Sunday, September 23, 2007

NRM and Poverty Alleviation, and a rant into Meta-Languages:

In doing a short lit review of some interesting case examples dealing with NRM activities aimed at poverty reduction and mitigating desertification, I came across a number of documents addressing the role of participatory communication, indigenous knowledge, and adaptive process which address the negotiation and re-negotiation of community interests over time to construct effective NRM based development programs.

It is interesting that in reviewing the papers I noticed connections between a few of the patterns that have been listed by Liberating Voices and what has been described in these reports. I also noticed that some of the pieces discussed in the case studies touch upon patterns that represent placeholders in the L.V. project.

Here is the list of placeholders that might prove to be of special significance to this work (I don’t provide links because there is nothing in there):

Social Insurance
Networks of Learning
Civic Mobilization
Community Barter and Exchange Systems
Long View
Ecological Economics
Green Labor
Meaningful Evaluation
Linking Modern and Traditional Knowledge
Feminist Economics
Inter-Community Networks
Knowledge System Diversity
Social Learning

Perhaps, it is time to revisit a number of these patterns to ensure the growth and applicability of Liberating Voices to this work. Unfortunately, this will need to wait a week or two as the L.V. project is currently in the process of moving to new server with a new a web address: To get to the patterns just go to

Anyway, once the move is complete (next two weeks), we can start the process of updating and perhaps filling in some of these blanks.

However, in thinking more deeply about these topics and the application of patterns it seems that we are beginning to need this meta-language that, Doug, Yishay and others have been considering. Perhaps the idea of this meta-language represents the focus of Alexander's Nature of Order.

Without going down each of these tracks in too much detail, perhaps this meta-language would be a language of values and goals. The idea is that these meta-patterns could serve as a compass for the types of actions that development practitioners take as well as how communities negotiate their own development in the absence of so-called experts. Such a meta-language would include principles of "Do-no-harm," "Supportive of Spiritual Wellness," "Commitment to Beauty," "Inclusion of Multiple Voices," and so forth.

But some might ask how would these meta-patterns inform development practice. Well, the idea of development is to support livelihoods in the generic sense. How people go about achieving this has been problematic and has included a dirty history of displacement, colonial style exploitation, famine induced through structural adjustment and so on. It was known that these policies of development would harm many, but the idea was that these approaches were acceptable for whatever reasons seemed to be good at the moment.

However, these exploitations have meant destruction of the environment and rape of people’s spiritual sensibilities, specifically within communities fundamentally rooted to their land and place. The lack of voice, the loss of beauty the forgetfulness of spiritual values and the utilitarian ethic so prevalent in Western Society has been an incredible source of pain for so many, and perhaps the end has not justified the means. Perhaps, the journey is just as important as the destination?

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