Jim Kent:

"Human change initiatives must work at social, economic, and ecological levels if they are to succeed."

Council of Social Advisors to Parellel the Economic Team of the Obama Administration

Posted by Jim on September 19, 2009


This is an email that was sent by Jim to his network in March of 2009.  Its message is as relevent today as it was when he wrote it. 

Interesting that all of the attention is going into the economic team, yet the recovery will mainly depend on how the people take action into their own hands. There must be an alignment, an interface, between the social policies and the economic policies, but to do that we need parity between the economic push and the social conditions that will determine Obama’s success as a new paradigm President.

How is it that  we do not have a Social Council or a Council of Social-Cultural Advisors that heads us toward empowered social policy, towards enhancing our heart and soul of our communities.  We have the Council of Economic Advisors, and Economists in all kinds of positions coming out of our ears, but no talk of the social partner in all of this. There are no sociologists, anthropologists, ethnographers at the White House level who can advise on how to make economic formulas work at the grass roots level.  All are economic advisors, as though economics can be separate from the social/cultural geographic environments in which we livepeople. 

Is this a blind spot for Obama?  He was elected by moving the consciousness of millions of Americans to come out of their deep sleep and take charge of our own empowerment.  We did that.  I am concerned that I do not want to be an email recipient for community organization.  I am a hard core community organizer that understands the dynamics of what has to happen at the grass roots or heart and soul level of society in order for permanent change to happen.

There has to be more.  Maybe this is the time for a Council on Social Advisors or  Recovery to parallel the Economic team.  The Council on Social Advisors or  Recovery could have been all over the Katrina mess immediately building from the ground up through the organization of the informal networks that still existed and proliferate the New Orleans cultures.  This would have generated a recovery of family and individual enterprise from the ground up,  creating the opportunities for new private enterprise.  This is not unlike what FDR did with WPA, CCC camps, etc.  New Orleans is a city of thousands of private entrepreneurs and to have missed using them as the base for recovery is stunning.

Many of our citizens are ill-clad, ill-housed and ill-nourished and to recover from this we will need a social/cultural pathway to leverage the economic processes now being designed in absentia of a social policy. Economic redesign that leaves the social to chance is no solution.  We are more than jobs.  We are a complete social phenomena, we live in villages and neighborhoods, we go to gathering places, we want pedestrian oriented towns, we can make or grow much of what we need, we are individual and family enterprisers, we believe in equity and social justice, we cherish our informal networks for caretaking, survival and cultural maintenance, we are caretakers of each other, communicators, story tellers, and historians.We believe that we should have more say in creating the jobs we will inhabit.  Jobs without consciousness and moral underpinnings are no different from the service jobs that have put many of our citizens into poverty in the last 10 years.

In Basalt and Carbondale, Colorado we have been revitalizing the social capital or heart and soul of our communities.  This needs to happen in thousands  of local communities.  All local governments must restructure to be viable and resilient.  There is no returning to the revenue stream of the last four years.  Therefore the social capital of our towns must be nurtured and enhanced by our governments for citizens to take charge of their own survival, cultural maintenance and caretaking, in a manner that we have never done before.  There is a distinct trend in our society towards citizen-based ecological stewardship, where people are taking charge of their local environments.  We need to work ahead of this trend in order that we benefit from a more rapid transformation from a consumptive economy to an ecological economy.

Regionally we need to think about ideas such as manufacturing our alternative energy hardware-wind mill blades, ball bearings, solar cells, etc. so that manufactured goods do not have to be shipped thousands of miles.  My company has defined ten Culture Units in the United States within which the regional economies and social structure brought into alignment could flourish.  Every region can manufacture the alternative energy hardware that they need reducing the need for thousands of miles of transportation

Time to rethink our social/cultural, economic/political and ecological/environmental integration. It is the social/cultural phenomena  based on human geography that will drive an economy of the future that sees value added and  multipliers that the traditional global model, that Tom Friedman talks about, does not produce.

(see Jim’s blog titled: China and Alternative Energy).



5 Responses to “Council of Social Advisors to Parellel the Economic Team of the Obama Administration”

  1. Bill Roper said

    Great post, Jim. What you are espousing is just the kind of cultural change in community engagement and planning that will make a critical difference in how change occurs. In our communities, citizens are finding a place for their voice and the elected officials are inviting them in and listening. I’m hearing that the seeds for fundamentally different expectations in how citizens are engaged and how decisions are being made have been planted and if they can be nurtured long enough, the communities will never go back.

    Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom.


    • Jim said

      Thanks Rope. One of the phenomena that will never let communities go back to the growth model of government is the collapse after the last 4 years of incredible cash flow into town and county coffers. That will never come back. So the question is how can we assist communities to make structural changes that adjust to this new reality. Structural is the key word. Many communities are just cutting staff to make up the budget deficit. Nothing changes in this model, it is the same old boom and bust. What they do not realize is their will not be another financial boom or cash into government so change is essential.

      That is where heart and soul must come in. We have known for a long time that small town governments must change from control and doing “for”, to facilitataing and doing “with.” Reflecting with Tom Baker the Town Manager of Carbondale, Colorado we are looking at the facilitation factor of the government. He could cut the 8 positions needed to balance the budget, but that is not a heart and soul approach. Using the opportunity structuring I developed with Moloka`i we will be talking to individuals in the Town Government who have been interested in the past of starting a business. This is the Minturn Life Options for the Future Model that was so successful over the years with that Hispanic Village.

      We are looking at having the life options people work half time for the Town (keeping their health benefits, etc.) while the other half we help them incubate a local business. Growing our own businesses located in affordable business buildings, with our local people is one of the keys to expanding heart and soul. In this manner we are shifting the formal system to be more concerned with how people take care of the health of their physical, biological, social, cultural and economic environment assisted by a Government concerned with sustainability and not growth.

      I was with Gary Severson Thursday at a Northwest COG meeting and afterward it became very clear that we should be putting a lot of enery in developing H & S criteria so that communities know when they are moving towards H & S or when they are moving away from it. In Carbondale and Basalt we have very mature models of H & S governance from which criteria could begin to be developed. It is complex but that is what the future is about.

      Time to understand that H&S governance is a necessity and not a luxury proposition. I have been lucky to work with these two communities that recognize the necessity for restructuring government to encourage and enhance the growth of H & S. In 100s of other communities that I am aware of they are simply cutting staff to balance the budget. That won’t get it because those folks are still seeing small town government as a Growth Based Model. That is gone and in its place is an emerging Heart and Soul model.

      Thanks for commenting. Your insights are right on!!

  2. harley said

    I agree, great post!

    • Jim said

      Thanks Harley. See my Comment to Rope of the Orton Family Foundation. Many of the ideas you and I have talked about over the years.!! Times they have changed and adjust for many is very hard.

      Take care,

  3. It’s going to be ending of mine day, except before finish I am reading this fantastic paragraph to increase my knowledge.

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