Planting Justice is an educational food justice organization in Oakland, California with an ecological business model. With a green jobs training program, they offer a “Transform Your Yard” service and have transformed over 80 yards into food gardens. For every three full-paying clients, they create a subsidized garden for a low-income client or community. Gardens have given hundreds of pounds of produce to local foodbank as well as to residents.

In one day, trainees, volunteers and residents transform a lawn into a permaculture garden.

A collaborative learning experience, participants practice systems thinking. As they plant and as the garden evolves, participants learn about local food systems and food justice while also developing green job skills.

In the San Quentin prison community garden project, gardeners who volunteered as prison inmates then can re-enter the community with part-time gardening jobs at Planting Justice.

Love this. In 2010, Jean Russell facilitated the making of this piece, in which 60 contributors describe values of thrivability, an appreciative reframing of sustainability. A lovely example of ripple effect leadership, the presentation has been shared over 20,000 times on Slideshare. Congrats to the contributors!

In Dreamfish, a great discussion has started about Learned Helplessness, started by Grant Bowman, inspired by Edward Cherlin and Rick Moen. This got me thinking about Learned Helpfulness…

A story of Learned Helpfulness

Wangari Maathai tells a story about the humming bird who saw a fire in the forest. The humming bird, with its little beak and little wings, chose to do something about the fire. She carried water from the pond to the fire. Back and forth, again and again, she carried drop by drop of water and dropped each drop on the massive raging fire. All the other animals had already decided that it was hopeless to put out the fire. After all, they had learned that fires burn down forests and that’s how life is. They stood by, watching their world burn around them. They stood by, watching the hummingbird carry water to and fro. They stood by, criticizing her for choosing to do something so small, while they chose to do nothing. The hummingbird just kept on carrying water. She did the best she could.

Now, imagine how this story might continue….. As the animals stood by, they watched the humming bird carry the drops of water. As a monkey watched the hummingbird, he imagined himself carrying water in a coconut shell. The elephant, turning his head to watch the hummingbird, felt the swing of his powerful trunk and thought “Well, I can carry water with my big trunk”. Soon, one by one, in small groups, each animal followed the hummingbird in their own way. As more animals saw their friends carrying water, they too began to carry water. Drop by drop, together, they put out the fire. They did the best they could.

Let us each have the courage to carry a drop of water.

Thanks to Urusa Fahim for sharing this video.

Ubuntu, the dog, and Ndoto, the cat, were enemies when they first met. After four months, they are now best friends. How did this relationship evolve?

Their very favorite play is Wrestling. They will do it for hours. Here is a video clip of wrestling.

( Check out the new short cut of the Dreamfish Tech Dance video)

I want to share with you the kickoff of our online community technology project and the upcoming improvements you will experience.

Why do this project now?

Now is the time because great people have stepped up and open source software is available to support the project. In addition, we create impact by using this project as a training ground for African young professionals. Here are the needs that we’re addressing:

1. Do more of what we do well
Our core competency is helping people to develop themselves and develop their enterprises through practice in relationship. A few examples of Dreamfish at work – facilitating a One Laptop Per Child Kenya Summit; a web developer in Ohio collaborating with a startup entrepreneur in Ghana; an LGBT activist working with an artist on digital storytelling, a leadership consultant in Taiwan facilitating strategic planning for a grassroots nonprofit benefiting homeless children in Kenya, a transgender youth creating their life with professional skills and income, an executive coach in US to support a young woman CEO to build a tool empowering rural farmers in Africa.  Given the small resources invested in Dreamfish, these are great results AND with better tools for connection, we can do much more. Imagine millions of people having the same opportunities.

2. Mobilizing our diversity
Diversity is both our strength and our challenge. How do we hold space for engaging the richness of our diversity for our members’ benefit? How do we enable individuals to customize their participation for their unique goals and interests?
To give you an idea of our diversity in action, my estimate is that about 40% of our community are youth and live on less than $4 a day, 20% live on more than $100 a day, about 40% are over 40 yr. We are of many faiths, and cultural norms. Our new technology will allow people to follow the topics that are most of interest and filter out what they don’t need.

3. Shifting from “give me work” to “we are doing it!”
With the new technology design, our goal is to shift from passive transactions to pro-active relationship-building as the foundation for work in Dreamfish. Behind this is a larger agenda of societal change to help people shift from institutionally-learned apathy to empowerment. it is critical that we support individuals to pro-actively create support systems for their own development, rather than wait or resign. The way our tech is setup now, people in the Dreamfish network tend to wait for something to happen rather than initiate interaction. The tech is getting in the way – it is hard for anyone to know how to start, how to interact and how to achieve goals. This is changing. We are designing our new tech to facilitate people connecting around “What are you working on?” as the starting point for interaction.

Harison Wamani, 2011 Dreamfish Intern, learning to use the command line as he works on the Community Tech Project

Currently, it is not easy to connect with Dreamfish members in a rural village or without a computer. In our new tech plan, you will be able to select whether you use your phone, sms, or sit at your computer to interact with Dreamfish people. You will also be able to more easily initiate local face-to-face events.

4. Easier Knowledge sharing
Finding information that you want and sharing has been hard in our current platform. We are making the act of sharing to be front and center. We also are making a friendly section to explain what Dreamfish is and how to get started.

What are we working on?

Our team includes Grant Bowman and me as project co-leads, 2011 Dreamfish Interns and Mentors. The project has three sub-teams – Community Leadership, Back-end Development, and Front-end Design.  We welcome volunteers to get involved. Here’s what we are working on…

Community Leadership is working on the Community HelpDesk, community digital art and performance, social media communication, improving online documentation, online admin, and the campaign to fund the project.

Backend Development is working on developing software functionality, server administration, wifi network and maintaining hardware for the project. The team has now got a server up, prepared hardware for development, installed and configured software for prototyping. Team members work alongside Grant and include Harison Wamani and Peter Masuman.

Front-end Design and Development is working on user experience/ interaction design, product management, graphic design, CSS and HTML. We have been interviewing Dreamfish members on how Dreamfish tech can help them, researching the problems with current tools, prototyping solutions and testing different open source social software.

Our mentors include Bernard Owuor, Jamila Abass for development, Bridget Mcgraw for design, Jonas Kolben for networking and Polly Bodegener for communication. Thanks to Nancy White and Peter Kaminski, Dreamfish Advisors, for helping on strategy.

All of this will take time and is due to the committed efforts of contributors to the project. As we get farther along, we’ll ask you to try what we’re building and give feedback. I would like to invite you to get involved in any way that you like with your expertise, funds and cheers :-)

What can you do?

  • Fund the project – Every bit counts. We have 12 days left in our campaign to raise $5,500, which pays for simple living and tools for the team in Nairobi during the project. In exchange, we can give you things like B&B accomodation or an iPad. 
  • Volunteer – Senior professionals, developers, designers, testers, fundraisers and community managers – please, you are welcome to join in. Contact Grant, me or jump in…

Thank you, Dreamfishers, for your pioneering spirit, your patience and all your efforts to build Dreamfish.

Tiff

Hi friends, I am appealing to you for connection.

A Dreamfish member asked me yesterday, “what is Dreamfish? Why are we doing this? Why did you start Dreamfish?”, And I realized I had been disconnecting and not sharing my love, in the exhaustive scramble of finding resources to keep us going. So, I want to stop that behavior. Breathe. Reach out to you. And tell you why Dreamfish matters to me.

What makes my heart sing is people, coming to life. Developing growthful environments where people empower themselves to do their dreams. Moving from isolated experiences of self to passionate “yes, i can!” use of self. Dreamfish facilitates growth through connection – this is the heartbeat of Dreamfish.

But, what drove me to starting Dreamfish is experiencing people’s suffering – People who don’t fit inside a box determined by institutions, giving up on themselves, their dreams, in order to survive. And forget what it feels like to thrive. If for example, you are a senior professional who can’t find a consulting project, the micro-enterprise development model wasn’t designed to serve you. If you are starting a new kind of organization, no go. If you are young, live in a developing country and your lifework is in fuzzy exploration, tough going. Isolated and disconnected, we don’t grow.

Dreamfish’s aim is to connect us up to generate our own development practices in community. Connected, we free up the brilliant abundant value among us. Connected, we become aware and choiceful with the tons of creativity and skills among us.

One of my biggest personal challenges is that I disconnect when I am in pain, tired, and in fear. But, really, I know the thing to do is to connect. Maybe you can relate? Many of us are working on personal dreams, ie startups, finding jobs, and such, and have trouble finding time to help others. Yet, if we all show up and serve as support systems for each other, we can each go much farther! Disconnection is vicious cycle. But, so is connection! When we feel inspired and energized in our community, we connect more. So, I am connecting now with you.

Connection is the first step.

Join me in kicking off our new project, Dreamfish Community Tech. Not only is the project building technology for peer-to-peer development to empower the world’s underserved entrepreneurs, the project also empowers Kenyan youth to develop as successful web professionals.

To tell you about the project, we made this fun video. You’ll see a campy skit about “what is Dreamfish?”, an experience of peer-to-peer development, in which two young professionals work together on a client project supported by their peer group. Then the group rocks out in a shimmy and shake!

Dreamfish Tech Dance from Dreamfish on Vimeo.

The project team includes youth web developers and designers, recently graduating from Nairobits, a training program for youth from Nairobi settlements, working alongside senior professionals that want to make a difference. To facilitate, Grant Bowman, open source community leader, will serve as Dreamfish’s first Technologist-in-Residence and travel from San Francisco Bay, California to Dreamfish Place Nairobi to manage the project team from September through November.

While working on the project, the youth are also receiving training and mentorship from Dreamfishers in professional communication, consulting skills, software development, collaboration and eco-product design. Thank you to Bernard Owuor, software developer, Polly Bodegener, adult educator, Susaneve Oguya, CTO of MFarm, and Jenny, recycled art product designer, for volunteering as trainers.

Your help matters!
Our big challenge is that our youth are living in rough conditions in Nairobi settlements and need tools to work with. Your financial contributions will provide living expenses, better housing, laptops and mentorship to support this empowering project. Any size gift makes a meaningful difference. Learn more.

As a thank you, contributors receive cool perks, donated by Dreamfish members – a free iPad, a weekend in a California guesthouse near the beach, hand-made cups, and more. Check out the perks.

Come to the party
Tonight, September 2nd, 11am-5pm, Caffe La Scala, Walnut Creek, California, US

If you are a developer or designer and might want to help out, terrific! Please let Grant or me know.
@grantbow
@tiffanyvonemmel

To be human is to grow in connection. In connection with ourselves. With each other. With nature. This is the Dreamfish way – to work like humans. Yet perhaps you can relate to this experience – in work, I have felt alone, forgetting the love and support around. If I only reached out to connect and ask for help. To be of mutual support to each other, please join in spreading the new Dreamfish message, “Connected, we grow”.

Click on image to see the video and get involved.

I am writing to you from Nairobi, Kenya, from Dreamfish Place, a new home for Dreamfishers, where folks are gathering now to connect to grow. And, we still have a lot more to do.

Please join me in opening Dreamfish Place Nairobi, the first of many open collaboration retreat homes in the world. A place where we connect to our humanity, bridge between global and local, online and face-to-face, and liberate our growth as humans. Where folks gather for leadership retreats and workshops. Women and youth gather to ask “What am I doing with this precious life?”. Dreamfishers gather to work and learn together in a spirit of service. The place financially and spiritually supports all of us to connect, to grow.

We launched a campaign using IndieGogoOur Connection Goal is to warm the place up with YOUR cozy awesomeness, wherever you are!! Our Growth Goal is to raise $15,000 by July 24th. You can contribute in many ways! Watch the videos. Read our story. Share with your networks. Write a comment. Book a retreat, sponsor your favorite group for a retreat, sponsor a women or youth social entrepreneur or contribute a few bucks to build Dreamfish.

I dearly thank you for all that you do to connect. Connected, we grow.

Tiff

To be human is to grow in connection. In connection with ourselves. With each other. With nature. This is the way of Dreamfish. To work like humans. Yet perhaps you can relate to this experience – in work, I have often felt alone, forgetting the love and support around. Forgetting my connectedness. If I only reached out to ask for help. 

To be of mutual support to each other, please join in spreading the new Dreamfish message, “Connected, we grow”. I am connecting to you from Nairobi, Kenya, from Dreamfish Place, a new home for Dreamfishers, where folks are gathering now to connect to grow. And, we still have a lot more to do. Please join me in opening Dreamfish Place Nairobi, the first of many open collaboration retreat homes in the world. A place where we connect to our humanity, bridge between global and local, online and face-to-face, and liberate our growth as humans.

At Dreamfish Place, folks gather for leadership retreats and workshops. Women and youth gather to ask “What am I doing with this precious life?”. Dreamfishers gather to work and learn together in a spirit of service. The place financially and spiritually supports all of us to connect, to grow.

Our Connection Goal is to warm the place up with YOUR cozy awesomeness, wherever you are!! Our Growth Goal is to raise $15,000 by July 24th. You can contribute in many ways! Watch the videos. Read our story. Share the link. Write a comment. Book a retreat, sponsor your favorite group for a retreat, sponsor a women or youth social entrepreneur or contribute a few bucks to build Dreamfish.

I dearly thank you for all that you do to connect. Connected, we grow.

Tiff

“If you were a grown up right now, what would you do?” Charlie Seashore

 

The core tool of a network organization is not software. It is the Use of Self. A network of individuals working together requires that each of us acts as an agent of interrelatedness. Use of Self is actively practicing empathy with our relations, exercising awareness of our own assumptions and behavior in an interconnected world, and then making conscious choices in relationship. 

Using a metaphor of a vital network in our lives, an ocean, when you see plastic bits of trash in your ocean, what do you do? do you empathize with the ocean creatures as part of yourself?  do you organize a Swim Fundraiser? stop using plastic bags from the store? make art with plastic trash? Create public policy about plastic? Share a link? Do you build a trash picking tool? What is your Use of Self?

Network organizations work similarly. In a network, there is no boss or parent to tell us what to do. A network is not an institutional organization or family, where it is easy to regress into a passive state. A network can enable life to be richer for each individual. But, if we all expect someone else to be the one, to fix stuff, to pay for what we each use, then we end up with the Tragedy of the Commons. Our commons starts to look like a dump.

In a network, what you get reflects what you put in. And, what you get also reflects what others put in. For example, Dreamfish is a network of individuals working on a common dream to work like humans to realize our dreams. Out of thousands connecting to this vision, a few people are caring for the whole network: 5% of us are contributing time, energy and creativity to the whole network. But, we could do so much more if all of us exercised our Use of Self.

Part of the reason that the network stats look like this is that I needed to shift my use of self as a leader. To remember that in this school of fish, I do not need to swim alone. So, I am reaching out to you and asking you to swim with me.

My appeal is especially directed to you who swim in Dreamfish and networks supporting human development. Imagine shifting from a network of followers to a network of leaders. Imagine if 100% of us contributed a small bit of our time, money, energy and creativity to a network to build the support system that we each need. Imagine if each of us was responsible for building capacity that could support our individual work. Folks organizing local events. Senior consultants mentoring women and youth entrepreneurs in rural villages. Folks teaching online workshops. Developers building tools that help us connect. We hire each other. We volunteer to help do something that is easy for us, but may be hard for another. Imagine the value that would be liberated, the impact we could make!

Swim swim Self!