Meanwhile, back in Mei Lin’s kitchen…

Meanwhile, back in Mei Lin’s kitchen…

Twelve years ago, David Nordfors, Co-founder of i4j Innovation for Jobs, wrote about a potluck dinner in a cozy kitchen.  It might, he wrote, “be closer to the solution than banquet halls in world capitals”.  Multilateral meetings in formal venues could leverage the candour and collaboration of meetings in garages and kitchens to solve People’s greatest challenges.

This summer, I witnessed firsthand the power of these intimate gatherings.  IEEE and Stanford University Center for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence were hosting the Planet Positive conference and workshops designed to offer recommendations and practical approaches to various climate change issues.  Dozens came together to participate in conversations on various themes, bringing myriad perspectives to the table.  The conference ended with clear definitions of what the challenges were, and some initial proposals for change, to be delved into at a later session in the Hague.  The evening after the conference, some thirty people gathered in Mei Lin’s living room (pictured below), welcomed by Mei Lin on the piano, to develop the framework for an internet-enabled means of exchange.  But where the internet grew out of a desire to share knowledge, ours was a desire to bring problem-solving resources to pressing problems of the day.  Egos and agendas were left at the door as we considered our knowledge of what had and had not worked in the past, what may or may not work in the future, and how those lessons and emerging trends could shape the development of long-lasting solutions that pave humanity’s way forward.

This approach of collaborative sharing to grow the pie, embracing a diversity of ideas over preferred practices, reflects the soft power leadership traits that were lauded through the COVID crisis.  Observing the deep partnerships and relationships of trust that emerged, I am reminded of the alliances forged in workplaces, and how the strongest of these stemmed from managing adversity in some form.  These support networks have formed on the internet, for example in Tracy Chou’s Block Party, and minority groups in all forms have started to build solutions to serve their communities.

With awareness and education on these matters available, those with need and those with responsibility alike are enabled to act.  Looking at some of the more persistent challenges of this generation, where “solutions” serve to manage symptoms rather than cure ills in order to perpetuate demand for a product, this growing leadership model brings hope.  No longer shall we invest in pallative tools for societal and economic tools, but instead look to systems-level changes that place humanity at the core.

This is the backbone of the projects we dedicate ourselves to at PCI.  The Tribal Resource Centre aims to bring digital connectivity to communities through working closely with community members to best learn what their preferences and needs are, bringing people-centered approaches to lower the barriers to adoption within the community.  The advocacy for digital public goods to reduce barriers to accessing knowledge and financing for transition and economic resilience has set the stage for partnerships for action, and PCI is building the relationships we need to bring the concept to life.

So, come, commune with us.  Share your ideas and initiatives for change.

Tamara Singh

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