Thursday, May 10, 2012

America’s Going Virtual -- Who gets left behind?

By Stephanie and Eric Stradford

AMWS, May 10, 2012, Virtual -- After her chainsaw incident in Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Tyler Perry’ fictitious Madea, placed under house arrest with an ankle bracelet, touches ever so lightly on the evolving social science behind virtual incarceration.

In real-life Washington, DC, the “Po Po” used virtual traffic management to “tag” an unsuspecting speeder. They photographed the license plates, sent a digital image via snail mail and demanded payment. Whether you did it or didn’t is a non issue. You pay the fine, and everything is just fine.

The economic reality of higher gas prices, overpopulated prisons and shrinking budgets is moving art closer to science and, science closer to faith. The National Science Foundation now describes a virtual organization as “a group of individuals whose members and resources may be dispersed geographically, but who function as a coherent unit through the use of cyber infrastructure.”

Sometime before NSF came to accept this perception, a faithful few of the world’s 1.3 billion Christians believed in a “substance of things hoped for” and “evidence of things not seen.” The Apostle Paul described an entity as such in his letter to the Corinthians. “Let there be no divisions in the church,” he wrote. “Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”

Paul’s letter reflected a vision of the future for a virtual entity believed by some to be Church Universal. In September 2006, organizers for Youth Achievers USA Institute followed a vision for virtual existence, parked it in a regional community identified by the federal government as The Atlanta Federal Reserve Region, and set up shop at

Some non-believers in the six-state region thought it far-fetched to operate from the Internet. “How do I get to your office?” they would ask. “Where should I send your mail?” Or, our favorite, what’s your local church affiliation…you know, where you worship, serve and pay your tithes and offerings? “Haven’t seen you guys in a while,” said one bishop. There was no appropriate response to offer.

The unfortunate reality for religious resisters to change can be summed up in the now familiar heartbreaker, “it’s the economy…stupid.” Once upon a time, burning questions about whether operations via Internet could be (or not be) mattered. That “crystal ball” revealed that 80.6% of 2.5 million African Methodists think the government should do more to help needy Americans. By comparison, four other groups surveyed included American Baptist Churches in the USA (67.1%), Church of God in Christ (76.7%), United Methodist Church (55.5%) and Atheists (65.4%), In reality, the government is doing more to help people in need. But there’s a disconnect between hungry folk, folks with food and folks with information to locate the chow line.

“Virtual organizations are increasingly central to the science and engineering projects funded by the National Science Foundation,” states a current federal grant announcement. “Focused investments in socio-technical analyses of virtual organizations are necessary to harness their full potential and the promise they offer for discovery and learning.”
The National Science Foundation’s VOSS program (Virtual Organizations as Socio-technical Systems) does not support proposals that aim to implement or evaluate individual virtual organizations, the grant applies federal dollars to scientific research, particularly advances in social, organizational and design. Political Scientists need to study how to develop virtual organizations and under what conditions virtual organizations can enable and enhance scientific, engineering, and education production and innovation.

Disciplinary perspectives may include (but are not limited to) anthropology, complexity sciences, computer and information sciences, decision and management sciences, economics, engineering, organization theory, organizational behavior, social and industrial psychology, public administration, political science and sociology.

Unemployed or underemployed church members may hold advance degrees in some of these areas. They have been hearing, “you are over qualified.” But the reality is that they have been looking in the wrong place. Many will migrate to ministry without a clue of the endless opportunities for that discipline in the global economy.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Once Upon An Ebu

Retired Merck Exec’s cheerful giving aids family ministry

By Eric and Stephanie Stradford

AMWS, May 8, 2012, Philadelphia, PA -- Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, in a little metropolis called Philadelphia, there was born and raised a young chap who stuttered. No one really knew why the young chap stuttered. He always seemed to have so much to say and so little time to say it that the words got in the way. But there was one who always believed that this young tadpole would one day be a full grown bullfrog and hop by all the people who didn’t believe he could achieve whatever he believed he could achieve.

The young chap often shared a weekend with a kindly corporate library scientist who had matriculated through the historically black Howard University of Washington, DC and the Prestigious Drexel University of Philadelphia. The kindly corporate library scientist took a special interest in the young chap’s positive youth development. Although she had known the young chap’s mom all her life, she knew little about her goals, beliefs and aspirations. Afterall, what one person really knows everything about another?

The young chap lived in a section of town known to have presented economic security challenges. The community had given birth to urban renewal models, innovations in social economics, religious collaboration, and university expansion. But, with all its achievements, the community had yet to sustain social development and economic growth for a generation of distressed families.

Perhaps this young chap and his unique situation was “the man” that would bring change to his family and a community of distressed, disillusioned, disenfranchised Americans. “What would it take,” the kindly corporate library scientist wondered, “to prepare this youngster for a life more abundantly?” She already knew about knowledge being power. By her own example, she had demonstrated the value of a good education in making a life for herself and those she loved. She had been raised to trust in God and lean not to her own understanding.

As a professional library scientist, she knew books, in which a wealth of words had endowed her with critical skills. She could read, write, calculate, communicate, think reason and use good judgment. The kindly corporate library scientist was ready willing and able to be value-added human capital needed to impact this young chap’s “temporal economy.”

The young chap had never before heard this term, “temporal economy.” As a young tadpole barely exhumed from mommy’s womb, his story evolved from a family’s vision of his future. To his favor, the young chap got to spend some quality time with the kindly corporate library scientist . The young chap came to know and love her as “Aunt Ebu.” Not only was Aunt Ebu a corporate library scientist , she was the matriarch in a bloodline of empowered Americans known as The Walkers. In her best years, she had become the young chap’s strongest link to legitimacy as a fully endowed American. It was to Aunt Ebu’s credit that the young chap learned about the computer, and accessed an unlimited source for learning called the Internet.

She welcomed other family members who were ready, willing and able to carry on the values of her dad and mom, J.D. and Laurena Walker. She hoped that by telling the story of these ordinary people, their good works would live on through this young lad, his siblings and perhaps their children’s children.

One day, Aunt Ebu took young Niyko to see the movie, “Red Tails.” It was a story about the Tuskee Airmen, a group of African Americans who fought from the air during World War II. Niyko learned that the story had special meaning for Aunt Ebu because she had lived during that era. Her experiences endowed her with a greater appreciation for her parent’s teachings that, “With God All Things Are Possible.” She shared with Niyko her own recollection as her granny’s little black girl. She grew up at a time when African Americans were treated as second class citizens. She went to college, found work in corporate America and became a philanthropist so no black child would ever have to wonder whether they could make a difference. Aunt Ebu made Black history month real for Niyko.

She showed him the workbook from The Walker Summit on Family Values, an event which introduced Nikyo’s mom, his maternal grandfather and their siblings to J.D. and Laurena Walker. Aunt Ebu shared a story. She had Niyko read it. She endowed him with a chance to be an asset and not a liability to the Walker Family.

Niyko’s decision would give his life purpose. All of a sudden, it made sense that the computer could lead him to good information or bad information. It was up to him to decide. This was the day that Niyko decided he would apply to THE ANNUAL YOUTH ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS, and begin to use the information to carry on the good name the Walkers had given to him.

He asked Aunt Ebu, “What is a Spiritual Goal?” She answered, “that means deciding to live your life as God wants you to.” “How do I know what God wants me to do,” he asked. She took him to church with her, and introduced him to some caring adult believers. “Niyko wants some help writing a Spiritual Goal. He is doing what Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of heaven and all its righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

One of Aunt Ebu’s caring adult friends asked Niyko, “Are you saved?” “I think so,” Niyko responded. The caring adult then said to Niyko, “Don’t think…KNOW.” This is like the most important thing you can do in your life. Make a decision right now to be an asset in God’s Kingdom and always remember this decision. “YES!!!!” said Niyko. I want to be an asset in God’s kingdom because Aunt Ebu taught me that ALL THINGS are possible with God.” She said, “God will never leave me alone. I will always remember that.”

All of a sudden, The God’s Word touched Niyko’s heart, and the words from his mouth brought credit to the Walker Family name. He knew that God had his back, and he was ready to be an asset to his Aunt Ebu’s legacy.