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Tipping Point Action: Citizen Participation in Times of Unprecedented Challenges

The Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability (CPCS) Initiative provides research for critical challenge alerts, and support for collaborative problem solving initiatives which seek to maximize citizen participation.

Beginning in December, 2013, The CPCS Initiative is launching a new and comprehensive campaign called “Tipping Point Action: Citizen Participation in Times of Unprecedented Challenges”.

There are many initiatives which are part of this campaign: Planetary Distress Signal Campaign; 1000 Community Visioning Initiatives Campaign; Preliminary Survey Development (in preparation for Community Visioning Initiatives); CPCS Campaigns Discussion Forum; Community Visioning Initiatives Clearinghouse; Neighborhood Learning Centers Clearinghouse; Community Good News Networks; Spiritual Friendships; and 24/7 Peace Vigils. (In addition, many initiatives and projects will be created or assisted by the above initiatives. More information on these campaigns/initiatives is provided below).

The primary goal of these campaigns/initiatives is to encourage citizens from every variety of circumstances to help create, become involved, contribute to, and participate in one or more of the thousands of Community Visioning Initiatives (or similar stakeholder engagement/collaborative problem solving processes designed to maximize citizen participation) which will be needed to exponentially accelerate solution-oriented activity at this critical time.

A Brief Introduction to Community Visioning Initiatives

Community Visioning Initiatives can be described as a series of community meetings designed to facilitate the process of brainstorming ideas, organizing the ideas into goals, prioritizing the goals, and identifying doable steps towards those goals. One of the main goals of Community Visioning Initiatives is to maximize citizen participation in identifying challenges, and in solution-oriented activity.

This writer’s interest in Community Visioning Initiatives was inspired instantly when, in 1994, he watched a video documentary titled “Chattanooga: A Community With A Vision” (13 minutes). The documentary provides many personal interviews and how-to details associated with two very successful Community Visioning Initiatives. [Both visioning initiatives (one in 1984, and a follow-up in 1993) were organized by the non-profit Chattanooga Venture (Chattanooga, Tennessee USA).] The 1984 Chattanooga Community Visioning Project (“Vision 2000”) attracted more than 1,700 participants, and produced 40 community goals—which resulted in the implementation of 223 projects and programs, the creation of 1,300 permanent jobs, and a total financial investment of 793 million dollars. [Note: For a detailed look at the kind of Community Visioning Initiatives this writer advocates for, see “The Potential of Community Visioning Initiatives (in 500 words)” (1 page) and “A 15 Step Outline for a Community Visioning Initiative” (28 pages).]

If many communities of people were to recognize the collaborative problem solving and citizen peacebuilding potential of Community Visioning Initiatives, and decide to support the creation of one in their local community—

--then while different communities of people would respond differently to what they perceive are the challenges of our times—such responses would at least represent a most thorough and comprehensive exploration of the critical issues of our times. In other words, it would be because we—meaning a significant majority of people who will be affected by the results—chose to do this or that after we examined our options very carefully.

We are now at a time when we need to examine our options very carefully.

Why the Sense of Urgency?

We are at a critical point in the evolution of life on Planet Earth.

One quick way to awareness of the convergence of critical challenges now occurring is to access “A List of Ten Critical Challenges” (1 page), by this writer. That one page document is a condensation of evidence from many documents, some of which are listed on the Planetary Distress Signal (PDS) Campaign webpage. [Note: The PDS Campaign webpage also provides a brief overview of critical challenges (another way of saying what is on the ten point list) (see http://cpcsc.info/planetary-distress-signal-campaign/ ).] A further consideration: if the initiatives were in place to exponentially accelerate solution-oriented activity at this critical time—which is what is really needed—it would be a significant change from “business-as-usual” (in communities around the world), and public discourse in even the most “mainstream” media outlets would be contributing to the efforts. The fact that unprecedented solution-oriented activity has not reached such visibility (the kind of visibility that means a majority of people in the world are aware of it) can be seen as another “danger sign flashing red”. Unfortunately, much of the evidence of unprecedented challenges ahead does not seem to be “coming through the mist as much as it should be”.

As a way of helping the evidence “come through the mist”, this writer created the document “Invitation Package for Possible Board of Advisors (at www.cpcsc.info )(589 pages; 3.65 MB) (a key CPCS Initiative document). Many of the sections in the “Invitation Package” document are in a “compilation of excerpts” format—excerpts from articles, documents and websites associated with well known writers and organizations—to help readers with “connecting the dots”, on both challenges and solution options. The 56 page section on “The Threat of Global Warming” includes a 28 point timeline of warnings on Global Warming (1988—2013), and many key graphs and charts (fair use for educational purposes). The “Global Warming” section is, unfortunately, only one of many sections in the “Invitation Package” document which provide evidence of trajectories that are continuing to move in a dangerous direction. (The complete “Invitation Package” document is accessible at http://cpcsc.info/invitation-package/ , where there are also many shorter supporting documents for quick glance overviews.)

Responding to these challenges (especially halting global warming before unprecedented negative feedback loops set in) will involve whole cultures needing to find contentment and quality of life using much less material goods and ecological services. Instead of being marginalized as it often is now, the treasured wisdom of religious, spiritual, and moral traditions can be most helpful in this regard. An example: those who have experienced such wisdom know that “The satisfaction of one's physical needs must come at a certain point to a dead stop before it degenerates into physical decadence.” (Mahatma Gandhi). Two key conclusions which this writer hopes readers will arrive at from the evidence in the “Invitation Package” document as a whole are a) that there are many people who do not understand that kind of wisdom now and b) their help will be needed to avoid disastrous global warming outcomes [i.e. we are going to need all the resources, knowledge, and skills each one of us has, and we are going to need to make the best efforts we can at working together, if we are going to succeed at resolving the challenges ahead of us].
More Detail about the Constellations of Initiatives which make up the Tipping Point Action Campaign

1) Planetary Distress Signal Campaign-- The primary goal of this campaign (at http://cpcsc.info/planetary-distress-signal-campaign/ ) is to provide, and encourage the creation of, critical challenge assessment alerts, critical challenge executive summaries, and longer compilations of evidence on the challenges ahead—which can be used as resources in Neighborhood Learning Centers (and other educational contexts). There are currently 8 supporting documents for this campaign.

2) 1000 Community Visioning Initiatives Campaign-- The primary goal of this campaign (at http://cpcsc.info/1000cvi-campaign/ ) is to provide outlines for, encourage the creation of, and assist with carrying out stakeholder engagement/collaborative problem solving processes which are designed to maximize citizen participation—and which citizens from every variety of circumstances (every variety of differences in language, cultural background, economic circumstances, and belief systems) can trust, and believe in… (i.e. trust and believe that such processes will make best use of the knowledge and skills each person has to contribute). There are currently 15 supporting documents for this campaign, including “The Potential of Community Visioning Initiatives (in 500 words)” and “Appendix 7: We have the resources necessary to overcome the challenges of our times” (from the document “Invitation Package for Possible Board of Advisors (at cpcsc.info)”]

3) Preliminary Survey Development (in preparation for Community Visioning Initiatives)—One very important lead-in for the kind of Community Visioning Initiatives this writer advocates for are well thought out surveys sent to 150 key leaders in local communities. At this critical time, citizens will be looking very carefully at the responses these leaders make to questions about challenges, and possible solutions—and will learn from these responses why there is a need for a Community Visioning Initiative, and for many Neighborhood Learning Centers. (Ex: see “15 Sample Preliminary Survey Questions”)

4) Local “Tipping Point Action” Campaign Discussion Forums—A possible starting point for creating these forums: the CPCS Campaigns Discussion Forum. It’s about sharing information and ideas online, and providing a place where others just joining in can learn quickly about people and resources.

5) and 6) Community Visioning Initiatives Clearinghouses and Neighborhood Learning Centers Clearinghouses—will accumulate best practice models for maximizing citizen participation, and for creating neighborhood centers for affordable workshops, learning networks, meetings, fellowship, etc (one place where residents can learn how a diverse community can become a “close-knit” community).

7) Community Good News Networks—can be created by bringing together elders and young people, and asking them to send notecards of gratitude and encouragement—and invitations to visit—to people who are making genuine contributions of good will in the local community or region. By this process, young people (who are in the process of becoming responsible citizens) can learn how to identify—and can experience first hand—the special qualities of inspiring role models in the community.

8) Spiritual Friendships— As mentioned earlier, the treasured wisdom of religious, spiritual, and moral traditions can be most helpful as people seek out ways to have high quality of life while using much less material goods and ecological services. A Spiritual Friendships project can help people find mutual support and encouragement; and in communities where there are many diverse belief systems, spiritual friendships between people of different faiths and traditions can help the transition from a community separated into many factions to a community where there are many new forms of cooperation.

[Note: 7) and 8) above are ideas from “Brief Descriptions of The Eight IPCR Concepts” (26 pages) (2005, 2009)]

9) 24/7 Peace Vigils— There is, at this time, a profound need for forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace. Inviting representatives from as many religious, spiritual, and moral traditions as possible to maintain a local community 24/7 Peace Vigil (2 page description written in 2013) is one way to respond to this need. A key feature of such Peace Vigils would be an emphasis on silent forms of spiritual (or other) practices. These kind of Peace Vigils can have many positive benefits, including: 1) the discipline required for each tradition to maintain a presence would sharpen the spiritual (and other) practices of many participants 2) many people may recognize these Peace Vigil sites as inspiring places to reinforce their own silent spiritual (or other) practices 3) much good fellowship and friendship could be created by such a project—fellowship and friendship which could result in more community-wide cooperation on service-oriented projects, and improved relations between people with different belief systems.

Who is going to do all this?

There would be no need for such comprehensive campaigns , with such a sense of urgency, if there haven’t been many misunderstandings and misguided ideas skewing basic priorities (“… there are truths which none can be free to ignore, if one is to have that wisdom through which life can become useful. These are the truths concerning the structures of the good life and concerning the factual conditions by which it may be achieved…”)[(General Education in a Free Society, Harvard Committee (1945)]. However, if we are honest, we must admit all of us have contributed something to how we have arrived at this point. Hopefully, the need for problem solving on a scale most of us have never known before will encourage a careful exploration of collaborative problem solving processes (i.e. to discover ways even people with very different views can work together). Again, for emphasis—we are going to need all the resources, knowledge, and skills each one of us has, and we are going to need to make the best efforts we can at working together, if we are going to succeed at resolving the challenges ahead of us. Organizations and initiatives providing trustworthy guidance for collaborative problem solving and citizen peacebuilding efforts should be valued for serving the greater good, and setting a good example.

This writer is directing outreach information about the Tipping Point Action Campaign to many organizations and individuals; however, he is concentrating his efforts on outreach to Green Party representatives (local, national, and in many countries—discovered through Internet websites, Twitter, etc). The ten key values of the Green Party provide a good foundation for many Tipping Point Action Campaigns. With “members in over 90 countries… and elected representatives in all corners of the world at the local, state, and national level” (http://www.globalgreens.org/about-us), the Green Party has the potential to scale up campaigns quickly. A question for any organization (at this critical time): what kind of example do they want to set, as representative of their leadership…solution-oriented, service-oriented, and collaborative-- or confrontational, self-righteous, and divisive?

A note on maximizing employment during unprecedented change: the preliminary surveys in preparation for Community Visioning Initiatives, the actual implementation of Community Visioning Initiatives, and the affordable and accessible education in support of Community Visioning Initiatives (at Neighborhood Learning Centers) can result in greatly increased employment outlooks in key fields of activity. Also, local currency can be offered as encouragement and compensation to people volunteering to assist the Community Visioning Initiative—and related initiatives. In addition, the job fairs, which come at the end of the Community Visioning Initiative process, provide opportunities for all key stakeholders in the community (businesses, organizations, institutions, government, the residents themselves, etc) to share information about employment opportunities in many related fields of activity.

Concluding Comments

The Tipping Point Action “constellation of initiatives” approach to overcoming unprecedented critical challenges emphasizes personal and civic responsibility; maximizing citizen participation in identifying challenges and solution-oriented activity; increasing opportunities for people to become actively involved in solution-charged environments; and minimizing the risk of “transformation unemployment”; and is especially appropriate to the building of “close-knit” communities of people… communities with a healthy appreciation for each others strengths, communities with a well-developed capacity to resolve even the most difficult challenges—and communities which demonstrate a high level of compassion for their fellow human beings.

Many hands make much work light.

The investments of time, energy, and money that each of us make in our everyday circumstances become the larger economy.

The result can be that there are countless “ways to earn a living” which contribute to the peacebuilding, community revitalization, and ecological sustainability efforts necessary to overcome the challenges of our times.

With reference to the 1000 Community Visioning Initiatives Campaign, a rough estimate by this writer for a time-intensive (year or more) Community Visioning Initiative (introduced by Preliminary Surveys, and supported by many Neighborhood Learning Centers) is $10 million (10 million in U.S. dollars).

Thus, 1000 Community Visioning Initiatives, in communities around the world, would cost $10 billion. Here are a few selected observations (source references in the “Invitation Package” document) to illustrate that we have the resources to carry out 1000 Community Visioning Initiatives:

1) $10 billion is only .005% of the $207 trillion in personal wealth held by the richest 10 percent.

2) $10 billion is only .57% (a little more than half of 1%) of $1,750 billion in military expenditures in
2012.

3) $10 billion is 1.8% of (est.) $557 billion in worldwide advertising spending in 2012.

In addition, there are many local crowdfunding and local community supported shareholder options which can help pieces of the Tipping Point Action Campaign come alive.

If there are readers who have not yet been invited to become a part of the unprecedented efforts that will be needed to overcome the challenges of our times, such readers are in every way encouraged to consider this message as their invitation.

For a Peaceful and Sustainable Future,

Stefan Pasti, Resource Coordinator
Community Peacebuilding and Cultural Sustainability (CPCS) Initiative
www.cpcsc.info
stefanpasti@gmx.com
Rockville, MD (USA)
December, 2013

[Note: Key Documents for this Tipping Point Action Campaign are at http://cpcsc.info/tipping-point-action/. All documents and resources at the CPCS Initiative website (at www.cpcsc.info) can be accessed for free, and used in any way (with or without attribution) to contribute to the goals of this Tipping Point Action Campaign, or the goals of any other organizations working along similar lines.]

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