Civekos Redux

Hello Good People!

I have rebooted my plan for Civekos, the cooperative housing network for social benefit professionals.

I had an opportunity to describe the concept to some folks at Harvard Kennedy School through their Social Innovation & Change Initiative. They are seeking applicants for their Social Innovation Fellowship Program – looking for new ideas on how to innovate in the social sector. I responded by giving them my latest thoughts on Civekos. I actually didn’t bring up the name or the larger social movement of Civekoi (the renunciate members dedicated to social purposes), but I outlined the benefits of subsidized housing for social benefit professionals. You can read the application below.

I always like some photos in my blog:

Here’s a new development near my house in Cambridge (this is technically Somerville). It was a standard triple decker (three units, 6-9 bedrooms), and now looks like 8 units with more like 20 bedrooms. But probably a condo style development of separate ownership and some kind of management entity that maintains the exterior, public interior space, parking and grounds.

Here is another multi-fam development from about 30 years ago (can you tell?) on the other side of the same Beacon Street. This is also condos. It’s not that exciting to me.

Here is yet another – the more vintage multi-family alongside the new one. You can also see the elevator core of a yet next building going up – this on the site of what had been a single-story ~3000sf commercial building. I knew it was going to get redeveloped and am surprised it took the owners so long to shift it from what it was to residential.

My larger thoughts are about who and why people are going to move into these places, and what and how they could be designed and operated for greater social benefit. Building a similar amount of domiciles using a cooperative household or togetherment model could result in stronger linkages among residents and between them and the surrounding community.

That is one of my areas of interest.

But regarding Civekos and housing for people dedicated to social purposes like teaching and social work, here is the pitch I provided. Actually, here is the application description and the questions they were asking. Briefly, the selection criteria are:

  • Provides evidence of real commitment to a specific social issue and the people adversely affected by the current state.
  • Demonstrates a clear connection between the Fellowship and long- and short-term post-graduation goals.
  • Approaches innovation with a learning mindset.

While I was concerned that my concept is something of a “meta-solution” rather than a specific intervention into a social problem, I am hopeful that it can be seen as a good aspect of a broad solution effort, and an actual innovation in how we provide compensation and residential tenure security for people who choose to pursue non-commercial professions.

Here is the application essay (four questions):

  1. What public problem or social issue are you passionate about? Why do you care? Please discuss 1) how you came to understand the problem through academic, personal, and/or professional experience, or other activities, and 2) your personal motivation to contribute to a solution. (500 words or less)

I want more people to be able to commit to long-term work in the social benefit sector, yet many leave because of fears about housing costs. Many people working in non-profits, or government agencies, or teaching, or other social benefit work, spend a few years of enthusiastic service and then leave and start new careers in the private sector in order to earn more income. Social benefit professionals can become income sensitive especially when challenged by housing cost that are rising rapidly in their community.

This is a clearly seen problem in many places. My personal motivation stems from a systems perspective where I envision multi-resident housing “lodges” for social benefit professionals throughout the world. A network would evolve and adapt for different locations and different populations.

 

Imagine facilities similar to youth hostels, but with long-term residents, sharing in a group living setting and taking various responsibilities for house/facility management, developing and strengthening their commitment to social benefit service work. Each node in the network would provide not only a reasonable-cost housing option for social benefit professionals, but also a micro-community of curated colleagues which could support each other’s intentions and provide emotional & professional support. The lodges would be centers for continuous learning, maturing, and networking, regardless of the specific professional work a member performs. The facilities could model distributed education for sharing best practices, integrating with surrounding communities, and facilitating long-term commitment to social benefit work.

 

  1. How will you use this opportunity to make change happen? Please describe the factors that led you to apply for this particular Fellowship and how you anticipate using your time to develop and advance your social innovation project. (500 words or less)

If selected to participate in the Cheng Fellowship program, I will be able to focus on researching, modeling and building out a network of housing for social benefit professionals. There are many examples of how people who are providing social benefit work find housing. Major institutions like the Catholic Church and the military provide housing as a matter of course for their members, who are performing social benefit work. I have found many semi-similar affordable housing models but nothing quite specific to reward social benefit work and reduce the total household costs for this type of professional by reducing housing costs. Across the globe, there are a variety of institutional structures which address housing and also connect social benefit work to housing, but usually these are directly connected to a specific institution – the housing is only for associated workers. There could be a more open-source brand and non-affiliated (non-religious and/or non-political) to link multiple employers to a housing benefit. It would not be unlike other types of benefits social oriented workers find: such as student debt forgiveness, schedule flexibility, food or travel allowances etc. Entities like Teach for America or small social service non-profits observe that their fellows and staff do find low-cost housing on the market, yet this is a missed opportunity to create a better benefit package and better experience for these employees.

 

I will use my time at Harvard to tap into the resources and academic connections to learn how to create a social enterprise which would meet the demand for this type of housing. I will explore the legal structures necessary, such as urban land trusts and community development corporations. I will research the governance structures that would be needed, such as decision-making processes and conflict resolution. I would determine ways to select residents and/or how can the nodes in the network be self-organizing, independently appropriately responsive to their localities and generate net positive benefit.

 

  1. How can we be sure that you will still be working on this post-graduation? And if you aren’t sure, why? (250 words or less)

I have had a dream about this concept since at least 2011 when I first worked on it as a part of my Environmental Leadership Program (elpnet.org) cohort research project. Due to my professional trajectory, I have not had sufficient bandwidth to truly build out the model. However, I have been living in a prototype of this housing, my 11-person residential cooperative household, since 2004 (which had been founded in 1963). I am an active participant in the cooperative housing community in the Boston area and can see a real opportunity to build out a network to meet the needs of social benefit professionals in many places. I want to use my year at HKS to focus on an audacious concept like this and learn how to iterate until we have a self-perpetuating social enterprise dedicated to delivering low-cost housing to this population. It may be a technology or communications platform, or it may be as evolved as a non-profit real estate development entity financing, building and managing these facilities.

 

  1. What characteristics, skills, or experiences demonstrate that you will be able to attract and mobilize money, people, and institutional support around your cause? (250 words or less)

People know me as a charismatic and engaging person who can rally support to a cause. I have had reasonable success growing small organizations into stable operations. In attracting support, I have worked to earn grants, various sized corporate donations, and built out income-earning programs and fee-for-service contracting. I have been involved in real estate, building, community development and planning throughout my entire professional life. The topic of housing cost is hot, and facilitating more people into social service can attract a coalition of supportive institutions. The idea of grouping people in “co-living” arrangements is also contemporary: adding to the group living experience a shared social mission orientation will strengthen the nodes in the network. Financial and in-kind support will come from traditional social service support entities (like CDC’s and city agencies), and from “start-up” oriented actors who can see this as a new model to address social needs. Having developed two non-profits from scratch, and having grown other entities through hard work and leadership, I believe I can tackle this problem and build a new organization to solve the dilemma of housing cost for social benefit professionals.

 

[Stay in touch!]

 

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Sights of Rome!

Of course spending some time in the Eternal City would result in the seeing of some sights.

I have collected a few of my shots on the general topic of touristic sights here.

I will indulge you in a separate entry on “Structure” – my take on the details of my strolling.

One of my all-time faves here now: The Pantheon. What a great place.

This is a lovely little bridge we went over a few times. There were buskers. Great music. A piano even! And people just hanging out. On a Monday night.

I know this is some famous church. I can’t recall the name. You can tell me. It’s quintessential.

This is another quintessential pic: mopeds and arches.

I think this is a little hidden Etruscan gem. Who could it be?

And of course the big boy: El Colosseu!

Random ancient stuff:

This place was so crowded, I was getting freaked out. Somehow I took a picture without being able to tell that ten thousand people were crowding around me.

This is a statue of some important figure who was used as a sounding board and complaint system during the time of some autocratic popes who really didn’t want to listen to anyone. There is a lot more to this story but here you go:

I had to have a picture of me looking somewhat regal or fascist. From Palatine Hill. A nice little side-garden in front of the museum. We had too much fun looking at duomos and missed the cut-off for going into the museum – suddenly it was past 7pm. Great days in Rome!

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Structure: Rome

While in Rome, my eagle eye spotted all sorts of visual treasures.

More of the collection is in an album here; below are some of my faves.

Enjoy!

At Diocletian’s Baths:

Looking up:

Framework:

Sunspot:


Skyhole:

Planar Geometry:

I have a whole series of these: buildings at night with one light on…

I thought this was cute:

And this one was rather bold:

This is looking into some fancy embassy’s main hall…must be some nice parties have happened in there!

This was on Instagram…and the BLUE!

Loads of great doors in Rome. I could do a whole post about this.

Here’s a little door…liked the texture…

More stone and masonry texture… and antennae…

The PANTHEON at night. Just a classic.

And this was looking through a window grate at a little old shop. Maybe a tailor? Maybe an insurance broker?

Ivy:

Astronomy:

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Fun in Rome!

Whew! It was actually kind of hard. A few days in Rome. With Fabio & Raquel. What a couple! And don’t forget João – he is a good kid.

I arrived in Rome and immediately we had to go get ice cream. Mieko, another Burning Man connection, had been cleaning up the apartment (this was a place that Fabio had once lived in, which he had been subletting to various people for the past dozen years, which was now vacant of tenants and in-between renovations…long story). Dean, Mieko’s man, had just arrived from having been in the States for a wedding, in the middle of their “year around the world” trip. We all went out. Fabio gave us a tour of the town from his place, near Termini, to the Pantheon. Then we walked around for two and a half hours. Wow! That was a lot of fun.

Actually, we had dinner first – then ice cream. This is Fabio, Raquel, Joao, Mieko, and Dean. And me in the awkward selfie location.

Here we are at the nearby street market – generally excited about things!

Here are a bunch of the photos. And some choice shots below.

Grey and Fabio getting coffee across the street from the flat – this is every morning. I’m sad I didn’t get the two very engaging barristas who work here – what a hoot!

Raquel modeling her Cleu Camp (our Burning Man camp) tatoo, while at the deli getting some supplies for our Todi trip.

Mieko made “acqua fresca” from the watermelon: just add lime juice. Refreshing!

Here is some fun in Rome – a guy trying to clean the crenelations in the basilica of Diocletian’s Baths…it is a pretty big place.


Grey, Danielo & Fabio had lunch at the Teatro Quirino – an excellent spot with great food and books, quite close to the Trevi Fountain but we had the place to ourselves. Really relaxing. Great music. We were able to sneak a peek into the stage to see a modern dance performance practicing. Very cool.

On one of the days, we went to the beach. It was fun!

And had pizza on the way back to the City.

We had a lot of great wanderings – this is just one example from the blog entry about “Sights” – which is almost as good as the one with “Structure” – even though this one about “People” is the best!

This is us at the last dinner – in a piazza in the Jewish Quarter – all showing off our Cleu Mandalas.


Ah, and here is the two lovelies just doing there thing:


And this is one of my favorites. When we got back from dinner, we were wondering where to park. There is a little street near the flat. Can we park here? Looking closely you’ll see that cars and mopeds are parked in all directions (actually in Rome you are supposed to part with traffic, unlike in Boston, but as is in Cambridge). The street was actually one way heading in to us – so we had to figure out an alternative. The sign was actually placed in such a way that it couldn’t be turned to face the direction of the jurisdiction…but I didn’t get a pic while we were laughing at it. Roma! Always smiling.

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Wanderings near the Palazzaccio Todi

I was able to get out and about a bit.

I love the countryside in Italy. It is obviously similar to parts of California that I know (and vice versa!) and the comparison is irresistible. There are some similar species but a lot new to me. The dryness is very similar and daunting. I do “prefer” the New England landscape with it’s abundance of water. So there’s that overarching situation, and everything is sharp and pointy here. Well, not like Tuscon but you get the idea.

Loved a dayhike with Dean and Mieko. Saw snakes and birds. And an old walnut grove. Found the tower, our target. I took a short-cut back to the house, going through some old olive orchards and passing an abandoned house. Came to some recently ploughed fields and descended into a ravine where I did find some actual water (smelled horrible etc.) and followed it back to the lane out the north side of the property that we had started from. Felt great to navigate based on drainages, but I could see how some could find that crazy. I did have a liter and a half of water, though…

Here is an album of pictures, and here are some choice shots for commentary.

A nice morning at the house, waking up on the terrazo.

Here’s the side field view of the house. I sat here for an hour as the sun descended and watched the trees at the bottom waving in the breeze. The temperature was perfect and I was mezmerized.

Seriously mezmerizing…with the old town and some estates in the distance…

This is actually an evening shot, of the tower, that we wanted to get to…

Now, would I need a Lamborghini to get there? Would João really need a /bathing cap and goggles/?…

Nothing like a little beautiful countryside, eh? Dean had taken a jog down a woodsy lane the first day and thought we could walk it and get to the tower.

Where were we getting to? Mieko with the big camera for the Todi shot.

Made it to the tower!

[Did not actually  climb it, thought Dean and Mieko wanted to try…]

We decided to keep going…and had a little discussion on what would get us back to the house first. There was a vague plan to get back to Roma after “mid-day…” I decided to take a little ramble. This is place I got lost in…I mean, I was making steady progress…

I thought I should include a pic of myself among all the landscape imagery…

This pic is somewhat out of order, but is the little hamlet of Pontecuti (or is it Montecchiani Renzo) on the west side of the Todi hill. Great old bridge. We was a fox on the road above the night before. That is another collection – our stroll in Todi proper…

This is the view from Fabio’s pool. Let’s put a date on the calendar and make it happen, people!!! I’m talking fam, friends, classmates, GBMC, whoever wants to get together in paradise!!!

Here’s a nice fixer-upper nearby, just for you!

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Awesome Times at the Palazzaccio Todi w/ Fabio and Raquel

Over the course of a few days, I was able to spend time at Fabio’s family’s country house near Todi. That’s Todi in the background; this shot is on the road up to the house, passing a little church where they have the festivals of the local community called Canonica. I couldn’t get a shot of the church/village without a lot of power lines and I just don’t like taking pictures like that. And from the road, while moving…etc…

Here is the flickr album which has more pictures from the ride and of the house itself.

Here’s a little map:

Here is the little kitchen door that we primarily used.

Here’s the house! (kitchen door on lower right, invisible…)

We had some good times. And eating was primo.

My new friends Mieko and Dean spend the day organizing the kitchen! It looks amazing now!

Aww, cute! Dean is an organizer-type. Mieko is a chef – she studied at various places including a farm/retreat in Alto Adige near Austria. They live in Bend, Oregon.

We found a secret chapel in the place. Woah. Not expecting this.

Up on the third floor is a giant terrace/porch, looking to the north and east. The trees surrounding the house have now come to that height, but there are still great views. There is a hill blocking this house from the actual “money shot” view of Todi, but the rental property (ah yes – here is the link!) has a higher elevation. And a pool!

Amazing central staircase. Oh – and I slept on the terrace up there…

Here’s the “posto” where we got the mozzarela di bufalo. I am shocked that I didn’t get an “interior” shot with all the amazing food for sale. And wine from 500l tanks…we filled multiple bottles. Always good to stop for provisions on the way to the country house.

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First Evening & Morning at La Flegere

La Flegere was a really well-run hostel at the top of the La Flegere funicular/teleferique, and at the base of L’Index chairlift and a couple of other lifts.

It seems old, but one of the staff mentioned that the systems were 25 years old…maybe that is the extent of the current management? It has been expanded multiple times over the years and is well-worn. I bunked in with a quatrain Swiss family from Fribourg who were friendly. It made me think about living in the area. How nice to have these peaks an hour away!

Here are some pics from the time and below are a few with commentary.

Interesting how you can see the shadow of the cable car on the building in the photo above, and then, below, you can see the cables…nice evening angle here…

For dinner, I was seated with two Dutch gents and two German ladies who were a lot of fun.

Daniela was a criminal justice optimization expert who was traveling from her home base (Hamburg?) to Geneva for a convention and her friend came to join her. We talked about how police agencies have a hard time systematically improving their processes due to pride and weak accountability structures. I hope she writes me as I’d like to connect her to the Kennedy School where optimizing bureaucracies is on the agenda.

The Dutch fellows were on holiday it seemed and going on a bit of a hike – didn’t quite figure out to where. We had a lively conversation in english, the common tongue to us all, and ate really well. Great food. The main was scalloped potatoes and I had a chocolate mousse.

There was a table of French nearby which must have been some kind of reunion – they were very celebratory and stayed up playing games for a while, which I couldn’t quite figure out just by watching a little.

We did watch the sunset and that was fantastic.

 

There was a deer sighting which I took as a good omen.

Final sun on the top of Mont Blanc:

The morning was another glorious summer day and I was off to Lac Anterne.

The refuge had all sorts of old mountaineering equipment on the walls. Quite cool.

Really a lovely spot!

Another shot of the building with the Aguile Vert above, and the Grandes Jurasses in the rear distance. Some day I’ll have to head over that direction!

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Finally hiking! Up to La Flegere

On my second day in Chamonix, I started hiking up to La Flegere. I had spend the first night, pre-arranged online at Le Vagabond hostel. I seem to have good instincts. Even though I was on the left side of the bus and passed the hostel on the right, when we pulled into the “South Chamonix” bus station, I hopped off. I started walking and asked a fella where it might be – he was almost too enthusiastic, telling me it was just over the bridge and down a couple of blocks. It almost seemed like he was just giving me a line. Seemed like a tougher kind of dude. But…he had been quite right and considerate.

The hostel was just fine – it was their monthly BBQ night and it was full of Aussies and Brits having a bit of an expat reunion. Loads of great food – must post that pic but…

This entry is about the HIKING!

Here are a bunch of photos from the day. A marvelous day on the trail and attaining a lovely spot.

I spent the morning with a brit named James, from Kent, visiting the Maison du Montagne, getting a map and some intel. The fellow there indicated that the pass would be snow-free and my intention to Lac Anterne possible, though he was noticeably unenthusiastic. Like he was trying to dissuade me, but willing to respect my confidence.

Chamonix Town is delightful!

I fired off some postcards, got a baguette (for my cheese) and a pain au chocolat, and headed toward the trailhead.

This is an image of where I would be going…a loop in the upper left quarter of this image from La Flegere, over le Brevent col, north to the Lac Anterne, then back through the col the following day to cross the ridge around Col Cornu and to the top of l’Index, and down/over to Lac Blanc. Then on the Tuesday morning an early start for a 2.5h descent to Chamonix  to catch an 8:30 bus to Turino, to get a train to Rome. Yeah, that was going to be a heckuva day!

We passed the parapente landing area. I found this shot of the setting moon with three of the kites – one is actually in the image of the moon. Hard to get the photo w/ my trusty phone, but in real life was quite amazing.

James joined me to stretch his legs for a half hour and then headed back to town. He was heading to one of the Mont Blanc refuges and then up to the summit in two days time.

So I headed onward, taking the three hour hike which could have been a 10-minute teleferique. Passed a nice stream. Went through a road construction site. Saw some critters.

Ate some absolutely amazing wild strawberries. Seriously a satori. Amazing flavor.

Came across La Floride – a little cafe up the hill from town about an hour. Had a chuckle with a British couple that had passed me earlier while I was eating my pain au chocolat on the trail. I could see how people could find Chamonix a really fun spot to visit in retirement – if you felt active, you could hike all over the place. If not as much, you could catch these cable cars and rock up.

Started to see some of the serious territory as I ascended. This is also the ski-territory, which doesn’t get all the way down to town – you have to get up on the conveyances to the ski pistes.

Close up of those peaks at the west end of the Chamonix needles…

Finally, I arrived at La Flegere, where the cable car arrives and the ski lifts start.

I had a great beer. So cool to have these facilities in such a place.

It is a great spot, surrounded by beauty. Take a look:

Mont Blanc on the far right:

Aguile Vert – the Green Needle (snowcapped in the cloud, not the rocky thing)

I had a lunch break sitting on the quad chair of one of the lifts. Perfect seat.


 

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Structure/Detail Highlights – Paris

I just love finding interesting stuff out on the trail.

In a city, someone’s little story. Some conversation with a client. Some engineering trick or challenge. Something done to augment the thing.

Here I found a picture of the making of the train system which goes along the edge of the Seine. I can’t recall the train line but here it was, being built by hand!

This is the ceiling of the Gare du Nord. I though: not super special. But it was functional. Later, I heard that the French regard it as “the absolute worst!”

 

Not just looking up: these were the bags of removed ancient masonry from a church renovation project near Les Halles. I wonder what the equation is of amount of removed stuff per unit replaced, or if there is a curve of amount removed over time…does it get treated like some special type of waste, a controlled substance? Can it be re-used? Does it have vintages in the back lots of materials and waste handles of Grand Paris?…

This is at the Jardin des Plantes. A new part of an old glasshouse.

This is at the top of the Jardin des Plantes. Neat little spot.

Here is a door in Paris at a house where a famous woman philosopher/mathematician, Sofie Germain, died in 1831. She was 55.

Here is a whole bunch of nice doors…

And this was looking straight up at the entrance of a little church. Well, huge in most places but modest in Paris…I love ceilings.

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Vert en Paris

While visiting a beautiful place in June, this time Paris, I can’t help but notice the ebullient and leafy plant denizens accentuating the structure.

I hope you enjoy this photolog!

Grey

=========

Viola, the accént:

At the entrance to the Jardin des Plantes (like an arboretum) de Paris. Huge oak of some kind flying over the street here.

Big on ivy, a great accent to a tudor-style building. What is “tudor-style” in French? “Style Tudor!” – this is one time I believe an english term has gone to french to describe something about style or architecture.

Okay, so this is heavy on structure especially cast iron components, but still: trees and ivy!

This was the biggest wisteria I had ever seen going up about four-five stories…

It was near mid-day and the sun came through the canopy to find these little ones reaching for the light, just like in any (urban) jungle!

The thing here was the observatory dome, but I also note the pollarding in the upper left and who knows what-else for arboricultural practices elsewhere. Pollarding is hard trimming of a tree so it has a few solid branches and lots of seasonal small growth from the ends that are cut. It’s super common in France (and Europe) but not so much in the States.

This was a great “green wall” that I found along the Rue de Poissoniere (or near there) from the Gare Nord heading to the river. The sign said there were hundreds of species, thousands of plants.

Contrast.

Competition.

Neighbors.

Vert. C’est bon!

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