User and citizen centricity in a nutshell – bilateral demands from providers, governments – and us.

2012 March 31

User centricity and citizen centricity are defined as a vantage point that preaches for a proactive paradigm change on the part of providers, leaders and governing bodies. It is about the providers’ and governments’ obligations towards their users and citizens.

At the same time it is about us as well and what we are actively willing to do. It  obliges us to adapt, in our daily life, to the same zeitgeist that we preach our providers and institutions to incorporate. If all we do is exercise a  consumers’ boycott and protests as reactive sporadic  singular emotional responses, or settle to get civically active by just voting on election day, because we lost faith anyway, then  “That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done”  (Ecclesiastes 1:9). But if truly we want fundamental new orders, then he ball is in our hands and we should commit as well.

A paradigm change on the part of organizations and governing bodies is  about expectations from them to open up the top down unilateral monopoly over their activities, information and decision making processes for user and citizen involvement and participation. It is a call for transparency and collaboration, managerial integrity as much as representatives’ integrity that exceeds political and power based interests.

Is it against basic human nature? No, it’s about realignment of values and priorities to suit the underlying concepts of the fundamental pact between them and their clients.  On the providers’ part it is a call to truly put the user at the center, enable her control over data, activate bi lateral communication, privacy and sharing settings, and gain trust by  a call to exercise humanization and sensitivity – more social and environmental involvement.

Citizen centricity calls for flattening hierarchies, but not in the way Thomas Friedman meant but through genuine connectedness in delivering government information and services to the citizens.  Opening government data, empowering citizens transparently to become part of the decision making process, will affect the information hierarchy, changing from a hierarchical structure to a network structure, one that digital natives are already used to work in – a basic building block on the way to raise the declining curve of trust. according to the latest Edelman trust barometer.  

Yet, user and citizen centricity oblige us as well to take an active part in creating the mindset and actions that will enhance this shift. The wisdom of crowds and bottom up grassroots actions are the most powerful force to change paradigms and force new measuring scales.

It demands from us to embrace the same value sets we want providers  and governors to apply – when we demand that brands stand for values, morals and meaning to consumers, we need to ask ourselves the same questions. Is our consumerism excessive, over material? How credible do we sound when so many of us walk into stores and still look for the new thrill, be it in snacks, yogurts, fashion items and up to cars, gadgets and the list is endless.

The web allows us to shop “responsibly” – compare prices and truly take advantage of the flat world as defined by Thomas Friedman. Yet, here too, as responsible consumers, we are obliged to exercise checks and balances that affect us as individuals and the environment and country we live in; understand economic ramifications and make individual compromises where and whenever we can, and shift from materialistic  consumerism to a more value based lifestyle, otherwise we will all go to hell in a shopping basket.

And as citizens – citizen centricity should spell participatory awareness and  activism, namely, not only do we have the right, but the obligation, to actively have a say on what we want our life to look like. To quote Barack ObamaChange will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek……. We know that what began as a whisper has now swelled to a chorus that cannot be ignored , that will not be deterred, that will ring out across this land as a hymn that will heal this nationit is true for citizens who want to exercise their influence for more aware, humane governance for the people, anywhere.

 

We are all at the center again as Time’s person of the year

2011 December 28

Time’s Person of the year is a tradition that dates back to 1927. It used to be individual mavericks who left their mark on history. Yet twice in recent years Time magazine named as person of the year a collective of individuals that influence bottom up their landscape out of different levels of civic indignation. User centricity and citizen centricity are the real honorees  of this manifestation of the central place of grassroots wisdom of the crowds and individuals’ power to reshape a collective future.

In 2006 You ( meaning us – each us of us) were chosen as Time Magazine’s person of the year “For seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, Time’s Person of the Year for 2006 is you .” It was a cornerstone in user centered influence, the era of the rise of web 2.0 user generated web content and was a reflection of the growing power of individuals and grassroots influence through uncontrolled exchange of ideas and peer based influence.

In 2011, the protestor is Time’s person of the year. From NY’s “occupy Wall Street” to Russia and to Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Lybia, Syria…where Arab world protests are reshaping the future of millions of Muslims, the world is witnessing  very different protests, perspectives and aspirations – and yet – there is one clear common denominator – we, citizens are rewriting the book of our civic future. Bottom up, masses of individuals are shaping history in new evolutions of notions that we, citizens, just as we, users, before, are the centers of the civic systems created for us and have the right and power to fight the disintegration of the regimes that do not deliver.

In the Arab world people got tired of dictators who held back the development of their countries and the hope for an affordable future and rioted to dethrone them. Bloodshed led to revolutions. No one knows what the future of the Arab spring will be, but the ordinary citizens could raise their heads and say We did it.

In the US, Europe, Israel, where there are no dictators, discontent from the economic and political systems erupted with no bloodshed,  yet with ardent calls to re-embrace long lost values, care for citizens with solidarity, social sensitivity and authentically minimize the gaps between rich and poor, providing an affordable future to all.

User centricity and citizen centricity are intertwined. Growing freedom and power of expression over the digital landscape, the rise of social networks and the growing power of consumers reflects on our relations with our civic providers. The same aversion we had as users from unilateral top-down dictation of providers who strove to keep us captive for their own ends, is now erupting in different forms in frustrated civic battle zones, calling for new civic ecology, based on more humane values and strategies.

In any case we, users, citizens, crowds, can no longer be put back into the bottle. We are out, writing our own story and landscape. The dialog balance is changing a paradigm.

 

 

 

Grassroots constitution of a new compass

2011 November 10

Grassroots movements become the compasses for the new ecology.

The story of Kristen Christian who declared  a “bank transfer day” and called her 500 Facebook friends to transfer their bank accounts, after Bank of American announced a 5$monthly fee for  shopping with their debit card, snowballed a bottom up movement and forced the bank to withdraw from its plan,  is yet another example how we can all be shakers and movers.

True for issues regarding corporate abuse, true for issues regarding government or policy abuse – Occupy Wall street is yet another example. Thomas Friedman’s analysis of the current grassroots movements in America and India against corruption and excessive greed show the common denominator – the striving for a constitutive change.

Current bottom up protests, commercial or civic, do not stem just from external circumstances. These are the last straws that ignite bottom up spontaneous acts that spiral because they strike many cords.It is happening now mainly because when corporates and governing institutions are losing their ruling grip, whereas the state of mind of individuals has shifted to demand a new level of ecology from their providers and officers and recognize the entitled place of the people they serve .

The Icentered mindset stems from a natural sense of self induced empowerment that changes the basic approach to the place of the organizations  we interact with. Once users, people, dictate the perspective where providers of goods and services actually work for us,  serve us and accommodate our needs, bosses and colleagues at work are our clients, and our governing officers were elected as our representatives and as such are replaceable upon failure or distrust –  grassroots movements and connected conversations will provide the compass for  the new zeitgeist.

Sustainability becomes a people centered term

2011 November 3

The very idea of sustainability implies a life line of validity, reliability and invokes trust and good reputation. Sustainability is about long term balance. Financial, operational, environmental. It’s about supplying needs and supporting from below.

It applies to corporates and governing bodies, to managers, providers, public officers and governors of sorts. On its face value it’s about solidifying approaches of businesses with and term goals.

With the web 2.0 and the winds of change that put users at the center and empower them with a natural sense of entitlement, sustainability should change with it and shift its gravity to harnesses the economic and business logic for the humane. That way it will become what is now essential for businesses that want to adapt –  a people centered long term strategy to management,  planning and corporate identity, one that takes into account the real implications for the users, environment and society, far above and beyond the profit lines and business goals of the corporate.

People discern essence from form. They no longer fall for slogans, marketing schmoozing and election speeches. The sustainability lens is measured by the trust that organizations and officers invoke, as perceived by people. It is about the level of involvement and commitment to socially aware activities, the authenticity with regard to bringing back the humane sides and social dimensions of projects and endeavors.

Trust is built bottom up, by connecting the dots of promises and deeds, everyday small steps that show real commitment, a language that is framed in a trust inspiring way.

Even if officers forget, users and citizens remember that sustainability and accountability go hand in hand. Therefore when providers, governors and corporate leaders treat their audience as equal partners to the process and truly see the people behind the users- their future is sustained.

It takes a high personal level of integrity and authenticity to become a sustainable leader – in the corporate, public or civic world. It demands a long term responsible vision that sees the greater good and exceeds short term tenure. It involves transparency, social solidarity, accountability and ethics.

It ensures a sustainable future for both givers and takers. The people.

 

7 billion people, global crises and us.

2011 November 1

The UN declared that the 7th billionth person was born today in the Philippines. 7 billion people and very polarized life between those struggling for drinking water, a cup of rice a day and basic shelter, hygiene and medicines to ensure their very survivability while the ipad/smart phone western digital generation cherishes the pursuit after the latest, bigger, faster as defining traits.

These two modes of existence are not as detached as it may seem. Changes in  a westerner’s lifestyle may not directly affect the quality of life of struggling people in the third world, still we live in an interconnected global economy where the butterfly effect slowly and gradually carves its impact.

Things are rotten in our affluent global kingdom of Denmark. In many countries, a growing demand for dethroning corrupted systems is heard. In oppressed regimes, rioters demand freedom and a better life. In more democratic countries, frustrated from the failure of the prevailing economic systems, the calls are for an affordable and a more solidarity based future. The outrageous numbers of discrepancies in the distribution of wealth,  the economic inequality, greed and even financial corruption marked an era that is shaking the world’s well being all across.

What can we, the 99% , do in our daily life to make a difference?

Build new engines; develop disruptive life paradigms that will influence our social networks, environment and the axioms on which current crumbling paradigms are built.

Corporate responsibility according to the new zeitgeist should be measured by awareness not only to boardroom results but to the real value its products/services carry and its authentic engagement as trust building mechanisms that influence the corporate identity. These days solidarity accountability and social and environmental awareness gradually become a new measuring scale for a more aware,  just and politically correct existence for many organizations that up till now were led by profit goal seeking as the ultimate purpose.

At the same time we, users, have a responsibility as well.

We can, and should, harness our life style and usability patterns to stop the vicious circle that feeds and increasingly empowers the ruling 1%.

How?

Do we really need to consume all that we are consuming? Is more, newer, bigger the answer? Isn’t that the pipeline that feeds the suppliers of the closed club of the few monster companies that control everything.

The answer to the capitalist networks that financially own the world top down is a user centered state of mind that defeats it bottom up through non tangible weapons – deriving meaning from values and actions that do not require actual purchases, but give satisfaction by their very value – an internal sense of purpose and fulfillment that is not determined by others’ defined status symbols or social ladders.

User centered economy of the soul and social connectedness will replace hedonistic stimuli with soul fulfilling activities that carry with them a lasting meaning. It will be based on real social values of engagement, involvement, caring, solidarity has a much stronger communal and networked value than any financial or brand related bonds.

The social net will get a qualitative meaning as well, as we harness our social circles for challenging the practices that created the affluent society that translated happiness to external assets and very individualistic life style. It  will shift control back to us, users, and will force marketers to share a humbler less greedy spirit. Continuing in the same paths is bound to prove self destructive. On its simplest level, our palates will not suffer a loss if on supermarket shelves there will a choice of 4 yogurt flavors instead of 15 and our personalities will not be deprived if not wrapped in the latest brands. Modesty of settling for less can be as fulfilling as constantly looking for the next stimulus, which very quickly proves to be nothing more than quicksand demanding to be fed again and again to keep the thrill.

Only then a different solidarity based world culture may develop, that will hopefully find more compassion between all its 7 billion inhabitants.

User centricity at the heart of Thomas Friedman’s “One country two revolutions”

2011 October 24

In his article One country two revolutions, Thomas Friedman describes two opposing revolutions that occur simultaneously. On the one hand, the social revolution that rattles Wall Street and as contrast the hyper connectedness revolution that is transforming Silicon Valley.

While at its face value it may seem that those two revolutions are contrasting in nature, in fact they are the two sides of the same coin – the user/citizen at the center. Connecting the dots leads to the common denominator –two expressions of the same phenomenon – the voice of individuals shaping society bottom up, in a collective collaborative way.  In both new social is the order of the day. Social activism, social media, grassroots actions and collaborative crowdsourcing are the means. Both are expressions of the traits that characterize user centricity and citizen centricity–a free spirit, independent state of mind and a natural sense of entitlement.

In one revolution, citizens faced with economic concerns, unrest and distrust of the system, react in a bottom up participatory wave of voices. They refuse to continue and passively accept old orders. In the Wall Street Riots the movers and shakers are no longer distinct mavericks, but a collective of citizens that has become a mover aspiring to shake the paradigm that brought them to the abyss.People who fear fragile economies, feel exploited, abused and betrayed want to bring back the human factor into the equation. They call for a more moral, value based and socially aware governance. These riots ignite a communal call for a civic ecology that that places its people at the center of the system.

The Silicon valley transformation works itself up through a ubiquitous open ended individual empowerment, a user centered paradigm, and a social collaborative grid of bottom-up shared conversations and collaborative efforts to work on the best solutions.

  Both are poking the box , replacing top down hierarchal dictation, both reflect a paradigm shift, a new state of mind.

 

 

 

Icentricity – A framework for the individual in an era of distributed ubiquity

2011 October 23

This blog entry is about the death of standardized compliance.

We’ve gone a long way from mass marketing and categorization to the individualization and long tail choices as defining digital traits, where each one of us is a micro universe of one.  To the institutions we interact with – from commercial suppliers, through brands and government based services, we, users, are largely still links in chains of commercial, organizational and governmental goal achievements processes. The non uniformity of the people that comprise the client base, audience, market share… may already seem obvious , but it still not taken as an axiomatic key stand point .

Seth Godin’s new book We are all weird is a tale of individuality, of celebrating the uniqueness of each one in every food chain. Weird, as not standardized, talks to generalizing providers and institutions, and praises individuality as a stand point for interactions with people with a cynical reference to normality, as an outdated lens for definitions and processes.

Yes, the future belongs to individuals, to a mindset that replaces standardization with the humanification of interactions. Once the user is put at the center, not as a usability and marketing communication cliché’ of form, but as a fundamental matter, the real human value of user centricity and citizen centricity comes to life. To each of us our individually significant actions and choices are our own tales of individuality that strengthen our meaningful and valuable choices and interactions.

Icentricity is a philosophical identity definition that exceeds the individual yet gives a personal print and control on who, what, where, when and why.  Taking an independent yet very personal prism, enables a framework of the unique individual ecosystem of one that interacts with everybody else.

When each one of us has so many personal expressions across so many platforms, we need to take the individual fingerprint that on one hand sets us apart as individuals but on the other hands defines us and our say as parts of collectives in these frameworks.

The Icentered lens is an individual grasp for interactions, a prism that helps separate the wheat from the chaff in the overload of seemingly not connected interactions. It is a framework for a larger process that gives a context for the place of the individual in relations with providers, peers, friends, organizations….. Godin’s book is yet another call to start and exercise this distinct personal mark that sets me apart from everyone else and makes categorizing, segmenting, profiling me…. Impossible.

With the ubiquitous connectedness that enables us to be distributed across many platforms, across many contexts and interactions, Icentricity provides a looking glass that sometimes takes a step back to oversee and sometime to focus on how I am in a particular set of interactions – social, professional, or information based and how I relate to other people in social circles and in service providing systems.

A new citizen centered governance for a new civic ecology

2011 October 11

In the corporate world customer is king, all the more so in the civil democratic systems where the citizen holds the scepter as the raison d’être of the state.  Elected representatives and governors that will not realize that the people have crowned  anew the people and its well being, are jeopardizing their political validity.  

In a very fragile world economy, where tectonic shifts threaten countries, activism and sympathy are not enough to draw the blueprint for citizen centered social justice and solidarity based . The process of dethroning and crowning may be two phased. Where first new political powers will emerge, based on anger and frustration and on the call for change. Stealth leaders with no central political backbone, lead the protests, while political leaders that were formerly trusted , are rapidly losing the faith of the public. Obama’s failure to solve the economic crisis is such a case.

New leaders may arise, mastering the language of civil ecology based on solidarity, social responsibility, but lacking the tools, skills and political craftsmanship needed for implementing it responsibly without throwing  the baby out with the bath water.

A real citizen centered governance culture will revive the original and natural increasing returns dynamics where the people elect representatives appointed to really take care of their needs and act on their behalf, those who truly prove to fulfill this, earn the constituents’ trust, will enjoy a greater “rating” (the equivalent to share owner’s value in the corporate world) and will thus ensure their future credibility and their central place in continuing and serving the people.

 

 

October 15 – a global citizen centered call for civic ecology

2011 October 10
by Ayala

On October 15, the global revolution day, citizens will march across many democratic countries in a protest not just against a capitalistic paradigm that set citizens back due to financial manipulations and greed. Occupy Wall Street and other marches across the world, such as the Israeli social justice protests, just to name a few,  are a wake up call for people who have given up hope because the systems crushed them, to reclaim their natural place at the center of the systems and to crown new kings that speak a new language and and can empower them back with forgotten hopes and dreams.

These movers and shakers are no longer distinct mavericks, but a collective of citizens that has become a mover aspiring to shake the paradigm that brought them to the abyss.  

The people behind the voters are finally angry enough. From dispersed demonstrations and riots in cities, a global movement is being born, that reflects a universal tipping point of no more, shaking up the prevailing axioms of the western world.

The lethal combination of greed based polarization, and negligence of basic social values, individual and corporate or sectarian atomization that focuses on segregated interests, alienates tolerance and solidarity, the major fractures in the values that hold a society together, brought about the bankruptcy of the current ruling paradigm.

On the other side of the fence users of the system (citizens as such),  busy with their every day individual agendas and struggles, have reached that inflection point that exceeds the personal and translates into a bottom up communal  collaborative momentum.

Social media and crowdsourcing expertise have ignited an a populist start, labor unions and left wing activists may capitalize on it too, but the power it can create builds a collective that cannot be put back into the box. It strikes a chord for citizens across the world, suffering the same set back, fears and frustrations are harnessing a communal  inner stamina to reclaim their  collective value and central place in the systems created primarily for them.

A new agenda starts filling the pages – a new culture, language, terminology that will serve as the blueprint for the professionals who will step forward and adapt to gain the trust of their future constituents.

The spreading protests are claiming a new civil ecology – a new power balance that truly puts citizens’ well being at the center. Cherishing basic security, non material values and moderating individual race for financial assets in order to introduce meaning, depth and participatory culture,  enhance social solidarity as a society’s goal – can become quality of life indicators. It’s the lever that will empower the quantum leaps needed for the new civic ecology.

The economic lens of connecting the dots of user and citizen centricity

2011 September 21

The glue that held together dynamic yet balanced relations between providers and users, citizens and states begins to disintegrate, as the rich providers, financiers  and states get richer and continue with business as usual, yet we, users get more frustrated and as citizens, get poorer and the middle class can no longer take countries on its back. One thing is clear – more of the same gluing mix will not push it back into place.

Very slippery.

Corporates and governing institutions are losing their ruling grip. When it’s about us , our values should be the blueprint of such systems created for us and around us.

A gap is forming, widening, and becoming unbridgeable both as consumers and citizens. Leaders and governors, asleep at the wheel, brought us downhill, sometimes  close to ditches, and now we can’t passively count on them anymore to take us up again.

We, people, can no longer be treated as means to ends.

Connecting the dots is moving from the serving parties who controlled the balances and gained power, to the users/citizens who claim what in their eyes is theirs to start with. The greater collective trail that encompasses us is populated by individuals with personal needs and hopes.

There is no clear destination point on which all agree. We are reaching a fork in the road where different paths are clearly formulated.  The corporate or the user – the state or the citizen – whose well being is to be served? Is it necessarily a dichotomy? What is the price to be paid?

Over 15 years ago I started to look into personalization in the then emerging digital world. At first it was about segmentation. In a world of mass marketing ruled by one fits all, adapting to specific needs of segmented populations was disruptive at first and then gradually became mainstream. With the maturity of CRM technologies, center stage segmentation became natural and personalization was gradually built as the next marketing promise. That, in turn, depends on its performance, that depends on the offering, and eventually on its relevance depended on us, users, and our willingness to accept it.

All that was led under a corporate world: the corporate’s existence depends first and foremost on the financial strength of the company. Fortifying that justifies marketing means.

Web 2.0 pushed us, users, more towards the center of the system. From user centricity as a marketing lip service we demanded more, full user centered personalization, equal partnership in the food chains created around us, transparency and active control over our data and privacy sharing.

In parallel our relations with our governing institutions changed.  In non democratic countries it was easier to detach the process. Autocrats can’t hold the power forever, build private fortunes and control state mechanisms as a means for their personal enrichment while their people have nothing to base a better future on.

The capitalistic democratic countries of the western world favored the state over the citizens. Let the free market throne and dethrone.  Once labor was replaced by financial schemes, the middle class was promised mirage economy based on shallow foundations. Pay day is here for the states that allowed it in the name of economic ideologies that are going bankrupt and deluded individuals who did not see the writing on the wall.

Now this fluctuating balance is being thrown against the wall on all fronts. User or provided centricity? State or citizen centricity? Whose thriving are we to serve? People’s or institutions’? What is the tipping point from which new ideologies will gain mass acceptance? Are all parties concerned aware of the dangers of populism and appeasing commitments that states can’t stand behind?

The feeling of betrayal is strong. Both as users and as citizens, we have been abused. Well financed companies used us as means in their private fights over market hegemony. A crooked and corrupt financial system robbed us of the welfare contracts that democratic states seemingly had with us, their citizens. The financial credits of the middle class have gone down the drain, sweeping with them dreams of an affordable future and sustainable personal growth and with them was flushed the credit we gave our leaders.

The concepts of the state as a paternal entity, taking care of its citizens’ welfare is severely damaged.  The system, the democratic system has been abused, the debts of sovereign states, together with the soaring poverty lines of citizens is a Tsunami that will shake everybody on the personal level. No one can predict the future and the global ramifications of the financial geo political fracture rattles the foundations of the contract between state and citizen. The economic insecurity and the flourishing social unrest take many faces, and threaten political stability, as protestors climb over the closed gates of corporates and governors.

The infrastructure for the existence of a functional democracy that ensures economic security and freedom to its citizens is dramatically shaken when people fear that there is no affordable future, social security and housing menace.

It needs rewriting.  Attempts are starting all over. For whom will it be too little and too late?

The current debates on can capitalism and a welfare state co-exist demanding going back to socialist values that empowered coexistence and welfare, not out of Marxist ideology but because of an urge to reclaim citizen centricity as a major driving force in societies where capitalism, privatization and speculative economics have shaken the social foundations of states, putting the welfare of the citizens as a secondary consideration to neo liberal ideologies.

Citizen centricity is about putting the human factor, the citizen, back at the center of the equation.

Connecting the dots to rebuild this balance is a mutual and reciprocal process. Citizens alone, rioting and claiming populist solutions out of frustration can lead to throwing out  the baby with the bath water. WE should all opt for gradual and mutual constructiveness where all work together based on open dialogs, pragmatism and  citizen centered recovery proposals instead of clashing ideologies.