Lope Gutiérrez-Ruiz

Founder / Co-Director, The Gopher Illustrated

This conversation is closed.

What do organized communities achieve more efficiently than government? What could they achieve?"

Live TED Conversation: Join TED Fellow Lope Gutiérrez-Ruiz!

Lope Gutiérrez-Ruiz’s eye-popping editorial projects, collaborations and celebrated festivals are creating “pathways to coexistence and tolerance.”

This conversation will open at 11:00am CDT/ 1 pm EDT on Friday 07th, 2011.

  • Oct 7 2011: Organized communities can respond faster and more comprehensively to emerging issues in their neighborhood/community. They can inform each other faster, all are invested in finding solutions, their issues are a priority to them and not the government officials. They can pool together resources, come up with solutions that work for them , and probably are able to implement them before issues become pressing problems.
    • Oct 7 2011: Exactly this. Especially the "all are INVESTED in finding solutions" bit. Having a feeling of belonging and sense of responsibility for one's entire community is key. Things as simple as throwing one's own trash away in a trash can rather than cluttering up the streets to donating time to local schools for specialized instruction, tutoring or counseling. Having an open dialogue and relationship with the government sectors is also incredibly important as well. All parts must work together to address issues within a community; none can work apart or all will continue to fragment and lose support.
  • thumb
    Oct 7 2011: Organized communities could use a little more of diffusion of innovation theories (Rogers ,1995)to spread change in a more effective way. When you detect your trendsetters, opinion leaders, we can infuse any kind of change relatively easy. Governments do it all the time but very superficially
    • thumb
      Oct 7 2011: This is very interesting - how can innovation theories be diffused effectively and to the right people (trendsetters/opinion leaders?). Could governments adopt better methods to deepen their positive impact?
      • Oct 7 2011: Yes! and systems of feedback to evolve and improve
    • thumb
      Oct 7 2011: Interesting, this makes me think of using social analytics to see the graphs of influence for particular categories of ideas and taking advantage of the knowledge of that graph to more efficiently distribute and target memes to subgraphs. However I think the arms race against advertisers will significantly hurt efficiency and must be addressed.
  • Oct 7 2011: there are many elements that either liberate or constrain the power of a community to self organize in a way that is resilient. The three elemts that i believe a community has to foster in order to develop community guided solutions is through inlusion, collaboration, and innovation

    Inclusion: communities need to be guided by new energy, new voices. People who are marginialized need to be invited into the process, utherwise organzing will tend to maintain the status quo

    Collaboration: communities need tools and process that help us work together, not exactly something government can bestow upon us. we need to take the lead in this

    Innovation: there is no WRIGHT way for a community to develop. A community needs to understand its self, its place in the world, and the energy of those who live within it. Through this learning process, our communities will see new ways forward that we didnt believe existed

    for all of this we need leaders who are filled with courage, passion, and resilience
  • Oct 7 2011: In response to the thread's question, I believe one of the most important achievements organized communities achieve over government is an increase of the public space (ref. Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone). Or in short (as is explained below), organized communities make individuals feel recognized and included.

    When individuals of a community--community being defined as anything ranging from a town to a state or even a country--feel their actions can contribute to real change, those individuals are more likely to act and participate in community affairs; they feel part of an intangible public space. However, when individuals feel distanced from the public space they will be hesitant or indifferent towards taking the initiative for making political change *in any level of society*. This can possibly be because most of the known persons making political change are seen on TV and read in the news; individuals do not feel they can climb to such a "pedestal" in society. Organized communities are able to function because they have at least the same effect as making the individuals taking action in the community feel recognized in the public space and appreciated--as though those individuals were being advertised to the community for their contributions of time and energy. Organized communities are able to operate because they have a properly placed incentives that motivate individuals to participate. If government wishes to emit a feel of inclusion for every kind of community, I would suggest implementing higher payrolls for education and community organizers.
  • Oct 7 2011: It seem to me that there is a huge missing layer of organization in our society. The organized communities layer is very weak aside from the traditional ones like church and some civic organizations. Voting every 2 or 4 years and belonging to a church is not enough.
  • thumb
    Oct 7 2011: I think many issues would be better solved by issue based/geographically based communities. The OpenSource movement has many examples. The self-organization of people into communities/working groups is severely lacking in modern culture. I think broadcast technology and the cheap copying and distribution of media is also behind this change in mentality. I call it broadcast culture. Human psychology makes this difficult to overcome, as large-scale efforts to produce products/services will too often outdo local efforts when it comes to addictive qualities such as instant gratification. We are now hooked on high tech special effects and polished works (eg. AAA game titles) and in those things we see a noted lack of diversity.
    Modern culture I feel defines citizen incorrectly, especially the worker aspect. The worker is highly specialized, working in his one role where he earns money and then expects that that money will pay for all his other goods and services rather than participating in a variety of projects themselves, especially at the local level. The issue is the systems resulting from this ontology don't have the gamut to address local needs with local solutions and so there is loss of efficiency widely distributed, and widely distributed pain is less likely to be identified, and more difficult to address. Such systems are also less flexible -> econ bubbles.
    Convergence as a trend exacerbates this issue. Such devices require scale to economically produce and so lack a rich HW aftermarket, as say the PC ecosystem had. This limits the diversity of the ecosystem, the number of choices at each step in it's evolution and the number and type of participants involved.
    I would also like to point out that I think the worldwide Occupy-* movement(s) are a great venue/vector to get the memes to undo broadcast culture distributed. If we could get some of the strong TED members involved in that movement to help it address these issues I think it could be revolutionary!
    • Oct 7 2011: Adam I agree with your assessment of the occupy movement, but would add that is already revolutionary in that it breaks the broadcast, stay on message mold.
  • Oct 7 2011: I recall hearing in the media last winter about a community complaining to their alderman in Chicago about numerous potholes in the streets. Several people got flat tires and were fed up with the city's lack of response. So a group went out, bought the materials and fixed the potholes themselves.

    I think this is an excellent example of how communities can focus on their own needs and work together to take care of them. Government is empowered to do so, but failed, in this case. Government officials and politicians tend to lose focus on what is really important to people and instead focus on perpetuating their own power. When communities are active and focus on their needs and wants and put their resources (time, money, expertise, etc.) towards achieving those goals communities can achieve wonderful things. In essence, it's really dependent upon active participation.
    • thumb
      Oct 7 2011: Yes I herd about this guy I think in California who was sick of traffic So he made his own traffic signs that diverted traffic in a better pattern. After a few months he was caught, but it turns out the DOT did not press any charges against him, rather they made his changes official because it was more practical than what they were doing.
  • thumb
    Oct 7 2011: Hi everybody! So, on one hand, we have certain governments asking their citizens -directly or indirectly- to become more engaged, contributing opinions, ideas, time and skills (and, yes, money). On the other hand, we're increasingly told by media and experts that this is the "social era" where almost everything is achievable through organized community efforts, and shared information. In your opinion, what are organized communities capable of doing more efficiently than governments today? and, what can these communities hope to achieve in the future?
    • thumb
      Oct 7 2011: Okay so I am unfamiliar with the TED Conversations section of the website at the moment so I was not aware that this topic was open because at the top it said it was closed so I sent you an e-mail with my response because I thought you might be interested in it since you started this topic but since I have now figured out how to post on here I will post it here as well. (also the e-mail was limited to 1000 characters so it was shortened a bit)

      Both organized communities and government are important, they provide the world with different views. Organized communities are able to work more efficiently within certain matters because they are much more connected to the issues of their area, but those issues are not the same amongst the entire world. Which is why I think it is necessary organized communities must work in collaboration with government. Though it should not only stop there, governments should also work together. Smaller organizations work better for individualistic goals and issues but larger ones work better for the collective goal. I believe it is necessary to find a balance between the two. The two must complement one another, and work together. Over time it has sort of been "lost in translation" because our world has grown so large, people are not aware of all of the variables that are at hand within a given situation so irrational decisions tend to be made. My belief is that if we are able to become connected as a world and develop a system that allows everyone within it to be informed of the issues at hand, not only within their own community but globally, it will enable us to make more rational and sound decisions. I believe we should leave this world better than when we first came into it, in order to do so we must work together as a collective but also find the balance between collectivism and individualism.
      I hope everyone has a wonderful day.
      -Nikko Scelzo :)
  • Oct 7 2011: Organized community achieves a real tangible community relationship while government achieves a superficial illusion based relationship. Because of this tangible relationship people are more inclined to participate in dialogue/democracy in order to relieve/address their concerns.

    On a government level people rarely participate because either
    A) they don't feel the issues pertain to their day to day life.
    B) they perceive themselves as too small and unimportant to make a difference
    C) the political process at this level is very unappealing and avoided

    Organized communities also have the flexibility of addressing issues on a very specific case by case scenario.
    Where as government is rigid an unwilling and unable to effectively address issues on a specific case by case scenario.

    And last and most importantly every government known to man has eventually enslaved their people as power is consolidated over the course of time.
  • Oct 7 2011: I'm new to this concept, but very interested in how it might apply to improving the overall health of a neighborhood or community. To Lope's questions, I would think that organized communities could very quickly determine what their priorities are and find creative and affordable ways to address those issues. Additionally, because they are organized they can advocate for what they might need from the government (walkability / bikeability design, etc.). It seems that an easy way to increase this type of organized community effort is for government to fund community coordinators/facilitators to help begin and facilitate the conversations and coordinate the work that results.
  • Oct 7 2011: The execution and decision time are shorter in organized communities, hence they bring results much sooner than a government program can. Also, it is more effective since passion and dedication is involved, which often lack in government run programs. For example, take the initiative of Swami Ramdev in India to bring health by Yoga to all citizens of India -- for free or where applicable at a very reasonable cost, often at times third the cost of other commercially available options. The selfishness from such communities create a mass appeal and people get drawn to the same, participate and further spread the awareness. Say, Arab Spring as another example. They just make it much faster and effective.
  • Oct 7 2011: I'm not to going to expand on this topic too much, but if this is going in the direction of 'let's ditch big government in favor of more localised, meaningful, pragmatic government that it's easier to keep under control' then I'm all for it. Big government in the US has failed abysmally and all politicians are a big fat waste of money and time, doing nothing but sitting a fancy building stonewalling each other while getting paid generously for the privilege and with better healthcare than me. Cunts.
  • Oct 7 2011: Is it possible that innovation alone is not enough? Mutual aid societies and settlement house models of the past seem to create these organic forms of community that we yearn for now. I believe it is possible for us to capture from that history the diversity of approaches and energy, often times across gender and race?
    • thumb
      Oct 7 2011: Andrea, this brings up some good points about community building around issues of need to benefit each other, but how about framing innovation not in the sense in which it's a means to resolving issues, but as a common goal (which, in parallel, serves to strengthen community bonds, which comes in useful in times of need)
  • thumb
    Oct 7 2011: I am more of a believer in the efficacy of groups of volunteers (or, at the least, voluntary participants) than in movements pushed by governments relying upon the support of people who may not actually agree with the cause. I think that the social media revolution (cell phones, the internet) has endowed current generations with hitherto unimaginable ability to organize and successfully accomplish common goals.
    Right now, the easiest thing that communities like these can do (so far as I know) is to share and transmit information. (Note: I make no claims to the accuracy of this information...) I think that information access is key, though. The more up to date one is with information, the better informed one's decisions can be. (Whether this is the market price of goods that a small farmer is bringing in to market or information about individual liberties in attempting to escape an unwanted marriage.) Additionally, as transportation continues to become more accessible, the organization of these groups may even result in more presence in areas of need. (Although, like with the texted donations Americans saw, after the earthquakes in Haiti, physical presence may be the least of our presence in this revolutionary world of communication.)
    I have great hope for this technology and these voluntary groups, looking on into the future, as well, although I haven't the time to express it!
    • thumb
      Oct 7 2011: Hi Bella! HI Adam! Awesome points, but lets say that a government / institution is interested in providing resources directly to a community, provided they have reached a certain level of organization that has made an impact. In your opinion what could be the most important indicator of a community's success?
  • thumb
    Oct 7 2011: Good points, they bring to mind Majora Carter's talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/majora_carter_s_tale_of_urban_renewal.html). It seems like the consensus is that communities can fix their local problems more efficiently than governments but then the question becomes how can communities be engaged to collaborate and forge a sense of common identity?
    • thumb
      Oct 7 2011: I think much of the motivation to be engaged and collaborate depends on the community's motivation to achieve a goal. The government could provide tools designed to achieve goals that meet the needs alreeady present in these communities. Or, even better, they should provide tools such as citizens can easily create their own social goals and encourage others to engage in them.
      • thumb
        Oct 7 2011: Hi Sebastian! I agree with you about motivators for community engagement born of need or desire for a common goal, but so often, despite a great deal of potential motivation, there is no engagement. On the flipside there's also the hope that though these types of motivators spark community action, that the community itself is strengthened through other forms of engagement so that future collaborations could take other forms (say, a neighborhood festival, a food fair...)

        Only tangentially related to this last paragraph are the crowdsourced initiatives by city govt's to solve problems, I'm particularly thinking of transportation initiatives: http://www.fta.dot.gov/planning/programs/planning_environment_8711.html
  • Oct 7 2011: With the internet self-organizing non-hierarchical structures and direct democracy are easy and effective! We should replace government with a digital democracy!
  • thumb
    Oct 7 2011: Hey all! Thank you for sharing your ideas, time is about to run out! If anyone wants to keep the conversation going, feel free to shoot me a message! Have a good one!
  • Oct 7 2011: Do the Wall Street protestors count as an organized community? Like-minded individuals coming together to effect change…unfortunately it wasn't a government sanctioned event and thus many participants in this particular community ended up in the hoose cow!
    • thumb
      Oct 7 2011: I think so, there is a kernel of organization even though the issues causing them to come together are diverse. Landing in the 'hoose cow' is a guerrilla marketing tactic. It is a beacon to those that fall of this ship as it turns, so they know where to go where they will be welcome. They are trying to develop a system to give the different sub-clicks a voice via the general assembly process. That is why it isn't demand focused at this point, but instead an occupation.
    • thumb
      Oct 7 2011: This is a great question - without a doubt it is a communal effort to effect change around an issue. But does that make it a community? In a sense it seems to me that communities can organize around an issue, but I also think they have to be fleshed out to be called "a community". I think that it's that power of unity, and the potential to support multiple (potentially unrelated) ideas in time is what makes it a community as such and not just a movement. What are your thoughts?
  • thumb
    Oct 7 2011: Organized communities separate from the government I think are essential to give voice and attention the needs of a democratic society. Especially through new media and the concept of the “citizen journalist” these groups have the ability to spread, share, and discuss ideas on a global level that often the government would shy away from tackling.

    What is interesting now, especially with (as you touched on Adam) these Occupy movements, is how the press and politicians are choosing to discuss them. It is a personal frustration of mine coming from a media background to see the dismissive angle that many government or big-business outlets are choosing to take on them. Knowing news from an industry viewpoint sheds light on the fact that once one media outlet takes a perspective there will be competition for that story and so many others will follow suit with the same angle. That is why it is so essential that organized community groups use their own form of media to get their message out to the public in the way they want it to be heard. Of course it is also important for these organizations to be focused and concise with what they are asking for and whom they are talking to. If they do this and are relentless about their clarity and purpose then larger businesses and the government will be forced to listen.
    • thumb
      Oct 7 2011: Hi Samantha! Now that you and Adam mention the Occupy-* movement and news, one thing I'm curious about is outreach. I remember that on a previous thread in TED Conversations somebody brought up the problem of "empathy fatigue", the fact that we're connected to so many people and initiatives that it becomes harder to empathize with anyone beyond our closest circles (family / friends). In your opinion, how can Occupy keep being a relevant movement as time passes?
      • thumb
        Oct 7 2011: I think it will remain relevant because the inertia of the existing system is too great to change direction without tons of people falling overboard. Yet our direction must change abruptly as we have gone from a world of excess to a world of scarcity and will remain there until the system is sufficiently retooled to use less scarce resources and structurally support the headcount again. Some % of those falling overboard will join the Occupy* movement, as it is setup to collect and care for them. (keep them from drowning)
        • thumb
          Oct 7 2011: Yep, it brings to mind the Okupa movements that have existed for decades in Spain and other countries in Europe, which create self-sustaining "squatting" (it obviously depends on the legal interpretation) communities; they're a referent in my work, but as a movement they seem unable to achieve their legal and political goals. I still wonder about the future of Occupy, winter and Wall Street notwithstanding.
      • thumb
        Oct 7 2011: Hi Lope,

        I think that because of the all-encompassing nature of the issues that Occupy movement bring up it it will remain very relevant for a long time. I have been down to Wall Street recently to speak with some of those who have been there for over two weeks now and many are either victims of long-term unemployment and have ample time and a lot of passion to stay down there and continue to protest or many are students who worry that their immense debt after college will make them victims of our economic situation now. I think because these two groups are so huge (in sheer size) that the movement will not have trouble growing.

        What I think is absolutely essential for them to really instigate change down there is to give voice to the people who are talking about alternative solutions to the current problem and to directly address those who they need help from. By doing this they will shift the perspective of the media from a group of people who are angry about not having jobs and hate big business instead to a group of people who have highlighted some bad policy and have different ideas of how to change it. This will gain them respect and even more support from people who have the ability to internally change economic policy. These game-changers are down there, they just need to really establish themselves as authority figures of the movement and be heard.
    • thumb
      Oct 7 2011: The be-your-own-media is one of the things modern technology is helping with, for example there are several livestreams for the OccupyWallStreet movement which I think have helped significantly. The hard part is reaching enough of the right people, especially when competing against professional/at-scale advertising. An open social analytics framework for use by and developed by the community like Linux could go a long way in keeping up with the arms race.
      • thumb
        Oct 7 2011: I definitely agree Adam. Targeting the right people to get support is essential and also a great difficulty especially like you said when you're competing with professional advertising.
  • Oct 7 2011: I was hoping to learn just what you ask. At best, isn't a government the manifestation of an organized community effort? We have lost sight, at least here in the US, that we're supposed to BE the government. Is this abdication of responsibility inevitable, or is it more the case that the US experiment - of, by, and for the people - has never been truly established? At any rate, I think self organizing systems can occur quite naturally - as evolution proves.
  • Oct 7 2011: I was hoping to learn just what you ask. At best, isn't a government the manifestation of an organized community effort? We have lost sight, at least here in the US, that we're supposed to BE the government. Is this abdication of responsibility inevitable, or is it more the case that the US experiment - of, by, and for the people - has never been truly established? At any rate, I think self organizing systems occur q
    • thumb
      Oct 7 2011: This is a good point, though I guess I'm referring to community efforts in which individuals address issues / collaborate directly as opposed to the "proxy" method of government. And yes, we're supposed to be the government
  • Oct 7 2011: education through elementary public schools.
  • Oct 7 2011: Hi, Organized communities will definitely brings a lot of change efficiently than govts alone in my opinion. We all are seeing, reading, learning and witnessing corrupt governments, at all levels, and being in such state of politics, how can we expect a govt alone to come to people for their welfare.
    It is the communities to come forward for their welfare, be generous in donations and strive for good developments, govts can neither stop them not beat them in developments.