Community Engagement. Looking back. Looking forward.
During the military dictatorship in my country, Brazil, which lasted from 1964 until 1985, a cry by the students at the University of Sao Paulo became popular. At night, all the lights in the University would suddenly be turned off, so the students all cried: "Ninguém solta a mão de ninguém" (Nobody lets go of anyone's hand). So everyone would try to hold onto someone else's hand and, in the darkness, they tried to find a building column or any other place where they could hold. When the lights came on again, they would start calling for every colleague by their names, nicknames, or both. More than a few times, someone would not respond. After the results of our presidential election at the end of 2018, this cry became popular again, mostly thanks to social media and a tattoo design by the Brazilian artist, Thereza Nardelli.
In the place where I live, there is a community of entrepreneurs called Taquari Valley. Yes, we do use the word "Valley" in English and "Taquari" is the river that crosses 40 small cities with a total of roughly 300 thousand inhabitants. This brings us the old saying "Think globally. Act locally," sometimes reversed to "Think locally. Act globally." This community wishes to learn about what works the world over in terms of generating businesses, employment, income, and reducing poverty, and from that information, decide what can be applied locally. They also try to return to the world what they believe are good local, potentially global businesses and ideas. In early April, 2019, we all got together in a coworking place to see a series of talks organized by Day 1 Endeavour (https://day1.endeavor.org.br/) and talked among ourselves about the entrepreneurship cases and ideas presented.
Now, what does "Nobody lets go of anyone's hand" and "Taquari Valley" have in common? Communities are born and thrive when people are in danger and need to protect themselves, but also when they consciously want to better their lives. And better lives are also lives better protected. Thus the need for strong communities.
It also helps to strengthen communities when there is a need to fight identifiable threats in order to really survive and thrive. These threats include some physical, being starved to death, being tortured, or killed, as well as some social, such as losing your job, personal rights, or freedom. However, when threats are mitigated, the communities built around them tend to weaken, sometimes allowing an environment for the same -- or similar -- threats to reappear. So we need stories reminding us of the dangers of weak communities the same way we need stories envisioning a common future for people within the local communities, or communities within a global village. We need stories we can act upon in the present, learn from in the past, and stories to build a better future. Stories to help us live long and prosper.
At times, it seems impossible for a single individual and even a single community to survive and thrive. There is a need for themes, as well as phased and coordinated approaches. As individuals we are naturally part of several different communities independent of our awareness. Our brains are built in ways that make us curious. We also seek pleasure and so we invent ways to satisfy our curiosity and get pleasure. Some will say curiosity is fed by the seeking of pleasure and some will say curiosity is already a pleasure satisfied by its findings. For me they say the same thing. Pleasure and curiosity are both parts of what makes us alive. It will likely take quite a long time to build a machine that will work to have pleasure by satisfying its curiosity. As a community of communities in a global village, we will build machines that will provide everything else.
I mentioned phased, themed, and coordinated approaches related to communities, so let's talk about the community that will build machines providing "everything else". There are definitely not enough people in this community. Even considering the enormous amount of people jumping into the Science and Technology wagon there is just a few who can turn a city into a self cleaning, energy independent one, and here is an example of a community inside the big community building a machine that will provide everything else.
There are not enough people building a complete feeding chain that will drive transportation to a minimum, allowing the consumption of fresh, healthy produce at a zero or close to zero cost, while at the same time preserving natural resources.
There are not enough people working on clean methods of transportation, and also allowing people to live and work with lesser need for transportation in the first place. Other than for exercising their need for pleasure and curiosity. Of course.
There are definitely not enough people thinking about how to educate and develop the professionals who will be able to think and produce all the things needed by the several communities working on building the machines that will provide everything else. We are absolutely out of sync here. In order to develop these professionals, we need to understand that they will not be ready or productive (in the way we define productivity today) when they graduate. Communities (or the so called Society) will need to invest in their formation for a longer time. Thus, in economic terms, it makes no sense that money is a barrier to knowledge. Fortunately, we have visionaries (Elon Musk, being one example) who understand that knowledge must be open and free, if we want to build a better world.
I work with LPI, the Linux Professional Institute, whose mission is to promote the use of open source and free technologies by elevating the people who work with it. Elevating the people who work with it to the level where they will be able to contribute to the communities building those machines that will provide everything else. Of course, as a community by itself, LPI is sustained by creating and providing certifications in Linux and other open source technologies. To help prepare professionals who will work in an uncertain future, we are continually developing and updating our certification programs so we can keep up with our mission while sustaining ourselves.
Community engagement is embedded in the root of our mission. We cannot elevate people without engaging people. Sometimes, you will see us going deep into very technical issues and, in the same event, having a group teaching how to do artwork or even produce beer, telling the participants all of this is free knowledge they can use to produce their own, with the added bonus that it may give them pleasure or entice their curiosity.
Technology can make our future a bright one if we are able to have enough engaged, bright, and committed people working within communities to build this future. At the same time, young people (and their parents) are quite uncertain of what kind of profession or form of income will be available in the future. This is a wonderful time to bring whole families into events where we are talking about free technologies, free knowledge, and the future. A workshop on kites, for instance, will easily illustrate that kites came before planes, which came before the spaceships they will have a chance to help build or take a ride in. Inside this spaceship, there will probably be good holographic entertainment, and excellent food, all of it envisioned and provisioned by other curious communities in the global village.
Make it so!