Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Day One at Blue Mountain Center

We started the morning with a delicious breakfast (fantastic bacon and the oatmeal was ‘da bomb’) and then Kim started us off with a description of the Building Movement Project’s work on the Commons. The theme was time, and how time to think must be reclaimed. It’s equal for all of us, but our leisure time has been under attack since the 1920s. The United States is second only to Korea in number of hours worked, so how then can we find the time to envision creative solutions to our current problems.

After the morning discussion with Kim, the team from OnTheCommons (OTC) discussed the work they’ve been doing over the last few years. They talked about how the work has shifted from understanding and defining the Commons, towards lifting up and creating transformational systems change. They also shared some great historical examples of commons-based thinking gaining prominence in the U.S – from the agrarian progressive movement of the early 1900s to the co-ops and communes of the 1960s.

We ended the day with a presentation on the budget and tax crisis in California, and how it’s really an issue of the Commons. A group of activists and legislators has formed a network in the state to engage nonprofits in a conversation about the broken tax structure in the state. The presenters tested out some exercises that they plan to introduce as part of a curriculum on talking about taxes.

Highlights from the participants include:

Lottie Spady (EMEAC): It struck me when Kim shared a quote from Dorothy Day’s mentor, “There is a need to create a society in which it is not that hard to be good,” so that we don’t need to be altruistic, beg, borrow, or steal.

Caroline McAndrews (Building Movement Project): People mentioned several times that we are in a pivotal moment in history and what we do now will determine the trajectory over the next decade. Kim mentioned a similar moment in the late 20’s when developed nations had the capacity to meet the world’s needs and could have chosen to share those skills with the world, but instead chose to create a culture of waste. That was a really powerful image for me.

Ellen Wu (CPEHN): I really liked the phrase “imagine and co-create.” It opened up the possibilities for the afternoon.

Sean Thomas-Breitfeld (Center for Community Change, BMP Project Team member): The charts and visualizations that OnTheCommons used to illustrate the gap between how bad things are getting highlighted the fact that time is running out to make change, but that the possibilities for transforming dominant ideologies are wide open.

We leave you with a quote Kim mentioned in her talk this morning:
“Our vocation is to be fully human. But what if we discover that our present way of life is irreconcilable with our vocation?” Paolo Freire

More tomorrow!

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