Back in 1995, a retired Hughes Avionics engineer decided to give back. And give back he did. Being entrenched in the high technology industry for most his life, he was dismayed at the lack of technology being used in California’s public schools. The affluent schools were outfitted, such as the ones in Manhattan Beach, CA were he lived. But Manhattan Beach, the home of the aerospace industry – was far from the norm in the state.
So he decided to do something about it. Having a computer science background, he organized an effort to wire every public school in California for the internet. And he was going to do it using all volunteer labor and donated supplies … in one day.
He built a web site where you could find your local public school and sign up to volunteer on a designated Saturday. The page for each school was broken down according volunteer expertise levels. If you were an electrician, you could run the project for the school. If you had no electrical knowledge at all, like me – you could volunteer pulling wire. If one school had too many people signed up for it – they were referred to schools that didn’t have enough. Even Vice President Al Gore flew out from Washington D.C. to pull wire. Obviously he wasn’t anymore electrically adept than I was.
During that one Saturday in the Spring of 1995, virtually every public school in California was wired for internet connectivity. All at no cost to the taxpayers. All done by volunteers of all shapes and sizes, ages and levels of expertise. It didn’t make any difference who you were, or what you could or couldn’t do. There was a place for you. All this was done because one man had a vision, a calling … and decided to do something about it.
Throughout the first three posts of the “The People Have the Power” series, I’ve set the stage for a new way of civic life. In the 1st, of the same name of the series, I detailed the state of affairs in our country while outlining the dysfunction of government, fueled by corporate greed and an obsession with a Hunger Games, “slash and burn,” legislative agenda.
The 2nd piece, “I never thought it could happen,” looked ominously at a future, a dystopia, that will come to be if we don’t act to right the social, civic and economic wrongs presently at play. It foretold the evolution of the issues of today – the fraying of the social service safety net, the “war on women,” the assault on civil liberties and the abomination of corporate influence in government … and our futures.
During my 3rd post, I introduced Community 3.0, a community or should I say a lifestyle where I look at a society without the help, the safety net the government provides (allegedly so). This is a society where the community, with the values and culture of old-school neighborhoods merge with the connectivity of social media providing the support our government has absolved itself of.
Here, in Part 4, the final post of this series, I’m going to dig deeper – into pragmatism and implementation. How can we take this esoteric idea of Community 3.0 and turn into it a reality, a reality that will provide us the buffer against the abuses and narcissism of corporate America and the government which it controls?
Community 3.0 is more than just a substitute though. It’s a both a step back, and a step forward. It’s the taking the best of the idyllic past and transporting it into our world of today … and beyond, into the world of our children and grandchildren. It is a lifestyle where we help those who need help – offering whatever we can, no matter who we are. But it’s also a lifestyle where we help and patronize our entrepreneurial friends and neighbors by supporting their Main Street businesses … rather than lining the pockets of the corrupt executives at Wal-Mart, Bank America and rest of the soulless corporations that have gutted and pillaged our neighborhoods.
But what will be the road that take us to this ‘Perfect World,’ and how will we build this road. I’m not going to get bogged down into technical and logistical detail here. That’s a topic for a much more comprehensive discussion. Through my company, the bleedingEDGE, we’re creating a prototype Community 3.0 model to be replicated throughout local communities here and abroad.
We have to implant a new mindset in all of us, a mindset that no matter who you are or what your standing in the community might be – you have still have much to offer. Just like the California school internet project. No matter what skill level someone possessed, their contribution was welcome. This is what I call “Resource Maximization,” and it’s one of the fundamental tenants of Community 3.0.
Another tenant of Community 3.0 is the cooperation between Main Street and the residents of its adjacent neighborhoods, literally and figuratively. This cooperative effort is needed to render the corporate behemoths with their local business strangling tentacles and the government that it owns … irrelevant. Then we will see the genesis of Community 3.0 and the healthy society it will spawn; a society that stresses grassroots solutions to grassroots problems; a society that nurtures its own … not the bloated deity in ivory towers.
We must take to heart and embrace the ideal that one person can difference, an impact no different from the impact realized in California in 1995. Only the people of a community can truly see where needs of the community lie. Only the people of the community know where that elderly women with no family is hold up, prisoner in her own house … with virtually no food.
Only the people the of community know the real story of that Vietnam veteran living on the streets. Only those that have taken the time to talk to him know what he was like years past – and what it would take to bring him back to that time, back a life of productivity, and most of all – a life of dignity.
Only the people of the community know which kids from the neighborhood need that little extra, that little extra that will help them find the relevancy in school – and how it’ll relate to their success in the future, years past when high school is but fading image in the rear view mirror.
Only the people of the community know about that great business idea the neighbor down the street has, the idea that only takes a little sweat equity from others to get off the ground. Only the people in the community know the real dreams of Joe at the local bar, and what it’ll take to make them a reality.
The needs and resources of each community are unique to that community. But if you really look, really delve into the fabric, you’ll see no matter what its needs are, the community and its resident will have the resources to fulfill them. It may not be so readily apparent, but they’ll be there.
It’s not enough to have resources though. They have to be put to use. Somebody, or a better yet a group of some bodies have to take initiative. You, with your friends, your neighbors, have to reach out and provide that hand to those in need, whoever they are and whatever their need. It’s not enough to recognize the problems … and the opportunities, it’s the action that makes the difference.
Because if you don’t, who will?
Find me on Twitter @clayforsberg
- The People Have the Power
- “I never thought it could happen” … The People Have the Power, Part 2
- “Community 3.0” … The People Have the Power, Part 3