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Crowdsourcing Our Angst

This is a message from the Berklee College of Music. There has been a shooting in the vicinity of Massachusetts Avenue and Boylston Street. We urge you to stay inside while police investigate. If you must go outside, travel in pairs and stay in well-lit areas . . .

Quite honestly, when I answered the phone, I sheepishly worried that I was late with a tuition payment. Perhaps I had hoped for something as mundane as that. Within seconds, by text, I learned that my daughter and her friends were safe. Within the next hour, through constant searches, I learned that the shooting was gang related, and had occurred on Mass Ave and Huntington instead. Apparently, a man had been shot before he drove his car onto cars parked along the side of the road.

Sutherland, Baltimore, Oshkosh, New York City, Las Vegas, Charlottesville, Sandy Hook, Orlando

With large-scale shootings and small, in elementary schools, churches and nightclubs, with Nazis on college campuses, and a lone “terrorist” in a Home Depot rental on a bike path in New York City.

With the election of a morally and ethically corrupt, megalomaniac “leader of the free world,” with the removal of this country from the Paris Climate Agreement and the TPP, With the threat to immigration, diversity, with the endless list of violations currently under investigation.

With all of these disturbances and more in the psyche and in the very execution of our daily lives, we have each and every one of us come to, or we should come to a decision point as to how to proceed.

These days, our thoughts about one transgression or another, be it moral or otherwise, show up in our and feeds, and besides the cute puppies and vacation photos, there’s a whole lot of angst to sort through out there.

At a Crossroads

We are there now, at the point we hoped we would not arrive, the point where truth really is stranger than fiction, and a place at which we never thought we could be comfortable.

Some of you know of it as the upside down.

We come to this intersection, and cross over or not. Those who do may be carried by a belief system, driven by some inner strength—desire for personal gain or desire to do good—, or maybe somehow inured to the significance of this change.

So, you continue, seeming to move on with your lives as if not much has changed. You continue to do business, to hopefully grow your business, to worry about which nursery school or college to send your kids to, which vacation spot to plan to choose for spring break or anniversary, to go on with your lives.

Then there are those who refuse to cross so easily, who shake things up, rail against the state of the state, and make us feel uncomfortable in our apparent complacency.

Where do we draw the line?

I’ve asked this question before. How is it that some people can continue the semblance of daily life in the face of so much turbulence?

As usual, it’s more complicated than us vs. them. We’re all getting by in our own ways.

The Power of Prayer

Clearly there are people whose faith guides them through difficult times, people who lean on the teachings of their faith, the strength of their community of faith, and perhaps participate in acts of social good as part of these communities.

People do find solace in the power of prayer, in the connection with a power and a sense of connectivity that such faith provides.

Perhaps it is this belief that enables some people to carry on in such times.

An Entrepreneurial Spirit

Entrepreneurs can be strange and beautiful creatures. Maybe that’s because most strive to attain unicorn status, but mostly because of their dual natures: Identify a problem to be solved and make a living providing the solution. As more and more entrepreneurs build businesses around social impact, it would appear that they too have found a reason to move forward in desperate times. The same need to be risk averse to succeed as an entrepreneur can serve you well in these tough times.

Triggering Moments

There are unfortunately too many people who over the past several years, or the past 10 months who have either been personally affected or triggered by one of these awful tragedies to act. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence to Sandy Hook Promise and Newton Action Alliance the newly renamed Giffords are three such groups doing very important work to change legislation, to build coalitions, to educate others and put early warning systems in place and more.

Citizens are mobilizing in response to proposed legislative changes and specific rulings. The DACA battles brought both the children of immigrants and others to the defense of Dreamers. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was able to obtain the release of Rosa Maria Hernandez, the 10-year-old undocumented Mexican migrant with cerebral palsy who was detained last month after undergoing surgery in Texas.

And when 45 decided to pull the United States out of the Paris Accords, local politicians and private citizens promised to take on the work themselves.

About that Crowdsourcing

Last week I wrote about the concept of agency and how social entrepreneurs and edupreneurs are surpassing the benefits of charity by empowering people through training, job creation, outsourcing, and ownership of their own local enterprises.

This week I’m thinking about impact. Although there has been much discussion (and rightfully so) about the accuracy of information obtained over social media, the great value it does serve is in bringing people together in time of despair and in rallying forces of dissent. For example, in the past few weeks, I was able to:

  • Stay connected with my councilwoman and borough president.

  • Locate a Swahili speaker for a potential acting gig.

  • Sign a petition to release Rosa Maria Hernandez.

  • Strengthen my network of social impact organizations.

  • Verify the shooting near Berklee College of Music and confirm that students were safe.

Others whom I’m connected to did things such as:

  • Explain what an epistemic crisis is.

  • Share a way to lobby for passage of S. 1539 to protect victims of domestic abuse from gun violence.

  • Let her friends know she was safe after the “terrorist” incident in lower Manhattan last week.

  • Track and report on the whereabouts of her brother and family as they fled the fires of northern California.

I recently listened to Mark Zuckerberg being interviewed by Reid Hoffman on Masters of Scale, talking about the concept of perfection, which is really the story of imperfection and being able, as an entrepreneur, to risk failure in order to get your product out to your audience. In doing this, you’re able to get their feedback and make improvements. Zuckerberg's motto, as Hoffman points out, is “Move fast and break things,” which leads us to the following:

And this just gets down to something that I think is pretty personal for me, which is, I'm much more motivated by making sure that we have the biggest impact on the world than by building a business, or making sure we don't fail. I have more fear in my life that we aren't going to maximize the opportunity that we have than that we mess something up and the business goes badly.

It's a great interview. Take a listen if you get a chance.

So, we are all able to carry on in our own ways. For some people, social media may just be about the puppies and the kitties.

For most people, it is about impact, and by crowdsourcing our angst, we may also do some good in the world. This week, some links to consider for impact. What are you all doing for social impact? Care to share?

Links 4 Further Thought


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As of January 2024, Rewriting Paradigms is back and I'm writing about today's  issues, those that most test us and our humanity.

Designs2Learn blogs were originally published on a separate site devoted solely to educational issues. 

With the release of the Rewriting Paradigms site, we' ported them over to their new home.

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