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Loka Alert 7:3 (20 July 2000)

From: "The Loka Institute" Loka@loka.org
Date: Thu Jul 20, 2000 2:15pm
Subject: Sclove Departs/Loka Thrives


By Dick Sclove

Friends & Colleagues:

This Loka Alert announces my resignation from the staff and board of the Loka Institute, which I founded 13 years ago. For both Loka and me this represents a kind of graduation -- a time for taking stock and celebration. Loka's board of directors has asked me to mark this event with a brief personal review of Loka's history, which I give below.

I am grateful to all of you -- friends, supporters, readers, lurkers, colleagues, and co-conspirators -- who have helped Loka grow into a leading world center for evolving more sane, humane, and democratic forms of research, science and technology.

Cheers to all, Dick Sclove Executive Director (1987-98) Research Director (1998-2000) Advisory Board Member & Consultant (2000 - ?)

The Loka Institute, P.O. Box 355, Amherst, MA 01004, USA E-mail <Loka@loka.org> Web <http://www.Loka.org> Tel. +1-413-559-5860; Fax +1-413-559-5811

NOTE: For anyone wanting to get in touch with me, the Loka Institute will continue to forward messages. Or you can contact me directly:

Tel. +1-978-575-0711 (July 20 - Sept. 30, 2000) Tel. +1-413-256-8727 (after Sept. 30, 2000)

Snail mail: Richard Sclove Associates P.O. Box 665 Amherst, MA 01004 USA

This is one in an occasional series on the democratic politics of research, science, and technology issued free of charge by the nonprofit Loka Institute. TO BE ADDED TO THE LOKA ALERT E-MAIL LIST, or to reply to this post, please send a message to <Loka@loka.org>.


(I) THE LOKA INSTITUTE: a Personal History by Dick Sclove........................(4-1/2 pages)

(II) USING YOUR ALUMNI NOTES (Dick Sclove in _Technology Review_ magazine).........(1 paragraph)

(III) NOTES TO LOKA HISTORY.........................(1 page)



I founded the Loka Institute in 1987. The initial capitalization was 20 U.S. dollars -- the cost of the business cards announcing myself as the Institute's executive director. I borrowed the name "Loka" from an ancient Sanskrit word, lokasamgraha, which refers to the interconnectedness of society and the ethical duty to perform beneficial action in the world.

People sometimes ask why I founded Loka. In a sense I had little choice. In 1987 I was fresh from years of university training. I had received my bachelor's degree in environmental studies from newly founded, experimental Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. I held a master's degree in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) -- earned so that I could be an effective critic of nuclear power -- and a Ph.D. from MIT in political science. And I had just completed a postdoctoral fellowship in economics at the University of California-Berkeley (so that I could be a constructive critic of conventional economic theory and practice).

These credentials and allied moral commitments virtually assured that, in the socioeconomically and technologically complacent U.S. political context, no one would hire me to do anything that I wanted to do. So declaring myself the director of an institute seemed like the natural alternative to languishing in some mismatched job or other that would have made me miserable.

During the Loka Institute's early years I worked from an office at home. I wrote things about democracy and technology that nobody would publish, and supported myself with odd jobs (e.g., as an itinerant college professor and weekend cashier at my wife Marcie's downtown Amherst restaurant).

Professionally, my most ambitious project involved crafting a book about democracy and technology -- a work that, even while in draft form, deeply informed Loka's conception and subsequent project activities.

Loka's breakthrough years were 1993 - 1994. During his 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton made developing a demilitarized U.S. technology policy a centerpiece of his domestic economic policy platform. The November 1992 U.S. elections also swept dovish, left-of-center U.S. congressmen George E. Brown, Jr. and Ron Dellums into the chairmanships, respectively, of the House Science Committee and the House Armed Services Committee. Suddenly there was a strategic opportunity to press for more democratically responsive, post-Cold War U.S. science and technology policies.

In this context I was able to start publishing (e.g., opinion essays in the _Washington Post_ and the _Chronicle of Higher Education_).[1] I met with Congressman George Brown and co-organized a briefing for his committee and a similar briefing for the Director & Executive Committee of the National Institute of Standards & Technology. In the spring of 1994 Loka also co-organized an important national conference on "Technology and the African-American Experience" at Howard University in Washington, DC.

Crucial seed funding for the Loka Institute came from the Menemsha Fund, the Foundation for Deep Ecology, Rockefeller Family Associates, and the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. My key institutional mentors at the time were Michael Shuman of the Institute for Policy Studies and Meg Gage of the Ottinger & CarEth Foundations. Loka's closest tactical collaborator was Gary Chapman of the 21st Century Project.

Loka Alerts (such as the one you are now reading) were born entirely by accident. After I published my first opinion essay (on "Democratizing Technology") in the _Chronicle of Higher Education_ in January 1994, I e-mailed copies to 20 friends. Most wrote back that they liked it. I also received 20 or so e-mails from people I'd never heard of asking "please add me to your e-mail list."

So the next time I wrote something, I e-mailed it to 40 people and this time I received 40 or so new requests to "please add me to your list." And so it went. Today Loka Alerts are received directly by more than 14,000 individual and group subscribers worldwide.

During this period I was advocating a sweeping range of science-and-technology policy reforms and innovations. Then the political space in which I was maneuvering slammed shut with the Republican takeover of the U.S. Congress in November 1994 and with House Speaker Newt Gingrich's subsequent attempt to legislate a rightwing "Contract With America."[2]

The new political context necessitated a change in Loka's tactics. Taking counsel from Loka's recently assembled National Advisory Board, I launched an initiative to establish a nationwide Community Research Network (CRN), inspired partly by the national network of Dutch "science shops."[3] Building the CRN made sense because facilitating community-initiated, participatory research is a good idea. And in political terms, it didn't hurt that the network could be started from the grassroots up without seeking permission or funding from a hostile U.S. Congress. Thanks, Newt!

By the spring of 1995 several hundred people were participating in planning the Community Research Network via Loka's new CRN-listserv. That fall Loka took on its first full-time student intern, Madeleine Scammell, who wound up staying 4 years, eventually becoming the Institute's Deputy Director.

In the summer of 1996, with remarkably generous staff and financial assistance from the University of Massachusetts Extension system, Madeleine, I, and several additional Loka interns organized a face-to-face CRN planning conference. We had 50 participants from across the U.S., plus one each from Canada and the Netherlands.[4]

Today the Community Research Network is Loka's largest project. Under the robust stewardship of Loka's CRN project director Douglas K. Taylor and staff, the CRN held its most recent international conference in Atlanta, Georgia three weeks ago. This year there were 260 participants from more than 11 countries.[5] Loka's CRN project has also helped inspire similar efforts around the world, including the Canadian government's Community University Research Alliances (CURA) program and a new European Commission- funded project to plan a Europe-wide network of community research centers.[6]

Meanwhile during the 1996 CRN conference, serendipity intervened when I received notification that my long- gestating, newly published book, _Democracy and Technology_, had been selected to receive the first annual Don K. Price Award of the American Political Science Association, honoring the "year's best book on science, technology and politics." Four years later the book continues to sell briskly, and it is being used in university courses worldwide.[7]

In 1997 Loka went on to initiate the first U.S. emulation of a Danish-style deliberative citizens' panel ("consensus conference") on science and technology policy. The topic was "Telecommunications and the Future of Democracy." We selected a 15-member panel of lay citizens from the greater Boston area by random phone calling and follow-on targeted recruitment. The lay panel was racially diverse and ranged from a teenager to a senior citizen, from an auto mechanic to the business manager of a high-tech firm and a homeless shelter resident.

After two intensive background study-weekends, the lay panel took testimony from a diverse group of experts and stakeholders in a public forum, before deliberating privately and then delivering their own policy recommendations at a press conference. The lay panelists' enthusiasm and commitment, mastery of the subject, ability to evaluate opposing viewpoints, and successful cooperation demonstrated that this method can indeed enable everyday American citizens to contribute constructively to complex, controversial science and technology policy deliberations.

Loka's efforts to disseminate information about the Danish consensus conference process have helped inspire further emulations of the method in other nations, including Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, and South Korea.[8]

During the fall of 1997 I had a fantastic opportunity to live in Denmark for 10 weeks, collaborating with the Danish government's Board of Technology on methodological innovations in "scenario workshops." European scenario workshops are unique among technology assessment methods in allowing participating citizens to evaluate ways in which many different technologies interact to produce combined social effects. Together with Prof. Sarah Kuhn of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Loka is moving ahead toward organizing the first U.S. emulation of the European scenario workshop process. Our special interest is whether scenario workshops can be adapted to permit participants to evaluate the unplanned effects of technologies on democracy itself.[9]

But 1997 was also a year of financial crisis for Loka. The Loka Institute's mission -- to make research, science and technology more responsive to democratically decided social and environmental concerns -- is unusual and well outside the established funding guidelines of U.S. foundations and funding agencies. That is the simple reason why there aren't more organizations like Loka. During that year Loka submitted 50 letters of inquiry or funding proposals, and all but one was declined. When I returned from Denmark, the Institute had barely 6 months of funding sitting in its bank account, and no additional funding proposals in the pipeline.

At that point Loka's newly created board of directors kicked into high gear. With the assistance especially of founding board chair Carolyn Raffensperger (of the Science & Environmental Health Network), Loka initiated new funding tactics. Before the money ran out new grants were in hand from the W.K. Kellogg, C.S. Mott, John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur, Albert H. List, and National Science Foundations. Loka had a new lease on life.

During the past few years Loka's public profile and influence have continued to grow. Loka's staff has expanded to four full-time employees, plus several student interns and short-term helpers. We have had personal meetings with the directors of government agencies (including at the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and with President Clinton's science advisor), and with science and technology policymakers in other countries.

Loka staff are routinely interviewed by leading print and broadcast media (e.g., in _The New York Times_), and our work has inspired front-page coverage and cover stories in _Science News_, the _Christian Science Monitor_, and the _Chronicle of Higher Education_. In 1998 I published an editorial on democratizing science-and-technology policymaking in _Science_ magazine, the flagship publication of the U.S. science and engineering community. (_Science_ magazine runs only one editorial per week; mine followed an editorial the week before by President Clinton.)[10] Loka staff have also been invited to deliver plenary and keynote speeches at conferences worldwide.

At the same time, and perhaps most importantly, Loka's relationships with grassroots communities have continued to broaden and deepen.

Which brings us to the present. Thirteen years is a healthy stretch of time in one person's life, and I'm ready for a sabbatical and then some new challenges. Loka is in the capable, energetic, and imaginative hands of executive director Jill Chopyak, who came to the Institute a year and a half ago from Redefining Progress.

In resigning from Loka's board and staff, I am rotating on to the Loka Institute's Advisory Board. I will continue to work with the Institute periodically as a consultant. I've also agreed to contribute occasional guest Loka Alerts.

At Loka's most recent board of directors' meeting in Atlanta, Carolyn Raffensperger stepped down after a three- year term as board chair. After expressing deep gratitude to Carolyn for her years of outstanding service, the board unexpectedly elected my wife, Marcie Abramson Sclove (a founding Loka board member, with experience as an organizational development consultant), as interim board chair.[11]

With your continued interest, involvement and support, I know that Loka will thrive and expand in the years to come.

As to myself, I see this as a wonderful time for a midlife transition and growth spurt. In the short run I am taking time to attend to my emotional and spiritual life; spending more time with Marcie and our 8-year-old daughter Lena; and hiking, swimming, canoeing, mountain biking and traveling. Professionally my plan, as always, is to launch myself into the universe and see what it says back.

Cheers & heartfelt thanks to all, Dick Sclove

(II) USING YOUR ALUMNI NOTES (Dick Sclove in _Technology Review_ Magazine)

Two and a half years ago Langdon Winner and I announced our concern about a troubling shift in editorial direction at MIT's _Technology Review_ magazine (see <http://www.loka.org/alerts/loka.4.6.txt>). But recently I realized that there can be a hidden benefit to my being an MIT graduate: a few times a year MIT sends all its graduates a note asking us to submit tidbits that MIT can run in the alumni news section of _Technology Review_.

Hence the May-June 2000 issue of _Technology Review_ includes, sandwiched between the inspiring career updates of other MIT alums (one alum's promotion to full professor at Kenyon College, another's participation in the Council on Foreign Relations, etc.), the following item:

"Richard Sclove, SM '78, PhD '86 was quoted in _The Wall Street Journal_ criticizing the editorial decision of MIT's _Technology Review_ to replace thoughtful coverage of the social implications of technology with uncritical, self- serving boosterism for 'innovation.'"


[1]. See "Democratizing Technology" at <http://www.Loka.org/alerts/loka.1.1.txt> and "The Ghost in the Modem: If Information Highways Are Anything Like Interstate Highways -- Watch Out!" at <http://www.Loka.org/alerts/loka.1.6.txt>.

[2]. See "Democratizing Science & Technology Under a Republican Congress?" at <http://www.Loka.org/alerts/loka.1.14.txt> and "Losing the Peace . . . Forever: Post-Cold War Science & Technology Policy in Human Terms," at <http://www.Loka.org/alerts/loka.2.8.txt>.

[3] See "Research For Communities: Let's Do It!" at <http://www.Loka.org/alerts/loka.2.5a.txt> and "Democratic Research: Toward a National Community Research Network" at <http://www.Loka.org/alerts/loka.3.1.txt>.

[4]. See "Building a Community Research Network" at <http://www.Loka.org/alerts/loka.3.6.txt>.

[5]. Current information about Loka's Community Research Network project is at <http://www.Loka.org/crn/index.htm>.

[6]. Information about Canada's Community University Research Alliances program is at <http://www.sshrc.ca/english/programinfo/grantsguide/cura.ht ml>.

[7]. Information about Richard Sclove's book,_Democracy and Technology_, is at <http://www.Loka.org/pubs/book.htm>.

[8]. Information about Danish-style deliberative citizens' panels ("consensus conferences"), including Loka's U.S. pilot citizens' panel on telecommunications policy, is at <http://www.loka.org/pages/panel.htm>.

[9]. On Loka's scenario workshop project, see "Democratic Politics of Technology -- The Missing Half: Using Democratic Criteria in Participatory Technology Decisions "at <http://www.loka.org/idt/intro.htm>.

[10]. A complete list of publications by and about the Loka Institute, with links to the publication whenever possible, is at <http://www.loka.org/pubs/lokapubs.htm>.

[11]. See Marcie A. Sclove, "Science, Andean Wisdom & Other Ways of Knowing" Loka Alert 2:9 (11 Dec. 1995) at <http://www.loka.org/alerts/loka.2.9.txt>. This Loka Alert was subsequently reprinted as Marcie Abramson Sclove,"Andean Diversity," in _Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures_, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 1996), pp. 8-9.


The Loka Institute has openings for volunteers, graduate and undergraduate student interns, and work-study students.

Interns' responsibilities include updating our Web page; managing email lists and listservs; conducting background research on issues concerning science, technology, and society; and helping with administrative work. Interns committing to a semester or more will have the opportunity to integrate independent research into their internship experience.

Candidates should be self-motivated and able to work as part of a team as well as independently. A general knowledge and comfort with computers is needed. Experience in Web page maintenance is preferable. Undergraduate students, graduate students, and recent graduates are welcome to apply. Loka is able to provide interns with an expense stipend of $35 per day for volunteering (or $700 per month full-time-equivalent).

If you are interested in working with us to promote a democratic politics of science and technology, please send a resume and a succinct cover letter explaining your interest and dates of availability to: The Loka Institute, P.O. Box 355, Amherst, MA 01004, USA. We also are accept applications by e-mail to <Loka@L...> or by fax to +1-413-559-5811.


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