Barn's burnt down
Now
I can see the Moon.
~ Mizuta Masahide


Saturday, February 21, 2015

#WeekendReads: Highlights from #CommunityWealth Generation Beyond the V/Alley #socent #impinv #sharingeconomy #law #msulawsm


Every Monday the paper.li that I curate updates and as my schedule permits I chip away at reviewing the articles during the week. Below are some of the articles that stand out as significant conversations about social enterprise, impact investing, the sharing economy and the law.



  • Worker Cooperatives and the commons - three good reads and a video
    • Own the Change: Building Economic Democracy One Worker Co-Op at a Time (video). This video not only profiles worker-owners who have successfully built worker-owned cooperatives, it also breaks down the process of developing a cooperative into discrete steps. Granted, at 22 minutes, it's not as substantive as a session with a lawyer who has cooperative formation expertise BUT it is a VERY good start for organizations contemplating this structure to review the video and start thinking through the governance structure that makes sense for the talents and goals of the members, the products they will produce and the consumer market they will serve.
    • New York City Invests in Worker Co-ops — and Equitable Growth. I generally prefer to highlight efforts elsewhere, but in light of the high costs for living and for business in New York City, I am inspired by the city's decision to invest "$1.2 million this year in developing worker-owned businesses in low-income communities and communities of color. It's the largest investment in such businesses ever made by a city government in the United States."
    • Apparently Mondragon Cooperative, based in Spain, has a tumblr. I don't really get tumblr, but the more I learn about Mondragon, the more I believe that their model merits very close scrutiny and broad implementation.
    • The New Greek Government Endorses Commons-Based, Peer Production Solutions. Greece and Syriza's efforts to retool the Greek economy into a commons-based, bottom-up, peer-production model with transparent national governance should be interesting to track. The focus on implementing these efforts first in education and small business development, rather than rushing to nationalize everything may well place Greece on better footing to make a more effective transition. And the focus on transparent governance should help mitigate corruption.
  • Efforts to improve the data analysis for the "social good"
    • Calculating the Social Cost of Policymaking - Maryland's former governor and potential presidential hopeful, Martin O'Malley, oversaw a cost effectiveness analysis of state fleet vehicles and included net present value plus (NPV+), "a new way to include social and environmental impacts into the overall cost of something. The concept is an expansion of the more common NPV analysis that calculates the lifetime value of a purchase in present terms by incorporating upfront costs with potential savings and expenses down the road, all while accounting for inflation. The "plus" adds tangential factors like the cost of environmental degradation and benefits like ecological resiliency."
  • Green energy and energy cooperatives
    • How and Why Utilities Make Solar Look Expensive. This is an interesting critique of Tucson Electric Power's apparent effort to dismiss solar power investment despite Tucson's abundance of solar energy. It's a bit snarky and the author takes the utility to task for "exaggerating [solar power's] cost" by inflating the cost by 45%. If, despite the snark, the analysis is accurate, then this is something Tucson residents (like my mom) need to challenge.
    • Community-Owned Energy: How Nebraska Became the Only State to Bring Everyone Power From a Public Grid. "In the United States, there is one state, and only one state, where every single resident and business receives electricity from a community-owned institution rather than a for-profit corporation. ... In Nebraska, 121 publicly owned utilities, ten cooperatives, and 30 public power districts provide electricity to a population of around 1.8 million people." Though the bulk of the energy is generated from coal and nuclear, the community has voted to increase investment in renewables (especially wind turbines) fairly consistently since 2003. Way to go Huskers!
  • With Lent now in full swing, I was also pleased to see that Shareable.net shared "What Catholic Social Teaching Can Teach the Sharing Economy". As Catholics go, I'm more Dorothy Day than Opus Dei, and a large part of my faith and spiritual practice has to do with the developed tradition of Catholic social teaching: preferential option for the poor; subsidiarity; solidarity; the commons; and family values (which is not as easily partisan as too many people on the left and right like to believe). It's also worth noting the recent Guardian Lifestyle piece, It's Nice to Be Nice, as a welcome reminder and companion piece to Catholic Social Teaching.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Call Me a #SocialMedia Luddite BUT Influence ≠ Expertise: Thoughtsre: #Facebook #Patent via @kevinokeefe #msulawsm

So I had a spit-out-the-Earl-Grey moment this morning as I was browsing Twitter, and it was prompted by Kevin O'Keefe's blog post about this:


Source: 
Kevin O'Keefe, "Facebook patents method to determine a lawyer’s expertise," Real Lawyers Have Blogs (Feb 17, 2015), bit.ly/1ENVW8v

This is the visual breakdown of Facebook's 2012 patent for identifying experts and influencers in a social network. Though the patent does not focus on lawyers and Kevin acknowledges as much in his post, Kevin is dead on that if (when?) this patent is used to vet lawyers, it could be a professional game changer.

Essentially, with the patented method, Facebook can track both the rate of sharing of information and its root (the original share). Based on that information, Facebook expects to identify influencers and experts (emphasis added).

Why I nearly gagged on my tea:
  1. The patent is strictly in service of Facebook advertising. The patent abstract states that the information gleaned would "[use] the identified experts and influencers for advertising, social grouping and other suitable purposes." Hint: those suitable purposes are NOT access to justice, improved access to accurate and current legal information, or even improvement in the delivery of legal services by attorneys and other legal service providers.

    Thus, the patent method only highlights the influencers to improve targeted marketing. Which is FINE, since this is Facebook's business. But let's not overstate the value of what this method does. Which brings me to:
  2. Influence is not expertise. Influence is at best an indication of engagement, and at worse is merely savvy marketing. In a perfect world, the only legal information that would be shared via Facebook would be, you know, accurate. But at times - in the parlance of passive wrongdoers - mistakes are made. And sometimes items are shared precisely BECAUSE they are wrong to illustrate a point about the person or organization who originally shared it.

    Now I'm no programmer (as my frustrating quality time with Code School determined last summer) but if the patented method (algorithm?) ONLY tracks rate of sharing and origins (or the "root") of the share, but fails to glean the accuracy of the information shared, then Facebook needs to stop calling this a patent for identifying "experts."
BUT if Facebook figures out how to partner with services that CAN glean accuracy and currency (e.g. Cornel Legal Information Institute, Bloomberg Law, Westlaw, or Lexis) then this really could become a helpful service for clients seeking to use Facebook to find attorneys with relevant substantive expertise and for attorneys seeking to demonstrate their expertise. Granted, there may be issues with respect to ABA Model Rules 7.1 - 7.6, which address how and where attorneys should share information about legal services, particularly where an attorney "thinks out loud" on Facebook.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Is this a "thing" yet? #ClimateChange Relocation and #Localist Economic Development Specialist #placemaking #dreamjob #MSULawSM

It is totally possible that I may have missed something during the fog that is law school, but it seems that most discussions about the expected population displacements due to climate change focus on climate refugees from island nations and rapidly desiccating subsaharan nations. This makes sense of course because for many of the citizens of these nations the evacuation need is now, rather than in some more distant future.

Domestically, the discussion seems to gloss over the fact that if the projections are correct (See NASA's recent megadrought projections for the next 35 years), millions of American citizens will soon need to relocate from flooded coasts or drought-ridden communities, most likely to other locales within the United States. With Central California wells already running dry and the ferocity of recent hurricanes displacing hundreds of thousands of people (e.g. Katrina: 400k people and Sandy: 776k), the need to think about and plan for relocation is now.

At the same time, other communities in the country are rebounding from the Great Recession and are actively pursuing strategies for locally-owned and operated, sustainable economic development (See Cleveland, the BALLE case studies, Richmond, VA). This is particularly true for communities that are off the beaten path or are reinventing themselves as post-industrial locales.

So, why not combine the needs of climate change relocation with the needs of localist economic development? Put another way, where will all the amazing companies and organizations in, say, the San Francisco Bay Area go when the sea levels rise, the heat waves become chronic, the water runs out, and/or the Big One hits?

Proactive planning for relocation should be part of any climate-change threatened organization's or individual's emergency management plan and long-term projections. BUT the best relocation planning would take seriously the organization's or individual's role in becoming a community partner in placemaking in its future home.

Essentially a community development strategy of disaster avoidance and prosperity creation needs to be part of future planning. A proactive embrace of relocation as an opportunity rather than a chore can prove to be a very good decision for business, communities and for individuals' quality of life.

A Climate Change Relocation and Localist Economic Development Specialist would be part Hollywood location scout, part matchmaker, part community mediator, part designer, and part lawyer. She would help relocating businesses and individuals identify communities in more stable zones that are or could be excellent partners for the business' or individual's talents and goals. She would also work with communities hoping for an influx of good neighbors and good business by helping those communities complete a soul-searching SWOT analysis of their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Communities hoping to welcome new neighbors and businesses have to recognize that they can rarely control who those people and businesses will be (exceptions: formula business zoning and other zoning & building code strategies), and thus they need to be sure that they are ready to grow and learn with their new neighbors.

Certainly a specialist who is a skilled facilitative or transformative community mediator can help with these conversations. If she also has a design thinking sensibility she can help insure that the process is empathetic and responsive to both the migrants and the communities. And as a lawyer, she can facilitate the numerous transactions incumbent in relocating businesses and individuals (e.g. real estate transactions and syncing business and estate needs with the laws of the new state).

Admittedly, that's a lot to ask of one person, but then again, this is the era of the purple squirrel job description. Personally, I see this need to help individuals, businesses and communities plan for the effects of climate change as an argument for a multidisciplinary practice where relocation specialists, mediators, business-savvy service designers and lawyers work together to help communities, businesses and individuals prepare for and embrace the inevitability of change.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Week in Review: #CommunityWealth Generation & #Socent News Beyond the V/Alley via @OuiShare @nytdavidbrooks @DemocracyCollab

Reviewing the articles collected in this week's edition of Beyond the V/Alley paper.li, I have decided 1) that my future practice must include significant attention to administrative law, and 2) I still want to dual qualify as a solicitor in the UK because I am impressed by many organizations in the community wealth development and impact investing circles.

The articles and video that stood out to me in this edition of Beyond the V/Alley, include:
  • Michael Shuman's GritTV interview on "Moving Your Money" followed by a short profile of the Cero cooperative in Boston, MA:

  • David Brooks' editorial, "How to Leave a Mark" not only appears in this edition, it was also was frequently shared on Facebook and Twitter, and for good reason. He distinguishes socially responsible investing (largely a strategy of avoiding the bad) from impact investing (a strategy of building the good through targeted community investments). It's a good, balanced and succinct read.
  • The Stanford Social Innovation Review article, "US Economic Mobility and Investing for Impact" links to the recent Aspen Institute & Georgetown University report, The Bottom Line: Investing for Impact on Economic Mobility in the US. This is a pretty substantive report "with a focus on deal flow and returns. [They] did not set out to complete a comprehensive state of the field survey, but instead to understand how the investments of active investors could help build economic security for families." The report zeroes in on impact investing for outcomes in education, community economic assets (e.g. reducing the costs of recidivism and affordable housing), and health and well-being. As a law student, I find it curious that "law" is rarely expressly referenced in the full report (except with respect to tax laws), though federal, state and local "policy" is ubiquitous and appears to function as a euphemism for administrative law (See pp 127-128 of the report, which is a chart of the most important federal statutes related to community-based impact investing). At any rate, I look forward to reading the full report...soonish (ahhh, law school...so greedy with my time).
  • The business headlines this week are a bit ... odd, but Assets & Opportunity Scorecard (via the Democracy Collaborative) is an interesting resource for "for data on household financial security and policy solutions." From the About page: "The Assets & Opportunity Scorecard is a comprehensive look at Americans’ financial security today and their opportunities to create a more prosperous future. It assesses the 50 states and the District of Columbia on 135 outcome and policy measures, which describe how well residents are faring and what states can do to help them build and protect assets."
  • Anyone who is interested in the nexus between local impact investing, community development, and transparency in governance needs to follow the progress of the new Office of Community Wealth Building in Richmond, VA. It was established last year to coordinate poverty reduction and wealth building initiatives. Richmond, VA and Jackson, MS are piloting potentially transformative and scalable models of prudent public-private partnerships and other community-based initiatives. They are definitely communities to watch.
  • There are two very awesome conferences soliciting proposals, and I am very put out that I cannot attend either of them. 
    • A call for proposals for the 2nd Annual #FLOSS4P2P conference in London is accepting proposals through February 28th. So, if you have a project that is "building software for peer production and organization, with a focus on distributed ones," then you might want to get your proposal in soon. It sounds like a very interesting conference particularly if the projects leverage P2P technology to support effective and efficient cooperative enterprise. Plus it's in London, and as I plan to dual qualify as a solicitor in the not too distant future, my inner Anglophile really wants to attend.
    • The third OuiShare Fest in Paris will explore the theme "Lost in Transition" during "a three-day festival about the collaborative society" from May 20-22, 2015, and it seeks proposals for sessions and content that will further discussions and actions in collaborative social development (e.g. "collaborative consumption, open source, makers and fablabs, coworking, crowdfunding, alternative currencies and horizontal governance." It sounds a lot like the Peers.org SHARE conference I was invited to attend last May, but OuiShare appears more focused on collaborative society and not as focused on the collaborative workforce as Peers seems to be. Sadly, I won't be able to confirm this in person this year, but perhaps you will. If you make it to OuiShare, having learned about it from me, please note: I really love Cyb√®le, an eau de toilette by Galimard. In case you were wondering.