and manage resources at many different scales. It leverages fundamental opportunities the Internet presents which we are largely failing to exploit. It is well known that we have trouble recognizing large, slow-changing patterns, and our failure to recognize these opportunities is a case in point. Creating sustainable proximities is a key to decreasing conflict, dealing with change, boosting variety and enjoying life. The approach is similar to the give and take of a neighborhood, relationship, friendship or perhaps being a considerate traveler — you want the neighborhood, relationship, friendship or location you’re visiting to survive, thrive, and take care of you as you take care of it. I believe we need to aggressively move in this direction to create many more sustainable proximities, and specifically to deal with climate change. Competition and markets work for many situations, but for big challenges we face together, such as climate change, and other challenges such as those brought about by our greater connections due to networks, we need some better ways to coordinate and collaborate. Fortunately, networks are part of the solution as well, and the ProxThink growth model can help us leverage the opportunities presented by networks.

I’ve started several sustainable proximities projects which combine the growth model and the Internet. I’m encouraging other people to adopt and adapt the open standards of this approach. The projects I’ve begun include: 1) new proxri-based growth models for websites and blogs; 2) the artdown downloadable content proposal for digital content such as music, movies, video, art, books and software; 3) consideration of how this approach relates to financial turmoil and markets and how for some proximities financial turmoil is avoidable; and 4) the proxEarth climate change project, which includes a general proposal and also things you can do right now if you have a website, blog, or use social software sites, allowing us to collaborate globally across different sites and services via some global collaboration standards related to climate change. Each of these four are potential game-changers. I want to keep growing each of them, and have many other projects for sustainable proximities in mind. Next up, we should: 1) start some sustainable proximities related to renewable energy, and 2) continue development of the legal and technological infrastructure needed for growth model processes. Not every proximity may be appropriate for this approach. But for those which are, I believe it can be a win/win strategy for people involved, allowing a fuller range of voluntary and enjoyable engagement, while meeting needs at the same time. If you would like to be involved in some projects and trials which use the sustainable proximities approach, join ProxThink, as we will be updating members on opportunities and progress.

With the links after the end of this letter, you can discover ways to use and explore ProxThink, many examples, different perspectives on ProxThink, and the potential of ProxThink. Join ProxThink and try it out. With our proxri-based membership, it is free to sign-up.

I want as many people as possible to take advantage of ProxThink, which is designed to be a sustainable resource. I’m raising funds for marketing and outreach, to pay off some startup debt, and to continue building more sustainable proximities. My fundraising goal is $250,000, and I have ongoing needs of about $5,000 a month on average. I need $4,500 by late December to cover January expenses, from some combination of fundraising, services and the ProxThink website. See our service offerings here, and please let others know about them as appropriate. I may also be eligible for some grants, but those will take time, and I have some immediate needs now. Over the course of more than 30 years, I’ve invested over $2 million in terms of foregone opportunities, and currently have over $71,000 in startup debt because of ProxThink. To develop practical new approaches to tough global problems, these numbers are trivial, but to continue I need partners, collaborators, funders and contributors.

If you are asking why did I build up that much startup debt, consider that future generations will be asking why did we wait so long to do anything serious about climate change? My passionate, urgent priority has been to develop integrated new approaches for challenges like climate change and other major problems.

I’d like you to consider and then make a contribution which relates elements in our combined proximity (yours, mine, the world at large and the future). Non-financial contributions, rewards, resources, services, connections, referrals, opportunities, links, telling others and so on can also make a big difference. In the ProxThink growth model, a “proxri” is a reward which relates elements in the proximity, so you will be rewarding with a proxri. In a sense, you are not making a donation or an investment, but rather helping grow, in a neighborly way, the proximity of a sustainable resource. Let’s build many more sustainable proximities together. It could even be a lot of fun. The ProxThink site has Proxri Now links for online contributions via PayPal. Although I need some large proxri to survive and thrive, if you’re unsure what to do, reward with the suggested minimum proxri for your anticipated use and benefits, plus some bonus for what I’ve already done so far. Consider the many challenging global situations we face. The ProxThink ideas, tools, models and standards can move mountains, but only if they become more widely used. The next critical steps are marketing, outreach and getting the word out. These are going to take more proxri than I have now. If you think ProxThink has potential, whatever you can do to keep it alive and thriving would be great. You can proxri here now. Thanks!

If you know someone who might be interested in ProxThink, please let them know. Tell them about this page with the bookmark button below. Here’s a list of people we want to reach. According to an old African proverb: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

I’m open to your comments or questions. You might find some answers in the links below. Otherwise, please contact me.

Thank you very much,
David Loughry

Key Links for Exploration

Proxri Deal: As you find our relationship rewarding, proxri with the proximity in mind.

New Hints Prompt

For the ProxThink Hints input form, I just changed the question “What element are you considering?” to the simpler “What are you considering?” It’s more direct and less confusing. Whatever you type in the form is an element (or several), but you don’t need to know that to start getting useful ideas and possibilities from your hints. Hope this helps. (r] proxthink.com