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A Worldchanging How-To
Alex Steffen, 19 Nov 03

This is our 100th recommendation.

We've been blown away by your response in the last month. You guys have been supportive, smart, collaborative, kind and enthusiastic. You guys are Exhibit A that another world is, in fact, here.

We thought we'd use this opportunity to talk a little more about what we're trying to do, and to invite you to get more involved, if you like. works from a simple premise: that the tools, models and ideas for building a better future lie all around us. That plenty of people are working on tools for change, but the fields in which they work remain unconnected. That the motive, means and opportunity for profound positive change are already present. That another world is not just possible, it's here. We only need to put the pieces together.
(more below)

Informed by that premise, we do our best to bring you links to (and analysis of) those tools, models and ideas in a timely and concise manner. We don't do negative reviews – why waste your time with what doesn't work? We don't offer critiques or exposes, except to the extent that such information may be necessary for the general reader to apprehend the usefulness of a particular tool or resource. We don't generally offer links to resources which are about problems and not solutions, unless the resource is so insightful that its very existence is a step towards a solution. We pay special attention to tools, ideas and models that may have been overlooked in the mass media. We make a point of showing ways in which seemingly unconnected resources link together to form a toolkit for changing the world.

Every link we post is informed by technology, but the new possibilities we cover aren't just high-tech. Sure, we all need to understand the uses (and dangers) of advances like biotechnology, the Internet, ubiquitous computing, artificial intelligences, "open source" software and nano-materials. But we also need to know how best to collaborate, how to build coalitions and movements, how to grow communities, how to make our businesses live up to their highest potential and how to make the promise of democracy into a reality. We need to understand techniques as well as technologies, ideas as well as innovations. How we work together is as important as the tools we use.

Therefore, we focus on resources that help people collaborate and cooperate, for we believe that collaborative technologies and cooperative models the keys to working together more effectively, and that working together is the revolution that is changing the world.

For the same reason, we have a clear bias towards democracy, human rights and civic freedoms, for we believe that, however imperfect, these are the best guidance mechanisms we know of for charting a better course.

We also know that this is a global era, with a global culture, and that all of us now have a duty of planetary citizenship. Therefore, though (or perhaps because) we expect most of our readers to be North Americans, we're a global crew, and we do our best to provide resources for understanding other cultures, for intelligent travel to other lands, for productive parsing of the actions of international institutions, and make a special effort to find resources and allies from other parts of the world.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this is a conversation, not a sermon. We encourage not just feedback, but active participation, and, yes, challenge. Got a great idea for a resource we've missed? Let us know – better yet, write your own recommendation and send it to us. Think we're off-base with a recommendation we've made? Let us know that, too, and what resource you think we should have covered instead. Changing the world is a team sport.

How can you play?

You can let us know what you think by commenting on specific recommendations. Every one of our recommendations includes a comment field at the bottom. We read 'em. So do others. Speak out and share what you know.

You can respond to individual authors by emailing us at the addresses found in our bios.

You can suggest a resource for us to cover by mailing

You can write a recommendation yourself. If it works for us, we'll run it, with your byline. We don't pay (we don't even pay ourselves), but the karmic rewards are huge. (If you decide you want to write something for us, you might want to read through our draft contributors' guidelines below.)

You can let others know about worldchanging. Got a blog? We'd love a link. Have friends who might find reading us worthwhile? Email 'em and let 'em know. Spreading the word is part of the work.

Thanks, y'all!

The WorldChanging Krewe

1) only positive recommendations. It's fine to review a tool which is itself critical or negative, but only if it offers something unique and useful to people working on that problem (or seeking to understand it). For example, Alex plans to review a book which describes the anatomy of failure – why things fail, and how – because its critical insights are really useful to people who want to succeed in their work. But the recommendation of the resource itself should be positive, overall: otherwise, why are we wasting the reader's time?

2) always a fresh angle. The resource reviewed should be either new (or newly-available), or the recommendation should explain why we're recommending this resource *now*: has there been a news event which this resource helps to better explain, or is an inferior new resource getting a lot of buzz (such that readers would be well-reminded of the existence of this older, superior one?)

3) Pithy Writing. Write short and strong. In general, while we like to prattle on (especially Alex), we aim for short recommendations, no more than three paragraphs(some things take longer to explain, and sometimes you'll want to review several related items in one recommendation, but the denser and pithier the writing, the better). Try to start with a strong, declarative first sentence.

4) Excerpts. Including a few quotes from the resource recommended is a great idea. We italicize all stand-alone quotes, as well as putting in quotation marks. If you have a longer excerpt, you might think about pasting most of it into the "extended entry" box, which allows those who are interested to read more, while keeping the front page tight. A good guideline for choosing excerpts is that of the old Whole Earth Review, which is that a great excerpt illustrates the nature of the resource you're recommending and also provides an interesting thought or crucial bit of information for the casual reader who won't follow the link. Cherry-pick, in other words: pull the best quotes from the resource as excerpts in your recommendation.

5) Why It Matters. It's a good idea to include not only a description of what the resource is but also some explanation about why it matters: Why is it good? How is it useful? How do you use it? What's innovative about it? What are the implications if its use were to spread? Feel free to be opinionated!

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Recommendation: Micropayments! [No, not those, (1) necessarily... :]

His disciples said to him, "When will the kingdom come?" He said, "It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, 'Look here,' or 'Look there.' Rather the kingdom of the father is spread out upon the earth and people do not see it." -- The [gnostic] Gospel of Thomas

"The world we have created is a product of our thinking; It cannot be changed without changing our thinking." -- Albert Einstein

Remittances from migrant workers (2) back home amounted to $80 billion in 2002, which, according to Foreign Policy, (3) is more than the amount of foreign aid most developing countries receive and is also an important source of foreign exchange.

"At the simplest level, remittances are about helping individual families. A couple of hundred dollars sent home every month can make the difference between abject poverty and food on the table. At another level, these small transactions, repeated thousands of times every day across the world, are quietly binding the fates of nations. The growing number of people working abroad is reshaping the debate over immigration in industrialized countries and forcing developing nations to embrace dual citizenship, which helps their citizens find better jobs and send home even more money. Politicians seeking financial support for their election campaigns increasingly must tend to the needs and priorities of their countries' swelling diasporas."

However, as the New York Times says, (4) oftentimes "those who get the money are victimized by rapacious fees and exchange rates. Governments can help by reducing transaction fees, but what the recipients need most is a place to put their money. In many countries, the poor, especially in rural areas, lack access to commercial banks. Mainstream banks need to make an effort to extend their reach."

Western Union, Citigroup, Bank of America and now Deutsche Bank have been making an effort to fill the void, but I think more can be done to encourage microfinance, microcredit (5) and enabling remittances. One of the keys to sustainable development listed in Hardt & Negri's Empire (6) is the right of migration or, stated more ambitiously, the right to global citizenship. There is perhaps nothing more democratic that voting with one's feet and it seems only fair that if capital is guaranteed certain rights, freedoms and protections across borders then so also should people be put on the same footing as citizens. Doug Henwood calls this doing "globalization one better," (7) where the left, migrant workers and native peoples (8) can turn globalization to their advantage. (9)


Posted by: smerkin on 20 Nov 03

excellent blogsite. i admire your vision. reminds me of this -

"Integral Institute is dedicated to the proposition that partial and piecemeal approaches to complex problems are ineffective. Whether addressing individual and personal issues of meaning and transformation, or increasingly complex social problems such as war, hunger, disease, over-population, housing, ecology, and education, partial and fragmented approaches need to be replaced by solutions that are more comprehensive, systematic, encompassing—and integral."

Posted by: coolmel on 21 Nov 03



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