How to Find Expert Advice

On February 11, 2021, the Universal House of Justice (UHJ) responded to an email inquiring how to seek out best expert advice about the COVID-19 pandemic. While focused on gaining information about the current global public health issue, its guidance can be applied in complex situations where clear answers to singular problems are not readily apparent or even possible.

In addition, the perspective shared by the UHJ can be “mapped” to The Framework. By doing so opens up other ways to see “…sets of relationships among the individual, the community and the institutions of society, the three protagonists in the advancement of civilization.”1

This advancement is akin to an overall transition from physical to spiritual reality. The graphic below illustrates the evolution of individuals as they pursue their truths, further their education, and lead their lives in accordance to such principles and virtues that enable them to break free from the clutches of fear, greed, and power.

Fundamentally, it is the continuous, personal quest for truth each of us undertakes in this world that generates the energy necessary to fuel the physical to spiritual transition. Knowing that, though, does not make the journey any easier. Guidance such as what the UHJ presents in its letter can help each of us keep truth in the forefront, learn from one another, and benefit the commonweal. Herewith are extracts from the letter for your consideration:

One of the unfortunate features of the present age is the difficulty of attaining truth, which seems to be an inherent characteristic of the process of disintegration that is assailing humanity in its transition to a new order. “In these days truthfulness and sincerity are sorely afflicted in the clutches of falsehood,” Bahá’u’lláh lamented, “and justice is tormented by the scourge of injustice.”2 Of course, there are a number of Bahá’í teachings that directly bear on this dilemma. To the extent to which the friends imbibe and hold fast to these teachings, they can guard themselves and their communities from the tumult buffeting society and contribute to its protection and transformation.

The independent investigation of reality is a fundamental principle enunciated by Bahá’u’lláh, through which, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explained, “the world of humanity may be saved from the darkness of imitation and attain to the truth3. In the Hidden Words, Bahá’u’lláh called the individual to observe justice, by whose aid “thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor.4 An essential method for the attainment of truth is consultation— “the lamp of guidance which leadeth the way, and is the bestower of understanding.5

Furthermore, the Bahá’í writings stress the importance of science. “Great indeed is the claim of scientists … on the peoples of the world6, Bahá’u’lláh observed. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote that the “sciences of today are bridges to reality7 and repeatedly emphasized that “religion must be in conformity with science and reason8. Significantly, on an occasion when a scientific question was asked of Shoghi Effendi, he responded in a letter written on his behalf that “we are a religion and not qualified to pass on scientific matters9. And in reply to scientific issues raised on a number of occasions, he consistently advised Bahá’ís that such matters would need to be investigated by scientists.

In light of the foregoing, when faced with issues of a scientific or medical nature, Bahá’ís should seek out and rely on the best expert advice available. For example, in connection with medical matters, believers should bear in mind Bahá’u’lláh’s statement in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas: “Resort ye, in times of sickness, to competent physicians; We have not set aside the use of material means, rather have We confirmed it through this Pen, which God hath made to be the Dawning-place of His shining and glorious Cause.”10 In relation to the coronavirus pandemic, the friends should follow the counsel of medical and other scientific experts on the advisability and efficacy of the various vaccination options that are becoming available and the wisdom of particular public health measures. They should not be concerned merely with their own personal choices and well-being, but in reaching their decisions, they should also consider their social responsibilities and the common good.

  1. “The conviction of the Bahá’í community that humanity, having passed through earlier stages of social evolution, stands at the threshold of its collective maturity; its belief that the principle of the oneness of humankind, the hallmark of the age of maturity, implies a change in the very structure of society; its dedication to a learning process that, animated by this principle, explores the workings of a new set of relationships among the individual, the community and the institutions of society, the three protagonists in the advancement of civilization; its confidence that a revised conception of power, freed from the notion of dominance with the accompanying ideas of contest, contention, division and superiority, underlies the desired set of relationships; its commitment to a vision of a world that, benefitting from humanity’s rich cultural diversity, abides no lines of separation—these all constitute essential elements of the framework that shapes the Bahá’í approach to politics set out in brief below.”
    2 March 2013 – To the Bahá’ís of Iran
  2. “In these days truthfulness and sincerity are sorely afflicted in the clutches of falsehood, and justice is tormented by the scourge of injustice. The smoke of corruption hath enveloped the whole world in such wise that naught can be seen in any direction save regiments of soldiers and nothing is heard from any land but the clashing of swords. We beseech God, the True One, to strengthen the wielders of His power in that which will rehabilitate the world and bring tranquility to the nations.”
    Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh
  3. “Among these teachings was the independent investigation of reality so that the world of humanity may be saved from the darkness of imitation and attain to the truth; may tear off and cast away this ragged and outgrown garment of a thousand years ago and may put on the robe woven in the utmost purity and holiness in the loom of reality. As reality is one and cannot admit of multiplicity, therefore different opinions must ultimately become fused into one.”
    Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá
  4. “O Son of Spirit!
    The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.”
    The Hidden Words
  5. “The Great Being saith: The heaven of divine wisdom is illumined with the two luminaries of consultation and compassion. Take ye counsel together in all matters, inasmuch as consultation is the lamp of guidance which leadeth the way, and is the bestower of understanding.”
    Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh
  6. “The third Tajallí is concerning arts, crafts and sciences. Knowledge is as wings to man’s life, and a ladder for his ascent. Its acquisition is incumbent upon everyone. The knowledge of such sciences, however, should be acquired as can profit the peoples of the earth, and not those which begin with words and end with words. Great indeed is the claim of scientists and craftsmen on the peoples of the world. Unto this beareth witness the Mother Book on the day of His return. Happy are those possessed of a hearing ear. In truth, knowledge is a veritable treasure for man, and a source of glory, of bounty, of joy, of exaltation, of cheer and gladness unto him. Thus hath the Tongue of Grandeur spoken in this Most Great Prison.”
    Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh
  7. “The sciences of today are bridges to reality; if then they lead not to reality, naught remains but fruitless illusion. By the one true God! If learning be not a means of access to Him, the Most Manifest, it is nothing but evident loss.”
    Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá
  8. “And among the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh is that religion must be in conformity with science and reason, so that it may influence the hearts of men. The foundation must be solid and must not consist of imitations.”
    Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá
  9. “Significantly, on an occasion when a scientific question was asked of Shoghi Effendi, he responded in a letter written on his behalf that “we are a religion and not qualified to pass on scientific matters.” And in reply to scientific issues raised on a number of occasions, he consistently advised Bahá’ís that such matters would need to be investigated by scientists.”
    29 November 2017 – To three individuals
  10. “Resort ye, in times of sickness, to competent physicians; We have not set aside the use of material means, rather have We confirmed it through this Pen, which God hath made to be the Dawning-place of His shining and glorious Cause.”
    The Kitáb-i-Aqdas

Framework for Localization-an Overview

The simple dictum is: successful localization of a business ecosystem demands widespread participation by community members. Easy to say. It’s another thing for community members to know what that means and what to do about it. This is where another kind of map — a “framework for localization” — comes in handy to help community members define their business ecosystem, understand its dynamics, and assess to what degree it is already localized.

During the course of my work on the USDA-SCRI and FFEF grants, I had the opportunity to develop such a framework. I documented it in two presentations available for view and download on Slideshare. The first, Framework4Localization – Overview, provides a graphic representation of a typical business ecosystem. It is the subject of this posting. The second, Framework4Localization – in Action, offers steps community members can consider as they develop a strategy for localizing their business ecosystem. It will be the topic of the second posting in this series. Together, these set the stage for community members to build a “portfolio” of business cases that attracts widespread participation and drives the localization process. The nature of this portfolio and how community members invest in it will be the theme of a third posting.

Let’s begin this overview with a general description of a business ecosystem. Like a natural ecosystem, the business version functions due to material and data flows from source points to use points. Again, as with its natural counterpart, sustainability depends on a continuous flow from sources to points of use.

As sources become scarce, costs go up and the search is on for a suitable alternative. For instance, businesses that require inputs that are unavailable locally at competitive prices, import needed materials from source points further away. And if suitable sources cannot be found, those businesses in the ecosystem that depend on them cease to operate because they cannot secure what they need.

The challenge for sustainability of business operations in their ecosystem is to draw upon their sources at rates that allow them to recharge, or slow their use so as to not exhaust them, or provide a window of time large enough to find suitable substitutes.

In the context of a community whose members have basic needs that must be fulfilled daily, the availability of water, food, housing, etc. becomes significant in terms of THEIR sustainability. The sustainability challenge is similar to what businesses must confront only with the caveat that the distance between life-giving sources and community members who depend on their delivery imposes another level of dependence and urgency. Localization, then, closes this distance gap and reduces dependence and anxiety levels.

With the general explanation of terms in mind, the purpose of this overview is to help community members “see” the various elements of their business ecosystem in relationship to one another as a first step in taking action to localize.

Slide 1 lays out the basics for a localization framework that, in effect, ties source points on the left to downstream use points and markets on the right.

Slide 1

Slide 2 outlines value-added (see USDA definition in italics below) functions that are central to the business ecosystem. This includes stages of production, processing, and preparation, installation, construction as well as the flows of energy necessary to make the conversions in each stage, and the waste management flows that seek to recharge sources with what is not used, repurposed, and recovered during conversions and consumption.

Agricultural product that has undergone a change in physical state or was produced, marketed, or segregated (e.g., identity-preserved, eco-labeling, etc.) in a manner that enhances its value or expands the customer base of the product is considered a value-added product.1

Slide 2

Slide 3 highlights a distribution and logistics system that manages the shipping and storage of material as inputs and outputs on their way to various markets. These functions are non-value-added given the USDA definition of “value-added” (see definition in previous slide).

Slide 3

Slide 4 targets those data-driven services that provide a virtual representation of the material side of the business ecosystem. Asset maps utilize a graphical user interface to capture all relevant data about participants in a business ecosystem so they are easy to see; ecosystem models readily demonstrate the dynamics among business ecosystem participants and generate likely scenarios about how to improve the efficiency, performance, and sustainability of the business ecosystem; information flows deliver real-time, continuous, detailed overlays and insights into the behaviors of preferred ecosystem models upon their adoption; and decision support provides an information-enriched knowledge commons for business ecosystem participants to access and apply in their decisions.

Slide 4

Slide five identifies the three main service areas that influence the larger context in which the business ecosystem functions. These three hold significant implications on the cost to adopt a different business ecosystem model, such as one dedicated to localization of the food system. The current globalized food system is held in place by entrenched legal, capital, and education institutions. To localize requires changes in all three. This means confronting major inertia.

Slide 5

Slide six posits governance as the backdrop for change in the system. Governance is the process by which laws, codes, rules, regulations, and curricula change. And that changes the legal, capital, and education institutions. And that expedites the localization of a business ecosystem. Governance provides fair and impartial incentives for community members to participate in localization by playing a diverse array of roles and exercising certain responsibilities, delivering value, and building on their reputations.

Slide 6

Slide seven illustrates the complete localization framework as a “map” that can be tailored to the specific circumstances of a community and its business ecosystem.

Slide 7

And that sets up the second posting in this series which shows how community members can use this framework to guide their localization strategies. Stay tuned…

Originally posted to Sustainable Local Economic Development by Steve Bosserman on Saturday, August 18, 2012

  1. Community Food Systems-Other USDA Grant Opportunities

Mapping as a Matter of the Mind

A mind map is a graphic representation of ideas and concepts in relationship to one another. The resulting visual organization of information provides a communication and decision framework for people to do the following:

  • Express their individual points of view about complex issues and more fully understand them
  • Identify opportunities to come together for a common cause that creatively addresses the issues at hand in ways that benefit all involved
  • Mobilize, coordinate, and sustain their collective efforts so they achieve what they envision and honor themselves and those they serve along the way

While mind mapping differs from the more tangible asset, process, and cluster mapping within business ecosystems as noted in my posting, Mapping: Deciding Which Is the Road Not Taken, it complements them, nonetheless, by assisting in problem resolution, strategic planning, and organizational adaptation—very necessary functions for any business to start, scale, and sustain itself.

A current project I’m working on calls for the application of mind mapping with a group of senior-level managers to help them puzzle out a growth strategy for their equipment manufacturing division over the next 5+ years. As with most change initiatives, the goal is to help them determine what will be the road (or roads) not taken.

The challenge is getting management to see and seriously consider roads other than the one they are on. One of the reasons why this can be more difficult than it seems is that the road they are on is the one with which they are the most familiar. The risk is that management will stick to the current path even if their performance is in the tank. It’s ‘better the devil you know than the devil you don’t’ when it comes to change. And if the organization happens to be enjoying a long run of success, the mere thought of abandoning the main road in favor of another less traveled one is even more harrowing.

It becomes a question of how to disrupt their prevailing world view so they look for, discover, and explore other roads. In other words, what concept seeds the mind map to become an attractor? What’s the entry point?

Earlier this week, a colleague and I got into a discussion about the destiny of 3-D printing in the manufacturing landscape over the next 5+ years. It has considerable potential to be a disruptor because it taps into the convergence of major trends toward a design anywhere, manufacture anywhere (DAMA) approach to the integration of product lifecycle management (PLM) and manufacturing execution systems (MES); customized, close-to-point-of-sale manufacturing, delivery, and support; and third, automation and robotics or more bluntly stated, the replacement of people by machines. Those three literally touch everything that goes on in the enterprise.

Extrapolate from the current state of 3-D printing on its evolutionary path to a future reality where, as a customer, I can spec what I want and it materializes in front of me. As a manufacturer, the strategic question is how do I close the gap between immediate satisfaction and how long it takes now between customer order and customer delivery? 3-D printing is on the technology road map that closes this gap, but where is it? What else is on that road? Where are the forks in the road up ahead? Which ones don’t I take?

Originally posted to Sustainable Local Economic Development by Steve Bosserman on Friday, August 10, 2012

Mapping: Deciding Which Is the Road Not Taken

The refrain from George Harrison’s song, “Any Road” — “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road’ll take you there” — certainly speaks to the importance of having a destination in mind. Place one finger where you want to go on a road atlas and another on the place where you’ll start and the various routes to get from one to the other become obvious. Then, it’s a straightforward process to apply criteria such as distance, time, traffic patterns, etc. to determine which particular route to take.

The concluding lines in Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken” state:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, | I took the one less traveled by, | And that has made all the difference.

In a classic style, Frost explains how he resolved a dilemma that confronts all of us at some point — a choice between two paths that, once made, offers no chance to go back and choose the other. Unlike the previous instance where destination featured heavily in which road to choose, in this one, the journey becomes more important than the destination. The choice depends on a willingness to explore a foreign landscape and take advantage of the opportunities discovered there.

Here, too, the traveler applies an equally valid process based on powerful criteria such as sensitivity to initial conditions, availability of resources, and degree of advocacy and participation to guide decisions of which way to go. These criteria are often represented in “maps” that don’t look like the more familiar road atlas, but serve a similar purpose in that they show the physical associations among people, places, things as well as define their characteristics in large data sets and frame their interrelationships to powerful concepts and innovative ideas.

During the course of the grants mentioned in my initial post, we introduced several types of maps and mapping processes that blended “destination” and “journey” perspectives, but focused on localizing business ecosystems and developing business cases. Among these are the following:

I encourage you to join LocalFoodSystems.org (it’s free!) so you can explore these mapping features more thoroughly and see how they apply in the context of YOUR business ecosystems as you decide which is the road not taken!

Originally posted to Sustainable Local Economic Development by Steve Bosserman on Thursday, August 9, 2012