Peace in Nepal

This comes from my friend and colleague Ram Raut, on the occasion of the New Year in Nepal. The mainstream news out of Nepal these days is about hundreds being arrested in protests and a people teetering on anarchy. Here is an inside view, a heart view, from a guy who’s home was bombed only months ago, and who has since lost his brother suddenly in an accident.

Dear all

We are bye bye year 2062after 26 hours.In this year We got many many good things and learning.Loktantrik movement took high hight.perhaps We will get inclusive Democracy soon. NAINN got alot of success.we successfully organized second National Summit.
Great achievement is we got David L.cooperrrider in the position of Patron.
We spread AI throughout the country.and We expan our Network and we built good relationship in the international Level.
these are the great successof our organization.personally all the freinds got more achievement even our counrty had suffering from autocracy and arm conflict.

In this occasion of new year 2063,I wish for your every success and sound health.I hope we will see new loktantrik peaceful and prosporious new Nepal soon.

In this new year we will get new success and great change in our life . plz do well. we Invite to all to join our Imagine Initiative movement for positive societal transfomation thourgh out the world for make a new peaceful world.

with appreciatively
Ram Bahadur Raut
National Chairperson
NAINN (Nepal Appreciative Inquiry National Network)

Ram and his colleagues remind me again that real peace movements must begin and be sustained by peaceful people. Imagine that. Hoping to see them again this Fall for more Open Space, too.

Yoga Gold?

Maura Gahagan in San Francisco is looking for individual or corporate sponsorship for the purchase of yoga mats for the low-income students at Sanchez School (K-5), where she donates her time for their instruction. if you can help.

Maura is a colleague in one of my practice groups, i.e. she is known to me and my friends and this request is legit.

The Other Gold

My last post posited the possibility of investing in people and relationships as the new gold. In the West, I think we tend to devote ourselves to amassing personal stocks of money and assets, emphasizing our piles of toys, house, stocks, and gold over the care and feeding of our webs and flows of connections, our people, the other gold.

Since I wrote that post, I’ve discovered the story of Martin Macy, in the San Francisco Chronicle. Here’s a guy who worked 41 years as the mail delivery guy in a bigger and bigger law office. Over the years, he became renown for his devotion to his co-workers, the firm, and to kindness as practice, the kind of guy who reports to work at dawn and brings doughnuts for the lawyers pulling all-nighters. When he was canned for efficiency reasons, some of his old friends and colleagues got together and are well on their way to creating an annuity that will support him for the rest of his life.

Invest wisely!

In Gold We Trust?

I’ve been reading the mania about gold. In the last couple years, gold stocks, funds and the real stuff have rocketed upward. Gold now trades at a 25-year high. Now what?

When some of us were musing about a new rush for gold in the year or so after 9/11, I wondered why anyone would buy it. Can’t eat it and can’t burn it for fuel. I saw the relatively self-sufficient farmers I knew as really having things figured out. They knew where food came from. And heat. With those two things come health and hearth, family, neighbors, and the rest of what sustains life. Buy farmland, and learn to use it. Now that’s real security, or so it seemed to me then.

Now, in one of these gold newsletters, I catch this as justification for the meteoric rise of metals prices: “…people still need something to trust.” Isn’t that interesting? So I understand all the economics of these markets. I understand why the dollar will decline, why Saudis and Chinese and others will buy gold instead of some other fiat currency. I understand the history of gold as money. But how do we know that this isn’t just the next big inflationary mania, except that the supply of gold grows slower than the supply of paper money, stock options, and two-bedroom condos. Can we ever find real security?

No matter if the dollar crashes, gold is still worth something. It’s more real than other fiat (faith-based) currencies. But there’s just not enough of it to go back to the gold standard is there? And no way to go back further to gold coins in the marketplace. How will I use gold to buy bread?

Looking ahead then, it seems gold can only be another mania. And then, what to trust? Perhaps if we finally discredit the ultimate stock of wealth, we can get on with focusing more clearly on the flows of wealth. What will each of us do in the next several years, for the people right here in our own neighborhoods, that will secure our retirements in human-scale and personal ways?

Might these bubbles in tech stocks, bigger emptier houses, dollars, gold, pension plans and the rest of wealth accumulation make some sort of opening to trust in the flow of energy, rather than the stocks? Might we rediscover how to move in local community markets, and trade that in for what we have learned to grab in global financial markets?

One of the things feeding global gold prices are exchange traded funds, which allow small investors to buy gold bullion in lots of 100 shares, like we already buy stocks. So what would a similar investment vehicle look like at the community level? What would make precious, but hard-to-deliver, stuff like healthcare and education, more easy to invest in? How might we structure a mania in community assets and investment?

Walkout Challenge

Walkout Challenge Day coincides with the day that Gandhi reached the sea and made his own salt (April 6). It is a chance for us to look at what we have been able to walk out of and walk on to, and where we feel like taking the next plunge. It’s an opportunity to honor the risks we are taking in our own lives and the exciting adventures we are embarking upon. And it’s a day to get together with friends, new and old, and remember that we have companions in our life’s journey.

On this second day of Spring, with wintry winds still howling here in Chicago, I’m hoping that it will yet be warm enough to start my (mostly) annual fasting routine to coincide with this day. For me, the walkout day is about cleaning up one’s act, taking responsibility for that which we can and must do for ourselves, like body, food and health. Changing ourselves is the most important kind of SmallChangeNews.

Thanks to my friend Shilpa Jain at Shikshantar – The Peoples’ Institute for Rethinking Education and Development, in Udaipur, India, for this.


Celebrate the health and diversity of the internet. The mission of OneWebDay is to create, maintain, advance, and promote a global day to celebrate online life: September 22, 2006. One big day and web of parties, projects, people.

Opening Space After Attacks in Nepal

For three years, I have had the opportunity to work with peaceful development leaders in Nepal. In my last visit we did a four-day, national, Open Space and Appreciative Inquiry conference and training summit event. Most recently, the Maoists have attacked the village of one of the main leaders of the group. This photo is one result and the invitation below is another.


Now we are suffering from difficulties. our some pride were gone with palpa attacks. it was did by Maoist on January 31, 2006. now we are make a team for reconstruction. so we are appeal to all you to support us for reconstruction. we are going to Tansen summit for Imagine new tansen through open space technology. after that we provide you our master plan.

Appeal of NAINN

History, no matter where it is, the wealth of people of the whole world. A smallest unit of something can be a big insight in the future. It’s our duty to preserve and protect the identity of human civilization. In this context, Nepal Appreciative Inquiry National Network (NAINN) wants all to recall the destruction took place in Tansen, Palpa on 31 January 2006. The tragedy was not expected. The world runs in complexity and in chaos.

So it happened and now we all are bound to accept the damage. The attack form the Maoist destroyed a century long living history of Nepal. Asia’s biggest gate is lying on the ground with its seared body. Many historical and archeological things were engulfed with fire. The old building, which was supporting the government offices with pride, is now roofless, door less, windowless and with broken pillars. The surrounding is damaged as well.

But there is still hope. The structure is not completely ashed. The people of Tansen are not hopeless, we Nepalese people’s energy is not swallowed by the fire and bullets. We have hope that the Palpa Durbar comes into its original outlook within a very short time. It’s the dream of Palpali and whole Nepalese people. And we are sure that our dream comes true since we have the sympathy from national and international government, organizations, I/NGOs, supporters, people and all the well wishers.

A very good news to all of us is that a Tansen Reconstruction Team, led by Mr. Ram Bahadur Raut (National Chairperson of NAINN), has been formed very recently in Tansen, Palpa. It’s right time to contribute for the revival of the identity of whole human beings. Nepal Appreciative Inquiry National Network (NAINN) requests all National and International governments, NGOs, INGOs, Donor Agencies, people and well- wishers to make a contribution from your side so that Tansen Durbar can resurrect very soon.

A small drop of water, if collected from many, can fill a large pot.

Are You A Buddhist?

People sometimes ask me this question, usually because of my monk-like hairdo or some other Buddhist-like things I say and do. I always have a hard time answering. While some of my teachers are well-known Tibetans, what to say when they talk like this…

In Buddhism we have an incredible arrangement: universal education from beginning at birth up until death, as an old person. I feel these things could be put into a universal language. Give up religion, give up Buddhism. Go beyond the Buddhism. Essential aspect of the philosophy put into the scientific language. This I feel is my aim.

…about Essential Education? So, I don’t know if I’m a buddhist or not, but I care about awareness, education, practice, wisdom, and compassion.

OpenWorld: Land for Education

Mark Frazier at OpenWorld reports this progress on what I would call micro-democracy:

…the Explorers Foundation of Denver announced that its Cobden-Bright Award will help fund Openworld’s development of a new “Grassroots Land Registry” web site, whose aim is to pilot a new strategy for awakening dormant capital in poor communities.

Highlights of the strategy are described in the full text of the announcement below. In brief, the approach we are gearing up to demonstrate hinges upon creating new incentives for residents of neighborhoods to work together on resolving ownership disputes and creating private land registries.

The project will reward residents in pilot project areas who agree to a “good neighbor” covenant for arbitrating disputes, and who upload photos and brief video affirmations of uncontested property claims to an Openworld web site. Households in areas that take such actions will gain access to microscholarships for eLearning and microvouchers for health care resources.

Go, Mark! Go!

Small Change News Invention

I invented something last week at Recent Changes Camp. An adaptation of a WordPress weblog. A question came up about how to attach a sort of “toolkit” to articles about people doing good in community, to help others connect and support more good.

Here’s my hacker solution: A WordPress weblog that would allow open registration and then direct posting by readers of these articles. Titles of posts would name the issue. The body of the post could include any sort of contact info and clarification of interest.

A small set of categories would allow people to tag themselves with levels of interest and action: give money, give time, give stuff, refer others, make links, talk by phone, email, meet to discuss, host a conversation, learn more, teach skills, partner on project.

With a little skilled software tweaking for easier user access, it seems that this system could be quite a nice little marketplace for readers, writers, givers and activists. Anybody could search for the issues and interests they were looking for. I’m posting it here in case somebody out there already has a use for it. Might be a next generation of SmallChangeNews.

In the News

The Oregonian newspaper caught me opening the space at Recent Changes Camp

Recent Changes Camp made news in Portland this past weekend, combining software and community development. The Oregonian ran these photos and a good article as well…

…some wondered aloud whether it would descend into chaos — or into some kind of hippie technology fest. “I really had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know whether there would be people with no shoes on and caftans or what,” said Mike Cannon-Brookes, chief executive of a Sydney-based company called Atlassian Software Systems, which designs wiki software.

A couple of people did come in sandals, and many wore jeans, but no one was burning incense. And once the meeting broke up into a dozen discussion groups, it suddenly seemed focused and orderly.

Good News Network founder Geri Weis-Corbley captured a great on-the-fly open frame movie of the event as well.

The Oregonian newspaper caught our wall at Recent Changes Camp

Revolutionary Government

Remember the American Revolution? When the people rose up and made government respond to their needs and interests? Seems a new revolution may be emerging in the state of Washington. It’s called Easy Citizen Involvement.

I met Dick Spady, the leader of the revolution, at RecentChangesCamp last week. He’s working to create something called Citizen Councilors in Washington state. Last year he ran a legislative initiative. This year he’ll collect 200,000+ signatures on petitions, to take it directly to the people, on a statewide ballot.

His plan works like this: Once approved by the people of the state, they will gather $10,000 in donations. That achieved, they’ll set up an 800 number to collect 1000 subscriptions for $10 each. Subscribers will commit to convening conversations of 8-12 neighbors and friends. Others will sign-up as communicators, to download and print materials for their groups.

While they are gathering subscribers, volunteers and elected officials will work with the State Auditor to produce a set of opinion survey questions that will form the basis for small group conversations throughout the state. After the conversations, participants will answer the survey questions and submit to the State Auditor for statewide tabulation.

It’s a revolutionary invitation to community conversation and feedback mechanism for federal, state and local governing officials. The Washington Association of Churches is supporting the petition and ballot initiative, giving it a good chance at succeeding.

See also, Dick’s State-of-the-Union Project, which invites and supports similar dialogue programs in schools, using the State of the Union address as the basis for students expressing their own opinions and listening to the opinions of others. It’s up and running and ready for classroom use.

Peace Under Fire

Friends and colleagues in Nepal, people I’ve worked with for the last several years in my travels there, opening space for peaceful development, send this report this morning, following Maoist attack(s) last week:

…Ram Bdr. Raut (national chairman of the NAINN peaceful development community) and his family was hardly survived due to heavy bombardment of Night vision helicopter and two way gun firing. One of the bumps was dropped very close just 8-10 meter away caused a serious damage in the house and all the glasses of windows and cupboards, kitchen utensils and the doors are smashed. Some parts of walls are cracked and hundreds of holes due to gun bullets. He and his family were hiding in the toilets of ground floor and they are hardly survived. Still his wife and children are mentally depressed and remain silence. Same thing was happen to other people of Palpa. Right now, there is no email and Internet for communication and telephone is partly working in the city. For your kind information, I am giving brief status of present Palpa according to sources of news media, Ram Bdr. Raut and other NAINN members.

1. According to civilian witness, 5000 Maoist attacked the Palpa District Headquarter.

2. Almost government buildings are completely collapsed including 23 civilian houses and gun bullets damage many other houses. For instance, District Administration (150 years old palace), District Development, District Auditing and Fund Control, Land Control, National Intelligence, District Scout, District Telecommunication, District Officers’ Club, District Jail, District Police and other police post and security guard offices and Paschimanchal FM Radio Station has destroyed.

3. Loss of civilian houses and government buildings and properties is still unknown.

4. Government claimed 34-security force and government officials have kicknapped including Chief District Officer but Maoist declared only 29 are in their controlled.

5. In the attacked, 11-security force, 6 Maoist and two civilians were killed and 25-security force is injured.
6. 136 people are freed from the District jail including five Maoist by Maoist.

The Tansen town (Palpa District Headquarter) has remained as a relic of war. People of town is still couldn’t sleep from seeing the battle. In this regard, please help us (NAINN) from CWRU to work hard to create positive pressure for government of Nepal and Maoist insurgents for peace dialogue and seize fire. I also request you to help to create positive pressure from international communities for government of Nepal and Maoist insurgents for the seize fire through peace dialogue. We realized, this is the high time to save the life and property of Nepal.

News like this gives new perspective to issues like “Upgrade Our Democracy” and “Create the New Philanthropy” being raised here at RecentChangesCamp. What should we be learning from Nepal this morning?

Food Security Summit

Reporting today from Day Two of the Rockford and Four Rivers Regional Food Security Summit, the latest in a line of events that dates back to the original summit that was convened in Open Space by the Chicago Community Trust in November, 2001.

More than 60 people, ordinary citizens that is, have gathered here at Rockford College, raised and discussed more than 30 issues, including land use, farming and gardening, food pantries, organics, community education, marketing, school lunches, fair trade, among many others.

We are using a weblog to post all of the proceedings and will be experimenting with that as a platform for sustained community action. There’s a lot of life in this circle. Maybe it’s all the organic food. Whatever the explanation, meetings like this give me hope for the future.

A Shift Toward Small Change?

Not one hour ago I was reflecting on how I view my own work and practice, noticing that I tend to see myself primarily as an individual operator, citizen, practitioner. What I do as an individual links me to groups, but those groups do not define me. I expect my contributions and actions to define them.

This seems in line with a shift reported recently in City Journal:

And compared with the liberal philanthropies of a generation ago, social entrepreneurs focus less (if at all) on political advocacy or litigation aimed at policy change and far more on helping the poor to get ahead as individuals through job training, mentoring, and tutoring. “Changing the system,” in other words, has taken a backseat to incremental, verifiable improvement in the lives of those assisted. Without quite being aware of the change themselves, at least some in the nonprofit world have moved back toward the provision of what Andrew Carnegie, known for the free libraries he created across America after making his fortune in steel, called “ladders on which the aspiring can rise.”

As changing the system takes a backseat to helping people advance, would not institutionalized programs also be overcome by direct personal responsibility, contribution and action? This sounds an awful lot like SmallChange to me. Thanks to Lenore Ealy and her Philanthropic Enterprise email list for the reference.

Small Change Immigration Documentary

Zoe Sullivan made a documentary film about immigrants and immigration. Now she needs funding to make copies and get this work out in the world. Here is her story:

I live in Astoria, Queens, which is part of New York City. A few months ago, I completed production of a short documentary video about the issues that immigrants with no papers face. That is what the dropcash campaign is for: to raise money to pay for making copies of the video.

The video project is something that I started as an experiment. For 13 years I had been doing community organizing work with the Humanist Movement, an international grassroots social justice organization that I got involved with in Italy. In early 2003, I felt my organizing work was the only thing that was going on in my life, and it was no longer satisfying to me, so I took a step back to find a more meaningful balance for myself again.

Doing the video I have discovered that I will not be dedicating myself to documentary filmmaking, but I am glad that I did it. Also, I really hope that many people can see the video and learn something about the kinds of hardships that immigrants face. It would be great if this could make people more aware of and sensitive to the kinds of obstacles that people have to overcome in order to live in the US.

As of today, she’s raised $100 of the $550 she needs. This is SmallChange. It makes a difference. And this is where to donate via DropCash. Contact Zoe directly at zoe_sullivan(AT)hotmail(DOT)com.

Reading Iran

Iran Press Service is the oldest post-revolution English language Iranian publication outside Iran. Created in 1980 it is also one of the first Iranian Internet publications.

I don’t know if it’s more accurate or reliable than what comes through the mainstream media. I’m just glad to have an alternative source of information on Iranian nuclear diplomacy. Feels like I learn more reading Iranians on Iran, even when they report from Paris, than when I read Americans and Europeans, reporting from anywhere.

UPDATE: See also GlobalVoices for individual voices on Iran, thanks to Christy.

Where’s Your Edge?

Chris Macrae said this in an email today…

Using media to minimise how much time a person spends experiencing the edge of “their own make a difference capabilities” intstead of maximising this is a crime against all young people

In the height of Katrina news, I was cooking what started as a weekend course and soon threatened to become an entire school curriculum. My working title was “Ready for Anything.” I think I like the idea of sharpening our “edge of our make-a-difference capabilities” even better.

30,000 Marriages?

as some email conversations and weblog reading progesses, i’m still rolling around a bit with this question: what is grassroots?

i’m willing to accept the value of searching out and connecting 30000 “grassroots” projects for humanity. i understand the whole range of comment on globalization and grassroots. i understand, too, that so many dualities, so called patterns of opposition, need mending and marrying. so the title of the overall project caused some confusion for me.

thinking about 30000 “good” projects leaves open the possiblity of defining good. 30000 marriages is more interesting yet. thrilling to think of 30000 projects that marry one something with another something else that shouldn’t be able to fit with the first something. i *think* this might be the thing that resolves some of the things in this recent 30000 post: the marriage of former-president and citizen-activist, the marriage of world-futures and seven-year-olds, the marriage of global-brand-coke and renewable-energy.

it seems to me that the important practice to be established is one of finding pieces that common knowledge says can’t go together and then finding the uncommon wisdom that most definitely, practically and obviously does unite the two. a practice of shocking ourselves with bits of a new world coming together, rather than with the foundations of an old world breaking down and apart.

take this New Yorker invitation via mark dilley: “…If you find the media’s Iraq coverage unsatisfactory, pick up the phone. Don’t call the Times, or CNN, or Rupert Murdoch; call Baghdad. There are a couple of Iraqi phone books available on the Internet, and plenty of interesting people willing to share their stories directly…” would these conversations be grassroots action or globalization? i think yes!