Build & Support Thriving Institutions
One of the keys to fighting emerging tyranny is to build and support thriving institutions, so this Focus Area was identified early on in the Trump administration as a critical area for attention.
Now that we're in a worldwide catastrophe, it seems super obvious how critical functioning institutions are... because SO MANY institutions in the US are not functioning - or are not functiong well.
So what is an institution? It's anything from public health systems (which have been eroded and under-funded for years at every level) to a robust, fair media. It's the election system. It's our healthcare system. Institutions are schools, community colleges, trade schools, and colleges. They are foundations and non-profits. They are the systems in place that make civil society what it is - everything from local business associations and food banks to the US military. Institutions are what so many elements of the social contract are about - and include the social contract itself. In the US, the core social contract is the US Constitution. Which brings up another institution - the system of checks and balances established by the Constitution - which have also been eroded.
To counter tyranny when institutions are being eroded and when there is a grab for power, it is CRITICAL to hold onto the institutions that still remain (a persistent opposition - not just a resistance - and a solid opposition agenda are also critical). In the US, most institutions still exist, although some of them have been very, very heavily eroded and/or unusually politicized under the Trump administration. States have eroded institutions as well.
As tyranny, oligarchy, corruption, and the power grabs spread in the US during a time of catastrophe, holding onto the institutions in whatever form they are in will be essential. It's a way we can help hold the line (counterfear tool to hold the line here, an LE example here, and an intel example here). It's a way we can not panic, and find anchor points.
If we want to hold civil society together to help us get through to the other side of this pandemic crisis, keeping the institutions intact and functional will be critical. Countries that have successfully defeated emerging authoritarianism have fared better in recovering from it when the institutions that make up civil society are not totally obliterated during the crisis, fight, struggle, war, coup, elections, or other actions that defeat the strongman type.
The US will be better positioned to transform and evolve our country if we can hold critical elements of it together as we go through the crisis.
It may be too tricky in the throes of crisis to get the institutions to thrive, but we can work on that on the other side. In the middle, holding institutions together will help us be better positioned as the transformation moves along to get them to be more functional. In fact, institutions that don't work well is one of the things that allows a strongman-wannabe type to come into power in the first place - it's the populist perception of a failed social contract. So one challenge of transforming is to get the institutions to better serve everyone they are meant to serve. One of the ways to help with that is to speak very clearly about what it is that we expect and want of the institutions, what the effects are when they don't work, and to talk seriously about how to get them to work the way that we generally agree that they should. Messaging and framing will matter.
Lots of challenges - plenty of work to go around. As an uncle used to advise about navigating the chaos of city freeways, "pick a lane and defend it." More on building and supporting thriving institutions in the blog posts and resources below.
Related blog items
Related resource items
The Shift the Country white paper is the basic foundation for the 501(c)(4) organization, mission, and initial operations.
From the site: "The good news is, all over the country people are fighting hate, standing up to promote tolerance and inclusion. More often than not, when hate flares up, good people rise up against it — often in greater numbers and with stronger voices. This guide sets out 10 principles for fighting hate in your community."
"1776 is a global incubator and seed fund helping startups transform industries that impact millions of lives every day - education, energy & sustainability, health, transportation and cities."
"Beyond the Storms," Strengthening Homeland Security and Disaster Management to Achieve Resilience," by Dane S. Egli. Also see this USA Today article.
"Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," by Jared Diamond. A TED talk is available here, and posted to videos.
"Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Homefront - or, One Woman's Solutions to Finding Abundance for Your Family while Coming to Terms with Peak Oil, Climate Change, and Hard Times," by Sharon Astyk. A Sharon Astyk blog is here. Check out this book review from homestead.org.nnHere is an excerpt from another review at The Blogging Bookworm, "Astyk's book is a reminder of the power of individuals to make a difference in the world during times of crisis. In New Orleans in 2005, it was Hurricane Katrina. Now we face... climate chaos, war, and energy depletion... People are struggling to hold on to their homes, to pay for their groceries, to know what to do next... If you are like me, this book will make you rethink your assumptions about population, about the separation of public and private, about the global impact of creating local economies. As Green Bean said in her recent review, Depletion and Abundance is both troubling and reassuring. It will make you have moments of panic and it will also make you commit to creating a just and meaningful life." The Blogging Bookworm review author says "I finished the book with a feeling not only of hope, but also with a feeling of radical responsibility."
Get a FREE PDF of this book at the link above. More about the report and initiative at this site: Disaster Resilience in America: Launching A National Conversation.
"Everybody Matters: My Life Giving Voice," by Mary Robinson. Also see the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice website.
"Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide," by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The parent website at the link has a number of video and other resources as well. The site linked above says, "Through these stories, Kristof and WuDunn help us see that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential." For this reason, items tagged "half the sky" on http://counterfear.com/ reference women, girls, and related topics. #HalfTheSky
"Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World," by Adam Grant. From the book jacket, "Using surprising studies and stories spanning the worlds of business, politics, sports, and entertainment, Grant debunks the common belief that successful non-conformists are born leaders who boldly embrace risk. Originals explains now anyone can spot opportunities for change, recognize a good idea, overcome anxiety and ambivalence, and make suggestions without being silenced."
"Stress-Free Sustainability: Leverage Your Emotions, Avoid Burnout, and Influence Anyone," by Adam Hammes, an Iowa author based in Des Moines. Interview here.
"The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States."
"The Big Pivot: Radically Practical Strategies for a Hotter, Scarcer, and More Open World," by Andrew S. Winston. See video also at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxYKO7oICiw.
"The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World," by Paul Gilding. This is a Counterfear Anchorpoint. From the author's website: "It’s time to stop just worrying about climate change, says Paul Gilding. We need instead to brace for impact because global crisis is no longer avoidable. This Great Disruption started in 2008, with spiking food and oil prices and dramatic ecological changes, such as the melting ice caps. It is not simply about fossil fuels and carbon footprints. We have come to the end of Economic Growth, Version 1.0, a world economy based on consumption and waste, where we lived beyond the means of our planet’s ecosystems and resources. The Great Disruption offers a stark and unflinching look at the challenge humanity faces-yet also a deeply optimistic message. The coming decades will see loss, suffering, and conflict as our planetary overdraft is paid; however, they will also bring out the best humanity can offer: compassion, innovation, resilience, and adaptability."
"The Power of Resilience: How the Best Companies Manage the Unexpected," by Dr. Yossi Sheffi of MIT. An excerpt from the website summary: "The interconnectedness of the global economy today means that unexpected events in one corner of the globe can ripple through the world’s supply chain and affect customers everywhere. In this book, Yossi Sheffi shows why modern vulnerabilities call for innovative processes and tools for creating and embedding corporate resilience and risk management. Sheffi offers fascinating case studies that illustrate how companies have prepared for, coped with, and come out stronger following disruption."
From author Chris McGoff in Part 1 of the book: "How do some people, organizations, and coalitions thrive in uncertain times? What enables them to appear so certain and take decisive action amid ambiguity about the future?" The PRIMES website says "The PRIMES are universal patterns of group behavior that outfit you to work with any group to solve any problem - especially the big ones." The PRIMES book notes "... Here's the deal. Almost all the tame problems have been solved. We get to solve the wicked problems. Wicked problems affect a lot of peple and it takes a lot of people, all with their own agendas, to collaborate and solve them. ... The people who, amid uncertainty, successfully lead large problem-solving groups share these characteristics. First, they are clear about what they are up to and how they spend their precious time. Second, they are intentional and willing to go first. Finally, they have mastered the art of enrolling others to join them." The PRIMES website also has short videos and info about each of The PRIMES. Another core counterfear resource is Chris McGoff's TEDx Rock Creek talk on "Quad4: Realm of Your Highest Impact and Highest Risk." The author's company The Clearing has done significant work on wicked problems in many counterfear focus areas.
"The Resilient Enterprise: Overcoming Vulnerability for Competitive Advantage," by Yossi Sheffi. Also check out this video.
The Community & Regional Resilience Institute (CARRI) "strengthens our national resilience by assisting communities in understanding their vulnerability, taking positive collective actions to limit the impact of disruptive crisis, and recovering rapidly from disaster of all kinds." CARRi is now part of a non-profit based in Washington, DC, and was originally funded by the US Department of Homeland Security and housed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
"Cybersecurity in Your Neighborhood: Why Public-Private Partnerships Matter." Event transcript available here.
Disaster Resilience in America: Launching a National Conversation. A National Academy of Sciences Initiative.
"The Disaster Resistant Communities Group was established to provide a host of disaster planning and preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation services to local, regional, state and national agencies and departments as well as community and faith based organizations." Excellent resource, including for free training and exercises.
About: "We empower philanthropists to leverage their resources and amplify their impact. Exponent Philanthropy is the country’s largest association of funders - nearly 2,200 members strong - and the only one dedicated to serving foundations with few or no staff, philanthropic families, and individual donors."
"FIT empowers humans to create cutting-edge disaster solutions... FIT uses a three-step design process to help communities understand the core issues and needs that are not being addressed in a given crisis. Communities are then self-empowered to tackle issues related to disaster risk reduction, preparedness, response, recovery, climate change, and sustainable resiliency... FIT practices co-creation and open source solution sharing to increase community resilience and change the world, one neighborhood at a time."
Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC): "The only industry forum for collaboration on critical security threats facing the global financial services sector. When attacks occur, early warning and expert advice can mean the difference between business continuity and widespread business catastrophe. Members of the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) worldwide receive timely notification and authoritative information specifically designed to help protect critical systems and assets from physical and cyber security threats."
"Sector-based Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs) collaborate and coordinate with each other via the National Council of ISACs (NCI). Formed in 2003, the NCI today comprises 24 organizations designated by their sectors as their information sharing and operational arms. The NCI is a true cross-sector partnership, providing a forum for sharing cyber and physical threats and mitigation strategies among ISACs and with government and private sector partners during both steady-state conditions and incidents requiring cross-sector response. ...Council members are present on the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) watch floor, and NCI representatives can embed with National Infrastructure Coordinating Center (NICC) during significant national incidents."
What can be said? The Star Wars movie series may be the primary myth of our time. Episodes IV, V, and VI - the original series - are a foundation for finding the ways of The Force. Excellent Jedi wisdom and training from Yoda in Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back, and Episode VI, Return of the Jedi. Episodes I, II, and III are primarily useful as back story for the more deeply curious. Star Wars for a new generation came in with Episode VII, The Force Awakens. No spoilers here, but The Force Awakens truly is a myth for our time. It brings tools we need for the world we have in front of us. The myth and the metaphor are more powerful than we think. The newest Star Wars movie to be released is as fitting a myth for our time as The Force Awakens. Rogue One is powerful and unexpected. Myths and story bring to our consience the possible and the inspiration.
Theme song from The Lego Movie. Intro lyrics from Google Play: "Everything is awesome / Everything is cool when you're part of a team / Everything is awesome when we're living our dream / Everything is better when we stick together / Side by side, you and I gonna win forever, let's party forever / We're the same, I'm like you, you're like me, we're all working in harmony..."
"Feel so close" - Calvin Harris. "I feel so close to you right now." If you are looking for a video of community and neighbors and fun and people taking care of each other, this is hard to beat. Fantastic. I learned of this video when I friend I was rooming with at an amazing convention woke up with the lyrics in her head from a dream. We Googled it, and this came up. We should have expected nothing less.
Gangsta's Paradise, with closed-captioning. Lyrics included on the YouTube page.
According to his MIT bio, Dr. Yossi Sheffi is "an expert in systems optimization, risk analysis, and supply chain management, which are the subjects he teaches and researches at MIT." He has published two excellent books on resilience: The Power of Resilience: How the Best Companies Manage the Unexpected, and The Resilient Enterprise: Overcoming Vulnerability for Competitive Advantage.
From the website: "Small groups of 8-15 people can form Resilience Circles for learning, mutual aid and social action. Circles are a great way to form community, build resilience, and have fun."
Fantastic go-to spot for resilience resources, news, and organizations.
Mission: "Resource Generation organizes young people with wealth and class privilege in the U.S. to become transformative leaders working towards the equitable distribution of wealth, land and power." This organization looks like an amplifier and a change agent.
Seth's Blog is an excellent resource for wisdom, inspiration, vision, motivation, and follow-through. It is also a great resource for further resources. Very worth receiving in a daily email or RSS feed.
"Synergos is a global nonprofit organization that brings people together to solve complex problems of poverty. We work on issues such as health, nutrition, agriculture, and youth employment - creating opportunities for individuals and communities to thrive. Systemic change requires collaboration. Solutions to poverty are often built in silos - and therefore fail. Governments, civil society, nongovernmental organizations, corporations, marginalized communities, and other participants in systemic change must work together - not in silos - to achieve long-term solutions to poverty around the world. Synergos creates, promotes, and sustains collaborations among business, government, civil society, and marginalized communities around the world. We foster successful collaborations by building trust, designing and implementing change processes, and enhancing the effectiveness of bridging leaders and institutions. Our advantage is an approach that builds trust among partners so they can create solutions together, rather than imposing top-down solutions."
"The Dream Corps was founded by Van Jones in 2014 to help cutting-edge initiatives grow big enough to impact millions of lives. Our slogan is '21st-century jobs, not jails.' We support economic, environmental and criminal justice innovators - all under one roof. Our shared platform helps leaders create synergies, leapfrog obstacles and maximize impact. Every day, we are reshaping 'what’s possible' in the field of social justice. The Dream Corps finds aspiring leaders who have the courage and determination to tackle America’s toughest challenges. Then we connect them to world-class partners, smart digital tools and national media platforms to help them succeed. We back initiatives that close prison doors and open doors of opportunity." Current work is on three programs, described on the "About" page.
Having "Community Conversations" is one of the core of the 15 civic engagement tools that can help Shift the Country. These conversations can be online or in-person or both, & single events or a series. They can help us with solving problems & building resilience where we are - like for the pandemic - and also things like re-imagining public safety and racial justice. 9/3/2020. This video is tied to several Shift the Country tools because it relates to several of them - and it is a key tool for doing civic engagement, if not made more challenging by the pandemic. Still, there are ways to make it work, to solve community problems, to drive community agendas, and to help people help each other through.
So the US President isn't willing to commit to a peaceful transition of power. Now what? We have options for everyday actions. It's more than voting, and it's more than protesting. Check this out to find out more (also we do know how to spell - major typo in the video chyron though). 9/24/20. This video was livestreamed to our Shift the Country FB Page as well.
A quick look at the very practical principles at work in some of the biggest emergencies in the US that you can use for action & in every day life for getting through chaos. (Addendum: the video kind of blows through a key part about making a plan & executing it, and then iterating/evolving the plan and the execution of that plan regularly as the situation, resources, & risk change. Insert all that in the middle & it's a pretty decent quick overview.) This was broadcast originally on our Shift the Country Facebook Page on August 15, 2020.
Episode 001 of FB Live and other broadcasts to come. 8/1/2020. Executive Director Vanessa Burnett and Gary Monti from the Board of Directors kick off the series with a 60-minute overview of the work planned by the new Shift the Country nonprofit. In the spirit of adaptability, the first 3 minutes is dead air as we were working out the broadcast bumps. It's a work in progress. Broadcast covers the mission, 5 principles, 5-part strategy, 15 civic engagement tools, 10 structural change areas, and context and structure behind the work - such as countering tyranny, nationalist oligarchy, and addressing a massive pandemic catastrophe.
Originally titled "Disappeared Government Disaster Docs." Original broadcast August 29, 2020. UPDATE SEPTEMBER 27, 2020: FEMA HAS RE-POSTED THESE DOCUMENTS, OR FIXED THE LINKS. Although the documents have been replaced, this video still helps explain the "big picture" for how these pieces work together for US disaster response. ORIGINAL BROADCAST: The US is in a great disruption. We've got a pandemic, wildfires, hurricanes, a derecho, and governments failing citizens at every level. What were they supposed to be doing? This looks at the national framework for all of that - and at the documents that have gone missing from the FEMA website. Plus, we'll show you where the actual operational pandemic plan is - not the one disappeared by the Trump Administration at the National Security Council level, but the one in place for executive branch and national (state/local/tribal, too) action. UPDATE: a FEMA website check on 9/27/2020 indicated the documents have now been correctly linked, albeit with later versions from those posted this spring. FIOPs are now appropriately posted here: https://www.fema.gov/emergency-managers/national-preparedness/frameworks/federal-interagency-operational-plans, with links to the Incident Annexes including the pandemic one on the same page. NOTE: The currently active operational federal level "pandemic plan" is called the Biological Incident Annex to the Response and Recovery FIOPs. The direct PDF link is here: https://www.fema.gov/sites/default/files/2020-07/fema_incident-annex_biological.pdf. NOTE: This is the official US government "pandemic plan" - it is different than the National Security Council pandemic plan that was reportedly thrown out by the Trump Administration. This video is part of the work to Shift the Country. It's part of understanding the risk landscape, and what government is supposed to be doing - which we can advocate for. For example, like advocating for attention and analysis on the "Biological Incident Annex to the Response and Recovery FIOPs."
Reaction to reporting that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has stopped in-person election interference intelligence briefings to Congress (see MSNBC story on this subject also: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQjMkrolv8o). August 30, 2020. Also discusses certain areas for civic engagement related to this news and what it means for the US.
Is the chaos & disaster in the US getting to you? What's on your mind? What info are you looking for for getting through all of this? The founder here answers questions sent from Facebook. September 3, 2020. Discussion is mostly about how to get through February 2021.
"Quad4: Realm of Your Highest Impact and Highest Risk:" Chris McGoff at TEDxRockCreekPark. This is a Counterfear Anchorpoint, because it is a rare, short look at what we need to do to solve wicked problems. Also check out Chris McGoff's website and book "The PRIMES," another posted Counterfear resource. The website has videos and a summary of each of the PRIMES.
Shift the Country is a new nonprofit founded in this moment of great disruption to help people help each other through several simultaneous crises, to hold civil society and institutions together, to get voters engaged in doing all of that, and to make transformation along the way. This video is about that mission & why we're doing it. Original broadcast on our Shift the Country Facebook Page on August 6, 2020.
TED Talks are a great source for video inspiration, and many have gone viral. Check out TED.com or a smaller, local TEDx near you for more. From the site: "TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics - from science to business to global issues."
Video on "The Big Pivot - Whiteboard Animation," 3:12 min. Based on book by the same name, by Andrew Winston: http://www.andrewwinston.com/books/.
Excellent video summary of the book, posted 3/2011: "Author and leading security expert Stephen Flynn discusses The Edge of Disaster Rebuilding a Resilient Nation with Patricia Gras on a HoustonPBS the Connection Special. Are we vulnerable to disaster, terrorism or acts of God? Is America living on borrowed time? His book is a wake up call demanding that we shake off our denial and sense of helplessness and start preparing immediately for a safer future." See Counterfear Toolbox book resource link for book reviews.
"The Resilient Enterprise: Overcoming Vulnerability for Competitive Advantage," with Yossi Sheffi, recorded 11/2005. Sound is a little wonky partway through but improves through end. See Yossi Sheffi blog at MIT here. From the video post summary: "Yossi Sheffi fires a shot across the bow of business owners who, even after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, still have not assessed their organizations’ vulnerability to catastrophe. Sheffi piles on examples of organizations that simply did not have the appropriate mechanisms in place when disaster struck or evolved undetected." Also see book by the same name.
This TED talk by Seth Godin is one of the classics. From the video summary: In The Tribes We Lead, "Godin argues the Internet has ended mass marketing and revived a human social unit from the distant past: tribes. Founded on shared ideas and values, tribes give ordinary people the power to lead and make big change. He urges us to do so." Check out Seth's Godin's blog here; it's the only blog I read daily (also posted as a resource).
We're in some stuff. This one is on the 5 main parts of the risk landscape in front of us between now and February - through the election and transition of administrations. Plus - how do we survive? August 30, 2020. The 5 main parts of the risk landscape include 1) the out of control coronavirus pandemic (and complex system interruptions and related cascading effects); 2) emerging authoritarianism in the US; 3) the influence of a growing nationalist oligarchy on destabilization in the US; 4) an information war with many fronts; 5) the election and transition of power. This also gets into the 5-part Shift the Country strategy to help us get through these next months.
We're pushing massive civic engagement in the US to help us through all the crisis and chaos in front of us. What the heck is that, anyway? This video gets into that. Here's our list of 15 civic engagement tools. It's a list for now as we're writing the tools - but if something jumps out, you can start doing it now. These are for us to make shift happen where we live. This video is also on the Shift the Country FB page. September 3, 2020.
The mission here at Shift the Country is to help people help each other through several simultaneous crises, to hold civil society and its institutions together, to get voters engaged in doing all of that, and to make transformation along the way. This video is on why civic engagement is such an enormous piece of all of that. This was originally published on August 15, 2020 on the Shift the Country Facebook page.
From the TED blurb: "Why do societies fail? With lessons from the Norse of Iron Age Greenland, deforested Easter Island and present-day Montana, Jared Diamond talks about the signs that collapse is near, and how - if we see it in time - we can prevent it."
The initiative to Shift the Country was built in the summer of 2020 for this highly unique & unprecedented moment in time. It's a whole set of wicked problems, & some were understood to be huge risks prior to this year. Our framework is set up to help people navigate the complex landscape of multiple disasters combined with active erosion of government institutions and active obstruction of response efforts. The first 48 minutes get into how magical thinking works & why it isn't helpful now. The second half gets into complex systems, a great disruption, and catastrophe and big disaster preparation in the US based on experience inside the federal systems that were supposed to be built to help with some of the current crises. This was originally broadcast on our Shift the Country Facebook Page on August 9, 2020.