San Jose We were nestled in a new age retreat center in the coastal mountains about equidistant between San Jose and San Francisco near the town of Woodside, which boasts way too many high-tech CEO’s nestled in the redwoods. Berrett-Koehler, the publisher of my first book, Citizen Wealth: Winning the Campaign for Working Families, is a very author-friendly outfit. There is a fairly unique authors’ co-op which seems to meet annually, and being in the neighborhood and being curious, I spent an interesting day there in the “movement building” track with others writing and working for change.
John McKnight of Northwestern did his 15-minutes charting the way change occurs at the local level using the strength of community assets, both financial and skill-based, of citizens and their associations. From his perspective he argued that this kind of organizing and asset map is the direction of community organization while other methodologies are more advocacy based.
Tom Devine, the legal director of the Governmental Accountability Project, talked about his book on whistleblowers. He mentioned a number of current projects, including one that perked my ears where a team has recently been in and around New Orleans interviewing 50 folks who are all potential whistleblowers on the British Petroleum cleanup contracts. Interestingly, Tom argued that the key piece of their strategy is creating “solidarity” between whistleblowers in order to break their isolation within their institutions.
David Korten had an interesting story about a career spent in the US-foreign service, largely in Southeast Asia, and the evolution of his thinking about “systems” upon his return to the states. Now with work being done in conjunction with Yes! Magazine, he is writing and working on arguments for a very locally based “new economy” with a lot of “self-organizing” systems. I had trouble understanding what he meant by “self-organizing,” since such a concept was so different from my own experience, but in talking to him after his 15-minutes – and with McKnight’s help – the language was confounding, but his point seemed to be that top-down wasn’t working so bottom-up was his real argument. Worth me trying to understand better, it seems.
Ted Nace turned out to have crossed paths with me over the years. He had started as an organizer with the Dakota Resource Council, part of the WORC network, and old friends I had worked with for decades. Ted was now working on a campaign to not only stop the construction of new coal fired plants around the country (and the world!), but in was organizing to decommission a number of the 600 or so plants in the USA that are coal-fired now. I need to follow up on this. If they can put together the resources there to distribute equally to groups, it would be fun to help put together these campaigns again like with did with Colstrip I and II in Montana in the 1970s.
Admittedly this was a separate track from the business writers, the life style authors, organizational development consultants, and many others, but I was open minded so it was an education.