(P8): Ice-Fishing for Tools

placing tip-ups in ice fishing using a sounder to test for depth and placing the bait about 1 foot above the weeds attached to the tip-up.
Placing Tip-Ups for Maximum Serendipity

Because The System is a CAS, and the building of Our System is the building of a CAS, there is no simple procedure for finding and using tools to take from The System what we can and create what we need in Our System. While all efforts to find useful information are doomed by the sheer amount of it, You can reduce the effect of that firehose by a combination of focus and allowance for serendipity.

Ice-Fishing is a decent metaphor that combines the concepts of focused and serendipitous search. You do not cause the fish to bite, you use their natural behavior to entice a bite. The “focus” part is the area you choose in which to fish, and the serendipity is the placing of a variety of locations for tip-ups covering areas that are not part of your immediate focus. When a tip-up is triggered, you check it to see if you got a fish.

Searching for what is useful to your individual path to personal autonomy and choice is very similar to ice-fishing. Your mental framework for what that path should be will orient you to the tip-ups that might be of value to you.

I will describe how I approach this, but the path you want will reflect your own evolving growth and experiences, and you will need to evolve a scaffolding that truly reflects you and those important to you.

There are some heuristics that you can use making decisions about that to include in your search scaffolding:

  • You need a diversity of search scaffolds, so that your choices, as a group, won’t reflect a bias that systematically prevents you from accessing useful information
  • You should actively add small numbers of new search algorithms as you run across them and eliminate ones that don’t show use to you in a reasonable time. I use a few months as a rough metric for assessing usefulness
  • Accept that a large percentage of what you review will not be of use.
  • Calibrate your judgement of what is useful to some self-chosen framework, like the headline, and have another layer of review that lets you quickly review the possible usefulness.
  • Trust your intuition about what might be useful.

The value of your scaffold depends on the linkages in the information universe you search. You will always miss items of great importance and must depend on the larger network you are sampling to find that which is of use to you.

Here is a sample of the tools I use for my scaffolding. There is nothing special about these tools. I evolved my current scaffold step by step over a period of years, and the evolution continues:

  • Feedly: This is an RSS reader. Though deprecated by many, RSS remains the simplest way I can sample many item summaries with little effort. At one point, I had 300 sources. Now, I have about 120.
  • Medium: I use the tools of following and item recommendations, and I mute or delete sources every day, so that there is an evolving focus. The Medium universe is constantly evolving, and the same must be true of your scaffold for scanning the possibilities.
  • Paper.li: This app allows for the creation of papers with themes that are published periodically. I have chosen a variety of papers with themes that I find useful. My regular scan includes the headline and a short description.
  • Social Media: I review Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, etc. and the scaffolding for this review includes both my personal and policy models. Since these two models have significant overlap, I get a lot of surprises, and the surprises often show me a profitable path or paths for expanding my search resources.
  • WordPress: I follow WordPress blogs that produce useful items for review.

Because, in systems theory terms, we are all “path-dependent”, every building of a personal scaffold will be unique. Strong efforts to reduce this uniqueness may have the unintended consequence of creating a systematic barrier to that which would be of use to you.

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(P8): Using The System

A buffet of many food choices in a restaurant.
A Buffet of Many Choices

If we must continue to use The System while we try to build supports that we can effectively control and scale, we will need to understand how The System operates, and what we might do to make the best use of it.

The first reality that we must accept is, “The purpose of a System is what it does”.

It isn’t:

  • The stated Mission of the System
  • The Strategic Plan of the System
  • The stated Policies of the System.

Does this characterization seem harsh to you?

For example, I have watched the changes in the Social Security system around SSI disability supports since the early days of the system. Starting in 1981, there has been an incremental alteration of the original purpose of the program (to provide basic income and health care access), to one that reduces real-time eligibility and bureaucratizes due process to the point that it has become a system for denying eligibility to the greatest extent possible without triggering too much bad publicity and political backlash.

My experience is not unique. Everyone who became an advocate in the early days has recognized the same overall deterioration in the purpose of SSI.

Because the purpose of a System is what it does, not what it says.

And our use of The System to support our community must reflect that reality.

The System is always corrupt (maybe disrupting is a better word). Not because the people in it are necessarily committing financial crime. The System is corrupt because, over time, its original purpose degrades, and the uses to which The System is put gradually become as diverse as the local needs of all its stakeholders, including us as members of the disability community. Such complexification of the original mission is a normal response of aging in any CAS, including each of us. If no one tries to alter this trend, you get a trajectory that tracks the following phases:

  1. Narrowing and self-centering of mission (Bureaucratic Narcissism)
  2. Mission and Self-Interest become Indistinguishable (Functional Psychopathy)
  3. Use of System assets for personal gratification (Frank Exploitation)
  4. Networked misappropriation (Gang Exploitation)
  5. RICO activities ( Corrupt Insurgency)

AND, at the same time:

The system is always different from what it was just before now. Novelty, broadly understood, is constantly changing The System. Novelty includes all our efforts to make The System work more effectively for us. All CAS create micro-diversity as part of their evolution. The people in the system are only dimly aware of this, which means the behavior of the system is often surprising. It is the micro diversity which give The System its resilience, but this micro diversity triggers in any bureaucracy a futile effort to eliminate that diversity. It is the inability of the system to eliminate this diversity or its production that provides us with a landscape in which we can become better at using The System.

We have two main methods for getting better at Using The System. One is scanning and learning (Fishing for Tools), and the other is Crowd-Sourcing our search for solutions.

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(P8): Making FutureStrategy Real-Two

A diagram with two triangles pointing from the left and right sides at a circle. The circle is red and contains text, Expand Our Freedom, the left and right triangles are yellow-orange, and contain text, respectively, Change the System on the left, and Bild our Systems on the right. There is a photo behind each triangle. Behind the left an image of a cross community protest related to disability rights. Behind the right a poster of mutual aid around the pandemic.
Our Complementary Strategies

Even though our strategy of iteratively improving the legal framework of disability rights has certainly expanded our life choices, over time it has become less and less effective in making new improvements. The System has gotten better at undermining our advocacy and using its System Logic to marginalize our gains.

We need a way to move forward that doesn’t require us to allow our gains to be degraded by the logic of the System.

At the same time we will continue to need the System as a source of funding and expertise, because of the complexity of our needs. Few of us can simply drop our relationship with the System entirely.

But we do not need to view the System as The (only) Solution. Instead, we must learn to view the System as a tool, and begin to make our own systems to augment, replace, and finesse what we need from the System. We must build what we need together and use it to orchestrate a more effective strategy for achieving our freedom. The systems that we build will be:

  • Local
  • Intersectional
  • Collaborative
  • Community-focused
  • Self-funding

They will be based on social justice models, rather than civil rights entitlements. That doesn’t mean that we don’t use civil rights laws to advocate. Again, we view civil rights laws as tools, not solutions.

Our systems will build from the bottom up, not from the top down.

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The Burghers of Calais

Rodin Statue of the Burghers in sackcloth and with ropes around their nects going to meetheir deaths to save their city.
Burghers of Calais

The Burghers of Calais is a statue by Rodin, pictured above, and a story of commitment by actual politicians to the lives and future of those they represented. This commitment brings up some interesting questions about the future of US political elites after the current election.

Around the time that Britain became a hotspot for the Black Plague, King Edward was fighting in the early part of the Hundred Years’ War. Edward was conducting a siege of the French City of Calais that had lasted almost a year. Needless to say, the citizens of Calais were suffering from starvation and disease.

Edward (being a nasty piece of work) demanded that the Burghers (the most prominent citizens) come to him dressed in rags, with nooses around their necks, carrying the keys to the city, ready to be beheaded. Edward said he would spare Calais destruction once the city was open, but would kill the Burghers.

Six of the Burghers met Edward’s demands in order to save their city. At the last moment, Edward pardoned them for reasons that are obscure (many stories have emerged as to how this might have happened).

My question to you as you participate in the 2020 election, no matter who you vote for, or how you vote, is:

What current officeholders or candidates for this election do you think would be willing to give up their lives for those they represent?

Rodin, The Burghers of Calais

The story behind the sculpture

(P7): A Broader View of Strategy and Change

Young child playing Jenga, a board stacking game where the object is to pull wooden parts from the stack without causing a collapse of the tower.
Be Careful!
  • We know more than we can tell
    Michael Polanyi
  • If you want to change things, then you need to let a thousand flowers bloom —Dave Snowden
  • Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy. –Sun Tzu
  • Wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking
    Antonio Machado

Back to Basics

In my model of Disability Rights Systems Change, Strategy is a framework for making decisions when the decision processes are clouded by future uncertainty and scarce resources. Ultimately, your strategy is an enacted framework of change design. The change design concerns four arenas of action:

  • Ends
  • Ways
  • Means
  • Integrity

Ends

In the language of advocacy, ends are valued outcomes, not simply possible outcomes or most likely outcomes. Advocacy fails if a valued outcome isn’t achieved, even if some other outcome is achieved.

Ways

You can think of ways as design paths to change which  you try and learn from. The paths can be conceptual, rather than geographic as they might be in a military action.

Means

What tools, resources, and other assets can you use to support your change efforts? In advocacy, there is also a dimension of morality in the use of means, which doesn’t exist in other arenas such as war, politics, and finance. Each effective use of means to change asks a moral question that must be addressed in our advocacy. For example, it wouldn’t be moral to fabricate a lie about the person representing a target in order to disrupt the ability of the target to negotiate effectively.

Integrity

Because advocacy can develop into long term negotiations with many ups and downs over the course of an advocacy initiative, we need to constantly assess whether our effort is retaining the values and broader advocacy purposes that were part of the initial change effort, or whether we are drifting away from that secure value-driven base.

The next part of this series will explore how FutureStrategy can be made real.

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(P7): Using the Dispositions of Your Targets

A pink frog-like human brain ready to leap.
Leapin’ Neurons, Batman!

Your target also has dispositions (policies, incentives and disincentives, cultural ableism, political pressures, economic concerns, etc.) that you can use to anticipate where advocacy might be needed, and where an advocacy ecosystem framework might be more useful than simply responding to an oppressive action.

You can think of these dispositions and system drives like thirst or hunger in us. You can also think of these dispositions as implicit biases which provide “answers” to “questions” that the system gets from its environment, including your advocacy “questions”.  They are all flows of ongoing perceiving and acting to deal with the unavoidable in the target environment.

As advocates, we also have dispositions, both as drives and biases, and we too act continuously in the same way that our targets do. You can use your target’s dispositions to enhance your advocacy, and you can use your own dispositions through reflection and dialogue to expand your vision of the possibilities of advocacy, as well as expanding your skills. Most importantly, you can use reflection on your experience and practice of advocacy to move along the 3 phases of becoming a capable advocate:

  • Beginning: Creating a base reference system of rules and techniques in your brain to recognize repeatable patterns and methods of advocacy.
  • Adeptness: Understanding when to break the reference system’s rules and tweak the techniques in order to solve difficult or unusual advocacy challenges.
  • Mastering: Being able to respond to the entirely unique aspects that a particular situation requires for a successful advocacy outcome.

Your brain can “jump” to new levels of capability through the experience and training you gain over time.  And you can collaborate with other advocates to expand the scope and impact of your advocacy. The process of reaching mastery of advocacy is a process of building pattern-recognition and reflection competence as an integrated internal complex adaptive system.

Your target’s dispositions are roughly similar across time, and once you have had significant interaction with the target, you can begin to see these dispositions as the structure of the system, and you can anticipate them as roughly standard responses to your advocacy.

We can think of target dispositions as constraints within which the target operates. They are like the weak link processes that the target has with agencies and local context processes. While advocates might have difficulty destabilizing a disposition (as advocates, we often don’t have the ability to do this), we can always threaten the relationship that the target has built up with some specific dispositional trend or force-say a millage election.

(P7): Advocacy and Negotiation

Decorative
Negotiation

Students with Disabilities: An Advocate’s Guide

What disability advocates do

What is Structured Negotiation & Tips from Lainey Feingold

All advocacy occurs in what might be described as negotiation possibility space. Each advocacy effort is an ongoing “conversation” with a target about the division of some resources.

These resources can be based on a rights schema but usually involve actual negotiation over other kinds of resources, including money, power, target control over infrastructure and decisions, and just about any other trait the target might have that impinges on the access by the person, family, or community being represented.

The target ordinarily views the negotiation as a contest over the division of resources-money, staff time, staff tasks and obligations, and so on. While targets have some commitment to the rights of the person, they view rights as negotiable precisely because rights involve the division of resources in a process of negotiation, not as inalienable rights of the person.

It is important for advocates to remember that the right to autonomy and free choice is not what is being negotiated. It is the resources that are necessary to make autonomy and free choice real. It is easy to forget this fundamental truth in a tense long negotiation over resources. Also, over time, it is easy to develop habits of thought and action that focus on the resources being negotiated  and not the autonomy and freedom that is the only justification for the advocacy.

When people negotiate over resources, they will suffer some loss even if the negotiation is viewed as successful. This is the nature of negotiation between parties who each have some power. This is another reason why negotiation should not be viewed as the same as the right to autonomy and freedom.

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(P7): Basic Idea of a Target Ecosystem

A simple model of a biological ecosystem, with the sun providing the basic source of energy, energizing producers to feed consumers, and letting consumers feed decomposers. All this action creates and maintains an Inorganic nutrient pool available to producers. Producers, Consumers, and Decomposers shed heat. And so the cycle goes.
How It All Works…

Educational Ecosystems
What Kind of Ecosystem Is Your School?
Net EDU Project: Educational Ecosystems
The Struggle of Two Missions

I’ll use education as the basic model for the discussion of the ecosystem idea since everyone has lived experience with it and advocating in education has been advocacy in which I have been deeply involved.

Ecosystems are self-evolving frameworks of many interactive parts and are a type of Complex Adaptive System (CAS).  The parts act for their own benefit, so the stability of the CAS requires interactions in which the parts need each other to survive. This idea is equally true of Advocacy Target Ecosystems.

Model of an Advocacy Target Ecosystem:

Imagine two circles.

The inner circle is the education system that is your advocacy target. Within this circle, the strong relationships/processes that make up the target  drive its ongoing behavior and purpose.

The outer circle includes all the peripheral organizations and communities that relate to the education system. They constitute weak relationships/processes that buffer the target system and effectively prevent the strong processes of the target from running away and undermining the ability of the target to fulfill its purposes.

These two subsystems make up the actual target ecosystem.  Together, these two subsystems act as a roughly stable ongoing process. If we wish to change the target, we must engage these subsystems.

The standard way of engagement is to disrupt or destabilize processes in the subsystems, to force the target to respond to a change in its control. However, it is very difficult to destabilize or disrupt the strong processes without undermining the ability of a target to pursue its purpose.  In fact, it is the gradual corruption of these strong processes that divorces the target from its reason for existing over time. (See The Struggle of Two Missions).

It is easier to disrupt or destabilize the weak processes.

Because they are weak processes, why would the target change its behavior to respond to a disruption or destabilization of its periphery?

The relationship between a target and its peripheral buffering weak processes (from the perspective of the target)  is ideally one where the weak processes cycle through a repeatable set of predictable actions.  If the predictable cycle breaks down, the target must invest energy in restoring the predictable cycle, even if it means changing in some small ways inside the subsystem of strong processes. It will expend this extra energy (from a capped total amount of energy that also supports its strong processes) in order to restore rough stability and continue as much as it can to behave as it did before.

So, advocates disrupt the weak processes by filing a complaint or calling for an IEPC or reaching out to stakeholders to which the strong subsystem can’t avoid responding. They try to leverage the target systems to make changes that expand the personal autonomy and possibility space of choice available to students and their families.  This engagement is the standard way that advocates change target ecosystems.

There are many variations on this standard way of engaging a target ecosystem. And, the weak processes that stabilize and support the target consist of much more than rules and due process. There are many weak processes that support any target, and all of them are potentially subject to destabilization/disruption, forcing a response from the target. For an education target, these might include the school board,  the various funding mechanisms necessary for the strong process subsystem, the political interface of the target in the larger community, target policy or action failures in any part of the strong process subsystem, and so on.

Our advocacy must become part of the weak process subsystem before it can be effective over the long term, and before we can be in a position to approach changing the strong well-protected processes of the target. This means that, in addition to our work to disrupt or destabilize weak processes, like the target, we must engage the weak processes and build ongoing relationships with them. We must become part of the target ecosystem to be able to effectively advocate.

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Person-Centered Planning and Social Justice

By Norm DeLisle: For Entire Post, Go Here…

A few years ago, I created a short presentation as part of a grant to train LTSS Supports Coordinators in the Why and How of PCP. My presentation was part of the Why. I did the presentation is a Microsoft Tool called Sway, so I could see how the tool worked. Sway is a way of rapidly creating online presentations that is easier than PowerPoint.

I decided recently to redo the presentation using a Social Justice Framework instead of the more step-by-step version I did back then. Here it is, and I’d be interested in your view of the results…

We are here, Get used to it.

A Social Justice Response to Disability-Based Oppression

I estimate that more human beings are enduring agony today than ever before; the number could be greater than the sum of sufferers throughout history. I speak of starvation and epidemic; war and terrorism; deprivation, exploitation, and physical torture. I repeat the word agony; I am not talking about “hard times”. 
-Stafford Beer

All forms of oppression deny, distort, degrade or disrupt the exercise of agency by individuals, families, human communities (however they are defined by gender, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic of identity), race, ethnicity,or nationality. Because all these examples of targets for oppression have members who have disabilities, the oppression of the disabled embodies the deep richness of the meaning of intersectionality and its possibilities for real empowerment.

For most dimensions of identity, social justice progresses through large-scale activism, focused on community-level protest and policy advocacy. Successful activism creates “affordances”, tools in the environment that can be used by members of the community to resolve or correct some form of oppression. For People With Disabilities (PWD), while such activism is a core part of our progress in Social Justice, the level of oppression embedded in the infrastructure of every society in our world is so ubiquitous, that community level social justice progress is not enough. Each PWD needs a very local and granular set of affordances to experience and pursue the same freedom that other communities can explore through the modern advocacy of valued social justice outcomes.

(P7): Enabling and Managing the Ecosystem of Advocacy/Targets

 An abstract view of how Community-Based Organizations participate and drive delivery system reform, as an example of an advocacy ecosystem. See link below image for text
Text Description of Image

Although we tend to focus on the advocacy task at hand, our work to support the personal agency and full life of individuals with disabilities does not occur in isolation. As advocates, we are a part of a larger complex adaptive system (CAS) that includes support and funding systems, policy and legislative systems, and communities of people with Lived Experience from the many communities of people with disabilities. Our focus on the current task assumes the ongoing operation of the larger ecosystem as a context for all our advocacy work. We make use of affordances (agencies, laws, rules, funding, expertise, etc.) that act within the larger advocacy context as ongoing processes which we can influence to achieve valued outcomes.

In the larger processes of this ecosystem, all subsystems change and adjust over time through advocacy activities (and many other activities as well). Our goals as advocates are to:

•Build our relationships with other parts of the ecosystem in order to carry on advocacy and the other kinds of communication necessary to maintain these relationships.

•Evaluate and adapt our advocacy planning and actions based on a constant debriefing of the impact of our actions and an equally constant monitoring of the ongoing changes in the rest of the ecosystem, that both enable and disrupt our advocacy strategy.

•Facilitating a more effective advocacy/target ecosystem, in the sense that it becomes easier over time to advance valued outcomes.

•Introduce New Values and Novel Expectations into the interacting parts of the ecosystem. Successful introduction triggers a cycle called Autocatalytic Mutualism which drives changes in the ecosystem. Effective advocacy is always creative in this sense.

This part of the project will explore why we need to keep the entire advocacy ecosystem in mind while we work toward our valued outcomes. We are a part of this ecosystem and never stand outside of it, though our focus shifts as our work and the context of our work evolve.

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