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By guest contributor Patricia Seybold, Founder & CEO of Patricia Seybold Group, author of Customers.com, The Customer Revolution, and Outside Innovation.
Twenty-five years ago, an innovative experiment was launched in western Uganda: to co-evolve a set of transformational techniques with impoverished people living in rural, under-developed areas—tools that empower people to create a vision of what they want in their lives and to work together to achieve that vision. Now, twenty-five years later, tens of thousands of people are teaching one another how to “Awaken the Sleeping Genius in Each of Us” as they improve the quality of their lives and the prosperity of their homes and their communities.
One part of URDT’s “secret sauce” is to teach school girls to become change agents in their families and in their communities. This “low tech” example uses the brilliant minds of enterprising young girls to ignite the brilliant minds of their family members. These families prosper, and, in turn, teach others in their communities how to replicate their success, they then all move on to community-scale projects—building schools, water sources, roads, and farming co-ops.
To spread the power of this creative visionary approach to community development, many of these girls graduate from the URDT Girls School and become students at the African Rural University. There, they join other young women from across Africa to be trained as Rural Transformation Agents.
Video: Grace Biira—Why I am studying at the African Rural University
When they graduate, they are offered jobs in rural sub-counties—each young woman is now chartered to ignite the creativity and aspirations of people in scores of rural villages. Among their duties: identify and support additional school girls and their families to become role models creating systemic change in each village. Help villagers create and achieve visions for their communities.
How URDT Embodies the Principles of Improving Collective IQ
A. We teach children and adults how to create a vision of the goals they want to achieve, and how to use the structural tension between their current reality and their vision to generate actions that enable them to realize their goals. Students and their families apply these techniques in the students’ “back home projects” each school term. Students teach their parents new techniques to use each semester, and are graded on how well their families learn and do using this “Two-Generation” approach to education (kids teaching their parents and siblings).
B. We use systems thinking, participatory action planning, and collective reflection to continuously improve how quickly and how well people on campus and in the communities are able to achieve their goals. This is a daily practice, involving the entire student body, faculty and staff for an hour at the start of each day.
C. We are constantly identifying new opportunities for collective co-evolution. For example, school girls’ parents decided to form a savings co-operative to grant micro-loans for farming projects. Then farmers decided to improve the profits from organic farming by planting higher value crops. Then they decided to build agricultural processing plants to create higher-value food, like milled flour and animal feed. These locally-generated initiatives are replicated across the network of participating families and communities.
1. How do we Engage Our Innovators?
We start with the school children. We teach first school girls, now both girls and boys, how to use the creative process and the visionary approach. We also arm them with practical know-how in sanitation, nutrition, organic farming and business entrepreneurship.
The children teach their parents and their siblings—both first hand, and by writing and performing plays in the communities, and by broadcasting on the community radio.
These families who now have a creative, visionary orientation towards life inspire and teach others in their communities. Many start small businesses and hire and train others.
The school children and families are supported by the teachers and staff at URDT. The leaders in each village, district, and county become enrolled in the creative, visionary process through participatory action workshops. The community radio is used to supplement and reinforce the hands on training the interns provide and to mobilize community members.
The African Rural University student interns and graduates identify, train and support innovators in the rural communities they’re deployed in. They work with community members to identify needs, and to plan and execute community-driven projects to address those needs. They also train and support the leaders at each level of government.
These interns and graduates support one another and they are supported by the staff of URDT. The community members support one another and join together in a variety of community projects.
2. How Do We Leverage Our Collective IQ?
The University graduates who work in the field as “Epicenter Managers” and the secondary school children who work with their families on school breaks all report back what they are learning and what challenges they’re seeing.
Students, interns, faculty, and graduates write and share reports, create video documentaries, establish a baseline for each family and document the improvements in household income, health, nutrition, and education.
The educational institutions on the URDT campus use the learnings from all the field work that is taking place to study what works and what needs improvement. For example, the University students engaged in participatory research with groups of women in several villages about land rights. Who owned the land they were farming? What kind of ownership was it (there are 4 different kinds of land ownership)? Who inherits the land? What can you do to gain title to the land you are farming? How can you ensure that you will retain title to the land when your spouse dies? These village women—many of them illiterate—learned about their own properties and took the steps required to gain title to the land they were farming. This land rights participatory education program was so successful that it is now being developed into curriculum for secondary schools throughout Uganda.
3. How Do We Focus on Core Capabilities?
The goals of the people we serve are to improve their health, income, and quality of life.
We provide them the tools to envision and to achieve these goals by teaching them how to master the creative process to achieve what they want in their lives.
We also teach them the skills they need to improve sanitation, nutrition, farming productivity, carpentry, mechanics, solar technology, and many other trades and crafts, and we teach them how to start and run a profitable business.
The new vocabulary they use is related to having a creative orientation. They talk about creating and achieving a vision. They talk about engaging their family members in planning. They refer to obstacles as their “current reality.” They identify local resources they can mobilize to achieve their goals.
Their world view is very holistic. They have all become “systems thinkers.” They see the interconnectedness between sanitation and good nutrition and health. They discuss the need to improve the quality of their roads in order to increase commerce and gain access to better education and healthcare.
4. Push the Frontier: How are we accelerating our human/tools co-evolution & understanding how quickly we can evolve?
By replicating the same practices from the school child to the family unit, to the community, to the sub-county, we are creating a recursive ripple effect. That’s why we call our employed university graduates—our Rural Transformation Specialists—Epicenter Managers. Each one is at the epicenter of a new set of waves of co-evolution and co-development.
Many of the people in the communities that are engaging with URDT and ARU and its students and graduates are wholeheartedly adopting the principles of the creative orientation towards their own lives. They have moved from resignation and apathy to being engaged creators of their own destinies. They are working across tribal and gender boundaries on common, shared projects. In addition to the pilot projects that are undertaken each year in 240 families (the families of the Girls’ School students) over a five to six year period, we also have two or three projects going in each village in which there is an intern or an ARU graduate. In addition to these projects, which have been stimulated by URDT/ARU students and graduates, many local people and village leaders are undertaking their own projects to improve some aspect of the community infrastructure (roads, schools, clinics) or of the local economy (savings societies, marketplaces, value-added production).
We can and do support and amplify the co-evolution through outreach, through radio programming, by interviewing and documenting success stories, by holding community meetings, and by bringing experts from all over the world to study what is happening in this corner of Uganda.
5. How Do We Walk Our Talk?
We excel in practicing what we preach. We are constantly coming up with new ideas for new ways to improve sustainable livelihoods in rural communities. For example, we provide training for urban youth on how to thrive in the rural communities they migrated from—how to engage in profitable agriculture and to build local sustainable businesses so they can remain in the countryside, rather than working in an overcrowded, congested urban setting.
We are embarking on a “green campus” program to take our current organic farm and sustainable energy practices to the next level as we continue to evolve and improve our campus.
Re: “What ever happened to Augmenting Human Intellect” November 30, 2013Posted by Christina Engelbart in Collective IQ, Technology.
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Here is a must-see webinar from O’Reilly Webcast:
Whatever Happened to “Augmenting Human Intellect”?
Presented by Scott Murray November 20 2013
Exploring the fundamental role of data visualization in a palatable form to human perception
Personal Digital Archiving Conference 2011 March 1, 2011Posted by Christina Engelbart in Archives, Collective IQ, Historic, Human Interest.
Last week the Internet Archive hosted the second annual conference on Personal Digital Archiving February 24-25, 2011:
From family photographs and personal papers to health and financial information, vital personal records are becoming digital. Creation and capture of new digital information has become a part of the daily routine for hundreds of millions of people. But what are the long-term prospects for this data? The combination of new capture devices (more than 1 billion camera phones will be sold in 2010) with the move from older forms of media is reshaping both our personal and collective memories. The size and complexity of personal collections growing, these collections are spread across different media (including film and paper!), and the lines between personal and professional, published and unpublished are being redrawn.
For individuals, institutions, investors, entrepreneurs, and funding agencies thinking about how best to address these issues, Personal Digital Archiving 2011 will include a variety of examples that may be replicated, and will clarify the technical, social, economic questions around personal archiving.
In my presentation, “Learnings from a Life’s Work: The Doug Engelbart Archives,” I touched on my father’s life’s work, experiences archiving that work, and how it informs the future of tools and practices for capturing, integrating, developing, evolving and re-using our individual and collective repositories, in both our work lives and our family lives.
For more on Doug Engelbart’s work and archives, as well as current initiatives of the Doug Engelbart Institute, see:
For more information on Personal Digital Archiving 2011 see:
For Gardner’s New Media Seminar September 23, 2010Posted by Christina Engelbart in Collective IQ, Historic.
Tags: #nmfs_10, seminars
Thanks again to Gardner Campbell and gang for including me in his groundbreaking seminar “Awakening the Digital Imagination: A Networked Faculty Seminar” for today’s discussion based on Doug Engelbart’s 1962 seminal report Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework as a jumping off point.
The assignment for today was to read the report (abridged) in the New Media Reader textbook, which includes a fabulous 2-page intro to the article, and Janet Murray’s delightful preface Inventing the Medium.
Gardner blogged an account of our session in The Arts of Augmentation.
As promised, here is my follow-up of links I referenced, and links I would have liked to have referenced.
Re: my experience of my father’s 1968 Mother of All Demos
FYI I covered this in more detail, with more on what it was like having him for a dad, in my talk at the 40th anniversary celebration of the 1968 demo, with a sprinkling of family photos
Re: my blog on the “wibble wobble” method or
How Doug Engelbart taught kids to ride a bike (without training wheels)
Re: the Doug Engelbart Archive Collections
See the MouseSite Archive for his 1960 proposal to fund his Conceptual Framework and his 1962 letter to Vannevar Bush. See also our Archives portal page for links to archival videos, photos, papers, etc.
Re: Engelbart’s relationship with Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think”
See the MIT/Brown Tribute to Vannevar Bush (1995)
Tips for blogging about Doug Engelbart and his work
You can instantly copy/paste a link directly to most any snippet of information in any file at dougengelbart.org website by simply right-clicking on the nearest “purple number” in the right margin to Copy Link Location. Most pages also include a table of contents in the left margin to make it easier to find stuff. So for example, the two Engelbart readings for this class:
- Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework. 1962 (AUGMENT,3906,)
- A Research Center for Augmenting Human Intellect. 1968 (AUGMENT,3954,)
While perusing the former’s Conclusions section, I copied out the following quote, then right-clicked on it’s purple number (which are an extension of the “serial numbers” he described in this week’s reading), and copied the link to it for reference, pasted it below, and then added the italics, quote marks and “Doug Engelbart 1962″:
“First any possibility for improving the effective utilization of
the intellectual power of society’s problem solvers
warrants the most serious consideration.
This is because man’s problem-solving capability represents
possibly the most important resource possessed by a society.”
– Doug Engelbart 1962 http://dougengelbart.org/pubs/augment-3906.html#6b
Just think how wonderful it would be if, anywhere on the internet (blogs, wiki, email, word processor), you could reference any snippet you see by simply right-clicking on the item selected and choosing “Create Reference” off the menu, and it supplies a copy of the snippet, in quotes, listing source author and date, with the link pointing directly to that item? This is just one of the many unfulfilled potentials of new, maleable, permeable, unbounded media he was envisioning.
For examples of student projects about Doug Engelbart’s work
See our Student Showcase, inspired by none other than Gardner Campbell
Once again, I was honored to participate in this class discussion, and in this marvelous experiment of a walk-your-talk network of distributed faculty seminars. My appreciation extends to the NMC for all their efforts in making this “expedition” possible.
The Doug Engelbart Institute
Celebrating 65 Years of “As We May Think” August 1, 2010Posted by Christina Engelbart in Archives, Collective IQ, Historic.
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This past month, July 2010, marked the 65th anniversary of the seminal article “As We May Think” by Vannevar Bush — first published in the Atlantic Monthly, in July 1945. Through this article, Bush directly and indirectly influenced the great pioneers of the information age that followed — pioneers such as Doug Engelbart, Ted Nelson, and Tim Berners-Lee.
A special symposium was held in 1995 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bush’s article — the MIT/Brown Vannevar Bush Symposium organized by Andy van Dam. Over the course of two days, a dozen distinguished speakers reflected on Bush’s life, vision, inspiration and impact, examined what had been accomplished since, and revealed what remained to be done.
Watch the Video! Lucky for us, the Symposium was videotaped, and the complete footage of that event is now available to view online at the Internet Archive as part of the Doug Engelbart Archive – visit the Vannevar Bush Symposium Video page at the Doug Engelbart Institute website for details.
See also Simon Harper’s insightful blogpost ‘As We May Think’ at 65 « Thinking Out Loud….
More on getting beyond paper and linear media May 17, 2010Posted by Christina Engelbart in Collective IQ.
Inspired by a recent blog by Mark Miller Getting beyond paper and linear media, May 6, 2010, here is some additional context from Doug Engelbart’s thinking.
In fact, you can find deep thinking on this theme as early as 1962 in his seminal report Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework (see esp. section II.C.4).
Doug Engelbart was convinced from the beginning that the incredible power of the human mind has been seriously under served and limited by the ways we’ve evolved to express ourselves — by our very language, and even more so by the technologies we developed throughout history for recording and making available what’s in our mind – stone tablets, scrolls, printed paper, etc. The opportunity he saw for computers was to bring us much more advanced ways to conceptualize, express, capture, store, access, and broadly share and exchange, and otherwise leverage our thinking capacity. If you want to dramatically improve how we work together to solve important problems — i.e. to boost our collective IQ, which was Doug’s goal from the start — this idea would be a great starting point in considering how computers could be harnessed to really help with that.
So for example, if I were to make the suggestion “think of your car”, you would have an instant view in your mind of your car, “now picture the interior, front seat, dash board, what’s inside your glove compartment” your mind just bombs around the information you have stored away at any level of detail, in any combination, from any vantage point, depending on what you’re thinking about at a given moment. Our minds can also make instantaneous connections between different pieces of information, sparking brand new ideas.
Pages that you scroll through don’t offer this agility. Search engines offer a bit more help, although (1) search hits typically point you to the top of a page or file, rather than directly to the piece of information you are searching on, so after you click on the link you then need to Find or Scroll your way down through the (in this moment) extraneous stuff to finally arrive at what the search engine found potentially relevant, and (2) there are typically multiple hits, and sorting through them is laborious. If the author thought ahead to put anchor points at the places which in future someone might want to link to, that could help.
Connecting information in our information spaces provides further challenges. First, there are barriers between information spaces. Second, once I find the info I’m looking for, I can’t save or share a link directly to it for the same reason the search engines can’t, so I’m generally limited to creating a link to the top of a file with pointers on how to get to the specific info. Note that I thoughtfully inserted the anchor name #Pages on the preceding paragraph, so you can send someone this link http://collectiveiq.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/more-on-getting-beyond-paper-and-linear-media/#Pages directly to that paragraph. However, it would be hard for you to know that, it’s hard to find that out on your own unless you can View Source and painstakingly read through the HTML code.
One thing that could really help would be for our tools to provide more granular addressability for us. Spreadsheet applications do this — every cell in every spreadsheet is uniquely addressable. Documents should offer the same granularity. You’ll find a crude example in Doug’s 1962 paper cited above with its “purple numbers” in the right margins; clicking on a purple number will “jump” you to that paragraph, right-clicking on it allows you to Copy Link Location directly to that paragraph to paste elsewhere (see Doug Engelbart Institute’s About Our Website).
Over the years Doug identified a set of key functional and architectural elements like granular addressability that are crucial for advancing how computers can really begin to augment rather than automate or otherwise bypass the untapped potential of our individual and collective intellect. See About an Open Hyperdocument System (OHS) for highlights and links to more detail.
Note that beyond our language and tools, the way we interface to our work can be greatly limiting our untapped potential. This interface goes beyond the usual concerns of human-computer interface (HCI — the interface to our tools), to encompass the interface to our entire work environment — i.e. to tools we use as well as the facilities, work practices, processes, methodologies, customs, attitudes, etc. invoked when we engage with each other and our information. See Doug’s paper Improving Our Ability to Improve, 2003 (esp. page 11 beginning “Another critical focus area”).
Needless to say, directions in mainstream computing since Doug’s 1968 “Mother of All Demos” were largely disappointing to Doug and his like-minded colleagues — the advent of personal computers with no provision for networking or shared knowledge spaces, office automation (why would you automate how you used to work?), desktop publishing and WYSIWYG (easy to learn is great, as long as it doesn’t also mean funneling advanced users into lowest common denominator “what you see is ALL you get” paper-based paradigms).
So what’s missing in today’s information technology? A fundamental paradigm shift. I am reminded of the Einstein quote “The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”
For more on Doug’s vision as well as what he and his research team implemented, see the Doug Engelbart Institute website http://dougengelbart.org.
A Tribute on this Anniversary December 9, 2009Posted by Christina Engelbart in Collective IQ, Historic.
Tags: Collective IQ, mother of all demos, tributes
Today marks the 41st anniversary of what is now known as the Mother of All Demos. On December 9th, 1968 at 3:45pm PT, my father Doug Engelbart and his research team at Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) used the 90 minutes allotted for his speech at the Fall Joint Computer Conference to demonstrate their work live. This demo is now famous for dazzling the crowd with a whole new paradigm for computing, sparking the personal and interactive computing revolutions, the information age, etc. See selected footage of the demo on the SRI Mother of All Demos page.
In spite of the ensuing explosion of technology, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg of the vision my father was unveiling for accelerating efforts to augment human potential to solve the challenging problems we increasingly face in our lives, our communities, our organizations, our societies, our governments, and our planet. It’s this vision at the crux of all his dazzling innovative breakthroughs that is the most powerful and seminal of all his innovations.
This blog is dedicated to you, dad, and your half century of brilliant work, and to the furtherance of your vision in ways that will match or even exceed your wildest dreams, to elevate the global Collective IQ to the highest levels achievable.
For story and background, video footage, panel discussions of original participants, and more, see also on our website:
Greetings! December 8, 2009Posted by Christina Engelbart in Collective IQ.
Tags: Collective IQ
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Welcome aboard! See panel at right for a brief description of Collective IQ, and the Vision section on our website at the Doug Engelbart Institute beginning with About Collective IQ and Doug’s Vision Highlights for more in-depth background.