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Converging on tools for community transformation

Fifth in a series As America’s political pep rallies begin this week in Philadelphia with the Republicans’ national convention, it is worth noting that the most important movement of our time is not political, but cultural. And it is not showing on nightly news, but unfolding on the non-stop web.

We are witnessing a global shift away from modern technocratic society toward what sociologist Paul H. Ray calls &integral culture,& concerned with spiritual transformation, ecological sustainability and the worth of the feminine. By Ray’s accounting, the &cultural creatives& who are leading this transformation already comprise more than 25 percent of our population and are fast-approaching a critical mass.

If Kauaian demographics reflect this same cultural shift, perhaps this explains the signs of convergence in Kauaian life reported here previously.

Either way, a fifth type of convergence promises to be equally important, because it is focused on the new &power tools& of communication that can enable more rapid change in the years ahead, especially including new tools for community learning, consensus-building and collaborative work that are now freely available on the web.

By some estimates, more than half of Kauaian households have moved onto the web, and perhaps one-third are more or less continuously in the loop online regarding community issues.

Together with community leaders around the planet, we are creating simple tools for civil society out of virtual nothingness in cyberspace- tools that empower a step-by-step dailiness, dialogues and conversations on a local level, and that help us to envision and create the myriad changes needed to achieve a sustainable island future.

Kauaians do know how to malama and kokua, and it makes sense that we are building upon this strength by learning to adapt these new tools in ways that help extend our sense of responsibility and engagement with the `aina and with each other.

We know for certain the value of our Kauaian networking increases as the number of participants grows, and that the effectiveness of our individual and group efforts is enhanced as we discover and connect with each other.

In the realm of community learning, Kauaians are moving past the web’s commercial and sexual come-ons to discover the virtual ocean of information now at our fingertips. For example, as part of his contribution to the Hanalei River Hui, Uncle Vincent Napolis has been digging into the “cybrary” of research to prompt some amazing learning about how to filter the taro waste water with natural vegetation in the ditches.

Likewise, much of our preparation for islandwide stream restoration- including training materials for newly recruited volunteers- is coming from online government and academic resources. Search engines and directories have become vital in our review of &best practices,& not just in watershed restoration, but across the spectrum of community challenges we now face in each ahupua`a. Throughout our network of community-based organizations, e-mail has become mandatory, and we are getting more of our news and info from the web than from any other source.

In the realm of consensus-building, all of the chat, conferencing and list management tools are becoming increasingly helpful to Kauaians. For example, in parallel with the national and statewide debate regarding merits of the Akaka Bill for U.S. recognition of kanaka maoli, Kauaians from Ha`ena to Kekaha have been holding their own discussion on Ho`okipa Network’s e-list.

Also, much of our community discourse on island energy choices that began with the proposed Hanama`ulu site and extended into the acquisition process for Kaua`i Electric has been conducted by e-mail. The proposed redevelopment of Coco Palms even sports its own website that provides historical, graphic and news files for community review.

In each of these cases, we are finding that 24/7 access and the more inclusive process of &many-to-many& communication can prompt much more robust deliberations on any local topic, tap into a broader spectrum of community knowledge, and make the task of forging consensus all that much easier.

In the realm of collaborative community work, one recent project found many of our island’s technical experts from archaeology to zoology working together online to help co-edit a wonderful new report on the ahupua`a of Maha`ulepu. Moreover, many of our island teachers are increasingly shifting to web-based study materials, and are now collaborating on developing an online learning community of their own.

Next week, a group of Kauaian websters will converge for a brainstorming session on creating a Kauaian &portal& as one means of simplifying and leveraging our community webwork. Separately, some of these leaders have been facilitating our community learning and consensus-building, and beginning to collaborate on Kauaian projects. Let us see what synergies may emerge as these disparate community efforts are woven into a tighter Kauaian web.

Ready or not, Kauaians are plunging into these new challenges, listening to each other, doing our homework and staying in the loop. Sure, we still hear plenty of groans about the time and learning needed to effectively use the web, and our fledgling effort to manage all this info sometimes feels like trying to drink from a firehose.

Still, as Kauaians entrusted with our community future, we are getting better and better at using these new tools through the simple expedient of taking time to help each other learn and adapt.

And we must get better at it, because we have so much info to digest and discuss and so much collaborative work that needs doing.

This is what tools are for, and among those seeking more integral culture, our expanding use of them offers the greatest hope.

This is the final essay on “converging canoes” in Kauaian life. Ken Stokes, who can be reached at kaimiau@hotmail.com, hosts Ho`okipa Network’s &virtual taro patch& website and a KKCR talk show on Kauaian community initiatives.

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