Expanding Your Efforts

Once your group has made some progress, you’ll need an iterative approach that helps you stay on course:

  • Expand the Circle. As your project begins to rack up some small successes, what other parts of the community do you want to invite to become partners? Or you may do the reverse – for example, develop some proofs of concept that will help others wrap their heads around what you are trying to accomplish, then bring in more facets of the community and encourage them to assume leadership roles.
  • Stay Inclusive. How do you ensure that as you grow all facets of your community are represented?
  • Develop Leaders. As Part 3’s overview of Citizenship Schools demonstrated, identifying and training new leaders is a crucial part of building a vibrant grassroots movement. As you grow, you’ll need to start incorporating leadership development into your plans if you haven’t already. 

Scaling Up

As crucial as local action is, at some point efforts in individual communities won’t be enough. If we want to ensure that no communities will be left behind and that every community will have the resources it needs to succeed, we will need to develop something similar to Extension Services for emerging tech.

We can’t know in advance what the right solution will be – for example, whether it can be funded primarily through private means, a balance of public and private, or through largely public means as was required for agriculture. The only way we’ll know what works and what doesn’t is through experimentation. But regardless of the details of the solution, one thing is clear: we will need a solution that’s up to the scale of the problem.

To create the equivalent of Extension Services, we will also need to build a national network for civic action – a project that Makers All, which sponsored this report, hopes to facilitate. Part of what such an effort will require is building connections between community experiments and creating dialogues across communities so we can organically develop the solution. But it will also require that communities work together to bring pressure on government, large tech companies, and other large institutions so they mobilize the resources necessary to ensure every community shares in the opportunities and abundance created by emerging tech.

As we attempt to mobilize these resources, one of the advantages we have over some other civic efforts is that we may be able to mobilize the self-interest of one of the biggest players: the tech world. Although there will undoubtedly be resistance in some parts of the tech world to truly democratizing emerging tech, in the long run it’s a no-brainer:

  • If we succeed, we will greatly expand both the pool of talented people and the market opportunities in emerging tech. Big tech companies will have a smaller slice of the pie, but the pie will be much, much bigger.
  • And if we don’t succeed? What’s behind Door Number 2 is too scary to contemplate, but it’ll undoubtedly include some version of “peasants with pitchforks” bent on destroying the Frankenstein of robots/AI they see as a threat to their community.

The need for bold action isn’t news to anyone in the tech world – that’s why discussion of radical ideas like Universal Basic Income are now commonplace. The issue isn’t whether we need to act, it’s what the right action is. This shared understanding in tech doesn’t mean action on the scale we need is inevitable, but it greatly improves the odds of success.

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