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May 30, 2005


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Lester Spence

that would be a neat twist. there are still serious problems of trust and accountability. whether we're talking about fraternities and sororities or "civil rights groups" or even trade unions, we're still talking about groups of friends/family/comrades that build outward. Here? We're talking about strangers.

But again it'd be an interesting twist.

I don't see it happening. Not in a million years.


I think the fact that this structures relies on strangers is actually beneficial...because there will be no program or practice beyond what an individual is committed to do personally and organize collectively. So, if you have an idea for Baltimore, but don't know how to get it done - you can meet with a community of strangers to brainstorm (not criticize or assess) about solutions...after your session, you would meet with regional "professionals" in a market environment where your concept, skill, energy, commitment, vision and track record would be up against others to gain the support of these professionals.

In a sense, the brainstorming round-robin would act like an intellectual Susu (a form of profit-sharing popular in the Caribbean where groups contribute cash to a revolving pot...allowing for consolidation of capital and seed money for priority projects). The follow-up session would resemble the first stage of seeking venture capital. Of course, the goal would be to attract expertise as well as capital.

Each brainstorming session would need a recorder. Each "regional assistance point" would need a recorder. At some point, these follow-up projects come down to the commitment of a project leader and a support team - but the base thinking and connections could be done in one day. It is conceivable that as many as 1,000 projects could be started and/or improved on that day. The projects could range from international investment to foreign policy advocacy to education for incarcerated youth to real estate development to environmental reclamation projects. The people will be there...the ideas will be there...the expertise will be there...

Besides, stranger things have happened. The Lakers actually traded the most dominant player in the league to appease a 20-something bambino coming off a rape trial. Who'da thunk it!!

Lester Spence

Here's one way to think about it. What would we have been able to accomplish at Michigan if we used this method? You talked about how there were effective mechanisms of holding people accountable and laying the smack down. What strikes me most about the boycott was the fact that they HAD to have a sophisticated system of punishment and rewards laid down for the boycott to work for over a YEAR.

That system doesn't work at all if you don't know one another. And having "professionals" involved takes agency away as well. So you lose accountability because people don't know you well enough to check you for either not doing what you say you're going to do, or for talking smack. And you lose agency because once you go to the professionals for their aid, you tend to give up control of the idea and you lose the willingness to work for it (THEY are the pros right?).

We have to build OUTWARD...starting locally with networks of trust, rather than building INWARD with networks of...I don't know what the hell. Networks of PR blackness?


I think you are right. I will say that I put "professionals" in quotes as a reference to expertise, rather than credentials. Not every MBA knows how to run a community-based business, just as a political science dude doesn't necessarily know how to win an election. Expertise is where you find, not where it announces itself.

As for the accountability, I was thinking of something different. I'm not thinking of an "enforced accountability." I'm thinking of an evidence-based accountability.

In other words, your commitment to what you say MUST be demonstrated by your control/command of the material world - You could call it the PSI - Promise-Scarcity Index. (How do your promises and actions build abundance and displace scarcity?)...so, elected official X says A,B and C, but has built nothing in the community and still lacks the funds to mount a broader campaign. They don't have a mobilized constituency, but continue to garner just enough votes to stay in office (where 15% of the electorate votes). In this instance, there is little to be said...

Accountability certainly requires counting. Count the dollars, the voters, the community projects, the public health data, the test scores, the safety rate, the new businesses. This is just one example...I don't know how this works on the ground---haven't seen it yet - except in leadership programs and somewhat in team sports.

I would say that if we follow some general operating principles - 80-20 rule; folks retain less than 10% of what they hear; survey response rates above 20% are considered great; and that a .300 batting average is exceptional, we can do two things...1) Set a Measurable Target; 2) accept that the failings of 8 of 10 to improve their circumstances following the MMM is quite likely. In that respect, human nature may impose an accountability of its own...More on UM later.


Wagon train charters:

1. Every project must be for profit.

2. All costs must be clearly defined.

3. Investment is a prerequisite for participation. You put no skin in the game, you don't get to play. (sweat equity does not count - you got no $$$ you go get investors who'll put up for you)

4. Roles and responsibilities are clearly defined.

5. Project planning is detailed and specific.

6. Voting is based on shares of the charter you own, one share=one vote.

7. Fail to execute your role/responsibility, you forfeit your investment, no ifs, ands, or buts.

(incorporating neighborhoods into covenented associations would be a great first project)

Lester Spence

why not count sweat equity?


Because $$$ have a way of galvanizing seriousness like no other...,

Lester Spence

For me if this has to be either-or (and again, it doesn't), it's the exact opposite. Nothing substitutes sweat equity. All types of grandiose ideas fail when the people putting them forth are told one simple thing: "Get to work on it, and show it to us."


It has to be both, period.

You put up your money and your effort. If the latter fails, you forfeit the former.

If you got no $$$, no skin in the game, then you can do the now typical black "get mad, pack up your shit, leave the game, cussing errbody else who was playing."

from Ouspensky's "In Search of the Miraculous," pp. 153-54 Gurdjieff:

"Right external considering is very important in the work. It often happens that people who understand very well the necessity of external considering in life do not understand the necessity of external considering in the work; they decide that just because they are in the work they have the right not to consider. Whereas in reality, in the work, that is for a man's own successful work, ten times more external considering is necessary than in life, because only external considering on his part shows his valuation of the work and his understanding of the work; and success in the work is always proportional to the valuation and understanding of it. Remember that work cannot begin and cannot proceed on a level lower than that of the obyvatel,* that is, on a level lower than ordinary life. This is a very important principle which, for some reason or other, is very easily forgotten. But we will speak about this separately afterwards."

You couldn't really do that back in the day, back when there was segregated community and a viable culture-of-shame. Go back still further to the wagontrail, and you definitely couldn't do it, on the wagontrail getting twisted with your peeps in the collective charter meant certain death, so you had to keep it straight.

You got skin and sweat in the game, you can get mad all you want, mad enough in fact to commence to stepping with that sweat, but you leave the skin in the game exactly where you invested it. Astonishing how the possibility of $$$ loss keeps people awake and making Work efforts.

Absent the spiritual compulsion of shame, it's surprising how when you make everything ownership and equity based, and get people to "put up or else shut up" - how flexible, adaptive, and committed people are able to be.

*The definition of obyvatel, from p. 362 et seq.: Gurdjieff:

Obyvatel is a strange word in the Russian language. It is used in the sense of 'inhabitant,' without any particular shade. At the same time it is used to express contempt or derision--'obyvatel'--as though there could be nothing worse. But those who speak in this way do not understand that the obyvatel is the healthy kernel of life. And from the point of view of the possibility of evolution, a good obyvatel has many more chances than a 'lunatic' or a 'tramp.' Afterwards I will perhaps explain what I mean by these two words. In the meantime we will talk about the obyvatel. I do not at all wish to say that all obyvatels are people of the objective way. Nothing of the kind. Among them are thieves, rascals, and fools; but there are others.

People who are definitely thinking about ways, particularly people of intellectual ways, very often look down on the obyvatel and in general despise the virtues of the obyvatel. But they only show by this their own personal unsuitability for any way whatever. Because no way can begin from a level lower than the obyvatel. This is very often lost sight of on people who are unable to organize their own personal lives, who are too weak to struggle with and conquer life, dream of the ways, or what they consider are ways, because they think it will be easier for them than life and because this, so to speak, justifies their weakness and inadaptability. A man who can be a good obyvatel is much more helpful from the point of view of the way than a 'tramp' who thinks himself much higher than an obyvatel. I call 'tramps' all the so-called 'intelligentsia'--artists, poets, any kind of 'bohemian' in general, who despises the obyvatel and who at the same time would be unable to exist without him. Ability to orientate oneself in life is a very useful quality from the point of view of the work. A good obyvatel should be able to support at least twenty persons by his own labor. What is a man worth who is unable to do this?

People who are not serious for the obyvatel are people who live by fantasies, chiefly by the fantasy that they are able to do something. The obyvatel knows that they only deceive people, promise them God knows what, and that actually they are simply arranging affairs for themselves--or they are lunatics, which is still worse, in other words they believe everything that people say.


I agree with cnu...

I suppose my rationale is simple...If experience is learning from your own mistakes and wisdom is learning from the mistakes of others, then both experience and wisdom suggest cnu is right on.

We have spent too many years in this land to try to build sustainable, inter-generational organizations (ie. financially viable cultural, economic, political, and physical "institutions") without a measure of coercion. If money fulfills that role, fine - but sweat equity is not sufficient. Sweat equity is given freely...anything that is given freely without the prospect of significant loss on the other side allows for unlimited exit strategies to be exercised.

Just as was said above...I'm mad, I'm out. Quite simply, I'm too old for that dumb s#!%@.

Lester Spence

I understand. It looks like I misunderstood. Were you assuming that the sweat equity would be there and that the money must be combined with it? If so I can roll with that. Although in many instances common ties can preclude someone jetting...money is the best thing to ensure that people don't jet.


Yes. I was assuming that the sweat would be there - and that the financial ties that bind would add that magic layer of Lester Hayes Stick Em!!

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