Wealth, poverty and community


Tonight Indonesia is celebrating – fireworks, rhythms beaten out on oildrums in the back of pickup trucks, and prayers continually ringing out from mosques. It’s the end of the fasting month, when people from across Indonesia “pulang kampung” – literally, “return to one’s village.” (People have been asking me if I’m going to pulang kampung, and I answer that my kampung is very far, so I won’t be going just now.)

Over the last few days, roads, trains and buses have swollen with people for the yearly return home. Jakarta, the megacity, is quieter than I’ve ever seen it – this really is a huge exodus. Many years ago I saw a photo of a man being helped onto a bus heading home – it wasn’t possible to fit in through the door, so his friends lifted him up as though they were pallbearers, and passed him through an open window. Train stations are a sea of people.

Tomorrow people will visit friends and family, asking forgiveness for past wrongs, eating and drinking, but above all reconnecting.  This is a Muslim tradition, but people of other religions are often involved, being visited and sometimes visiting as well.

But like Christmas in my own home culture, this is a hard time for some. Many can’t afford to go home, especially if home is a thousand or two thousand kilometers away on a different island. Walking the relatively quiet streets, you see the people who have stayed behind – busy working and hoping to go home next year, or mentally ill or down and out.

It strikes me again that Indonesia is a rich country with many poor people. I think about the things that could help them. I don’t have the answers – but I maybe have a few ideas, and I know others have better ideas. Imagine if we all shared our ideas, in food production, health, children’s education, financial literacy programs and business, found the best of them and promoted these. Think what changes could come about.

Intellectual property (public domain) internship


Appropedia is seeking an intern to work on Intellectual Property. The focus will be on public domain content, and mainly US federal government online resources.

This would be particularly suitable for a law student with an interest in US and/or international IP law. Ability to use a spreadsheet might come in handy, and being more tech-savvy than that would be a bonus.

The main task is to help identify which web resources are and aren’t public domain. This information is used as the basis for the Public Domain Search – see the Beta version here (still a significant number of false positives):

This is an unpaid internship (the Appropedia Foundation being a non-profit organization) and you would be working remotely – unless you happen to be near a trusted member of the Appropedia community who can assist in mentoring you. (I’m near Jakarta, and others are in various parts of the US, Canada and the UK.) I’ve done the work on this so far, but we also have an attorney (Joel Scott) on our board of directors, with an interest in IP issues; and we’ve discussed this project with the Wikisource community, who may be able to lend a hand. You won’t be on your own.

If you are interested, please leave a comment either below or on my Appropedia talk page, and I’ll get in touch. (Or email me at my username, above, at appropedia dot org.) For more information about the search engine, see Public Domain Search on our wiki. The position will be open until it is filled, but we’d ideally like to find someone to start in this half of 2011.



Introducing a series of guest posts from knowledge sharing projects aiming to build a better world.

Our first post is from Philippa Lysaght from Wikiprogress – looking at progress as more than just increasing GDP.

Wikiprogress logo

When Wikiprogress launched at the 2009 OECD World Forum, there was a lot of excitement and nervousness as to how the wiki platform would develop and foster the progress community. Almost two years on and Wikiprogress has grown to play a central role in the progress movement, with many lessons learnt on the challenges and opportunities wiki platforms present. We have gathered a few of the highlights from this experience so far, along with a little background info what Wikiprogress is and what it aims to achieve.

What is Wikiprogress?

Wikiprogress is an online platform centralizing data, information, initiatives, publications, events and networks that are part of the international movement to look beyond GDP in measuring the progress of societies.

In recent years, the shift from measuring economic production to wellbeing has gained a lot of support from organisations and governments around the world. National statistics offices, intergovernmental organisations, research networks, non-government organisations and interested individuals are working to develop new and existing measures of social, environmental and economic progress.

Wikiprogress aims to provide a platform for all parts of the progress community, citizens and policy makers alike, to develop information on measures of progress by creating a robust wiki of related research and statistics. In doing so, Wikiprogress aims to foster a web community around the vision of measuring progress and provide a platform for collaborative participation.

Why wiki?

In fostering the development of progress indicators, it is important to develop a conversation with all levels of society on what dimensions of progress are important to each community.

Joseph Stiglitz, a world-renowned economist and pioneer of the progress movement, has called for a ‘global dialogue’ on measuring progress: ‘part of the objective of rethinking our measurement systems is to generate a national and global dialogue on what we care about.’ (From Measuring Production to Measuring Well-being, Joseph E. Stiglitz, Presentation to the Productivity Commission, Melbourne, July 29, 2010)

The wiki platform ensures that all voices are heard in developing progress indicators, and more importantly, fosters a multidisciplinary community to work together.


Wonderful fruit in a humble package (another mango, in Malaysia)

Visiting a friend last year in the peak of the Australian summer, I was lucky to be staying a 15 minute walk from a fantastic indoor market for fruit and vegetables. Tropical fruits were mixed in with Vietnamese and other Asian groceries, and near closing time the fruit sellers would discount their fruit and tout it loudly.

It was mango season, and I’m a mango fan, so when I saw a shop had 5 different kinds of mangoes on sale, with samples, they had my attention. That included some small, soft, wrinkled mangoes – I assumed they’d have that sour, unpleasant, overripe taste – but out of curiosity, I tried the sample.

In an instant, like the food critic in the animated film Ratatouille, I was transported back to my childhood. This was the same fantastic, indescribable flavor, better and more real than any mango I’d had in years. As a child I loved my mangoes squishy ripe, and now I realized why: that’s how this variety is meant to be eaten. I piled several kilos into the bags I’d brought with me, and enjoyed them over the next few days.

I was lucky that summer. You don’t often get surprised by fruit in your average supermarket, or overwhelmed by choice, and you don’t generally get ugly, wrinkled fruit, even if they taste better. But if you have an excellent market near you, or you have your own tree, vegetable patch & fruit-producing shrubs, and especially if you trade produce with someone else who does, you can be lucky, and get a taste of abundance.

What inspires me about Appropedia is not just that it supports renewable energy, permaculture, healthy soils, clean water for all – though those things do inspire me. But it’s more – Appropedians share a vision of abundance with people around the world, with hard-nosed science and engineering types working on sustainability, along with Transitioners, permaculture devotees, and people of all different cultures and philosophies. We know that a low-carbon economy could be a better and richer economy in the ways that matter, and we’re finding ways to help create it.

Sharing our knowledge and wisdom about how we’re creating abundance is one of the ways that we bring it about.

To explore this idea of knowledge sharing and a better world, over the next few months we’ll be having guest posts from leaders of online communities. Tomorrow: the OECD project, WikiProgress.

Image by me (CC-by license). This is a very different mango, which I bought from the roadside in Northern Malaysia in 2007. Green with pale flesh, it was another wonderful surprise – absolutely delicious.