Archive for the ‘open source’ Category

“I predict that the 21st century will be most effected by a new breed of something we have not seen yet, which is a new form of chapter based organization. Institutions always need to be blown up every once in a while, because even with the best intentions and the great people, new things, you just need ‘new’ to be effective. There’s going to be a whole new breed of organizations like this.”
-Scott Heiferman

When I first heard these words I was taking notes as a relatively new member of the Japan Society staff. Japan Society’s U.S.-Japan Innovators Project was holding its second major retreat in Tokyo and it was my job to capture the overall experience, i.e. atmosphere and important ideas, of the three-day event. Needless to say I was very nervous and anxious to take on one of my first big tasks on the job. I listened and typed and tried my best to record what I could; however, after the retreat I realized nothing really sunk in. There was no time for me to mull over the information that flowed into my ears, through my fingers and onto the screen in front of me. Now, almost six months later I finally got a chance to sit down and go over my notes and transcripts for a purely personal look at what I may have missed. Let me tell you that after re-reading those notes I realized that the wisdom that came out of that retreat was incredible, and I’d like to share some of it with you.

Below is a list of some of my favorite quotes that came out of that retreat, in no particular order:

  • “The high cost of the status quo, well basically what I keep writing down in my notes is SQ > C. Status Quo is costlier than a change. Now that’s a huge idea.”
    -Dan Pink
  • “You know, I’ve kind of figured out how to go from the bandstand to the board room and make it swing. I kind of figured out a way to improvise through that and think of the balance sheet as a set of changes, and never lose that ability say, ‘Why?’ Why do we have to do it that way? Can’t we have some fun with it and play with it? At the end of the year it’s going to be the same numbers. Why don’t we do it this way? And so we’ve been able to kind of improvise our way through it, and still have fun, and keep it going. I mean, that’s the point, is that without the fun part and the play, oh my goodness, I never could deal with these arts administrators and stuff.”
    -Marty Ashby
  • “Start off with the assumption that people are assets, not liabilities, and treat them that way and you will see extraordinary things happen.”
    -Bill Strickland
  • “What we need to do is to create these cycles, and allow innovation to be adaptive and not recreated, because we’re wasting so much money in international reconstruction trying to reinvent the same solutions to similar problems.”
    -Cameron Sinclair
  • “Knowledge that can be expressed by word is available to anyone; therefore that knowledge is losing its value. However, it has become more important for us to have the tacit wisdom that cannot be expressed by words; for example, intuition, insight, imagination and creativity.”
    -Hiroshi Tasaka
  • “I call it innovation acupuncture. The idea is that if you want to create large change, don’t do massive projects and expect a society or a culture to come with you. You have to do these small, little interventions and you put one in and you see if that thing spreads. That little pin makes a huge difference. If it doesn’t that’s okay, we’ll put another pin in. And we’ll keep going until those pins eventually make you feel better.”
    -Cameron Sinclair
  • “Money is the raw material of politics. And politics is either the raw material of change or preserving the status quo.”
    -Ann Rutledge
  • “I am rich in terms of life, which I believe actually has more value, ultimately. I am not personally wealthy. But that is precisely – that actually gives me an advantage. Because when I’m able to talk with young people, particularly students and my staff, I’m able to say that I am not doing this because I am driven by wealth in the conventional monetary sense. I’m driven by a higher order of things that is more in the range of what this Japan-America conversation is all about. I believe at the end of the day, at the last day of your life, you only have your memories. You can’t take the money with you. So the question becomes to make sure that you have memories that reflect a quality experience and reverence for life.”
    -Bill Strickland
  • “We need to examine is what we believe about homelessness and other social challenges…If we think that homelessness is about altruism, then we are comfortable with gestures like giving people money, handing out a bowl of soup. That’s something that makes us feel better. It doesn’t change the situation of someone who’s homeless.”
    -Rosanne Haggerty
  • “I’m here to contend that sooner or later, it does not come down to money. Sooner or later, it comes down to people. And you can call me some sort of a hippie freak if you’d like.”
    -Scott Heiferman
  • P.S. – Check out the August 2, 2007 New York Times’ article Design Steps Up in Disaster’s Wake, by Allison Arieff. The article highlights the struggle of a woman trying to rebuild her and her family’s life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and how Architecture for Humanity came to her aid.


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For all of you that just purchased or want to purchase a new iPhone please take a couple minutes to step back and think about the Apple’s new product and what it means in terms of global connectivity and the importance of the Internet. Chances are if you are in the hunt for a new iPhone then you are probably connected to the Internet in more ways than one, either through your current cell phone, Blackberry, laptop computer, desktop computer, school computer or work computer. Yes, the iPhone is a phone, ipod and many other things, but most importantly, it serves as yet another Internet-penetrating-device. It’s another way for people to google, youtube and facebook to their heart’s content. Currently 69% of North America is connected to the Internet, according to Internet World Stats. I’m willing to bet this increases that number. Those of you who live in the United States like me know this country is very well connected. Most of us take LAN outlets and wireless hubs for granted nowadays. Need to check you e-mail? Pop into a Starbucks. Going on a date tonight and need to check movie times? Pull out your Blackberry. At times when I’m walking down the street or riding in a subway car it seems like everybody around me is connected to the Internet through some handheld device.

This introduction of the Blackberry, iPhone and Internet-ready cell phones is a testament to the importance of the Internet. These little tools are truly the closest thing to holding the world in the palm of your hand other than grabbing a globe and making a cute joke. Think of everything you have ever searched for, all the videos you’ve watched on YouTube, all of the music you’ve downloaded and articles and blogs you’ve read and you come to realize what an amazing invention the Internet is. You can learn languages, take virtual journeys through Tibet, manage your bank account and read Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, every public school in the United States is connected to the Internet. Nobody would think of you as crazy if you said everybody in the world should be connected to the Internet. However the problem of the lack of global connectivity exists in a very big way: Only 14% of the world is connected to the Internet. 14%!!! Only 43% of Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America are connected to the Internet combined; however they make up about 82% of the world’s population! North America makes up only 5.1% of the world population but is connected to the Internet better than any other region in the world. That means people throughout the world have little or no access to what we take for granted day in and day out. Without computers and tools that allow Internet access people miss out on opportunities to learn skills and information essential to improving their lives. However, as dire as the situation may seem, this problem is more than solvable.

As you read this people are creating new ways to bring the Internet to those less fortunate.

Buying a new computer? Send your old one to Africa. Have an innovative idea on how to accelerate global connectivity? Give AMD’s Open Architecture Challenge sponsored by AMD 50×15 initiative a shot. By providing an opportunity to access the Internet you provide access to educational, social and economic information that can help allow people to improve their lives.

Before you buy that new iPhone or click on that icon that magically whisks you away to the Internet take a minute to think about those people who might really benefit from the Internet. They won’t be checking out movie trailers, they’ll be looking for ways to survive.

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Hello, and welcome to the Japan Society’s U.S.-Japan Innovators Network staff blog. I’m Andrew Stuerzel, Program Associate of Global Affairs, and I’m here to kick-start what we hope will be an interesting, informative and stimulating resource for people committed to a better future. In short, the U.S.-Japan Innovators Network is a multidisciplinary network of innovators committed to making a social impact through retreats, symposia, exchanges and virtual media. The Network enables participants to step outside their everyday lives, connect with people, collaborate with them and catalyze the future.

Marty Ashby performing a jazz piece during the Innovators symposiumRecently we’ve been discussing a number of topics here at Japan Society, such as sustainable design, revitalizing communities and essential skills for social entrepreneurs like improvisation and storytelling. Last month we held our first-ever public symposium titled Improvisation, Creativity, Collaboration: Fueling Innovation in the 21st Century. The symposium participants Marty Ashby, Dan Pink, Hiroshi Tasaka and Alan Webber highlighted the importance of jazz and “right brain” qualities like improvisation, empathy and joy. What really hit home for me was this theme of “ego management” in the boardroom discussed during Marty Ashby’s conversation with Alan Webber. According to Marty ego management is just another way of checking your ego at the door. Know yourself, embrace you strengths and weakness and celebrate the strengths of the people around you. Anybody can lead at any moment. Don’t impose you will on others because if you do it will only lead to inharmonious moments, which leads to stalled collaboration and improvisation. In Marty’s words, “You just have to swing man.”

Listening to Marty, my mind drifted back to the Innovators Network’s last retreat in January 2007, (IN)SIGHT: Bridging Gaps. There, retreat participant and founder and CEO of Architecture for Humanity Cameron Sinclair talked about ego management as well, but in a different sense. Cameron talked aboutBridging Gaps retreat in Tokyo Architecture for Humanity and how it serves people in developing and war-torn countries. His take on ego management came down to this: Don’t go in thinking you know the best solution. Ask the people what they want and need, let the people be collaborators in the design process and go from there.

It seems so simple doesn’t it? Let the end-user help design what they need. Imposing your own personal designs, plans, structures and ideas is the way of the past. Open source collaboration is erasing the lines between expert and your “average Joe.” By empowering people to step up and become part of the process you can start a cycle of empowerment within a community that changes the way they live forever.

Inspiration and genius can come from anywhere at anytime; from the kids playing soccer in an alley of some war-torn country or from the junior-level assistant you just hired.

Check you ego at the door, learn from those around you…and just swing.

A couple of quick hits before you go:

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (2 East 91st Street, New York, NY 10128) is holding a great exhibition demonstrating how design can be a dynamic force in saving and transforming lives, at home and around the world. A couple of us from Japan Society visited Cooper-Hewitt recently and were really impressed by the innovative design solutions currently on display there. Check it out. On display until September 23, 2007. Here’s a little bit about the exhibition:

Design for the Other 90%

“The exhibition highlights the growing trend among designers to create affordable and socially responsible objects for the vast majority of the world’s population (90 percent) not traditionally serviced by professional designers…[It’s] divided into sections focusing on water, shelter, health and sanitation, education, energy and transportation and highlights objects developed to empower global populations surviving under the poverty level or recovering from a natural disaster.”

World population growth is increasing. Available drinking water is decreasing. Let GOOD Magazine put it in perspective for you in Drink Up: “The world’s water resources are becoming increasingly valuable–and strained. GOOD and the Office of CC put the mind-boggling numbers in perspective.” View Drink Up transparency.

And for those of you who think this water problem effects only developing countries you might want to read this article: US News and World Report, The Coming Water Crisis, By Marianne Lavelle and Joshua Kurlantzick. Here’s a little taste:

“In a nation where abundant, clear, and cheap drinking water has been taken for granted for generations, it is hard to imagine residents of a major city adjusting to life without it. But Atlanta’s water woes won’t seem so unusual in the years ahead. Across the country, long-neglected mains and pipes, many more than a century old, are reaching the end of their life span. When pipes fail, pressure drops and sucks dirt, debris, and often bacteria and other pathogens into the huge underground arteries that deliver water…America’s aging water infrastructure needs huge new investment, and soon.”

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