"Stop Trying to Save the World"?


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Our title is taken from the title of "Today's Must Read" article from my favorite site's list of daily links: Stop Trying to Save the World". The article tells us first to honestly measure what we are trying to achieve when we introduce some vaunted improvement program. Then it tells us that just because the formula within the program that succeeds in the test case, don't assume that it will apply to every other situation. It is a cry for constant re-validation, for humility, and for sensitivity to the situation.

It is a plea for the process to continually re-evaluate means and ends and to be honest about what is working in each location and what is not. It is a plea for the non-profit industrial complex to proclaim a program successful and walk away smug that they have "saved the world" or some small corner of it. Follw through over the long haul is the only guarantee of deeper success.

Just coming out of our semi-annual GEO Collective retreat, I am meditating on development and such. This article, with all its political and philosophical challenges, made me more respectful and thankful for the work of the Collective and the people we support in the broader Co-Operative movement.

For me, the article's key point is that "development happens" and the non-profit industrial complex's activities can't account for most of it. The author is thankful for all of the sources, many of which he does not name. Human aspiration is an amazing thing. But he recognizes, indirectly perhaps, that it comes from the people and is not necessarily conveyed by the experts and their wealthy donors. And that is the power of the person-powered co-operative.

When people come together to look for synergies from co-operation and then have to figure out where the (financial, material, or human) capital will come from, the act from their own visions of a better life for themselves and their families, etc. When a collective like ours works together and makes a mark on the world around them, over time, kindred souls are attracted, contribute to the capabilities of the group, and move it along. It is all terribly organic ... and relatively slow.

But when we do it for ourselves we know, deeply, what's working and what is not. When we struggle for a while, even years, we haven't lost the vision, the passion, the sense of aspiration. The donors, the publicists, the "audience" all have opinions about how brilliant or crazy such a group might be. Crazy or sane, there is a righteousness in co-operation that can harness great power for change.

The world needs attention to larger coordination and redistribution of resources to address pressing food-security, healthcare, and educational imbalances. It is a terrible thing that a profit-motive is allowed to deny food, medicine, and knowledge to any, anywhere. Many of thos projects of coordination need the organizational and communications overhead that the big donors and governments can fund. And the larger civilization can continue to attack the voices of repression, ignorance, and slavery to great advantage. But those are generational aspirations. And we are in a period of regression to the mean and petty.

If we are contributing to a legacy, we teach a few about co-operation, strengthening the immediate local economy, and rebuilding local community. Our greatest legacy will likely be all the success stories collected on this Web site as potential inspirations for those who come, looking for the inspiration to join with a neighbor and take up some small but important bit of collaboration.

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