:: to the teeth ::    thoughts on social justice, medicine, race, hope and beats

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." :: Arundhati Roy ::

"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." :: Alice Walker ::
Thursday, October 12, 2006  

Geek and non-Geek activists throw down together!

I wish I had known about the Web of Change conference earlier — I’d be there in a second. I’m not a techy much myself (although in my circle of like-minded doctor folk, I come off as one, because I know what a “blog” is, but more so because I’m psychotically fascinated by how the internet and the "web 2.0" can help facilitate community building and power building. And I do enjoy discussing the similarities among peanut butter and jelly and the web 2.0 and health justice).

My friend Adrienne Marie Brown, an absolutely wonderful woman and the current Executive Director of the Ruckus Society, gave a session at this conference. I’m reposting Kate Milberry’s reportback from that session (and a link to it, on the web of change website is here). It’s beautiful (and where things are bolded, emphasis is mine):
Titilating Technology
Submitted by Kate Milberry on Thu, 2006-09-21 14:09.

Maybe you know Ruckus Society, maybe you don’t. But for those of us who didn’t know Adrienne Maree Brown before today’s session, we won’t be forgetting her any time soon. For starters, she made us sing. I was fine with that but, not being a singer (in fact, being almost tone deaf) I didn’t know this meant standing up. One gets lazy once one has parked one’s ass on the floor.

So, we all sang a note (which one, I couldn’t say) and it reminded me of church. I’ve not been in a long time, but still, the music (when not in Catholic mass - unless midnite mass on xmas eve) is typically uplifting. And in fact, it set the tone for Adrienne’s talk, which ended with her calling our geek work divne, and the geeks among us holy! Holy @%!*; that’s a nice compliment.

Adrienne started her talk as she ended it - on a tributory note. She said that geeks are key to the survival of folks like her - activists involved in the non-profit sector working for progressive social change. The work of geeks - their various tools, programs, apps, whatever - acts as a conduit for the things social justice activists are dreaming of, imagining and planning for.

One of her central points, and an underlying theme of her talk was this: technology only works if there’s a huge loving idea behind it. The problem, or sticking point, is that geeks don’t think of it this when actually developing the stuff. Adrienne’s message: don’t sell yourself short - you are the Justice League!

I thought it charming and refreshing that this self-described “wannabe geek” was throwing down w/some who are arguably hard core techs. Her presentation was lo-tech - no power point (or mac alt) but notes in a “cool” book that she referred to on occasion to ensure she wasn’t rambling. But even if (or when) she did ramble - it was highly entertaining. That girl is fun-ny! Even her invocation of Jesus was a yuk, surprisingly.

Another main idea of Adrienne’s talk was the need for integration (or interoperability?)- of social change software in the non-profit sector, in order for the sustainability of progressive organizing. So, techs, stop function in “silos” and start talking to each other.

One of the most resonant points of Adrienne’s talk, however, was the need for a theory of how change actually happens. We need to have one. And in thinking about this, organizers need to consider some crucial points:

1. Impacted communities are the ones who create change. Often social change activists are “do gooders” - we put ourselves in the position where we try to do good for impacted communities. BUT revolution is a personal thing that happens in your heart; people come together when something big happens, and people are deeply affected.

2. Invest in people not necessarily resources. It’s about moving people from a state of lack to a state of abundance, from needing to doing, from aloofness to leadership .

Despite the term “open source”, things aren’t always so open. Free software philosophy is not always practiced - we need to practice the change we want to see in the world. Share.

A closing point Adrienne made was this: We can’t expect to use the tools of the oppressor and expect a different outcome; that’s just dumb (her words)!! So what does this mean for techs? Build a new world through building a new technology. Developers are creating the systems by which we interact w/each other - this is powerful - let’s make something new! Not just a single killer app, but an integrated, holistic system that changes power dynamics, social relations - the whole thang.
Check out the rest of the posts on the Web of Change site — there are numerous interesting reportbacks on the site currently.

I’m excited about all this in so many ways, and this is personal, too, as I’m involved in two current projects (minus the pipe dreams in my head) related to health/medicine and health justice. I’m currently working with others on a subcommittee on web/technology for the wonderful National Physicians Alliance (I'll write more about this exciting organization in a future post on this space), and we’re trying to revamp the current site to become more interactive, more democratic/two-way, and more fun for those passionate about the issues that the NPA works on. That’s going to take up a bulk of my time in the coming months. The other project has moved officially from the “pipe dream” category to the “this is going to happen damnit, real soon, real soon…” category and involves a huge community of health justice folks. Both projects involve loving ideas and loving people behind them (see? project number two can’t still be a pipe dream if there are others working on it too!)

(this post cross-posted on Los Anjalis)

posted by Anjali Taneja | 10/12/2006 11:25:00 PM | (0) comments |

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