Musings on Important Topics for PVBI:
When PVBI was formed as a loose collection of biochar enthusiasts a Charter was formed and signed by founding members. As we grow and take on more ambitious activities it will be important to assure that the activities proposed, the process of authorization, and the actual methods of achieving results are comfortable to all members.
I have looked for a copy of the Charter on the forum and the Home page and not found it. So I suggest that we establish an PVBI Organization Reference section where the basic documents that we wish to be available to either founding members or the general public are held under password control.
WE just finished a small half day class for approximately 10 students from Bard College. This was an undertaking that appears well within the limited statement of purpose on the Home Page. Various view points regarding the current issues surrounding biochar and our general society were shared by many presenters. A demonstration of NESFI owned technology, the TLUD stove was carried on within the NESFI office complex without incident or noticeable smoke. I brought the GEK parts that are being reconstructed for display outside. We all felt quite comfortable with the arrangements and the lunch that Dr. Stein provided was greatly appreciated as was the generous offer of space from NESFI.
All arrangements were done on a volunteer basis and the presentation to the class was a broad overview that was professional in every sense of the word. It is clear that the need for such sharing of concepts and details is very timely and important.
When we move beyond the education and demonstration stage, it is less clear how to proceed. The introduction on the Home page makes no mention of how PVBI would function in an operational setting or if it should attempt to do so at all.
What seems clear to this observer / member is that PVBI has no real structure to own anything other than gifts (Jack Moss has given many gifts to PVBI to support the out reach funcitons, I am sure that there are other gifts that I am not aware of - we do not have a public site that inventories materials available for use by members). There a basic understanding was in place from the beginning that PVBI would not become a separate 501c3 entity but would have access to that umbrella function from NESFI and that NESFI would house and store any property that PVBI did come to possess.
Without the structure to own and account for property it is clear that PVBI must rely on other entities to be the actors for those functions that the members agree to endorse. The Charter does describe the process for arriving at such decisions, but the details are not available for immediate review.
It is easy for this lack of operational structure to be lost in the heat of the moment when the discussions turn to urgent or timely and potentially lucrative opportunities. When this happens those who wish to proceed may rush to include endorsement by PVBI on an operating unit or to force PVBI into a more active role. Recent discussion of the group regarding the sharing of returns from normal business style pursuits using biochar came to the proposal for investigation of the possibility of formation or inclusion within a Coop framework and or the expectation that the whole range of interests would be bound by a Creative Commons type covenant. This discussion may involve entities like COOP Power as a coop base or after review the independent formation of a new coop with the goal of finding a way to enable the basic functions of research advocacy, education, demonstration and close coordination of "partnered" activities can be effectively pursued.
Dr. Stein has founded and funded a UMASS endowment to facilitate some of this kind of activity, and NESFI has proceeded with several grant applications with no direct PVBI ties. The activities that have proceeded from these arrangements include many significant interactions with large numbers of people. There is no significant financial capacity within PVBI and possibly that is the way it should be, but as things progress the knowledge and resources within PVBI may be siphoned away by those actors who understand the opportunities and have no ties to PVBI.