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.

Some Situations Call for Proximity-Oriented Approaches Like the Shared Situation Guide, Leading to More Sustainability and Variety

Some Situations Call for Proximity-Oriented Approaches

Hello,

Are you, as an individual or in your organization, exploring ways of thinking about and relating to situations that could make more progress on the big and small challenges you face, and humanity faces? Whether you’re exploring or not, what follows will expand your possibilities. First, these four definitions will help with what’s coming up. A situation is whatever you are dealing with or considering. An element is anything you’re considering as separate, including a person, place, thing, idea, feeling, time, group, relationship, etc. A relationship is any kind of association or connection between elements. And, the proximity consists of elements related or potentially related to a situation, in physical, mental and other ways. With the proximity thinking framework I created, you can consider situations and challenges with the four basic terms situation, element, relationship and proximity. Although considering elements, relationships and the proximity may each be important in dealing with situations, sometimes one or two of them may dominate our attention and activities, even when that is less effective. You may see that many of our approaches for dealing with challenges, which are kinds of situations, tend to be more element-oriented and/or relationship-oriented. For example, approaches like markets, politics and hierarchies are typically more element-oriented and/or relationship-oriented, meaning they have a greater focus on elements and/or relationships than proximities. No doubt, certain kinds of situations are most effectively dealt with by element-oriented and/or relationship-oriented approaches. However, some of the big and small challenges we face are shared situations, and may be more context-related or environment-related, or may relate to diverse elements across areas that may not typically be connected, so they are more proximity-oriented. And, sometimes it’s easier and more effective to consider a proximity, such as when relationships between elements are hard to define or in flux much of the time, so element-oriented approaches become difficult. Plus, sometimes it just becomes clear that we need to focus on a proximity. For example, consider shared challenges like climate change, sustainability, shared projects, shared spaces, shared resources (whether big like water or power sources or small like parks or kitchens), or shared events (whether big like a festivals or conventions or small like potlucks, picnics or meetings). These kinds of shared challenges are more proximity-oriented. In these kinds of challenges, it can help to relate more directly to the proximity of the situation. Networked technologies, when combined with some new proximity-oriented processes I’ve developed, let us relate more directly to proximities.

While developing the proximity thinking framework, I created some new proximity-oriented approaches that let us relate more directly to proximities. How? By deploying the four ProxThink growth model processes of RelatePoints, ProxMonitors, Vadi Agreements and ProxRewards (proxri) on a collaborative, networked, mobile platform. The ProxThink growth model was developed to work with networks, and grew partly out of asking myself, if you want to relate to a proximity sort like we relate to a person, what would be needed? A RelatePoint is a primary starting point or place for coordinating relationships in the proximity, and is similar to the ability to meet and/or talk to someone. A Proximity Monitor, or ProxMonitor, provides greater awareness of and information about the proximity, similar to the feedback we get from facial expressions, voice tonality, body language, and of course what someone is saying, when we relate to them. Similar to commonly accepted standards of behavior and ways of interacting with people are Vadi Agreements. The term Vadi (pronounced vah’dee) is short for valuable differences. Vadi Agreements acknowledge that differences are a part of relationships and some differences have value, and provide relationships and agreements which can help valuable differences persist, adapt and change as needed. ProxRewards (proxri) are somewhat similar to the need, when dealing with someone, to provide encouragement, positive feedback, rewards, and so forth, which help one or both of you, and which keep the relationship flowing. So a ProxReward is a reward which relates elements in the proximity, and is often a reward made with the proximity in mind. ProxRewards are also called proxri for short (pronounced prox’ree).

When deploying the four growth model processes discussed above on a collaborative, networked, mobile platform, you have proximity-oriented approaches that are integrated conceptually and technologically. With them, people can relate more directly to the proximity of their shared situation. These approaches can help us make more progress on the big and small challenges humanity faces, but also everyday challenges and shared situations. In the process, these approaches help create more sustainable proximities and sustainable variety. It’s both fascinating and a nice surprise that these approaches can make our lives more sustainable as well as more interesting, healthy and vital with more variety. I think sustainable variety is closely related to what nature does, which is perhaps a clue that these approaches have value and potential.

The proximity-oriented conceptual and technological approaches mentioned above come together in a specific form in the collaborative and mobile Shared Situation Guide. You can use it for shared situations with friends, family, coworkers, neighbors and others. It works on your Android phone or iPhone, your tablet and your computer. I’d like you to try it. It helps your group relate more directly to the proximity and each other, improving shared situations. It turns the proximity into more of a tangible, living thing, making it easier to relate to. It also gives people chances to relate to the proximity and each other in a wider variety of ways. Combined, these things can help groups with a shared situation come alive and thrive, and life becomes more enjoyable. There may be other people in proximities you share who are already using the guide, or if not, you can start collaborations that others can join. Keep 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. Learn more, access and try the Shared Situation Guide, find guide workshops, access guide starter sets, and discover other people who are using it, at sharedsituations.wordpress.com.

If you explore the proximity thinking (ProxThink) framework and the Shared Situation Guide, you’ll learn more about and use the concept of proxri, briefly introduced above. You’ll also see that the framework and Shared Situation Guide are offered via proxri. Proxri in practice are sort of like the give and take of a neighborhood, relationship, friendship or perhaps being a considerate traveler. How do you proxri? Basically, you consider the proximity, including your benefits, your circumstances, the other party’s circumstances, and some wider context, and then proxri as appropriate. A proxri may include money, things, services, ideas, tasks, relationships, actions, and so on, as well as a combination of these. So a proxri to me for the framework and guide might also be a referral, consulting or speaking engagement, teaching gig, grant, or other opportunity. In addition, I’ve created a collaboration deal so that people who collaborate on or improve the framework and guide can get proxri. If you think my work might be, or is, useful, interesting or has potential, please consider a proxri for it. You can find out more about my circumstances via this ProxMonitor. You can learn more about proxri here. You can make financial proxri here or via the proxri links on most any page of proxthink.com. As far as non-financial proxri, you can let me know about them by contacting me via the contact methods mentioned below.

Please contact me with any questions, comments, or for other related reasons, via the contact links on the Shared Situations or ProxThink websites. Also, if you’d like to get involved in growing the shared situations approach on various levels (social, technical, legal, organizational, etc.), please get in touch.

Thank you,
David Loughry
Shared Situations website: sharedsituations.wordpress.com
ProxThink website: proxthink.com

Creating the Life We Want, with a Tip from Skiing

Ski i Trysil

Ski i Trysil” by Ola Matsson for Trysil is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

I think it’s probably true that we, as individuals and groups, can create the life we want, to a large extent. But I also think it’s a bit like skiing. If you do the right things at the right moments, the ski and the mountain do a lot of the rest of the work. In life, the skis are things like the systems, tools, products and services that we create and we use. When I say “systems,” it includes not just things like infrastructure but things like formal and informal social networks, conceptual frameworks, and processes we use to do things large and small. This means such systems might include the proximity thinking framework, the sustainable proximities approach, the shared situation guide and the shared situations website. I’ve worked very hard to make these ProxThink-related systems be like a good pair of skis. When used with reality (the mountain), they can do a lot of the work for us, and can help make life better and more enjoyable.

As touched on, an important point about the above is related to the word “we,” which can mean ourselves individually, but also larger groups of people, and even all of humanity. So we need to think carefully about the systems, tools, products and services that we create and we use. But I think we especially need to think carefully about the systems, as systems can condition the range of options we have, and our quality of life in general. I’ve thought very carefully in creating the ProxThink-related systems mentioned above, and even about the transitions to using them more often.

 

Challenge:LA — The Shared Situations Submission to the Los Angeles Civic Technology Challenge

The Civic Innovation Lab of the City of Los Angeles recently held an open challenge, and I applied. Here’s how the lab described the challenge:

Challenge:LA is Los Angeles’ first civic technology challenge to leverage the collective ingenuity of its citizens to solve some of our most pressing problems.

In partnership with the Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti, we encourage designers, developers, artists, activists, students, data scientists, policy makers, academics, entrepreneurs, and citizens at large to submit a solution to one or more of the following challenge areas: transportation, community, water conservation.

Challenge winners will have the opportunity to present at the #techLA Conference on October 10, 2015 and participate in Accelerate:LA, a four-month city accelerator program in Los Angeles designed to encourage the sustainability of each solution and create real impact.

If you’re interested, here’s the official introduction to the three challenges (Transportation, Community, Water Conservation):
http://www.civicinnovationlab.la/challenges

I applied to the Community challenge. Here’s how they framed it:

HOW MIGHT WE HELP FACILITATE ACCESSIBLE PARTICIPATION IN CIVIC ISSUES AND INCENTIVIZE DISENGAGED POPULATIONS TO CONNECT WITH CIVIC LIFE?

Possible areas of focus:
• Support the integration of new Angelenos into the community;
• Facilitate citizen engagement via local civic participation;
• Drive economic activity by helping entrepreneurs launch local small businesses.

Applying was an interesting and productive experience. Even if I don’t win, I developed some useful new ideas and approaches. And, it forced me to develop the new Shared Situations website sooner!

I thought you might find my application interesting. Below are some key parts.

WEBSITE 

http://sharedsituations.wordpress.com

PROJECT NAME

Growing Community-Oriented Skills, Capabilities and Outcomes Through the Collaborative Mobile Shared Situation Guide, and the Shared Situations Website, Starter Sets, Workshops and Public Collaborations

PROJECT HEADLINE
Enter up to 15 words. One-sentence “elevator pitch.”

Groups come alive and thrive when people relate to the proximity of their shared situation.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION
Enter up to 100 words.

People are more likely to be active and effective in their communities when they can see and use the same processes that work with friends, associates and neighbors. The collaborative mobile Shared Situation Guide uses the scalable four processes of the ProxThink growth model. A group can improve a smaller-scale situation by relating more directly to the proximity of their shared situation, which the guide teaches and enables. The guide is extended and enhanced by the Shared Situations website, providing in-person and online workshops, as well as searchable and shareable guide starter sets and larger-scale public collaborations.

AREA OF FOCUS
• Transportation
• Community (X)
• Water Conservation

PROJECT MATURITY
• Idea
• Early prototype
• Full prototype
• Beta (X)
• Publicly available product or service

AUDIENCE
Enter up to 250 words.
Describe the target audience or community your project aims to serve. How does your solution impact their role or participation in the community?

The collaborative mobile Shared Situation Guide is for a group of people with a shared situation. It can scale from small groups to large. At larger scales, human limits are more likely to be reached than technological limits. At that point a “team of teams” approach might become appropriate, and the ProxThink growth model processes used in the guide scale for this as well.

Through the networked mobile collaboration taught and enabled by the Shared Situation Guide, the proximity becomes more of living thing that people who share a situation relate to and help keep alive. Through that, groups come alive and thrive.

When people see the same processes being effective at different scales, they become more likely and more able to become active in public collaborations. These public collaborations can be for situations shared by larger groups, such as neighborhoods, communities, cities and regions. The larger proximities of such shared situations are then more likely to become living things that people help keep alive.

People can learn to use the Shared Situation Guide on their own or through in-person and online workshops provided through the Shared Situations website. There they can also find, share and comment on guide starter sets for common situations, leveraging what others have learned and created for similar situations. More intimate experiences with the Shared Situation Guide can lead to larger community experiences and outcomes enabled by public collaborations people find and join via the Shared Situations website. The reverse may happen as well.

DATA
Enter up to 250 words.
Describe how your project either utilizes publicly available data or creates new open data to enable better decision-making or an improved process [creating more equitable mobility / incentivizing disengaged populations / facilitating water conservation] in Los Angeles.

There are several nice things related to data about the Shared Situation Guide. First, within the guide, it is easy to link to web pages that provide needed data. Second, since the option of spreadsheets is literally built into any guide text document, it is also easy to include data in a group’s customized guide documents. Third, the ProxMonitor process and section of the guide lends itself to data and reminds people of the important role data plays in relating to proximities and keeping proximities alive.

Depending on their shared situations, groups using the Shared Situation Guide for smaller scale collaboration or larger scale public collaboration may utilize publicly available data, create new open data, or both.

New open data may get created as part of the ProxMonitor process, when groups choose to share ProxMonitors with other people and groups. This might occur simply as information sharing. It also might occur when ProxMonitors relate to multiple proximities and people see that the ProxMonitors can benefit multiple proximities and situations simultaneously.

DATASETS
Enter up to 100 words.
Are there any datasets to which you would like access to aid in the development of your solution that are not currently publicly available?

This would depend on the specific public collaborations that people start and join on the Shared Situations website.

IMPACT
Enter up to 250 words.
How will your project improve the outcomes and/or experience of people living in Los Angeles as it pertains to [transportation / community / water conservation] in an evidence-based way? What types of decisions or processes does your project inform?

The Shared Situation Guide and the Shared Situations website can improve the outcomes and/or experiences of people living in Los Angeles in both general and specific ways. The general ways have been covered fairly well in previous sections. Specifically, the guide and website can have evidence-based impacts and inform specific decisions and processes. To better understand, I’d suggest that anyone evaluating this application spend some time with the guide and website. The website is at http://sharedsituations.wordpress.com. Although the guide is linked to from the website, the guide is also at http://quip.com/XUclAKWY4Lmj.

A visual asset I’m including is the Flow Graphic shown on the guide document called Using the Guide and Linked Documents. The Flow Graphic shows a looping sequence for using the growth model processes that are part of the Shared Situation Guide. By using these processes, people naturally create ongoing evidence-based monitoring and make decisions based on information related to their shared situation. It should be noted that ProxMonitors can be any combination of technological monitors and/or human monitors. Smaller scale examples of such evidence-based monitoring and relevant decision-making can be seen in two ProxThink guide starter sets found on the Shared Situations website, one for organizing a picnic and one for a shared kitchen. A larger scale example would be using the ProxThink growth model for the California drought, which could become a collaboration joined via the Shared Situations site (see this link: http://wp.me/p1Ry8Q-fI).

SUSTAINABILITY
Enter up to 250 words.
Describe how your solution creates value for its end-users and could scale in a sustainable fashion?

I’ve covered how this project creates value and scales. Here I’ll look at sustainability and scaling, both in terms of technology and the concepts.

Technology: The Shared Situation Guide is a set of linked Quip documents with explanations for using them. Here’s how Quip is described: “Quip changes the way teams work together. Quip combines documents, spreadsheets, checklists, and chat in a simple interface that makes collaboration easy. With Quip, you work with people, not files. Thousands of companies from a wide range of industries have adopted Quip to make communication and collaboration more efficient.” The guide could be adapted to other major platforms. However, Quip is the most functional, elegant and multi-platform (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac). Since Quip is built for large corporations, and I’m not locked into Quip, the technology scales and is sustainable. A similar argument could be made for WordPress, where the Shared Situations website is hosted.

Concepts: With the ProxThink framework I created the sustainable proximities approach. From that evolved the idea of sustainable variety. I think variety in life is critical to health, happiness, and vibrant communities, and that variety and sustainability reinforce each other and enhance each other. The Shared Situation Guide and Shared Situations website are real-world implementations of the sustainable proximities approach, and I think have a solid chance of increasing sustainable variety. Also, a focus on keeping a proximity alive is inherently more oriented towards sustainability than focusing on single elements, such as individual people, businesses or organizations.

VISUAL ASSET
You may upload visual pitch materials (e.g., image, infographic, visualization) that helps illustrate your project. Please do not upload a copy of a Keynote or Powerpoint presentation or Word document that repeats your answers above. [Please note that we only accept the following file formats: JPEG, GIF, PNG, PDF, MOV; max 1 MB]

ProxThink Growth Model Flow Graphic

 

‘Broken Windows’ Policing Strategy and Proximities

Communities and neighborhoods are proximities, and proximities matter. In a telling comment, former police chief Bratton had this brief summary of what Wilson and Kelling were saying with their so-called “broken windows” policing strategy:

“The importance of what Wilson and Kelling wrote was the emphasis not only on crime committed against people but the emphasis on crimes committed against the community, neighborhoods,” Mr. Bratton said.

The above quote is from the New York Times story about James Q. Wilson at the time of his death. They say “his ‘broken windows’ theory of law enforcement laid the groundwork for crime reduction programs in New York, Los Angeles and other cities.” The full story is here.

Relationships between Variety, Sustainability and Proximities: A Case for Proximity Thinking

Below is how variety, sustainability and proximities are related, and why we need proximity thinking.

1. Variety (also think diversity) goes hand-in-hand with sustainability.

2. Sustainability is about environments and contexts, or more simply, proximities.

3. So, for sustainable proximities, we:
a. Need to, and get to, embrace variety.
b. Need to, and get to, create proximities that support variety.

4. To better think about, relate to, and create proximities, we need proximity thinking, also known as ProxThink. The ProxThink framework includes a sustainable proximities approach. By the way, variety is an integral part of proximity thinking.

P.S. You might also check out the varietypeople.com project.