Pop!Tech Social Innovation Fellows 2011

David and I were recently announced as PopTech Social Innovation Fellows for the class of 2011. Following in the footsteps of several of our peers from Ushahidi, Praekelt Foundation and others, it is with wonder, pride and excitement that we enter this year’s classroom.

Many fine and smart folks have stepped through these halls before us, and we’re sure that the process will leave us bruised with knowledge and insight, all the more equipped to face the immense challenges Refugees United stand before.

As we “speak,” David is in Camden, Maine, damn well near cut off from the connected grid, ironic as that is, while a dream-team of intellectual surfers take him and the rest of the class through the swells of driving an organization to scale and navigate the treacherous waters that surround any venture moving beyond safe harbors in search of a perfect storm. I believe, as I’m sure most of our partners in crime do, that any organization seeking to grow extreme impact through technology must pass through this rite of passage: the pummeling. We have been warned this is exactly what PopTech is about J

In the class of 2011 there are ventures such as Data Without Borders and Local Orbit, ideas that are all brilliant and burning to shine. To say we’re humbled and honored to be joining not only this team, but also the PopTech family at large, would be an understatement.

This is chapter one of two, as I’m jealously following the battle of Camden, Maine from the sidelines, awaiting to be infected by the contagious inspiration David is bound to return with. He will later update you all on the measures and motions they had to pass through in their quest to excel at what we do.



Modifying a Definition of Modernity

In an influential essay in 1966, the sociologist Alex Inkeles heralded the arrival of a new human type: the modern. She was what emerged as traditional societies moved into the cities, adopted new technologies, built market economies. And, to a great extent, she had more in common with moderns elsewhere in the world than with the tradition-bound in her own country.

Several qualities distinguished the modern. Among them: She was open to change and accepted it as the settled way of things. She had a plethora of opinions, which she sculpted on her own instead of deriving them from her landlord’s or husband’s or parents’. She focused more on the present and future than on the past. She tended to believe in distributive justice, in the dignity and trustworthiness (for the most part) of other humans, and in the power of science and technology to explain and order our lives. She conceived of herself as shaping the world rather than being shaped by it.

But this modern was also coldly alone. That was what made her life more exhilarating and free. But in the end, as the family, clan and village surrendered their former powers over her, the modern was left with only herself.

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