I’m an advocate for long term, big picture thinking. But I’m impatient too. Therefore, I am also an advocate for action, for good enough, and for momentum.
One of the so called ‘best practices’ in both home renovation and garden design is to live in your place for a year before making changes. This is about getting to know the space, the location, the way light moves and changes throughout the year. And it is about neighbours, about how you use the space, and so on.
Waiting with young children and a dog is hard. Currently, at our place, you will find temporary fences erected using old gates to contain the dog. However, these temporary structures impact how we live in the space. They provide structure and so paths develop through the middle of the temporary structure because the middle is where I put a gate to pass through. Again temporary, but still shaping us.
Infrastructure shapes us. How we design our homes, our communities, our roads, our gardens, and so on impacts how we live and feel in the space. Architects know this. This is true of permanent and temporary infrastructure. And while we can ‘change it later’ it actually is hard to change. Temporary becomes familiar, becomes permanent.
And just as this is true in the physical world, so it is true in the digital world too. Often in a humanitarian response, we don’t have all the information we need to see the entire big picture and the long term is very uncertain. We need to make choices and take action now, in the moment. One of the mantras that help us make tough choices in the moment is that ‘we can always change it later’. Or that we’ll review it again in 3 months.
The thing is those choices shape where we go next and how we behave. In the long term. These choices become permanent. Changing infrastructure is hard work, expensive work. Temporary becomes a sales trick to get in the door because once you’re in, it’s hard to change.
The challenge for all of us is not to stop taking action. The challenge for all of us is to recognise that some decisons narrow down future options, while others keep options open. Deciding which decision to make is the hard part. The thing is as we decide which actions to take today, we create the future. Even if we can change it later.