Information Advocates Notebook
- We are looking for people who would like to join in building a network of Community Information Advocates in neighborhoods, community centers and churches. This process includes ordinary neighborhood news, but primarily, it will provide personal, one-on-one "real needs" counseling and "match making" of needs to resources to help people find the social supports and material connections needed to make their everyday living more productive and less difficult.
- Information Advocacy will encourage and teach trusted people to listen to their community members, use and teach data tools and web sites to record useful information, and help people connect with each other when appropriate.
How Is This Different?
Existing information and communication tools support individuals to connect with each other and to find and use information services for themselves. What we are proposing to do is to empower people we are calling community information advocates to act as intermediaries between people who can't or don't have time to use the Internet for themselves. Information Advocates are people who help other people and might be thought of as librarians, match makers, or social media instructors for their community.
The Helper's Network
Existing social services, government, private business, and institutions are valuable for rendering emergency assistance. But personal interactions are required to allow people to care for each other in the long term. The materials on this page describe a process by which community members who wish to help other members of their community can link with each other to form a network of social supports more effective than when each of these people are acting alone.
About This Notebook
This page and the associated links and materials collected here are resources that Information Advocates might use in the course of their work. This notebook can also serve as an outline for the further study towards the design and implementation of a network of Information Advocates. The network will need communication tools of its own to compliment existing information resources on the Internet and in existing institutions around the city. Interested people can help by considering how we can assemble a white paper on the effect that a network of Information Advocates might have on the social and economic life of Philadelphia.
Information Advocates Byline
A network of dedicated, trusted, community-based listeners intelligently connecting resources to requests.
Information Advocacy and Social Change
When a highway is blocked or just over crowded, people can drive on the smaller roads and get to their destination, perhaps more slowly than if the highway was running fast, but they would get where they want to go and not have to sit and wait for the traffic to clear.
Information Advocacy is designed to improve the flow of economic and social processes by creating a multitude of alternative pathways for people to exchange goods, services and other valuable resources such as ideas and interests. These pathways are not intended to disenfranchise or replace existing economic tools and institutions. On the contrary, the process of Information Advocacy is intended to augment the current structures in our society to allow more people to be self-sufficient and find satisfaction and prosperity in their roles at any level of social or economic status.
A person who helps their neighbors, community members, or any other group of people learn about the resources, skills and needs of other members of the community and the world. They provide access to social supports (see below) and help the community to build social capital (also see below) by listening to their constituents and converting what they learn into information that can be shared in ways that are appropriate to each person's needs. They help people to conduct research and teach people how to use information and communication tools. Their importance lies in the fact that they are a person who is available to be helpful in using modern technology and they are someone who knows who does what in the community. Information Advocates help their community with INFORMATION, COMMUNICATION, and TRUST.
Information Advocates 1) help people in their community; 2) listen to people; 3) write down what they hear; 4) make it possible for other people to learn what they heard.
Information Advocates may not be the most influential members of their communities, but they should be among the most trusted. Information Advocates maintain the confidentiality of those they seek to empower.
The Information Advocate Network
The collective of people who are considered to be Information Advocates. These people use tools developed by and for the network to communicate with each other in service to their respective community members.
The member of a community served by an Information Advocate. This person is the most direct beneficiary of the Information Advocate Network
Social Support is defined as "help in difficult life situations."
Social support is a concept that is generally understood in an intuitive sense, as the help from other people in a difficult life situation. One of the first definitions was put forward by Cobb (Cobb, 1976). He defined social support as ‘the individual belief that one is cared for and loved, esteemed and valued, and belongs to a network of communication and mutual obligations’. In the MINDFUL project social support is defined as ‘the perceived availability of people whom the individual trusts and who make one feel cared for and valued as a person’ (MINDFUL, 2008).
Another definition says "Social support is the physical and emotional comfort given to us by our family, friends, co-workers and others."
The above definition is continued here: http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/visions/social-support-vol6/social-support
The central thesis of social capital theory is that 'relationships matter'. The central idea is that 'social networks are a valuable asset'. Interaction enables people to build communities, to commit themselves to each other, and to knit the social fabric. A sense of belonging and the concrete experience of social networks (and the relationships of trust and tolerance that can be involved) can, it is argued, bring great benefits to people.
Trust between individuals thus becomes trust between strangers and trust of a broad fabric of social institutions; ultimately, it becomes a shared set of values, virtues, and expectations within society as a whole. Without this interaction, on the other hand, trust decays; at a certain point, this decay begins to manifest itself in serious social problems… The concept of social capital contends that building or rebuilding community and trust requires face-to-face encounters. (Beem 1999: 20)
The above discussion is taken from this page: http://www.infed.org/biblio/social_capital.htm
Resilience in human social systems understands there to be the added capacity of humans to be able to some extent anticipate and plan for the future. Resilience is conferred in both human and ecological systems by their capacities for adaptation to these external stresses and shocks. In the column to the right are definitions of resilience that have helped us in shaping the development of our resilient planning and design ideas and principles for resilient cities put forward at ResilientCity.org. As a working definition we put forward the following:
“A Resilient City is one that has developed capacities to help absorb future shocks and stresses to its social, economic, and technical systems and infrastructures so as to still be able to maintain essentially the same functions, structures, systems, and identity.”
From the Web site Resilient City http://www.resilientcity.org/index.cfm?pagepath=Resilience&id=11449
The helping professions appear to be taking note of the need to promote resilience. One recent theory in social work is called the "Strength-Based" approach. The goal of this approach is to build up the resilience of the people being served by concentrating on the strengths of the clients rather than their problems.
They have published this paper on the topic of Strength-Based social work practice.
(Thanks to Douglas Yochum, a Certified Peer Specialist, for introducing us to the idea of Strength-Based counseling)
The Problems Being Addressed
Declining Social Capital
"Social Media" technology is producing revolutions in societies across the world. At the same time, for many people, technology is not sufficient. The connections among people known as social capital has been declining for years, perhaps for generations. The most widely known review of this problem is the book by Robert Putnam - "Bowling Alone." In his book, Mr. Putnam describes the decline in social capital happening in our society and offers several reasons for this decline, including the time that people spend watching TV.
For a useful summary of Mr. Putnam's book, see the article by Brett Reeder of the Conflict Research Consortium.
Families on public assistance
High educational drop-out rates
High rate of incarceration
Difficulty returning into society
Social isolation can be defined structurally as the absence of social interactions, contacts, and relationships with family and friends, with neighbors on an individual level, and with society at large" on a broader level.
Social isolation is considered a risk factor in the development of disease and in the disability that can occur in the course of existing disease.
Lack of social supports
Single parent families
Information Advocate Synonyms
- Referral Agent
- Match Maker
- Community Link
- Network Node
- Dedicated Listener
- Community Librarian
- Passionate Helper
- Professional Friend
- Liaison, ambassador, diplomat, intermediary
- Points of Information (or Information point people)
- Mutual Aid
- Access Point
- Social Worker
- Meeting Point
- Human Router
- Magic Potato (Roots interconnected)
- Rhizome (plants propagating using root systems underground)
- please add more
Everything for Everybody
In 1970 I was privileged to benefit from meeting a visionary human being. Jack Scully operated a small shop in lower Manhattan. He called the shop "Everything for Everybody." Jack agreed to permit me to run a similar shop in Philadelphia provided I pay him for the use of the name. I ran the Everything for Everybody shop on South Street in Philly from June of 1970 to June of 1971. The following year we called ourselves the "Information Store Collective" in a much larger space. The name change allowed us to cease paying Jack for the use of his name. Alec Claton's experience as revealed in the essay below, happened between three and six years later. Stan 19:06, 19 August 2011 (EDT)
Civic Consciousness: Increasing Self-Sufficiency in the Complex Adaptive City
Ben Wootton offers a description of a complex adaptive city here: http://www.generation5.org/content/2004/complexCities.asp
Stan Pokras Background
I'm not a math person, I'm more of a science fiction fan. Because of that, I've been following the movement of Social Network theory for over 30 years since I discovered Vol 1 No 1 of the journal "Social Networks" with the founding article by Ithiel de Sola Pool, "Contacts and Influence."
I immediately made the connection to Isaac Asimov's "Future History" which forms the basis of his Foundation Trilogy.
Since I'm not a scientist myself, I have been too shy to build acquaintances among the members of the SOCNet List. I have written to people there from time to time, but I can't say that I heard back from anyone who I believe I can communicate with on my level.
I consider myself to be a social engineer. I want to build systems and services that help people connect. I started down this path in 1970 by opening an information store front based on John Scully's "Everything for Everybody" in Manhattan. I sought out Scully after hearing the words "Whole Earth Catalog." I wanted to build a whole earth catalog of people. His business looked like an ideal way to start. For two years, my associates and I collected over 1500 "listings" (4 by 6 cards) of the things people wanted and had to offer. We listened to thousands more people as they called for help or stopped in to see us in our store. I have news articles about this experience that will be soon prepared for inclusion in the IBX proposal package, so you will be able to see this material shortly.
My current effort to build a network of "Information Advocates" is built on my experience helping thousands of people connect (or at least attempt to connect) with each other.
For more of my history: I was one of the founding members of the Electronic Networking Association (ENA). As it's Vice President I ran a conference here in Philadelphia in 1988 which brought people from around the globe. Joi Ito, now Director of MIT's Media Lab, was a young hacker at the time and a founding member of the ENA. I don't think he was even in college when I met him.
I got involved with international networking because I was publishing a newsletter called "Other Networks." That got me an account on Delphi where I met people from EIES, at the NJIT. We used Harry Steven's software, Participate (Parti). It was most well known on "The Source" but we used it on a system called Unison out of Denver. I also looked in on conversations on the Well, but I didn't become a regular there.
I recently re-read the book "Complexity, The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos" by M. Mitchell Waldrop. It's the history of the Santa Fe Institute. This book encouraged me to vision my work building an Information Advocates Network as evolutionary. The book inspired me. It made me wish to write a paper (which I'm not qualified to write at this time) that I would like to title: Civic Consciousness: Increasing Self-Sufficiency in the Complex Adaptive City.
- Augmented social complexity
- Consciously increasing the complexity of social consciousness.
- Increasing self-sufficiency in the complex adaptive city
- How many friends does one person need? See the book of this title by Robin Dunbar
- A Team-Based, Flat Lattice Organization - Gore Associates
What is Social Network Analysis?
Social network analysis is focused on uncovering the patterning of people's interaction. It is about the kind of patterning that Roger Brown described when he wrote:
"Social structure becomes actually visible in an anthill; the movements and contacts one sees are not random but patterned. We should also be able to see structure in the life of an American community if we had a sufficiently remote vantage point, a point from which persons would appear to be small moving dots. . . . We should see that these dots do not randomly approach one another, that some are usually together, some meet often, some never. . . . If one could get far enough away from it human life would become pure pattern."
Network analysis is based on the intuitive notion that these patterns are important features of the lives of the individuals who display them. Network analysts believe that how an individual lives depends in large part on how that individual is tied into the larger web of social connections. Many believe, moreover, that the success or failure of societies and organizations often depends on the patterning of their internal structure.
That kind of intuition is probably as old as humankind. It is implied, for example, by the relative stress put on descent lists in the Bible. And, beginning in the 1930s, a systematic approach to theory and research, based on that notion, began to emerge. In 1934 Jacob Moreno introduced the ideas and tools of sociometry. And at the end of World War II, Alex Bavelas founded the Group Networks Laboratory at M.I.T.
From the outset, the network approach to the study of behavior has involved two commitments: (1) it is guided by formal theory organized in mathematical terms, and (2) it is grounded in the systematic analysis of empirical data. It was not until the 1970s, therefore--when modern discrete combinatorics (particularly graph theory) experienced rapid development and relatively powerful computers became readily available--that the study of social networks really began to take off as an interdisciplinary specialty. Since then its growth has been rapid. It has found important applications in organizational behavior, inter-organizational relations, the spread of contagious diseases, mental health, social support, the diffusion of information and animal social organization. Today it has become an international effort with its own professional organizations, text books, journals, research centers, training centers and computer programs designed specifically to facilitate the analysis of structural data.
The information on this page was contributed by Lin Freeman.
Strength of Weak Ties
Strong ties connect families, friends, and close knit communities where most of the people relate to most of the other people. Weak ties are relationship between people from different communities or between people who rarely interact directly with each other. This paper brings to the study of social networks the idea that weak ties often allow information to travel farther than strong ties.
Community People in the Information Age
Information Advocates will be offered opportunities for continuing education about technology and resource services via a training program and on-going seminars. See the section on the Training Program below.
This section should also mention this: http://www.infed.org/community/b-compar.htm
Model Building and Working With Early Adopters
The design of a network supporting database will need to go through several phases. The first may be a model-building phase in which the simplest software is used to establish a functional model of the screens and procedures that may prove to be useful in the early stages of a more sophisticated model. It may be that the model design is constantly under development and from time to time major jumps in technology will require a total overhaul of the programs behind the model.
An important aspect of building the models will be the use of early adopters. These will be service groups, church groups or other community groups that recognize the potential Information Advocacy offers to their community members. These early users will help define what training, if any may be needed by Information Advocates. They may also play a major role in guiding the design of the communication tools and the database structure that supports their work.
In starting up the network it will be useful to concentrate our efforts on a small number of organizations. These might include:
- One or two churches (Greater Exodus?)
- One or two neighborhood organizations
- One or two service groups
- One or two health-related advocacy groups (Maternity Care Coalition? Philadelphia Fight?)
- One or two employment-related advocacy groups (Philadelphia Unemployment Project?)
What rules shall be used by a network of Information Advocates? How shall decisions be made? One set of useful ideas is emerging from the practices of the Occupy movement. But some very good thinking about the advantage of cooperation over competition in promoting success in living systems was done in the early 1900s by a man named Kropotkin. This article by David Morris in the Huffington Post highlights Kropotkin's work.
Obstacles to Overcome
Not all people are able to reinvent themselves as dedicated listners. Some people who may wish to take on this work may become overwhelmed with the difficulties their clients encounter.
Qualities of An Information Advocate
Community members may wish to nominate Information Advocates to be their representative in a regional (city wide) advocate network. Nominations might take the form of a nominating survey style document that will ask the nominators to rate the nominee's virtues. The virtues that an advocate should possess might include:
Income Generation for Information Advocates
Information Advocates do not have to do this for free. There can be good reasons for effective Advocates to volunteer their time, but there may also be good reasons for Advocates to charge fees, or memberships to their particular process. Here are potential levels that might work out for different communities and different Advocates:
- Service to a community as a pure volunteer
- Serving the community as a paid staff member of the community, church, or organization
- Service to a subscription community for a small fee
- Service to a community as a sustainable living by charging fees and subscriptions
- Serving a community by way of retainer contracts as well as fees and or subscriptions.
The process of starting Advocacy work at several sites may require the design of a startup manual and curriculum for a training program. Issues to be covered should include the art of listening to people and helping them to prioritize what they have to say. The training will also need to cover the art of writing clear and unambiguous listings, how to use the online database, how to publicize the service, and more.
People doing this work will need to learn the art of interviewing people to reveal their resources, skills and other assets while also revealing the needs they have for communication over the network. These resources and needs will be transmitted as anonymous listings in order to protect people's privacy and encourage participation. It's important to recognize that people have difficulty asking for help. By introducing Information Advocates, who will maintain the private nature of listings, we should find that people will be able to share the things that mean the most to them without feeling violated in some way.
Trainer/Curriculum Designer Position
The Information Advocacy project seeks the services of one or more curriculum designers and instructors who with experience in designing instructional materials for a wide range of learners.
- Using Social Networks for Community Building
- Using Social Networks and Internet Job Search Sites for Career Building
- Using Internet Resources for Life Long Learning
- How to Coach People to Use the Internet to advance their certified education
- Writing Listings: Using the Information Advocates model listing system
- Internet indexing and searching tools: Google, Yahoo, Wikidelphia Catalog System, etc.
- Internet merchants: Amazon, eBay, etc.
- Internet services for people: Craigs List, Angies List, etc
- Information sources: 211, 311, Open Data Philly
- Models of "Busy Clubs" - how adults help kids or other adults to be of service in their communities
- Tips and advice for fixing up and changing neighborhoods http://powertochange.com/world/10ways/
Using Google for Social Networking Advice
- How to use social networking to get a job
- How to use social networking in the classroom
- How to use social media for business
- How to use Socal Fixer for Facebook http://socialfixer.com/
Social Networking Resources
Social Networks for Academics Proliferate - Chronical Of Higher Education
Pattern Research offers research, consulting and training for innovators in the private, public and nonprofit sectors. We have provided "Tools for Explorers" since 1975.
Alternative Currencies (barter and time exchanges)
Timebanks are systems that allow people to obtain & offer services without using cash. Learn more about them at the links below. These services offer the ability to keep track of the value of the services that are exchanged.
Author of "The Future of Money," see Bernard Lietaer's Web site.
Greeks Resort to Bartering (Article in the Guardian, 1/2/2013)
Philadelphia area timebanks are listed here: Is-Timebank
Resource Exchanges provide ways for people to exchange goods or services, but without providing a method for keeping track of the value of the exchange. Example: Craigslist.org
Information Advocacy Vs. News
We have lots of ways to circulate news. But only a few ways to air the needs and offers of individual people. And, there are far too few people paying attention directly to other people.
The way the world is set up now, all too many people have no one to turn to for help making their needs and offers known to the "right" other people. This is where the Information Advocate (and a network of Advocates) comes in. The Information Advocate is a person who listens, thinks, remembers, writes listings, makes connections, makes referrals, and takes action to find resources. The Advocate may help to prioritize what to ask for or offer. The Advocate may help with wording the listings. The Advocate may help maintain the privacy of the client by acting as recipient of responses or by setting the system's features to provide that privacy.
Information Advocacy focuses on the needs and offers of individuals. That's why the term "advocate" is in there. This role is not just as a news person. Apparently, the idea is difficult for people to parse (advocacy vs. news). We're proposing an improved system for personal one-on-one supports, not an improved system for dissemination of news. The world's current systems and the new technology tools provide fairly powerful avenues for the dissemination of "news." That's not to say that Information Advocates won't play some role in news. But news is not the focus of the Information Advocacy Network. Individuals, and a way to help them, are the focus of this effort.
Here is an example. Let's say that Mrs. G needs certain kinds of home based assistance. She certainly would not want to broadcast a message that says, "Mrs. G needs help getting from the bed to the potty." That's a task for IA. It's not general news. Her Information Advocate needs to know who she is. And the listing that solicits help for Mrs. G needs to be sufficiently clear so that a carpenter won't be inclined to respond. From another perspective, Mrs. G's Advocate should be able to help her by searching listings for people who wish to provide the kind of service she needs - a listing on her behalf may not be needed. On the other side of this, someone seeking to serve someone like Mrs. G should be able to search and find her need as well as post offers to provide services... Hum... perhaps the idea of searching should be emphasized here. News is broadcast. Information Advocates and the Information Advocacy Network should help make it possible for the Advocates to search and find matches...
- The Challenge of the Resource Exchange Network - Seymour B. Sarason & Elizabeth Lorentz (Jossey-Bass, 1979)
- The Tipping Point - How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference - Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown and Company, 2000)
- The Future of Money - Creating New Wealth, Work and a Wiser World - Bernard Lietaer (Random House, 1988)
- Complexity - The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos - M. Mitchell Waldrop (Simon & Schuster, 1992)
- Bowling Alone - Robert D. Putnam (Simon & Schuster, 2000)
- Mutual Aid, a factor of evolution by kniaz Petr Alekseevich Kropotkin http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/4341 (see Mutual Aid Excerpt)
- Article: Vision of a Neighborhood Office
The Information Advocates Network
The Information Advocate NetworkSM is now in the planning and formation stage. Once functioning, the network will be a new city-wide system serving the Information Advocates who are passionate about helping other people. The network of Advocates will empower each Advocate in his or her provision of services for the community.
Information Advocacy isn’t for news, or gossip… it is a new way for helpful, trustworthy people to bring together the needs, resources, and interests in their community so that people can help each other.
We held a City-Wide conference on Information AdvocacyTM on May 25th, 2012 in the Skyline Room of the Central Branch of the Free Library. This process calls for people who have the confidence of their community, and sufficient time to listen to people and help them make one-on-one connections with other people in the community for mutual benefit.
You can see photos and watch videos taken at our Conference here:
See http://ntrweb.org/ia-meeting-6-30-2012/ for meeting details.
We currently run an email list with over 120 participants who have shown some interest in Information Advocacy.
See the archive or join the HIGH traffic email discussion list click here: InfoAdvocates Email List
To see the archive or join the LOW traffic email news-only list click here: Info Advocates News list
Or you can write to Stan <email@example.com>