I just returned from a (smooth and perfect) two-weeks cross country trip through Panama, my home country.
The trip had multiple purposes including reconnecting with parts of the country I had not visited in over 15 years. But, an unexpected result from this much planned journey came from an unlikely source.
Fallows’ article gives us historical reasons why “not to worry” about “Falling Behind” and raises critical points, questions and ideas about what we should be really worrying about when it comes to U.S. biggest problem:
During the entire two-weeks trip through Panama, and while seeing how incredibly fast this small country has progressed in so many areas, Fallows' points about U.S. decaying infrastructures, broken system and what’s to be done about them kept gaining strength.
My fascination with collaboration between public and private sectors was born when I first came to the U.S. as a teenager and quickly recognized that the root of the U.S. success was the tacit (e.g. incredibly road infrastructure) and explicit (e.g. government funded technical innovations) partnerships between the public and private sectors.
I have now been in the U.S. for over 20 years, studying, working and volunteering with all sorts of corporations, non-profits and government programs. I'm sadden by the fact that the roads are no longer impressive, but are old and broken, and that public funding of technical innovations, where the risks are too high for companies to absorb, aren’t being supported.
One of the most important point Fallows makes, which I believe anyone who has grown under dictatorships or in underdeveloped countries can quickly relate to is:
The important point here is how we define and live a “public life.” I believe it should be defined in terms of social responsibility and balance between the socio-economic and political forces that build an economically driven system.
I wish to believe that one doesn’t have to visit other countries and experience other cultures to recognize that not only balance between these forces should exist, but that these forces themselves should exist (reducing either government, non-profit, or for-profit segments while increasing the others is a guarantee to eventual collapse as history demonstrates over and over.)
It is difficult to completely discount Fallows’ detailed explanation of what is the biggest problem we face in the U.S.
Even if one is not fully educated on how many markets were created by research and innovation originally conducted with public funding (the Internet, genome, GPS...) it is hard to argue against Fallows’ point that without government’s programs that established the Internet before it’s founders were even born, Google wouldn’t exist today. A private company, whose self-centered interests are measured on quarterly results, couldn’t have created a public platform such as the Internet.
As I mentioned in previous posts, I have been researching collaborative initiatives to narrow down those where the three segments (government, for-profits and non-profits) come together to solve social challenges. I continue to find what it seems a never ending lists of collaborative initiatives, but they are mostly unilateral efforts, often to gain profits or power of some sort. The more I learn, the more I find that the wedge between the public and private sectors is expanding, even though social software and technology adoption keeps increasing amongst and between them.
I’m afraid in my little world of evaluating these different efforts I share Atkinson’s worry”
What is this all about?
The Collaborative Society Directory’s goal is to collect and understand information from different collaborative projects that bring together as participants entities from the three forces that shape our societies: public, private and non-profit. The goal of The Collaborative Society is to explore if such information can provide us with insights of what could be the characteristics that make a society or a community healthy.