title: Needs Not Systems 1

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What follows is a draft, the result of a conversation with a friend, about school closures. Started because I said "needs, not systems", and he replied a day later "why did you say that?".


Let's see...

My phone is about to run out of battery, but I need to talk to you.

My phone is the system.

Talking with you is my need.

We were talking about schools. About whether they would stay open or not, or what are the other options. Of what we would do if they are closed.

The schools are the system.

The need doesn't vanish just because the system fails.

There are vital needs (not dying) and there are important needs (education).

There are needs of students, parents, teachers, society in general.

Some needs only exist in a pandemic and weren't there 2 years ago.

Wait, I'm moving to a different system... not my phone... but my laptop. Ok, done...


We have a tree with needs: students need learning, socialising, physical safety (no bullying), and now we add respiratory safety. Teachers, parents etc, all have their needs.

Now we have one column with many needs.

It looks like this: - students - - learning - - socialising - - no bullying - - respiratory safety - parents - - freedom to work outside the home - - etc - teachers - - etc


Now, we add other columns, which are the levels of provision.

Each need can be solved at the level of the individual, the family, our minitribe, the neighborhood, the municipality, the region, and so on until the world level or even further (spiritual need etc).

So now we have a spreadsheet... the full system we use to provide for all the needs that we have around children.

You can do it for your own situation. Soon I'll add a diagram. Getting there!

The school is at the level of, in the column of, the neighborhood or city. It's the system we use to address each and all those needs.


The darn virus with all its variations, and the things we do to try and stop it, all of that has the effect that some of the cells in our grid cannot be used. They have bombs, like a mine sweeper game.

But we still have many cells left.

The system we had is not viable now, and we're left with 3 things:

1) our needs (they don't go away: they are needs!)

2) the broken pieces of the old system (teachers are still teachers, students are still people, etc)

3) pieces from other systems and that we might use (a spare room somewhere in the neighborhood)


One possibility is minitribes, and another is rural schools. Two models: minitribe model and rural school model.

There's a rural school near me. Village is 600 people, 12 kids between 5 and 10 years old.

Minitribes is a single mum with a 2-year old child. But there's not just one mum with one child. There are 2 or 3 such "pairs", total 4-6 people.

Two or three such mums by themselves? Life is hell for mums and for children. Mums can't be adults. Children can't be children. We have tried with lockdown. Brings domestic violence and suicides. I don't want to know the statistics. We need to just avoid it.

We put together the 2-3 mums with the 2-3 children. All of a sudden, kids can be kids and moms can self-organise. One mask to do the shopping for 6 people.


"Oh, interesting. The system to articulate that should be in place..."

Spreadsheet to see how many people in each age-group for a given society, and to see what percentage of the whole problem might be solved using both strategies.

Ok, so, each school looks around and asks for help. Municipalities, sport associations, parents... anyone who can spare a room.

In order to see which rooms are suitable, all needs are looked at. We don't want rooms that are badly ventilated. Or that will be hidden and therefore a magnet for "closed-door bullies" of all kinds.

We'd phrase it as needing to take into account physical safety, so those rooms have to be accessible to supervision by anyone who wants to check the safety of students... and also of teachers, given that some teenage students (not many, just some) may be a bit naughty. Or the teacher might faint from low blood pressure and need help, let's say.

"So that would allow for solving all sorts of practical problems."

Yep, so THE GUIDANCE would give some advice about how things could be done, and the school writes a plan...

... drumroll ...

and does not send it to any Education Authority.

Instead, that plan is published where both the parents and the Education Authority and everyone else can see it.

Because children are a collective treasure.

(These ideas came up in this conversation. We'd have to double check how things would be done. Remember this page is just a draft!)

"So it would be school-centric. And what about the bureaucrats that would cease to be important?"

Yes, it would be school-centric.

And... let me think about the bureaucrats. You mean people who, inside the educational system, work in planning offices and such like.

I think they have an important role. For each school, they can run the numbers: "with this plan we'd solve 62% of the problem, so we need help for the rest - special needs for some children, some schools, some neighborhoods".

They can see impediments and make contacts to solve them.

If any of them want more work, they might plan the reinvention of Education for when this pandemic is done. It's not that Education is going to disappear!


We're not the government. We're individuals who would like to contribute in a complex situation.

We might meet with others in a couple of days and publish that meeting. With style.

Style is very important.

There was a metaphor from the fluwiki era. (FluWiki was an initiative run in 2005-2009, with citizens preparing for a severe flu pandemic. Some of these ideas emerged there.)

The metaphor was that the government (and the experts) is on top of a cliff, dropping a rope scale for the population down below.

The cliff is 100 meters high.

The scale is... 60 meters.

It's not that they have ill will. It's that there are things that, by definition, are not in their hands. They can destroy their own throats recommending... and then people will use masks or not, wash hands or not, etc.

So, with that metaphor, we're not competing with the government, but complementing its actions, from our loyal knowledge and understanding, without breaking any rules, only creating options within the regulatory frameworks.

And being in the business of making things sustainable.

Because it's the government's job to say "no schools".

And it's the job of parents, teachers and students to say "and now what".

So if we think of options for the "and now what", we'll all be better off.


So, if between many of us we manage to solve say 10% of the problem, that will mean we will have done more than others.

With some sense of fun and autonomy, even.