It’s a sunny Wednesday, 4 May 2022 in Portland, Oregon and this morning’s chocolate malt-o-meal was made to the approval of the smaller one, and the bigger one is lugging their ‘cello to school.
The morning would probably have gone a little better if I had done more cleanup after dinner, but on the other hand it was very important that my wife and I repeatedly fall off things playing co-op Sackboy.
I am going to try to race the 15 minute sand timer today. The previous few episodes have started to take loo long.
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I mentioned the other day that I’ve been having conversations with a Large Philanthropic Foundation about the “social safety net” and what could (might?) be done to improve the performance of said net, clarification about the objectives of such net and so on. Something that came up in our discussion on Monday has stuck in my head, so presumably it’s caught my attention.
There is this thing that happens (citation needed for all that follows, more that this is a weak signal that I think is deserving of another look, or at least talking to people who have done that look) when A Precipitating Event happens to spur mutual aid and/or local action. It can be something like the latest evidence of egregious racial injustice, the latest, tired exoneration and defense of a serial abuser, collective indifference in the face of long-suffered pain.
This new thing that happens is that a bunch of enterprising people get together and start a Google Doc. I’ve seen this most in the popping up of chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America. It feels like every single time the easiest, fastest way for a bunch of people unconnected, other than through common cause, to organize.
And so my brain has been thinking about where mutual aid, local, distributed, yadda yadda organizations fit in to provide help where it’s needed when it’s needed and how they successfully perform. Now, your baby technologist approach to this would be like:
and that’s why they’re a baby technologist because they’re assuming (sorry, I am stereotyping) that a new tool will fix things without necessarily thinking about why people keep coming back to Google Docs. I mean, give the organisers some credit: they chose to use Google Docs and they may even be smart enough to choose it in spite of those deficiencies you might see!
I mean, in Docs’ favour: it’s now the lowest common denominator. Slack might want to claim the phrase, but I think it’s as fair to say that Google Docs is where work happens, it’s the place that enough people go to to spin up jotting down some thoughts and it’s collaborative and all you need is a Google account, which many (yes, not all) people have. Plus, you can even go in as an anonymous raccoon along with 150 other anonymous raccoons, if you want.
So. I wouldn’t look at Google Docs. Replacing Google Docs is both a red herring and a white whale so you could split the difference and call it some sort of pink aquatic half-mammal. But I might look at ways of extracting data from Google Docs, or ways of better integrating Google Docs into… other infrastructure that mutual aid organizations need.
Following that thread, I had these questions:
All of this, in the context of course, of a philanthropic organization looking to place the stereotypical Large Bets on things that will Make A Disruptive Difference. So there’s me, thinking: well, in America, if part of the social safety net is private, peer-to-peer work outside of what government should be doing (and is failing at in general, but in pockets, getting better – too little, and too late in the personal), then what’s missing?
One of the last thoughts I had was my experience with my late father-in-law’s community food network, or food bank. They’re good people. They raise money, they have food at a church. They’re in a small town, run by mainly older people. They’re doing good work. And… could they be doing more, or be doing more differently? What would help them in their mission to get food to those who need it, to ensure the people don’t go hungry?
I keep coming back to the Stripe thing as an analogy, or better yet, Square, because more people have had experience with Square at point-of-sale. What’s the Square for these types of organizations? Apart from accepting donations, what if every food bank could also issue preloaded Visa cards? What if any mutual aid organization could issue cash through preloaded cards? Would that be helpful? What would be needed? And that’s where I kept coming back to “financial services geared towards the safety net”. Maybe that would help. It might not be sexy or obvious and might even be offensive. But it definitely caught my attention.
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That’s it for today, and I came in at around 22 minutes.
How are you doing?