When the Internet generation thinks ABCD is a dinosaur?

Magdalena Valderrama Hurwitz
Magdalena Valderrama Hurwitz
@magdalena-valderrama-hurwitz
3 years ago
28 posts

When our community mostly made up of 50-70 year-olds started to use ABCD, the immediate call was to focus on creating an online database that would become the backbone of an interactive online forum. Never mind that we could start with the asset-mapping and interviews, and get the cultural stories and uncover hidden talents while the technical people figured out how to work with each other. Now the project has attracted a few people in their late 30's who insist that all we have to do is make the database participation mandatory, a role reversal of age generations, institutions and associations. My longtime experience tells me that "mandatory" doesn't go far or deep enough, but I understand the "young" people's need for speed. Anyone else experiencing the age gap in proceeding with ABCD?


updated by @magdalena-valderrama-hurwitz: 10/24/16 03:45:35PM
Ron Dwyer-Voss
Ron Dwyer-Voss
@ron-dwyer-voss
3 years ago
48 posts

In my trainings I usually have 1-2 folks in their 20s or 30s that think the obstacle to participation is lack of external incentive. They usually respond to their assumption by proposing 'mandatory" requirements, or providing more information to cognitively convince people that they want to participate. Of course, both solutions are short lived at best. I find it useful to ask them what they believe about the people they want to participate that making participation "mandatory" will solve.

John Hamerlinck
John Hamerlinck
@john-hamerlinck
3 years ago
39 posts

I don't think a community has to be thought of as one big project. Each smaller group endeavor has its own appropriate technologies. Some people may want to use GPS and phone apps to create community. For others, index cards in a recipe box is an appropriate technology.

Figure out how the work being done by folks doing web 2.0 or social media-driven activities can complement the work being done via other types of mapping and leveraging assets. Identify how information about all of these activities is shared. ABCD doesn't have to be standardized to be effective.

Magdalena Valderrama Hurwitz
Magdalena Valderrama Hurwitz
@magdalena-valderrama-hurwitz
3 years ago
28 posts

Thanks, gentlemen!

To clarify, I have full confidence that we are going to use GPS and phone apps to map and connect people as a way to create or recognize community. My question has more to do withthe activity of conducting the actual learning conversations.We have already defined ourselves as a community, covering many locales and interest areas. None of us wants more division, in this case based according to digital access.

It's interesting to hear that the people in their 20's and 30's whom you've worked with, Ron, have also spoken up about mandating participation -- seems counter-intuitive to have younger folk get all authoritarian. The other solution, of providing more information to convince and persuade, reminds me of Peter Block's books on community. The question, as he sees it, is not "How?" as in how are we going to get people to do x, y, or z or how will x, y, or z be done. Falling back on "how" makes people obsess endlessly on the answer, get lost in the weeds and then never get any of the work done.

So maybe, the question is "why?", as he recommends, along the lines you've tried successfully. Why make participation mandatory? Why provide more information? And go for the deeper challenge of positive relationship-building in real space and real time as well as virtual space and time.

I had thought the younger folks would grab at the community- and life-changing aspect of learning conversations, as we help each other move away from inappropriate dependence on institutions. Now I see that grasping the significance of the learning conversations is a difficulty more universal than I had thought.

Any other experiences out there to share?

John Hamerlinck
John Hamerlinck
@john-hamerlinck
3 years ago
39 posts

A few years ago we did a series of trainings on using 1-on-1 conversations as an organizing strategy. These were groups that were 50% college students, and 50% (mostly older) folks from the local community. A unexpected number of the students mentioned afterwards that they never really talked about important things with people they didn't know, so they really enjoyed doing that. Many of them did say that they had constructive, meaningful conversations with people they did not personally know online. They said that the anonymity of the online conversations gave them the courage to be honest about their values and concerns. Maybe many younger people are looking for some guarantee of safe space.

The mandatory question might come out of their experience as students. It's a culture where critical things are perceived as "assignments" as opposed to electives.

Magdalena Valderrama Hurwitz
Magdalena Valderrama Hurwitz
@magdalena-valderrama-hurwitz
3 years ago
28 posts

That could be a useful clue, John.

So these folks appear not to have been part of the plans to hold 1:1 conversations but were part of the implementation process?

Should I understand that given your college students' general preference to "speak" online, they didn't know ahead of time that they would be asked to have these conversations during your training and having the conversations was a surprise that they kind of had to go along with once they were there?

Or, did they know ahead of time that the training was to be about having 1:1 conversations in order to do organizing, and if so,what do you think made them overcome their apprehension and take the training in the first place?

It occurred to me your studentscould have attended along the lines of, "I'm fearful about talking in person to people I don't know and I would like to not be afraid," like somebody who decides to go to a Toastmasters meeting and learn public speaking. If your group already anticipated fears like this and included promotion of the trainings accordingly, that could also be helpful to know.

John Hamerlinck
John Hamerlinck
@john-hamerlinck
3 years ago
39 posts

Yes, they did know ahead of time that there would be training on 1-to-1 conversations. They showed up for a variety of reasons - recommendation of a faculty member, membership in a student org that felt they could benefit from knowing something about organizing, curiosity about community conversations, particular local issues they thought might be talked about . . .

It was by no means an effort to drum up broad participation. The training did not for example, follow any kind of visioning or goal setting. It was more of an opportunity for the already motivated or curious to gain some useful skills.

Sharon West
Sharon West
@sharon-west
3 years ago
4 posts

As I go through these discussions I am seeing a disturbing thread. When I first read "Building communities From the Inside Out" by Kretzmann and McKnight, in my Masters program of Urban and Regional Planning, I thought it's main objective was to REBUILD communities! They felt that if we focus on THE PEOPLE and their skills and assets we didn't have to keep focusing on failed programs. However, it seems many people are working on whole and well communities or using young people, who lost the whole idea, of bringing people together to help them realize they have something to give back, and they have something to rebuild there communities with, their gifts. These younger people live in the internet community so this is where they want to take ABCD. I know ABCD has to grow and evolve for others to participate but the computer community is well alive and whole, and many of the communities and many of the people here, seem to be financially doing fine. I don't think this is an age gap this seems to be an objective gap. It seems many have lost their objective.

This has been my one and only bone I had to pick with the book from the beginning. ABCD seems to not realize that it does better in communities with some money. (which is what I am seeing more and more) Communities that depend on social programs can use ABCD too but you can't even think about gifts if you are hungry or homeless.(Which is what happens without social programs.) Instead of a glass half full you would have an empty glass.

Saying all that, I can't see a need for a mandatory data base for citizens who may not even have a computer or the internet. However, if you are talking about communities that have some money but not much, then yes, let them have a mandatory data base and any other thing that middle class people need to come together.

It's too early and I am sounding too hostile for a nice friendly discussion sorry!

keith kelley
keith kelley
@keith-kelley
2 years ago
9 posts

i am instructed when i go into a mcdonald's and see a group of people laughing and talking over coffee - morning after morning...it isn't what i was looking for; but, .......

Magdalena Valderrama Hurwitz
Magdalena Valderrama Hurwitz
@magdalena-valderrama-hurwitz
9 months ago
28 posts

So, it's been awhile since I've been on the ABCD in Action Forum (got distracted in the crisis and aftermath of a wildfire). I dropped working with the group whose situation with younger participants prompted me to write the original post just before then, and went onto another project, and it's interesting to review the discussion after all the related life-changing events. 

I think there can be no doubt that any approach does better in communities with some money, simply because there are more resources to leverage. The problem that ABCD addresses is how to identify and leverage whatever resources there are. People starving is a humanitarian crisis and resources need to be brought in from the outside. But only bringing in resources from the outside is not enough, because dependence gets tiresome. My original question had to do with people who have computers and know how to use them trying to contribute their assets to the projects the group as a whole wanted. Not everyone could even afford a computer, and lots had no cellphone let alone a smartphone.  The call for a mandatory data base at first inadvertently and apparently highlighted the differences in the group according to culture, class, ability, age in some cases, power and privilege, access to information and power to manage information -- but from another perspective it highlighted the resources that existed. And we found that it doesn't matter what it is, there's always something there that people will latch onto in their fear of change.   

In the end for the first group I worked with before the wildfire, John's advice to  "Figure out how the work being done by folks doing web 2.0 or social media-driven activities can complement the work being done via other types of mapping and leveraging assets. Identify how information about all of these activities is shared. ABCD doesn't have to be standardized to be effective." was very helpful. What a gentle way to work! We didn't have to change the world, wand we didn't have to be perfect at it, we just had to change how we saw things, and work together with our piece of it to get it off the ground and be used as a tool or platform for the next level of change that may be needed.  

We found a way to expand the network of people involved, had some volunteers do "interviews" with pen and paper over the phone (remember we were covering 14 countries) or in person while other volunteers followed up with the data entry. Some people contributed money, lots of  people contributed time and enthusiasm. It took a few years to iron out many fronts, but now the organization exists; we have an online worldwide service network and a network of reps - not in every region yet, but the core activists are feeling confident now; it turned out some folks wanted to learn about computers and others were willing to teach, and all in all, group members of many ages and abilities are offering their heads, heart, and hands who were unable to before, and feeling connected where it had not been possible before. Maybe progress is perfection. 


updated by @magdalena-valderrama-hurwitz: 01/27/18 07:00:52PM