The principals of Small & Rubin Ltd. and its consulting division, Sustainable Solutions, have always been about world change. The planet is in a dynamic new phase at the beginning of this millenium, harnessing knowledge and technology as never before, but also grappling with environmental and social challenges of enormous magnitude. A leading edge Canadian environmental and technology company, Sustainable Solutions works directly with corporations, governments, nonprofit agencies and individuals to develop sustainable products, conduct research, modify their respective markets, extend their Internet presence and to effect beneficial and healthy physical changes in the human and natural environments of the people and regions they serve. We are also now integrating several new components of Internet technology to create powerful vehicles for accomplishing change both locally and globally.
Using New Communications Technology for World Change
Computer technology generally, and Internet technology specifically, are quickly enabling new types of communication and technology transfer that were up until now either impossible or prohibitively expensive. As a consulting firm, Sustainable Solutions is focused on harnessing and developing these new technologies to promote positive change that will benefit people worldwide.
The basic tools that enable world change are simple, and have been in use for millennia. One is to enable links among people in diverse circumstances. Another is to enable transfer of information and experience among them. People must then be inspired and empowered to assemble required resources and to implement these new ideas. Finally, public scrutiny, discussion and feedback based on democratic principles are required to ensure that actions taken will not have negative consequences. What has changed is the addition of computer power and communications technology, which can, if harnessed well, magnify the resources and impact of any organization enormously over what was previously possible.
Alteration in Existing Power Structures
Two recent phenomena are drastically altering the existing power structures in modern society. Each requires careful development in order to ensure that the benefits of this technology reach the maximum number of people. They are usable by individuals, corporations, governments and non-profit agencies alike, and, more preferably, by alliances among all these components of our societies.
The first can be described by various names, among which information sharing, interactive databasing, technology transfer, and dynamic libraries are perhaps closest in description. Simply put, it means using the Internet to make specific collections of information available to interested groups of people, and to allow them to contribute further information, comment and analysis to these collections. The purpose of the information sharing is to accelerate the transfer of new information and technology from those who generate it to those who can productively use it for human benefit, and to provide useful feedback to refine the knowledge and technology and identify and eliminate those aspects that are incorrect, damaging, or just not useful. Such access to up-to-date information and technology along with qualifying user feedback is inherently empowering to those who are attempting to solve problems, but who hitherto had only more limited or more expensive access to such information and technology.
The second phenomenon has been variously described as networking, committed action networks, distributed leadership, constructive alliances and most recently as candleholder networks, which is a combined acronym and physical image using the words "Committed Action Network with Distributed Leadership Environment". A candleholder network is a collection of individuals usually in diverse personal or organizational settings, all of whom are committed to a particular type of social or industrial action, problem or issue, and all of whom are connected informally among themselves, usually without extensive organizational structure. Their goal in being interconnected is to learn from, inspire, support and empower each other, singly and collectively, to create social or industrial change amid the organizations, tools and resources they each have access to locally. As candleholders, they tend to light fires underneath others around them, either to inspire them or lead them to become an active part of the solution to the issue or problem at hand.
While candleholder networks have been around since the beginning of time, the advent of LANs, WANs and e-groups on the Internet have led to a proliferation of such networks worldwide to address social, industrial, environmental, economic, scientific, technical and recreational issues of every conceivable type. Combining the concept of candleholder networks with interactive databasing further enhances the capability for efficient and organized change. Enabling public access and feedback based on democratic principles allows the level of scrutiny and feedback required to avoid actions that will have negative consequences.
Interactive Databasing and Growing a Network
Small & Rubin Ltd. began many years ago to develop the concept of interactive databases and to track the development of digital technologies that would be required to make such tools available to those who needed them, at reasonable prices. The cost of building such databases has dropped dramatically in the past ten years to the point that it is becoming broadly accessible to many organizations, both profit and nonprofit, that are participating in world change. More expensive versions of the technology have been available to well-resourced corporations for some time now.
Small & Rubin Ltd. has used the name COMMPOST™ to describe its particular design of this interactive databasing technology. The acronym is derived from "Communications Management through Pooled Object Server Technology", and means that clumps of information in various forms ("objects") are made available through computers dispensing to the Internet's World Wide Web ("server technology"), and which may be part of shared ("pooled") databases which combine the knowledge of a number of participating individuals and organizations.
In its first incarnation for current clients, COMMPOST™ uses a corporate web server service (www.elosoft.com) to provide a platform which uses Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 as a searchable database program, and HTML and ASP (Active Server Pages) as languages for assembling and displaying information segments pulled from the database using search questions translated into SQL language inquiries.
Far from just being computerized libraries, COMMPOST™ systems also allow easy and direct connections among people, creating not only repositories of powerful information but dynamic, growing entities which include effective human networks that are neede to build the new alliances that will accomplish change in our complex societies of this millenium.
Since the principles and technology are generic, many people in many different situations can benefit from the use of computer, communications and Internet technologies to enhance their own resources, expertise and desire for world change. For example:
Interest groups: People in diverse circumstances with a common goal can connect with each other, share and develop information, and put forward agendas for specific changes within the various organizations and communities accessible to each person involved.
Nonprofit agencies: Any nonprofit agency can take the initiative to begin a network backed by a dynamic library, and invite individuals and organizations throughout the community to participate towards common goals. One very effective example is that of HealthyIndoors.com, an interactive network of diverse organizations and individual participants that is constructing a national indoor air quality strategy for Canada.
Governments: Interactive databases and both informal and formal networks can be used to develop policies and implement change, within government or society-wide, in response to complex social, environmental and economic problems. The networks can be within government (e.g. interdepartmental), or can involve both government and non-government organizations and individuals from throughout a society. Examples could include developing voluntary guidelines for environmental, health and safety issues in consultation with interested organizations.
Corporations: If existing corporations are to survive in this rapidly changing economy, they must begin to understand both the principles of planetary environmental and economic sustainability, and how to maximize the benefits of present and evolving computer communications technology to create, deliver and recycle a totally new repertoire of products and services. They must understand that it is now possible to deliver to their customers not only specific products and services but the entire fields of knowledge necessary to understanding, implementing and using those products and services safely and effectively.
Universities, Libraries and other Organizations of Learning: At this point in the new millenium, libraries, publishers, journals, colleges and universities are aggressively coming to terms with the expanded capabilities of new communications technology. Just as corporations and governments can deliver whole fields of knowledge to their customers or their constituents, organizations of learning can now reach the farthest corners of the globe with levels of information access and human networking connections that were previously unimagineable.
In all these applications, there is a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done to conceive, structure, implement and grow the new visions of this millenium. Sustainable Solutions is available on a consulting basis to assist you and your organization with this important transition.
For further information about Sustainable Solutions and an assessment of our capability to help your organization, contact Howard Rubin, President of Small & Rubin Ltd. at the address shown on the contact page.