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Thoughts about Community Preparedness Plans, Requirements, and Self-organization

From: Harlan Smith <>
Date: Mon, 10 Aug 1998 10:06:41 -0500

Doug Carmichael ( has expressed some very good thoughts that need to be
transformed into a "community network action plan" implemented by a "Y2K
Community Network". (This name was suggested by Citizens for Y2K Recovery.
I hope it sticks, as it conveys communities working in concert toward achievement of shared goals.)

I have elaborated on Doug's list of objectives to describe what my
vision of a "community network action plan" might be. The appended message
describes a "Y2K Community Network" that would likely be exactly what is
needed to implement such a plan.

I propose that the plan be defined and published together with a schedule for
planning and developing the next layers of implementation. Ideas will have to
be published on the Internet and participants only trying to revise them enough
to get the essence of the job done. We just need to get all the communities
talking and generally headed in the same direction. The Internet may just
make this possible.

Below are Doug's list of objectives ( indicated with >'s ) interspersed with my
initial thoughts in response.

>I hope we strengthen each other through
>1. new understanding of the state of knowledge about the facts.
Use that knowledge to do the following:

a. Effectively document and share that knowledge so that Y2K Community
Network participants will share a much better common understanding of where
we are and where we want to go next.

b. Define necessary action for all parties which can have impact on solving
the Y2K problems, including community groups, businesses, government at all

c. Document that necessary action as clearly and succinctly as possible.

d. Define a plan to publicize and disseminate this action plan to all those
that can have impact on reolutiion of the Y2K problem.

>2. is community proving to be a viable point of organization?
a. Make it so, if there is no competing idea or plan that seems more

b. Attempt to strongly capitalize on the proposed capabilities of the
embryonic Y2K Community Network.

c. Resolve to collaborate in the effort to VERY QUICKLY bring into being a
nation-wide Y2K Community Network.

d. Disseminate the action plan to the community participants in the network
and solicit their self tasking to implement the action plan.

e. Support and motivate organizations such as National League of Cities
(NLC) and National Association of Counties (NACo) to become very active in

f. Publish the "Action Plan" on a web site for all to review, endorse and

g. Supplement the "Action Plan" with a top 10 or top 50 identification of
Y2K problems that are not being sufficiently addressed and clearly state
for all to see, who should do what to bring the lagging effort into time
alignment with the 500-day schedule for remediation and contingency

h. Similarly, identify specific "Contingency Preparation" actions in terms
of who should be doing what, when.

i. Massage the published plans thoroughly, carefully and constantly to make
sure that:
(1) They are consistent and complementary.

(2) Provision is made to tailor the plans to meet the unique needs of
individual communities.

(3) The are complimentary to the efforts of business and govenmental entities and other organizations with ongoing efforts in the same areas.

>3. how we can help make all efforts, from within organizations, individual
>sense of health and lowered dependency, and community quality of life, be
>creative as well as preventative and curative.
a. Plan to greatly enhance our education with regard to how national &
global forces really impact our lives and how we can better deal with them
to make the impact positive rather than negative.

b. Define requirements for business and government projects that will help
make our infrastructure much less brittle and indeed the global
infrastructure similarly less brittle.

c. Clearly and positively communicate these requirements to legislators,
regulatory agencies, businesses and business organization to promote
actions on their part which are compliant with the defined requirements.

>4. What other developments in society are tending to support this work, and
>what are actually opposed.
Part of my 3a above.

>5. better understanding of how our multifaceted diverse population is or is
>not participating (including the rest of the world), and what we can learn
>from it.
Part of my 3a above.

Douglass has expressed some very good thoughts here. What needs to be done
is to respond to them with a very aggressive action plan. Specifically
that should be developing a community action group in every state, at
least, and networking them together via the Internet to produce a powerful,
optimally collaborative force.

The Cassandra Project and many other people have been trying to do just
that for some prolonged period of time. It seems that the population just
hasn't been ready. Perhaps the 500 day mark will open the opportunity to
now make things start to move very quickly...


_ _ _ _

From: Ian Wells <>

Excellent idea Harlan!

>From my perspective, I am not sure that I see a plan yet. There are several
initiatives underway and what we want to produce August 19th is something
that is a direction to go in that will not likely change - we want to set
expectations about what is possible (since there are no proven examples, in
fact, we will not know what worked and what did not till 2001).

Devil's advocate:
Please convince me that a plan would help in community organizing. Who
would we give it to? A major practical problem is that no one has the job
of Y2k preparation, each group in the city must be convinced separately and
a way found for them to see that by working with others they will be better
Even the mayor cannot take this and run. I think a city is the right
boundary for organizing because there is so much organization in place that
can help out - EMO, police, water, legal entity, etc. The problem is there
is no organization in place to address Y2k, no time to get it in place and
everyone in their jobs has got there using skills which are not necessarily
helpful for Y2k - for example, sharing information is paramount and
building trust that we are all better off working together than we are
trying to outmanouver someone else. These are very real and anything we
do/propose should address them directly.

So let me counterpropose we come up "requirements" not plans - the plans
that are developed, likely at the bottom level up, can meet the
requirements ( Can you tell I am a software engineer :-> ) John I
know wanted some way to evaluate plans vs schedules. Maybe if we had a
solid requirements list, we could rate community plans against these

To reiterate, what we do for August 19th, is to set down an expectation of
what is possible - most people don't believe that community organizing for
Y2k is possible, much in the same way most people thought it was impossible
to go to the moon before JFK said we can do - " not because its easy but
because its hard" and he set down a timeline. He issued a challenge to our
beliefs over what was possible.

Any goals/requirements we come up with should be matched by *actual
experience* in our communities. Time is too short to perfect some fine idea
that cannot be implemented *in our community*. I have said this before but
for this to work we need to base our direction on experience and discard
what is not working. We need images of success. Ideas are cheap. Experience

In Lowell we have several initiatives starting up - a conference being
organized supported by a bank and large non profit company, and with the
prospect of broad based coalition to address Y2k
community wide, and with the mayor being involved and wanting to promote
the conference, and the local media beginning to be interested.

For my contribution to developing a common goal list,
I have created a top ten list for Lowell,
based on what has worked here and what is needed.


Has anyone experience with "community planning reviews"? In software, it
has been shown that structured reviews ("inspections" is the official term)
can reduce the number of bugs in delivered code and help get projects out on
time. Since we have only one chance to get our plans right and the deadline
is fixed, I am wondering how how we can review each others' Y2k community
project plans early on to ensure we get them as right as possible.

From: Tom Atlee < >

Dear Harlan and Ian,

Thank you both for your excellent, potent ideas.

I don't think ideas are cheap. I also don't think a plan... or bold action.... or talk.... is The Answer. I think life is richer, more complicated than that; and that that fact exists even in the midst of the urgent demands of our crisis.

My own ideal is action that arises from the passion and wisdom of people who, through real dialogue (which is shared exploration, not just "talk"), have gained useful insights into the full reality they are dealing with. That's my ideal. I seldom achieve it, but find great rewards in striving towards it.

What's do I think is cheap? Action without understanding is cheap. Ideas with no value to others are cheap. Plans which don't take into account changing circumstances are cheap. Talk with no relevance to life is cheap.

What's not cheap is the wisdom won through shared experience and reflection. We don't get wisdom without experience. Nor do we get wisdom without reflection. We need BOTH. And, collectively, we don't get either shared experience or shared reflection without real dialogue, relevant conversation, powerful interchanges of experience and perspective among all those involved. Wisdom also requires individual and collective reflection in order to remain relevant to changing realities. The fact that real collective reflection is so rare in our adversarial, alienated, rushed culture does not change the fact that it is both possible and necessary.

But that is not the whole picture. (Nothing ever is.)

We are all different. Some of us are biased towards reflection. Others are biased towards action. Some are biased towards the long-term. Others are biased towards the immediate. Some are biased towards feelings. Others are biased towards concepts. Some are biased towards nurturing processes. Others are biased towards engineering outcomes. And on and on...

We can treat these differences as valuable gifts, and try to encourage synergy among them, so that we can better compensate for each other's blind spots and weaknesses. Or we can attack the blind spots and weaknesses we see so clearly in each others' approaches, so that our approach can prevail. The urgency of our circumstances pushes us towards nailing down The One Way, trying to get everyone on board One Train -- usually our own. Otherwise, we fear, all will be chaos and will fail and fall into ruin.

I've only seen the One Right Way approach succeed in our imaginations -- or in limited, well-controlled environments, over a short run. That inevitably top-down approach almost always produces problems in the long run. Given our (and everyone else's) diversity, our different cognitive styles, our different experiences, our different stages of development, my experience has been that the best we can hope for is to work most centrally with those who share our visions, styles and propensities, while staying in good contact with those who are very different from us. In this way we can make our best contributions -- while at the same time gaining insights into our blind spots and preventing our strengths from turning into weaknesses.

I think of this as an ecological approach: The best niche for each person or group is defined by their unique qualities, relationships, and capacities, which lead them to gather with others who are similar or complementary. We can make the whole system more efficient by enhancing healthy relationships among all involved and providing environments conducive to their mutually-beneficial interaction and shared experience. This is my favorite form of activism -- building powerful contexts within which people can learn together and self-organize into whatever activities make sense to them, rather than elucidating a plan of action.

This preference of mine in no way invalidates the action-plan approach. I believe the desire to elucidate a universal plan of action is right for those who find that inspiring or useful. That approach SHOULD be pursued by those people. It is their creative niche in the whole ecosystem of activities. I would happily send to them anyone I meet who fits that niche. I would also invite those planners to realize that some people won't want that approach -- and that that lack of interest is part of the reality they're working with. Anyone trying to follow a plan is acting in a context not controlled by the plan. The plan needs to take that into account, creatively.

You are an engineer, Harlan. I am not. I have a hard time thinking that way. I feel like a plan would limit my ability to contribute my best to our Y2K efforts. (90% of what I've done with Y2K -- including my promoting you as a key voice in the political dialogue -- has come out of current observations, not from any long-term plan). I think our shortage of time demands
a) that those inclined to plan do good plans and act on them, and seek out those who respond to those plans to work with them (there will be more such people as time goes on)
b) that those inclined to feel, feel deeply and communicate those feelings well and broadly
c) that those inclined to generate visions and images do so in the most compelling manner possible, and get those visions and images out in the world
d) that those inclined to create opportunities for others to learn, network and do their best work, get cracking making powerful opportunities available (funding, conferences, networks, etc.)
e) that those inclined to talk to people about Y2K choose people to talk to whose engagement with the issue will make a big difference, and start talking
f) etc., with each of us doing the best possible form of what we do, honoring what the others are doing, and keeping in good touch with each other.

Ultimately, we don't know what will make the difference. Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin played an inordinate role in ending slavery. President Kennedy's vision and NASA's planning were both essential to getting a man on the moon. Reagan's nuclear saber-rattling and the actions of certain citizen diplomats were both oddly influential in bringing down the Soviet empire. The image of the earth from outer space transformed the consciousness of the planet. The comment of a nuclear-frightened child to her uncle stimulated a march of hundreds of people across the U.S. for peace -- a march which only succeeded after it went bankrupt and lost its leadership.

Life is complicated. Some of us are going to be doing a lot of dialogue about that, searching for understandings to guide our next steps, knowing that what direction we choose is more important than the speed we are going -- and knowing, as well, that if we go too slow we won't get very far. Among the things I most want to talk about are what kind of context will support the optimum realization of Harlan's plans AND the best collection and distribution of Ian's community-action images AND the most dynamic development of my context-creation efforts AND [ whatever each of you would most like to see ].

See also: The Challenge of Nurturing Self-Organized Y2K Responses
Preparedness plans for counties and cities
Santa Cruz County's Y2K Community Planning Document