Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cell phones

I've tried to do some reading on cell phone etiquette since last night after I got into a protracted discussion with someone about my perceived lack of the existence of such etiquette. I was mainly annoyed that I was in a restaurant with this individual, and he answered the phone. The phone call was from a friend of ours calling because she needed to get a hairdryer from someone else.

I generally don't like cell phones but have never really sat down and thought about why that was so. Initially my distaste for them grew out of my work colleagues' tendencies to contact people outside of work--there was no way I wanted to be that "in touch" when I was officially off the clock.

Nor am I the Luddite that people try to make me out to be. I love washing machines, my computer (except for the time that the hard drive crashed and I lost a year's of grad school--but that's another post targeted towards you Mac evangelists), portable recorded music, fast internet connections, and antibiotics. I don't want to get into a conversation bashing cell phones, because there are obvious pros and cons for any given technology. It's not worth enumerating here.

But I do think that it is worthwhile to think about how technology has changed interactions between people, as trite as this sentiment has played out.

My initial thoughts coalesce around how cell phone usage potentially changes the prioritization of time, expressed through the "granting" of time to company and those trying to get through on the cell phone. This goes for call waiting, too. I was trying to figure out how being interrupted by a cell phone is fundamentally different than being interrupted by a live human. I wouldn't be so annoyed by the latter if we (my friend and I) were out. I think that the former bothers me more by the sheer inability for a tripartite interaction to occur. But then, speaker phone answers that. But then, why the f*ck would I want to be on speaker phone in public? Tacky.

I also welcome any suggestions as to how to articulate the scheduling flexibility that cell phones seem to promote. I say "seem" because I think that they promote flexibility for one individual, but not necessarily for another. More than once have I arrived somewhere at an appointed time, only to be called by that person with a request to cancel, change the time, or change the location because it's more convenient for the other person.

I do also love the following scenarios:

1. Sitting with someone else, chatting. Other's cell rings.
O: "Oh, hi, I'm out with Ñalang. Can I call you back?"
First off, if it's not dire for you answer your stupid phone initially, then why couldn't your voicemail have picked up until after we left the restaurant? The requisite response is that the person calling could have had an emergency. I can't argue with that, but I don't buy it entirely either--especially since no one in my immediate circle does brain surgery, delivers babies, or had an incapacitated parent/child/dog.

2. In a movie. Jerk answers cell.
J: "I'm in a movie. Can I call you back?" Protracted conversation might ensue, revolving around when the movie might end and what the phone call is about.

I take it back. I loathe cell phones. I think they turn people into pathologically dependent individuals.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Competition, nonprofit style 2

In this week's previous post, I asked a general question regarding nonprofit organizations' abilities to patent and sue on behalf of innovations they make. In also used "nonprofit organization" interchangeably with "social justice movements" and will be more careful in this post to make the distinction.

I haven't read INCITE's The Revolution Will Not Be Funded (yet), but did read Gerard Alexander's (2007, April 23) "The Nonprofit Industrial Complex" from the Weekly Standard. Alexander's conservative orientations lead him to critique nonprofits (or otherwise termed the independent sector) for their left-wing tendencies, but he makes some salient points, namely:

  • Nonprofit endowments or foundations invest around $1 trillion annually
  • Nonprofits are largely unregulated, either by government or stakeholders in the organizations, like clients or government (this critique coming from a neoconservative, no less!)
  • Nonprofits can become unofficial extensions of government agencies
  • Foundational influence can decrease over time given newfound corporate influx in philanthropic giving and changes in the nonprofit sector itself, with specific transitions for hospitals and educational institutions into profitable enterprises (i.e. Blue Shield, University of Phoenix)

I'm going to exclude universities from my discussion of nonprofits and intellectual property as it should be self-evident what that relationship is.

But I will still open discussion regarding intellectual property rights for the nonprofits I am especially interested in, like those involved in youth social programs. Tangentially, here's a good case study.

Other countries, for example, were able to replicate the core business model of this agency. The core business model, however—a marketplace-style mode of matching donors and project proposals—was contingent on software that could produce matches and facilitate the proposal fulfillment process. I have no idea how sophisticated or expensive this software was to develop, but I am sure that the donation by Yahoo! of technical assistance (months of volunteering by engineers) amounts to a significant outlay of time, expertise, and would have been completely inviable without the donation. This agency, modelled as the primo example of social entrepreneurship, seeks to become self-sufficient through a user's fee paid out by donors, but I am not sure to what extent the agency currently is self-sufficient. I will be interested as the woes of this recession play out.

Indeed, anyone in the nonprofit world should be so concerned.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Competition, nonprofit style

The program planning took a backseat role this weekend as I rushed the first draft of my thesis to a self-imposed deadline today. The good news, as far that headache is concerned, is that I have a lot data and ideas with which to work. The bad news is that I'm at 70 pages, I have a few more ideas to develop, and the department sets an approximate page limit of 50 pages. Part of me wants to continue just to see if it's possible to get an honorary doctorate for being prolific--but then again, I guess every lame-ass blogger would be eligible as well.

On the program front, I did have an awesome meeting with a program director today, seeking answers to questions about curriculum development. But here's the issue: given the funder limitations out there, how do nonprofits compete with each other?

The first answer is that those who do not write enough grants or who suck at programs/management just fade out.

The second answer is that some nonprofits (like those modelled on emerging social entrepreneurial frameworks) have innovative programming and therefore have some sort of first-mover advantage in securing funding.

The third answer is that some successful nonprofits are able to outsource their work through subcontracts to sustain other nonprofits that are not yet as "developed" or even incorporate smaller nonprofits to grow.

The answer I'm interested in, however, relates to the innovation and the intellectual property rights that a successful nonprofit might have. Since I do curriculum development, I want to get some ideas from organizations that are already established. Some of these orgs are set to publish their curricula and sell them, either to sustain programming or offset print costs. But at the same time, for a pilot project that simply does not have the start-up capital to gain technical assistance, I am really shy to ask, "Can I look at your work and take a few ideas?"

Culturally speaking, within the nonprofit world my first reaction is that workers are generous with their knowledge and skills given the lack of profit incentive. But philanthropy is increasingly directed by donors and competitive. Additionally, with the professionalization of grassroots movements and the exponentially growing field of "consultancy," is it possible that those involved in social justice movements will become just as assertive in claiming ownership of their methods as those in the corporate world? Could it be possible to patent and sue on behalf of a movement's techniques?

Friday, March 21, 2008

The start of March madness (not basketball)

Having secured that aforementioned grant, now is the time to not only finish this master’s thesis which has been dogging me for at least six months now, but also to start program planning. I intend for this project to be a full-fledged program—partially because my inherently neurotic nature demands a pretty organized and logical follow-through and partially because I’m terrified to land in Guåhan and flail around physically, emotionally, and professionally.

So from here on out a few of my posts are going to be related to the maturity of my project and my reflections on the coming challenges.

To date: I’ve had one meeting with my project partner and we’re working on a logic model and mission statement. Today I wrote three emails outlining our current needs (lesson plans for listening, interpersonal skills development, leadership training) and hoping to schedule appointments with other organizations who either share our social justice goals, target populations, and/or mediums of projects (i.e. video, the web).

What’s a logic model? This is a chart that project planners use. Let’s say you want to start a project that addresses a social problem, like poverty. A logic model compartmentalizes the ways that you’ll tackle this problem. It shows you what kinds of resources/INPUTS you already have (money, facilities, staff), the ACTIVITIES you'll do to attack an aspect of the problem (provide social worker counseling sessions), some ways you'll measure the scope of what you're doing (listing how many sessions a social worker might have in a month and with how many clients), and some OUTCOMES (clients get hooked up to health and food pantry services). There's another box for IMPACT, which measures the long-term success of a project. An example of an appropriate impact here would be the eradication of poverty. Logic models show how a process works and where there might be problems in the implementation of that process, as well as reveal inconsistencies in the process and problem.

Here's an example of a logic model.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Good news, boring delivery

I have to say: having friends in a time zone three hours behind mine is very convenient, particularly if it is 3 in the morning on the Eastern seaboard and I am suffering from mad insomnia/anxiety/general restlessness.

Got some excellent news recently about a grant request fulfilled, which means that I immediately go into a work mode that has not yet been challenged in the past two years at grad school. This is not to say that I have not done a significant amount of work. Grad school work, however, has been of the ideological labor kind as opposed to the kind that involves intense planning, administrative fortune-telling, and behavior (i.e. DIPLOMACY) that I normally associate with a paycheck and not reading books with “discourse” in the title.

Man, I really hope this blog gets more interesting to read with time.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sanlågu: What does it mean?

Both of my parents come from islands (one being a U.S. territory, the other being a U.S. state). Frequently islanders will refer to the continguous 48 U.S. states as The Mainland.

In the previous post I translated Sanlågu to mean “continental 48,” but I think from now on I might just use Sanlågu exclusively.

Why is this important?

Many an academic career have been predicated on defining boundaries around groups, who makes up those groups, and what those groups should be named. Political projects have also revolved around these kinds of categorizations, and often to the detriment of specific groups within a given territory. Apartheid and the Holocaust, to take the most extreme examples, capitalized on these categorizations to advance pretty horrific state agendas. Alternatively, these categorizations have also served to ensure that some groups continue or will live lives of privilege, and perhaps at the expense of other groups' basic human rights.

I am very interested in processes of decolonization and how they pertain to Guåhan. Decolonization is a complex concept and I’ll get to it over the next week or so. But just to start out the conversation, decolonization seeks to empower historically oppressed groups to look at themselves and ask, Who has defined us so far? How have those individuals (or states) defined us? Is that who are? Is that who we want to be?

When islanders refer to The Mainland, this might be an unconscious reflex. Habits are hard to break. But it’s worthwhile to ask, “Why should
Sanlågu be called ‘The Mainland,’ when where I live, and where my family lives, and where most of my life’s important changes take place is here, on this island?”

Etymologically speaking, I’m also going to investigate the more specific meaning of Sanlågu, since the Chamoru dictionary helpfully points out that san and lågu mean directions.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Desnek yu'!/Surprise!

I’ve got three months to go in my grad school career. During this time, I’ve spent most of it studying Chamoru sovereignty issues—thanks mostly in part to a fortuitous meeting with members of Famoksaiyan.

As part of this quest to learn more about my family and my family’s history, I also began taking Chamoru lessons. Alas, in the continental 48 I don’t know anyone else with whom to practice, and talking on the phone with my mom can be frustrating without seeing her gesture for me. So part of this blog will also record the trajectory of my language learning and challenges. Please excuse the mistakes.

And lucky me! I’m leaving here soon enough to live in Guåhan for the first time in my life. While I’m there I hope to do and learn a lot of things, not least of which includes raising chickens, husking a coconut, and fishing.

Håfa adai! Ma'pos na fanomñagan estudia yu' i fino' Chamoru gi i Unibetsedat Guåhan. Gi i sanlagu ti guaha yu' i taotao Chamoru para praktika. Malago yu' komprende sa' put fabot dispensa yu' i lachi siha.

Hi! Last summer I studied Chamoru at the University of Guåhan. On the continental 48, I have no Chamoru people to practice with. I want to learn so please excuse the mistakes.