rootedness

To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul. It is one of the hardest to define. A human being has roots by virtue of his real, active and natural participation in the life of a community which preserves in living shape certain particular treasures of the past and certain particular expectations for the future.
—  Simone Weil, The Need for Roots

“ if we realize that all of plant biology arises from the evolutionary constriction of the “rootedness” that keep plants immobile, then we can start to appreciate the very sophisticated biology going on in leaves and flowers. If you think about it, rootedness is a huge evolutionary constraint. It means that plants can’t escape a bad environment, can’t migrate in the search of food or a mate. So plants had to develop incredibly sensitive and complex sensory mechanisms that would let them survive in ever changing environments. I mean if you’re hungry or thirsty, you can walk to the nearest watering hole (or bar). If you’re hot, you can move north, if you’re looking for a mate, you can go out to a party. But plants are immobile. They need to see where their food is. They need to feel the weather, and they need to smell danger. And then they need to be able to integrate all of this very dynamic and changing information. Just because we don’t see plants moving doesn’t mean that there’s not a very rich and dynamic world going on inside the plant.”

(via Do Plants Think?: Scientific American)

posted by Hatty

The Mission, San Francisco. 21st and Treat. Mangoes and papayas and cantaloupes from a frutaria, passed bright yellow red brick houses, and up a short flight of stairs across a tiny but pleasant courtyard. Two glasses of sangria in, a dinner party, the Atlantic article read out loud.

We were an hour deep in discussing what gentrification means, what that looks like now compared to three or four decades ago at the height of the Redevelopment Agency and the Urban Renewal programs. Surely Asian immigrant families buying houses in the Bayview where poor black communities foreclosing at a rapid rate couldn’t possibly equal the same kind of gentrification as hipsters flooding the Mission post the dot-com boom? We questioned how we young professionals — mostly at nonprofits yes, but professionals nonetheless — contribute to this capitalistic/consumerism-driven society that facilitates such displacement of different communities of color, low-income and working-class folks.

It was a lovely discussion. And I was really glad that everyone occupying the living room was on the same wavelength. Some of us had met for the first time that night, some of us were college buddies, some coworkers. We gathered for a summer potluck and a conversation in the home of a young couple soon to be wed, both public school teachers, both Chinese Americans.

Somehow this community had found itself; more accurately, we, the children of the revolution, had found each other. This became even more obvious in the car ride back to Berkeley with Susan, a med student at University of California, San Francisco. She talked about the particularities of politics in the City, which both of us knew quite intimately as organizers and residents. Then she said that the Bay progressive people were special, that nowhere in the country would people speak the way we do, about organizing, about religion, about community, politics, life. And I agreed.

I guess what I want to say isn’t actually about gentrification after all. Maybe it’s the love for the home we’ve created for ourselves here. For me, it comes back to the notion of rootedness again. The question isn’t simply, ‘Am I gentrifying this neighborhood?’ but rather more fundamental, ‘Why am I here?’

Why are we here? The hostess asked, and after a few moment, she answered herself, To start a family, take roots, organize the communities, invest in the people, make something new and beautiful out of the old.

Rootedness

The notion of rootedness helps one position herself for deeper understanding.

The roots serve the individual plant in a variety of ways, each of which powerfully illustrates how rootedness serves the individual person:

  • The roots provide place — plants are not by their nature transient, but become established. 
  • As the means for connection to place, the roots give sustenance — water and nutriment. 
  • Deep roots help the plant withstand meteorologcial storms. 

So it is with the individual. Rootedness is life around one’s proper axis, comprising one’s center — still, vivified, and resilient.

Photo credit: Flickr user Tim Green aka atoach under this Creative commons license.

#onrevolution and coming to full-circle with rootedness

posted by Hatty

She stayed in Detroit when so many people had left. She decided that there was something in the life of that city worth throwing her whole lot into. She helped people re-imagine what new urban cores could look like — urban farmers, teachers, labor organizers, journalists, artists, everyone, all connected to the everyday reality of the city, the lives of the residents, the streets, the land.

Her name, Grace Lee Boggs, had only recently become familiar to me through Isaac Miller. An educator/organizer/writer and a sick slam poet from Cal, Isaac talked about Detroit often — where Grace had lived and worked for the last 50 years. Now anyone Issac thought awesome must be somebody; this Grace Lee Boggs must be one badass movement leader. So when all my social media feed began to explode with a news of her speaking engagement in San Francisco Chinatown, I knew I was going. On March 3 at 1pm, community-based organization staff and youth from all over the Bay Area including myself and a few SF Board of Supervisors packed the Chinese Culture Center, all eager to hear this 96-year-old woman.

Keep reading

Rosabeth Kanter 談商界如何促成實際社會改變

過去,企業通常認爲參與社會服務就是花掉閒錢、淘汰舊設備或者讓已經退休的管理人員有個好去處。但今天精明的企業領導者已經看到了一個新的趨勢,就是把參與社會服務看作是企業研發的一個實驗場。哈佛大學商學院的 Rosabeth Moss Kanter 教授對這一趨勢進行了長期研究,她曾在《哈佛商業評論》撰文描述這一趨勢,後來還寫了一本書,叫 SuperCorp,詳細介紹這一現象。這裏我們摘錄其中的一些精華,跟大家分享一下。


Doing Good by Doing Well

自1991年起,萬豪酒店就着手重組其員工培訓項目(Pathways to Independence Program)。這一培訓項目會着重培養參加者的工作技能、生活技能、工作習慣,而所有參加培訓的都是在當時靠領取政府的救濟金來生活的人士。參加者完成整個培訓之後,可以獲得在萬豪酒店的工作。萬豪酒店發現,參加過這一培訓項目然後加入公司的員工,其對公司的忠誠度更高,而且她們的服務質素也更好。這一項目帶來了一個多贏的局面:對於酒店而言,他們通過這一項目可以招聘到更穩定的員工(比傳統的招聘方法更省錢),對於社區而言,可以創造就業,而對於參與培訓的人士而言,則是獲得一份工作的良好機會。

其後,United Airlines 也採取了類似的方式去招聘新的員工,他們面向全美的政府救濟金領取人士開放培訓申請,爲很多生活在inner cities的低收入人士創造了就業崗位。

再舉一個例子,BankBoston 於1990年創辦了 First Community Bank,專門面向第一次使用銀行服務的市民,並且主要是面向低收入的市民。而當時適逢美國政府出台了一些規定,要求美國的銀行要加大對都市低收入社群的支持。First Community Bank 出現之後,那些原本無法獲得銀行服務的低收入人士和少數族裔人群現在都可以享受到高質量的銀行服務——包括消費者借貸、房地產服務、微型企業貸款、風險投資等——而這些人生活的社區也因此而得到極大改觀。同時,一些最初在 First Community Bank 所推出的實驗其後也在 BankBoston 全線其他銀行得到推廣。因此可以說,First Community Bank 是一個極大的成功。

獲得成功的六大法門

Kanter 教授總結了這類公私合作項目(public-private partnership)獲得成功的幾個要素:

一、要有明確的商業計劃(A Clear Business Agenda)

比如萬豪酒店的Pathways to Independence計劃就有非常明確的商業計劃,而且也在回應一個社會需求。該公司13萬員工當中有超過三分之二是新入行、工資較低的新手,他們主要負責房間清潔、工程、保安、維修、飲食以及預訂等。怎樣更好的招募、培訓以及維繫這樣一班員工對於萬豪酒店來講是一個非常主要的考量。他們之前也嘗試過專門招募退伍軍人、殘障人士以及領取政府福利的單身母親,這些行動固然爲萬豪酒店贏得美譽也讓他們獲得稅務上的優惠,但是他們還是遇到了員工流失率過高的問題。直到他們開始前述的這個實驗之後,才降低了員工流失率,而且同時間也提升了服務質素。

二、找到願意推動實際改變的夥伴(Strong partners committed to change)

在新的潮流下,你需要找到一些能夠把不同背景的持分者聚在一起的夥伴。唯有獲得他們的支持,你所推動的改變才有可能產生系統性的變革,而不是在完成一兩個項目之後就煙消雲散。這樣的夥伴可能是公務員、社區領袖、學校校長、公民社會裡的活躍人士。

三、雙方共同投入(Investment by Both Parties)

一個社區項目要獲得參與其中的兩方——不只是企業,還有跟企業搭檔的社區夥伴——的共同承諾,最佳的辦法就是讓雙方都投入資源去做這件事情。只有當雙方都這樣做,才會形成一種對等的局面。也唯有這樣,當企業完成其實驗之後,社區夥伴依然會繼續做那個項目。

四、要植根用戶所在的社區(Rootedness in the User Community)

假如產品開發人員可以直接觀察用戶行爲,他們往往可以從這些觀察當中得到啓發,乃至催生出創新。

如前面舉例的 First Community Bank 的經理的工作職責之一就是要參加社區活動,同時該公司還創造了community development officer這樣一個新的職位,而他們的職責就是直接走到社區,去跟少數族裔人群溝通。

五、聯繫其他組織(Links to Other Organizations)

一個項目要獲得成功,就需要把有相關行業經驗的核心機構拉到一起。

六、要有長期承諾去維繫和複製透過實驗找到的解決方案(A Long-Term Commitment to Sustain and Replicate the Solution)

First Community Bank 用了五年的時間,才開始有盈利。但是,到了第九年,其業績已經排到了整個 BankBoston 銀行體系的第一位。

所以說,對社會領域的投資,正如對任何創業型企業的投資一樣,需要耐心資本。

上述的所有企業一開始的時候只是想嘗試一種新的模式,他們更多是把這一嘗試當作是一個實驗或者一種示範。而那些實驗點往往會匯聚到最多的關注和資源。但真正的問題不是在於如何做好一個實驗項目,而是如何將一個成功項目的經驗複製到其他地區。最優秀的創新是可以大規模複製的,當然不同地區的用戶可以根據當地的實際情況去做修改,而且這一過程最好是有投資者去支持。IBM所做的那個項目在考慮初期就包含了複製以及拓展的戰略。

企業可以有何得着(How Business Benefits)

很多人會批評,說企業參與一些社會項目本質上是做秀。但是,假如你認真去了解上述的幾個例子,你看到整個項目執行方方面面的細節的話,你就會理解,這樣的行爲不能簡單的看作是讓一個讓企業及其員工自我感覺良好的行爲。

企業參與解決社會領域的一些棘手問題,他們自身在這一過程當中會學到很多新的知識和能力,而這些知識和能力對於企業的發展有極大的幫助作用,所以說,這不是單純利他的慈善行爲,這樣的行爲長期而言對於增強企業的競爭力有重要意義。

萬豪酒店的 Pathways to Independence 培訓項目爲公司帶來了顯著的效益。有70%參加過這一培訓的人士一年之後依然是萬豪酒店的員工,而相比之下,他們所招募的那些原先領取政府補助金的員工有55%的流失率,而正常途徑招募的員工的流失率則是50%。

First Community Bank 則更是成爲了一個可以產生盈利的銀行,而且那裏也是 BankBoston 很多產品和服務創新之源泉。更重要的是,員工的積極性也大大提升。他們後來還獲得了由克林頓總統頒發的 Ron Brown Award for Corporate Leadership,這一獎項主要是嘉獎他們在爲社區提供銀行服務方面的貢獻。


總結

這篇文章介紹的是商業公司履行其社會責任的一種新思路:不是去做慈善,而是將這一行動當作是企業學習和商務拓展的機會,由企業的研發和營運經費來埋單,而不是慈善經費。

傳統的慈善和義工行爲固然在社會上扮演重要的角色,但是它們往往不是產生創新或者變革的最佳辦法。

那些能夠產生最大社會效益的企業都是在運用其最爲擅長的一個業務(core competencies)來創造這樣的社會影響。比如,對於Bell Atlantic來講,就是通信科技;對於IBM來講,就是資訊科技;對於Marriott來講,就是其服務戰略。採用這種思路的企業,他們的行動會注重成果,他們會想辦法計算行動的產出以及行動所帶來的改變。而且這樣的行動是可持續的,可以在不同的地方複製。而社區也可以從中得到培力,並且找到持久改善社區的方向。這樣做對於企業的利潤也有幫助,因爲他們可以經過這樣一個過程開發到新的產品、針對困擾企業的重要問題找到新的解決思路,以及找到新的市場機遇。

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Streamline Windows Regularly

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