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A Congressional District Based Pub Center


The view from 30,000 feet

A purpose of a Pub Center is to harness the power of publishing to increase community wealth in the form of social capital. Social capital is taken as non monetary resources of intellgience, activity and diverse support networks that can be called into play to solve community problems.

The view from 10,000 feet

Public political discourse has become useless as a site for intelligent pragmatic solutions to real problems. The fact that so few Americans think it is worth the effort to vote is a demonstration of the fact that most people find it a useless discussion. Very small turnouts, mean that "energizing the base" is the most predictable method of winning elections. The consultants and the media industry are experts at "energizing the base". The fact that up to 75% of campaign expenditures go to consultants and the media supplies the internal incentives to keep the present system growing.


People don't vote primarily becuase the public political discourse is bullshit, in the serious philosophical sense that its intention is not to describe reality, but for other purposes. In most cases, the other purpose is to fashion a message that will appeal to micro niche parts of the base, with the express purpose of "energizing them". While this seems to be a way to predictably win elections, it debases the intelligence of policy making, and the divergent pragramatic approaches that makes democracy the best form of government.


The view from 5,000 feet

Congressional districts are the only "one person one vote" mechanism that gives everyone equal access to Federal Government. Congress people are highly incented to take care of the needs of the 640,000 +/- people who could vote for them.

If a Congress Person's job is taken to be as mediator of the public discourse in their district, bridging the inevitable stresses, and bringing to the table appropriate resources of the Federal Government, the faster, better and cheaper they can do that job, the more likely they will "build their brand" on the basis of real activity and demonstrable results.


One problem is that politicians are trapped in a 20th century legacy understanding of the means of communication. While the internet has proved to be an amazing new tool for fund raising, as it is presently being used, it does nothing to increase the social capital of a community. Another problem is that the consultants who supply the data and intelligence to a campaign are highly incented to use what has worked, as the financial rewards are significant and their "expertise" is highly valued.


The view from 2500 feet

The boundaries of Congressional Districts have been created by Congress People and their friends in State Governments. It is much more accurate that the politicians have chosen their voters as opposed to the other way around. Unfortunatley, this is a given and will probably not be changed any time soon.


However, even with that fact, it still true that global problems present at the level of communities of real people in physical spaces. And if they are addressed at the scale they present, innovative solutions can be more easily invented. Once they are invented, the opportunity to scale them to fix the same problems that are presenting in other communities is much greater. Using the best practice of communication process managment, combined with professional level communicators promises to be a way to harness innovation and short circuit the incentive system that makes spreading innovation difficult.


The view from the Ground

Almost every Congressional District has thousands of non profit organizations. Once the numbers of non profits that are too small to file regular government documents are added, it is probably fair to say that every Congressional District has many thousands of voluntary organizations in which people are donating time, energy and money to improve the lives of their neighbors.


The Congressional District Pub Center model



The stories of the non profits in a Congressional District who are working to improve the lives of their neighbors.



Turning these stories into useful communication for the communities (as defined by Congressional District boundaries) that can spread innovative solutions to difficult and important problems of security, health and education.



By whatever media is most appropriate. While network communication is very important, communities are built by conversations between neighbors who share an interest in practical management of real problems. When the public is involved this means that print must be part of the mix. Once network and print objects are combined in a strategy that is informed by empathy and ethics, the groundwork is laid for a sustainable collaborative pragmatic approach.


    • The potential increase in Social Capital

If a politican could be convinced that the best way to win reelection over the long term is by encouraging an viable public discourse it might go a long way to mitigating the need to spend most of their time and resources and raising money, which goes directly to consultants and the media.


The hypothesis is that if the incentives and success in getting reelected could be more aligned, the pressure to resort to demogoguery will be mitigated. If the community of voters can be expanded, the "energize the base" strategy might be replaced "by good governance wins elections".


To see a very preliminary exploration of a possible aproach, you can see how this might play out for NY-8 . click here


How is it different from just emails, websites and expensive Content Management Systems?

The tool box is actually a pretty small part of the equation. It's the people that use it that make it work. A power saw in the hands of craftsman can do wonderful things. But if you haven't learned how to use it, you can do a lot of damage pretty quickly. Same thing with communication tools. The first generations of any software is pretty hard to use. But the new rules for software is there are no stupid users, only bad software.


Is it hard to use?

Just as anybody can use up a power saw, anyone with a little network literacy can use a Pub Center. It should take about 30 minutes to set it up. You can try it for free, and all you need is a web browser and access to the internet.


How do become an expert user?

The same way you learn to play the piano. Practice, practice, practice. The better you get, the easier and more fun it is. But unlike the piano, you learn by solving your real problems, NOW.


What do you need to be able to get the most from a Pub Center, NOW

1. At least one, at best three, evangleists, who are focused and passionate about solving the problem at hand. No evangelist, it won't work. Evangelists are hard to find, but every group probably has at least one or two. Evangelists don't have a specific job title. They are the people who can are driven to make a difference.

2. A good internet communication infrastructure. Wireless is greatly preferable, but not absolutely necessary. And of course the computers that can connect to the internet. Either Mac or PC is fine, but it's faster and easier with a Mac.

3. A trained Communication Process Manager. The knowledge required is the ability to manage trust based communication processes to maximize their ability to solve real problems in real time. The fastest way to learn CPM, is by practicing it, with a trained professional as a mentor.

4. A professional communication designer. In the best case, they should skilled in print and web document construction. If they are familiar with the theory of Communication Ecology, the process goes much faster.


Aside from practice, what's the big idea behind behind a Pub Center?

A Pub Center harnesses the power of publishing to increase the health of a communication ecology (usually called a communication system).


Publishing is a process of input - transformation - output.

The input is information, both words and pictures, and ideas gathered by appropriate means.

The transformation is combining information and ideas into forms that communicate.

The outputs are the physical forms that communicate to a defined audience.

A communication system, like any ecological system, can be sustainable or unsustainable. Unstainable systems needs lots of money and time to make them work at all. They put stress for individuals and the environment. A sustainable eco system grows naturally, with minimum energy input, and with almost no wasted effort. In this sense it is healthy.


The exact way to get metrics on the health of a particular system, depends the specifics of your situation.


The view from the ground In process

The Good News Project

A Design School Pub Center

A High School Pub Center


Still to come

A Congressional District Pub Center



A Community Based Pub Center

Works at the scale of a community, the outcome it is trying to encourage is the creation of community based wealth in the form of social capital, and the measure of it's success is increasing the health of the community. Wealth is defined as all the resources that improve life in the community. Social Capital is defined as a measure of the knowledge based resources that can be invested to solve community problems. Community is defined here as it is understood in common use.


The specific goals

of a Community Based Pub Center depend on the community it is in. But the mission is the same - help a community define its own problems and encourage the growth of sustainable solutions to those problems. My personal interest is in Community Based Publishing Centers which work with non profits/NGO's to help them develop into Social Enterprises.


The the importance of print**

But wherever it is, a Pub Center achieves its purpose by gathering input about the activities that are improving the lives of people in that community, transforming that input into understandable stories for the community and then telling those stories in the most effective ways.


In the real world of communities, any communication process that does not include print is not going to work. The opportunity is that when you add together books, brochures, posters, websites and whatever else works, it's amazing how communication can become faster, better and cheaper in the service of improving people's lives at a reasonable cost.

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