Author Archive for Neal Gorenflo

Bread as Communication

By Malcolm Harris

When I moved in a small three-bedroom apartment with my two childhood friends, we knew we were a bit beyond chore wheels. Those sort of impersonal divisions and systems of accountability aren’t necessary for groups of people who would never rather fight than do a bit more work. Everyone has a different work schedule, though none of them is the traditional 9-5, so we have to be at least as flexible as roommates as we are at work. What we needed more than anything was a good mode of communication, a canary in the coal mine that would tell us when we needed to talk more to ensure all our domestic bases are covered. This is where the bread comes in.

My mom gave me the bread recipe before I went to college after seeing it inThe Times. It’s so easy and simple it seems like some sort of elemental formula, a building block of the universe as we know it. As people who bake using this recipe are apparently wont to do, I evangelized, telling all my friends how easy (and tasty) it was to make your own bread. When my roommates Max and Will and I moved in, we bought a cheap dutch oven for just this purpose.

The recipe goes like this:

  1. Combine 3 cups of flour, 1 1/4 tsp. of salt, and 1/4 tsp. of active dry yeast in a large bowl with 1 5/8 cups of warm water. Mix and cover with saran wrap. Let sit for 12-18 hours.
  2. Take the dough and fold it over a few times on a floured board, cover loosely with the saran wrap, and let sit for 15 minutes.
  3. Fold the dough over a few times again, and cover with a floured cotton towel and let rise for 2 hours. After 90 minutes, preheat the over to 450 and put the dutch oven in.
  4. Bake the bread at 450 for 30 minutes with the cover on, and then 15-30 with the cover off to brown it.
  5. If you want to be able to cut it with a knife, let the bread sit out and cool. We usually tear into with it with our hands before then.

That’s the basic recipe, and you can add pretty much anything you want. I like creating a cornmeal crust personally, but that’s for a cooking column. This is about how we use the process. We make every loaf collectively, figuring out on the fly who is going to do what steps. To do that, we have to talk about our schedules, what we’ll be doing, where we’ll be. It doubles as a check-in time, which is perfect for co-ordinating and scheduling group activities and responsibilities.

Rather than being a hassle, the whole thing is enjoyable, especially continuing our talk over fresh bread. A precarious schedule can make it hard to be accountable to people in who aren’t paying for the basic day-to-day reproduction of your life, but the bread gives us a warning sign. If we screw a loaf up through miscommunication or fail to make it for a couple days, then we know we need to put in more work. But that usually doesn’t happen; we all want the bread.

Originally published on Shareable here.

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June Event: The Economics of Abundance

You’re invited to a workshop hosted by Abundance League and Shareable featuring Wolfgang Hoeschele Ph.D, a geographer and author soon to be released book, The Economics of Abundance: A Political Economy of Freedom, Equity, and Sustainability.

In this workshop, Wolfgang will first introduce participants to his ideas about an economics of abundance; then, participants will break out into groups to discuss how they can realize greater abundance in various different aspects of their lives; finally, these groups will report their ideas back to all participants. The goal is to generate ideas, energy, and momentum that participants can take back to their own life projects.

The “economics of abundance” is based on a critique of our present economic system, which finds value only in scarce commodities – i.e., things which can be sold at a high price because demand exceeds supply. Because this economy depends on demand always outstripping supplies, it also depends on “scarcity-generating institutions” – institutions that either manipulate supply or demand in order to keep us in a constant state of need.

An economy of abundance seeks to dismantle or reform these scarcity-generating institutions in such a way as to affirm our freedom to live life as art (self-expression to others), social equity (so that everyone is enabled to live life as art), and sustainability (so that all life thrive into the future). Among other things, this implies a much greater role for various forms of shared property, individual and community-level self-reliance, and participatory decision-making.

This event is cohosted by, Independent Arts & Media, and Abundance League.


When: Thursday, June 24th, 2010, 6:30-9:30pm

Where: Citizen Space , 425 Second St., #100, San Francisco


6:30 – 7:00 Arrive – mingle, nosh

7:00 – 7:30 Member announcements, one minute each

7:30 – 8:00 Break – make connections based on announcements, nosh

8:00 – 9:15 Presentation and discussion

9:15 – 9:30 Clean up, take the discussion to the 21st Amendment


-Willingness to give help and receive help

-Healthy finger food and drink for the potluck

-Yourself, friends

Teaser image courtesy of Gwen Meharg.

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Design 4 Resilience Event Notes

Design 4 Resilience featured rich dialog which is partially captured in the event notes here. Thanks to D4R participants, sponsors, and co-hosts for an inspiring day. At the bottom of the notes page are resources for hosting your own D4R event.
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Design 4 Resilience: Thriving in an Uncertain World

Abundance League is proud to co-host Design 4 Resilience (D4R). Shareable is cohosting D4R because a resilient society is one that’s democratic and shares. I hope you’ll join us!


Have you ever wondered what qualities enable certain people, organizations or communities to thrive despite unexpected challenges?

D4R is a full-day exploration of resilience as a strategy for thriving in an uncertain world. And a call to action to prepare for the crises and opportunities unfolding today.

D4R will empower you to explore resilience through a combination of presentations and workshops (in Open Space format). As an Open Space participant, you’ll collaborate with innovators from the social enterprise, design thinking, transition town, network science, local economy, urban planning, green evangelical, open source, public media, and positive psychology communities to create a unique, cross-sector learning experience.

At D4R, you’ll:

  • Add resilience thinking to your strategy toolbox
  • Build relationships across sectors by learning with diverse participants
  • Take home valuable insights to apply in your life and work.

D4R is designed for those managing dramatic change in business and civil society, and are determined to thrive on the challenge.

D4R will be held at The Hub Berkeley, a co-working and events center for social enterprise. D4R will be the first in a series of events culminating in a D4R presence at SOCAP10. This is your invitation to inaugurate the D4R community.

WHERE: The Hub Berkeley, 2150 Allston Way, #400, Berkeley, CA. #D4R on Twitter. Check the pre-event blogging and day-of livestream at

WHEN: April 10th, 2010, 8:30-5:00

HOW: Our speakers will talk about design thinking, resilience, and the commons in the morning to set the context. The afternoon will be Open Space. You’re encouraged to facilitate a session on a topic of choice rethinking it from a resilience perspective.

If you’re wondering what we mean by resilience, please read this post:  A Very Short Primer on Resilience


8:30 WELCOME: Neal

8:40   Resilience Thinking, Harald Katzmair, Ph.d, CEO of FAS.research

8:55   Resilience & the Commons, Neal

9:10   Design Thinking, Stephanie Smith, founder,

9:30 Q & A

10:00 Structured networking faciliated by Jerry Michalski of and our MC for the day

10:30 BREAK

11:30 OPEN SPACE INTRODUCTION, Jerry Michalski

All tracks are decided on by participants. You’re strongly encouraged to facilitate a track on a topic that you’re passionate about linking it to resilience. DELICIOUS BOX LUNCH PROVIDED to take into sessions.

12:30 – 1:20 Track 1

1:30   – 2:20 Track 2

2:30   – 3:20 Track 3

3:30 BREAK

4:00 RECONVENE ASSEMBLY FOR DISCUSSION, facilitated by Jerry Michalski

5:00 WRAP UP

5:30-7:00 CASH BAR RECEPTION (at a nearby restaurant, TBD)


FAS.researchThe Idea HiveSociate.comThe Hub Bay


The Green ArcadeOpen Collaboration Encyclopediaclear-bitsshapeshiftersGreater Good Science CenterThe Sharing SolutionIndependent Arts & MediaThe Abundance LeagueOn The Commons

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February Event: Get Off…Line!

In our November event, we discussed how the social web can disempower if not used wisely. On February 24th, we’ll discuss how to use it to improve the quality of our offline lives. Three panelists will help seed the discussion. They’ve explored the interplay between the real and virtual deeply in both practice and thought, and have a passionate commitment to empowering others with the knowledge they’ve gained:

  • Stephanie Smith is a designer and social entrepreneur. Her most recent company (private beta) facilitates on the ground resource sharing.

And fittingly, this will be a hybrid online / offline event. We’ll be livestreaming the event from the coworking innovation loft, We’ll have both online and offline participants. Expect hiccups, failures, and fun. It’ll be a great learning experience in content and form.

All the event details are on, our event partner:

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Top Books & Trends of 2009 & What’s Coming in 2010

Some reading ideas for the holidays and beyond.  Really great list from the P2P Foundation:  The 10 best P2P (nonfiction) books of 2009

From, also quite good, if I do say so myself:

The Best Shareable Books of 2009

Eight Books We’re Looking Forward to in 2010

And another gem from the P2P Foundation:

The 10 Most Important P2P Trends of 2009

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A Holiday Letter to Nonprofit Workers Everywhere

Five years ago, frustrated with holiday shopping, I started a donation exchange with my family to exchange donations to nonprofits instead of gifts. It changed our holidays for the better, brought family closer together, and since then has raised thousands of dollars for causes. Not to mention how much easier on the earth it has been. At the below link is the story of how a family with a mix of progressive and conservative members came together through a holiday donation exchange. The story includes instructions about how you can do it too.

Imagine how strong the nonprofit sector would be if the $460 BILLION spent on the holidays (in the US alone) went to nonprofits? And if such a tradition doesn’t start with nonprofit workers, who would it start with?

I hope you give it a try. And you could suggest it to your donors, coworkers, and board members too. If there was ever a way to dramatically increase the flow of support into nonprofits, this is it.

Here’s to Happier Holidays!

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January Abundance League: Real Places for Real Lives

There’s a swift invasion underway of our cafes, bars, restaurants, and public spaces all over America. In the last few years, you may have showed up to your favorite neighborhood hangout one morning to suddenly find there’s a flat screen behind the cash register broadcasting advertisements at you. Or you may have taken a date to what used to be a quiet, intimate bistro, only to find that every visible wall is now occupied by giant, blinding TV screens.

When did force-fed TV and “hot media” become de rigeur in our places of dining, conversation, and community? It’s now so commonplace that speaking up or complaining about it will earn you blank looks or confused reactions.

What can we do? Especially when the hospitality industry is barely holding on in a brutal economy, and will do anything to draw more customers?  Might there be another way?

The Real Places Campaign has a plan. Join Jen Burke Anderson and Neal Gorenflo as the Abundance League shares a plan to positively define what we need from our public places, and reward those who deliver.  Come learn about and help shape a grassroots experiment to create real places for real lives.

Event cohost: Shareable, an online magazine about sharing. Join Shareable’s Facebook page here to get ideas for creating a shareable world and chime in with your ideas.

When: WEDNESDAY, January 20th, 2010, 6:30-9:30pm
Where: Cafe Royale, 800 Post St.  San Francisco
(415) 441-4099

6:30 – 7:00 Arrive – mingle, nosh
7:00 – 7:30 Member announcements lightening round: share your passions, needs & gifts quickly
7:30 – 8:00 Break – nosh, make connections based on announcements
8:00 – 9:15  Presentation and discussion
9:15 – 9:30  Clean up, clear out.

-Willingness to help others and receive help. Yourself, friends. Note: no potluck this time. Reasonably price fare available at the Cafe Royale.

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Re:Invention, October Meeting Notes

For October’s meeting, we screened RE:Invention, a documentary short by Catherine Goerz and crew about how some are using the economic crisis for personal transformation. The discussion that followed covered a lot of ground, but a couple interesting themes emerged for me including the difficulty of leaving a career that pays for one that has meaning, how transformation is a privileged experience when for some just surviving is an accomplishment, how important it is to see others making changes as inspiration.  Also, many people shared their own stories of transformation with lessons learned.

Later Catherine and I brainstormed the below tips for those who want to Re:Invent. The below is by no means a comprehensive. Feel free to add to these ideas in comments.

-Let go of your thoughts and beliefs around who you think you are. Be willing to release your past identity and open to new ways of living and working.

-Let the old structures of your life that may not serve you any more – your job, income, living situation, relationships, etc.- dissolve so that you make space for the new structures to be seeded.

-Create a powerful vision for what you want to manifest in your life. Set a clear and aligned intention to move towards it and allow in the people and situations that will bring it into form. Then let it go.

-If you have lost your job and are living on a reduced income, reassess what you need to be happy and provided for. You may not need a high-paying job, a car or material items to live an inspired and meaningful life.

-Trust the process of transformation and remind yourself that everything is temporary. What may seem like a big impossible situation will shift over time and reveal totally new situations and opportunities for reinvention.

-Be curious about what’s next. Approach the changes in your life with a sense of openness and curiosity. Don’t take anything too seriously.

-When dealing with a crisis, don’t resist the changes that are being foisted upon you. Embrace the challenges and notice your capacity for resiliency and how well you can adapt to new situations when you don’t fight them.

-Observe how you are evolving as time goes by and stay committed to transformation to see it through.


-Don’t RE:Invent alone. Form a peer group for the changes you want to make. Or enlist your friends’ support. Let them know what you’re doing. Good friends will get behind you.

-If you don’t know what you want in life, then begin an exploration. Go outside your circle of friends to discover new ideas and people.

-Assess what’s truly interesting to you. Focus in on your passion or passions. Sometimes reflecting on past experience can help you understand what turns you on. Sometimes new experiences are needed.

-When you have an idea of what interests you, then immediately find the community around your interest. Do not wait. Become a part of it. The best way to become part of a community is to contribute something that’s needed. Volunteer. No job is too small to start. Small things lead to big things.

-Be patient. Be persistent. Big changes take time.

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From Participation to Power: The Dark Side of Web 2.0 & What To Do About It

On November 19th, pioneer social change strategist Harald Katzmair, Ph.D will lead us in an exploration of the media environment and cultural moment in which we live, and point the way to from mere participation to power.

Harald’s talk will begin with an exploration of the dark side of Web 2.0. How it can overload us with messages, shrink attention spans, erode focus, and thus disrupt our ability to find common ground and take common action. Through Web 2.0 we may be, as in the title of cultural critic Neil Postman’s influential book, amusing ourselves to death.

We must recognize that individual participation does not necessarily equate to power.  Power is the ability to act. And collective action is what enables citizens to be powerful politically.  Being hyperconnected can overload us and cripple our ability to act as individuals and groups at a time when we need to be really good at taking common action in order to avoid a climate disaster.

In Harald’s view, what’s needed to survive are new tools that can help us do just that. We have to go beyond mere individual participation to collective action. And realize that it’s not the size of your network that counts, but how it’s patterned to achieve a clear goal.

Harald will share cutting edge tools he’s developed to help groups set agendas, act collectively, and mobilize networks for change. What sets Harald’s approach apart is that it’s based on social network analysis and complexity theory, which are especially useful for modeling complex systems, harnessing collective intelligence, and identifying actions that have maximum impact with minimal blow back.

Harald is CEO and Founder of FAS.research, a pioneer in applying social network analysis and complexity theory to solving complex problems in multi-stakeholder environments.   His passion is helping people come together to solve “wicked” problems.   One of his current projects is helping tribal leaders in Jordan develop a water sharing system.  If Jordan does not succeed in this, they’ll run out of water in 20 years.

It should be an eye opening night. I hope you’ll join us.

Event cohost: Shareable Magazine.  Join Shareable’s Facebook page here to get ideas for creating a shareable world and chime in with your ideas.

When: Thursday, November 19th, 2009, 6:30-9:30pm
Where: Citizen Space , 425 Second St., #100, San Francisco

6:30 – 7:00 Arrive – mingle, nosh
7:00 – 7:30 Member announcements lightening round: share your passions, needs & gifts quickly
7:30 – 8:00 Break – nosh, make connections based on announcements
8:00 – 9:15  Presentation and discussion
9:15 – 9:30  Clean up, take the discussion to the 21st Amendment

-Willingness to help others and receive help
-Healthy stuff for the potluck
-Yourself, friends

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