Conceptual depth, advice
authenticity, and devotion are three things that inspire me. Finding a special alignment of these things in CatComm and Theresa made me an instant advocate. And my own commitment to the digital divide sector and community networking arena gave me a great appreciation for the approach Theresa had undertaken. CatComm is an exemplar of Digital Excellence by virtue of its holistic ethos: people in community solving what they need to solve and sharing their experiences with each other. This is an exercise in positive media—the sharing of stories and know-how.
In learning about CatComm, the first big ‘a-ha’ moment for me was the recognition that we need exactly the kind of tool that CatComm provides in order to share knowledge. We must foster this practice and I was keen on sparking replication of the Casa here in Chicago and elsewhere.
What one community solves inspires others to take action and go further. At the same time, organizations and web sites crop up to tackle the challenges we face. They operate with much the same mindset and similar aspirations—but are all too often unaware of each other until a good deal of work has already been done. Realizing this has been central to CatComm’s recent evolution. We are following a network perspective and we have now adopted the stance of a network steward among many. That means working in cooperation with an increasing network of like-minded organizations.
Leadership in networks is different from brand or organizational leadership. There’s an ecology of the network and we’re redeveloping the CatComm site and organization to consciously function as part of a network. We’re joining hands with other clusters working on the same meta-question: How can we more effectively share the experiences of people in community solving challenges? We have made a major investment in the technology of our website. In some respects, we’re turning the site inside out so we can get out the way and also get the technology out of the way. These are the insights we’ve gleaned from the practice of open space—making room for self-organizing—and has given us kinship with those on the wiki path.
We’ve been rebuilding our platform so that information can be more readily disseminated across networks. Information is valuable, to be sure, but even more valuable is the time and attention of the person, whether they are documenting their project or searching for a solution. We’re working with others to establish public data models and mechanisms to effectively exchange data between sites. We are seeking accelerated flows of information so that attention and effort is maximized.
The data will be stored on our website in a way that allows other sites, applications, and widgets to rely on us as a repository of solutions. We’ll get more eyes looking at our content at more points on the Web then we could hope for from a solitary website, and with support of issue and geographic portals to get more solutions documented in the database. It’s a virtuous cycle that comes from attending to the field we’re all working in rather than competing against one another.
But today, we’re just at the beginning of this road.
We’re about to switch over to a new platform that will allow expansion of the languages we serve and the formats in which solutions are documented. Our content will be available for search, query, and export, and the data models will be published as a standard in our work with the Open Sustainability Network. We’ll be supporting the flow of information with significant attention to the construction of tools that allow others to display subsets of our content on their own sites, so a group focused on a particular issue or particular geography can focus on their concern and not on the technology.
Shortly down the road we’ll be working with others to foster communities of problem solvers (or Solutioneers, as Ellison Horne says!) and supporters. These communities will emerge on the basis of productive interactions made possible by many hands attending to the field.